Chapter 83, The Inaugural Grassroots Motorsports Ultimate Track Car Challenge
Virginia International Raceway, 27 July 2007
Hopefully you have read the buildup and update chapters before this one. If you haven't, no big deal, but if you want to just go here and start reading. I've updated all the way till the night before the challenge and now it is time to 'tell the tale' of the event.
Above: Walking out Friday morning, this is what I found. Made me smile....in fact, it still does.
Before you go further, to get a feel for the car just watch this video. Please turn your speakers WAY up. As I came back up from the T1/2 complex the shifter ball comes loose and I miss third. Doh! Of course it was lunchtime and the track was quiet so I'm sure everyone within 45 miles or so heard it. Heh. This is from Thursday and I'm doing about 150 as I turn in to go under the starter stand that Wade said rumbled pretty good as I went under.
The event was run as a time trial which means your fastest ONE lap counts and it is what they compare to everyone else. If you go 4 wheels off in a session, the times from that session get tossed. The first session was deemed 'practice' and thus the times would only count on how they gridded the cars for the 2nd session (first timed session). Then, they would keep gridding you by times as the day went on and all three timed sessions were completed. The first session we put down a 1:37 and since we started near the back I was in traffic every lap. Additionally, I had never driven the North Course (for Thursday my brief 10 test laps were on the Full Course) so I was learning the car, the track and negotiating traffic. It was incredibly fun. As it turns out, that lap time was good enough for 2nd place in class at the end of the event had the time counted!! In fact, looking at the sector times, if I could have found a clean lap, the DL1 predicted my fast lap at a 1:35! With the jumbos (for tire terminology, see ch82) rubbing in the back, we went to normal goodyears in the back and kept the jumbo fronts. It pushed a bit, but not too much. I longed for the balance of Friday when we had jumbos all around as the car felt awesome with that setup, but the rub was too much and the one rear tire was damaged and I was worried to run it. We ran the entire first practice session, only coming in when the checker flew. I learned a lot about the car and it was, by far, the longest time I had spent behind the wheel in one setting. The power, grip, and feel were simply intoxicating. The car just EATS straightaways and launches off corners like a shot. In second or third gear, when you drop the hammer, everything gets blurry except whatever I was immediately focusing on. It was very cool but took some getting used to. Most cars were pretty courteous and I waived in thanks after getting pointbys. In this group nobody HAS to give a pointby, but it was nice to know that the other guy knew I was coming.
Above: Ready to go out for session 1
At this point Cody looked at tire temp data and we made some front end changes along with adding more rear wing. With no firm test data (this being the cars second day on any track and we did no tuning the previous day, just basic reliability checks) this wall all seat-of-the-pants guesswork.
Above: Cody, the DAG (Data Acquisition Geek)...he did a great job
We launched for the 2nd session (first timed session) near the front and I did okay. We had made a setup change and the car was pushing now and that didn't suit my driving style. Still, I made quite a few laps and we were considerably faster (just learning the track helped a ton) putting in laps over 2 seconds faster than the practice. The leaders (including me) caught the slower cars pretty quick and I got frustrated coming onto the front straight behind another car who immediately went to the middle of the track and just hung out there. It happened four times. ARGH. Granted, I had enough power to squirt by when I knew they saw me, but it would totally kill that lap. I'd have great sector times with clear track, but then lose all that I had gained due to a slower car that was not very predictable. To be honest, some of the slower cars were awesome and did a great job on their mirrors and some would even go off-line to give me the preferred line and that was MUCH appreciated. The car was becoming more known to me and I was only getting faster. Unfortunately I went off in the back esses as the steering felt disconnected momentarily and I could not do anything else. As I eased back to the pits I was upset because I knew our times were fast and I should have pulled in earlier and then went for broke on the 2nd and 3rd timed sessions. Argh. Throwing away a podium never really feels good.
In between runs the car goes up in the air, wheels come off, hood and tail come off and pretty much everything gets checked/cleaned/inspected. It was technically lunch time but we worked straight through and found an upper control arm loose in its mounts and re-tightened it. This was a bit disturbing as we had the other one come loose at the test in Texas and I had re-tightened both of them. This will need to be upgraded when time permits.
