WDMS Chapter 204
NARRA @ TWS
Got Twins ?
22/23 September 2012
So three months ago I cracked the upper control arm tab on Scratcher and thankfully Neil engineered a solution and Louis Gigliotti (LG Motorsports) did some welding and a week prior to the NARRA event at TWS I was actually looking pretty good for the event. Sure, I had plenty of little things to do, but the car was basically ready to go. For more story on the repair and upgrade of Scratcher, check out here. While he was here Neil also measured the whole car, taking precise information on where each suspension point was so he could model the car and we could work towards going faster. Faster is good, I'm all about faster...
Above: The drive plate bolts used to loosen up....not anymore! Scratcher, now with yellow wing and yellow hood slat.
Nick was going to be able to make it to crew all weekend (it is considered an event each day) and had decided to do the HPDE day on Saturday now that he has a twin turbo BMW that needed exercising. Gary could make Saturday as well, and Countryman was coming to instruct and drive La Cucaracha as well. A friend of mine from Washington (state) was working in Dallas for three weeks and she could come down for Sunday. Ron drove his Copperhead edition Viper last year but decided to skip the driving this year and just come hang out with his oldest daughter as a father-daughter weekend. This was shaping up to be a great weekend and hopefully Scratcher would cooperate. The NARRA folks put out a press release where ran a great picture of our family and said "Don't count out Michael Greenberg or local Paul Costas either. Costas (BikiniRacer.com Chevrolet Camaro) dominated the Texas event last year, while Greenberg just took second in the TT-U class at Monticello". Nothing like a little bit of pressure, right? Could I win one of the days...or maybe BOTH days?
Friday morning rolls around and I make the grueling 20 minute drive to the track to secure our paddock spot as the sun comes up. Countryman will be down that afternoon and we'll stage our trailers together again. I get the car out and it sails through tech and I have some stickers to put on. With the basics covered I slip the car back in the trailer and head home to get some real work done. Countryman makes it to the track and gets through tech as well and we'll meet up in the morning to start our weekend. Ron and his daughter show up for dinner at the house and we all have a good evening. The kiddos get to play with dogs and kittens, feed deer and swing in the big backyard swing together.
Saturday morning arrives and I head to the track early. Countryman was up already and another racing buddy Burch showed up to help out and watch and get some weekend riding time on his new Yamaha (awesome bike!). Nick had just pulled in also and we got the cars out and began to get ready for the day. 0830 was driver's meeting and we were on track at 10. Ron, Anna and the kiddos showed up and we got out projects and activities for the girls. Soon enough, Gary showed and the whole gang of us worked in our little corner of the paddock to start the day. The driver's meeting was fine and since Countryman had not driven this track in ages, and never in La Cucaracha, he took the car out for the early morning orientation laps as the rest of us prepared. Soon he came back in and said he just didn't feel very well. It wasn't very hot yet (in fact, the temperature was great all weekend!) but I could see he didn't look like his normal self. He decided to relax a bit and see if it was breakfast not agreeing with him or what. I had pulled the brake ducting for the repairs and not put it back on. I didn't think TWS would need much ducting and I wanted the airflow for the chassis area and would see how the first session went. I was going to find a clean lap, blitz one and come in and see where we stand and evaluate the handling.
Nick's freaking gorgeous twin turbo BMW. His story on the weekend is the very next chapter, here.
Scratcher stickered up, and Countryman doing the same for La Cucaracha
Scratcher was on the only full set of tires I have. I've not ordered anything new as the car will sit for 6 months after this event as we complete moving houses and get a lot of other things done. The tires were a bit thin and on the older side so my plan was to run the car just enough Saturday to post up a quick time and then park it. Run fast Sunday morning and then whatever tire I had left I'd take folks out for fun runs and burn them up (assuming Scratcher cooperated and all went well). It seemed like a good plan. Hopefully it would work. I didn't have any concern for the safety of the tires, they were in good shape in that regard, but as far as heat cycles and tread left, they were likely on their last event. With the clock coming ever closer to 10 I slid on my suit and dropped into the car. I'd changed the setup a step from ECR and it was time to see if it felt better or worse. The line in grid was long, and we had a close paddock spot so I could launch from the 'big shade' of our canopy so I simply waited till they began to roll off. Scratcher quickly fired to life and I rolled though the grid and turned left onto the pit road headed to T1 behind a gaggle of cars.
