WDMS - Chapter 215 - January 2014

NASA TEXAS EVENT #1

MSR-H

 

The plan was to run the time trials class TTU and the race class SU for the whole weekend. Time Trials (TT) has several sessions each day, but only your one single fast lap counts towards the days' event. Theoretically you could only do one session each day, and for that matter just one single lap during the 20-25 minute sessions and if you were fast enough, you win for the day. Goal was to win both days and snag the track record. SU is a race class and those are wheel-to-wheel racing with other fairly fast classes all mixed into one 'run group'. SU has two races each day, with a qualifying session in the mornings. When I step back and look at the stats for the event, it seems like a pretty pleasant weekend:

Saturday - Won TTU, 2nd place in the first SU race. Also set TTU track record. Also set SU track record. 

Sunday - Won TTU, 1st place in the last SU race. Re-set TTU track record even faster. Also reset SU track record even faster. 

And...uh.....changed the oil three times. And boiled the brake fluid. And had to fix the splitter. And intake gaskets. And....yeah...there is a story here....

I took a few extra tires....and this is the first event for Matt's latest upgrade which was to a coyote 5.0 motor. Sounded wicked! Matt had a busy weekend too...

Sadly, there are four SU races and I missed #2 on Saturday afternoon and #3 early Sunday. While the results make it seem simple, we spent more time fighting the car this weekend than we ever have. But with our 'never say die' attitude and a semi-foolish act, we came away with good results instead of packing up and going home early Sunday (or Saturday!). 

As usual, we need to start from the beginning, which was a few weeks prior to the event when Anna and I decided we'd swing for the fence and double enter this event. The last several events we've attended have gone super smooth with Scratcher only needing fuel and decent tires and a green flag. Oh yes...we were spoiled. That was about to end.

A chilly Saturday morning for our steeds...that is frost on the rear wing of Matt's Mustang in the foreground.....brrrrrrr.....thankfully it warmed up nicely! #LoneCamaro

The cast: Anna and myself were paddocking with Matt White(in the same race group with his 'ST1' Mustang) and Terry and Amy Fair (Vorshlag owners with a red mustang in my TT group, but running 'TT3') and Jason Toth who was instructing some n00bs in the HPDE group. Misty White was studying for a work exam so her car stayed home, but she stopped in on us and hung out a bit as well. 

The Vorshlag dynamic duo on track pounding out the laps....they had a busy weekend as well!

Saturday morning dawns and the schedule shows a full day. 8am TT drivers meeting, 8:45 TT warmup, 10:30 TT session 1, 11:10 Race qualy, 1pm TT session 2, 2:15 Race 1, 4:30 TT session 3 and lastly 5pm is Race2. Yeah, not much of that really happened for us. I did a few laps in TT warmup and had a light mist of foam on top of the oil. It was humid with heavy fog all night so maybe it was moisture. I'd had radiator cap sealing issues and a new higher pressure cap hopefully would solve that. Still, after the warmup, we had some radiator hissing that quickly went away...which we'd never seen before. With everything else seemingly OK, I went out for the first TT session and ripped off a few semi-fast laps and with the temperature gauge acting a bit erratic, I came in early. Still, I'd put down a 1:38.3 (TTU track record was a 1:41.x) and hoped it would stand. Raised the nose of the car, burped the cooling system thoroughly, also drained the oil to ensure no water (there wasn't, just a skim of foam on the top) and put in fresh oil (oil change #1) and sealed it back up and crossed my fingers that I'd be okay for the first race since I was missing qualifying. I skip TT session 2 and focus on getting ready for the race and when the time comes we head to grid. I, of course, start last, but going by my TT time I would have been on pole by more than a second. Clearly, I've got a quick car, but starting at the back is always tough. Of the 19 cars on grid, there is only one other SU class car, starting 16th, so really all I need to do is get in front of him and stay there. 

 

Coolant leak??? I think you mean "horsepower sweat"!!! --- Matt had an off in qualy...and lost some front downforce.

