2011 BEMC Indian Summer Trophy Races

Team00 was out for the 2011 BEMC Indian Summer Trophy Races at Mosport this weekend, in with the intention of doing better than we did at the first enduro of the year. We had high hopes and spirits that we would have a good weekend.

Jay and Frank left for the track Thursday with Car #40.

On Friday we encountered our first problem – the clutch on Car #00 broke while loading it on the trailer. A quick run to Plus 1 Performance fixed that issue and Steve, Nick and I left for the track with #00 around 6pm.

Arriving around 10pm, I immediately put up my tent. Jay and I shared the tent, as there was not enough room in the RV. I brought many blankets and a tuque; it was only 3 degrees overnight.

Saturday morning I took to the track in #00 for the 15-minute practice session. The track surface was so cold and the tires so old that I had a good scare at the bottom of turn 2. There was little available grip especially on the numerous concrete patches. I only managed a lap time of 1:53, well below the expected range.

Steve also went out for the practice in #40, but only managed 1 lap before he retired with a potential electrical issue. We managed to have a new distributor brought up from Acura East, the dealer in Ajax, and replaced it before the qualifying session.

After a long 2-hour delay to repair guardrail damage in the morning, Steve and Jay went out for a qualifying run. Steve again retired after less than a single lap; we could not find the root cause of the car’s electrical problems. This time, the fuel pump did not seem to be working. Steve was not able to continue and would not start the enduro. Jay took #00 out on old tires and qualified 10th of 13 in class, 30th overall out of 35, with a 1:46.

Jay and I both struggled with second gear during the day. I would normally use it only in Turn 5B. The shifter kept popping out of gear. The workaround was to stay in third gear for that corner.

The afternoon was long, so we had lots of time to prepare the one car for the race. We fuelled it up as much as we could, chose a good set of slightly used tires (i.e. already scrubbed-in) and put together the pit kit.

I made sure I ate a proper dinner this time and was much more relaxed for the start of the race.

Photo by Liz
Photo by Liz (http://lizslens.smugmug.com/)

During the pace lap, the back of the pack was a mess – the rows were not formed up at all. After a previous experience, I decided to ignore the other drivers to my left and stay right on the bumper of the car directly in front of me. As I was wired up for radio, I heard the call for the start at the exit of Turn 9. I got on the throttle immediately. With the cars all strung out, I found lots of room to move around. I made three positions before the first turn! The other drivers might have been caught out without a radio.

I lost one position when a GT-2 Porsche GT3 went by in Turn 5 and another position when Nicholas Krikorian (GT-1 Subaru) blew by on the back straight. They are both in a faster class and had started behind me.

By the time I came around to complete the first lap, I was in 26th place, as some of the other cars must not have made it to mock grid.

During the first few laps, I had to work hard to hold off Jamie Steenbakkers in a Honda Civic. I believe it was her first time at Mosport, and put up a good fight. I was able to slowly pull away, mostly by capitalizing on my speed in the corners – Mosport is damn intimidating for a first-timer.

I stayed in 26th or 25th place until lap 11 when I started to climb up the charts. By lap 19, I was in 21st place. I had a good race against a Mazda Miata driven by Mike or Peter Adamovits. Sometimes he would get by, but I had higher speed on the long back straight and could take the position back.

By lap 47, I was as high as 19th place, but that was also due to the other teams taking their pit stops.

Photos by Liz
Photos by Liz (http://lizslens.smugmug.com/)

Steve queried me on fuel state during my 90-minute stint. The first 60 minutes were ok, and I wasn’t lacking for speed. But after that, it became obvious that I would not make it to the 90-minute mark for our only pit stop. We think the bottom half of the tank is smaller than the top half, as we had similar fuel-usage results at the Victoria Day Speedfest.

I had to start short-shifting. At first, I just shifted earlier and earlier, but the fuel level kept dropping. I then started keeping it in fifth gear from the top of the back straight to Turn 9. Eventually, I also upshifted before Turn-2 as well and kept it in fifth-gear until Turn 10. This was not the best solution, as it meant that if I got into trouble I would not have enough torque to pull myself out of a spin. I did everything I could to conserve gas and keep my momentum in the fast corners. My lap times grew from 1:41.529 to 1:46.660 and finally to 1:51.409. That sucked. I kept telling Steve I was loosing places, but we had to keep moving to the 90-minute mark. The motor started starving for fuel in the corners, and yet I kept going. When the motor started starving on the straight, I called in that I had to pit “Now!”

