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Executive Summary:

In NASCAR parlance, "It ran real good right up until the point we done blowed it up!"

The good news is the engine ran like a champ and we got multiple sessions during Friday's test day. I ran two sessions in the morning and quickly figured out we were geared a bit short (buzzing the rev limiter at about 159 mph halfway down the back straight), but we had a taller gear that we could install after Allan (Kosloski) got some time in the car. And Allan DID get most of one session in the car, but unfortunately the rear end broke about 15 minutes into his first 20-minute session. And when I say broke, I mean BROKE - the back half of the quick change is no longer connected to the front half and most of the gear lube was on Larry HIgh's windshield rather than in the case! Even with that, Allan said he had a great time and can't wait for our next outing.

(Slightly) Longer Version:

Although it took a little longer than was optimal for me to "place the order", Lee Schwartz of Flowtech Racing Engines (828-775-8886) had our new engine ready for pick-up on July 27. Lee said this was probably the best GTA engine he'd ever dyno'd, and because the rings were sealing so well it actually produced 2 hp more than the old engine when it was fresh. With the assistance of BK Racing's newest sponsor, O'Brien Express Delivery (http://www.obrienexpressdelivery.com/), the engine was delivered to our shops in Greater Woodstock on July 28, then neighbors Allan Kosloski and Jon Genger helped me install it on August 2. Over the next week Harriett helped my finish things up (install the transmission, bleed the brakes, etc.) and on August 8 we loading a running race car into the trailer.

Allan and I headed out Thursday (8/11) morning with the goal of getting through Charlotte traffic before it got REALLY bad (as it always does) on I-85 north of downtown. Along the way we encountered about a 45-minute back up getting out of Atlanta and I threatened to leave Allan on the side of the road in Clemson, SC, if he didn't stop talking about the upcoming U.S. Presidential election (we finally agreed to disagree), but we managed to arrive at the track around 3:30 in the afternoon. We hung out with Vern Smith and Randy Walker while waiting for the gates to open at 4:00, then found our garage, checked things out in general, and got Cuervo ready for the weekend.

Our plan was that I would run the test day sessions in the morning before turning the car over to Allan for the afternoon/evening Track Trials sessions. I went out in session #1 and warmed the car (and driver) up, then started leaning on things at bit. The engine pulled strong and was actually hitting the rev limiter in fourth gear (just shy of 160 mph) about halfway down the back straight, so we made a note to check what other gearsets we had. A more pressing issue, however, was the oil leak we first discovered at Road Atlanta was still present. After cleaning things up a bit and investigating, we found the back bolt mounting the fuel pump to the block was only in about two turns and there actually was a gap that was the source of the leak. We missed the second session while effecting repairs (red Permatex to the rescue), then during the third session we confirmed the leak was greatly reduced if not completely fixed. During both sessions I found myself being tentative under braking (stopping earlier and more than needed), and a couple of times I felt like I hit the gas and brake pedals at the same time. When people asked me how it was I replied, "We're running consistent 1:21's, but I'm simply not comfortable with the car."

We took a long lunch and missed the first TT session in the afternoon, then arrived on Grid 20 minutes early for the second one (it seems Grid had a different schedule than the Tower did), but rather than getting out Allan opted to remain in the car until it was time to go. Allan is no virgin to going fast - he has ridden motorcycle scrambles and the occasional motocross, plus on a couple of trips to Las Vegas he had driven some exotic cars (Porsche GT-3, Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc.) at Pahrump - but this would be his first time ever in a 2800 pound, 500 horsepower, slick-shod race car with, oh by the way, no instructor sitting next to him. In my best calming tones I kept telling him Cuervo was very forgiving while also reminding him he had all afternoon to go fast.

You're allowed to pass other cars in Track Trials, but only on the straights and with a point from the driver you're passing. After working his way through some traffic Allan ran increasingly faster laps of 1:38.7, 1:38.6, 1:36.2, and 1:33.9 before catching some more traffic exiting NASCAR 4 near the end of the 1:33 lap. Even from my spot on Pit Road it was obvious he was getting his bearings, so while he was working his way through traffic I keyed the radio  and asked him (when he had time) to take a look at the gauges and tell me what they looked like.

Here is Allan's first person account of driving a car capable of running 150+ mph into Turn 3 at Charlotte:

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Yes, my first time behind the steering wheel of a GTA car on a road course with banking was what I expected…and MORE!  

First, gearing up and getting strapped in is more than a casual race fan would think.  Once you're buckled up and locked in……you’re IN and getting out does take a systematic planned effort!  Reaching over to turn that Go-Pro on? Sorry…it just won’t happen.  