Very back car under the droopy canopy...that's me.
Session went okay but the brakes began to go soft and I brought it in. My best time was a 1:47.4 which was slower than I was expecting. I had some minor traffic and didn't wring the car out totally, but I was still hoping for a 46 or so. No biggie, we bled the brakes and I reattached the ducting. We also colored, did some sticker books, and ate some donuts! Family at the track FTW. Times came out and I was some 3 seconds faster than the closest TTU competitor and so from that point things looked good. I did want another run in the car with a clear lap to see what I could do so we got the car turned around and waited. Countryman had gone from feeling crappy to really feeling crappy and so Anna ran him out to the ambulance guys who checked him out and said 'take him to urgent care'. Not bueno. Burch took him into town as I was suiting up for the next run. Part of me really wanted to go too, but I knew he was in good hands and hopefully this was something easy. Anna had found out that he'd been working basically non-stop to wrap up stuff with his work and the car in order to make the event and so I hoped it was simply fatigue and said a quick prayer and slid into Scratcher once more.
GoProHD cam forward facing Saturday, 1 lap
Above right: This was some uber-rare super shelby "KR" car.....where the driver ran out of talent and hammered the front end badly. 'Hello Prudential?'
Session two was going well and I quickly found some open track but got caught out by a fuel starve issue coming out of the carousel and so there was no point in staying out. I ducked back in and called it a day. I'd dropped a bit of time, down to a 1:47.0, and there was for sure a lot more time out there. I was not pushing 100% at all, just turning nice fast laps. There was time on the table but I was also fighting the dead tires on several corner exits, most notably on T6, the carousel and the esses onto the front straight. Time to make some changes for tomorrow. Burch called and said they had taken Countryman in and were checking him out. Another quick prayer. More coloring, drawing, doodling. We found finger-paints too! During a quick break I did a debrief on myself with Neil's shock chart and really thought about what was happening while I was driving the car. I decided to make a front suspension change, a rear aero change and a rear shock change and would see how it felt the next morning. And oh yeah, dump another 4 gallons of fuel on board! The NARRA folks had selected me for a GoProHD cam and so they came and picked that up. After the first session (where it was facing forward) the girl said that they had looked at our lap times and decided to face mine backwards "to see the folks you pass", which I grinned about. They produce a post-event video documentary after each race and I've been watching them and they are very well done. Hopefully some of my footage gets picked for the official video!
Before lunch a surprise arrived, Anna had some WDMS shirts made! Wahoo! I've been meaning to get more done and she totally surprised me with them and it was awesome! Yay wife!
For the lunchtime parade laps, Ron put Ava in the Viper and away they went. Anna took Rossi in the Supra first, and then after a few laps Anna came in and I took Rossi out. As we got on track the pit marshal said "ONE LAP" and I whooooooooshed my way down towards turn one as the 'sweep car' was coming out of the esses. It was a fun parade lap and Rossi was giggling or we were chatting the whole time. As we finished our lap, the Vipers (a whole slew of them showed up just before lunch on a cruise to the speedway) were lining up on the front straight for a huge group shot and we scooted back into our paddock spot.