Both above: Incredible track and gorgeous facility
With the miss-lunch-and-keep-working thrash out of the way we head back down to grid. I need a quick lap or two and then bring it in to get the times in the book. We won't be challenging for the overall win, but I know we can likely get 2nd in class and maybe 3rd or 4th overall.
Unfortunately (I hate using that word when writing a race report), it wasn't meant to be. I go out and lay down a quick lap and on my first pass down the front straight as I get into the brakes I get a good vibration in the front end. It worsens as I let off the throttle and goes pretty darnright evil as I get on the brakes. My eyeballs shake a bit and I get it slowed down with a bit of smoke and I go through 1 and 2 and head to Nascar bend. Up until this point I've been glancing at the oil pressure gauge pretty much every time I really nail the gas. The oil pump belt (dry sump setup) had walked a bit on first fireup but when I loosened it a bit it hadn't moved at all during the Texas test or on Thursday or up until this point. As I scoot through the first esses and lay into the gas again to head to the bridge I look up and see the gauge dropping from 5psi to 0. I'm in third pushing 7000 rpm. Not good. I clutch, lift off the gas and flip the ignition and fuel pump off instantly. I coast past the bridge and go straight instead of turning right to go up the hill and let the car coast far from the North course.
I get out and motion 'flat tow' to the corner worker and she calls it in. In a few minutes a truck appears and we get him hooked up. He radios in. We wait. and wait. and wait. The session ends and the next group comes out and we are still waiting. Not good. We sat for another half hour or so (its hot, I'm in nomex and thirsty) and then they clear the south part of the course for me and they tow me out that way. Back in the pits we put the pulley back in the correct spot on the shaft (where it is held in place with FIVE (5) set screws) and put the belt on and hook it up to the drill attachment. As soon as I hit the drill we have good oil pressure and so we put it back together. It fires instantly and with good oil pressure but it just does not sound quite correct. I shut it down. We only have 30 minutes till our last timed session and it just isn't worth it. Hurting the motor (further?) just isn't smart. With some frustration we throw in the towel and I take the guys down the hill and feed them. I was bummed but while the bad side looked bad, the good side looked better and better as I thought about it. It ended up the vibration was caused by the right front tire ejecting the wheel weights. Gotta figure a better way to secure them.
The car has brakes. They never faded or gave a moments trouble. The car's got good power and the off-the-shelf Holley HP carb worked wonders with no bobbles or stumbles at all. The jumbos worked incredibly well and the handling of the car was superb. Sure, there is a lot of room for improvement, but out the box was great. It was stable (I touched 170 on the long course the day before with lots of room left in both throttle and straightaway), the trans worked great, the diff performed well and with some fixing and upgrades we'll come back with Scratcher V2.0 stronger than before. I just hope there is another UTCC next year and we get to go!
After lunch we went out and watched the last run session for the UTCC guys. It was good to see the wide variety of cars scooting about. The 300z went by with his hood up and while normally I would have poked some fun at him, considering my car was sitting in the paddock I just kept my mouth shut!
Above: A pair of Atoms and the Mosler
Above: One of the two corvettes (the other one won our class) and a Noble
Above: I can't laugh because I did this at Road Atlanta in an ASedan years ago
Above: The Vette, the wagon and my brain-bucket
Above: This picture needs to be huge. No way to do something like this without a good crew. I had the best!
Above: Wade, Nick, Costas, Cody, and Fertitta. WDMS crew FTW!!!
