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.