PCA Club Race – NJMP Thunderbolt August 23-25, 2013

(cross posted from Dorkiphus.net)

Great weather, great compadres, and great racing. This has (so far) been a wonderful weekend.

Several of us have done very well. Evan, Hunt, Ryan, Clarke, and I believe Nadir have all been on the podium. Steve W got a 3rd place for the day even though he had to retire early from the 2nd race (DNF due to broken stub axle–which hefixed right after the race as several of us watched in amazement at his skills and also his collection of parts and tools!).

After a surprisingly poor showing in the Friday practices (even for me – old tires and hadn’t been here in a while but still didn’t expect to have the slowest or second-to-slowest times in a class of 14!), the races were a different story. I had a taste of this with new tires during qualifying Friday, but I got a great start in the first sprint race (video to be posted when I get a faster Internet connection) and held on against an aggressive Russell, who was in turn being pushed by Frank. My goal for the weekend was to finish in the top half (still “mid-pack,” but the top, rather than bottom, half of that “mid-pack”), and I accomplished that with 7th out of 14! The second race was similar except that I didn’t get as good a start, so I did the hounding (and finally passed, but my video conked out before I got around that seemingly very w-i-d-e Carrera #777). Another 7th. But position aside (I know it might not sound great, but I was very proud of it as it shows improvement), this was the best and most fun racing in which I’ve ever been involved. Truly nose-to-tail for many laps on a track that is very technically challenging to race on. I developed blisters on both hands – I think I just might have been holding the wheel too tight.

One little issue (fixed) – during the 2nd race, I took the track-out a bit wide (there are three levels of curbing there with a very punishing 3rd level – and my outside wheels were a bit outside of that on the grass). The crenellated concrete knocked one of the bolts off my sway bar mount in the 3rd lap of the race. Fortunately, it was on the driver’s side so mostly affected left-hand turns, of which there are only 3 on this track. I was still able to catch (and pass) #777.


SPRINT 1 (3 parts):


SPRINT 2 (skip ahead to 7:14 for start of race – also, this is only the first half of race. Lost video before I finally passed Russell…)

New Web Site!!

My site has been moved from Blogspot to IndexFingerRacing.com. Welcome to the new site! Since I recently updated the blog (see below), not much to add. I’m trying to determine what events to do in August-September, but will likely do a DE at Summit Point, and bring my son Ben to drive, too (he hasn’t driven on the track in a while…), then do the PCA Club Race at New Jersey Motorsports Park, Thunderbolt. And skip the VIR DE this year (which is just a week after the race). Planning on also racing with PCA at the Summit Point Club Race at the end of September.

The car still has green fenders, but will try to paint them black, and put a stripe on the car to make it a little “different” and also more visible in any rear-view mirrors I’m lucky enough to fill.

Finally, I wanted to again thank OG Racing for helping me get this process going – both the race car, and they also encouraged me to blog (not that I’ve been very good at it). Between OG, Pelican Parts, and DC Automotive, to say nothing of the numerous Dorkis who helped me while I was building the car (and before and also since), it’s been a great experience.

L-o-n-g overdue update

We left off after the 2012 Watkins Glen Club Race. The next race weekend last year was VIR, and again I was mid-pack in the Sprints (with a good-sized class). My friend Frank V’s Euro SC was leaking brake fluid, so I “borrowed” his co-driver, Dwayne M, for the Enduro. Despite my car feeling anemic and pushing like a cow, Dwayne managed to leave me so far advanced by the time I took over that I had a real race. A few things helped – one was the Evan C, perennial front-runner, had a stop-watch mishap and had to pit an extra time. Since we shared a pit crew, I told them to help him but was informed it was “my turn” which put him further back than I expected. I pointed him by later, but that apparently was for him to just join the lead lap. Then I assumed I was mid-pack (although likely better than usual thanks to Dwayne), and ended up neck-in-neck with (also friend) Patrick R, who was gaining on me. On the last lap, he couldn’t get by in the Roller Coaster, but got a run on me on the main straight, and was less than a car length behind me and gaining as we passed the checkered flag. That is 1/10 of a second at the end of a 90-minute race! We did our cool-down lap and as we came into the pits learned we’d finished 1-2! 😀

Next was the August Club Race at Mid-Ohio. It seems that I either do very well in enduros, or experience damage. In the Sprints I was again mid-pack (hoping for better) but improved over the weekend. But during the enduro was was “nudged” off the track  (nose to tail) by a 944 that couldn’t get by me. Although the car was drivable, I was pissed and wanted the other driver to get a 13/13, which he didn’t. Frank V (see above) had a bad wreck there, but his rear fenders now grace my car.

