Every Thursday night from spring until fall the Monterey and Carmel gearheads gather at the Baja Cantina for an evening of benchracing, bar-b-que, and beverages. Tonight I made my maiden visit as a guest of a couple members of the Rats To Riches car club. The Cantina had some live music outside, the parking lot was full of great rides, and I can’t wait for my next visit.
Archives for April 2011
In prep for this upcoming weekend’s SCCA Vintage race weekend at Laguna Seca, I took the Race Wagon down to the secret location of the IEM Racing bat-cave for a suspension and steering tune-up. We strung up a string box to confirm front-to-rear alignment, reset the front and rear toe and camber settings, then adjusted the cornerwieghts to get the crossweight back to 50-50. Bad thing is I have one less excuse if I don’t do well…
An important part of driving your car on a racetrack is passing the required technical safety inspection prior to getting access to the track. While the level of scrutiny will vary by organization, the goals are the same: minimize the possibility of injury to the driver due to a mechanical malfunction, and ensuring that required safety equipment is properly installed.
A few track-day clubs will have their own staff inspectors, but most will recommend an inspection by a qualified mechanic prior to arriving at the track. Items of importance include good condition tires and brakes, working brakelights, the absence of fluid leaks, properly secured seatbelts, and minimal steering wheel play. The removal of all loose items will also be required, such as floormats, cellphones, spare change, and all that junk in your trunk. The staff scrutineers with a race organization will have a much more thorough list. It will include properly installed fire supressant systems, insuring fuelcells, helmets, and harnesses have not met their expiration dates, hot electrical terminals are covered to prevent short-circuits, firewall grommets or bulkhead fittings are in use to prevent line chaffing, and that rollcages and seat mounts are of proper thickness and design. Inspectors will then put notes in the racecar’s logbook about items that need to be resolved prior to the next event.
At my last VARA race wknd, an inspector pointed out to me an improper fix that I had done in a hurry. I had ziptied a loose wire leading to the brakelights to a stainless braided brakeline, a big no-no, and easily remedied. A quick fix that I had forgotten about could have led to big problems down the road…
Wagons, wagons, everywhere…
Maybe I’m just noticing old stationwagons more these days, but at this weekend’s race there were cool wagons everywhere! I’ve never been a trend setter, so it’s certainly not my doing, but I sure like this fad. These wagons were all cruising the pits at Willow Springs, except the last shot, that one’s my wife’s 😉
Racing by the numbers
This weekend’s race schedule was one of the busiest ever for me. Saturday included a 30 minute timed practice, a 40 minute qualifying race, a 30 minute enduro practice, and a 70 minute enduro. Sunday’s schedule added another 30 minute practice and a 40 minute flag race. 240 minutes, that’s 4 hours! Take off 10 minutes per event for warm-ups, cool-downs, and pitstops, and that’s still 3 hours at pace. The Wagon burns 9 gallons per hour, so call it 27 gallons of 100 octane Sunoco at $8/gallon. Add in race entry fees, 300+ miles each way to the track with my truck and trailer getting 12 mpg at $4/gallon, food and hotel, and it’s time to start looking for quarters under the cushions…
To keep myself on schedule for this weekend, I ziptied a watch to my steering column support for the first time. It was such a simple addition to the cockpit, but it ended up being an extremely valuable tool. I can’t believe I never thought of this before. I can’t quite wrap my head around GPS, HD cameras, and multi-car digital timers in a vintage race series yet, but I’m making progress.
The Race Report
This weekend I raced at the annual VARA Enduro weekend event held at Willow Springs Int’l Raceway, “The Fastest Track in the West”. This track certainly lives up to it’s name, in the Race Wagon it’s a two gear/two shift track. The first half of the 2.5 miles in 4th gear, one upshift and the second half in 5th. That’s a lot of time at full throttle, good thing I’m not driving a 3000#, 400hp tire and gas eater!!!
We had typical spring weather in California’s Mojave high desert, mostly clear skies, temps 55-75F, and gusty winds. VARA had 100+ entries for their regular 5 group format, and the visiting Pacific 2000 formula cars became the extra group 6. VARA’s usual format allows its many different classes to be combined into large/medium/small production car groups and large/small formula groups. My Datsun 510 Wagon falls into the medium bore group that contains BS (B-Sedan), CS, DP (D-Production), EP, ESR (E-Sportsracer), and GTL (Grand touring-light). This group features Datsun 510s, BMW 2002s, Triumph TR3/4s, large engined Spitfires, Alfa GTVs, Porsche 914s, and a mixture of Volvos, Jaguars, and small Sports Racers. In this 30 car field, the Wagon finished 4th overall and second in the GTL class; with a GTL 510, a DP Spitfire, and a ESR PBS taking the podium spots. I was able to keep my fast times in the 1:40-1:41 range all weekend.
The usual two hour twilight enduro was shortened this year to 70 minutes and combined with the Classic Motorsports Magazine Small Bore Cup race. The VARA enduro required a 10 minute pitstop (driver change optional), while the CM Cup race had a handicapped pitstop length to even the field. Slower qualifying cars got a short pitstop, faster cars were held in the pits longer. It was a fun format and the Wagon finished midpack after the handicapping was applied. Congrats to rookie driver Adam Hixon for taking second place in the handicapped enduro with a consistent drive in his Datsun Roadster. Paul Moore of The Moore Speed Co. gets the ‘Golden Wrench” award for fragging his clutch during the 2pm enduro practice and still making the 5pm green flag after a heroic flog.
Willow Springs has several racetracks on the property, and this weekend a Chump Car 24 hour enduro was taking place on the ‘Streets’ track. It’s amazing these guys keep their $500 cars going for that long. If you’re not familiar with their series, you gotta check them out. It’s half racing, half circus, with “special” livery a big part of the fun.