Tuesday, November 22, 2011

First Trip to Little Talladega

We took Our Lady to Little Talladega (Talladega Gran Prix Raceway) for a day of amusement.  I downloaded Harry's Lap Timer for my iPhone on the way there and took some video with the CountourHD.  The results, after some composting were pretty cool.
We ran the car with and without the wing.  We got a little faster without the wing, but I'm not convinced that it wasn't just me learning the track and getting more aggressive with the braking zones.

One thing I did notice without the wing was oversteer!  I spun it a couple of times as the back end started to come around in the turns.  It added a new dimension.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

2011 Where the Elite Meet to Cheat - Sunday

William prepared us for Sunday with the "Bacon Explosion".  I assumed the name was figurative.  Craig experienced the literal interpretation later in the afternoon.

The track was dry in the morning and I managed to set some fast laps without getting into trouble.  Dave took the next stint but the rain returned.

Craig took the last stint in OLPD and Doug loaned us his GoPro to mount to the tail.  The video turned out fantastic.  He passes me in Turbo Schnitzel at about 18:00, but not before I demonstrate the amazing power that the Schnitzel has in the straights and then almost lose it in the turn.

The rain had continued all day and the race got called about 30min early due to lightning.  We ended up packing up in the drizzle.

We learned from one of the guys on the Tortoise team (class B winners) that the Condos overlooking the track could be rented.  Not only would we have gotten beds to sleep in we'd have gotten an awesome view of the track!  Next time!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

2011 Where the Elite Meet to Cheat - Saturday

William made us a mexican breakfast ans I spend the morning cursing that the ContourHD that I had brought was fried.

It had rained and the track was wet.  I drove the first shift in OLPD.  I tried too hard.  I passed lots of cars in the wet (22nd to 4th in<30 laps), but blew the braking zone at the end of the main straight.  Fortunately I was able to snake through the cones and onto the Pit Out to make it look like it might have been on purpose.  After waiting a few minutes for an audience with Jay I confessed my sins.  He let me back out on track with a warning since the corner workers hadn't flagged me.  My luck didn't last long.  It wasn't 5 laps later that I managed to get a black flag for passing under yellow.  I still don't know where it occurred, but I suspect it was due to the "invisible" flagger that was silhouetted by a yellow wall.

Seth got in the car next and started setting some faster laps as the track dried out.  He was followed by Dave, who performed pretty well considering that he had never been in the car before.

While they were out in OLPD, I drove the Turbo Schnitzel.  Despite Craig's warnings and my abundance of caution I spun it on the first lap.  I got a pass from Phil, who was sympathetic to the highly non-linear power curve that the Merkur possessed.  I became extra-extra cautious as I explored the many handling limitations.  Downshift not perfectly rev matched? Spin. Trail braking into the turn? Spin.  Accelerating out of a turn? Spin. Fortunately the car had so much torque that I didn't need to shift out of 4th except at the end of the long straight.  The car had a preposterous amount of power, and along any given straight I could out-accelerate anything on the track by a factor of 2.  It was at the end of said straight where the pucker begins.  The car was starting to overheat a little and I brought it in.  As I rolled out the gates to our pit area I watched the temp climb from 190 to 230 in about 100 feet.  Fortunately nothing seemed to have gotten fried and after some cooldown and radiator refilling the Schnitzel was able to get back out on the track.

Craig's shift in OLPD was a little more eventful.  The battery had come loose and under braking had thrown itself to the front of the car and knocked the lid off of the cool suit.  Then under acceleration it ended up back in the trunk where it began to weld itself to the car.  The drain killed the engine and the smoke prompted Craig to hop out of the car, stopping the race.  The car got towed in.  The damage was fortunately only a melted terminal, but we realized that we needed a better battery mount before we put the car back on the track.  A trip to Walmart provided the parts and Craig got back out to finish his stint.

Seth took the last stint in OLPD and I took another run in the Merkur.  The track was dryer and the car was a bit less harrowing to drive.  Unfortunately my stint ended with sheared axle shaft bolts and I got towed in.

Even the tow was eventful.  I was on the end of a 40ft strap running to the cab of a flat bed wrecker.  As he turned the corner the strap fell off the bed and was about to rake across a parked non-lemon Volvo.  I flailed for a non-existent horn and then instinctively jabbed at the brake.  It was not the right choice.  The tow strap tore loose and slingshotted itself into the Volvo's trunk.  It left a pretty nasty dent.

So I ended the racing day with a broken camera, two black flags, and a dented Volvo.  Not my best showing.

