So I decided that my open car trailer needed a refresh. A previous owner had done a roll-on paint job which would routinely peel up as sticky race tires rolled over them. They had also shoddily rewired the trailer, stretching wires taut to make them reach. Very aggravating as I would often have grounding issues with the brake and signal lights. That, plus rotten fenders made for a bit of a project. I had the entire thing painted and rewired by my favorite body shop, Weaverland Custom Paint, in Narvon, PA. I had it and some other race car parts sandblasted and sprayed in a graphite color of their choice. Turned out great! Then got it rewired at my local trailer shop.
Waiting for the right moment ...
I made my first record setting run! I bested the previous record for Fall Jefferson, running the Counter Clockwise direction of the course in 60.868, a mere 0.019 seconds faster than the previous ITS class record, set in 2000! This was done amidst battery/alternator trouble and approaching rain. The battery died due to me forgetting to turn off the fan on Saturday. Strangely, the car would not run after being jumped. I determined that the alternator was not working and attempted to charge the battery off of the truck, via jumper cables. Struggling to get adequate charge in to run a second set of laps before the end of Saturday, I just managed to do it. I pushed the car into line and didn't start it until the last possible instant. If I turned on the fan, the battery might run too low to run the engine. If I shut it down, it probably wouldn't restart. Timing was everything! Under this pressure, I went out and turned my three hot laps, with the third one giving me the time I was looking for! Jason was behind, with about 2.4 seconds to gain in order to catch up.
Sunday was clear, but the remnants of hurricane Isaac were due to arrive at any time. I was able, thanks to a kind soul with a generator, to fully charge the battery overnight. It took an incredibly long time, but it did eventually come up to charge by morning. I got into line, but by the time I ran, it was sprinkling steadily. Despite that fact, I managed to turn a time within about a half second of my best. Not too shabby. Jason was able to gain a second, but still had over 1.3 to trim. By then it was lunch time and raining heavily. We both called it a weekend and I headed home early. Normally I'd stay for the last run, but the joy of success, along with the exhaustion of fighting to keep the car running, made me content to leave things as they stood. I'm looking forward to Fall Weatherly, where I expect to nail down yet another record. Assuming the weather is reasonably dry, I plan to improve on my time from the Spring. There, I was only 0.376 behind and with my new tires I'm sure that's easily achievable. The question remains: Will tires be enough to secure my lead or will Jason best me again?
After a close battle at the end of Saturday, I tore off a new fast time on Sunday's second run. Jason kept the gap close, still only about 0.4 seconds behind. My third run was 0.2 seconds slower because I had trouble keeping the tail in line. Jason continued to close the gap, ending his third run at only 0.143 seconds behind! With the last run of the day, I was going to go all out.
As I went up the hill, at the last instant I decided to swing wide going into turn 3, rather than hug the inside like I had been doing all weekend. This threw me off a bit and I got on the gas too early. The tail stepped out a bit, but I caught it. Rather than give up, this helped me focus on putting together a clean run the rest of the way up the hill. I figured all was not lost with this minor delay. I went flat through turn 5 and carried my speed very well. The tires started to chirp and the car began dancing. Great, I was at the limit, but didn't run out of room on turn 5's exit onto the mountain "straight." Screaming down the straight, I tapped the brakes and got back on the gas turn turn 6, also known as 'oh shit.' I was flying into the braking zone for turn 7, got the car slowed down, and managed a snappy 4th-2nd downshift. So far so good. I ripped through 7, 8, and 9, and hit 10 (the Pagoda) fairly well. I kept my foot flat over the kicker into turn 11, and the tires were chirping again as I COOKED through 11. The car held on and I kept it flat through the final uphill straight. I tried to straighten out the lines as much as possible to cut off any unnecessary distance. In doing so, I hit a big dip next to the timing relay tower. As I screamed through the finish, I began shutting down. It was only then that I noticed an unusual noise. Hmm ....
