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|TRACK RECORD AT WATKINS GLEN INTERNATIONAL||Sunday, June 20, 2021|
|We set the F Production track record at Watkins Glen 8 years ago which was the last time we had been there. Two years ago, Charley Campbell took it away from us so we wanted to go back and see if we could regain it. The Integra was as good as it ever was with its new engine, completely rebuilt fuel, cooling, and brake systems. We were also anxious to try out the new residential refrigerator in the Discovery RV. Our competition would be good this weekend with Charley Campbell (the current track record holder) in his Miata, and Craig Chima, (the current National Champion) in his Lotus Super 7, along with a few others.
We drove up to Watkins on Thursday just after noon and arrived about 6:30 on a gorgeous evening. I had forgotten how gorgeous the middle of New York was. We got through registration and express tech and found a great paddock spot on pavement with a water and a 50amp electrical hookup. We had done a detailed setup on the car the week before we left so it was ready to go. We went to get some race fuel and noticed they did not have the 100octane unleaded fuel we normally use. They had 100octane unleaded but it had ethanol which has less energy than gasoline. They also had 112 Octane leaded without ethanol but we are trying to avoid lead as it messes up the Oxygen sensors on our car. We decided on 112 even though it was leaded and was quite different than our normal 100octane. It was fun to watch the AEM Dash as the AEM infinity modified the tune and corrected for the new fuel automatically.
We had not been in group one for many years. It seems to be reserved for SRF and Spec Miata these days, but we were in group one this weekend so we were the first group out every day. Friday morning at 8am we went out for the practice session. We put on a set of new Hoosiers to temper them so we could use them for the races on Saturday & Sunday. Also, since Kevin had not been there for 8 years it was a good session to get reacquainted with the track. He went out late and went slow for the first couple laps to properly temper the new tires. He turned in a 2:12.483 which was well off our previous best lap of 2:09.111, but it was good enough for 3rd overall and the fastest FP lap. At 12:50pm we went out for our first qualifying session on the tires we had used for both races at Mid Ohio last month. Kevin went faster with a 2:10.684 which was still FP pole and 2nd overall behind a very fast EP car. Second in class was Charley with a 2:11.411 and Chima did a 2:12.463. We made several adjustments to the car’s toe and camber to try to improve its handling characteristics.
The next morning on Saturday we went out for our second qualifying session and I didn’t expect Kevin to go much faster but he did. He was again on the used tires from Mid Ohio and he turned in a 2:09.720. As expected Chima turned in a good lap of 2:10.622, and Campbell improved to a 2:11.008.
Before the race we made more adjustments to improve handling, and bolted on the new tires we had tempered on Friday. At the green flag Kevin blasted out in front and ran away from the pack, with the exception of the one EP car driven by John Hainesworth in his Mazda RX-7, who drove away from us. The car was running and handling as good as it ever has. Kevin kept his eye on the AEM dash which continuously shows him how his current lap compares with his best lap of the weekend, either plus or minus. That is the feature he loves the most about the AEM system. That number told him the car was not quite up to maximum performance for the first couple laps. On the third lap it showed him he was ahead of his best lap and getting faster. He knew that in another lap or so he would start to catch a gaggle of BSpec and HP cars that he would have to drive around. As the lap progressed, he saw his time continue to improve. By the last couple of corners, he knew he was up on the track record so he stood on it. As he crossed the start/finish line he radioed in saying “New Track Record”. He also said “I won’t be able to do that one again!!” He had turned in a 2:08.412 which took 1.3 seconds off his best lap of the weekend, and more than a half second off Charley’s track record. After that lap he started to catch lappers and because he was well ahead, he slowed down to laps in the 2:10s and 2:11s. In the 8th lap he felt the all to familiar feeling of a tire going down. Rather than destroy the tire and all evidence as to why it went down, he pulled off early and out of the way of the race going on. Hoosier took the tire and inspected it, then took it with them for a more thorough inspection back at the factory.
