The day before this triple race event
was an open test day, and so my race engineer Glenn Philips of GTP Motorsports and i were busy getting right down to business. First thing in the
morning we did a gearing change in the Hewland LD200 transmission from the
Pocono gears to the NHMS set. Once that was done we were off to find out how
to shave precious time off my laps. Note that during this event, unlike my
earlier NHMS shakedown before Pocono, we used the Turn 1 and Turn 2 oval
sections as you may have seen during NASCAR events. We then use the
remaining road course (see track map on the right). Glen provided great
suggestions while we made changes to the car as i went out for various
driving sessions. After each session, we discussed the changes and looked at
the car's data acquisition to see where more time could be shaved off. A
very good day where lap times came down to around 1:05.5. There were places
where more time could have been reduced, yet as the day came to a close it
was up to me to put it all together during qualification tomorrow.
previously mentioned in my blogs, SCCA places various types of cars together
in a single race. Generally, these cars have close enough of a best lap time
so that traffic and 'rolling roadblocks' would be at a minimum. With 25 cars
on track during this 20-minute qualification session, it was a combination of
getting the car/tires at their proper temperature while managing traffic to
get a few fast open laps. The later point was quite a feat as many drivers
were perplexed as they had to navigate traffic, and this was defiantly an
issue. Fortunately, i was able to find a way to manage it so that there was
one very good lap and one ok lap just in case. My two best lap times during
qualification were 1:04.653 and 1:05.489. To give an idea how this was as
compared to others on the track, the next nearest time was by a different
classification FE car driven by an aggressive racer who knows the track
extremely well. His best time was 1:07.048. So my lap times were 2.395
seconds faster than the nearest competitor, with average lap times of all
cars being around 1:10. This type of time advantage is not subtle! It shows there is
much promise during the race!
Snatching Defeat Out Of The Hands Of Victory
The fact is, my engine is a slight bit
'tired', as i opted (wisely) for investing in a driving coach/engineer
instead of the normal winter engine rebuild. Add to that, it was the very
first time i have ever been on pole position to start a race. My rookie
experience, with a mere seven wheel-to-wheel events under my belt and this
being the eighth, reared its ugly head. Made a mistake at the start and
while lap 1 i was beaten to the first major turn, was right behind the only car ahead of me and was
on his tail. During Lap 2 i decided to take a different line at Turn 3, to
keep my car to the inside going up to the top of the hill at Turn 3 to Turn
Alas, there was
an incident near the 4/5ths point at the top of the hill approaching the
Turn 4 notation on the track map at the top of this page.
came from his normal left side to go up the hill and then he went over to the right part
of the track (inside where my car was located). i realized that while my car
was gaining on him and nearly beside his car, the driver was continuing to
come over towards me on the right and so i hit the brakes to avoid any damage to my car.
The other choice would have been to move my car further to the right, which
is off the track surface in a not so kind section. To have a track off
within an FC we must remember these cars are so low to the ground that
off-track excursions usually are not rewarded kindly. The result was that
while my braking was good, it was not quite good enough as the FE clipped my
front left tire, hitting and slightly bending the left front steering arm
while also causing sever damage to the left front wing and end
Two laps later i had to serve a penalty for
my mistake during the start and so was placed a lap down plus now located at
the back of this 24 car race. The good news is that we were under a pace
car full track yellow flag caution period, so there was a chance to get going
and do the best possible given the current situation. As during
qualification the slowest car was doing 1:20.205 and i achieved 1:04.653,
the task at hand was to manage traffic and pass as safely and quickly as
possible for the remaining 11 or so laps.
Yes my friends, even with the damage i drove
her as if she had wings, which frankly the car does have(!), so was passing car
after car during each lap. One after another car found its way to getting
smaller and smaller within my side view
mirrors and the end result is a resounding success in my book. i finished 1
lap down and 0.510 seconds. This means if we take off the penalized lap, and
not being placed at the back of the pack, i finished a mere half second off
winning while also losing quite a bit of time managing traffic during most
of the race! Fellow racers probably realize what it takes to achieve such a
feat within a mere 11 or so laps, with my now damaged car's best lap times
being 1:07.457 during the race.
To see the official final timing and scoring
sheets from this SCCA event, please click
here (Adobe PDF document).
And Now The Bad News
As the race was a resounding success in my
book, during this event i missed a couple of shifts, with one being a over-rev'ing of the engine.
Whether it is due to that, or the age of
this engine and the weakness of the design according to a top engine
building i spoke with today, is a matter if debate. During the final two
laps of the race i noticed a clicking sound from the engine. Immediately
checked my in-car data acquisition readout and the warning lights were off
and so all seemed ok. None of the flaggers showed me a 'Meatball'
flag, which means there is a problem with the car. The engine was down a bit on power these last
two laps and so tried to keep
the rpm down a bit just in case due to something obviously not being quite right.
Once in the pits i fixed the bent steering arm and replaced the broken left
front wing, figuring i'd get to the engine last.
some good friends assisted me in checking the engine after i removed the top
cover and we checked the valve clearances. Something was off and so as we
began to make corrections. One of the mechanics noticed it was basically game
over. On the top of the Ford Kent (Pinto) engine is a cam holder. While the
Ferrari employed holders that screw on and off to hold the cams, the Kent's
center cam holder is part of the actual block itself. Worse still, one of them is
located right where Ford decided to engineer in a lubrication system, and this further
weakens that part. The end result was a cracked cam holder and so that ended
my race weekend. The photo here shows the crack and the metal tubed part to the
left of the crack is the lubrication device.
Sent the above photo and others to one of the
top engine builders in the country and the plan of action is to scrap the
top section of the engine and replace it with another one. Ah yes, such is racing!
Well, the good news is that the costs are far less than my previous car...
by a wide margin. Therefore i look forward to the on track action in July and
hope to see you there!
Appreciation And Thanks
Thanks go out Glenn Philips at GTP Motorsports
as he was
instrumental during the Friday test session and tweaking the car so that i
was able to drive it confidently to achieve excellent lap times. For those
wondering, my theoretical best lap time during qualification was 1:03.9.
This time is right up there with some of the best drivers and we must keep
in mind i have a tired engine and this was only the eighth race event within my
lifetime. My heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the Enjoy the Track's sponsors for showing
their support so early in my racing career. If you are reading this, please visit the Sponsors
page and learn about each company's excellent products and services!
They truly offer outstanding items you really should consider before making
your next home audio purchase. As always, in the end what really
matters is that we all...
Enjoy the Track,
Steven R. Rochlin
PS: Apologies for no video, as the Chasecam
is fine yet the camera mount broke during Friday's practice due to the extreme
stress it has to endure. This is the third mount that has broken within a
year and so am going to commission/buy a mount that is incredibly durable.