Chapter 264 - June 2018
The 14hrs of Daytona!!
WDMS and Bic and WRL
Yeah. Just kinda rolls off the tongue sounding pretty slick. EVERYBODY knows what and where Daytona is. Often when we amateur racers go do our thing and people ask us where we do that thing we tell them where and then immediately have to explain where that actually is.
"Where were ya'll racing?
"Yeah, we raced at Hallett....that's in Oklahoma near Tulsa"... "We were in Road America, that is up in Wisconsin north of Milwaukee" ... "We raced at Barber, yeah that's near Birmingham in Alabama"... "High Plains, that is in Colorado just east of Denver"..
"Daytona" No further explanation. No geographical landmarks needed.
"Daytona". Yeah, that's what I said. And I didn't need to say "in Florida".
So yeah, the WRL endurance racing group has raced at Daytona a few times but we've never been in a position to go, but this year it just worked out. At COTA, Frank Bryan and Ron both suffered along with me with fuel issues (contaminated fuel, killed a bunch of hydramats, doh!) and in the aftermath we all wanted another run in the car and looked at the schedule. Frank was first to chime in with "I'm in" and Ron checked his schedule and agreed. The date was penciled in and a few months prior the prep-work began. Ron came up and helped to square the car away and progress went well. We were exctited to run Daytona and to have 14 hours there in one day. The lights were triple checked!
255 Hankooks and 275 Falkens (both on 9.5s) + Family LED upgrade to the roof of Bic!
While we did several good upgrades to Bic for COTA, the only upgrade we did for Daytona was our long awaited brake upgrade. We've been sucessfully running the factory single-iron-really-heavy caliper since the car debuted in 2007 (IIRC) and with the progression of the car getting faster and faster the brakes were more and more marginalized. In the spirit of "all that is Bic" and not spending a ton of money, the "Blue Collar Brake Kit" was utilized.
BCBK, before and after!
The BCBK was the brainchild of Stan Gerding on FRRAX (www.frrax.com , fbody road race autocross forum) and I played a small part when he was designing this kit because I had an actual GM blueprint for the factory spindle and Stan needed those dimensions to make his adapter. Unlike the traditional "banana" bracket that only bolts into two places, Stan's kit uses three for more strength and durability. The factory 1LE uses a thick banana bracket to mount the PBR twin-piston aluminum caliper and I've seen them fail several times. Scary. Seeing what Stan designed really fit high performance usage and it uses a $175 (new) forged superlite 4 piston caliper from Wilwood. The pads are .80" thick and are not super expensive and so this was the way to go. The whole reason Stan called it the "blue collar" kit is because it is NOT a super expensive kit like so many on the market are.
Several years back, WDMS racer Gary Robertson upgraded his CMC car to this brake kit as well as Stan using this on his car so I knew it would be bolt-it-up-and-go setup with no tuning/changes expected. Stan had a set or two of the special brackets made and then shared the design with Gary and I, and Gary organized a run of the brackets down in Houston. He kept two sets for himself (one for his CMC car, another set for his project street car) and I bought the rest of the very small run. I've had them in boxes for a year or two and it was time to get a set on Bic.
So Bic sheds the 10.5" x 1.0" factory rotors in favor of Corvette C5 12.5" x 1.25" directionally-vaned rotors and we gain a LOT of brake capacity. A new hydramat was installed and all fluids checked/changed and the car was prepped in the months before the race. Since we'd (hopefully) be racing into the night, I grabbed some LEDs (blue...to match the stripes/numbers) and we put some on the nose and roof to help with spotting. FYI: The next WDMS chapter will be all about the BCBK with lots of pictures and weights and such.
On left we see a balljoint trying to escape the control arm. On the right it is now not going anywhere! (and it didn't!!)
The Wednesday before the event was loading day and Bic was on the lift getting the oil changed after some easy testing. Since the spindles had been off and on, I wanted to make sure the ball joints were greased and to my shock the passenger lower balljoint was partially out of the pocket. CRAP. It was almost dark. I was due to leave in 12 hours and the trailer was mostly loaded. Pulling a control arm was not in the time budget so out comes the sparkwrench!! I lowered the car with my big jackstand (muffler support thing, car stabilizer thing, whatever) under the ball joint and it BANG'd into place when a lot of weight was on it. Fire up the blue wrench (Miller FTW!!) and zap that sucker to the control arm in a few places slowly while spraying water to keep the temps down. Once done, refill with fresh grease and down the car comes and into the trailer it goes. #SendIt
The rig rolled out Thursday, headed to Houston to pick up Ron. Before that could happen I got to chat with an older sheriff who pulled me over 40 minutes from home. It went like this:
Officer's opener: Did you just put that sticker on the trailer?
