Friday April 4 – 5 pm: head to LAX to pick up Scott, who managed to pull it together when I told him I was high and dry for codrivers 1 week before the event. I arrive at LAX around 12 am, which gets us to our motel by 2 am, a great way to start the week with no sleep.
Saturday – 6 am: We get up to drive to Pahrump, and we arrive at Pahrump around 11 am for test and tune. We get the car on track and it holds up ok. Unfortunately, I notice that the rotors have deep grooves worn into them by the pads, they probably won't last the whole event.
Sunday – We show up for the 8 am drivers meeting, race at Pahrump, experience minor overheating problems, but finish ok (4th in class). I get a cylinder 3 misfire DTC, swap plugs and wires, which helps a little, but not totally, and eventually I just turn off misfire detection and forget about it. Cutout plate flies off onto the track, this is the last time the cutout actually operates correctly for the entire trip.
Monday – Las Vegas Motor Speedway Derek Daly track. I send Scott (codriver) out first, then I go out and we both complain of braking problems. Run decent times, but between worn out rotors and soft brake pedal I get spooked and have stiffer calipers and wider 13" x 1.25” rotors overnighted ($$) to the next track. In the third session, I go out, notice that I’m getting what feels like clutch slip or wheelspin. After making a cool down lap and pulling into the pits, feel a wobbling. Jacking the car up I notice the wheel is only held on by the brake caliper. Doh! More diagnosis says broken hub, but we are guessing cuz we can’t get the $#@#$ spindle nut off. Luckily everyone is helpful, Chris and Jim in the T1 996t run to LV dealership to buy us a new hub, I get AAA to tow us to a shop, and the T4 RX7 team tows our tire trailer to the shop. We get to the shop at 15 minutes after they close, but they help us swap out the hub anyway so we give them a generous tip. We are on the road to Buttonwillow by 6:30, which is good because it’s a 5 hour drive.
Tuesday – Buttonwillow I run session 1 just to get some times on the board, but our braking problems turned out have been mostly hub related. I have the new hardware coming anyway. Brakes come in and Scott and I swap in the new calipers and rotors during the second race session and lunch time. I also swap in some new rear springs (so I’m running 450/350’s now instead of 450/300’s). We go out in the the third and fourth sessions, but between a pull to the left under braking and bedding in the pads we don’t run much faster, so we head out for the 5 hour drive to Thunderhill.
Wednesday – Thunderhill CCW, we get to the track early, pull off the wheels, and notice the left caliper is off center (a little too much clearancing I guess). We shim it, and the car brakes straight, and the brakes feel amazing. Awesome! I get cocky and swap in 500 lb front springs to fix some bottoming issues, which ends up giving us hella understeer, but oddly enough my times still get faster. We get some good laps, and I get the car down to what feels fast at a 2:14, but then the competition runs even better laps, so we end up in 5th. Looking at last year, that would have been good for a podium finish, and was 4 seconds faster than I ran in the Vette. Oh well, always gotta be one step ahead. We do laundry, and head out to Franco’s to dine with a bunch of other competitors, and hit the hay early, as we need our beauty rest.
Thursday – Thunderhill clockwise: an unfamiliar track to almost everyone, I go out with Scott first session to do some recon, and then after his session I swap 450 lb springs in the rear, which does fix the understeer problem, but is probably a little on the stiff side. Then I go out solo to try to get some good laptimes. I’m in the middle of a real flyer and then I notice battery/coolant/brake light come on. SH*T crappy time for an alternator to fail when I’m over 100 miles from the nearest town. I make some calls, Alan helps me track down an alternator at M&S in sacramento, so I buy some marine batteries from walmart and get on the road. It’s 100 mile drive, and its 4 o clock, we’ve gotta haul ass if we want to make it before M&S closes at 5:30. We make pretty good time, in spite of some traffic in Sac, and get there by 5:15. We unpack tools, swap alternators, and repack, and we’re back on the road by 6:15, at which point we promptly stop at Wendy’s for some snacks. We have a 7 hour drive, but we need to unwind a little, the stress and sleep depro is really starting to catch up with us. We heard a thumping during the last leg of our drive, but it is dark and we are tired, so we don’t sweat it.
Friday – Willow Springs big track: I pull in and the lady at the gate points out that two of my trailer lug nuts had fallen off. Holy crap! Then I’m crawling under the car to open the cutout and I notice that only one bolt is holding the O2 housing on! I manage to get two more on, which is good enough to finish the event, although not ideal. Then, to add insult to injury, I break off one of my battery terminal bolts. Luckily the broken thread comes out easily, and the Audi S4 competitors find me something I can use as a replacement. Thankfully my parents had flown in to watch, so I had a comfy car to run into town with to get new trailer lugnuts and other assorted goods. Oh yeah, we raced too, we actually got all of our sessions. Willow is always a fun track, I pull off some good hot laps, the car holds up, brakes work great, no excuses except our driving and our level of car prep to explain 5th place. The 120 mph turn 8 shreds all the tread off my front left tire, doh! I should have paid more attention and rotated partway through the day. Oh well. Off to our final race at LVMS.
Saturday – LVMS Derek Daly track again. The perfect end to a long hard week, the car held up great, worked perfectly, and other than some handling issues, did pretty good. We finished in 4th (as opposed to our usual 5th), so it was a slight upnote to a difficult week.
Sunday - The 12 hour drive home in the rain with bald tires was a little dicey, but I made it in one piece. My wife had surprised me by flying into Vegas Saturday night, so I had some much needed company for the long haul home. All in all, I consider the event a success. I made it home under my own power, got hot laps in at every track, and I ran some respectable lap times.
Thanks goes to:
I have to thank everyone who made this event possible, enjoyable, and most importantly non-disasterous. First off Alan Laing, for continually fielding my phone calls and keeping me in touch with the real world when he should have been working. Mike C@DSS for helping me sort out spring rates, bringing me spare parts, and generally providing support, Todd@TCE for scrambling to get me better brakes, everyone on the bay-dsm list for giving me input during the event, Scott M. for coming to the event with only 1 weeks notice when I had no codriver and it looked like the event would be a total loss, Bill S. for coming out and cheering us on at Willow and LVMS, my parents for coming out and providing moral support and a support vehicle, Jim and Chris in the T1 996 turbo who had to bench race with the mitsu dealership to get me a new hub, the T4 RX-7 team who towed my trailer to the shop when AAA gave me trouble after i broke my hub, Randy from the S2k team for helping me wrench on the car when he had time, and everyone who we borrowed tools from and offered us help at any point when we were lying under the car kicking and swearing. What an experience. I’ll be back next year, with more horsepower and more experience :)