Finally !! We get back on track with the fine folks with our NASA RM region. It seems like forever, since our April date was snowed out, and we haven't had a weekend since March. A big thanks to my sponsors for helping me get out there and drive. www.paradisepower.net
, Lisa's Import Performance Service and Jack-Wrap-it have all gotten behind me, and I'm very grateful.
The track at La Junta Colo, as described by one of the more experienced racers, is a "spooky little place". The reason for that description, is that it has one of the fastest and most dramatic turn sequences in the country, and is made up by a variety of worn out pavement surfaces. It was originally an airport and has at least four or five different types of asphalt and concrete, all in varying degrees of decay. It is a very simple but fun layout, and is historically hard on cars.
I opted to run the first session of the day on street tires, to compliment my street brake pads, since my race pads were still in limbo somewhere. I then switched to my worn out, but still usable R compound Hankooks. They do not get sticky anymore, since their heat cycle life has been outlived, so grip is something to be explored cautiously. In the second session, the first on the R comps, I started experiencing some odd handling characteristics in the only left hand turn on the circuit. The third time through it, I had to take the car straight into the infield (or spin) When I came off track, I discovered that my right rear tire was considerably down, but not flat.
I only noticed it in the left turn, since the rest of the track is made up of right bends that pretty much take the weight off that corner. It was evident that reason for the failure was the stem, and replacing it would render the tire usefull for a while longer.
On my way out of the paddock, in search of an open tire shop for repairs, I noticed the car sounded all wrong. I instantly recognized it as an exhaust leak, and a couple of stabs of the throttle told me it was pre-turbo. I was bumming...when I got back from a succesful visit into the little town of La Junta with a round tire to mount, I got busy under the car, and discovered the first of a number of failed bolts holding the crossover pipe to the manifolds and the UP. I wrestled to get them out and replaced, as the first one was completely fused to the nut. I got a bigger hammer, and managed to extract it. Upon finishing my hurried repairs, I was unfortunately aware that I wasn't done. The leak persisted, but I was getting almost full, but rather slow, boost in 3rd and 4th. I got out after only missing one session and ran a second faster than previously. I drove like I didn't care !Laugh!
In the last session of the day we had a TT shootout for time trial cars only. Ludachris, our site founder, ran over and jumped in for a ride. With the weight of a passenger I ran another 7/10ths faster (fastest lap of the day for me)
I think that maybe I was trying to show off, and maybe the car was balanced a little better. Thanks Chris
Despite me best efforts I could not match the lap time set by a 350Z, the only other car in my class (nice guy, named Gary). I had work to do...
I spent the evening trying to resolve the exhaust issues, and found another failed (less fused) bolt. I replaced it, but was not rewarded with solved problems. There was still leaking going on. I will determine exactly what else failed next weekend when I do a tear-down. I decided to concentrate on driving, since the car was not in any danger of serious failure. For now, my lesson learned is that good bolts are certainly worth the small cost, and the ones that come with after-market parts suck wind
The next day, I was determined to find the tenths I needed to catch the Z car, and drove like I didn't give a s**t. I did get faster, despite being down on power, but snapped a front end link in half, cooked my rotors, and nearly fried a wheel bearing, all on the left front corner of the car, which takes all the abuse at this "spooky little place". I have learned from experience, and carry spares for such an inevitability. I knew the brakes wouldn't hold up, and have new rotors waiting for the now overdue EBC pads. I have popped front endlinks before and they are about a 12 minute fix for me. The wheel bearing will be replaced soon. No worries about getting home in my wagon, now with 98k miles on it
The best session for me was the third on Sunday, where I beat Gary by 4/100ths
!!, and I was driving with only a right endlink on my front swaybar (The left had snapped in half). The rear was a little loose, but it must've helped. I never bested the 350Zs fastest time of the day, but came real close, and I learned a bunch.
My car is set up well for tracks that feature turns in both directions, but lacks the balance to conquer predominantly clockwise circuits. If I could afford it, I would go with a lighter front swaybar to achieve the looseness in the rear of the car, and corner weight it. For now, I will just try to get things fixed for the next event, and continue working on my driving skills.
Times for the weekend can be found here. Nobody's shootout times for Sat are correct. I ran a 1:02:683 in that session http://www.mylaps.com/results/showevent.jsp?id=215379
(Just to make myself look better, among the 8 cars listed above me in the results are 3 Vettes, an AC cobra, a full race BMW and a Porsche GT3. The only one I'm upset about is the 350Z !! )
I failed to mention that I had the time of my life, as I live for this kind of weekend. The mechanical problems only added to the fun, and could probably be blamed on my running a bunch of "extra" track days without giving the car thorough inspections. D'oh !!
The pictures are courtesy of www.performanceimagery.com
Thanks Keith, they turned out great