Enjoy the Track Featuring Driver Steven R. Rochlin -- Formula Continental and Ferrari 308GTS QV

 

 

 

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New Hampshire International Speedway (NHIS)  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.

Saturday Qualification

As 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! 

 

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 4.

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. The FE 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 plate.

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.

Well, 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.

 

 

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