Monday, April 30, 2012

NASA Midwest - April Autobahn Enduro Recap.

With a busy day that started out with high hopes, it sure did end early on a downer!  All-in-All, I did not get to run the Enduro last Friday at Autobahn; sadly.

My co-driver - and the car owner - took the first stint, which was going to be the first 1.5 hrs of the race. He was doing just fine, after about 15min into the race he reached for 4th gear and got nothing but smoke! I was actually back at my truck getting all my racegear on and seen the smoke!

By the time I got back to the grid in my race attire, they were bringing the car in 'on the hook'. Engine gone. So my stint never happened. But, I was able to take off earlier than planned to go and get my Evo which was about 1 hour away @ Boostin Performance. So that helped at least.

The engine, and the car itself was a brand new build from Bennington Motorsports.  I am not sure of the plan, but I am assuming it will be fixed, remedied, and back out on the track later this summer.  We've got a few more Enduro's scheduled later in the summer so hopefully we'll be back at it in the Porsche 944.

The only positive from the situation was it free'd up some of my busy afternoon with the #929 Evo.  I had taken off the day to first run the Evo up to Boostin Performance in Chicago to diagnose and fix the electrical issues that came with the cage build.  Even before the Enduro 944 went down, I also had an email from Boostin stating the car was ready to go!  So I packed things back up to head ~1hr north again to fetch the car and prep it for Sat/Sun racing!

Friday, April 20, 2012

NASA Enduro #1 - April @ Autobahn

Race #1 of the NASA MW/GL Enduro Series kicks off today at 4:30pm.  It will be a 3hr Enduro on the full 3.56 mile track at Autobahn Country Club outside Joliet, IL.  This Enduro will kick off the NASA weekend at Joliet with the normal Sat/Sun festivities of HPDE, TT and w2w sprint races following.

Myself, being a newly licensed NASA racer, am now eligible to drive and compete in the Enduro series.  And wasting no time, I've partnered up with Michael of Michael Palmer Racing to co-drive his 1988 Porsche 944 in the very challenging E3 class.  The E3 class is nearly always the fullest, with other 944's and lots of Miata's participating just to name a few. 

This Spec944 is a brand new build, yet to even turn it's first lap.  Add to that the fact I've never personally driven a 944, this will be my first ever w2w race, this will be my first ever Enduro, this will be the longest I've never spent/driven in a racecar and I've yet to meet either the car or Michael!  So there is a host of challenges and items that need to fall into place - but that's what planning is for!  Also, for a bit more of a challenge, the forecast calls for 60% chance of rain that will hopefully clear in the afternoon.

The race starts at 4:30pm, with my scheduled stint from 6 - 7:30pm when we take the checker'd.  Wish us luck; we might need it!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

More Voltage Meter Testing!

With some suggestions from friends, I went back to the Evo with some new testing ideas.

I turned the Master Switch on and started up the car and repeated this test 3 times. The test was checking the lead terminal on the alternator for a reading. Got a reading of like 1.3 - 1.6 on the alternator each time. Battery still reading about 11.4 after all this. Only had it running for a few seconds each time.  This tells me the Alternator is trying to pump out something...

Dug into the fuse mass that my cagebuilder relocated off the battery. Check out the closeup of the bottom one. First is the 5 wires and the fuses that the shop all wrapped up into a rubber protectant and relocated a bit. The 2nd is a closeup of the fuses; check out the bottom one (I twisted it sideways for the pic below).

Obviously there's an issue here and a replacement is needed.  I am in the process of deciding whether to put a stock replacement in there or replace with some custom.  And after that is corrected, I'm wondering if that'll take care of the issue or if there's another Gremlin hiding somewhere!

Scheduled to be on-track again this weekend at Autobahn.  So Friday will be the day to fix it!  I've got an appt scheduled for that and some additional maintenance - it's going to be a busy Friday with me sharing a Porsche 944 in a 3hr Enduro too!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

April Gateway Event & NASA Competition School!

Good news and bad news over the weekend.  Got my NASA Competition Race License (aka COMP license), but it was in a rented Spec Miata (SM) and not the #929 Evo. 

The day started off cold and overcast.  I spent about an hour putting my stock gauge cluster back in, attaching the ACD, and all my aftermarket gauges.  After that I started it up and went to get fuel.  While waiting for fuel I shut off the car but left the lights on accidentally as it started to rain and in ~5min the battery was 100% dead.  So I jumped it, had the tank topped off and it still wouldn't crank.  So I jumped it again, drove it about 30 ft and it started sputtering and died.  My guess was the battery was 100% drained so it needed to charge for awhile??  I had a friend help me push it back to my pit area under the pouring rain and I was completely soaked.  Now missing the 1st 'track awareness' session, I hooked it back up to my truck and left both running to recharge the battery.

