Raced with VARA at Buttonwillow Raceway in my Datsun this weekend, even got to have my brother along as crew. We had a great weekend, cool weather for May, good parties in the pits, the 710 running well. I started at the back of the pack for Sunday’s Flag race to have some fun with my mid-pack comrades as we didn’t have what it took to battle up front this weekend. Teams Rose and Blasko have really upped the ante in BS while I’ve been off racing my Van Diemen! About half way through the Sunday race, the throttle return spring on my rear carb broke and it jammed wide open, my day was done…
We raced at Buttonwillow Raceway with VARA this weekend, and the club tried out a new (and successful) race format. We ran the track counter-clockwise on Saturday with a Practice/Qualifying Practice/Race schedule, and then ran the track clockwise with the same schedule on Sunday. Two points races on two “different” tracks in one weekend, excellent! It was sure a hot one, with race time temps at 95F degrees, but we were prepared for the heat with a Cool Suit and window scoops for the driver, and a spot in the garages for the car and crew. My Datsun 710 was running quite well this weekend, a few little issues arose, but nothing we couldn’t manage. Water pump replacement for a failing shaft bearing, out of balance wheel, odds and ends… but we Qualified third, and finished third, for both races.
Formula Ford The Series had a great turnout of cars, I think I counted 18 cars. TABS-West was there as well with at least that many in BS and BSL. On Saturday they held the Rennsport All-German car race, and this weekend we even had quite a few rookies out there sporting their yellow Rookie Stripes. One of VARA’s sponsors, Lucas Oil, had plenty of swag for the competitors, and the Saturday night BBQ and raffle were their usual hit with racers, families, crews, and corner workers alike.
Photos by Privateer Racing
Last weekend I went racing with SFR SCCA at Laguna Seca raceway. My vintage B/Sedan-prepped Datsun 710 doesn’t really fit into any modern SCCA class so I raced in the catch-all ITE class, along with Corvettes, Mustangs, and Porsche Cup cars. I was definitely running in the back of the pack, but had a few cars to dice with and got to practice getting passed 😉 And while I’m no longer racing a Formula Ford, my former competitors still let me share their pits with them.
Every race weekend there is ‘that guy’. That guy who messes up the track session for everyone else, who gets stuck in the sand traps every time out, who runs out of gas on the back straight, or who oils down the track. Well this weekend I embarrassingly got to be ‘that guy’. I left an oil fitting loose, and as it came off I oiled down Turns 6 through 11 with four quarts of oil on the first lap of Friday morning’s practice. The 30 minute session was cut short to 10 minutes as the track workers got busy with the oil-soak and sweepers. Luckily I shut down the motor with two quarts left in it, saving myself another motor build. Apologies to my fellow competitors…
The summer weather was terrific, but there was a scary fire burning in Big Sur just down the highway from the racetrack. It got a bit smokey on Sunday, but nothing compared to what the hard-working firefighters were (and still are) dealing with.
Photos by my racing buds: Art, Mike, Shad, and Don (as I was busy wrenchin’ all weekend)
This weekend VARA held its annual British Extravaganza race weekend at Buttonwillow Raceway. After an extremely windy and dusty Test day on Friday (we actually saw a few black flags as visibility neared zero), the weekend left us with perfect racing weather as we enjoyed mostly sunny skies with highs in the 70s. With the obligatory Saturday night bbq and karaoke, and the All-British car race on Sunday, the 150 entrants along with their families and crews all seemed to have a very memorable weekend. Joining VARA for the weekend was also our Historic race car group, and the Bakersfield British Car Club.
I’m happy to say my Datsun 710 B-sedan race car is finally coming around. This was only the second time I got a full race weekend out of it with no major mechanical issues, and with me actually back in the hunt. All the recent prep work paid off as the handling is much improved, the drivetrain is running strong and reliable, and all the safety equipment is easy to operate. Speaking of which, we unfortunately had a rookie driver experience a roll-over accident at the bottom of Phi Hill in his Volvo this weekend. But while the car received considerable damage, the safety equipment did its job and the driver walked away unscathed. Roll cages, seats, harnesses, and helmets are not the places to skimp in your racing budget.
I tried out using an inexpensive timer/data-acquisition app on my smartphone this weekend, sold as ‘Harry’s Lap Timer’. Not quite the data available through a high-end system, but it’s easy to use, the timer is easy to read, and some of the data charts are interesting. Shown below is a lateral G-force vs distance chart covering one lap of the race. No wonder I feel so beat up on Monday mornings…
Older, wiser, less invincible, slower to heal… whatever the reason, I’ve been spending more attention (and money) on my safety equipment as my amateur racing career carries on. This season I’ve been working on making my cockpit a safer place to be in case of an impact. I added a halo style seat, and since I’m so long-waisted, I had it custom made with a two-inch longer back so the shoulder harness holes were positioned properly. To keep the angle of the harness properly aligned with the use of my HANS device, I had to add a higher harness bar to my roll cage as well. I installed a new window net that uses both wide webbing and mesh to help keep my body parts in the car and to keep unwelcome parts out. And even though my race club does not require them, I added a right side net for a little more protection.
As we vintage racers get older, stiffer, and larger, it gets more difficult getting in and out of our caged cars. I’ve seen many racers getting by with a minimum driver’s side door bar to help ease car entry and exit, often just a simple ‘X’ without the top horizontal bar. My car has quite a high top door bar, same height as the window sill, so it’s been getting tougher to slide in and out gracefully. I discovered a helpful modification that kept the safety and added some ease, a hinged bar kit made by Chassisworks. With some help from my racing buddies John Teaby and Mike Malone, my racing just got safer, and easier.
Here’s a good video of what a side impact with a halo seat looks like. Video
Last weekend VARA held it’s annual 2-hour Twighlight Enduro at Willow Springs Int’l Raceway during their High Desert Challenge race weekend. I was invited to co-drive the second hour of the enduro by Steve Villata, the current owner of the Race Wagon, and was more than happy to partake. Most vintage races are in the 25-35 minute sprint length, so this is one of the only West Coast opportunities for a longer vintage race format. It takes a bit of planning: driver change, refueling, pitlane repairs if necessary, things that we just don’t get to practice very often. But it’s the best ‘race laps for the dollar’ ratio you can get anywhere, and man, its a whole lot of fun!
The race had 17 entries, and Steve drove a great first half, dicing steadily with a 240Z and turning consistent laps in the 1:42 range. After the pitstop and driver change, I had a good battle going with a 911 for several laps, but with ten minutes to go and running in 4th place, the Wagon’s motor decided it had had enough abuse and we had to call it a day. Steve’s brother Ron (a second season racer), and his co-driver Lawrence Dunnigan (a rookie season racer) finished their Capri’s first enduro in a very respectable 12th place. Can’t wait for next year’s Enduro!
Welded on a new Magnaflow today, the old SuperTrapp was pretty old and rusted out.
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 fresh 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.