Welcome to BK Racing
Powered by Squarespace

August 22-23, 2015 – MIS Majors Weekend

Executive Summary:

Having been out of the car since April I figured it would be a good idea to find out if I’d forgotten how to drive before heading out for the 2015 SCCA Runoffs ® at Daytona in September. I had raced at Michigan International Speedway back in 2013 and set the GT2 track record (but then I was the ONLY GT2 car that raced that weekend <g>), so I knew it would give me a chance to blow some cobwebs out. It ends up we learned a lot, loaded a running race car into the trailer when it was over, and also managed to get Bobby Kennedy qualified for the Runoffs as well, so all-in-all it was a good weekend.

Longer version:

Brooklyn Michigan is a twelve hour tow from the BK Racing shops in Greater Woodstock, but having raced at MIS before I knew it would give me a chance to (a) get back behind the wheel and (b) experience some high speed situations before being put on the clock at Daytona. And while the mile-long straight only happens once a lap compared to twice a lap at the Big D, it would give us a chance to check the gearing we’d be using for the Runoffs and do some testing with the radial Hoosier tires that we’re allowed to run in GT2 trim. About a month ago I’d heard that Bobby Kennedy needed to “turn a wheel” at a third Majors event in order to qualify for a Runoffs invitation, so we worked a deal with him to satisfy that requirement in Cuervo. Later while prepping Cuervo after his last outing at Road Atlanta I was looking at the 5” brake duct openings on the front of the car and said, “I wonder if blocking those off would give us enough of an aerodynamic advantage to make it worthwhile?” Finally, my longtime compatriot Mike Eakin (aka – Purple Frog) is going to be my Crew Chief at Daytona so doing the weekend MIS would give us a chance to get familiar with working together once again. Even though I ended up finishing fourth (of four) in GT2 during Saturday’s race, it was a successful weekend.

I rolled north on I-75 about 3:00 on Thursday (8/20) afternoon and spent the night just north of Cincinnati before doing the last four hours to the track on Friday. It does appear I-75 is under construction the entire length of Ohio, but I got to Brooklyn right around noon, met up with Mike & Janice outside the gate, then Janice went off to explore the countryside while Mike & I went inside the track and started getting ready for the weekend. Bobby and his dad Squeak showed up shortly afterward, so after unloading Cuervo the first order of business was making sure everything was in place for Bobby to get credit for the weekend. “Turning a wheel” means you have to actually get on track and appear on a results sheet for an official SCCA session, so we made arrangements for Bobby to grid the car for our Saturday morning qualifying session, drive it across the timing line on Pit Road, then pull over so I could get in and finish the 25-minute session. Besides verifying everything was set up with Registration, the Stewards, Timing & Scoring, and the Pit & Grid staffs, there is also the fact that Bobby is maybe 5’5” and weighs about 135 pounds while (even in my new svelte state) *I* am just a bit larger than that! We did find enough pillows and pads that he could see over the steering wheel and still reach the pedals, so we didn’t need the booster chair I’d “borrowed” from Burger King on the way in that morning! <g>

During Saturday morning’s qualifying session the plan to get Bobby qualified for the Runoffs worked to perfection. He staged Cuervo last in the grid area, trundled down pit road in first gear and crossed the start line, then pulled over to the pit wall so I could get in. While I was getting situated Mike and Squeak pulled the tape off the “5’s” to change the numbers from Bobby's “7” back to my normal “57”, then Mike dove under the LR fender to remove the wireless transponder we had gotten from the WMR people to make sure Bobby’s “session” appeared on an official timesheet. I was tempted to ask Bobby how the car felt, but decided against it. <g> He got qualified for the Runoffs and SCCA got an extra entry fee for the weekend, so I guess the rule did what it’s supposed to do – encourage participation at events throughout the year.

It only took about five minutes to do the changeover so there was plenty of time left for me to turn a decent lap, but in all the activity I completely forgot about having blocked off the brake ducts. If anyone wants to know I can say for sure it does NOT work! <g> About five laps into the session (while getting faster each lap) I noticed the brake pedal seemed to be getting longer as the session went on. It ends up I came in before the checker because of a “clunking” in the rear end that almost sounded/felt like rear wheel hop (more on that later), but as I was sitting on pit road while Mike took tire temps (so we could see how the radials were working) smoke started POURING out from under the front wheel wells. It was only THEN that I “remembered” the block off plates and figured out why the brakes weren’t working as well as they normally do! After Mike took tire temps and pressures I pulled around to Impound for the drivers’ meeting (standard at all Majors events) and the brake pedal went to the floor – I was  pumping it like mad and thinking I might have to shut the engine off to keep from running into Mike Lewis’ Jaguar that was in front of me, but I managed to get stopped in time.