Me: Yes sir, just yesterday
Officer: Did you put it on the right trailer?
Me: Yes sir, I only own the one trailer
Officer: <skeptical> The plate is expired and those are usually on STOLEN trailers....how long have you owned this trailer?
Me: I bought it new in 2001
Officer: <grinning like he knows something I don't> Ahhh, well the trailer is registered as a 2002!
Me: <slightly grinning and just staring at him> <waiting> <waiting> <waiting some moar>
Officer: <frowning now that he realized you can buy a 2002 trailer in 2001> well the trailer is incorrectly listed as an 8.5
Me: yeah, it is 8.5 feet wide
Officer: <long gap> Let me go check some things (gets my license, trailer registration, insurance)
-gone for 10 minutes...literally-
Officer: For some reason our computers are not updated, but it seems like everything else is in order so you have a nice day
So yeah....starting the trip off right!
Then I picked up Ron in Houston and we Snowman'd it eastbound. Frank flew from California and arrived Thursday night whereas Ron and I grabbed a hotel in Florida and drove the last few hours Friday morning to make it there as the track opened on Friday at 1pm. Rain was off and on and so we unloaded into our garage spot and started the last minutes stuff of rigging the cool suit setup, as well as a handful of other simple things. Since we knew rain was a strong possibility we had grabbed a set of the Firehawk Indy 500 tires (a rebadged Bridgestone S003 Adreneline) as they are soft and highly rated in the wet. Firestone rates them at 340, but Bridgestone rates them at 220. LOL.
Cool to see those options on our SOLO and guess who needed sunglasses (Florida sunshine!!!)
By Friday night Bic had cleared tech and was wearing the Firestones as rain was predicted strongly by lunch on Saturday. We also had a set of half-worn Falkens as well as some lightly worn Hankook's but the fresh stones got the nod for rain. Several folks came to look the car over and two other GP4 cars we had good chats with. We thankfully teamed up with Clark Hicks' (TAMU!) team to paddock with them for pitstop help. We grabbed some dinner together and hit the hotel for some sleep. A repeated topic of discussion was the "X-Mart" near the speedway and how every time we drove by an interesting character was walking in or out. Hilarity. Even the mild jokes I can't put in this write-up....
We were at the track at 7am and after the driver's meeting we had our pow-wow. We agreed that I'd start and do a short-ish stint to make sure all seemed ok and then we'd start trading out. In the pre-race registration it showed three GP4 cars and another two that were not classified but could have ended up in GP4. Just before the race the RaceMonitor showed the lineup and nobody was in GP4, we'd all been moved to GP3. Whoops! Normally we'd have stayed there, but we are considering doing 3-5 WRL races and with a season championship on the list of possibilities, we'd need to score GP4 points every time we raced. I talked to the officials and told them several of the GP3 cars were really GP4 cars but once the race got going we were the only ones listed in 4. Weird.
Frank is a fast man with some 2-part epoxy (spoiler was loose....WAS!).
0830 Saturday and we grid the car. I'm suited up and all is well. We roll off the grid at 0850 for two pace laps and the scale of this place is immense. I've run the banking at TWS many times, but for some reason Daytona just felt "more epic-er". As in, more of the epicness. Coming from Nascar3 to N4 you just stay in the groove and then for the front "straight" (it's not, it has a turn at the s/f line) the left side of the car drops down a bit and sends you around the bend perfectly. It feels like a simulator as the whole car stays straight as the left side tires drop a foot or so. Too cool.
Green flies and I stay put in last. Lots of folks already doing the low percentage move and I'm bound and determined to hand over a fully functional car in an hour or so. I pick off another 4 car heading to SF (it was clearly GP4 power level...in fact, BELOW that power level) and I get some smoke in the car. I lift and it gets worse for a moment then fades away. Next long straight (and Daytona has a LOT of long straights...) it does it again and I know, sadly, on lap 2, that we've got to come in already. DOH! Thankfully it was a damn quick fix as a PCV line was loose. Once squared away I was back in the car smoke-free and already a few laps down. ARGH.
