Monday, May 5, 2014

2014 Southern Discomfort

While the original February time of the CMP race often lived up to the name, you really can't call May in South Carolina "Southern Discomfort". The weather was beautiful. Highs were in the 70's, nights in the 50's and besides some sprinkles on Friday, was sunny for the whole weekend.


We got off to an inauspicious start. Pulling the car onto Todd's open trailer I gunned it a little to make sure it didn't hang up on the ramp. It didn't. It ripped the exhaust out from under the car like a fish getting gutted. On the way out the exhaust bent the shift linkage and knocked off the rear swaybar mount. Also hanging low before pulling onto the trailer (but not after) were the submarine belt mounts. There were big washers on the bottom to prevent them from pulling up though the floor, but nothing but the eyebolt head to keep it from being pulled through the bottom. The only bit of good fortune is that it happened right in front of the shop, so we had access to all of the tools to put it back together again. Needless to say we left for CMP about 4 hours later than planned. We arrived late Thursday, had a couple of beers with the Bees and the Tunachuckers and went to bed.


Friday was spent setting up the dome. We got it done in about 3 hours thanks to the new hardware. Turbo Schnitzel's biggest fan stopped by to throw her bra at the dome. Sabine had found a 911 bra cheap and brought it to use on the Turbo Schnitzel.  Craig's keeping it.

The new hardware allowed us to pre-build the hexes and pentagons that made up the dome on the ground and then quickly connect them at the corners. Taking it down on Sunday did not go as smoothly. Tech was smooth, though Jay did hassle us about our on-off switch. We will probably redo it when we rewire the car.


We sent Kevin out first so that he could circulate under yellow before the race began in earnest. He managed to stay out of trouble during what can be a chaotic session with many formerly untested cars getting wrung out by new drivers. Craig went out next and turned in some solid laps, moving us up in the rankings to 11th place. I got into the car afterwards and after a very long yellow behind a very slow driver, I was presented with a clear track. Taking full advantage I set our fast lap...and then spun. Tracking out wide on the carousel the wheels got into the rumble strips. The car was a bit upset and refused to be placated until it was facing the wrong way. Phil sent me back out quickly, but as soon as the car was back out on the track the repaired exhaust popped off. One noisy lap later and the car was back in the pits for a 20 minute repair.

The rest of my stint went smoothly. I followed the Radioactive mustang for a dozen laps and they managed not to hit me when the car got a bit wobbly as I tried to pass at the kink. Todd took the car out next, but managed a black flag for passing under yellow and got a somewhat sterner lecture from Phil. He went back out again, but came in early with some vibration in the front. A quick inspection showed that a tie rod end was missing its cotter pin and was working its way loose. A quick repair.

Kevin hopped in for the last stint of the day. He had to dodge a pair of cars that were each trying to out-brake the other into the corner and ended up 4-off. Phil was characteristically unsympathetic as it was our third offence for the day, and gave him a scavenger hunt list of selfies to take.


Craig took the long morning session. His duty was to make the fuel last the full two hours until the 11-noon quiet hour, which with the help of a large number of yellow flags he was able to pull off without breaking a sweat. He reported some engine roughness and had lost some gauges when the oil pressure gauge worked its way loose, so we spent quiet hour checking out the wiring.

The loose gauge had shorted the wiring and blew a fuse that was easily replaced. I took the opportunity to check the grounds and added a valve cover ground that had gone missing during the last engine swap. We also checked the cap and rotor to see if it had any contribution to the roughness, and somehow dropped a screw. We jacked up the car to look for it in the sandy floor of the dome. The jack slipped off the front subframe and managed to bend the radiator like a magician flexes a deck of cards. We were somewhat mortified to say the least.

The pressure tester showed that the radiator seemed to somehow not be leaking even though the plastic upper and lower housings were flexed about an inch. That's when we realized that the hood would no longer close. Two stacks of washers under the hood pins was our temporary fix.

I strapped into the car and rolled towards the track entrance. The car was about 100 feet away when Craig reminded me that it had no fuel. In all of the excitement over the radiator we had forgotten to put fuel in the car during the quiet hour. I made a circuit of the track and they met me at the fuel pumps on track. Mike was there fueling up cans for the 39 car and graciously allowed us to fuel up on his credit card so we didn't have to wait for the pump's credit card authorization modem to sync.

Finally getting out on track the car was doing well. The tie rod end being fixed gave me a bit more confidence going into the kink (it had felt weird over the hump on Saturday) and I was able to follow and eventually get a point-by from the Monza. Todd hopped in the car and almost made it to the end of his stint when he felt some wobble. Bringing the car in we found that the front passenger side shock had pulled through its grommet and was only casually connected to the car. It was probably repairable, but the rear wheels seemed to also have a fair amount of bearing play. With about a hour and a half to go in the race we called it and focused on tearing down the dome.

