Chapter 246 - 13/14 February 2016
WRL at COTA
and.....BIC GETS A MAKEOVER!!!
In December we ran Bic and were rewarded with two 1st place finishes over the weekend in one of those weekends where even when stuff goes wrong, you still come out of it okay. Those don't happen very often and we were incredibly blessed that weekend. Sure the nose was banged up in a low-speed wet-track "off", and sure the clutch was not clutching anymore and sure the motor was burning/consuming/leaking oil....but in two months we had a race at COTA coming up and so we needed (according to the supplemental regulations) a car that looked presentable and did not leak. Well....we had our work cut out for us.
Above: How Bic looked finishing the TWS race in December, and also how the clutch looked (the disc on the bottom, in a kazillion pieces!) when it came out!
So with plenty of family help (yeah, our 7yr old can use an air gun, and my wife is better with the welder than I am) we got the engine and transmission out, and stripped the hood, fenders and nose off the car. We put on unbent-used parts sourced from Craigslist and our attic and then installed the fresh motor along with a clutch NOT in a million pieces and put it all back together. We also added the "late" (90-92) ground effects package that (I think) makes the car even look a lot better.
Above: What it looked like prior to paint Below: 8-month pregnant Anna welding things back on and a freshly wrapped h-pipe for the incoming motor!
Above: Incoming motor as Anna helps prep for paint while 8 months pregnant! Below: Family fixing and Fertitta laying down paint!
Over the few months we got the front half of the car re-bodied and the whole thing painted along with a stock-rebuild motor installed with the TWS transmission. The trans had been through a catostrophic clutch failure, but seemed to be doing fine, but just to be safe I scooted out to TWS one weekend and put a session on the car and everything seemed fine. Scariest part of the day was after I pulled out of the garage spot after the long session and there were zero drips of anything on the floor. Scary! Motor was solid, smooth and ran great, the transmission shifted fine and the brakes were solid. Time for COTA!!
Arrived at COTA and got through tech-inspection no problems and then the driver's meeting Friday late in the day. With about an hour of sun left in the day, the track was open for walking or riding a bike and I took a nice lap on the Trek and enjoyed it. Whenever possible, see a track up close to look for subtle nuances of slope, pavement conditions, etc. It always helps me. Yes, making that initial climb into Turn-1 was a leg-killer!!!
Above: In the trailer and me on a course-ride the late afternoon before the race! Below: Ready for tech-inspection!!
Above: Taking the green on the left and one of the many red-flags on the right
Saturday finds Ron and I ready for the day and we decide I'll start. It is a massive 88 car field and we'll start in two groups with GP1/GP2 taking the green and then a bit back with be our GP3/GP4 class then taking the green to try and keep the middle of the field a bit more spread out and less chance of contact in this 'no-contact' series.
GP4 is a good-sized eleven-car field with a very diverse smattering of cars. Two v-6 mustangs, a CRX, a miata (even though last year the official statement from WRL was "there are no GP4 miatas") first gen rx-7, Ben's old kinda-81 Celica and our lone v-8 powered heavyweight. This looked to be fun.
(FYI = WRL uses power to weight for classing. GP1 has a power to weight ratio of 10.5-12.7, GP2 has 12.8-15.0, GP3 is 15.1-17.9 and GP4 is 18.0+. Our car has 170hp and at our 18.0 power to weight limit, we have to weigh 3060. We are about 40 pounds above this figure so more weight loss (cutting off crap we don't need) needs to happen. At some point.)
The green flew and I started in 76th position. 73rd on lap 2, 70th on lap 3, 65th by lap 5, and 51st by lap 9 and our first red flag. Nearly 90 minutes to clear a bad fire and while the driver would end up being okay, it was bad. We got going again and all this threw off our pit strategy (along with everyone else! hah) and so the plan became just to push to the end of my stint. By lap 12 we were fully back up to speed and sitting in 39th overall and 2nd in class. On lap 17 I moved us into 34th overall and still 2nd in class when going down the oh-so-long back straight the transmission went from a 5-speed to a 4-speed with the lack of 4th gear being incredibly noticed. In the span of a lap I figured that we would tumble down the order and have to put in our spare transmission at the end of the day and then hope it was fine for Sunday. OR, I figured we could swap it now and get some testing this afternoon during the race and take the green tomorrow ready to again fight for a podium. Sure, we'd take a beating today, but be more prepared for tomorrow.
I pulled in on lap 20 and began our 2 hour transmission swap after taking the time to change clothes and get everything ready. We didn't really rush, we thankfully had good hands to help and we got Ron back out to make a lot of laps before the checker fell on us finishing 77th overall and 10th in a class of 11. Ug. My father would characterize this day as "character-building" and he'd be spot on correct. We only completed 39 laps, but we felt good about the race tomorrow and Ron and I both had good speed on the track. Ron reported that the transmission shifted fine and the car was running great. Time to be hopeful!
