Monday, December 31, 2012

Chumpcar "Chumpionship" Nationals - Wrap-Up.

With my 2-hr stint complete, I handed the car over to our 4th driver who would finish out the day.  Things were going about normal.  I believe we were around 12th still; within 5 laps of the top 10 even with all of our fuel pickup issues and pitstops to fix. 
After some downloading of information to the team including how the car was handling with the vibration issues and recalling what other teams driving simply sucked - I got changed and we started to pack up the pit area a bit.  With a close eye on the laptimes, I took the time to visit with a few other teams and discuss what I thought about Chumpcar in general.  Relaxing and whatnot.  About this time I realized I hadn't seen our car in awhile!  With about 25min left in the day, our car was nowhere to be seen so I started heading back to our pits.  On my way I grabbed a steward and he said there was a car coming in on the wrecker and I had a bad feeling it was ours.  Turns out it was.  Nearly 7.5 hrs into the 8hr day and 15.5 hr race weekend our race was over.  SEE PIC.

Engines aren't supposed to have holes in the block!  With a broken car, our race weekend was over.  On the upside, all of our drivers ran a full stint on Saturday and when the car broke; it was one of the co-owners behind the wheel.  I believe we retired in 13th place overall.

fwiw; the top 8 cars or so were all BMW's at the end of the 15.5 hr race weekend.  BMW e30's mostly with a few E36's.  How the E36's qualify as a $500 car I have no idea personally.  Our old beater had more pull on the straights but the braking sucked and all those smaller BMW's could corner a lot better and faster.  We were holding around 11th before the first of the issues came up; I think with no issues it was at best a #8 placed car judging by the laptimes.

Chumpcar was a pretty cool experience.  The talent level is a bit lower than what I was used to in NASA, but everybody is nice to each other and helps out especially in the pit area.  Enduro's on the whole are neat as there's so many different levels of strategy involved even if you aren't in contention for the overall.  Fun stuff.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Chumpcar "Chumpionship" Nationals - My Stint!

Around 1pm I went over the pitwall and into the car!  We had recently came in to fix the reoccurring fuel pickup issue and topped the car off, so we didn't need gas.  I was held at pit-out for our mandatory 2min timeframe and I was away!  I quickly realized the car was not 100%.  The vibration issue driver #2 complained about was really bad under braking and off-throttle.  Really bad; violently shaking the steering wheel actually.  I did was I could to learn to drive around it and tried to get my bearings on track. 

The competition...  I nearly got ran off the track 3 times in the first 20min (of my 2hr session).  Twice because the driver I was overtaking had no track awareness and the other time because I was severely brake-checked as the other driver apparently had no idea what speed to take T1.  And I was giving a LOT of room up to that point.  After that I pretty much made all my passes setup coming out of turns on the straights to avoid issues.  Never got a point-by even once - although I gave tons of them to other cars I knew were faster.  Driver skill was an issue; which I knew it would be to a degree.  But this was the 'Chumpionship' so it was supposed to be a much higher level - therefore I'm afraid of a regular regional event.  The other 3 drivers on our team never mentioned an issue like this at all so either it's normal or they drive the same way!  lol.

About that time there was a spectacularly awesome blow-up on the main straight that brought out the Yellows are awhile.  I was about 5 car-lengths behind the car and seen the hole thing happen!  Lots of fluids to be cleaned up.  Once that was finally cleared, I found myself in a nice little niche with open track for the most part and started banging out laps.  I had learned to deal with the severe braking shudder and just enjoyed my time.  About 2/3's of the way into my stint I started having partial-throttle issues which I learned was the fuel pickup/foam issue.  A quick roll into the pits fixed that and I was back out to finish the rest of my stint with no drama (except for some continued horrible track awareness from others).  I later turned over the car in the same condition I got it - aka NO damage - to driver #4 to finish out Day #1....

Monday, December 24, 2012

Chumpcar "Chumpionship" Nationals - Day #1

Ah, the smell of exhaust early in the morning; it's a distinct smell that means RACE DAY!
When I arrived at the track early Saturday, everyone was moving their gear into the pit area.  I got a better look at all the other cars with some having some pretty exotic paintjobs or 'styling'.  lol.  Welcome to Chumpcar... 