1) 1:28.401 Tommy Archer Dodge Viper CompCoupe
2) 1:31.072 Danny Popp Chevrolet Corvette
3) 1:33.794 Chet Fillip Mosler MT900S
4) 1:35.973 Derek Whitis Noble M400
5) 1:35.990 Ryan Hampton Nissan 300ZX TT
6) 1:36.157 Robert Fuller Mitsubishi Evo 8 MR
7) 1:37.024 John Meyers Stalker SuperStalker
8_) 1:38.767 Rob Morrison Acura NSX
9) 1:39.228 John Freeman Dodge Viper
10) 1:39.684 Chris Kimmelshue BMW M3
Varsity Shop (10 entries)
1) 1:28.401 Tommy Archer Dodge Viper CompCoupe
2) 1:33.794 Chet Fillip Mosler MT900S
3) 1:35.973 Derek Whitis Noble M400
4) 1:35.990 Ryan Hampton Nissan 300ZX TT
5) 1:36.157 Robert Fuller Mitsubishi Evo 8 MR
Varsity Independent Study (19 entries)
1) 1:31.072 Danny Popp Chevrolet Corvette
2) 1:38.767 Rob Morrison Acura NSX
3) 1:39.228 John Freeman Dodge Viper
4) 1:39.684 Chris Kimmelshue BMW M3
5) 1:39.938 Brian Cates Factory Five Cobra
JV Shop (2 entries)
1) 1:40.703 John Whitaker Acura Integra Type R
2) 1:53.668 Kirk Knestis VW GTI
JV Independent Study (5 entries)
1) 1:40.523 Chris Drabouski Honda Civic
2) 1:42.099 Scott Burns Honda S2000
3) 1:44.885 Tim Nagy Porsche 924S
4) 1:54.236 Ken Brewer Toyota MR2
5) 1:54.656 Roy Armstrong Datsun 510
We were entered in the Varsity, Independent study and our opening 1:37 (the first time on course!) would have got us 2nd. Scratcher, with a little sorting, is capable of winning this event....I just hope we get another chance!!
FINAL THOUGHTS: In building this car and watching Trans-Am and GT1/AGT racing these cars looked like beasts, but this one sure drives nice. It brakes very well (with 6 piston calipers on 13" rotors all around it should!) and it turns very nicely. The power steering is light, but had good feel. The power (and I'll dyno it after I put it back in the car) is smooth and large. It really comes on at about 3500 and pulls past 7500. I pulled some data from the Thursday test coming off the tree turn (before the suspension link tried to mate with my right rear Goodyear!) and the car pulls from 60mph to 120 in 5.07 seconds. For a reference, the C6 Z06 with 505hp and 3100 pounds does the same speed run in 7.5 seconds and it is an 11.5 second (1/4 mile) car! In 7.5 seconds from 60, Scratcher is already passing 140mph. This is with very conservative timing and jetted rich. With some dyno time we'll get the timing closer to max power and get the jetting closer. In fact, this is also with the smallest cam my engine builder would put in the car. Once I get more time and the chassis sorted, we'll slip in a real cam and add more power. The trans shifts like a dream as long as you are up to speed. It seems like when you are just 'taking it easy' or on the cool down lap the trans gets balky. When you are in a hurry, it is just fine (see video coming towards tower...the shifts are awesome!). Once the shifter ball is on good, it is even better! No oil leaks, no diff leaks, no coolant leaks, no fuel leaks and no power steering leaks! We do have a slight trans leak, but that will get fixed when she comes apart. The motor ran very cool even for the very hot days and the oil (with only an oil tank with small built-in cooler) ran very cool also. Very encouraging!
V2.0 will change the front suspension upper control arm adjustment so it can't 'come loose' and become an issue. This will be done while the motor gets checked over as we can't do it with the motor in the car. 2.0 will also add longer/stronger rear control arms/driveshaft and relocated watts link mounts so the rear axle will be moved aft so the jumbos will fit better. I'll wire in and build a DASH2 mount for the LCD dash that I have that interfaces with the DL1. I'll fix the trans leak The front end will get a splitter and the radiator will be leaned forward at the top and will lead to a vent in the hood. Better cooling and more front downforce! I'll also add an alternator.
All in all, not bad for a car that moved on its own power for the first time the Sunday before the event, got into 2nd gear for the first time on Tuesday evening before the event and had ~8 laps of the VIR Full Course as it's total track time before the UTCC. I'm pretty pleased!
Datatrace from the Thursday test. I've just left the tree turn (bottom) and going NorthWest. I'm already past 150mph and have lots of straight left. Yikes.
LASTLY: Thanks so much Fertitta, Nick, Cody and Wade!!! I could not have done it without ya'll and I hugely appreciate it. In fact, I can't even pull of the hood or the tail by myself!! THANKS GUYS!!!
Next year...we'll get them next year!