Checked the brakes, no problems there ... steering is good, the car isn't that noisy. Any louder than usual, that is! Still shutting down, I check the oil pressure & temp. Everything is good. Hmm. If the exhaust was dragging, wouldn't it make more noise? Ignorance is bliss! I drive down to the turnaround, still making noise. I bring it back and get a look from the other drivers when I get to the grid at the top. "I know!" I shout. Jump out and look underneath. Sure enough, I'm dragging my muffler, but it's still attached! Thanks to some leather gloves, I hook the muffler back onto the exhaust donut. Looks like when I hit that dip, the muffler jumped out of the donut! Wow!
When I finally get to the bottom at the end of my group, I heard the good news about my time. Surprising how much faster I was. I'm now less than 2 seconds behind the class record, set in 2000! I picked up 7 seconds over last year. Not too shabby! Amazing what a new set of tires and a chip will do! Practice doesn't hurt either. I think the car has the final 2 seconds in it, I just need to drive it better. Jason and I are now 2 and 2 in every event we've gone head to head. Both Fall Jefferson and Fall Weatherly should prove interesting. I'm optimistic because I only lost by 0.110 at Spring Weatherly and didn't yet have new tires and a chip. Jefferson should also go well because the car is in its element on flat tracks. I can't wait! I expect both records to fall with a crash!
As of Saturday night, I am holding first place of six entries in the ITS class by a meager 0.333 seconds! The first run this morning was quite damp after Friday's thunderstorms. The second run was substantially better, but still a bit damp. Even so, I turned a time several seconds faster than last year's best. After several incidents delayed the action, the tires were stone cold. I went for my third run, and managed to turn a 134.207. Jason followed up with a 134.540, only 0.333 seconds behind. I am currently less than 4 seconds behind the record, which was set in 2000. I doubt we will bring it down this weekend, but I have made huge strides from last year, already 5.8 seconds faster than last year's best!
Unfortunately, three of the other entrants had car trouble. One lost a motor mount on his GTI and retired for the weekend. Though he had never run that car at a hill before, he has successfully campaigned his Audi S4 and turned amazingly fast times. Regretfully he wasn't able to continue and raise the bar for ITS competition. Also, the brothers' RX-7 was out of the action after an exhaust bung broke off, leaving a large hole in the exhaust header. The brothers brought it home, welded it back on, and actually got it back in time to run the last run of the day. Dale turned an excellent time, and should get within striking distance tomorrow once he's had a few more runs! With any luck, we'll have at a three way battle for first through tomorrow afternoon!
If you can make it, I highly encourage you to come out and watch the action. Thrills are guaranteed!
This coming weekend I will be running the #762 ITS BMW in the Duryea Hillclimb. For those who aren't familiar with the Duryea Hillclimb, it is held in Reading, PA. The course begins above Reading's City Park, follows the Pagoda Hillclimb route, and continues past the Pagoda up to the top of the mountain. The final straight follows the ridge line, with the finish line in front of William Penn Tower. The fastest cars will achieve speeds in excess of 140 MPH at the finish.
It promises to be another exciting weekend, with at least 6 entrants in the ITS class. I will be gunning for first place, and the record. It's roughly 8.4 seconds faster than my best run from last year, but based on my improvements at the Pagoda Hillclimb, I anticipate substantial reductions in my time. I expect another heated battle, but Jason may be a bit more cautious to avoid a repeat of last year.
For those who are interested, directions and more information are available at http://pahillclimb.net/about/the-courses/duryea-pagoda/
I've included a video from 0-60 Magazine, done in 2007, that features some of the cars from the event.
I was thrilled about the upcoming Polish Mountain Hillclimb. I had everything packed. I just had to take the truck, trailer, and race car for gas, ice, and go. Just Gas and Ice. I got to the Sunoco station, 3 miles away, and pulled in to fill up the race car and the spare fuel cans. I was about an hour later than I meant to be, but still plenty of time to get there for the evening's festivities. Until the truck won't start. Damn. So I spent Friday afternoon, from about 3:30 PM until 8:30 PM, stuck at the gas station 3 miles from home! I managed to troubleshoot the problem to either a bad starter solenoid or a faulty wire from the neutral safety switch to the starter solenoid. Sometimes the best laid plans ... but at least I was only 3 miles away from home, rather than stuck in the middle of nowhere. Towed the truck to my friend's shop, and got another friend to tow the trailer/race car back home.