Time to fight back and we know how to do that! It's simple really, just keep making laps! So, for the next 50 minutes I just made laps. Found my groove and what gears to use where and radio'd that to the guys as well as some track notes that I discovered. We began to crawl up the chart by virtue of others having problems and having to pit as well as some just blowing up. With so much time on the banking it is easy to glance down onto pit road and see who is there every time we speed by. We had a few full course yellows, but nothing dramatic.
I brought the car in on lap 25 and quickly slid out the window as Frank slid in. I helped with belts and such as Ron dumped fuel in the cell. We threw some ice and water in the coolsuit and adjusted air pressures (they were WAAAY high...lots of growth!!) and sent Frank out into the fray. He was quickly up to speed and commented that the car felt fine and he put his head down and made laps. Frank came in on lap 59 and slid out of the car and helped Ron get buckled in as I put fuel in the cell. As I was dumping in gas, I actually realized "hey, we just ran two tanks with no fuel feed problems! Wahoo!!". This means that the COTA issues were solved by a fresh Hydramat, reinforcing the racing adage "throw money at your problems!", LOL. Ron started lap 60 and was doing really good right up until the point where he wasn't.
I was listening in to the radio and Ron calls in "Man Down", and I wait for him to tell me where one of the DSM cars had blown up now (there were two DSM cars, neither made it to the halfway point IIRC). Sadly Ron completed his statement with "I'm in the tire barrier at the international horseshoe!".
"You okay?" "Yeah, I'm fine, it was a soft hit but I'm deep in the tires". Thinking back to another time Bic found the rubber wall, I said "Fire it up and back out!" but sadly Ron had workers around him and they already had a wrecker and pulled him back onto pavement and he then fired it up and headed in. At first he was really worried but on the way back in, he said the car felt great and seemed fine even at near-race speeds. He went straight to the garages and I could not help but snap some pics before he even turned the car off. Frank and I quickly assessed the damage and told Ron to stay put. In just a few minutes we had him going back out having cleared the shattered headlight covers (there goes our aero performance!!!!) and pulled the driver fender away from the tire. Ron was back up to speed but the temp gauge was up a a bit so he came back to pit road and I cleared the bottom of the nose as it was tilting down at speed and blocking airflow as well as straightening the air damn to make it more effective (zip ties FTW!). In a few minutes he was again back on track and we were back making laps. Wahoo!!
Lap 88 Ron does a quick stop for fuel only and we send him back out since he's in a good rhythm and I'll wait until later for another stint. By lap 108 we catch a red flag at 2:50pm that lasts until 4:20. The cars sit on grid as we hang out in the garage as lightning strikes are within 10 miles and Florida law says all outdoor sporting events stop when lightning is within 10 miles. Yay lawyers! NOT. We get a call to cars and put Frank in for the green laps for about a half hour and then another red flag for a half hour and we're back making laps at 5:30. Frank slides back in starting lap 120 for us on our push to make it to 11pm and we're pretty happy because we are more than halfway there. After a solid hour of running, Frank is doing great and got us to lap 143 when the differential decides to stop differentialing. Best guess is the front seal failed and the magic sauce leaked out and then the diff got really hot and Bic came in on a rope. Doh!
Now, anyone who knows me knows I carry spares. Plus, the farther away we go, the more I carry. We had a spare trans, clutch kit, water pump, alternator, radiator, gas pedal, throttle cable, throw out bearing, clutch master, driveshaft, torque arm, calipers, rotors, pads, brake lines, filters, hoses, belt, gaskets and a lot of fabrication stuff. And a complete rear-end. Of course.
The back of the car goes up and Frank and Ron start handing me tools and parts and with my trusty 20v impact we make short work of getting the REALLY REALLY FREAKING HOT rear end out of the car. How hot you ask? Hot enough that Ron grabbed the IR gun and we zapped the center portion and it read 325 degrees. Yeah. We were working around that! We were not in a huge rush as we were both leading and losing our class, but we wanted more laps and we were not giving up now. With the rear in the car and the brakes re-hung we found a right rear wheel stud had snapped. Doh! On a three-channel ABS rear we can swap studs (yes, I had plenty of spare studs and lug nuts too) with the axle in the car but this is a 4 channel rear so it requires disassembly time that we just did not have. I threw in the towel. Dammit. Had this been any other track, I'd have not worried, but the loads on the right side are significant and this was past my depth of actual hands-on experience. I had no "been here done this" and so I erred to caution.
