Narrative - 2000
The gory details, most recent first...
November 17, 2000 - I have been looking for a "good body, bad engine" RX for quite a while now. I have an extra running engine that came with the original red RX, that just needs to have a home. Actually, (longish typical car swapping story to follow) I gave it to buddy #1 to quickly put in HIS "good body, bad engine" RX so he could AX it. He put it in, but hasn't AX'ed yet. Sooo, he owes me an engine. A couple possibilities; rebuild his, rebuild one from parts another ex-RX racer left in my driveway, or plunk in the "good" engine from another beater buddy #1 got. So many rotors, so few cars. Whichever engine finds it's way in, the body is super clean except for some faded paint on the hood and roof. It is a GS, no power, NO SUNROOF, so it should make a good light racer (for an 85). It was mysteriously missing the fuel pump and starter though. I have an extra LSD rear end to put in, and the other Spec goodies too. At this rate I will be happy to get the engine in and running well enough to AX in stock class.
September 30, 2000 - Last event of the year, an MC high speed autocross at BFR. Weather still great. I have really lucked out this year for weather. In between Wednesday and today I have replaced front rotors, bearings and pads. Wow, new brakes, what a concept. Thanks to Curt for fronting the cash for entry as I had forgotten my checkbook. Not a good start. Practice sessions go OK, I'm trying out (to remember) the stuff I learned from Wednesday, and it seems to have helped. Definitely a difference with the colder tires and the "instant on" requirements of this format though. Over lunchtime Curt walks me through 3a - 5, pointing out lines, turn-ins and apexes. Always good to look at this stuff up close and slow.
Timed runs - Here we go. Time to put it all together. Run 1; OK, but a little tentative in 1 feeling out the tires, get a little sloppy through 6, but end up ok, about a second behind 1st place. Run 2, again a little sloppy, but picked up a bit through 4 & 5, but overall a touch slower than Run 1. 1st holds steady, still 2nd. RUN 3 - DISASTER STRIKES! Coming through 5 something goes terribly wrong. Did I catch the dropoff inside th apex? Did I just under-correct for oversteer? Did something break? I end up heading straight out of the apex to find the tire wall that I previously hadn't even seen. No control, can't scrub off speed and hit it nearly broadside, with the front fender catching first. Looks like it's a tow. Lower control arm is now a pretzel. Front right wheel de-cambered about 20 degrees, sheetmetal damage, but no damage to the wheel or tire. Leads one to believe that the arm might have failed in the apex as I have survived many oversteer situations there before. Anyway, we try a little hammering, etc, to no avail. But the car is driveable, and it turms out it tracks very straight and tight except over bumps. So I take it home on the interstate with a couple safety checks along the way. Turns out the front frame rails may be bent as well. The frame shop will tell.
End up with a third for the day, as the car behind me (an RX-7 no less) knocks 3.5 seconds off. Not a good season end, but a lot of lessons learned. Still, I got my personal best time of 1:35.381
Now the decisions as to how to continue next year. New car? Repair? Will I even be able to recover given budget or will it be a year off building? Lots of time to plan. Maybe during that time I can get some damage pictures up and maybe even the in-car video.
September 27, 2000 - Another Porsche Club Driver Education session brings me to back to Blackhawk. The day dawns bright and warm, and all worry of on-existant rain tires evaporates. On with the show.
I run into a couple guys I met at RA, swap stories and compare notes. Get the dressed in the R1s, get through tech and I'm ready to go. Went into Group II this time as I have been around BFR a couple times. This proves to be a good move both schedule and speed wise.
Sessions #1 & #2 - go well except for some gas spillage out the filler cap. Seems at BFR with a full tank, the vented cap just can't keep it in. Switch to the sealed cap after a few checkout stops and we're back in business. I just have to remember to crack it open when I shut it off. Had some good laps with a 944 Turbo and an M3. Lead a little, let'em by and follow to learn. Works pretty well. Sessions #3 & #4 - Now the speed's picking up. These are great sessions to really get into a rhythm. Round and round we go 12-15 times. It's really great to see the tach redline at exactly the same spot lap after lap. Times are looking good (not great) at 1:31 (flying laps). I was really able to discover good AND alternate lines around the track, especially the carousel and turn 5. Things are going smooth. get to dice with the 944 Turbo again, and a 1959 Devin, a fiberglass body around a tube chassis sporting a flat 6. Cool vintage car with a great driver. Learned a lot following him. Session #5 - Go fill up with gas again, then to a pretty much open round as a lot of people have left. Get into some good rounds. Pretty evenly matched up with a S2000 (I was eventually faster), but again watching, learning and dealing with traffic is a good experience.
Overheated the front left brake going into Turn 7 and it stuck on, pulling me into the apex. Killed a cone but all OK. Left side is smokin'! Pulled into the pits jacked it up and kept it rotating while I gently sprayed some Windex. Keft it up for about 20 mins until it cooled. No serious damage done. Guess I won't be using those pads for the AX in 3 days.
August 28, 2000 - The lush rolling hills of the Kettle Morraine welcome me to Road America as the sun gently rises in the east, muted by partly overcast skies. It's finally here, the long-awaited chance to drive RA at speed. This was a Milwaukee Region Porsche Club Drivers School event.
I left home at 4:15 a.m. in order to arrive early for registration and tech. I hate being rushed at a new venue where I'm not sure exactly how the schedule will unfold. Better to be early, time to calm the nerves. I get registered, pick a paddock spot, unload and change tires.
