March 30

Racing again.

We started prepping the car in December with an entirely new suspension setup and new rims with pretty aggressive tires. Most of the team worked on it at every opportunity, and today we got the alignment done. I’m leaving quite a bit out as I normally do; this hasn’t been an easy journey. I’m just happy to be this far along and on-target for a successful run.

Double Deuce nearing completion.
Double Deuce nearing completion.

This year we’re going to be competing in both LeMons and Chumpcar amateur series events in three states. Choosing which events to enter is always a problem, and scheduling work-time on the car is never easy when every member of the team is both working a full-time job and managing a household with family obligations. Our most experienced driver AJ had to bow out for the April race in Arizona, and Larry is going to miss the December event at Laguna Seca in California. Thankfully we found a paying stand-by for AJ’s slot in April, but for the other two events we have at least 1 seat open.

We’ll be doing our best to stay on the track and stay competitive for the two LeMons races coming up. Hopefully we have good weather and no mechanical issues. I’ll try to update with our status when I get to the paddock next week.

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March 19

This sticker is dangerous and inconvenient, but I do love Fig Newtons.

I tore ass down the straight and hit upward of 85mph before having to brake down to 60 for a right hander in third gear, brought it back up to 70 through the chicane before hard on the brakes for the right handed spoon.  I had consistent lap times in the 1:30 range and we are currently at 40th out of 57 over all.

IMG_1154This is one of the best days of my life and one which I will never forget.  I am nearly exhausted after just three 30 minute stints, a total of 1.5 hours of driving out of eight hours of racing.  We have another 6 hours to race tomorrow.

The car is running flawlessly.  We haven’t had a single mechanical issue, and have only experienced the previously mentioned issues with our tires.  Lots of chunking from the center lugs, impressive amounts of tread scrubbing, and a greasy-floaty feel on hard cornering.  Because most of the high speed turns are right-handers, the front driver rubber is taking most of the punishment.  We have directional tires so we swapped the port side front with the starboard side rear and I took her back out for another 30 minutes without any real issues.

We have to work on our pit/driver swap times because we’re averaging about 18 minutes per.  This facility doesn’t have a proper hot pit lane, so we can’t actually do any of this on what you would normally call pit-lane.  We actually have to roll all the way back to the paddock at 10mph to swap drivers unless we’re refueling at the same time.  We’re only permitted to re-fuel on the hot pit lane and it’s a pretty short drive back to the paddock, but in-and-out it just isn’t.

Still we can do better, but we’re all just really jazzed to be here and are taking our time to make sure we have all the safety gear on properly, are strapped in good and tight with radio checked before we start rolling again.  I saw a lot of cars black flagged, spun out, off the track, broken down, and some sure to be marked DNF when it’s all said & done tomorrow afternoon.  I don’t care if we come in dead last as long as we’re still in this for the checkered flag tomorrow.

We have a laundry list of things to do for the next race and just about all of them are pretty spendy.  I haven’t done the math yet to know if I can do any of them before the Colorado race but I know I’m going to have to prioritize needs vs wants.  I don’t know if I should do better tires or just more tires.  Bigger rims and wider rubber?  Two sets?  Or three?  I could make up for handling changes due to wheel changes with a fully adjustable suspension but that’s a whole different cost structure.

Funny note for the day was when Lawrence gave his cell phone to Cope before going out on track.  Cope put the phone down someplace and promptly lost track of it.  For the next several hours between driver swaps and dozens upon dozens of laps various members of the team looked for the phone and came up empty handed.  After the checkered flag a bunch of the drivers went out on track walking around picking up debris and found the phone at the end of the back straight.

Apparently Cope had put the phone on the deck lid of the car while strapping Lawrence into the driver seat and left it there.  Nobody noticed as he drove out of the paddock and it stayed on the back of the car all the way down the straight.  I guess it flew off after he cut speed for the right-hand sweep at the end of the straight, and it’s just lucky that someone happened upon it after the race.  The screen is cracked a bit but it still works!  A great souvenir for our first day on the track.

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March 18

We made it.

This far.

We had tech inspection this morning at 11AM and flew through with only one recommended change.  The kill-switch needed to be relocated so that it would be within reach of the driver while belted in with arm restraints intact.  This required moving the switch about 2 feet from its original position and fabricating an entirely new mount for it.

There was also a mandatory track/facility driver meeting today at 12:30pm to go over basic rules and directions and then the track was opened at 1pm for pre-race testing.

We elected to get the kill-switch modification out of the way before we took the out for testing so we didn’t really get to drive until about 2:30pm.  The team moved like greased lighting with Cope & Lawrence leading the charge to get the wiring modified while AJ fabricated a new mounting bracket.

The team insisted I be the first driver so I took her out for the first four laps, marking my first time on an unrestricted track in a modified vehicle in full safety kit.  I have to confess that I was not prepared for the rolling nature of the car under heavy cornering and the first couple of laps really rustled my jimmies.  I was absolutely the slowest vehicle on the track and was overtaken by at least ten different cars while trying to make my way around the first couple of times.

By the time I’d gotten through with lap three my heart was racing so much I had to bring it in and do a driver swap.  Chris was ready to go so I let him take over and drank some water to settle my nerves.  The car handled beautifully except for the tendency to lean dramatically in the turns.

The poor handling is caused by the nearly OEM suspension from 1996 on the car having covered more than 170,000 road miles with nothing more than shock replacement.  We did the shocks in prep for this event but didn’t touch the springs or sway bars which is something I regret now.  We sailed through tech and BS inspection without any question or investigation of our suspension.  I could have installed a VMAXX kit on here without issue and nobody would have suggested I was over cost limits.  Lesson learned.  For Colorado or Button Willow, we will have a fully modified suspension setup.

My next five laps went much better.  I was able to push her hard through the turns and take it just to where I was sure traction was going to break loose.  When she steps out, she remains very controllable and rolling off the throttle a little bit will bring her right back in line.  I definitely didn’t set any speed records but I certainly felt much better by the time I rolled her back to the paddock for another driver swap.

So the highlight of the day is that every driver got a turn of at least four laps on the track and we didn’t spin out, leave the pavement, get shunted off, or otherwise experience rapid unscheduled disassembly of the vehicle.

Tomorrow is the real thing.  There are not less than 55 teams participating in the event and we will have a very crowded track.  Instead of going for a target number of laps, we’re going to break it out into 30-45 minute stints depending upon driver fatigue and vehicle handling characteristics.

The first hour is all about survival and I’m slated to take the first 30 minute stint.  Wish me luck.  :)

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April 28

Ramping up

I submitted an application to the city of Mesa for permission to cut out a 16ft section of public sidewalk and replace it with a driveway approach ramp on the west side of the property. It should take about 10 days for approval or rejection but I would be very surprised if it were rejected. I think the worst that could happen is I would have to have it redesigned to provide a flat rolling surface for wheelchair passage but, I don’t think handicapped provisions are a requirement for this type of change. At any rate, photos will be added to the gallery as work progresses.

The 97 MX5 seems to have some fuel delivery issues so I ordered a new fuel pump, fuel pickup filter, and fuel line filter from Rock Auto late last week.  The parts arrived today.  If we had the rear driveway completed and the paving done we could get started on this work straight away, but as it stands we’re going to have to retrieve the 97 from storage on Del Rio and make room in the forward garage to do the work.

It’s going to be a glorious day when the work is complete.  We’ll be able to bring all motors to one location and have room to get greasy.  :)

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