Saturday afternoon went okay. We kept hearing good news about Countryman and huge thanks to Burch for keeping us in the loop. Nick's little hot rod was looking great on the track and performing very well. We had a LOT of folks come up and ask about his car and he ended up taking one guy for a ride who had never been on a track. I think the guy started the NickFanClub right there! Nick looked smooth and quick out there, using those turbos for all they were worth! I decided to simply sit on my time as I pretty much had TTU locked up and we spent more time organizing the trailer, playing with the kiddos and playing crowd control to the growing NickFanClub. Who knew so many BMW nuts would show up to a viper event?? Countryman and Burch showed back up and it was great to see that he was okay. He was just physically worn-out-exhausted and not eating well lately and got dehydrated and it went from there. They went to the hotel early to relax and get an early dinner and said we'd see them in the morning. Gary headed back home too, but it was great to have his help for the day...huge thanks! The day wrapped up with nobody going faster as it got warmer and so we did take the TTU class honors for Day1. More hardware and sponsor contingencies!
We all headed to the house to get the girls cleaned up and get some food and Mel showed up from Dallas. More deer feeding, kitty playing, dog chasing, big swinging, and dinner and then it was time for Ron and Ava to head home. I called Countryman and he was sounding and feeling better and we were very happy about that. The rest of us chilled out for the evening, watched F1 qualifying and some of my in-car videos, weighed Nick's BMW and headed to bed. I went back over the handling in my mind and double checked that the changes I'd made were all in the right direction. I felt pretty certain they were.
Sunday morning dawned with Nick and I already at the track and a LINE of folks wanting to talk to Nick. Ok. Not really. Several folks DID come by that day to talk BMWs though. Seriously. Anyway, we got Scratcher out and ready for the morning runs and did little cleanup things and minor prep-work. I tried to run two cameras and a switch to alternate between them but it wasn't working so I went back to a single camera system. The car was pretty much ready early and the girls showed up for the podium ceremony at 9 for the previous day. I got my trophy, mentioned ThinkFast Engineering and my crew in the interview and we took pictures. Whee. Time to do it all again and hopefully go faster today.
GoProGirl showed back up and said Scratcher again made her short list of cars that get cameras and she was getting it installed as I was getting ready to make my first run of the day. It went on again facing backwards. Heh. Slid in the car, fired it up a bit early to get some temperature in the oil and got the data and my camera going and we headed out for the slowest outlap in racing history. EvAr. I had to go down to first and put the clutch in to keep from stalling...several times. Argh. Finally they pick up the pace coming out of the carousel and I drop the hammer down the short chute and line up the esses for a good exit onto the banking, passing two cars instantly. The next two laps were me picking off cars and not really getting a clean lap, but getting a good feel for the car and it felt a lot better. Finally I got a mostly clear lap and then came in to see where I stood. If it was not quick enough, I'd go back out right away since these were 30 minute sessions and I'd have plenty of time. If it was decent then I'd simply let it stand. I put down a 1:46.1 in light traffic and decided to just stand on that time for the session. We put the car up and looked it over and everything looked fine. A quick re-bleed of the front brakes and in 30 minutes the car was ready to go again for the second session of the morning. As the first session finished, I still had a 2.5 second lead on the second place TTU car and I felt pretty good that he would not find that time in session 2. On one hand I could make further changes and shoot for a clear lap and chase a bit more time, but there wasn't really much point in chasing the setup on worn tires. I was pedaling the throttle out of the carousel and the esses a LOT and that is what was costing me the most time. Comparing the data to my last time here, I was certainly slower off the corners. Oh well, we came to win both days and so far it was going well. I was happy to have the changes we did make indeed made the car faster and more solid. Sure, a clean lap pushing for that last few % would net an easy low 1:45 and likely in the 1:44s, but there really was no reason. Scratcher was fine, no leaks or blowby or issues of any sort. Added a bit of fuel, cleaned a little....she was ready to go again. That was reward enough right there!
VIDEO OF FIRST RUN ON SUNDAY (kinda long, has pics thrown in too!)
