The road to 2016 Nationals was probably the toughest in memory for us. We got started late in the winter getting our exhaust reconfigured to a conventional crossover arrangement instead of the 180 degree configuration we had. Ultimately this change was a huge improvement in horsepower and torque, but it caused a lot of rework in terms of the exhaust itself, the dash, wiring, and the tinwork inside the car.
The changes took a lot longer than anticipated and I was able to run 1 event in the car before the birth of my daughter, Aly. Kids have a way of shifting your priorities and I missed the next event in the car. Todd took the car to a practice in early summer and our motor decided it was time to let go, spinning a rod bearing and wiping out the thrust bearing.
Todd’s engine builder, H&K Racing Engines was actually on-site when the motor let go and promised an August 1st return date for the engine… Without going into details, that didn’t happen and the motor was received at 3AM on the 28th of August. A massive thrash and many late nights followed. When I arrived on Saturday the 3rd to leave for Lincoln, this is what I found:
Todd and Sweaty Jeff had busted their butts all night, but we still weren’t ready to go. A few more hours of thrashing and we were finally loaded up and on the road at 8:30PM, only about 12 hours behind our target leave time.
The trip to Lincoln was fairly uneventful. Once we got there we scrambled to find a test and tune spot so that we could scrub in tires. We’d failed to register for one since everything was such a last minute thrash. Unfortunately we weren’t able to secure a spot and we were going to have to run the event on unscrubbed tires. This meant 1st and maybe 2nd runs weren’t going to be very good, but that was life.
Day 1 was on the West course. Typically this is the tight and precise course, but this year it was relatively fast and wide open!
The 1st 2 runs were a challenge as expected. My 3rd run I overcooked the entry to the tight slalom and DNF’d, making me stand on my 2nd run. Todd struggled a bit with the car and I ended up on top by about 2 tenths on Day 1 with us sitting in 6th and 7th respectively. Thomas Pulliam was flying in Robert Lewis’ Mustang and took the top spot on Day 1, followed by Mike Maier and Mark Madarash. Unfortunately I have no video due to 2 failings on my part – 1) I forgot to put my memory card into my Replay😄 camera and 2) our Race Technology Video4 was acting up. Both planned to correct for Day 2, but with rain in the forecast it was looking to be a challenge to get dry runs.
Our long streak of dry runs at Nationals ended on Wednesday with the skies opening up during the 1st heat and dumping on us. Everyone who had them swapped over to rain tires, ourselves included. Our rain tires are unfortunately not true rains since Goodyear doesn’t offer them. We’re running hand-grooved dry tires. A true rain tire has an extremely soft compound and a complex tread pattern to really effectively remove water and stick to the ground. Our tires work, but they’re not ideal.
The course for Day 2 had lots of 180 degree turns with long stretches between them. The East course historically collects the most water with the upper right corner of the map always collecting a giant lake. When we ran, there were puddles everywhere at the beginning.
Having resolved my failure to include a memory card in the camera, I loaded one in, though it was so small that we weren’t able to get all of our runs captured. The Video4 we didn’t run, because a leak in the windshield ended up dropping water right on top of it – not the best thing for electronics.
Run 1 for me was a disaster. Between a spin and our windshield fogging up, I was lucky to even make it through. The video above tells the tale and you can even see the camera fogging over! Needless to say, this wasn’t going to be our day.
The culprit to the fogging windshield was air leaking from under the dash and rising up to the windshield. Since the exhaust runs through the passenger compartment, it builds up a lot of heat which caused the fogging issue. Our solution was to stuff rags down to try and seal off as much air as possible. This worked partially, but still was far from the ideal solution.
My 2nd run was faster, but I forgot to turn on the camera. Todd’s 2nd run was also an improvement. Since we didn’t really have a rain setup for our shocks, tires, and sway bars we started experimenting since it was clear we were way off pace. Adjustments to soften the car were made with some improvement. Unfortunately we never were able to get an understeer condition out of the car which made it a challenge to drive. The course dried with every run, making 3rd runs the most critical. I went out for my 3rd run, and though I dropped time I really struggled with the car. When I got back to the pits we found that the right rear tire had gone flat somewhere during the run or the drive back to the pits. Luckily we were able to plug it before Todd’s last run. He improved again, but we were way off pace.
Our Nationals ended with a disappointing 12th and 13th place finish for Todd and myself, both out of the trophies. We didn’t expect to win this year with our lack of seat time and the last minute thrash on the car, but we certainly didn’t expect to fall this far down in the pack.
Lots of changes and most importantly PREP are planned for next year. The fogging issue we’d forseen and discussed for years, but never did anything about and our handling challenges this year were the same as last year. For 2017 we’ll have a much more disciplined plan to get the car (and ourselves) in racing shape so we don’t repeat this year! Still a lot of fun was had and lessons learned. Onward to 2017!
After our issue with the Camaro, the Tour in College Station was looking a little grim, but thanks to good friends both Todd and I were able to pick up borrowed rides.
Tony Espinosa was kind enough to let me run his 1986 Ford Mustang with him in CP. Tony’s car is one we’ve done a bit of work on in the past, having installed an adjustable rear sway bar on it and recently a new rear axle, not to mention lots of other little jobs that Todd has done over the years. This event was a big test for the new axle upgrade as well as the new adjustable pedal cluster that Todd put in for Tony. Both worked really well!