We immediately started working on the car to get it ready for the Sunday morning race. We noticed a wiggle in the left front knuckle which had been on the car for quite a while. I pulled out the spare and installed it fairly quickly while Kevin went to Hoosier and arranged to have a set of 215 wide tires mounted to try in the race tomorrow. At this point we were willing to try anything to keep our tires from going down and costing us wins. When Kevin went to loosen the left front camber adjuster it loosened and then would not move. It wouldn’t loosen and come off, or tighten up to allow us to run. We seriously considered finding someone who could weld it in place so we could race tomorrow but getting it is position to be anywhere close to the correct amount of camber would be near impossible. We also were concerned about the safety of such a move, and then it started to rain. The radar showed us that a lot of rain was coming soon so we quickly packed everything into the trailer to go home. Rather than wait around all night we decided to get on the road. We drove close to Cleveland before we pulled into a rest area and slept the night. We woke up at 6am and continued on to the shop. We quickly unloaded and headed home.
So having finished neither race of the event, it sounds like a total bust weekend, but we didn’t see it that way. We didn’t need the wins to qualify for the Runoffs, and actually since Honda quit doing contingency awards (Due to Covid……?) we didn’t see any advantage in winning. Charley on the other hand got $600 for each win from Mazda – so why are we not running a Mazda again???? We were very happy that the car ran so well, and that we identified problems with the knuckle and camber adjuster that were going to get us later if we didn’t find them now. To get right down to it, we were actually much happier to have the track record – which may be there long enough for Kevin’s son to have to break it.
|BIG WIN AT MID OHIO||Sunday, May 23, 2021|
|With all that we had done to the car we needed to get some test time so we opted to take it to the Test Day on the Friday before the Mid Ohio Majors race. We had changed out all four shocks to the spares and changed the spring rate on all four corners as well. The test day was not cheap so we hesitated but it turned out to be very beneficial. There were 3 sessions in the morning and four in the afternoon so we got plenty of time to test. Turns out the small bore run group was full (with a waiting list) so Kevin convinced them that we could easily run in the Big Bore group. That was very nice as we were not hindered by a bunch of slow ass HPs or Bspec cars.
The first session at 9am we just went out to see how the car was running with older tires, and it ran fine. We got in 5 hot laps and turned a 1:39.953. In the second session at 10am we put on some new Hoosiers and tempered them in 5 hot laps and turned a 1:38.581 – very close to our best lap there. In the third session at 11am we put the used tires back on and ran 7 hot laps before bringing her in to get tire pressures and temperature data. Our fastest lap was 1:38.903. While we were getting tire data the car died in the pits for no reason and would not restart until we rebooted the Infinity. That was very puzzling……. In our fourth session after lunch at 1pm we ran 5 hot laps and turned in a 1:40.537 as the tires started to go away and it got hotter outside. The car stopped again and had to be towed in because the entire car was dead. The only thing that could cause that was popping the main 200amp breaker that we had installed on the battery. We missed the fifth session as we looked for a problem. We found the cable from the new alternator to the starter (battery) had popped off and grounded itself to pop the big 200 amp breaker. We were very happy we had installed that breaker and think everyone should put one of those in. We reattached the cable (very tightly) and went out for the fifth session at 2pm and the six session to test her out. It worked fine.
While fighting the electrical problems we managed to get a fair amount of tire data, but we were still fighting a car that did not want to turn after the tires got warm. This was due to us not being able to get the proper tires in the harder compound that we always ran. Hoosier quit making them since we were the only ones asking for them.
On Saturday we took her out for the one and only qualifying session at 9am. We went to grid early to try to get in front of the many Bspec and HP cars and it worked. In our third of eight hot laps, right before we started hitting lappers, we turned in a 1:38.841 which turned out to be the fastest lap of the entire run group for the whole weekend. The car ran great and was continuing to run cooler than last year. Our visitors showed up right before lunch. Diane & Sheryl drove up with grandson Drew and his friend Peyton. Carrie also arrived with Walt, Cora & Ed. We waited to put the wheels back on until the kids were there to help.
The Saturday 15 lap race started at 1:45pm in about 86 degree sunny day. Kevin started on pole with Chima and Bednarz right behind. Kevin took the lead and held it for the first three laps until they caught up with the Bspec cars. One of them pulled out in front of Kevin to block him which allowed Chima to get close enough in the keyhole to get a draft off Kevin on the back straight and make the pass at the end of the straight. Kevin stayed very close to Chima while negotiating the myriad of Bspec and HP cars. Finally in the last two laps the car quit running. Kevin just turned the ignition off, and back on, to make the car go again. It happened several times and he finished the race in 2nd place. Turns out the cable we had re-terminated had broken again and was bouncing of ground and shutting off the Infinity. This time we used two 12 gauge wires terminated properly to go from the alternator to the starter(battery). In addition to the electrical issues the car was still not turning the way we wanted. We took the car into one of the many unrented garages to do a complete setup without scales. We actually set 1/8” toe out on both rear wheels to try to help the car turn. We also decided to install the spare Wilwood front brake pads as the current ones were down to about 3/16”. Because we had new pads we decided to go out for the practice session at 8am. Two laps were all we needed to smooth out the new pads.