Green Fenders

I took the car in for dyno tuning and learned that it had a DME board that didn’t match the box, and the chip didn’t match the car, board, or box. New (correct) chip and I suddenly had 15 additional horsepower! So much for being “anemic.”

I missed the Summit Point CR due to a family wedding, but did have a great time running in the Turkey Bowl at Summit Point over Thanksgiving Weekend. Very (very) low-key, with no timing or trophies, but saw some great old cars, and my Mom was able to come for a few hours and see me on the race track. I wasn’t expecting her to enjoy it as much as she did.

So on to 2013. Race-wise this has not been a great year. The car developed a “miss” at Watkins Glen, and although I finished both races, I did not even hold my own due to how badly the car was driving. In this video, you can hear the car having problems at 5000 RPM (you can hear it around 10:40 on the video, when other cars are not nearby). But first there was a little problem in the braking zone for turn 6 (4:10 on the video).  The problem had been worse during the first race – no video, of course.

After 3 weeks of troubleshooting, replacing plugs, wires, points, cap, fuel pressure regulator (leaking) and injectors (also leaking), took the car down to VIR, but it was much worse. I got 6 laps between 4 practices (and only 1 lap without issues, first lap of the day), so drove home Friday night. Back to the troubleshooter who this time found a loose (but normal-appearing) solder joint on the DME. Fixed, and took the car last weekend to Summit Point for a shake-down–and it ran GREAT! And the silver lining – another few horsepower on the dyno.

At this point trying to decide whether to do PCA-Potomac DEs at Summit Point and VIR, or to bag the DEs and race at NJMP Thunderbolt in late August. Need to decide soon…

Watkins Glen Club Race 2012 (plus all of 2011…)

Back on the blog! Only did one race last year due to some personal health issues early in the year, but planning on more this year!

Last year I again did the PCA race at Summit Point – the 20th Anniversary of PCA Club Racing. As opposed the the first year, I ended up mid-pack in Stock E class. Unfortunately, at the start of the 2nd lap of the Enduro, a back-starting Cayman Cup took a point-by pass then spun in front of me. With a car to my right and another close on my tail, I chose to drive left, off the track, to avoid T-boning the spinning car. I hit the wet gras and then hard into the berm. The other driver, who finished the race well after running another car of the track, turned his back on me when I walked up to him after the race. A-hole! Frame damage and had to replace the strut, control arm, ball joint, and steering rack. But I got it fixed.

Just spent the weekend at the PCA Watkins Glen Club Race (“Clash at the Glen”), and had a great time. There were 30 cars in E class, and I was again mid-pack in the sprint races (although the 2 fastest cars in class were almost 10 seconds/lap faster than me!!). On Sunday it rained heavily, and I went out on brand new Hoosier H2Os (“wets”) which I had never driven on before. Got a great start, and then continued with a great race. Of 72 cars entered and 52 that actually started, I finished 7th overall, and 5th in class (out of 20). I don’t think I’ve ever driven better, or even close to that well. It was truly thrilling!

Here is the start (just the first lap).

I raced!

Wow, I didn’t realize how long it had been since I posted. When I last wrote the car was almost finished, and right after that posting I mounted the sway bars, replaced the wear parts on the shifter (huge improvement!) and mounted the grill. Also had the car aligned and corner balanced, and found it needed 160 lbs. of ballast to make weight for its class, and that was done,m too. Took it to Shenandoah Circuit for a day, and to the July PCA event at Summit Point, making small adjustments to the sway bars, but all in all it was driving well. So I felt it was ready to race (perhaps it was, but perhaps I wasn’t quite ready as I didn’t really know the car…).

