Ch244 December 2015
BIC at TWS with WRL
it was the best of times, it was the wettest of times...
First pace lap on a dry Saturday....
After the September TWS race for WRL, Bic was in pretty good shape. We needed to do a few things to the car, but basically it was ready to go with about a weekend's worth of prep. After that race I floated the potential of doing this December race to the team and most everyone had plans that weekend. Since I'm pretty picky on who gets in the car, I thought about not even doing this race, but Jason Toth reached out to me about driving a few months back and I really wanted him to get some w2w time. He's been instructing HPDE for a long time and is a good TT driver and this would be his first actual race. Bic is a great car for this as it is quick enough to not be boring, but slow enough that you've got some time to keep your wits about you. Toth is VERY heads-up in a car and I had no worries about him driving. In October I also had some long chats with another tube-frame SU driver, Sammy May and he said he'd love to join in as well. Sammy is very quick in a car and I've not seen him put a tire wrong in our years of racing SU together. I felt pretty good about our "pick up" team and was looking forward to the race! I pinged Wootten and Fertitta to help crew and my optimism continued.
Toth... "just keep making laps"...
The only real issues we had with the car was the propensity of the motor to push a bit of oil out the dipstick (and/or push out the PCV valve) and sometimes going into 5th was a bit wonky. I remedied the first item with a PVC strap and then plugging the oil dipstick tube during the Friday test and it seemed solved. I knew we were looking to do COTA in February and I knew I'd freshen the motor before that, so the patch job would hopefully hold. The motor was for sure down on power, but fastest lap times rarely win endurance races, so we'd short shift a bit and see what we could do. The transmission fix was to simply have our spare unit with us just in case. Heh. The only other change was to ditch the 3.42 and drop to a 3.23 in order to hold 3rd and 4th longer and keep us out of 5th as much of the front straight as possible. It would cost us a bit more fuel, but should help our lap times.
Left: Ensuring that PCV valve stays put! Right: Big concern now is the rear main might blow out....heh
I'll let Toth (I know too many "Jason"s !!) pick up the intro to the story now...
I need to start by thanking Paul Costas for the opportunity to drive in this event. It was good fun, and I appreciated it. I got the word from Paul that he had an open seat for this event, and I immediately said yes. I hadn’t ever raced wheel to wheel before, but I have been on track with other cars in a competition environment and I felt like I could do well in this event. TWS is a comfortable track for me that I have driven on many times, and Paul’s Camaro was the perfect car for me to get my feet wet in since I started out driving 80’s and 90’s pony cars, and I felt like the learning curve wouldn’t be too steep. A couple of weeks before the event, Paul asked if I wanted to practice on Friday, and I thought that would be a good idea since I hadn’t ever even seen the car I was expected to drive.
Really REALLY clean little E30. Was quite fast....
I left Dallas first thing Friday morning, and arrived at the track shortly before the event was starting. Paul was already there, had the car unloaded, and ready to go. He gave me a quick walk around of all of the switches and gauges, and then we went to the driver’s meeting. I was happy to find out we only needed helmets for this “open track day”. It was a warm and sunny afternoon, and I was not looking forward to wearing my brand new, inexpensive (and thus heavy), driving suit. They also told us the passing zones would be open, but with point by’s only. Perfect, one less thing for me to worry about while learning a new car. Paul took the car out for a couple of shake down laps just to make sure everything was working, and brought it back in. He told me that if I could put down laps in the 2:14-2:15 range that would be plenty fast enough to be competitive. I went out and took it easy, trying to get a feel for the car. I started out in the 2:20’s, and with each lap got a little faster. It was smoking badly, and the issue was traced to crank case pressure pushing the dip stick out of the tube and spraying oil on the motor. Paul fixed the issue by removing the dip stick and capping the tube. It wasn’t long before I found myself receiving point bys from Miata’s on the tighter sections of the track, and clicking off 2:11’s. I felt good about the session and brought it in. When I came in Sammy had arrived, and he took the car out for a few laps to get a feel. He brought the car back in. We took off the old set of tires, and put the new ones on for the race the next day, and Paul took the car out to scrub in the new tires. Feeling good about the race, we parked the car and called it a day.