As I go about my business, I carry on some discussions with guys interested in the car, or what may be going on during the day. I guess the newbies are the early birds. I end up being one of three or four non-Porsche cars (a turbo Quattro and a '63 E-Jag on bias plys were notable) for the day. But nobody seems to mind, everyone is just excited about getting out on the track. My main goal today is to feel now the cars handles without the rear sway bar, and stay calm and in control.
8:30 - First session. The weeks reviewing in-car video from RA helps tremendously as I have a good mental picture of the track burned in by now. The track looks different between 11 & 12 than I expected, but nothing critical. 12 does come up quite quickly though. Watch those brake markers. The car is handling great, very predictable and controllable. But I'm going about 70%, fairly slow.
Session #2 - A little faster the before. The car is still handling great. Why did I wait so long? The turns that need particular work for me seem to be 3, 5, 14. 6 is a particularly "fun" corner as it is blind coming up the hill, and the car gets light. Hard to find track out point, just seems to take practice and faith.
Session #3 - A brave soul agrees to be an instructor for me on this session. As usual with an instructor, I miss every apex, swing wide, etc. I seem to lose concentration easily as I focus in what the instructor is saying rather than trying to listen and implement at the same time. But the session is VERY helpful. He gives me good clues as to how to handle each of the corners, as well as car positioning in general. He has been thinking of joining the SPEC RX-7 crowd, so in return he gets a good feel for the cars and what they're capable of. He is quite impressed, and likes the handling of the car and it's ability to slide evenly through the turns. It is handing wonderful, and I'm gaining confidence lap by lap. It's really fun to controllably slide the car through a corner. I thought I would never be able to do it, but it's clickin' now.
Sessions #4 & #5 - Best sessions yet (of course). I'm able to assimilate all the morning's experience and learning and wrap it all up into some great laps. Things are all working well together, the car, me and the other traffic. I can still clean up a most of the corners in some way or another, but I'm making it around fairly quickly and smoothly. Still not going 100%, but rather a little easier and let the car last. I can still get a good feel at 90%. A couple of good German beers and some bench racing after it's over perfectly wraps up an unbelievably fun day.
July 15, 2000 - First track event of the year, at Blackhawk. Some excitement during practice: couldn't hold it on track coming through 4. Rear got really loose and ended up going over the curbs (ouch). Got back on, turned in for 6 and had NO traction. Felt like I had a flat as the tail was just mooshing around. Nope, no flat. Corner worker came over and said they had reports of fuel spillage. Sure enough, the gas cap had come loose/lost seal letting that anti-friction petroleum liquid out onto my tires and track. My mom and dad came out during lunch to watch the rest of the day which was a special treat. Mom worries quite a bit of course, but seemed to hold up well. Dad was really picking up on the lingo already. Dawn and Emily made it out just as I was heading out for the first run, and watched intently and cheered. Lots of photo ops, so should be able to get some of them up soom. I talked some people and really worked on my turn-in technique. It seemed to have paid off as timed runs went well, and I got my best times yet at 1:36.4(Run #1) and 1:36.2(Run #2)! Good enough for a 2nd out of 8 and my first plaque of the career. The last two runs (of 4) went off-track at 3a. Very depressing as I felt I had better control of the car this event, and on the last run, felt I was doing very well and fast (maybe too fast for the markers I had been using). My diagnosis is that I was not braking enough going in (duh), so I kept on the pedal into the corner and lightened it up too much. I just don't seem to get enough repitition to learn and remember things well enough.
June 2000 - Got the car out of storage and immediately went to work. Got the rear suspension in and misc. maintenance. Looking at the time I had available, I set up an appointment with Mike at A&M Motorsports. Decided I didn't have the time to fully prep the car for paint, so I called off paint day, spent 2 hours masking the front fender and hood and sprayed it with a can of Farm & Fleet Ford Red tractor paint. The car had been painted Ford Red before, and it was a good match. It's all one color now! Took a day off, drove the car down and spent a day with Mike while he replaced the front control arms, struts, springs bushings, etc. It was a day well worth it. Learned a lot, and confirmed that it would have been near impossible to do that type of work laying on my back in my garage. Replaced trans and diff fluids, all that's left is to totally replace brake fluid and I should be ready for another AX season with the car tuned pretty close to Spec RX setup. Of course I have a lot more power as I haven't changed to stock intake and exhaust, but it's more fun that way!
Won't make it to any June events, looks like it will be July 15 AX, Agust 28 PCA, and Sept 16 Drivers school, maybe a late Spet AX too. Maybe Dawn would do the Sept School? I need 2 competition events to stay on board with Mazda Comp, so that is important. Maybe I can put the full cage in and go through a comp driver's school in September, or at least be ready for early next year. Car could always fit into either ITA or EP for the school and MC events early on if I don't get it all the way back to Spec trim.
Doing some graphics work to try to spice it up a bit, make it LOOK more like a race car. Must be the kid in me. I want so bad to decorate with cool stickers and such. Restaint is the key though as I have to drive it on the street and don't want to attract too much attention.
May 2000 - Sent in registration for the August Porsche Club event at RA! Getting really anxious now waiting to get the car out of storage. Tough to get the time and the right resources together. Got all the suspension stuff ready to go in, along with some great advice from the MARRS Spec RX-7 mailing list. Great bunch of guys out there on the Atlantic seaboard. Also trying to firm up some dates for other events. Looking like an event each in June and July. There are rumblings that Dawn would be interested in giving it a try also. Ahhhh, great buy-in if all goes well, perhaps even worthy of giving up one of my 3 allotted events. Paint and suspension on the list...
April 2000 - Ran across a parts car. It will provide the needed interior and misc stock parts meeded for Spec setup. Figured it would be good insurance for the future too, as things are sure to get bent or need rebuilding. Car's in decent shape, low miles. Auto trans though, anyone need one?