It was close enough to the half-way point that the time for the pit stop would be enough to get us to the end of the race – if Jay could conserve just as much fuel.

During the pit stop, we switched the GoPro HD in the car for another one with new batteries. We found out later that the first GoPro battery died after 15 minutes, so I have little of my half of the race on video.

Jay went out and could start pushing right away. The tires were in reasonable shape and the temperatures were good.

Jay left the pits in 27th place but had to come in for a stop-and-go penalty as we spilled too much fuel during the pit stop.

Jay came back up to 25th place over the next four laps. He stayed in 25th place for the next 12.5 laps.

On lap 75, as he was heading down the hill at Turn 4, the motor made a “pop” sound and died. He used the momentum to pull off after Turn 5B, and parked the car near the woods, out of the way. There were still 35 minutes remaining in the race. It was depressing. We had such high hopes.

I only raced two weekends this year – the two 3-hour enduros. In both cases, the car died before the end. It is the first year of racing where I did not finish a single race.

I did find some positives about the weekend. I had another fantastic start, moving up a number of places. I was able to keep off a challenge from Jamie and had a good scrap with Peter or Mark in the Miata. And I learned about fuel conservation, short-shifting and keeping up my momentum. It was good experience and practice.

Steve and Nick left that night around 10pm. Jay, Frank and I retired to the RV for beers (or Pepsi in my case) and to watch some of our videos. We had a good talk, but I had to fight not to fall asleep – I don’t remember being so exhausted at the end of a race day. We had a quiet trip home Sunday morning.

Victoria Day Speedfest Sundowner 2011

This past Victoria Day weekend, Team 00 attended the Sundowner 3-hour enduro. Jay, Steve and I drove #00, a nearly stock Acura Integra Type-R we bought in Dallas; Frank crewed for the team with help from Vern.

We arrived at the track Friday evening around 8PM. After a quick BBQ steak supper, we started to prep the car, as we were the first group on track Saturday morning at 8AM.

Steve working on the wheel studs
Steve working on the wheel studs

Trouble started immediately. Two aluminum lug nuts on the left rear wheel sheared off. The torque face against the rim was still there, but the hex head broke off. The only solution we had was to drill out the remnants, at the cost of breaking multiple drill bits. Once the nuts were finally removed we had to replace the wheel studs, as the drilling had destroyed the old ones. We had spare studs, but they were longer than the original studs. To gain enough space to thread the longer bolts through the axle hub, we had to remove the ABS sensor and rotate the dust shield out of the way. The next challenge was to seat the new studs. We borrowed some steel washers and a steel wheel nut from the Krikorian’s and torqued them down, which slowly pulled the studs through. It chewed up all six battery packs we had for the air wrench.

We finished around midnight and retired to Jay’s RV for the night.

We were up at 7AM. Steve was the first on track. He and I split the morning 30-minute practice session. I set the best time – 1:43.393.

After lunch, Jay took the 30-minute qualifying session. We finished in 15th place on the grid of 17 with a time of 1:46.376. We had classified the car as GT-4 with hopes that with fewer cars in the class we might stand a better chance, even though our lap times were well off the GT-4 pace.

In the mid-afternoon, a rain-squall passed over Mosport. As I watched the puddles form, I knew our car had been set up for dry conditions. I grew more and more anxious as race time approached. A dinner consisting of only strawberry Twizzlers didn’t help either my anxiety.

The race started at 5PM; we arrived at mock grid around 4:40. Mentally I prepared for the start by focusing on just staying on the track and didn’t worry about positions. The rain had stopped, but the track was still wet. We had three hours to make up any lost positions.