Friday night and I was really feeling good about the race. There were at least 6 GP4 cars (GP4 is our class....there is also GP1, GP2 and GP3, but GP4 is the lowest hp/weight class) and Toth and Sammy were both throwing down competitive times quickly. I knew Toth had won some TAMSCC Dallas Karting Club get-togethers and I figured he'd be plenty fast. Sammy is always fast....I tried to not get too excited, but I felt we could do the typical WDMS "punch above our weight" despite the very large field.
Let's let Toth talk us through his first (double) stint:
Saturday morning we were all at the track well before sunrise. The 9 hour race was scheduled to start an 8:30 to coincide with the 5:30 sunset as this was SUPPOSED to be a daytime race. There was rain in the forecast that was being predicted to arrive in the early afternoon. I really didn’t want to drive in the rain, but starting the race didn’t appeal to me either since I had never participated in a green flag start, and I didn’t want to hurt Paul’s car. Paul decided that since he has been able to manage almost 2 hours between fuel stops in the past, and we had three drivers, the best pit strategy was for each of us to drive a three hour stint, and stop for fuel 1-1/2 hours in. I wasn’t sure how I would hold up to three hours in the seat, but I work hard on my fitness so I thought I could handle it. Paul decided I should start, Sammy would run second, and Paul would take the third stint. Paul has a radio in the car, but I didn’t have the right kind of coms in my helmet. We did discover that my instructor coms would allow me to hear him, I just couldn’t communicate back, so we decided to communicate through yes/no questions and hand signals. So out on the track I go for two pace laps and a green flag start. We were gridded in the back of the field with the rest of the GP4 cars, and going into turn one, the field was really mixing it up. I decided to lay back, give them some room, and then start picking off cars one by one. (This was a complete PRO move by a damn smart rookie! ~Costas) By the end of the first lap, the field in front of me had sorted itself out, and I went to work. I started 35th overall (out of 40!), and third in class. It took me a few laps to really get into a groove, but eventually I started laying down consistent 2:11’s and 2:12’s. Paul let me know I was about thirty seconds behind the leaders in the class. I was picking off a few of the slower cars in the faster classes, and generally having a ball. I got hung up behind a slower car that I just couldn’t seem to get around. While I was working on him, a faster Miata had caught up to me. I finally got a good run on him in turn 6, and started my pass on the inside down the back straight. The Miata had the same idea, and came to the inside of me. If it had just been me and the Miata, I would have just let him have the pass, but I wasn’t going to spend any more time behind this slower car. The three of us drag raced the entire back straight and went three wide into turn seven. I backed off at the last moment so I could tuck in behind the Miata at the apex, and we all made it through. That’s what I call fun!!!
Team Laminar... Scott Adams' team...I gave them some nut/bolt hardware to fix their car on Friday :-)
They are ALWAYS fast and punching above their weight with quick/smart/smooth drivers. They finished 2nd overall both days with class wins in GP3!!
Paul was in my ear consistently offering support and telling me I was doing a good job and to keep it up. We had planned for me to come in at 10:00 for a refuel. Paul had been able to get 2 hours out of a tank in the past, but did not know how a gear change would affect that. At about 9:40 I started getting fuel starve in the esses. Uh-oh. With the starve only happening in the esses, I decided to keep making laps. After a few more laps, fuel starve started rearing its head on other high G rights. I couldn’t wait anymore, I needed to come in. I rolled into the pits, and of course they weren’t ready for me. Paul asked what was wrong, and I told him I was low on fuel. He asked if I had enough to make one more lap while they got ready, and I said I thought so. I went back out, and the car died on nearly every right hand turn, but I made it all the way back to the pits. Paul takes his endurance racing pit stops very seriously, and within about 2 minutes I was back on track with a full load of fuel. Shortly after the stop, Paul told me that I was now leading the class, and about thirty seconds behind putting the second place car a lap down. He wanted me to back off the pace a little and try to stretch the fuel. I started laying down 2:13’s. I’m not sure how far into the stint I was when Paul called me and told me the other teams had started having mechanical issues and that I was now seven laps in the lead. He asked me to slow to a 2:14-2:15 pace. I have always heard how hard it is to run off of full pace, but never really appreciated it. I concentrated on hitting perfect lines, and not allowing the tires to slide anywhere on the track, and started hitting consistent 2:14.5 laps. It was most difficult when I was passed by cars I knew I could run with, but had to let them go and not race them (again, this is a veteran move by a very smart rookie! ~Costas). As we were approaching the scheduled end of my stint, I started experiencing fuel starve again, but I had stretched the tank farther than I had the first half, and Paul called me in before I was worried about running out. We made the driver change, and refueled, sending Sammy out for his three hours. I never once felt like I was tired or needed to get out of the car even though my driving suit was soaked through with sweat when I got out of the car. I got out of the car in 14th place overall and leading the class by 10 laps!