Sidenote: Matt runs ST1 class that runs in my same race group. He went out for qualifying and promptly had a mechanical issue, locked up and went waaaaay off track, ripping apart his splitter. He missed race 1 while taking his car apart, removing enough hay to feed a family of goats and doing a patch job to make race 2. "Never say die!".

Matt begins the Saturday 'pull apart, clean and mend' process. Been there...and will be there shortly...

Warmup lap goes okay and when the green drops I put my head down and go to work. Since passing is allowed when the green drops, I get busy and pass three cars PRIOR to crossing the start/finish line line to start lap 1! By the end of the first lap I'm up to 6th, but sadly I already had issues. As I went to pass a BMW, he evidently didn't see me and closed the door and I put the right side two wheels off track to avoid hitting him. It bent the right side splitter back (goodbye downforce!), it dislodged the right side brake duct (goodbye brake cooling) and threw grass EVERYWHERE from the radiator screen to inside the cockpit to inside my mouth. Bah. With a careful eye on the gauges, I kept working and kept passing though, being extra careful in the brake zones to brake a bit earlier as the pedal was already a bit soft. By the end of lap 2 I was up to 5th, and by lap 3 I was 3rd (already first in class) and by the start of lap 4 I was in second place overall. I stayed there exactly three laps praying for the checker flag to fall as I watched the water temp gauge slowly creep up. Once, it bolted to the red and I shut the car down and coasted to a stop. I waited a bit, could hear the gurgling and cautiously fired it back up, the temp came down and I scooted back to the pits. Credit for a race is only given if you go at least half the winner's distance and with it being a 10 lap race, I got credit for 2nd since I completed six laps. Coasting back into the paddock the radiator was hissing and boiling over and that is never a good sign. More water mist over the oil was an even worse sign and clearly we were at our first impasse of the weekend. (11 minute video of the race with pictures at the end here: https://vimeo.com/84813119 )

If you look at the nose, you can see the aluminum splitter folded back under on the far side. It used to be a server rack enclosure...hahahah 

Left front caliper on the left....right front caliper on the right....looks like the one WITHOUT the brake ducting got a little hot...

First option is to put Scratcher back in the trailer and go home. Fix it there. But...it HAS to get fixed anyway, why not do it here? I've got a spare set of intake gaskets (for 18* heads, they are certainly not common) and since it is only 3pm we've got plenty of time left in the day. We disconnect the nose and Toth and Anna dig into it, pulling off the bent-back splitter section and getting it all repaired as I pull the intake manifold off and clean it up for a new gasket. Fair holds a small hand-held vac against the intake as I scrape gaskets to catch the debris. We've got a layer of paper towels in the intake valley and are being careful, but moving quickly as well to beat the falling sun (and the dropping temperatures that accompany it). 

   

Had the intake off in about 30 minutes...then cleaning and prep to re-assemble began.

 

Give Fair a SharkVac and he'll clean till the battery dies! - Intake gasket residue foreground, nose repair background - Damn I love tube cars...

Amy Fair has to leave to run her final TT session at 4:30 and then Matt leaves to run his final race at 5pm. I was keeping an eye on the TT results to see if my lap time would be beat and although Mike Weathers (TT1, another guy who runs NARRA sometimes too, and all around good guy) came within a tenth, I still held onto fastest lap of the day. Sadly, Amy was taking her turn driving the Vorshlag mustang and slid over a curb and munched a wheel. A few things were bent, and Terry spent the remaining few minutes of daylight getting their car ready for the next day while I had finished the intake job. 

The Team Vorshlag mustang found a curb after a spin and notched a wheel on the last session Saturday. Fair was busy getting the car turned around for Sunday. Our little paddock was quite the busy!

Sidenote: Anna and Toth pulled off the aluminum splitter extension on the passenger side and were trying to hit/clamp it back flat. Misty walks by and says "why not run over it with a truck?". Doh! 3 minutes later they had the splitter sandwiched in between two pieces of wood and Anna promptly drove over it instantly getting it flat again! Wahoo for easy solutions! They were putting it back together 5 minutes later! THANKS MISTY!!!