Friday, September 23, 2011

2011 Where the Elite Meet to Cheat - Friday

Friday was pretty uneventful.  Because Charlotte Motor Speedway would not open its doors until 7:30AM on Friday, we decided not to do our typical arrive at 2 AM and set up a tent routine.  We beat most of the Traffic out of Atlanta and arrived at the track after noon.

The rain had just stopped when we checked in at the gate.  Everyone who had arrived earlier had already rented  out all the garage spaces, so we were one of the first teams to set up outside the garage area.  It was a little lonely.

The tail didn't fit in the garage for tech inspection, but otherwise it was uneventful.  I managed to talk Jay into putting us in class B.  The conversation was simple.  
Jay: "What class do we put you guys in."
Me: "Usually class A, but we've never finished in the top ten."
Jay:"Class B it is then."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Bird's Eye Camera

At the last race DC Doug mounted his GoPro to the tip of the tail of Our Lady.  The camera view was spectacular.  Unfortunately the battery was shot, so we only got a minute or two of video.  This seems like the Achilles heel of the GoPro in that it requires the battery to be changed with every pit stop (and perhaps more often).  We've had cameras on the car in the past, and while reviewing the footage is fun, it seemed like there were always problems with getting the card and battery changed in time.  GoPro's seem notorious for corrupting files whenever anything goes wrong.  It seemed rare that we got usable footage.

My quest to find a video system that would last the entire race lead to mostly high $$$ dead ends, but there was one ray of light: the ContourHD.  It's intended to be a helmet cam for extreme sports.  Contour has recently released some improved versions of their cameras that have some truly useful features: GPS, external mic, etc.  That means that the lowly ContourHD, that has none of those features, is selling for $140.

So I bought a ContourHD from Amazon.  I also spent another $140 on two 32Gb cards.  It looks like a pretty good deal, but I wonder if I might have been better off buying two cameras and switching them out during the race.  I think I can make the camera do the one thing I want: take continuous footage for an entire day of racing without having to mess with it.  Here's a quick shot of what it looks like holding the camera up in the garage:

The tail mounted camera has one drawback: the access panel on the back of the camera has to be open to plug in the charger.  Even the optional waterproof case would need to have a hole cut into it.  So cut I will.

Monday, August 22, 2011

New Shoes

Seth picked up some new wheels for Our Lady. The 15x7" wheels will let us run a larger tire.

Location:Defoor Ct NW,Atlanta,United States

Saturday, August 20, 2011

At the Car Wash

There was a car wash at the brewery benefitting the Susan G. Komen foundation. I got a picture of Our Lady in the act of supporting breast cancer research.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Brake Pads

We've been running the Hawk HP Plus pads on our Integra brakes.  In general we get about 3-4 races from them.

Here are the P/N's
Fronts: HB242N.661 (fit '93 Integra LS)
Backs: HB350N.496 (fit '95 Integra LS)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

20th Place!

Short version: coulda been top ten, but an electrical short shut down our ignition for a couple of hours.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

2011 'Shine Country Classic - Sunday

I had the car for the morning 9-11AM stint. At 11AM they start the "quiet hour" out of respect for the local churches. It's also when they crush the winner of the people's curse. We'd been getting about an hour and 45 minutes out of the car on a full load of fuel. The car still has a couple of gallons left in the tank at that point, but the sloshing in the turns makes it unavailable to the fuel pump.
Driving was fun. I had fresh brakes, new tires and working clutch. The car was behaving well. I made some feeble attempts at conserving fuel at Nicks insistence that I could not come in for more gas. I spent some time behind the 777 car, not trying too hard to pass, but making an occasional stab at it when there was an opportunity. There were a couple of long yellows that helped our fuel timing end up perfect. I was just starting to get some serious starvation on the turns when the checker came out. I had managed to climb a couple of positions to 10th place. For the first time we'd be able to line up with the leaders!
The rest of our afternoon did not go as smoothly. Only about 20 laps into Craig's stint the car died. I assumed the igniter was the problem, and immediately began scrounging for a distributor I could borrow. The bee Civic had an extra motor, but being a D series, the distributor would not bolt up. Fortunately we discovered that the only real difference was in the castings, and that the guts could be swapped.
After swapping the igniter and coil we put he distributor in and ... nothing. Disheartened, we kept looking for answers in the wiring. It was hot and we moved slow. Nick noticed a fuse that had been blown in the ABS circuit. We had tapped a lot of our hot wiring off that circuit, and so it could have been the cuplrit. We swapped the fuse and the car started right up!