Sunday morning Diane, Sheryl, Carrie & the kids all came up on a gorgeous day. Kevin was still on pole since no one went faster than his qualifying lap. He jumped put to an early lead and stayed there. By the end of the race he was up by 32 seconds on the car in 2nd overall. The toe out in the rear actually helped quite a bit.
After everyone left we drove away from the paddock spot without doing a walk -around to check everything, not a good idea…..
|CAR RUNS WELL AT PITTRACE||Wednesday, May 5, 2021|
|Hoosier Super Tour at Pittsburg International Race Complex
Great Fun at PittRace
We had a good test day the week before at Mid Ohio, but there were still a few more modifications to the car we wanted before we loaded her up to drive to Pittrace on Thursday Apr 29. We removed the residual valve from the front brake circuit since we did not believe we needed it any longer with the addition of the Wilwood system. The capacitance fuel level probe was working but needed to be calibrated. We also installed the new small 55amp alternator with the stock upper bracket and a custom lower bracket and a new belt. We got the oil & filter changed in the Onan generator since it had not been changed in 4 years, but we don’t use it very much.
We packed up in the rain and drove to PittRace in the rain most of the way. When we arrived we found one of the last spots left on the front straight just before turn 1. Pitt is unique in that they do not have any on-grass paddock. It is all on paved area. Since it was raining and cold, we left everything in the trailer but we did take off the Yamaha to go to registration and express tech. We didn’t have Carrie and the lids along but we did have some of Carries cooking. We fired up the oven and popped in Carries enchiladas.
Friday morning we had a practice session at 10am. The car ran fine for about 4 laps and then died. Kevin coasted to a stop off the track and got flat towed in after waiting for 12 minutes after the black flag cleared the track. It turned out that the Race energy blew both fuses which shut down the car. The TDC30 has a bug in it where it blows fuses if it sees a voltage surge which we knew about but had not gotten fixed yet. For the next session which was our first qualifying session we turned off the TDC30 which we thought would fix the problem for now – it didn’t. It still blew both fuses after just the out lap. It was apparent the TDC30 didn’t like the alternator we had installed so we removed it completely from the circuit. That is not a terribly hard thing to do but it was about 45 degrees and very windy – down right nasty. After making the change I drove her around the paddock to make sure all was good.
Saturday morning we had arranged for a hardship lap to test the car on track and it ran fine. That afternoon we had the last qualifying session and they gridded us 30th. I told Kevin we just needed one lap to get us anywhere near the front. Unfortunately, that is what we got – just one hot lap, in very slow HP and Bspec traffic before they black flagged it again. That lap was pretty bad but it put us in 10th overall and 5th in F Production. For the 13 lap race that afternoon Kevin started 10th and proceeded to work his way towards the front. He passed 5 cars to get to 5th overall and 4th in class. The engine ran very well but the brakes were spongey and the car didn’t want to turn. After we got her up on jack stands we found the rear brakes were worn pretty bad, and we found the left rear hub was flopping around pretty bad. We replaced the hub, the rear rotors and the rear pads. We also completely replaced all of the brake fluid just to make sure that wasn’t the problem. After putting her back down on the ground we found the front wheels were toed out (not good), and the rears were toed out but not enough. We set the fronts just barely in, and the rears out more. We had to reset the rear toe adjuster which was at its limit. The AEM log confirmed that the car was running well and much cooler than last year. That night we went to visit the Prill and Prather paddock for beers and discussions. We had some brats and more enchiladas and made use of the track showers since the water pump in the RV was not happy.