Friend (TAMSCC) and Aggie Clark Hicks runs with the Nismorons and they typically run very strong.
Saturday they ended 6th in GP3 and 15th overall in a tough class after overcoming a few small problems.
I could NOT have been more proud of Toth. He put in two INCREDIBLY well-driven stints and did exactly what he needed to in order to position WDMS for the win. So many drivers are not suited for endurance racing as they "red-mist" their way into over driving the car, over-heating the car, going off track, etc. Toth hit his marks, ran fast when he needed to and ALWAYS ran smart. This was looking great!
Getting some puddling at the apex of the esses...
Sammy slid into the car, we finished loading him up with fuel and off he went. His first full lap he came across the line in 16th overall and a lap later was in 15th (overall, still 1st in class) as he got up to speed very quickly.
Team Laminar (red miata) about to put those four cars another lap down (including Bic!!) over the next few minutes..
Toth is doing a great job, let's let him finish the commentary:
The rains hit during Sammy’s stint, and he was fighting a fogging windshield trying to clear it with the backs of his gloves on the straights. Sammy was doing much better on fuel in the rain, and was too busy trying to see to pay attention to what time it was. Paul spent several laps standing in the rain at the inside straight wall trying to flag him into the pits. Paul finally gave up and went to the restroom, and of course that is when Sammy noticed what time it was, and came in. We had to tell him his replacement was not ready, and to take about 5 more laps. Sammy did what he was told, and when he came back Paul was ready to get in the car. We built what looked like a giant Q-tip out of a coat hanger and paper towels so Paul could wipe down the inside of the windshield. Paul battled the torrential downpour his entire stint. Because Sammy went long on his stint, Paul only had to do 2-1/2 hours. Based on the amount of fuel we put in when Sammy came in, we suspected Paul had enough in the tank to make the entire time, but we had enough of a lead to be better safe than sorry. We brought Paul in with 30 minutes to go, splashed the tank, and sent him back out. Remember how I said the race was scheduled to end at sunset? Well that didn’t take the thick black clouds into account, and it was completely dark with 30 minutes left. Paul had headlights on his car, but that didn’t help him see the cars coming up behind him, without headlights, through his fogged up rear window. Fortunately, everyone was careful and the race ended without any mishaps. When they waved the checkered, we could see that the flag stand was waving a flag, but we couldn’t tell if it was the checkered or not. We ended with the win and a substantial lead.
Sammy focused on driving and missing the guy in bright yellow jumping up and down and waiving a yellow sign. We gave him grief that night!!! HAHAHA
Wootten tried to flag down Sammy as well with zero success. It was pretty comical. We were all soaked but #winning tends to make that tolerable...
Okay, this was some of the hairiest driving I've ever done and I've done stage rallys AND won a demolition derby!!!! The last few laps were simply trying to keep it between the mud and not get hit. Up until then I had a good pace and would use my giant q-tip on the inside of the windshield every other straight or so. We had good tires on the car and I could pass pretty easily.
Note: During Toth's first stint in the dry there was another GP4 car (v6 mustang) that could run with GP2 cars down the straights pretty easy. Clearly this was a problem and we could see it every single time they went down the front straight in front of everyone. We told two WRL officials about this and were told "we'll look into it". Thankfully the drivers were sssslllloooowwww in the corners and so the lap times about evened out, but my fear was COTA in a few months and the incredibly long straights there where the car could get so far ahead we might not be able to catch up. The car ended up having issues and was not a factor, but their power worried me. *foreshadowing*
When the checker finally did fly, we had 198 laps compared to 2nd places' 170. About 30 laps at over 2 minutes a lap is a solid hour lead. We ended up 9th overall due to smart driving, a reliable car, and solid stops. Huge thank you to Wootten and Fertitta for the strategy and pitwork!!!
Team Poorvette struggled on day one finishing 29th overall and 9th in GP2
They improved a lot for day two, finishing 6th overall and 3rd in GP2. Nice recovery for Marc Sherrin's team!