 

 Anna's first and second pass over the splitter extension...worked like a champ! - - Random snap of happy people #ThumbsUp #StoleKimi'sGlasses?

The thought process I had was that the 18* heads have pretty small sealing areas at the base of the water crossovers on the intake. Going with a new racing high pressure radiator cap (I'd run a normal 18psi one in the past, but the gasket was wonky and I ordered a new 22psi to replace it) had likely blown that out and going with a lower pressure cap later was like closing the gate after the cows had run off. So my hope was a new intake seal would put us back to normal and we'd run the low pressure cap the next morning and hope for the best. While also fixing the splitter and brake ducting. And the second oil change. What could go wrong? 

Sunday dawns early and cold but we're back at the track early and getting the rest of the car back together. It is a gorgeous morning and it'll be a lot hotter today with clear sunshine. I'm on the hardest tire Goodyear makes and honestly the more heat the better as far as I'm concerned. I skip the warmups to finish buttoning up the car, but I head out for the second TT session and put down a quick 3 laps with a pathetic 1:40 as my best. The temperature stayed constant but the hissing was waiting for me as I shut the car down. ARGH. 

Another impasse. My 1:40 would likely win TTU for the day (although Weathers' TT1 first session time of a 1:38.2 would stand atop the results sheets!) and so we can load up and figure this issue out at home. Anna's unwillingness to give up bubbles to the top as I'm sitting down staring at the car in the phrase "so there is NOTHING at all we can do?". Such a simple question. And yet, so complex. I explain that clearly we've got an issue of a leak into the cooling system. We'd just tried the easy fix (intake gaskets) and the hard fix (head gaskets) were beyond our ability for today (I don't carry spare head gaskets and they are odd ones as well). As soon as I finished explaining she repeats the question, forcing me to reach. Mentally I'd already made the jump and since I knew the motor was likely coming out, what harm would it do to try some 'mechanic in a bottle'. Clearly it was a very small leak that didn't show itself with 10-15 minutes of idling and there was no water in the oil, only steam residue on top. I told Anna we could try a sealer additive to the coolant from a parts store and she was already grabbing her keys so we could run to town! I texted Cody and Nick saying "I'm about to do something foolish" and included a picture of the bottle I purchased. Hilarity ensued. Matt walked up and saw what I had and began laughing and I started laughing with him. Matt said 'if it is already broken, what's the worst that can happen"....to which I answered "it's gonna give my engine builder an aneurysm when I tell him!!!". We laughed some more while I poured this tall (and expensive... $44!!) bottle of surprisingly non-goopy solution into the radiator and fired up the car. To it's credit, it says PROFESSIONAL on the bottle along with the words "carbon fiber block seal". How cool is that? Fair also HAD to get pics and joined in on the joke. We were all laughing, but I still had my fingers crossed. Foolish luck perhaps?

   

Anna holds the magic elixer....and Matt heads to Race 3 (first race on Sunday) with a fixed nose. I donated some aluminum and pop rivets to the cause. 

20 minutes later and I've followed the directions and warmed Scratcher up and burped the cooling system and it is completely full now and I shut Scratcher down. The bottle says to let the car cool before driving, but I've got to be on track in a few hours for the third TT session. Hopefully it cools fast. In the meantime, I drain the lightly misted oil and put in a third batch of fresh oil for this weekend. Well fourth, since the oil was fresh earlier in the week, but the third batch since arriving at the track. Ug. This must be some kind of record. As frequent readers will know I'm a bit of a superstitious racer and after dumping the goo I changed my shirt to my Powerpuff Girls shirt. Last time I wore this I did quite well. At least it couldn't hurt. 

Matt update: He's gotten the front end mostly back together and heads out for our first race!  Fair update: Red mustang is "not right" but they are making laps and winning TT3 quite handily! 