As we came around to start the race, I was on the inside of the 8th row (14th place as one of the competitors did not start). When the green came out, I saw a big gap down the middle of the track. There was some risk, as I would have nowhere to go if the was an accident in turn-1. But it paid off handsomely – I made two positions. Everyone was cautious and it was a clean start. At the top of turn-2, Mark Gawronski was slow on the inside – he might have started on slicks – so I passed on the outside of 2.

In turn-5, I went to the outside again and went around two faster BMW’s, but lost the positions on the race up the back straight.

Up into turn-8, I was behind a red BMW when he started to lose it in the wet. Would this be a repeat of my big crash at Calabogie in 2008? He started to spin right, then corrected left before completely losing it around to the right again. I had lifted and stayed basically center track behind him until I could figure out which way he would end up. When he finally lost the tail, I saw the opening to the left and went for it. I quickly glanced in my mirror and saw that his spin had basically bottled up everyone behind him – I was the only one who had gotten by cleanly.

By the time I came around to the start line, I was already up to 10th place overall.

Working turn-9
Working turn-9

This gave me a breather to chase down the next car ahead of me, a Porsche GT3 driven by Roberto Sabato. What a thrill it was to hound down a GT3! It was obvious that Roberto couldn’t get the power down on the wet track. I tried at the bottom of turn-2 and again in turn-5, but each time he made his Porsche as wide as possible. At the same time, one of the Sentras was also trying to get by me and we traded positions a few times but I was able to get by pull out a gap on the Andretti straight.

At the end of the second lap Howard Chin took back the position he lost on the opening lap and was able to close up on the Porsche too. I was able to stay with him and eventually took the position back again on the pit straight; he retired a few laps later with a mechanical issue.

In the wet, I was able to go on the power a little earlier than the cars around me, which gave a good run out of the corners.

Eventually, as the track dried out, my wet-track advantage was lost and I started to fall back as the faster cars could start using their power and grip to get by. After a little over an hour, I was called in for our first drivers change. I had been up as high as 9th place overall, but when I pitted, I had fallen back to 11th.

Over the radio Steve asked about the fuel state and I replied that the tank was just under half. So we made the decision to just do a drivers change without refueling. Coming into pit lane I loosened the belts and prepared to hop out.

Jay got in and when out. I told him the car was great and to start pushing right away.

However, we found that the fuel gauge is not very accurate. Jay drove until the car started having fuel pickup problems after about 30 minutes. We prepared for our second stop, this time for both fuel and driver. I was still in my race suit so I was assigned to fire extinguisher while Frank did the fueling. We put in one 27-litre can and meant to add at least half of a second. I watched the fuel level, but I misjudged it and we got about 1/3 of the second can.

Steve got in the car and tore out of the pits. But he was nailed for exceeding the pit lane speed limit. He came in for his stop-and-go penalty and went out again.

After about 30 minutes he radioed in that the oil light had come on, so he came into the pits. We added liter of oil and he went out again.

A short time later, he radioed in that he was out of fuel. Since Jay’s stint was short, we decided to do a fuel stop and driver change to put Jay back in.

Frank had already changed out of his fire suit, so I did the fueling. We had to ask one of the Krikorian’s crew-members to hold the fire extinguisher. We put in a full can of fuel and then strapped in Jay.

However, he also broke the pit lane speed limit and had to come in for a stop and go penalty. He had started a scrap with Vincent from Quebec but the penalty brought that to an end.

In the rush to get in the car, Jay didn’t have time to get the radio system plugged in, so we didn’t have any communications from him. When he was slow to get around, we grew concerned. He finally arrived on pit lane, driving slowly. Once stopped, he asked us to check the tires – the car was not handling well. We checked all tires (pressures were good), brakes (one pad was well worn) and wheel nuts (all looked secure). Nothing looked too bad, so we sent him out again. Again he was late to come back around. Time ticked on and he did not complete the lap, so we checked with the officials. They radioed the control tower and they found out he had stopped at the top of turn-4.

It was 15 minutes from the end of the 3 hours.

Once the race was over and the car was towed back to our paddock we found the left front wheel bearing had failed. The only thing holding the wheel hub on the car was the brake caliper. This caused problems when we tried to load the car into the trailer. We had everyone push as hard as we could then had to use the tie-down straps to pull the car into the trailer.