Paul's team is really great and I was very happy to be a part of it. We had a great plan of consistent running and fast pit-stops and it was executed even with the horrible weather. The car was easy to drive even in the wet and all the rain really balanced the field and allowed our team to push forward and capture the win by a large margin. I enjoyed picking off faster-class cars throughout my stint!
Anna's silver 911 attracted a nice little parking-buddy! Our daughter Ros listening to race chatter, playing on her iPad and staying mostly dry...
After the race we all pitched in to turn the car around. We put Bic high up on stands and pulled the wheels to inspect the brakes and rotate the tires. The biggest issue was that the car was increasingly difficult to get into 5th gear. Rain was predicted in the morning, but the afternoon would be dry and so we had a decision to make. I looked at Fertita and said "how long". He simply said "45 minutes" and then "up or down?". Since we ran ASedan back in the day, we had this part down. I said "up" and got the tools needed to pull the shifter and the driveshaft while he went under the car to pull the torque arm and the 4 transmission bolts. We were completely done in about 40 minutes. The rest of the team changed the oil, cleaned everything, swapped rear brake pads out (they were a bit thin), bled the brakes, topped off all fluids and buttoned it all back up.
----- So that wraps up our well-earned victory on Saturday...we won despite the weather and competitors... WELL DONE!!!
Sunday....well......Sunday was (as they say) a "whole 'nother story", as we worked to win despite ourselves !!!
Toth will get us going...
Sunday came, and it was still raining. The area had received 3 inches overnight, and the tunnel entrance to the track was closed due to high water. WRL decided to delay the start, and send street cars on the track to try and disperse some of the standing water (while it was still raining). It didn’t help. I didn’t want to start this race, but I knew it was only fair that I start since I was the only one who got a totally dry stint the day before. I got in the car with my magic defogger stick, and the field was staging before I was really ready. I went ahead and pulled up and while we were waiting for the safety car, I managed to get my own coms hooked up. Unfortunately nobody in the pits knew this, so they didn’t think I could hear them, and they never turned the radios on. The safety car took us out on what was to be three pace laps. I discovered that every time I ran through a puddle, the inside of the windshield instantly fogged up, and the rain-x on the windshield didn’t start working until I hit third gear. As a consequence, I was completely blind during the pace laps. On the second lap I followed the car in front of me completely off the pavement. Luckily, it was in an area that wasn’t too muddy, and we both made it back on. Once the race got started, I could see, and only had to clear the inside of the windshield 2-4 times per lap, depending on whether I had traffic in front of me. The wet line was very hard to find, and it was almost impossible to get enough of a run out of a corner to make a pass. There was nothing fun about this, and I found myself looking at my watch to see if I was about done with my scheduled two hour stint. To my dismay, I had only been on track for 45 minutes. I kept making laps and started feeling better about where I could trust the traction and where I couldn’t. One of the slippery turns was turn six. I had several OH S#1T! moments there. About 1:15 into my stint, I had another one. The back end tried to swing around on me, and I tried too hard to catch it, and snapped the car back to the outside of the corner. I knew I wasn’t going to save it from going off, so I straightened it up so I could go off straight, and tried to keep the momentum up enough to get back on track. No such luck. It was too slick, and I got stuck. They had to bring the tractor out to pull me out. Once they got me out, I brought the car into the pits. I told Paul what happened, and he said “So? Keep making laps!” Dammit. Back out I go.
Two of the dozen EZups we saw Sunday morning that died overnight....
Toth started the race 23rd out of 29. There was a LOT of attrition the previous day and maybe some are scared of the wet. When Jason found the mud and came in on lap 24, he had moved all the way up to 13th place overall and was doing a great job (except the mud part). Did Toth think he was going to get sympathy from me? Our mantra is "keep making laps", so if you can "keep making laps" then...well....I expect you to "keep making laps". <grin> For that 25th lap, Toth's laptime was nearly 15 minutes...and sadly our next stop would be even longer! <heh>
When I went back out, something had changed. The temperature was cooler, the air was dryer, the windshield was not fogging up as bad, and there seemed to be a slightly drier line developing. I thought to myself, “Alright, I can deal with this now.” How wrong I was. A couple laps later, I found myself gaining confidence and pushing a little harder. I pushed too hard in the braking zone of turn 3, and they locked up. I let off, and tried again, and they locked up again. I let off and tried again, and this time the tires grabbed, but I was carrying too much speed to make the corner or stop before going off tack. I made the tactical decision to scrub off as much speed as I could before going off track. Once I hit the grass, all deceleration went away, and it was apparent I wasn’t going to stop before the tire wall. I tried steering out of trouble, but turning the wheel had absolutely no effect on my trajectory. I was along for the ride. As the tire wall got bigger and bigger, I thought “Well, this is going to suck.” I was right. After the car stopped, I killed the engine and gave a thumbs up out the window. Apparently the corner workers couldn’t see it, because a few minutes later, they had red flagged the race, and I had an ambulance crew checking on me.