Went down to VIR with NASA in late June – temps >100 degrees all three days (thank goodness for the Cool Shirt) and while I passed the comp school on Friday, I did horribly in the races Saturday and Sunday, with several offs each day including a spin in turn 1 of my first lap in my first race (granted, I had taken the advice of the comp school to try to take the turn on the outside, and since we were preceded by a HPDE session, it was all marbles out there and I just had no traction). I finished both races (well, came in healthy a lap early in the first race), but I was slow, inconsistent, and basically not doing well. Most (but not all) of the Spec E30s finished ahead of me, but by the Sunday race I could hold my own in the turns with the mid-pack SE30s (forget my fellow GTS-2 cars) and pass them on the straights. Also, my GHL muffler made it through only part of the weekend before generating large holes.

I had the muffler “repaired” and headed to Porschefest at Summit Point. Wow, the car did really well. On RA-1s I ran lap times consistently in the 1:28s and even got below 1:28 on one lap. The muffler repair lasted about one session, but my son and I drove the car that way for the entire weekend with the hole getting bigger and bigger (finally about 2 x 3″!).

We had it fixed once again prior to the DE at VIR, where my son and I watched the hole re-appear and grow to about 4″ x 6″! We still had fun there and the car drove well. I got much more comfortable going up the climbing esses at greater speed, although my lap times on RA-1s stayed similar to those (where I didn’t go off) during the NASA race weekend: 1:22s. The change was that I was much more consistent, and able to maintain consistent lap times without going off the track.

After that event I gave up on the GHL system and ordered headers (old-style, 1-5/8″) and had 2 Flowmaster mufflers hooked to them just prior to the PCA race at Summit Point. Interestingly, although the weather was perfect at Summit Point, and the track was fast (once it dried off), the best I was able to do on RA-1s was 1:30 lap times – not sure why I lost 2 seconds with the exhaust being the only change since the Porschefest.

Anyway, I had another horrible day through the 3 practices on Friday, with 1 off per session (one resulting in a cracked fiberglass rear bumper), and was really at a loss. I sat down with Bob Mulligan, Co-Chief Instructor for PCA Potomac region, and we had a great talk from which I came away understanding I should just drive for myself, feel the car, and not worry about the car in front of me, the car behind me, or my lap times. So I went out for the 4th session on Friday, the practice starts and “fun race,” and did very nicely, passing several cars including one in my own class!

Saturday we had a practice session and 2 sprint races, and I put on used Hoosiers before the practice session. Although I’d never driven on Hoosiers, I felt comfortable enough with them by the end of the practice session that I left them on the car for the sprint races, and indeed my times dropped to the 1:28s, and even a few laps in the 1:27s (and one lap in the high 1:26s!). I had a great time in the races, and had only one episode where I braked either too little or too late and took turn 1 very wide (and slow), being passed by several cars (see video–Sunday’s sprint race).

I had signed up for the enduro with co-driver Mike Levitas, but he had to leave on Saturday leaving me looking for another co-driver. Unfortunately, Frank Vento had some car damage in the Sunday morning sprint race, so he became available to co-drive with me for the enduro at the last minute. I drove the first 52 minutes, and came in for my pit stop, which due to the need to change the seat, belts, etc. for Frank took about 7 minutes, but we weren’t in contention for anything anyway, so no loss. I stayed in the pits with my “pit crew” (Tim Kuester) for 3-4 laps, and then went to watch the rest of the race from the Carousel. We saw Frank come around once then…nothing. Had he wrecked? Blown the engine? Come in? We drove back into the paddock, and there was my car in it’s usual parking spot–I’ve never been so happy to see the car in one piece! It turned out that while we could get the seat forward enough for Frank, it had been mounted so low that he had trouble seeing out of the front of the car (and Frank isn’t particularly short). So he came in, and not seeing us in the pits, came out to the paddock. Since the car had left the pits, they would not allow us to finish the race, but I got my 52 minutes in and had a great time.

