Andre and Fiona
Mosport Raceway, VARAC July 2010. Andre Rousseau and his Fiat 124 named 'Fiona' have someone's eyes on them...
Ever see a 767 land on a race track??? Quite the story, read it here.
VARA closed out its 2015 season with the most glorious weather I’ve ever seen at Willow Springs Intl Raceway. We had sunny skies, light winds, lows in the 40s, highs in the 70s, absolutely perfect conditions for high desert racing. With cool air for lots of horsepower, and plenty of sunshine to warm the asphalt and tires, many racers were knocking down best personal times. I was racing my Crossle mid-pack, but still recording my best times ever at WSIR.
Looking back through the notes for my 2015’s goals, I can honestly say it was my best racing season ever. I competed in six SCCA and two VARA race weekends, taught at one school, and attended three other events that my buddies were racing in. I improved my personal best times at all the tracks and took home a few chequered flags. With the love of my wonderfully supportive and understanding wife, and the friendship of the guys wrenching, towing, and crewing with me, I feel blessed to have had a year like this. Even though I was pretty lucky in regards to mechanical failures, I still blew my budget, and probably will never be able to pull off a season like this again. It was certainly worth the effort and funds however as I made new friends, learned new skills, shared the pits with many old friends, and closed the garage door with my health and equipment intact. Here’s to a great ’15, and looking forward to 2016!
The 2015 season Finally, or is that Finale…
We made our third trip to Thunderhill Raceway last week to wrap up the 2015 SCCA season. Weather was great, turnout was good, and we had some excellent racing in Group 4. I’m happy to say I made some good friends in my first full season with the club, and look forward to racing with them for years to come. And I must admit I was much more impressed by the San Francisco Region of the SCCA than I expected to be. They run a very organized Registration, Grid, and Tech. The Corner Workers and Safety Crew are some of the best, and the home track at T-hill is a great facility. I’m glad I gave the SCCA a second chance.
For the Finale I showed up with fresh tires, had the Crossle running great, and was able to better my personal best lap time on Friday. With a gear change Friday night to get a little more top speed down the front straight, I was able to better my time again on Saturday. My friend Alan Dezzani was not quite as lucky as he decided his connecting rods needed to see daylight during Friday’s Race. His oil induced pirouette off the track was quite impressive indeed. I’m sure he’ll be back in 2016 better than ever.
Here’s a few pics from the weekend.
Last weekend VARA held its October 2015 race at the Spring Mountain Motorsports Resort (formerly Ranch) in Pahrump, NV, home track to the Ron Fellows Chevrolet driving school. We ran the challenging 24 turn, 3.2 mile track configuration, which was definitely a small bore favorite. Only one short straightaway, several very tight banked corners, and almost no time in top gear. Some of the big bore drivers complained, but I found it quite rewarding to figure out it’s complexities. And the club held a Friday test day as well to help us out with those regards. Peter Brock and John Morton, the godfather’s of Datsun racing, were on hand to celebrate the club’s Datsun tribute to Mr. K, and their presence in the pits made for a terrific weekend.
The 710 had completed its recent overhaul just days before the event. The motor rebuild (from my Spring screw-up) was freshly installed and a short dyno session at Z Car Garage helped get it sorted out. Fresh paint and vinyl added a new look, my new seat was installed, and we did a chassis set-up to go with the softened rear springs. Even bought a fresh set of tires since the car had not seen track duty since last year. Testing on Friday went well, we tightened and adjusted a few things here and there, while I readjusted to the Datsun after spending the last year in my Formula Ford. The softer rear springs allowed the driveshaft to make tunnel contact over one of the track’s big bumps, so we had to raise the rear a bit. And the heat and altitude (95 degrees and 2600′) left the fuel mixture a bit rich, so we leaned out the Mikunis to get them back on song.
Saturday morning Practice showed that our tuning efforts on Friday were paying dividends. Next time out was Qualifying Practice, and it had us in 4th place. A drivetrain noise started to raise it’s head, but everything was tight and the fluids were full, so nothing left to do but head out for the Qualifying Race. I got a good start and found myself in third place of the four-car pack out front, battling with my former B-Sedan competitors of season’s past. But on lap 3, the noise got real loud, then real quiet, as the teeth on my pinion shaft decided they’d had enough. I watched the rest of the race from the side of the track where I came to a stop, and waited for my rope tow back to the pits. With no spare differential parts on hand, I was unable to race on Sunday, but stuck around to bench race and give a helping hand. I was disappointed to not complete the weekend after such a long tow, but was pleased with the pace we showed on such a fresh package.
This weekend I raced at Sonoma Raceway (formerly Infineon and Sears Point) for the first time. I did a track day there about five years ago, but racing there with SFR SCCA was a whole ‘nother experience. The 2.5 mile, 14 turn track has big elevation changes, several blind corners, walls where you don’t want them, and very few places to catch your breath. I came home both grinning and exhausted. We had weather from wet and chilly, to hot and windy, and with four weekends in a row of pro racing at Sonoma preceding our event, it made for variable traction levels every session.
Friday’s two Test sessions gave me a chance to learn the track again. Saturday’s Practice, Qualifying, and Race saw me slowly getting quicker as I dialed in shock settings, sway bars, and tire pressures. A great race-long bout with the 2014 CF Champ showed me the difficulty of passing at this track, as you really need to set some moves up a couple corners in advance. I spent Saturday night studying the day’s video and reviewing my set-up changes. Sunday’s Qualifying left me on Pole for CF, and after some good dicing (and some competitor attrition), I took home a Class win. Thanks go to my crew Art Jurado, and to all my fellow FF and CF racers who shared their tips and data with me all weekend.
Photos by A. Jurado
A ten minute video from this weekend.
The 710 went to the paint shop this summer. The old patina was great, but after many seasons of track abuse, it really needed freshening. The blue I used on the hood and trunk is the actual 1974 Datsun 710 ‘Light Blue’ that the car came painted in from the factory (you can still see the original paint in the door jams). I found an old PPG paint code book and had my painter find a current match in single stage. I’m currently reassembling and installing fresh hood pins, hardware, etc. And I got my excellent vinyl work done at Vinyl Styles in San Carlos, CA.
I have a hard time fitting well in car seats, race and street. Not only am I tall and thin, but very long waisted. So I need a tall seat back to have the shoulder harnesses fit properly, but that is usually only found in XL seats that also come with a very wide seat bottom. Ten years ago I had Ultrashield make me a custom aluminum seat for a previous car, so I had them build me another one for my current car. They made it with a narrow seat bottom and a +2″ seat back so the shoulder harness holes and the helmet halo containment system are the correct heights. Not cheap, but safety never is. (Thanks to my amazing wife Kathy Summers for the awesome birthday present.)
My 1980 Crossle 40f did not come with an air dam behind the radiator when I bought it. During my first race in the heat last season, my feet got so hot I ended up making one out of cardboard to get through the weekend. Since then I’ve seen several different versions made out of aluminum, fiberglass, and even carbon fiber. I ended up using a fiberglass piece available through Porter Racing. The first two pics are of the one I just installed, following them are examples of others I’ve seen at the track.