Craig made about 1 lap before the ignition quit in the same spot one the track. Once the car was towed in we tried wiggling every connection to see what shorting out. Unable to find a definitive answer, we just started cutting every unnecessary electrical circuit out of the car (headlights, flap, etc). We sent Craig back out with our fingers crossed. He managed to make it until the end of the race, but we ended up in 20th place overall.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

2011 'Shine Country Classic - Saturday

The mysterious slipping clutch problem that we've had the last few races showed itself again. When the car has been out on the track a while it seems like the clutch spring is too week to reengage. In the past a quick bleed fixed the problem, but it would reappear at the next race.
After a few laps out Craig reported that the clutch was slipping. We brought him in and did a quick bleed. That seemed to fix the problem somewhat, but both Nick and Mark could feel the soft pedal in their stints.
While their stints had been uneventful besides the clutch issues, I managed to spice things up with our exhaust falling off and a black flag.
Our eBay cat broke at its weld while I was driving. The noise level in our car went from 80dB to about 120 instantly. At first I thought my ears had popped like the atmospheric pressure had changed. Then I thought I was getting passed by a sidepiped big block. I finally realize what had happened and brought the car in. Since we weren't pointing the exhaust anywhere dangerous and I wasn't breathing the fumes we took it back out.
It was loud. It was hot. The cool seat only seemed to last for the first 45 minute of our 2 hour stints, but it was still better than nothing.
I had been running back and forth with the Sta-Puft Marshmellow car, a huge Mercedes luxo-barge. After several laps we ended up heading into turn one with me on the inside. I locked up the brakes and slid into his door. It was a pretty decent hit, but we both kept it pointed down track. Had my target not been twice my mass he might have spun.
They let us slide by with a driver change since it was a first offense. We ended up not needing the get out of jail free card Mark and I earned by helping Phil figure out the headlight switch failure issue on his borrowed Beemer.
We bled the clutch once more, and Craig, Nick, and Mark got another stint in before the end of the day. We made a parts run to Camden and picked up a new cat as well as a new clutch master and slave. The entire clutch assembly needed to be removed to swap the master and we took the opportunity to remove the balancing spring that was left over from the cable clutch. (Astute readers will remember that this generation of Civic typically had a cable clutch) I also welded (badly) a piece of steel to help reinforce the frankenpedal. We had harvested the hydraulic system from the original donor Integra and made our own hydraulic clutch pedal.

Bleeding proved to be a pain in the ass. The check valve in the master was too stiff to allow fluid to be pulled through with just pumping the pedal. We needed to force fluid in by using the vacuum pump in reverse. Finally having taken care of the critical issues we did what we thought would be a prefunctory inspection of the oil, water and brakes. This is what we found:

Fortunately we had an extra set of pads and rotors, but we still didn't get to bed until 2AM.

Friday, May 20, 2011

2011 'Shine Country Classic - Friday

We rolled into CMP latish on Thursday. I was doing most of the drinking while Craig and Mark set up. I had worked on the car more and deserved a break - or so I told myself. The TunaChuckers were already there and we checked out their "new" LTD.

Our tech inspection was pretty uneventful. A side effect of Our Lady having been through 5 or 6 times now.

One of my favorite things about this race is the parade. One of the downtown Camden restaurant owners is involved with the track and has successfully lobbied the city counsel to allow the BS inspections to happen downtown.

We get to parade the cars through town and then assemble in the downtown area where they've blocked off the streets and set up a band. The BS inspections happen at close quarters, so you get to see exactly who your racing with and all the work they've put into their themes.

The Squidbillies car was pretty fantastic. They actually started the race with Jr. on the roof.

These guys were my next favorite. They actually stayed up all night on Saturday erasing all record of the rapture from their car. "Rapture? That must have been some other car. Maybe an E30."

I went to bed early Friday night, and evidently missed quote a few of the shenanigans that went on after the various home brew 'shines got sampled.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Miami: 21st Place

It was the best of races and the worst of races. The race itself was a blast and the weather was perfect. The track was a big change from the short straights and sharp turns of CMP. At over 2 miles the track is twice the length of CMP and the .6 mile back straight lets you go as fast as your car can go. I heard the track described as 2 sections of freeway connected by 3 on-ramps. It was a pretty accurate description.

So the ugly part was that both Leslie and I were sick. Leslie caught the worst of it and stayed at the hotel for most of the weekend. I was a little better, but it made resting between stints difficult.