So after a tough first weekend at VIR with NASA, and a not-particularly-promising set of practice sessions for the PCA race, it turned out that I had a great time, didn’t do too badly, and made it through 6 races intact. I’m looking forward to next season…

Here’s a link to my Club Race video: PCA Potomac Club Race 2010 – 3rd Sprint Race

Getting closer…

I’m now signed up for 2 races in the next 5 weeks, both at VIR. In less than 2 weeks, the Zone-2 PCA Club Race will occur, and in late July, NASA has a race there, too. While I don’t always follow advice, no one on Dorkiphus suggested anything other than “you need a Cool Shirt” so I just ordered one. And it turns out that, due to availability issues, they’re currently shipping with the upgraded cooler (check out OG Racing’s site here: https://www.ogracing.com/catalog/1-Driver/21-Cooling-System/item-899-FRESH-AIR-SYSTEMS-RACER-SERIES-COOL-SUIT-SYSTEM. The car isn’t totally done (are they ever) with the short to-do list including adjusting the sway bars, replacing wear parts in the shifter linkage, and (finally) installing the engine cover grill.

So here’s the question: when I calculate how much over budget this project is, do I need to count the tow vehicle and trailer I bought (I was planning on driving to the track)? Speaking of tow vehicle and trailer, my son and I drove to Cleveland this past weekend (visit his GF, get stuff from his storage locker, and pick up trailer). The 2006 Dodge Durango drove really well, and got surprising mileage: 21 MPG on the highway unladen, and 15.3 MPG on the highway towing an empty (approx. 1600 lb) trailer! They added “variable displacement” to the Hemi engine in 2006, shutting off cylinders when not needed – and it works.

It’s ALIVE!!

Wow, way late with this post. Need a fill-in but don’t have the time right now. Long story short – the coupe got it’s cage from Piper Motorsports, then body work from a pro (in his own time) in Richmond and the car was brought home. Rebuilt the transmission with an OS-Giken LSD (recommended by and purchased from Steve Weiner at Rennsport) with the help of a friend (ha! – he did just about all of it and let me do “some”), purchased a nice, clean, but not rebuilt engine from a Dorki and swapped that into my gold Targa, taking the IMA-rebuilt engine from the Targa for the coupe. Put on a used GHL stainless steel exhaust system and put that on. Purchased a suspension (23/33 mm hollow torsion bars, custom valved and shortened Bilstein shocks) from the ORIGINAL owner of my 1986 car, who now lives in Chicago, and installed that, and had more than a bit of rewiring to do (including recreating the part of the DME harness that goes from under the seat to the front of the car). Put on fiberglass bumpers and tail, and installed what seemed like miles of roll-cage padding, and it runs. Sorted it out this past Sunday at Summit Point Shenandoah (and the skid pad) – and it did really well! Photos to come.

But here’s the big news. I signed up for the NASA Competition School (and race) the 3rd weekend in July, and was set to practice with it at Watkins Glen (PCA Potomac DE) in 2 weeks, but due to track work that event was canceled. So…if there’s still room, I’m going to move my start-of-racing up a little and enter the PCA Zone 2 Club Race at VIR the last weekend of June! That’s 2 weeks and 1 day away!! Car is almost ready.

Also, I bought a tow vehicle and open (Econo) trailer, both used. So much for the compromises I made for a street-legal race car…

Build update

Quick update:
Frame is straight, thanks to Chuck’s Frame in Richmond.
Roll cage is in, and new seat mounted just above the floor by Piper Motorsports. Driver’s side has NASCAR bars and a gutted door, and passenger side has an “X” just inside the door. With the sunroof delete and revised seat mounting (which still includes sliders), I now have almost 5″ above my head (I’m 6′, 5-1/2″)!

More about that seat: If you’ve been in OG Racing recently, they had a prototype Kirkey seat sitting next to their counter. It’s still not on OG Racing’s or Kirkey’s web sites, but it’s a containment seat that’s easier to get in and out of than their prior version (still available) and very comfortable, at least for short periods of time. I bought that prototype since that was the only way I could get one in time to have it mounted before the car headed back to Richmond for some body work (rear fender replacements) and paint (still black).