And I just replaced that starter in December! The quality of rebuilt parts has been suspect for awhile now, as many of them are mass-rebuilt in China. Blows the mind that it's cost effective to ship cores to China (which weigh a ton) and then rebuild them and ship them back. And often the rebuilds are done poorly. Can anyone recommend a local (southeast PA) starter and alternator rebuilder? I need to get spares for the BMW's too.
I'll have to see how the results came through from the weekend. I was only 0.8 seconds off the ITS class record. With new Hoosier A6's and some extra horsepower, I was set to beat it. I guess I'll have to wait till next year! Hopefully Jason and Dale didn't raise the bar too much!
The 2012 Pagoda Hillclimb was another tough fought battle for first. Though I held the lead through the weekend, on the second to last run of the day, nearly a second behind, Jason fired off a fast run, beating me by 0.370 seconds. I went all out on the final run, but missed a fourth to second downshift into turn 7, and could not get the car into gear. Needless to say, I'm not posting the last run because it's not censored!
In other class action, check out the fire response from the PHA safety team ... Motorsport may be dangerous. Videos below!
The weekend at Giant's Despair in review. In my first run Saturday, I managed to pick up over 2 seconds from my best time last year! Jason (my number one competitor) took a more cautious first run, ending up 5 seconds behind in his '96 VW GTI. In my second run of the day I was feeling out the limits. I scared myself a bit, but turned in a roughly 1.2 second improvement. For the rest of the day I struggled to get within .5 seconds, until the last run on Saturday, when I bested it by 0.160. A strong finish for the day! On another note, Jason managed to close the gap, but was still 2+ seconds behind. Initially I thought his weekend was over after he locked up the brakes coming into the devil's elbow (turn 2, and notorious for accidents). The tail came around on him and he crashed into the inside bank, rolling the car on its side. After a few instant replays on channel 35's tv coverage, which I watched from the top of the hill, they managed to roll it back on its wheels. The car turned out to be fine, aside from a few dents. Now it looks more authentic! Jason's father took his last run up the hill, and he was certainly relieved.
Sunday started off with a few sprinkles, but we managed to get some decent (although not record setting) times. By the third run, it was pouring. Many competitors sat out, but I got some practice in the rain. The fourth run was better, and almost on pace, as the pooling water had all run off the hill. After lunch, the hill was dry and fairly cool, so the times started coming down. I still struggled to best my saturday afternoon time, and started to push hard. I attempted to take the esses at full throttle based on some advice from an experienced racer. Unfortunately, as I crossed the crown in the road, I had both right wheels in the air. This upset the car, and I almost went in (to the woods)! I saved it, and still managed to turn my best time of the day, only .5 seconds behind my best from Saturday. Finally, on the last run of the day, I managed to put together a clean run (with a little lift in the esses), and picked up 0.080, finishing the event with a 55.040 second time, still over 2 seconds ahead of my nearest competitor. Unfortunately, the record still stands at 53.1, a tough time to beat set in 2010. I'll get it next year!
This weekend I'll be heading to Virginia International Raceway in Danville, VA for a High Performance Driving Event! VIR is a fantastic track, and I expect to exceed 120 MPH on the back straight. Our next hill will be in three weeks at Polish Mountain in Flintstone, MD where I expect the Improved Touring S class five way battle to rage on as George and Dale's Mazda RX-7 returns to the action!
This year at Spring Weatherly, I was able to lead off on Saturday morning with the fastest time in the Improved Touring S class. This continued, with Jason in his VW GTI chasing me. Late Saturday afternoon, Dale with the RX-7 came from nowhere and started trading fastest time with me. By midday Sunday, my times had continued to drop, but Jason returned to the action. By the last three runs, I was unable to improve my time, but held a 0.65 second lead. In his final run, Jason came from behind to beat me by 0.110.
Improved Parts is all about exploring interesting and practical manufacturing techniques, solving unique problems that crop up in our everyday life, and GOING RACING!