Fair's RF showing some positive camber due to some previous-day damage, and Matt's new coyote motor howling him down the track! Both cars sounded unique and awesome! 

A few hours later I scoot out for the 3rd TT session and it is all fangs out. I purposefully make a quick warm up lap (grid moved me to first in line when I got there) and then really blitzed the first lap to a low 1:37 and then hammered the second lap to a 1:36.8 and brought the car in. No hiss. Temps were normal. TTU record reset, fastest lap of the weekend so far for all entrants. My first race of the day was immediately following the TT session but I skipped that to check out the car and get it fueled, pressures checked, etc. Matt went out and did well, but found a leaking rear main seal when he came back and checked over the car for the last race so he was done for the day. Matt actually did the second and third races of the weekend and I did the first and fourth. We were never on track together this weekend. Weird!

Paddocking together has worked out well, with everyone helping everyone else with tools, fab stuff, hands and advice. #ThumbsUp #Ford&ChevyHarmony?

It's the shirt....

At 4:40pm I crept up to grid and again slotted in last for our race group.  While there were six SU cars at the event, all of us were having issues and only three of us started the final race. At this point I simply wanted to get some SU points for the event so I knew I was going to take it easy and see how the car worked. Sure, it stayed cool for 2 laps of TTU, but would it stay cool for 10 hard laps of racing? Was my magic elixir mojo going to hold up? Clearly the shirt would make the difference. 

Green drops and I start picking off folks nice and easy. I'm in 8th at the end of lap 1, 5th at the end of lap 2 and 4th at the end of lap 4 and first in class. I catch two cars running nose to tail and they are battling hard, but I'm quicker than they are. However, I don't want to mess up their race if they are in the same class. I work pretty hard to stay close and show my nose a few times but they are scrapping for every inch against each other and busy. I stay very close. And this is where it gets..uh....interesting. 

I'm dogging this porsche and corvette in front of me and as we go into the 'autocross' tight section and I'm working the car hard and Scratcher bobbled ever so slightly. If we rank pulling a spark plug wire as a 10, and running over a stick of gum as a 1, this was about a 0.2 on that scale. Very very slight. My mind raced to options of ignition? Fuel? With a solid mounted motor you're strapped to the same metal that holds the power unit with no dampening agents whatsoever. But....it didn't feel like either of those and Scratcher has never done either of those anyway. It lasted about a heartbeat and it was gone. Could I have skipped over some tire clag? No, it wasn't a lateral jump at all. But it was SOMETHING and it most assuredly registered from my butt to my brain, I think. About a quarter-second after it happened and my mind raced through everything I just typed I then said the word 'what?' out loud as I scanned the gauges quickly and saw that the water temp, oil pressure and oil temp were all perfect. I was dug into a corner pulling serious G this whole time and as I feathered the gas to keep up the pursuit.....I hesitated...lifted off the gas a bit and said 'what?' again. To which I heard very softly and as plain as day, "this is all I've got". Not in a harsh voice at all, but just as transmitting information. "This is all I've got". Did I hear that? Did I....feel that? I backed off to half throttle heading to the straight and short shifted up a gear as the duo eased away from me a dozen yards. Did I really hear that? I take the few seconds to study the gauges. I'd been driving the car as hard as I'd ever driven it keeping touch and planning a pass on these guys for several laps. Oil pressure perfect. Water temp rock solid on 200 with oil at 215. Perfect. Reality comes flooding into my head as I realize I've got this race won. Just cruise till the checker. No reason to work this hard at this point. I start cutting laps even with the cars in front of me, but with plenty of distance. It's effortless and Scratcher and I both relax and knock down the last four laps just cruising. Nobody behind us can touch us and we can work the gap in front of us at will. The white flag comes out and I realize I'm hot, thirsty and there is still grass occasionally flying around the cockpit from yesterday. But I smile that whole last lap and take the checker with Scratcher's first race win of 2014.

True story.

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