After that, we had a burger BBQ for supper.

Reviewing the weekend, I felt great about my start. I really made a great run in the wet. Even the track announcer was remarking on my progress. I was only 0.3 seconds off Steve’s best laps although we are still slower than expected. Our two strategies really failed. Classifying in GT-4 was a mistake – the other car finished, so no matter what we would have done, we could not win. We weren’t even fast enough to be competitive in GT-5. The breakout time is 1:41.000, and Steve’s best lap was 1:42.706. And our pit stops were terrible. We made 7 stops, including three driver changes and two stop-and-go penalties.

We will return in September for the BEMC War Bonnet 3-hour race. Hopefully we can have more success then.

2010 Ted Powell Memorial Race Weekend

This past weekend, I was racing at Calabogie Motorsports Park as part of Team00. We had 5 cars up for the weekend – two Integra Type-R’s (#40 & #00), one Integra with a K20 motor (#04), the Saturn SC (#03) and the team’s “new” 1970’s Ford Fiesta (#227). We had 5 drivers too, although we jumped from car to car depending on the series.

I came up for the test day on Friday. I wanted to have a session in the #04 Integra (which has a K20 motor), as it is by far our fastest car. However, there was drizzle during my session, so I didn’t work up much speed. I was very gentle on the throttle to prevent spinning off the track. I also had a lot of problems finding fourth gear. Listening to videos from other drivers in the same car, we all have the same problem. It’s just an awkward reach back and to the right.

After lunch, I took out #40, the ex-World Challenge car. This was the car I would be racing for the weekend in GT Sprints, so I wanted to have a session to prepare myself and get a feeling for the car again. I haven’t driven it since last season.

I prepared to take #40 out again for the final session of the day. As I was about to roll off mock grid, I reached up to connect the window net and the fitting snapped off. Without a window net, I could not go out on the track. I got out of the car, changed out of my race suit and then ran around the paddock trying to find someone that had a welder. No one I spoke with had one, but someone suggested that there was a garage in the village of Calabogie. I left the track to find the garage. I eventually did find it, but the lights were off and a sign was posted on the door reading “Back on Monday”.

I drove back to the track thinking my weekend was over before it even began because of a seemingly non-critical weld. Luckily, in the evening we found a team with a welder who fixed us up. When I tried the fitting to make sure everything still worked, I broke off the fitting at other end of the same rod. Unbelievable! We could not weld this new problem (not enough room to gain access), so we safety-wired the end of the rod to the roll cage, and duct taped everything. For the rest of the weekend, we would be getting in and out of the car using the passenger door – that window net was not to be touched again!

Saturday started with a short practice session. The schedule was very tight, so the track time was cut down for all sessions. I started the weekend with a 1:28.431 in this session, which was near the back of the GT-4 class.

Blown right rear tire
Blown right rear tire

The qualifying was just before lunch. It was a short 10-minute session, as the GT Sprints field was split into two groups (partly for safety reasons). My time was 1:27.076, which was only a slight improvement. But it was way off the pace. On the last lap, one of the rear tires burst and went flat. I’m glad I was able to instantly react and brought the car back to the pits. Jay thought that the poor tire condition might have contributed to the slow times. I was so disappointed. Jay was in the same car for the GT Challenge series earlier in the day and his qualifying time was 1:21.916 – over five seconds faster on the short track. I just couldn’t believe I had done so poorly. It really bothered me for most of the afternoon.

Integra #40 Photo by Liz
Integra #40 Photo by Liz

The race was in the middle of the afternoon. I had fun, but still finished second last in class. I was happy I made some good passes. Sadly, the video camera wasn’t on because I couldn’t properly reach the on-button while I was on mock grid (and belted in). I was also happy that I brought the lap time down to 1:24.586. Still not great, but a good improvement. A friend had told me the best place to pass was on the outside of Turn-15 (aka Spoon), so I tried that over and over again – it worked great the few times I could close up on a competitor before the turn!