Sunday morning the weather finally was good and we started the 17 lap race in 7th overall and 5th in class. The car ran well again and the brakes and handling were much improved. Kevin passed the EP Honda S2000 and went after Charley Campbell’s Miata for 4th. After passing Charley he quickly caught up to Mason Workman’s Miata. Mason tried his best not to be passed but Kevin got a run and passed him after turn 1. That put Kevin on the podium and within reach of Prill in 2nd. He narrowed the gap down to a couple seconds but could not get any closer due to tons of traffic. Also, the PittRace track does not favor our car. It has 19 mostly short slow turns which the Miatas like. Our car likes long, high speed turns. Kevin finished 4th overall and 3rd in FP behind Chima in 1st and Prill in 2nd. The overall winner was Jesse Prather in his BMW EP car. The FP podium contained 5 of the last 10 National Championships.
Friday and Saturday were not a lot of fun and Sunday was a bit of a disappointment BUT with all we had done to the car and on a brand new engine, it felt very good to finish all 30 race laps. The last time we had finished both races was at Mid Ohio last June. Once again the AEM log confirmed the engine was running very happy and cool although we still have the TDC30 issue, the Fuel level calibration, and a bad coolant temperature probe to fix. We loaded everything up and were back at the shop just after 5pm in time to unload and meet the family at a sports bar for dinner. Hopefully we have most of the Gremlins exorcised before our nest outing at Mid Ohio, where we will have all of the family with us.
|Car Runs Great at Test Day||Saturday, April 24, 2021|
|We took the car the Mid Ohio on April 22nd for a twilight test and tune to test all the things we did to the car. It was a long list but here are just the big items:
ENGINE – We built two new engines with new lightweight and strong “H” connecting rods with CP pistons & rings, Moroso race pan, ACL improved oil pump, ACL race bearings, ATI harmonic dampener, new Ferrea valves, all new coils, wires & connectors, and new Oxygen sensors.
FUEL – We cleaned the fuel cell and replaced the fuel cell foam after 10 years, replaced the in-line fuel filter, installed a new in-tank fuel pump & strainer and got rid of the external pump, re-routed some of the piping, installed a fuel level probe in the cell, re-connected the vent circuit and installed all new injectors, wires & connectors, and we have switched to 100 octane unleaded race fuel.
COOLING – We replaced the radiator & fan, all hoses, water pump, and installed a 165 degree race thermostat.
BRAKES – We replaced the entire front brake system with new flex hoses, new Wilwood 2-piece rotors, and new 4 piston aluminum calipers.
AEM DASH DISPLAY – We completely reprogrammed the display to include the new systems and to match with the firmware version of the software. We also installed an AEM 22-channel CAN enabled sensor input module to support current and future data gathering.
CHARGING SYSTEM – We designed and fabricated a small race alternator system to charge the battery with minimal weight gain and power draw from the engine.
The first session we just wanted to go slow and see if everything was ok. We also wanted to temper a set of new Hoosiers which also worked with going slow. We experimented with filling these new tires with Nitrogen to try to reduce the pressure buildup when the tires get hot. Initially we experienced severe vibration under braking, Kevin thought it was just new pads and rotors and he was right. After a few more laps it smoothed out. The car ran well and we got the tires tempered even though it was only 45 degrees outside.
The second session we used some tires from last year and the car ran well again. Kevin came within a tenth of a second of his best lap ever on the Club course.
The third session we ran the pro course and again Kevin came within a tenth of a second of his best lap ever on that track.
Certainly three 20 minute session doesn’t test everything, but it gave us a good enough feeling to think it is ready to race at PittRace next weekend.
|GETTING READY FOR A NEW YEAR||Sunday, January 31, 2021|
|The year 2020 wasn't a great year but we certainly learned a whole lot from it. We now have a much more reliable dog box transmission that is easier to shift and drive. We have installed new Wilwood brakes on the front wheels which should reduce our brake costs and make the brakes more consistent. We have rebuilt the cooling system with a new radiator and new hoses, and a 165 degree thermostat to keep the engine cooler. We have rebuilt the fuel system with a new fuel pump with improved piping, new filter, new foam, and a fuel level sensor in the fuel cell. We have built an engine that is as strong as last years engine but with an improved oil pump, lighter stronger connecting rods, new race oil pan, and a harmonic balancer that will strip out all the nasty vibrations that can make things go bad. Also, we are building a backup engine so we will always be able to race if we have any kind of engine problem.
We have a simple goal this year - WIN EVERYTHING - culminating with the Super Sweep award just like we won back in 2010.