This weekend was VARA’s 2017 season opener at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Pahrump, NV. Wonderful facility, but we had lousy weather. Friday’s test day and Saturday’s practice/qualifiers saw lots of rain, wind, and even snow in the local foothills. Luckily Sunday’s races were dry and everyone finally got the chance to enjoy the 3.4 mile Mansell course. Our Club’s usual Pace Car driver is taking a temporary medical leave of absence (we wish him well), so I was drafted into service since my car is still in winter rehab. Driving the Pace/Safety Car was a busy task this weekend, it was a tougher job to do well than I anticipated. And I really appreciate all the help I received from my fellow club members during my rookie pacing weekend. Since I wasn’t wrenching and racing this weekend, I had some time to shoot a few pictures of Racing in the Rain.
For the 2017 season, all clubs have ended their temporary extension that allowed SA2005 helmets due to the lack of supply of SA2015 helmets. So now SA2010 or SA2015 helmets are required for competition. I’ve been shopping, and started out at my local retail shop, Wine Country Motorsports at Sonoma Raceway. They’re a great source for safety gear, i.e. helmets, seats, fire suits, gloves, as well as lots of other race merchandise, and a knowledgeable staff. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a helmet that fit my oval shaped head very well. I tried on everything from budget to high-end helmets – Racequip, Zamp, OMP, Sparco, Bell, Arai, even Stilo. The Arai and Stilo were the closest fit but still not quite right. So I contacted my favorite online retailer, Racer Parts Wholesale, and they recommended the Simpson and Impact helmet lines for an oval fit. I ordered a Simpson Speedway Shark and an Impact Vapor, both about $800. They both are geared towards open-wheel racing with a duckbill chin spoiler, lift-reducing ripples over the top, a narrow eye port, and various small air vents. They both fit very comfortably, no hot spots on my forehead and a supportive fit from my ears to my jawline. Visors were of excellent quality on both, with the Simpson having a better seal with the visor closed. The Simpson also had a slightly higher quality soft foam and liner material in it. The Impact definitely used a smaller and narrower shell for their Large helmet, it made it seem like the Simpson just used an XL shell and used more inner material to make it fit. The Impact came with a simple cloth drawstring bag while the Simpson came with a heavy-duty denier travel bag. And for the win, both the Impact and Simpson helmets are made in the USA.
The Impact Vapor fit me just a bit better, and I preferred the narrower shell for better ease of use within the driver compartment, so I ended up keeping the Impact. I’ll update after I have a chance to try it on the track.
Hopefully 2017 brings me a some better luck as I’m ending 2016 with two broken race cars. The “deal” I got buying my Van Diemen Formula Continental this summer ended up not being quite the deal. Quite a few more issues than expected, but hey, that’s racing. And today at the New Year’s Eve SFR SCCA member’s free test day at Thunderhill, I grenaded another diff in my Datsun. Sometimes racing old cars gets a bit frustrating, so I guess we’ve just got to remember the fun times 😉
Last weekend I had a few buddies racing at Sonoma Raceway with 24 Hour of LeMons, what a scene! 182 cars took the green flag on Saturday morning, and an incredible number were still running come Sunday at sunset, one fifty plus. Team Geritol (aka Team Blue Light Special) had a few issues, but still had the old Rabbit running at the end. A seized right rear wheel bearing caused an extended pit stop on Saturday that took them out of their Class title hopes, but they fought back for a top 120 finish 😉 An amazing Honda 600 and a couple of Vanagons were also pitted nearby.
The Van Deimen made it’s maiden voyage with me this weekend at SFR SCCA’s final race of the season at Thunderhill Raceway. It sure was nice to join up with my Group 4 brethren once again after a year’s absence from them. Following a week long flog to get the car ready, my buddy Art and I took it up for a test day and to get a new logbook issued. Lots of little issues every session – oil leaks, hydraulic leaks, electrical gremlins, etc, but at least the chassis and drivetrain “seemed” pretty solid. SCCA Tech made getting a new logbook issued for this car a pain in the butt (who would think that Halon fire bottles are now illegal?!?), but that’s the price to play I guess.
Racing however proved to test the car’s limits, with overheating issues occurring after a few laps each session. But while we were on track, we were at least able to keep the FC leaders in sight for a couple of laps. First time out with a new car is always a test of skill, patience, and yeah, your wallet. Hopefully next time out will be a bit better…
Photos by Privateer Racing
This week I made a new seat for the VD with a two-part SFI foam kit that I bought from the Speed Seat Factory. Gayle and Jody run Speed Seats out of their shop near Milwaukee, they specialize in building custom seats for their customers, but they also sell DIY kits. They will spend plenty of time with you via phone and email coaching you through the process, as you’ll have plenty of questions for them. I spent half a day prepping the cockpit – covering sharp edges, sealing off gaps, cutting foam inserts, getting the pour bag ready, etc. Then I had a couple racing buddies give me a hand with the mix and pour (you could get by with one, but two helpers makes it much easier). After letting it set up, removing the plug, and a couple of big cuts, it was time to start the next phase. This took the most time as it requires inserting and removing the seat MANY times to get the trimming and shaping done right. Now that it’s close, I’ve gaffer taped up the exposed foam sections and will try it out for a weekend before attempting to make the cover that comes with the kit.