Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Southern Discomfort Day 1

Discomfort is an understatement. Friday was nothing but rain, cold, and wind.

Since the track was still wet Saturday morning, we put on the T1R's that came from the Miata wheels. The better rain tires and big wing proved to be a big advantage and after a few ginger laps Craig was passing cars. One small problem became apparant during Craig's stint. The steering has a 60 degree dead zone. We'd be fine if we only had to make right turns, but the one sharp left on the track required some real planning to execute. After Craig had been out for 1.5 hours of racing I got in the car. I had a good run once I figured out the car's quirky steering. I almost went off track the first time through left-hander because I thought the front end was sliding. It turned out that I just hadn't turned the wheel far enough.

Mark took over once the gas ran out (I was in the car about 45 min). Mark drove fast but he picked up a black flag for passing on yellow. We were given the Bob Ross penalty. We probably spent a little too much time, but we got lots of compliments on our artistic skills.

I went back in the car after Mark's flag and turned some fast laps. The track was drying out and the other cars were getting faster relative to Our Lady. I got into some trouble trying to hang with the same cars I was passing during my first stint. I went 4-off after going wide and getting into the gravel and debris in the outside of the tight right-hander. Jay let me back out without a driver change, but his leniency was not rewarded. I ended up 4-off again just 8 laps later.

They contemplated a more severe punishment, even toying with making us teach Chantelle how to drive stick, but decided against it given our horrible, horrible steering. In the end we just sat out for 15 minutes. Craig went back in, and Nick and I went to the Pull-a-Part to try and get a replacement steering rack. They only had 4 Civics of our generation, but fortunately two of them had manual steering racks.

Just as we were about to leave I got a call from Craig. He had not only managed to get a black flag for contact, but there was a pretty horrible noise coming from the engine and they were going to start taking off the head to diagnose it. Nick and I checked out the two Integras that were on the lot, grabbed a couple of valves off an '87 whose head was already off, and then started trying to get the slightly better head off the '91. With 5 minutes until closing Craig called with some more news. The valve cover was off and the valves looked OK from the top, so a conrod bearing was the new suspect. With mere minutes before closing, Nick and I tore off the oil baffle on the '91 and were able to extract two conrod bearings.

Once we got back we took a break. We hung out with the Swede Sixteen guys that Craig had hit and ate some of thier shrimp. While we were hanging out the Duff Beer guys stopped by with thier wagon full of homebrew. The berry beer was excellent.

Back at the track we swapped in the new steering rack. It turns out that the two bolts holding the rack in had fallen out and the rack was shifting left-right on the rubber bushing. The only thing keeping the rack from shooting out the side was the splined shaft to which the steering wheel connects hitting the sides of the clearance hole in the body. As long as the steering inputs were light the rack wouldn't shift, but during racing the steering gets pushed hard enough to shift it back and forth. This is what made the left-hander and the following right-hander so interesting all day.

We drained the oil to find that there was less than a quart of tar where 5 quarts of engine oil had been that morning. We tried adding fresh oil and running the car for a few minutes, but it still sounded like an imprisoned gnome was trying to beat his way out of the engine block with a 3 lb hammer.

We tried a compression test to see if we could narrow down what was effected. We got 155, 60, 60, 160. Obviously we had at least two problems. Thinking the engine was a goner, we gave up on the car for the night and joined the Tuna Chuckers. The Chuckers had started drinking earlier in the day when their oil got dumped on the track and their engine ate itself.

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