Friday, November 14, 2014

Catching Up

The past few years are a bit of a blur.  Although they mostly dragged on endlessly, they also flew by in spots.

After a rocky start, 2011 was highlighted by the replacement of the old open trailer with a small enclosed trailer.  The thought of staying dry when it rained and having the option not to unload at the end of a long weekend were just too appealing.  I shopped the classifieds for several months before falling into a deal that I could not pass up.  A vintage racer (who has a well-earned reputation for being meticulous about everything) was about to trade in his trailer for a larger model. Such a nice person -- he actually emailed me photos and invited me to come see the trailer at his house before he traded it in.  He wasn't selling it directly to me, he was going to sell it back to the dealership.  Anyone else would have told me to go bother the dealer.

An almost-full racing schedule followed, during which the trailer and I got to know each other quite well.

The first outing for car and trailer was to Blackhawk on Memorial Day. The car arrived at the track unfinished -- shame on me -- as the plan was to pick up my freshened radiator at the track. That went well enough, but it immediately put me on the back foot. I made it out just in time to get one lap of practice. It started raining prior to qualifying, so on went the rain tires. The crew was kind enough to take care of that chore while I rested in the trailer (nice!).  Unfortunately, when I came out I was greeted by the sight of a car wearing all four wheels mounted backwards.  The treaded rain tires are directional, so they must face forwards to shed water. Installing them backwards would actually pump water under the tread. Not good. There wasn't time to fix it before the end of that session, so I had to apply for permission to start the afternoon's race at the back of the grid.  Luckily the rain eased off during lunch and the track was drying, so I started the race on slicks. I managed to work my way up to second before the checkered flag.  I must have made a bit of an impression at the start as well: Burt Levy, driving a rented Lola T-540, actually mentioned it in an article in Vintage Motorsports magazine.

June took us back to the north track at Autobahn Country Club in Joliet.  The north track is still a favorite of mine. The first two corners are a challenging left-right that makes you think twice, followed by a beautiful, rewarding downhill run through a canopy of trees into a right-hander taken flat-out at the top end of 3rd gear.  The rest of the lap is spent looking forward to that bit... sort of the way November through March are spent looking forward to racing season.

Early July saw a combined Regional/National weekend at GingerMan in Michigan. I took advantage of the track time on offer and entered both events. Unfortunately, some gremlins had other ideas. I learned what a failing master cut-off switch feels like, but I made it to the end of the weekend without any further issues.  The ride home was another matter. A bit of heat exhaustion struck a crew member, which led to lunch striking the inside of the truck before I had a chance to pull over.

Another mechanical issue that popped up at the next race plagued us until nearly the end of the season. The car would run perfectly in morning practice and qualifying, but as soon as the race started it would act as though it had no fuel.  The only consistent cure was to remove the engine cover, after which the car ran perfectly again.  We tried to blame it on a pinched fuel cell vent line, a vacuum in the engine bay, too much pressure in the engine bay, the rain, Rio... In the end it was pointed out to us that the engine cover was mashing down the foam air filter. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, except for the fact that the Weber DGV carburetor can't breathe if anything gets within an inch or so of the top inlet opening.  Even though the filter was porous, getting it too close to the carb caused it to completely choke.  Changing to a filter with an inner support cage in October finally solved the problem.

Somehow I managed to cough and sputter the car to another championship.

2012 and 2013 were less inspiring.

Under the Radar

No, I haven't disappeared completely -- just a bit of radio silence for a while.  A few posts ago I hinted about having a bad year.  It turned into a bad couple of years, which saw the fan base reduced by 2. At the risk of sounding maudlin, they were two who have been pretty central to the racing effort.  Blogger tells me that people all over the world read this, but for a time it felt like I was writing for the two of them.

Enough about that now. Happier posts are on the way.