There were about 40-50 cars altogether at the start.  Most were in the same class, with a few running in a higher 'EX' class and not in the actual competition.  This might sound like a lot, but I knew there would be a lot of attrition; especially so when you factor in Chumpcar's by rule need to start out as a $500 car.  There were several BMW E30's, a few fast BMW E36 models, some Civics, a Taurus, a few Neon's, etc.

During the driver's meeting all the rules were explained.  Pretty basic really.  I realized pretty quick with my NASA background that I was one of the more qualified drivers out there (more on this during my stint).  Shortly thereafter we were off and racing!  Our car was running laptimes around 2:04 with the leaders running about 2:00 flat in the early going.  We settled in around the top 10; ranging from 8th-11th due to an early pitstop to fix our radio as the connection fell out.  The general thought was if we could finish top 10; it'd be a victory as we knew the car didn't have the ability for the overall.
We were holding around 11th when the first of our fuel pickup issues started.  Apparently the fuelcell in the car had some issues with the foam getting sucked up and clogging the in the fuel filter.  We ended up pitting periodically to fix this issue and it became a routine 5min stop!  We were losing a few spots and laps with the unscheduled pitstops, but not too bad.
Our 2nd driver was in and running around 2:07's as the tires were pretty tortured during the first stint; along with the brakes.  The overall leaders were around 1:58.  A complaint of a vibration under braking brought our car in so switch out a rotor and rotate the right-side tires.  The vibration improved but never went away the rest of the day.  I think it was collateral damage from the hard laps from the first stint.

As I was up next, I grabbed a little food around noon and got suited up.  My stint was to be 2 hours like the others; from around 1pm - 3pm.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Chumpcar "Chumpionship" Nationals - Pt 2

Upon arriving at the track Friday afternoon, I got a look at the car we'd be piloting.  It was a 1983 BMW 635 with ~240hp when new.  It's been traded around STL a few times with varying paint jobs and names but 'Dark Shark Racing' and Chumpcar has been it's home for awhile.

I got a chance to sit in the car and even take a lap around the parking lot!  Just enough time to acclimate myself with the clutch, shifter, mirrors; etc.  I also took the time to get belted in a few times with my helmet on - basically practicing the driver exchange process.  I was looking forward to the event.

I learned I'd be in the 3rd stint, probably going in the car somewhere around 1pm on Saturday as the race was schedule from around 9am-5pm on Day #1.  Although I wanted to, we didn't really talk strategy or anything.  I was told to just drive the car and keep an eye out for other cars and minimize any potential contact.  Being a 15+ hr race; it wasn't going to be a sprint every lap!

After the meet-n-greet with all the team, drivers/crew/owners, we all took off.  A few of us were at the same hotel and decided to find some food & drink before retiring.  7:30am call in the morning...

Monday, December 17, 2012

Chumpcar "Chumpionship" Nationals - Pt 1

Back in September I was offered a seat in the Chumpcar Nationals at Heartland Park - Topeka (HPT) raceway.  I had never ran in the Chumpcar series, but having literally just sold the Evo and feeling pretty good about that situation, I jumped at the arrive-n-drive opportunity. 

The event was to be held at HPT Sept 22-23rd.  It a 'Heaven and Hell' race that was 777 minutes on Sat and 666 minutes on Sunday for a total of about 15.5 hrs in all.  We were to have 4 drivers; each with a 2hr stint on Sat and a bit less than that again on Sunday.  I had no idea who else was driving, but I knew of the car and 1 of the owners (4-way share I guess).

Either way I slapped down my deposit and packed all my racing gear; having not been on the any track since July 1st and planned out my nearly 6 hr drive through the middle of nowhere to Topeka, KS.  I was last at HPT in 2007 - keep in mind I did run my first track event untuil 2006; so this was a long long time ago.  Hell, the track had been slightly redesigned since I was last there, making it faster for the SCCA as it was then hosting the SCCA Runoffs pretty regularly.  Anyways, I was excited. 
I took off on Friday around 8am, stopping once for gas and once for food - got caught in a homecoming parade in Topeka and arrived at the track around 3:30pm for gear check.  There was a practice day, but our team - Dark Shark Racing - was not running.  The car was there going through tech when I arrived and everything checked out including my safety gear.  More to come...