Meanwhile, Steve was working on the #04 Integra. He was also racing in the GT Challenge series and decided to put on a set of racing slicks. However, once we had the tires mounted, the rims wouldn’t fit because of suspension clearance. We fixed that problem with a bunch of spacers. Next, the tires were rubbing on the bodywork. So we spent 30-45 minutes rolling the fenders to allow for the larger tires. During the 1-hr race, Steve went like hell for about 30 minutes before the slicks were done and his lap times plummeted to over 1:40 per lap.

Sunday morning, as we were preparing the cars, we worked on the hood pins on my #40 car. One of the rivets had come out, so we spent time re-attaching the fittings. There was a short 10-minute practice session in the morning, so I got ready and took the car out. I had only driven about 150 meters before the hood snapped up, caught by the wind, and smashed the window and wrecked the hood. I was able to see under the bottom of the hood and slowly followed the outside white line around the track to the pits and back to the paddock. The windshield was destroyed. We could run without a hood, but the broken front window was irreparable. I thought my weekend was over (again). I was heartbroken. Calabogie has not been very successful for me (one totaled Honda Civic (2008), one DNS and last place because of brakes (on #40, 2009) and now another broken car (#40 again)).

2010 Ted Powell Sun warmup from Richard Muise on Vimeo.

Steve and talked about it and came up with another solution. We changed cars. Instead of the Integra, I would take out the #03 Saturn and Steve moved from the Saturn back to #04 (with regular R-compound tires instead of the destroyed slicks). We arranged everything with the registrar and timing and everyone gave us the thumbs-up.

Due to the number of cars registered in the GT Sprints, they had to split the field into GT1-3 and GT4-6 for Sunday. Instead of two 20-minute races, each group would only get a single 30-minute race.

We set up all the cars for video, as four of the five drivers would be out for the final race. Steve and I started at the back of the field because of the car changes. The Saturn was in GT-6. There were three cars in GT-6 on Saturday, so I expected to be racing with two other cars.

2010 Ted Powell GT Sprints (Sunday race) from Richard Muise on Vimeo.

On the start, a car spun at the apex of Turn 1 and was blocking part of the track. I saw an opening on the grass to the right, so I went for it while part of the pack was bottled up on the left side. I made a few places to faster cars that took the positions back over the next few laps.

Saturn #03 Pic by 303 Imaging
Saturn #03 Pic by 303 Imaging

On the first lap, I passed Nick, driving the Fiesta in GT-6. On the front straight at the end of the first lap, I missed a shift and lost the position to Nick, but I took it back before Turn 2. I passed Bruce (in Team00 Integra #00) in the Ducks Head section of Calabogie on Lap 2 – he was competing in GT-5.

Once past Bruce, I had clear track for a while and I pushed hard looking for the third car in GT-6 (a Honda Civic).

Both Steve and my cars had working radios, with Jay and Joshua providing updates and encouragement from the pit straight and the berm in the quarry section.

It took a few laps to get confident to go through Turn 1 flat out without lifting, as the rear of the Saturn never feels truly planted. The Saturn is easy to drive. It is only lacking acceleration due to the low horsepower and all the extra weight; it still has all the original glass and door mechanisms for example. What it does have is momentum, just like the Civic we used to have in Team00.

I had to find a comfortable shifting pattern too. I had not driven the Saturn in about 2-3 years. It’s not a high-revving engine like the Honda and Acuras, so finding the right places to shift is important.

Over the next 5 laps, I slowly reeled in other cars in GT-5, still hunting for the other GT-6 car. I’m really proud of how I was able to pick off a few of the GT-5 cars, making good passed for overall position.

Near the end of the race, I lapped Bruce and Nick again, while I was still trying to catch the other GT-6 Civic.

At the checkered flag I whopped and hollered because I should be in second place as I never saw the Civic, a good showing for the problems of the previous sessions and considering I had not been in the Saturn in a few years and had no practice.

At the podium, they did the GT-5 and GT-4 trophies and then thanked everyone for coming. “Hey!” I said, “What about GT-6?” The timing sheets were consulted and reviewed and the presenter realized that he had missed us.