After getting back to the garage and pulling the tires we saw the front rotors looked like old 78’s – no cracks like the ones that came apart earlier this year at Road Atlanta but definitely toast. We bled the brakes and the pedal came back somewhat, but beside the rotors being toast I also figured the front pads were groovier than the Monkee’s in 1966. I had a new set of pads but putting them on bad rotors would just ruin them so we went with what we had. The good news is the leak at the LR axle cap that we chased all weekend at Road Atlanta is now fixed.

We then jacked Cuervo up a bit more so I could get under the back to search for the source of the “clunking” noise. The first thing I saw was the ears on the driveshaft yoke appeared to have been rubbing (?), then I noticed the driveshaft inclination appeared to be steeper than normal. Finally I got under the car and saw where the ¾” x 7” bolt that connects the third link to the rear end was completely gone – the rear end had been rocking probably 30 degrees between acceleration and braking! Axle hop indeed. During lunch Mike & I made a trip to the local Ace Hardware and the longest ¾” bolt they had was 6”, so we got some threaded rod and the nuts & washers to cobble together a replacement bolt. We had everything back together, added a bit more camber to the RF based on tire temps, and otherwise got ready for the afternoon’s 17-lap race. 

The track configuration had changed slightly since we set the GT2 record there with a 1:22.845 lap back in 2013, but with a 1:20.179 we ended up ninth of 20 overall and fourth of five in GT2. Bobby was the only GT2 car behind me and he obviously wasn’t going to run, so with two Porsches (a 997 & a 996) plus a Viper in front of me I felt my long-time goal of never getting outrun by someone spending less money that I do was not in jeopardy – hell their wheels & tires probably cost more than our whole car! <g> I got a good start and moved up a place when the class-leading 997 spun in Turn 3 on lap 2, then a couple of laps later I passed the 996 on the front straight. I was able to keep the 996 behind me but the 997 recovered and came back by a few laps later, then I got caught up behind a GT1 Corvette that was slow in the twisty bits but powered away on the straights. About lap 8 he balked me more than usual so the 996 got a good run through the next corner and was able to outbrake me into the tight stuff leading onto the oval. I “might” have been able to get back by the 996 going into One, but the brake pedal was again getting longer and there was no need to push it (and maybe hit something) just finish on the podium at a race I didn’t really care about. I putted around behind the Corvette for a couple more laps and then radioed Mike that I was coming in – we had found out what we wanted to find out and there was no need in wearing the car out even more.  We ended up 17th overall with a best lap of 1:19.463 and had a complete race car to load in the trailer. After a short discussion Mike & I decided there was nothing left to learn so we loaded everything up and he got to start his vacation a day early.

Conclusions:

  • It’s a fun track and Western Michigan Region puts on a good event (and a SUPERB Saturday night party), but it’s simply not worth a twelve-hour drive each way – four or even six hours for sure, but not twelve.
  • On the way up it was around Chattanooga that I remembered I’d forgotten to load the laptop so we couldn’t pull any data, but once back home I downloaded the TraqMate and it showed a top speed of 165-166 mph on just about every lap. The car is geared for 173 and while I never buzzed the rev limiter in fourth, MIS has a first gear entry onto the straight while the entry to both straights at Daytona is faster. We may need a bit more gear for the Runoffs, but we’ll find that out while bedding the new rotors and pads during the first session there.
  • I've finished installing the new rotors and everything else is routine maintenance so we should be ready for Daytona with no problem.
  • Mike and I got to work together after a twenty-month hiatus and we once again quickly meshed as a team – he doesn’t threaten Dennis’ hold on the team’s Energizer Bunny award but we work well together.
  • We didn’t run back-to-back tests, but Cuervo felt more “nimble” on the HSC radials than he does on the GTA-required bias-ply tires. I did experience some “chatter” in the front end that could be due to warped rotors or maybe the suspension being too stiff, so we’ll sort that out during the early sessions at Daytona as well. The radials are $1260/set while the bias-plies are $684/set, so while I’ll run them one time in GT2 at a special event DON’T expect me to support any changes to the GTA tire rules.
  • Despite being out of the car since April, I still fit and apparently I haven’t forgotten how to drive. <g>

Current BK Racing plans for the rest of 2015:

  • September 21-27 – SCCA Runoffs ® at Daytona
  • October 10-11 – spectating at the NOLA TransAm weekend, then Harriett & I are staying over for the Falcons/Saints game on 10/14
  • November 6-8 – ARRC by GRM at Road Atlanta
  • November 14-15 – Roebling Road Time Trials (tentative)

As always, let me know if you want further information about any of these weekends.

See y’all at the track…