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Road Atlanta V8RRS Weekend

Executive Summary:

The good news - (a) the shifter is now adjusted correctly (no missed shifts all weekend), (b) we got more laps in Saturday's race than we did the entire weekend at NOLA, and (c) it appears we have found the cause of the stuck throttle we encountered at the Daytona Runoffs last September.

The bad news - the impetus for seaching for the real cause of the stuck throttle was yet ANOTHER incident, this time while down-shifting from third to second under braking for Turn Five at the bottom of the Esses (that's significantly north of 100 mph according to my gear chart)!

Longer Version:

After the transmission got stuck in second gear during every session at the February 27-28 NOLA event Allan Kosloski and I spent around two hours working on the shifter adjustment before loading up and heading to Road Atlanta the weekend of March 18-20. The first race I watched there (the Runoffs) was back in November 1971, I first drove it at speed in 1976, I did my SCCA drivers' school there in 1984, and that (now) 2.54-mile stretch of asphalt is the reason I moved to Atlanta back in 1986. Over the years I've probably turned a thousand laps there and watched several thousand more, so it's probably an understatement to say I'm familiar with it. Even so, I still get a grin on my face every time I roll into the place.

Allan & I headed up on Wednesday afternoon to unload and set up our paddock spot. With over 250 cars pre-registered I thought it'd be easier to work out of the Pro paddock even though that meant we'd have to traverse across to the Club side of things for each session, so that's why we ended up separated from the comraderie and tall tales of the main V8RRS Compound. We were joined by probably 100 other folks that felt the same way, so it's not like we were alone on the island. <g>  Allan & I dined (and had at least one beer each) at Buffalo's Café that evening.

The weekend format started with a practice session Friday morning, and with all the laps I've turned at Road Atlanta we decided to skip the Thursday test day. Longtime crew chief Mike Eakin (aka - Purple Frog) made the trip from his lily pad in Greater Sopchoppy (FL) on Thursday afternoon to join Harriett & I at Dos Margaritas as a warm-up for the weekend.

Our first session on Friday was scheduled to begin at 11:05, so we arrived at the track around 8:30 (it's NICE not being in charge of things - no need to be there are 7:00 every morning!) to run through the pre-race checklist. Former Cuervo driver Jay Gomer's new ride wasn't ready yet, so he met us at the track to give us a hand installing the year-old tires we were using for the practice session, set the tire pressure, and get things ready. The objective for that session was to verify the shifter was working correctly and generally check things out. We ended up rolling off the grid at 11:30, and this time remembered to turn the GoPro on.

Here's the video starting with the first hot lap (CAUTION - Some scenes may be inappropriate for childen or those with heart problems): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-S6lcV0ByA&feature=youtu.be

Yes, Francis, the throttle stuck AGAIN(!) like it had at the Daytona Runoffs but this time I must have been paying attention when the racing gods were whispering in my ear because I managed to hit the ignition switch and minimize the damage. After getting cleared by Medical I returned to our paddock spot to find Frog, Allan, Jay, Jay's brother Chris, and a number of others hard at work getting Cuervo race-ready again. Ricky Sanders stopped by and figured out the carburetor linkage was hitting the underside of the air cleaner base, so I high-tailed it back to the shop to get some spacers I had. With Friday afternoon Atlanta traffic we didn't get everything done in time for that afternoon's qualifying session, but there was another Qualifier scheduled for Saturday morning so it was a pretty happy group that returned to Buffalo's Café (where more beer was consumed).

Jay had other commitments on Saturday but neighbor Jon Genger came in that morning to join Mike, Allan, and myself on the BK Racing crew. We checked things over and bolted on the set of Hoosier 3045 tires we'd used (for six laps) at NOLA, then drove across the bridge to join our fellow Big Noise drivers on the grid. Due to various on-track issues our 10:35 session finally rolled off Grid at 11:20, and my instructions from the crew (and Harriett) were to drive with one hand on the wheel, use another hand for shifting, and have yet another hand poised over the ignition switch in case the throttle stuck again. <g> As you can imagine, I was VERY tentative the first couple of laps while warming the tires and making sure everything was operating correctly. After a couple of conservative laps I got a pretty good gap in traffic and turned the wick up somewhat, but then I noticed the water temp was fluctuating between 200 and 260 degrees. That usually means low water levels, so I came into the pits at least knowing we'd fixed the throttle problems. I got stopped by the Steward of the Course who let me know my transponder was not working (one more thing to check) but my hand-timed best lap of 1:36.7 was about four seconds slower than I should have been running. The good news, however, is I had not missed any shifts and we appeared to have fixed the problems with the throttle linkage.