GT-6 Podium Pic by Albert Cohoe
GT-6 Podium Pic by Albert Cohoe

He started with Nick in second place. I instantly realized that that meant that the other GT-6 car did not start the race. That meant that I won my first race!!! Hurrah!! He called my name to take the top step of the podium and I hollered in joy. I was given the gold medallion and a bottle of Forty Creek Whiskey. I was so happy. My first win! All these years of racing, all those second places, and finally some pay off.

I also felt that it was not a full victory, as there were only two cars in GT-6. I pumped myself up a little by remembering that I not only passed a number of the GT-5 cars but that I lapped my only competitor and one of the GT-5 cars as well. It wasn’t a cruise to the finish line. And when I was racing, I thought I was still racing to catch the other GT-6 car, which didn’t actually exist (it didn’t take the start because of a mechanical issue).

2010 Sundown GP

This weekend, Team 00 was at Mosport for the three-hour Sundown GP endurance race Saturday evening. Jay and I shared #00, the car we bought in Dallas. It’s a basically stock (but race-prepped) Acura Integra Type-R.

I didn’t go down for the Friday practice, so it was only a single day of racing for me.

I took the first practice session Saturday morning to get familiar with the car. I have not driven #00 in over a year. I started slow, as seems to be my standard. The times started at 1:49.5, which is very slow, but in 10 laps I was able to bring the lap times down to 1:45.2. This was good improvement, but still far off the pace. I felt terrible – my best time our (now dead) Honda Civic was a 1:44.228. I should have been much faster in the Type-R.

Jay took the car out for the qualifying later in the morning and pulled off a 1:43.698, almost 2 seconds faster than my best in the morning. I was really hard on myself trying to figure out why I was not on the pace.

The results printouts from timing did not show the position in class, so we were not sure exactly were we slotted within our class. We debated changing our class from GT-4 to GT-5, as the times we have acheived so far were in the middle of the GT-5 class. In the end, we didn’t change and set our sights on just competing as best we could – during an enduro race the laptimes for everyone are lower than during a sprint race. This is due to a heavier fuel load and to protect the car and motor during the much longer race.

#00 by PicsByVicsr

The race started at 5pm. I took the start of the race. This time, we had our radios installed and running – Ron was on the pit wall calling out laptimes and other information.

I had a good start, keeping my position. I had a few cars to chase, but eventually the pack had spread out enough that I was spending a lot of time by myself, working on taking each corner a little bit faster each time.

I grew more confident and drove smoother as the race went on. I worked on my race line. And I got to lap a few of the slower cars, which is something I don’t have a lot of experience with. When I’ve been lapping cars in the past, I was not aggressive enough. So I worked on making better passes under braking and in corners and getting more aggressive in general.

There was a little drizzle about half-way through my stint, but not enough to make it interesting.

We switched drivers and fueled the car just before the half-distance mark. I had about 75 to 80 minutes in the car. The fueling was without drama and the switch to Jay went well. I stayed in my race suit in case I was need to help with fuelling the other Team 00 cars.

I reviewed the printout of the laptimes so far, and found that I had been able to pull off a 1:40.767, which was a great improvement – nearly 5 seconds better than my morning practice. I was much happier than I had been in the morning.

Jay was consistent during his stint, but was in the high 1:43’s.

Lap Times
Lap Times (http://casc.mylaps.com)

Jay came in after about 80 minutes. He said that it seemed like the car was out of fuel, so we put in another jug. Seeing that I still had my race suit on, Jay suggested that I get back in the car. Not one to turn down an opportunity, I put on my helmet and gloves and climbed back in the car.

For some reason, the car would not start, so we had to bump-start it to pull out of the pits.

As the car and tires were still hot, I wanted to push right away. The car was working great, and I had lots of confidence in the tire grip.

#00 by PicsByVicsr

After 6 laps, as I exited Turn 1, on the short run to the top of Turn 2, the motor cut out completely. I thought that perhaps it was the same problem that we had in the pit during the second pitstop. As the car coasted, I selected third then second gear and attempted to bump-start the car, but the motor would not catch. As I cruised along the outside of Turn 2, down the hill, it was obvious that it was not going to start, so I coasted the car over to the cut-out in the wall on the right between Turn 2 and Turn 3.