After awhile I disconnected the cable and the Evo started under it's own power.  I got suited up (including dry shoes/socks thankfully), hopped in the car and lined up for S2.  After a few mins in grid with the car running the gauges started looking weird including all 3 lights of the ACD on.  So I decided to shut off the car, and when I tried to restart it - nothing.  The grid guys helped push-start me so I got it going.  I got about 1/3 of a lap when the gauges starting flaking out again, then sputtering, then it died.

Back in the pits I hooked it back up again to the truck and let it charge ~5mins while running.  Keep in mind it's been raining all morning too!  I unhooked it and left it running with the lights on and defrost on high to see if it'd die and by the time I was back from our classroom session it was dead.  So it officially wasn't the battery, it had to be a wiring issue with the cage, the new Master Cutoff Switch or the Alternator.
We set off checking the wiring in the rain, checking fuses, using the voltage meter, etc.  I had a friend there that's an electrical engineer so I let him lead the search.  He also mentioned his Miata was available if I needed it - so I had a backup car in case we couldn't find the issue which at this point seemed unlikely before the 3rd session.

So around 11am I climbed into a friends Spec Miata to do our side-by-side exercises.  This would be my 2nd time ever in an SM, first time in this car, on a wet track - fun!  Besides the car having some pretty major blindspots for me (side mirror issues) and some touchy brakes on a wet track, I made it through unscathed.  After that it was back to the Evo for more group hypothesis!  By around 2pm as the rain stopped and the sun came out we were nearly sure it was in fact the alternator.  We had checked all the voltage on the alternator plug as well as the stock gauge cluster that was not showing the alternator/battery warning light. Everything checked out with the wiring, so we're left with the Alternator being bad.  I was able to source one about 35min from the track in Missouri, but apparently the removal isn't very straight forward so I had to debate that.

Next up was my 2:30pm S4 in the SM for our consistency exercises - which meant on a now slowly drying track with a car I've only driven once now I needed to run about 7 laps at a consistent pace!  Great huh - actually it wasn't bad at all.  First lap was a 1:26, then 5-6 laps of 1:21-122's.  I didn't dare push it to find more time as a spin or off would destroy the consistency goal of the exercise.  Feeling good with the SM and slightly better about the day I decided to finish COMP school in the SM with only 1 session remaining and get the Evo to a shop next week for the alternator fix.

S5 around 4pm was to be several practice starts, eventually leading to a practice race to fill the rest of the time.  We did 4 starts with me being in the last row, in the middle and on pole with another SM and everything went well.  There was also some random yellow tossed in to keep us alert and I was able to pass 3 cars on a restart - which all passed me back as they're simply faster!  I think my best lap was a 1:17.6 on a partially wet track which ended up being faster than the car's owner ran in the preceding TT session!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Izzy's Custom Cages - Cage Complete!

Got word from Scott at Izzy's earlier this week that the cage is now officially complete.  He was able to squeeze it into the 3.5 week timeframe with about a 1/2 week to spare!  So no worries about making my NASA event at Gateway Raceway Park this weekend, then to Autobahn next weekend - April is always busy!  I'll also be completing my Competition Licensing school (aka COMP school) this weekend at Gateway which I'm very excited about.  Also with some classroom and written exams, we'll have on-course exercises emphasizing driving off-line, passing, when to surrender the 'line', etc and wrap up with practice rolling starts! 
Below are a few final pics of the cage wrapping up:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Izzy's Custom Cages - Update #5

More updates from Scott at Izzy's on the cage progress.  It's nearly complete at this point, so time for some catch-up pics and details!  The doorbars were pretty much the last part of the design.  These were a bit custom (as most are) especially on the driver's side as I chose to retain my factory power windows and locks as I have an open trailer.  I also opted for an additional 'A' pillar bar up front, common in rally cages for extra protection.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Izzy's Custom Cages - Update #4

More updates from Scott at Izzy's on the cage progress.  Here's the rear of the cage with the attachments into the trunk.  I'm really excited to see how much this stiffens up the car and how it'll drive and rotate differently.  And I'll find out quickly!  Our timeline is tight as I've got an event scheduled for Saturday April 14th!