Next, sitting on the starting grid, it’s a time I spent thinking.  I want to be: smooth, transition from the road course to the banking seamlessly, and shift at the right tach points (7000 RPM).   Good thought, but did it happen?  Hell no….not on laps 1,2,3 or 4!  

My first lap:  It was a thrill especially when I entered the turn 1 banking, mashed the pedal, shifted to 3rd gear and OMG…POWER.  That moment is what brought my senses to life!   As I entered turn 2, shifted to 4th and dropped the hammer again…..WOW, this is WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT!   Control, speed, smooth transition. Then….hitting turn 3 + 4 while trying to carry speed is a section which needs experience/time to master.   3+4……yep, I had a skirt on and I need a few more 100 laps to get more comfortable with banked corner speed.  I felt like I was maintaining my backstretch speed (which afterwards I learned was about 150 mph) into turns 3+4 but no, I backed off the pedal to keep a steady and even speed throughout the corner.

Next, I loved both the backstretch speed and the front stretch speed, but stopping the car…..is another story that we can get into at another time. The brakes were more than up to the task, so I did what I needed to do and I did get the car down to a speed where I could manage the corner without taking out tires or painting anything.   Infield, I certainly didn’t master the infield backstretch, turn right, hill climb then right into a low left turn.   That’s how I saw it……maybe I was sitting on my lawnmower.   I never did get comfortable with the corner dynamics, turn-in points and speed with this section and that is exactly what keep me wanting more!   I want to master it.

Lap 2 – picked up speed, passed a few cars which always is fun!

Lap 3 – pushed my speed into turn 3, passed 2 cars on the front stretch…..yeah, take that.

Lap 4 – started to get more comfortable with the infield turns, still not comfortable with the area after the infield backstretch. 

Lap 5 – Picked up speed in banked turns 3+4, stayed high in lane 3 and pushed the speed down the front stretch……felt good.

Lap 6 – Exited the infield turn 2 onto the infield backstretch when Cuervo jumped out of gear.  Coasted through the next 2 right handers and pulled on the infield crossroad and waited for the tow truck.   Sitting there, I thought to myself…..what could I do better?

1. When Butch asks you how the gauges look:

. a - Don't yell back at him, the mic is right there in the helmet

. b - Realize….Yes, there are gauges other than the tach on the dash in front of you!

2. What not to do when a tow truck pulls you: Don’t let it free wheel…..slack is produced and it bounces the tow truck+staff…when it catches up.  They don’t like that!

Control, speed and smooth transitions is what has me hooked!   Can’t wait to get back in the seat for another go at it, and I have much to learn.

Appreciate all the insight and support from Butch, all the V8RRS members, Steve, Vickie and many others who I spoke with.  Great group of racers and support staff.

Allan

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Unfortunately, about halfway around lap 8 came on the radio and (loudly) proclaimed that he was "NOT MOVING!". At first I thought there was a problem with the engine, but after he pulled off the course he explained the engine was running but he had no forward drive. That could be a myriad of things (bad clutch, broken transmission, broken driveshaft, broken axle), but when he got towed back to the garage we noticed a lot of gear lube on the back of the car. We then looked underneath and eventually noticed the back half of the quick change rear end (the part with the spur gears) was no longer attached to the front half (the part with the ring & pinion). After talking to some of our V8RRS buddies we confirmed even duct tape and JB Weld would probably NOT hold in this case, so we were done for the weekend. As I wrote earlier, however, it was good that Allan finally got a bit of reward for all the time he's been putting in at the shop.

The Monday after the event we unloaded everything and got the rear end out, then over this past weekend I took it up to Tiger Rear Ends in Mooresville and got it repaired.  Assuming we can get everything back together the plan is to run the Track Trials sessions at Barber Motorsports Park this coming weekend (Aug 27-28) to make sure everything is working correctly before heading to Watkins Glen in Mid-September.

In other news, those of you that keep up with "things SCCA" may have noticed the Aug 10 press release stating Lisa Noble has resigned from the President's position effective immediately. This past Saturday (Aug 20) I learned I have been appointed to the SCCA's Pro Racing Board, but regarding the vacancy in the corner office in Topeka my official position at this time is:

"I will continue to monitor the situation with a great deal of interest".

Remaining (proposed) 2016 BK Racing schedule:

  • Aug 27-28 - Track Trials at Barber to practice my footwork and get compfortable with car again
  • Sep 16-18 - V8RRS at Watkins Glen International (Watkins Glen NY)
  • Oct 14-16 - V8RRS Finale at VIRginia International Raceway (Danville VA)
  • Nov 4-6 - The ARRC by GRM at Road Atlanta (Braselton GA)
  • Nov 19-20 - Roebling Road TT (Savannah GA)

As always, let me know if you'd like more information about any of these events.

See y'all at the track…