For Saturday, one of the v-6 mustangs won. The legal one. The second one (which finished second), was an incredibly illegal car that would actually run down and pass GP2 cars on the long straight. They were a lot slower than most of the GP4 cars in the twisties, but if COTA has anything, it has some long straights and horsepower is king there. Officials were told.
Above: Plenty of hands mean the trans swap went quick and easy!
Below: That's a lot of legs! and Anna pointing out Bic during another sit-here-and-wait-red-flag.
Bic on the left and the Saturday winner on the right. Waiting for more track time...
Sidestory: At this point Anna is only about 10 days from her due date. The first thing she does upon arrival is stop into the infield medical care center and chat with the folks. The nurse there assures her that they can handle delivering a baby and since none have been delivered since COTA opened a few years back, they'd be DELIGHTED to deliver Athena. How cool would that have been? To deliver the kiddo at the track? Just like everything else at the facility, the medical suite is top notch and (rather sadly) we did not have to use it to bring Athena into the world.
Sunday and race two starts and again Bic climbs the charts initially. Due to attrition, "only" 77 cars started the race and I took the green about 70th. 63rd at the end of lap 1, 50th on lap 4, and 40th on lap 21. On our first fuel stop on lap 23 we had a minor disaster as I went back to track the HANS anchor had fallen out on the right side of my helmet. I looped around into the paddock and came back to our pits and we lost several laps getting me re-rigged with a functional HANS anchor setup. I entered back in 55th, tumbling 15 spots and again began the climb to the front. By lap 30 I was up to 41st overall and by lap 40 I was in 33rd. At this point and when Ron took over for the back half of the race, the top 6 cars in GP4 were always within a lap or two. We were not quite getting the fuel mileage we'd hoped and our stops were taking a bit longer than usual. After my HANS issue, we had a radio need to get swapped, a camelback that got twisted in its pouch, etc. It seemed that we'd close on the leaders on pace and ability to work in traffic, then lose it for little "this has never happened before" issues. Character-building part deux!
Above: On lap 45 we had a slim lead, and my first fuel stop on Sunday. Below: Yellow flag generators.
Next up was an "understaffed yellow". I came around T6 and could see a waving flag at T7. I slowed and another car (GP1) passed me on the outside and THEN saw the yellow and slowed down to give the pass back and as the GP1 car slowed to let me back by (he was not fully past me), the single corner worker shifted from looking downstream to upstream and saw me and I saw her pull up a radio with her non-waiving-flag hand. Great. I looked close and nobody else was in the corner station. Great. Yep, next lap I got a black and came in and told my story. I got held while they thought about it and then released. Not only are there some flag station not elevated so sightlines are difficult, but WRL still chooses to only have one corner worker in many stations and that is now way to run a "legitimate" series. At this big-time track with big-time entry fees, I'd hoped we'd have good worker coverage, but nope. Lost a lap for this avoidable debacle. <sigh> <add more character>
About the midway point in the race I pull in for fuel and slide out of the car as Ron slides in to take us to the end. He joined the race in 39th overall and worked to pick up positions through the traffic and the yellow flags. Yellows are tricky in endurance racing as you'll be catching a person over the course of 3-4 laps, slowly reeling them in and knocking down their lead from 10 seconds down to 2 seconds over the 10 minutes or so, and then with one waiving yellow flag where you back way off to show respect/safety for the extraction crew and the competitor keeps the hammer down and all of a sudden that gap is back to 10+ seconds again. Ug.
Ron has a mystery black flag as well, coming into the pits and easing down to the black flag station and them asking him why he was there. He told them he was black flagged with our number on the board. They called control and could not find anything, so released him back as we lost about a half a lap. We are really building character now!
Above: Red flag on left and Rivas and Ron on the right prepping for our next stop. Below: Traffic...
Ron kept pounding out the laps, but we were playing catch up ball for sure. He got us up to 4th in class and we ran out of laps. The really sad part was on both days an illegal car took home a trophy and so legitimate legal cars did not. On day two, that third spot would have been ours. Well after the race we talked to officials and other racers and sent in video...and we were told the car would not be allowed in GP4 anymore and while that was nice to hear it sure did detract from the appeal that an illegal car got to keep their positions and trophies. Ug.
We always wait too late to snag a group pic when a lot of the group is gone...argh!
Ron and Paul with Ron's F-I-L and Rivas....also big thanks to Anna, Corey, Richard...
Overall, the weekend went good and the team, as usual, had a great time hanging out at the track. The motor ran like a clock, nice and cool with solid (legal) power. We'd start that loooong straight alongside other GP4 cars and end up at the end still fairly close (excluding the illegal car). I think we were one of the cleaner GP4 cars aero-wise, but coming off the corners, we were all about equal and it depended on who got on the gas first and who was geared best for that particular corner. Traffic management was key and Ron and I both seemed to do a solid job there.
Above: End of race for our class and overall. The GP4 winner today was blatantly illegal. Lots of character building this weekend!