Then promptly threw the towel back out after Louis texted "SEND IT!". Right after that, Matt texted "SEND IT" and I figured what the heck. We had all talked about if the car began to step out on the banking to just let it spin and go down rather than try and catch it and meet the wall. So, with a little under 2 hours to go, I suited up and went and made laps. The lights were now pointed down too much but the track was well lit and I didn't need a lot of light anyway, so it was fine. The "done blowed up" rear was a 3.23 and the replacement was a 3.42 so the drive off the corners was a bit more but I ran into 5th sooner and the car really lays down in 5th. Also, with the aero mods that Ron did, we were a bit slower on the big end (heh heh).
Hat tip to Frank Bryan for the night pics!!!! Great snappin!!!
After an hour and 20 I came in for a splash to get me to the end. I offered the car to either of them to finish out the race but both declined and told me to wrap it up. We were still climbing up the ladder, catching dropped out cars and a few wounded ones still trying to make laps. The fast guys were still blazing around the track and I did my best to stay out of their way. My last laps were pretty damn consistent and I felt I had the track really figured out. In fact, I was cutting our fastest laps of the race and with two laps to go the 'perfect storm' of traffic appeared.
The 'tow' at Daytona can be huge. If you can get behind a slightly faster car (or be catching a slightly slower car) it can really help pull you along and we could easily pick up 200rpm of terminal velocity with a good tow. If the faster car exited T5 (leads onto N1) or the bus-stop (leads to N3) right as Bic did it would walk way easy. But if it caught us a ways down the straight (and if it was not significantly faster than Bic) then we could suck in behind it and get a solid tow.
With just a few minutes to go a just-slightly faster BMW passed me in N3 and I sucked up behind it and enjoyed another 200rpm as I crossed the SF line. This immediately gets my mind thinking "this could be a good lap" as the predictive timer is already showing a fast lap by the time I get close to T1. I really focus and run an excellent T1 and the predictive drops even lower. The BMW goes waaaay too deep in the horseshoe (T3) and I run it very well and I'm closing on him towards the kink (T4) as a faster car passes me on the inside of T5. We are all going to T6 and the two faster cars play patty-cake through there as I get an excellent wide line and I'm actually closing on them as we hit the banking since their lines were so compromised. To further answer my prayers, they stay side-by-side on the banking and I get a HUGE wake to pull me along and they didn't really pull away much until the exit of N2. As we head down the backstretch a GP1 car blows by me and flashes his lights at the BMW. The BMW actually slows early off-line and again I reel the car in and have closure as we both go through the bus-stop and head to N3. Another GP1 car goes by me on the high side of N3 and then goes side-by-side with the BMW and I again am blessed with a big hole in the air to shove Bic through. Only a handful of times had I gotten good tows, but here, in the final laps of the race, I got blessed with two huge tows on the same lap to give me another 400rpm crossing the start line and dropping our best lap by over a full second!
Then the white flag flies and a caliper promptly falls off the car. Yes. You read that right. On my last lap the left rear caliper exited the rear end (needs more loctite next time!) and made a massive imbalance inside the wheel (I'm talking blur-your-vision-completely here!!!) and I slowed and limped it back to the pit road as the rest of the field took the checker. We ended up taking the checker on the pit lane loop and (of course) we won (and lost! LOL) our class. We had some issues but we kept fighting back. We were the only GP4 car but still climbed way up from 36th to 23rd for a strong finish. But most of all, we had a phenomenal time. The laughter, jokes and fun that we have really makes it worthwhile no matter what happens on track. We all got to wear our stupid goofy grins as we stood on the podium at Daytona and hoisted our first place trophy.
Bic did great. Started every time we pushed the button, brakes were fantastic (well....other than that caliper thing....) and fuel feed was not an issue. Temps and pressures were solid the whole time and the car was very predictable and is simple to drive. *thumbs up!*
To wrap this up, we loaded and got cleaned up and rolled west-bound in the wee-wee hours of Sunday morning. Frank flew home later that morning and Ron and I tag-teamed the rig and arrived home Sunday before dark. The truck (8.1 liters of torque) ran like a top and we had zero issues with the trailer either. Smooth trip once I'd proved the trailer was not stolen!
Next bucket list track? Who knows.....stay tuned!