The checkered flag was displayed about 9 minutes later – we had completed about 171 of 180 minutes.

After the race, I was towed back to the paddock and we could take a look at the car. At first, it looked like the oil level was very low, which scared me thinking that I might have broken the motor (oil starvation). We tried to figure out if the dry sump was working correctly or if it had been turned on at all. When I was out for the final few laps, no warning lights had came on – the motor just cut out suddenly. If it was really an oil problem, there should have been engine warning lights on the dash.

Next, we found the culprit. One of the battery terminals was broken and was not making enough contact. This would have cut the electrical to the ignition in the motor. That would explain why the motor just cut out and why I could not bump-start it – no juice to the spark plugs. Replacing a battery contact is much less expensive than replacing the motor!

We got the printout of the final results and found out that in fact we were classed in GT-3! Holy cow! A serious paperwork mistake. We were competing against a Porsche 911 GT3, not the cars we thought we were competing against. In that class (which has laptimes of 1:32), we were hopeless. All the effort, and it was basically for nothing [had we finished] because we were in the wrong class.

Sunday morning, we packed up and left the track at lunch time.

The results are available on http://www.mylaps.com/results/showevent.jsp?id=539050

2009 Sundowner Grand Prix

Over the Victoria Day weekend, I drove in the Sundowner 3-Hour Enduro at Mosport. I can’t say that it was very successful for anyone in Team 00, although Steve was able to place second in class in a wet race Saturday afternoon.

We went down with 2 Acura Integra Type-R’s, both now in bright yellow livery. They looked fantastic in the paddock, sitting side by side. There were three drivers for each – Dr Dolan, his son Pat Dolan, and Nick were to run in #00, which is a stock Type-R, while Steve, myself and Jay were running in #40, and ex-Speed World Challenge Type-R prepared by Real-Time Acura.

I signed up for the test day on Friday, as I had wanted to have time to learn the new cars. This was the first time I was racing since my big accident in the Team 00 Honda Civic at Calabogie 9 months ago. Although I owned a Type-R for about 18 months (I sold it to buy my first house), I needed time in the racecars to learn their handling characteristics.

Friday morning, I had 15 minutes in the #40 car, and Steve had a session in the car. After the second session, we noticed that there was a problem. There was smoke coming from the dipstick hole. We figured that the oil pump was toast. As the pump is inside the motor, there was nothing we could do – the motor needed a rebuild.

Now down to only 1 car, Nick gave up his seat in #00 and I took his place. I had two 15-minute test sessions in the #00 Type-R during Friday. I had a huge spin at the bottom of Turn-4. I was heading down the hill full-bore when I decided I wanted to be wider for the entrance to Turn-5A. I turned the wheel left a little and the tail of the car stepped out. I counter-steered right, but the tail whipped around the other way and I drove up the grass on the inside of Turn-5A fully sideways, looking out the driver’s side window at the marshal station. Luckily the car stopped before re-entering the track and it missed the paved ditch. The grass was deeply embedded between the tires and the rims. I drove to the pits, and took the chequered flag for the session.

Grass in the wheels
Grass in the wheels

The team started making phone calls to see if we could find a replacement motor and eventually settled on Teknotik in Toronto. It was a good deal financially, so Steve, Nick and Pat put the #40 car back on the trailer and drove to Toronto. It should have taken only 2-hours, as Teknotik does 3-4 engine swaps a day.

The evening got late and those still at the track went to bed. In the morning, there was no sign of the #40 car. We called and found that they had been up all night long. The motor swap took so long as the fittings from Real-Time Acura were often different from the stock motor (the donor motor came from a street Type-R). In the morning, the swap was completed, only to find that the clutch was toast. It took many more hours to complete the clutch change.

Time was ticking. Steve came back and ran in the first race of the Castrol Canadian Touring Car Championship presented by Toyo Tires series (CCTCC). He placed second, which seemed to bode well for the Enduro.

Working on #00
Working on #00

The #40 car finally arrived back at the track just before 4pm. The Enduro started at 5pm, and there was much that needed to be completed on the cars. Both were refueled, the oil was topped up, tires changed, tire pressures set. The #40 car needed to have the transponder setup, and the radio put in. I worked on the radio, but we were missing parts (the push-to-talk button), so at the very last minute (literally), I had to cut out the non-functional radio. The #00 car needed to have a fan installed to prevent fog on the windscreen – the forecast was for rain during the 3-hour race.