Monday, February 3, 2014

2014 'Shine Country Classic at Barber


We finished putting our suspension together and the car on the trailer at 4am on Friday morning.  Dick Anderson had found a set of beat up shock bodies that he was able to modify to fit in OLPD (Thanks Dick!).  We had the "new" shocks installed that were incredibly stiff and the upper a-arms that had been shortened by 3/4".  The car looked almost silly coming off the trailer with the wheels tucked up into the fenders and what we estimated to be 6 degrees of negative camber.  We unloaded it from the trailer at Barber Friday night and tried cruising around the paddock.  The steering was really wonky, as we realized that shortening the arms also affected the toe by almost 1-1/2".

After adjusting the ride height to something a little more reasonable, we decided that we should go back to the stock a-arms.  The stock arms gave us a much-more-reasonable 1 degree of negative camber.  Not the 2-3 that we would have preferred, but closer than the 6 or so that the shortened arms were giving us.  The toe also was shifted back to about 1/16" of toe out in the process, so we didn't need to adjust it.  We put a pair of the new RE11a's on the front and the partially worn Azeni's on the back.

Time not spent on the car was split between seeking shelter in the heated RV and assembling the dome.  My teammates then banished me to the trailer to sleep because of my snoring.


Saturday started out well.  Mark went out first and racked up some extremely fast laps.  We were running second for a little while after the flag dropped until some of the faster cars started to catch us.  Mark got us a black flag with a spin, but we got a wave through since it was our first.

Britton went out next and managed to go 4-off about halfway through his stint.  Our penalty was singing "Sweet Home Alabama".  There was a news crew filming.  My apologies to anyone that dares listen.  We're at about 1:15 into the clip.

Chase and Nate fortunately had relatively uneventful stints in the car.  My turn was next, and after many laps of getting used the the track I was able to start putting some faster laps down.  I parried for several laps with the #150 Porsche, which we seemed evenly matched with.  The shifting had seemed difficult when I got in the car, and seemed to get progressively worse as I was on the track.  By the end of my stint I was running the track entirely in 4th to avoid shifting.

Barber is a very different experience than the handful of other tracks I've driven on.  The "line" seems much less rigidly defined, with lots of room for alternate approaches.  This makes passing easier as going off the line didn't seem to carry as big a penalty.  The track feels much more fluid.  You can carry significant speed through most of the corners.

Todd went in for our final stint of Saturday.  He'd been humbled a bit by getting a pair of black flags while driving the Turbo Schnitzel Integra earlier in day.  His turn in OLPD went smoothly.

We were fairly exhausted, since the car ran pretty well in 4th we figured we'd try bleeding the clutch and other troubleshooting in the morning.


We tried bleeding the clutch to see if the shifting improved.  The pedal had week return, but it did seem to be pushing the clutch arm.  Mark went in the car and reported that the shifting problem remained.  The clutch was only partially disengaging and shifts required good rev matching to pull off.  There was some light rain which gave Mark a huge advantage over the other cars before the pavement began to dry out.  We had put on the 4 remaining New RE11a's for maximum rain advantage.

Here's some footage of us coming onto the track from the rear facing camera on the Diesel Chevette.  We show up about 2:30 into the clip:

We continued with the same driver order.  Britton finished the morning session before the 11-12 quiet hour.  Chase and Nate drove without incident, with Chase making good use of heel-toe to make smooth shifts.

It started to rain towards the end of my stint, which was fun before the windshield started fogging up.  After a few laps of following brake lights I brought the car in.  Todd hopped in along with a generous helping of Fog-X.  It didn't help too much as he made it to the checkered by wiping the windshield with his glove to see.

We ended up 18th in the final standings.  Relatively respectable for us.  No major downtime, but long and frequent pit stops were our liability.  We weren't aiming for a podium spot, so we switched drivers so that everyone got some seat time on each day.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Preparing for Barber

The big change for the South region schedule for 2014 is the addition of Barber Motorsports Park.  I'm excited, as I've never been to Barber.

The car ran well at the last race.  We had no serious mechanical issues.  So for Barber we can focus on making improvements rather than repairs.

Shocks have been a sore point since the beginning.  We swapped the springs fairly early in OLPD's racing career, but the shocks are still original.  This is most evident in the way the car can hop sideways through certain turns.  We found a set of beat up shocks that we think we can repair/rebuild.  Hopefully we'll get a dispensation from the powers-that-be, but we'll face getting some penalty laps if we don't.

Also needing to be addressed is the aero "package".  In addition to the wing, we also have removed all of the glass, so drag the car sees on the straights is significant.  The open windows also tend to suck some of the exhaust into the car.  The guys that run the Magnum PU Prelude had enclosed their back in a hatch-like fashion using a sheet of 1/8" polycarbonate, some 1" square tubing and lots of rivets.  Vincent was kind enough to send me step-by-step photos of their process.

We are planning to follow their construction technique, but with one difference.  Because our rear window slope would be much more severe with a sedan, we are going to make it Kammback ala the CRX.

It's what all the cool hypermilers are doing.