I didn’t have super high expectations coming into the event having only run 2 previous events in the year. Such is life of a new father and a car that had some extended work being done to it! Day 1 was largely knocking the rust off and getting used to a car that’s setup a bit different that ours.
Tony’s car drives a bit different than our Camaro so it took a bit of getting used to. I managed to pick up a fair bit of speed on Day 2. Day 1 wasn’t pretty due to my driving, but also discovering that our tire pressure gauge was off by almost 5 psi!
A little side by side comparison of Tony and I.
Day 2 we got the pressures set with a working gauge and tried to focus on our driving. Unfortunately the laws of tire wear caught up to us and Day 2 was at the tail-end of the tire life so we weren’t able to catch up to the leaders.
My runs were a lot more controlled and I had a better handle on the car than Day 1.
A little side by side action for Day 2. Tony and I both drove a lot better and it was a lot closer than Day 1.
At the of the field, Mark Madarash, Chris Cargill, Wayne Atkins, and Kurt Janish all had an extremely competitive battle for the win. Mark ended up on top, but he really had to work for it after Chris & Wayne were in a near dead tie after Day 1!
The Camaro motor is already at the machine shop getting fixed up for the rest of the season. We’ll be back!
Playing a little catch up here on progress. With the College Station National Tour quickly approaching, we buttoned up the new exhaust work in the Camaro and ran the Houston SCCA event in May at Gulf Greyhound Park.
The site has a lot of variation in elevation and we ended up breaking teeth off the ring gear in the differential. Fortunately it didn’t break worse and we were able to drive it onto the trailer. Put together this side by side video. Lots of knocking the rust off for both of us as neither of us drove all that great!
We didn’t finish all that great in PAX, but it was worth the seat time anyways and a lot of fun.
A few weeks later Todd was running a practice at Texas A&M and he heard the dreaded tick indicating engine damage coming into the finish. Looks like 8 years of racing and no dry sump finally caught up to us with a spun bearing on #4. While the engine made it to the engine builder early in the week it was too much of a thrash to get it together for the Tour.
Thanks to Tony Espinoza’s generosity I’ll be driving with him in his awesome CP Mustang! I’ll have some video and a story up after the event!
We’ve been a bit quiet these last few months due to a number of reasons, but will have a bit more news soon.
In the meantime, in honor of Ford’s win at Le Mans 50 years ago, here is their live stream of the race!
A refresh from last year, Alan and Donna Bartling’s awesome 1988 Ford Mustang built for CP competition is back available!
More information available over on our FOR SALE page!
Been a long time since I’ve posted anything! With a baby on the way, attention has been diverted elsewhere a little bit… That’s not to say cars haven’t been on my mind!
Just wanted to share 2 posts from Petrolicious that feature one of my favorite cars, the Ford GT40. If you like the photo above, there’s tons more in the two links below!
In other news, some work behind the scenes going on with the Camaro and my old Mustang. Look for some additional posts, hopefully soon!
This last weekend Todd and I participated in one of the last events of the year before we take the car down for some winter development. Houston SCCA had their event at the Houston Police Academy. The course looked like a blast on the map, but a few corners turned out to be really tight which put us way down in the powerband. Good news though is we ran some used rear slicks from Berget that were only $100 each and they worked great with a set of half-used fronts! Something that’ll help the budget and get us some more seat time.
Todd put in a quick time after being stuck in the 50’s all day like I was. He did a better job of using the whole road than I did with the last 3 corners making all the time difference between us!
I blew my 4th run entering the optional slalom so I had to settle with this one. I wasn’t as close to the cones as I’d like and I didn’t do the best job of using the whole course. Learning points!
No data acquisition video this time. While we did some post-Nationals work we somehow unplugged the main camera so we didn’t get any video from that vantage point. On the plus side this was a first test for my new external microphone setup with our ReplayXD PrimeX camera and I’m very pleased! Previously the microphone didn’t get us the best audio being exposed in the wind, but this allows us to put a mic inside the car where we just get the engine noise. Very pleased!
Not too many more events this year, but we’ve got a few things planned for the winter so stay tuned.
Every autocrosser knows that the trip home from Nationals is one during which you reflect on how you did and what’s planned for next year. This year, with our switch to radial tires we knew we weren’t ready, but of course that’s tough for the ego to take. The quest for more speed always begins shortly after you get home.
This year, with some video in hand I decided to try and take a closer look at some of our competitors to see how we measured up. Robert Lewis put in some hard work this year and ended up with a 2nd place finish behind Mike Maier. Miley doesn’t share any video from his runs, but Robert does! Putting the videos side by side I figured we could identify some areas we got beat and potentially find some more speed…
This is a comparison of Todd and Robert’s best runs from the East course on Day 1. Not being a whiz in video editing, I didn’t get to do as much as I wanted (I’d really like to be able to add “sectors” to a video, not unlike data analysis and look at the time delta, but alas, I’m not that smart…
Anyways, a few take aways for us:
Day 2 is much the same. We are killed out of any low-speed element, but the higher speed sections or the slaloms we seem to be able to hold our own or catch up a bit.
Not scientific, but interesting nonetheless!