Even with 5 extra crewmembers working full out, the #40 car (which needed more work) missed the mock-grid. That was not so bad, as we had no qualifying time – we would have started at the back of the grid anyways.

Steve and Nick took the first stint in #40 and #00 respectively. We pulled Nick in after less than 45 minutes, as he had had only 40 minutes of sleep in the previous day, as he was involved in the engine swap and clutch change.

Pat Dolan in #00
Pat Dolan in #00

Steve came in around the hour mark and I took over.  However, as I was strapping in, I heard Vern (crew) yelling that there was a lot of fluid in the engine bay and Steve told me to short-shift. So heading out, I had no confidence that the car was ok, and was afraid that I would end up spinning on my own oil.

I had not been comfortable in either car all weekend. Either I was sitting wrong in the car, or the seat was in the wrong place, or the mirrors were set incorrectly. However, this time, it was perfect. I felt comfortable and could get on with racing.

It took a long time to build up trust in the car. My lap times dropped from 1:50 in the cold (Friday) to 1:46, which was showing improvement, but the car should have been able to reach much better times. The cold was effecting everyone, but in the #00 Honda Civic (107hp), I was able to set a time of 1:44.1; in good conditions the Type-R (197 hp) should be capable of setting sub-1:40 lap times.

Towards the end of my hour in the car, I feel I was pushing harder than I had in the Civic. I was not braking for either Turn-1 or Turn-4, and was only touching the brakes for Turn-2 and Turn-8. It felt like I was going faster than in the Civic, but that might also be because in the cold (it was only about 10 degrees and very windy) the tires had much less grip and I was closer to their limits.

Around 7pm, I was brought in for our only fuel stop and Jay took over. I found out after I got out of the car, that Vern had actually said there was “not” a lot of fluid. The reason for short-shifting (I was shifting at just over 7000 rpm, when redline is over 8500) I found out was because the redline would cut the fuel instead of a soft redline where the ignition is cut – this hard cut in a corner would have instantly spun the car because of weight transfer. I thought I was told to short-shift because there was a problem with the motor. Had I known, I would have shifted at 8200 rpm.

Jay did a great job in #40, posting lap times as low as 1:43.5. However, with 20 minutes remaining in Enduro, the replacement motor let go as he drove by on the pit straight. There was a hole in the block. We don’t know the root cause for loosing the second motor.

Steve in Turn-5
Steve in Turn-5

On Sunday afternoon, Steve started the second CCTCC in #00. However, he had a hard time, finishing last. The transmission would not stay in fourth gear, so he had to hold the shifter and the steering wheel in some of the high-speed corners – far from ideal.

So, I am disappointed that my lap times could have been better. I do feel good that I will be able to find that speed later this year with once we work out the kinks in the two Type-R’s. And towards the end of my stint Saturday afternoon, I was passing slower traffic, which was good experience. Once the reliability issues are resolved, passing will be easier.

Setting Targets, Meeting Goals

Here are my goals for 2009.

  • Become bi-lingual. I am already taking french classes for 6 hours a week. Je parle bien, mais j’oublie les mots.
  • Win a race. In 5 years of road racing, I have had three 2nd place results, a few 3rd places, but never a class win.
  • Write an essay. I have all these things in my head I want to say, but never had time to put anything down.
  • Create a personal web site and gallery. Glad to say that this site is working the way I want it now. Although I would like to continue to improve the look of the site. And find a better name!
  • Earn a small income from photography. This year I want to focus on stepping up my involvement in photography. I might look for opportunities to assist a professional photographer. Or I might offer my services; I have already taken photos for Les Petits Ballets, Ottawa Chinese Art Troupe and the Nortel Asian Business Council. One of my photos will be used for an ad poster for the ballet school this month. Another photo is being used on the cover of a CD for a friend.
  • Add a light in the storage area. I’ve never done any electrical work, so it’s scary and challenging.