Topic: Late K-aytona Ridge Wrap-Up
I know this is kinda late since the K will be taking to the track tomorrow, and it has been driven all the way across the country already since it's Ridge adventure, but I still wanted to say something about my time with that beautiful beast.
Since I'm the one that volunteered Chris O. to work with me to take the K to the Ridge, I got the driving duties from the Bay Area to Washington. I'm glad I did. The part of America I got to see looked pretty good out the window of the Ol' Girl. We left Oakley about sunset and after I gashed my elbow wide open on the door frame getting out of the car to gas up for the trip and adding my blood to all the other blood that has been bled on that car, we headed out over the Antioch Bridge. The windows were down, Judge Phil's first mix CD was booming monkey chants on the stereo, and I was driving along the water, looking at the windmills, enjoying a nice California summer dusk. I am not kidding when I say I couldn't stop smiling. I was a little nervous due to the fact the car had died just days before at Lemons HQ and that it would stumble a little here and there and we had 850 miles to go, but I understood why the car has been attracting stalkers. I felt like I was off on a cool trip with a new and somewhat quirky friend.
I listened to Phil's first mix two times all the way through on the way to pick up Crazy Mike and Scrubby in Sacramento. There was still some work to be done on Scrubby before we could go after his near death experience at Buttonwillow so we didn't get out of Sac until about midnight. Listened to Phil's mix one more time. Outstanding road music. We made it as far as Willows and turned in for the night. The K conked out completely on a busy Sac interchange with nowhere to pull off but I got her re-fired without losing too much speed by turning the kill switch off and then on again. This would happen a few times throughout the trip. Never stopped rolling altogether (until I got out on the racetrack) but there were some dicey moments. GET THAT FUEL SYSTEM FIGURED OUT IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY.
We left Willows early Thursday and pushed on all the way to the Ridge. Rolled into the track about midnight with Ride Of The Valkyries blasting to the cheers of the assembled teams. Beautiful day and a beautiful drive getting there. Lots of thumbs ups, people taking pictures, rock band dudes in tour vans digging the 420 sticker and, to my surprise, still no trouble from multiple police officers we passed (or passed us.) Got great mileage, wasn't too uncomfortable (multiple butt pillows,) great tunes on the stereo (Motorhead, Hawkwind, Public Enemy, old R&B collection, Funkadelic-Cosmic Slop, Phil's mix, etc.) Clutch leg got a little tired. That clutch pedal was ridiculously high. Glad that is getting fixed. And I couldn't find fourth gear about 50% of the time which made the climbs behind Crazy Mike's tow VW interesting.
Anyway, we got to the Ridge and the trip was fantastic. I was feeling pretty good about the trip and we hadn't turned a lap. Felt a little sad that part of the weekend was over.
We spent Friday doing very little to the car. Looked at what else was there. Knew we would have to run perfectly to win IOE with that Hudson there. But I believe (still) that the K can win IOE and with a little more work and a lot of luck, could even win Class C. Really.
Then the race started. First, let me say that the Ridge is a really cool track. I like it a lot. I plan on making every race I can there from here on out. I hope they get to continue to add amenities and that it stays on the Lemons schedule for a long time. I also have to say, it was really nice only having 50 other cars there. I'm used to the 475 car fields of California races, which I actually really enjoy too. But, 50 cars? The track was wide open, the judges and staff seemed more relaxed and like they were having more fun (it was great seeing so many new and classic old penalties being doled out) and it was just a nice change of pace.
Anyway, I am the first person out on Saturday morning since I drove the car to the track. After one lap, I know we are in trouble. K is sputtering on lap one. I decide to try to ride it out. On lap three it dies at the top of the hill at the end of the front stretch. Won't start at all. No re-firing like it did on the road. I get towed in and after a bunch of fiddling with this and that we determine it is the fuel system. Add another fuel pump, it starts and Philip goes out. He runs more than an hour, blasting Ride of The Valkyries the entire time. The American car with the Japanese engine clicked with the German driver. They turned some pretty nice laps together, discovering also that it had to be done without 4th gear, which has pretty much disappeared by now. First timer Arrive And Drive Paul goes out next and gets some nice time in the car. Then it is Anton's turn. Now we will see what the K can do. Well, the first thing it will do is...not go into reverse. So, we push him out. He heads for the track entrance and we relax. About 10 minutes later, the K reappears on the roll back. From the direction of the track entrance. Anton went to shift to 2nd and that was it for the well worn shift cable, apparently.