Session 2 rolls around and it is time for a bit of a different reward. Nick has helped me cobble this camaro together since day 1 and it was time to give him a ride in the car. He actually has a standing offer to drive the darn thing, but he said TWS was not the place he wanted to drive it first and I can understand that. Regardless, he slid into the passenger seat and got strapped in as I slid into the left seat and did the same. The staging lanes emptied and we followed the group out and I wailed on the car pretty hard and we had some good fun. Our fastest time was a 1:48.5...which was second fastest time of the 25 cars on the track at that point. I was leaving a little safety margin out there, but not a lot. My thought was that you don't want to get into a car like this and NOT have the driver push the darn thing at least pretty hard, right? We came in after a handful of laps and Nick got out of the car and with some time left in the session, Anna slid in and we went out and finished the session, again running about the same pace. Anna, as usual, whips out her iPhone and takes a bunch of stills and even some video of us wailing down the front straight. Love it! After the second session, we again look over the car pretty good and although the wear indicators on the tires are getting more shallow, that is about all that is noteworthy. The brakes are great, no leaks of any importance and the handling was solid. Another close inspection of the front suspension showed everything in order with the upgrade too.
Video of a lap with Nick
Yes, Anna sits on a little pillow even...
VIDEO LINK FROM ANNA'S IPHONE = 30 SECONDS Check out the rate of closure at the end of the front straight! (CAUTION: TURN SPEAKERS DOWN)
Lunch time again meant parade laps and I took Anna out in her Supra for some fun laps. We had Layne's and glass bottle cokes for lunch in the breeze and it was very nice. The temperature all weekend was great and the ever-present wind really helped a lot. Mel was loving the heat and wishing she could take some of it back with her (along with the Rudy's, Buccee's and Layne's that we introduced her to!).
The third session of the day is coming up and it is time for another passenger. Mel slides into the passenger seat and slips on Anna's helmet. She is a total car-girl and has been all her life. Her father was a serious drag racer so she is no stranger to race tracks or fast cars and her and her husband have a TT Supra, a bagged minitruck and an autocross prepped Paseo. I honestly don't know if she's been in a seriously quick road course car before but she seemed happy to give it a try. We coordinated our hand signals and then headed out when our group launched. I took it a bit easy on the outlap, but dropped the hammer for lap one. Again, I was pretty sure she didn't want me to baby it. We clipped off a 1:48.3 and a 1:49.1 playing in traffic and then we brought it back in, completing four laps. She didn't say much when we got back, but she was grinning really big for a long time!
There is no shortage of serious displays of money at a NARRA event...we easily have one of the very least expensive cars here, by far!
After that session we only had one more to go and I was really thinking we were done for the day. It was still early and so Nick and Mel both got on the road to make their trips easier and Anna and I checked out the times and wandered the paddock for a bit. We still had TTU locked up for Day 2 and did that podium/interview/pics thing and then started to pack up. Starting early, we had it easily ready before the end of the event and while I've done a LOT of events over the years, I've never had the trailer so clean and organized prior to loading at the end of the day. That made it REALLY nice. We leisurely took our time and winched in Scratcher (after pics with the trophies!) and put everything away and then began the long 20 minute trek home. Heh. Those darn deer aren't going to feed themselves! <grin>
NARRA put out a release just after the event and said "Records Tumble In Texas: ...Costas and Perkins do the double (double win)...Paul Costas and Michael Perkins also reset the TT-U and TT-2 records." Complete text here with a good pic of Scratcher thrown in too!
As usual, these things don't happen by themselves and while I get the joy of driving Scratcher, I'm completely aware and very thankful for all the help folks give me to make this happen. Thanks to Nick, Gary and Ron at the event, to Louis for the expert welding and to Neil for the constant engineering and chassis tuning help. Vorshlag and AST have helped a ton and I could not go fast and pull down hardware without all ya'lls help. Lastly, of course, my wife Anna is incredibly supportive and wonderful and I truly know how nice that is to have.
Neil's Blog on the double win.
Working on some more video with data overlay...that'll take a while, so here is a really cool picture going into T4.