We drove down on Wednesday with Mark's father and brother. The drive took about 12 hours at a somewhat leisurely pace. The plan was to stay at a hotel that night and show up at the track early. Since Leslie and I were feeling the effects of our colds, we slept in while Mark and Alex showed up at the track at 9AM on Thursday and proceeded to wait. It took 2-3 hours for the staff to get folks situated into the pit area. We ended up pretty far from the pits off the paved area. That wasn't all bad. Across from us was a team from New York that had driven their race car down to the race... with a 6 foot tall model of the Empire State Building on their roof. Their support vehicle: a BMW Mini. We ended up lending them our extra set of wheels to help them get through the race. They ended up with the organizers choice.

Our tech and BS inspections were pretty uneventful. We got class B and 0 laps. Our only issue with tech is that he wanted to see some more padding around the rear bar in case the seat flexed. The race was to start at midnight, so we got some sandwiches and then tried to nap.

Mark drew the short straw and got out on the track to circulate. It took nearly 40 minutes to get everyone onto the track and check transponders. The green finally fell around 12:35 and Mark hadn't gotten a full lap in when we complained of a soft clutch pedal. We brought him in and bled it, but lost about 15 minutes.

We had planned on 2 hours stints but the fuel kept us shorter. After an hour and a half the car would sputter on the left-hander and about two laps later would start sputtering on all of the turns. We were putting almost exactly 9 gallons into the stock 12 gallon tank at each driver change which means that last 3 gallons was just sloshing uselessly away from the pickup.

I got the next stint; followed by Seth and Craig. Our pit stops went pretty smoothly. We had two people in addition to the driver to help with fueling and strapping the new driver in.

The car handled well on the turns, but was very limited in the straights. We had the shift light coming on at ~6k rpm to help the motor last the whole race. It was amusing to pass someone handily in the turns only to have them come screaming past on the long straight.

Our first real bit of drama came at the end of my stint. I heard a terrible clunk and loud vibration. At first I thought I had picked something up in the wheel that was smacking around in the driver's side wheel well. Thinking it was one of the new CV axles, I took the car in to the hot pit and Seth noticed a piece of the alternator belt hanging out of the car. The car went back to our pit and after opening the hood we sat that the alternator had shaken itself entirely loose.

Thanks to the generosity of some of the other Honda teams, we managed to scrounge the necessary hardware. As the belt was going back on it was apparent that the crankshaft pulley was loose. We grabbed the pulley off the spare and replaced it, but failed to notice the root cause of our problem: that the inner washer was missing. We lost about an hour and a half due to the parts run required to get more belts.

Because we can only fuel and change drivers in the hot pits, we needed to change our tires out in the paddock. We managed a tire change that would have made a NASCAR pit crew proud. With Mark jacking up one side of the car, Craig and I zipped the lug nuts off with the impact guns, swapped new tires onto the front and shuttled the fronts to the rears (the fronts had already been swapped once when we had the car in for the alternator). We managed the whole thing in less time than it took to do a fuel stop.

The good times didn't last. When we did the next pit stop it became apparent that the there was a problem with the alternator. The belt was shredded and the pulley was loose again and the locating key was destroyed. It was eventually properly deduced that the missing washer was the problem and that the key wouldn't matter if the bolt could be properly tightened with the washer in place. Fortunately Mark was smart enough to buy two belts during the last parts run, so we had the parts we needed. Another 45 minutes lost, but we were able to get back out.

Mark was running his last stint when he got black flagged for passing under yellow. Unfortunately his response to Judge Phil's questioning was "which one?" Nevertheless, Phil had mercy on us and he went back out. We called him in with about 45 minutes left and I went out for the last stint.

Since it was our last run out in the car, I started running the RPM's a little closer to the 7200 RPM cutoff. It made a big difference in how fast the car felt. Nobody was passing me in the straights and I was passing pretty much every car on the track except the race leaders. Later analysis would show that I was actually slower than my previous stint. The illusion of speed was created by everyone else being slower still as their tired hulks strained to reach the checker.

The party at midnight didn't compare well to what I thought it was going to be. We were all exhausted from racing and Leslie was angry because nobody had woken her for the finish. I had a couple of beers, chatted with Phil and Johnny and then we ended up heading back to the hotel. I never even got to down one of the celebratory 4lokos that Alex had brought for us. Fortunately I had booked a flight for Leslie and I home so we could stay an extra day in Florida. Most of that day was spent sleeping.