Thursday, May 28th, 2015

Had a great weekend with SFR SCCA at Thunderhill Raceway, we even had cool temps for May, in the mid-70s. The Crossle was running strong, and the fresh shock rebuild from Performance Shock in Sonoma worked quite well. Had some great battles on the track with the regular pack, and rolled it back on the trailer afterwards ready for the next race weekend, can’t ask for much more than that. We even had a Novice racer doing his first race weekend in his just-purchased Datsun 510, gotta love the old school race cars that just won’t quit!

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Close finish

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I got to use a cool new tool today, a pop rivet removal tool that prevents the rivet head from spinning while drilling out the mandrel. It wasn’t cheap but boy, does it do the job. During the last race at Laguna Seca, I was dragging the rear of my Crossle chassis through the Corkscrew, shaving my engine belly pan right down to the frame rails. I tried to raise the ride height but discovered I was already at max height. So while I had my shocks out being rebuilt this month (its been years since their last service), I installed some longer springs so I could get some more ride height out of the rear. Removing the old engine belly pan was much easier with the right tool. Now if there was an easier way to Hysol and rivet the new one on, that’d be great…

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A few cool pics from the 2015 VARA British Extravaganza at Buttonwillow Raceway.

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With the help of my buddy Mike, we’ve been assembling a fresh motor for the 710. The car came with a usable race motor when I bought it, but now that the car chassis is coming around, it was time for a hi-spec, vintage-legal motor that I knew all the parts of. The ’74 710s came with a L20b engine, so that’s what we started with. The stock 85mm bore is allowed a vintage-legal 1mm overbore, so we’re using 86mm pop-up JE pistons in a fresh o-ringed block. Stock stroke is required, so we’ve got a lightened and knife-edged OE crank in use. We plan on revving the piss out of it so a fresh set of Carillo rods are in there too. A ported OE a87 cylinder head with 38cc chambers and a secret grind Rebello cam tops it off.

During assembly we encountered a few interference issues, so we dug out the die grinder and sanding drums. The 37mm exhaust valves were tickling the cylinder bore, so we needed to eyebrow the bore just a little. The high compression pistons were touching the edge of the cylinder head chamber, so we decided to remove a little material from the steel head instead of from the aluminum pistons. And while we were at it, we confirmed the valve-to-piston clearance was sufficient. Fresh bearings, rings, gaskets, etc, finish it all up. For those curious about the math, that’s 1.99 liters displacement, and a 13.0:1 compression ratio. Can’t wait to give it a try next week…

***  Added note – I f**#ked up the motor install, and hopefully you can learn from my mistake. As I installed the new motor, the oil system lines lined up as they did during disassembly. Unfortunately the oil sandwich plate clocked itself 180 degrees off on the new block, meaning my oil flow was now reversed. Yes, I missed that the lines now went to the wrong ports. Oil left the block to the cooler instead of to the filter, thus causing oil flow to stop at the one-way check valve at the filter. I did not catch this error as the oil pressure gauge port is at the aux oil filter assembly, so I was reading full pressure while NO oil was returning to the block. I ran the motor for several minutes before it essentially seized up, cooking all the crank bearings and scratching up a couple pistons and bores. Motor is back out now being inspected, expensive and frustrating mistake. Lesson – start the new motor with the oil cap off so you can see if oil is making it all the way to the top of the system right away…   ***

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This weekend I raced at Laguna Seca Raceway with the Crossle, it was the first time back on this track for me in several years. It took me a few sessions to get comfortable again, but things started to click by day 2 (of 3). Laguna is a great facility, big elevation changes, high speed and low speed corners, and of course, The Corkscrew! Weather was nice, foggy starts but sunny by 10am. Laguna has strict sound restrictions and our 9am sessions had a 101db limit. I started with my muffler on not wanting to miss out on any laps due to sound violations, the car seemed to run fine muffled and it sound checked at 91db. In the afternoon on Saturday I went out without the muffler and registered a 97db. The locals say a 97 can turn into a 101 under certain atmospheric conditions, but I never got the sound meatball flag the rest of the weekend.

In Group 4 we had about twenty cars with a pretty even mix of Club Ford, Formula F, and Formula Continentals. We had some good dicing, but with the speed differentials in our small group, it led to a bit of solo lapping. I needed the track time to learn the track again, but I’m hoping for some more cars to battle with on our next visit.

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Great way to start the season at Thunderhill Raceway- sunny and 70, car ran great, good racing, hanging out with your racing buddies, what else could you ask for?!? The SFR (San Fran Region) SCCA Group 4 is a mix of open wheel race car Classes, from FV (Formula Vee) at one end, to FC (Formula Continental) at the other. In the middle it includes the current generation FF (Formula F) that uses Honda Fit motors, hi-tech inboard suspension, and very aerodynamic bodywork, as well as the older, second generation FF (Club Ford, ie. me) from the 70’s and ’80s that use the Ford 1600cc pushrod motor and outboard brakes and suspension. The speed differential between Classes means the faster car/driver combo from one Class will often be dicing with the slower car/driver from another. In other words, there is always someone to race with.

This weekend we found that under high side loads the rear tire sidewalls flex enough to rub on the washers surrounding the lower link-to-upright joint. Multiple solutions were discussed: wider wheel spacers and longer wheel studs (we had neither), higher tire pressures to reduce flex, or grinding down the washers until they were of smaller diameter than the helm joint end. So we went with what we had, a Dremel and an air tank. Problem solved (well, mostly…)

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Does this look faintly familiar to anyone else but me?!? I’m honored but where’s my royalty check 😉

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From four years ago – Speedhunters, 2011.

And from five years ago – The birth of the Wagon. 

RUD – Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly

I’ll give Elon Musk credit for this one since I had never heard it before he explained one of his Falcon 9 rocket malfunctions, but it is the PERFECT racing description for many an event experienced by drivers at the track.

dragster explosion - ESPN