I’ve sourced used front and rear fiberglass bumpers, and they’ll need to be painted separately since they won’t be available until after the current work is done. Then just a few (hah!) little things left like rebuilding the transmission, installing an LSD (which I think I’ve found), installing the motor and transmission, welding on new rear sway bar mounts, removing lots of extraneous wiring, installing a kill switch, installing the bumpers, replacing the oil lines and running extensions up to the bumper, installing the center oil cooler, replacing the windshield, rear window, and quarter windows (removed for the cage), installing headlights, installing turn-signal lights, installing tow hooks, having it aligned, shaking it out, adjusting the suspension, and all those other things I’ve forgotten about.

It’s fun and rewarding, and will be a lot more rewarding when I get it on the track!

I’m considering a steering wheel quick release, but that will probably come later.

Making a serious commitment

Well, first the commitment: I’ve purchased a 1986 Carrera Coupe roller, slightly bent, and intend to build it into a track car (PCA Club Racing “E” stock, street legal of course – I still intend to drive to the track). It’s in Richmond, VA right now, and goes to the frame shop at the end of this month, then to the body shop in November (cut off the flared venders, weld on new steel stock metal, fix bent right rear quarter panel, etc. and then full paint job), then to Piper Motorsports for a full cage around New Years. The cage should be interesting, because I want to maximize safety with something approaching Nascar bars, but since I’ll drive to the track, need to be able to operate the window, at least somewhat. Want the car to be legal for both PCA and NASA, but not too heavy either. Mitch Piper has more experience than I do (or anyone I know) and hopefully he’ll have the best compromise. I’m going to have my Carrera transmission rebuilt – considering limited slip – but might do it myself if I decide to hold off on the LSD. For now, I’ll use the engine from my Targa but I’m trying to find a good deal on a 3.2 for either the Targa or the track car. I’m hoping it’s together and ready by the end of February for the NASA Comp School (which I hope to attend). Otherwise, I’ll get the cage in the Targa updated or rent a race car for that weekend.

Now an update: Since my last update, I spent 3 wonderful days at VIR (and had a PCA race checkout). They combined Red and Black which gave more track time, and really gave my left arm a workout. Then this past weekend I went to NJMP – Thunderbolt with PCA Delaware region. Although this is only their second track event, Delaware Region did a great job and hosted a wonderful event. FOUR HOURS of track time on Friday (open only to solo drivers), and another 3-1/2 hours or so spread over Saturday and Sunday. It’s a wonderful track with 2 maddeningly slow areas that I know are costing me seconds (both related to the only 2 left turns on the track). Although my usual friends weren’t able to come, I made some new friends there and, once I found the cars that were about my speed (especially Chip C, seen playing in this video) it was a blast. The car performed well – a little loose as usual, but I only got “too loose” twice 🙁 Note: steering 2 off without losing control is not, for the purposes of this blog, considered “too loose”).
Needed purchases for next year:
For car:
3.2 Engine
Race seats (or use what I have – Recaro SRDs which are relatively heavy)
(frame/body work, paint)
For driver:
Nomex socks (and more than one pair)
I guess I’d better start buying lottery tickets…

Transmission update…and MORE!

Okay, so transmission broke on August 16th, and I quickly found an appropriate one (from a 911SC) on eBay and picked it up on August 23rd, and installed it (with much help from an old friend) on August 28-30. The car was ready for VIR September 4-6, and performed flawlessly on the drive down, hours on the track, and the drive back (>250 miles each way). A few special things about the weekend:

  • On the way down, I stopped off near Richmond and bought a coupe roller, to try to get ready for the track by next season. The caveat is that it stays in Richmond until I complete my promise to the spouse to get the house cleaned out. Making good progress so far (nothing like the right incentive!).
  • While at VIR I took and passed my race checkout drive. I hope to take a NASA class next spring (in the coupe :D). Better learn those rules…
  • I drove a 2:24:84 in my Targa with an almost-stock suspension (improved bushings and slightly larger torsion bars)–I was pleased

So one step closer. Lots to do between now and next spring, but it’s DE’s, instructing, and cleaning the house for now. (oops, and work too, of course).