Somehow, when I saw the red flag on the front straight I knew it was our car. I just felt it and I was completely sure it was us. I wasn't really worried about Toth, the car is safe and with the rain the speeds were slower, but I just knew it was us. A nearby team had a radio on the control net and confirmed it was the #13 and the driver was fine. Ok. No biggie, let's see if we can recover from this.
Getting the car turned around to head back out. Jason got to keep a piece of the front air dam as a memento...
The tractor extricated me from the wall, and I was able to limp the car through the infield to the garage. I was extremely upset with myself, but Paul was more than supportive and said he was just glad I was alright. We checked the car and all of the damage appeared to be cosmetic. We pulled off or zip tied together all of the loose bits and banged the fender away from the tire. Paul went out for his stint, and later told me that there were cars flying off the track all over the place.
I think all of us were laughing a bit as we ...uh.... modified the nose to finish the race. The pimpy LED headlamps survived the crunch and honestly, that's all that mattered! This stop on lap 29 ended up being just under an hour. There were no other GP4 cars running at this point so all we have to do is cross the finish line for the checker. We took our time to get the nose secure and cleaned up. Then I suited up and took the car out for about 40 laps. It was still damp off and on, but mostly dry and so I crept up from 27th overall when we got the car back out to 24th when I turned the car over to Sammy. During my stint I saw DOZENS of cars going off track. Some would do an off-n-on and others would bury themselves up to the axles in mud. It would have been more entertaining had I not been so focused on keeping Bic on the pavement!
This is Sammy on day two....he looked at our pit box almost every lap so he would not miss a pit signal... heh heh heh
About an hour from the end, Sammy had clutch problems strike. The clutch would not disengage all the way and so for his final fuel stop, we bump started it in gear and off he went. With 30 minutes to go he came into the pits and said it was done. It sounded like a gravel truck on a bumpy road! All we could do was wait, so we let the clock tick down and as the checker flew we pushed the car towards the pit-road timing strip. The car started and Sammy was furiously trying to find anything in the clutch/transmission selection that would give him forward momentum and was coming up empty. Every time he'd rev the engine a bit, it sounded HORRIBLE but I had told him to keep trying. As the car slowed a bit (and was still HUNDREDS of yards from the line) the car bucked hard and then Sammy gave it a tiny bit of throttle and on the teams' sheer willpower and prayers (and the mix-mash of blown pressure plate and clutch disc parts congealing), the car ever-so-slightly accelerated and he crossed the timing strip going at least 9 miles per hour. In 22nd place overal. 1st in class!!! CHECKER FOR THE WIN!!!
Sammy in Bic
Despite the rain, this was a fun event. I felt bad about the clutch, but Paul assured me it was an old one and the new motor would be getting a new clutch anyway. I had fun running down faster-class cars as well as hanging out with the team. Really good people! Bic is easy to drive and long stints were not a problem at all. The car is very neutral in the corners and has great brakes. Trying to get the car across the finish line was tough, I was trying the shifter in any position that would give me some drive and luckily found one. Thank you Paul and team!
Left: What I saw when the trans came out, pressure plate still on motor. Right: What came rattling to the ground when the pressure plate was removed!
Huge HUGE thank you to Fertitta and Wootten for crewing and making strategy calls. Toth and Sammy both did wonderfully and hopefully they will rejoin the team for another drive somewhere. We ended up with two first place trophies so I sent one home with Toth and the other with Sammy. Enduring these races, with the conditions and the competitors, surely warranted these guys having nice big trophies of our efforts on their mantles at home.
Fertitta, Costas, Toth and Sammy...sadly Wootten had already left and Anna and Ros had scooted home as well. Trophies are nice, but smaller than WRL trophies in the past...
My friend James was parting out a third gen a few weeks later and for very little money we got an all-new(ish) nose, fenders and hood for Bic. We'll get the motor freshened and maybe repaint it for the COTA race coming up in February.