Back at our paddock we found the radiator was down about a gallon of water, and when Jon took the cap off the oil tank it was apparent where the water had gone - it had gotten mixed with the oil! As we headed off to lunch I called Lee Schwartz (the engine builder) and he gave us a plan that could possibly save the weekend. The compression was good on all cylinders, so we added some Bar's Stop Leak to the radiator, changed the oil, and were able to take our place in the 22nd grid spot (of 37 cars) for Saturday afternoon's 25-minute race.

I don't know if it was the phase of the moon, the fact that it was Atlanta Region's first race weekend of 2016, or if there was some other cosmic interference that displeased the racing gods, but it sure seemed like everything was working against running an efficient program that weekend. We rolled off Grid after 5:00 for our race that was scheduled to start at 3:30, then on the pace lap those of us nearer the back of the pack were running close to racing speeds (on cold tires) trying to catch up with the Pace Car and front couple of rows. Randy Haney came over the hill at Turn Eight at almost 100 mph only to find the pack almost at a standstill, and given a choice of running into Randy Walker or the wall he chose the wall. Here's a video of the pace lap and first racing lap from Jorge Nazario's GT2 Corvette that was lined up 13th on the grid: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1EsjUKZ1dM

High (or low) lights from his viewpoint:

  • 0:00 - Pace Car takes off at 60 mph, so everyone delayed getting off the grid has to has to hustle to catch up rather than having a chance to warm tires & brakes.
  • 0:30 - 12th place car is almost out of sight up the hill.
  • 0:40 - we're in Turn 3 and the Pace Car is out of Turn 5.
  • 1:40 - catches field as it starts to form up at Turn 8.
  • 1:50 - rear view of the white Camaro (Randy Haney) smacking the wall on driver's left.
  • 2:45 - "Green, green, green".
  • 3:25 - yellow Mustang spins exiting Turn 5, scattering cars behind him.
  • 3:55 - standing yellow at Turn 8 for Randy's Camaro.
  • 4:04 - Randy's car off driver's left, maybe 10 feet off the racing surface.
  • 4:10 - #19 and #98 get together at 10-A, spinning the #98. In the ensuing melee #96 tags the LR of the #59 and folks are driving off the track, but everyone appears to make it though.

From our viewpoint a bit further back, when we were coming into 10-A I told Mike I'd be surprised if they threw the green but they went ahead and waved it anyway. I picked up a couple of spots early and was right on Randy Walker's rear bumper with all the gauges looking good, then after a couple of laps the car started getting exceeding loose coming out of Turn 7. The cars I'd passed got back by me, and around lap 5 I started getting a LOT of smoke in the cockpit and the water temp was climbing. I finished lap 6 and wanted to stay out to see if we could get halfway (and thus get credit for a finish from an SCCA standpoint), but when the smoke got so bad I couldn't see the corner stations any longer (actually, I could see the workers leaning down to see if I was dropping fluids) I decided it might be best to come in. We officially completed seven laps (one short of halfway but also one more than we ran the entire weekend at NOLA) with a best lap of 1:37.283 - definitely nothing to write home about - then on the way back to the paddock the water temp spiked once again. When I got out and looked there was oil all over the RR tire which accounted for the car getting loose.

If we had a PR department they'd no doubt explain our retirement as a "fluid retention issue" - neither the oil nor the water was staying where it was supposed to. In the next couple of days we'll get the engine out and take it back to Lee so he can check things out, but this definitely deep-sixes our plan to take Cuervo to Summit Point in a couple of weeks. The good news is we had no missed shifts and it appears the throttle problems are fixed. We'll see how things work out, but the current target for testing is the Roebling Road test day on April 22.

Remaining (proposed) 2016 BK Racing schedule:

  • Apr 8-10 - V8RRS spectator/promoter at Summit Point (Summit Point WV)
  • Apr 22 (tentative) - Friday test day at Roebling Road (Savannah GA)
  • Jun 3-5 - V8RRS spectator at Mid-Ohio (Mansfield OH)
  • Jun 11-12 - Chase the Dragon Hillclimb (Robbinsville NC)
  • Jun 24 (Fri) - Atlanta Dragway (Commerce GA)
  • Jul 8-10 - V8RRS with Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at PittRace (Wampum PA)
  • Jul 29-31 - V8RRS at Road America (Elkhart Lake WI)
  • Aug 12-13 - V8RRS at Charlotte Motor Speedway (Concord NC) - also includes TT sessions on Friday, Aug 11
  • 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…