There are not a lot of 91 Dodge Daytona shift cables in Washington. As a matter of fact, there was only one. And it was in Seattle. And hour and a half away. So, A&D first timer Paul was dispatched with much haste to Seattle while Chris and Philip went to the funky, old school, full of cats junkyard across the street from the track. Chris and Philip pulled the parts off a Neon, just in case it could be adapted for use on the K. We did end up replacing the giant, green skull topped shifter with the Neon shifter and the old one became the new, and somewhat distracting, voodoo hood ornament. Paul made it to the store at 6:58, two minutes before closing. We had the shift cable in hand, installation would occur in the morning.
Philip got the cable in, put on the new shifter, had to do a little work reattaching all the wiring to the dash that had been on the center console that is now in a Washington landfill, shed his own blood on the car after shaving his knuckles multiple times and we were ready to go. It was my turn to drive. We made it to the class C lineup, I had chosen Motorhead - Iron Fist for my driving music, we had the new, terrifying hood ornament and still a distant chance at IOE. I got 3 clean laps and it started sputtering again. On lap six, it died on the same hill but I was able to re-fire and get it in the pits. Chris and Philip messed with the fuel system again with some crimping and pinching and Philip decided to go out to test it. Once again, the American-Japanese-German connection worked and Philip turned some great laps. Now with fourth gear!
As he is out there, we start to get reports that the K doesn't have working tail lights. We roll with it for a while but then he finally comes in and we decide to track it down. It takes about 20 minutes to find the problem and then it is decided that I should get another try. I get out there and, finally, I get to turn some laps. Chris tells me to stay out as long as I want. I got to drive for about two hours. The K was just sticking to the track, thanks to a whole bunch of tire. The shifter was shifting. The car would still sputter on hard right hand turns but I learned to stay in the gas and roll through the turns and actually started making faster and faster laps. The K actually taught me some race craft and how to get around the Ridge more smoothly. Thank you K-Car!
Chris finally called me in with an hour to go in the race so he could get a few laps. For those of you that haven't been in the K, the steering wheel was VERY low. And the clutch pedal was VERY high. And Chris is VERY tall. He had to pull his left leg up with his hand to get it on the pedal. That didn't work, so he was clutching with his right foot. Or just leaving it in one gear. Which worked okay until he tried to go through the Ridge complex in 5th. He came in and let Anton finish the race. Anton proceeded to set fast time in the K, which is what he does. The K took the checkered, one lap behind the Hudson. 43rd, 143 laps completed. No awards.
But it WAS running at the finish and I think it was another step forward in making it a better car. I sure had fun with it. I have to admit, i have a real soft spot for that truly and thoroughly awful car. As Philip drove off to leave it at the next rendezvous point I was a little sad to see it go. I am happy we will be reunited at the season-ender (if it doesn't totally 'splode between now and then.)
I think all of the issues have been passed along. If you haven't discovered it yet, Chris did put a makeshift Fuel Pressure Regulator in the fuel return line. I think part of a pen. It sounds like some improvements have been made. I still TOTALLY think this thing could DOMINATE. Or at least win class C and IOE. We will see this weekend. It is actually almost fun to drive. That could have been fumes talking, or delirium. But I was smiling a lot around that car. The guys I raced with were tons of fun. A big thanks to Chris. I wouldn't have been able to have this adventure without him. Thanks to Jeff D. for all the work he put in before the race. He didn't even get to go to the Ridge to race it! Thanks to the work everyone has put in to get it to the point it is at now. This really is remarkable. If it never wins a race IOE, I really think it should win the never-before awarded season IOE. Because this really will be a herculean feat if we can make this thing last the entire season.
I was toying with the idea of taking it for a visit over to Laguna Seca to sully the ChumpCar race after Sears Point but....maybe wiser heads will prevail.
Good luck to all future K teams. Don't fall in love too hard.