Lefty's Second Race!After an abortive attempt at Road Atlanta in March, Lefty finally drove his second actual SCCA race May 29th (2005). The event was a SARRC regional race organized by Central Carolinas Region and held at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, South Carolina, at the annual Memorial Monster event. Lefty drove the #91 RX-7 in the IT7 class of the SARRC race on Sunday. The race included the Improved Touring (IT) classes ITS, ITA, and IT7.
Lefty took Friday and Tuesday as vacation days, for a five-day weekend. He loaded up Friday morning and drove to Righty's place, arriving around dinner time. On Saturday, The Nuts loaded up the #91 car and headed to Carolina Motorsports Park, again arriving around dinner time. We set up the paddock space and went visiting with our friends from Greenville, Sam Henderson and Freddy Klopper. We meant to go up to Kershaw to “Gus House of Pizza” for dinner, but ended up eating burgers with Sam and Freddy and their buddy Gary. Remember that, we didn't go to Gus' on Saturday.
The plan when we arrived was for Lefty to run the second SARRC race of the weekend on Sunday, and for he and Righty to co-drive the Carolina Cup Pro Series (CCPS) enduro on Monday. The goal for the weekend was for Lefty to get his second race and signoffs for promotion of his Novice license to a regional competition license.
Since we were in the last of the five run groups for Sunday, we knew the first practice session wouldn't start until about nine thirty, so we took a leisurely morning and got through registration about eight thirty or so. Much better than working the race, or being in the first run group, where we'd have to be in line before seven o’clock to be on time. Being able to go late, there were only about four people in front of us at registration, so things went quickly there. A quick pass through tech, and we were ready.
The morning practice session was fifteen minutes, and they went quickly. The Nuts have turned quite a few laps at Carolina Motorsports Park, and I quickly remembered the course and the line. I started the session just in front of Freddy and gave him a point-by at turn three. Freddy then ran into turn four too hot and looped it off drivers’ right with me maybe twenty feet behind!
We had forgotten to tape off the numbers to the #3 assigned us by registration, so a black flag with a T card appeared about the third lap, and Righty and I had to go discuss it with the Timing & Scoring folks after the session, as we'd confused the heck out of them. After making our apologies, we quickly went back to our paddock area and promptly taped off the car numbers. With all the confusion, we didn’t get lap times for the practice session.
Sunday QualifyingThe thirty minute qualifying session started shortly after lunch with the temperature up into the eighties, noticeably warmer than the morning practice. We modified the air dam a little and and got the oil temperature down to 185 by unmasking part of the oil cooler. The water ran about 220 degrees, which we want to get down another ten or twenty degrees for more power.
After a few laps, I noticed that the car vibrated when I let off the throttle and started braking for turn eight. It’s obviously coming from the rear, but it’s origin isn’t obvious. By the end of the session, the vibration occurs sometimes on the entry to “The Kink” (turn ten), too. Thankfully, it only happens at the highest wheel speeds. By the end of the session, I’ve given up on fifth gear, and just rev the crap out of fourth going to turns eight and ten, keeping the speed down a bit.
My best lap was only about 2:07.5, putting me ninth of twelve in my class. I was in traffic every lap, plus I started easing off at turn eight, and a little at “The Kink” (turn ten), as the vibration got worse. But I was also costing myself a lot of time. I lost time in braking, especially, getting on the brakes too early and not hard enough. I definitely need to practice threshold braking. I'm also still trying to figure out the entries to turns one and eleven. My lap to lap consistency is getting better, though, and I am getting closer to the edge, getting some controllable and inducable oversteer in some corners and learning to use it properly.
Sunday RaceBy the time the actual SARRC race started, it was about 1600, around 85 degrees (F), and humid as a sauna. I focused on finishing in good shape rather than position, so I took it pretty easy and just tried to stay out of the way most of the time.
The race ran sixteen laps, and I finished where I qualified, ninth of twelve entries, and 25th of about 35 overall, one lap down. I escaped going two laps down by the skin of my teeth. The leaders were a couple hundred yards behind me and closing fast when I took the checkered flag.
Our buddy Freddy Klopper was involved in an incident at the start at turn one that damaged his brand new strut, and cut down a tire by turn eight, so he didn't even finish the first lap. :-(
By this time, I'm feeling the vibration every time through turn eight and “The Kink”, and it gets worse throughout the race. So I don't even think about fifth gear and focus on winding out fourth without blowing it up. I actually had a faster best lap of 2:06 and change, though, so maybe with the current 1:4.88 rear gear, fifth doesn't have the pull. Of course, if I improved my exit speed, I might find a range where fifth would pull better. It seems like I ought to be able to get to 2:02 fairly easily, and 2:00 eventually.
I had a good little run with a gray RX-7 at the start of the race. We weren't racing so much as running together and feeling each other out. We stayed together for three or four laps until he looped it right in front of me at turn eight. He apparently went to the pits and resumed, but we were far apart on the track and I didn't see him again.
I also ran for a while with a FWD ITC Civic. He was a CenDiv Champion, so I figured I could maybe learn something from him and have a little fun at the same time. It was particularly interesting to watch the line he took. Some of the differences are FWD versus RWD issues, but a lot of it was the driver.
Sunday Post-RaceWhen I came off the track, I was really worried about the rear end. We were planning to run the Carolina Cup Pro Series forty-five minute enduro on Monday, and I was concerned the car wouldn't make it.
We checked the diff and the drive shaft and stuff like that. The catch tube for the diff vent had come loose, but there was no evidence it had thrown any grease out. Our friend Sam Henderson of Precision Performance Corvettes in Mauldin, SC, took a look at it and indicates it's probably the left rear wheel bearing going bad. Since the worst case scenario was loss of the left rear wheel and possible destruction of the car, we decided to bag the CCPS race on Monday.
We were tired, and we wanted some of the famous pizza at “Gus’ House of Pizza”, so we decided to leave our paddock set up and pack up Monday morning to head home. AAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!! “Gus’ House of Pizza” IS CLOSED! AGAIN! DAMN! And we had the chance to go on Saturday night! #^@!**@#%. REMEMBER ... “GUS’ HOUSE OF PIZZA” IS CLOSED ON SUNDAYS!
MondayWhen we get up Monday morning, we realize We should've packed up last night. It's raining steadily when we get up, and it keeps on raining until after we”ve got the paddock packed up and we're ready to go. Luckily the drive home is dry and we get back to Mauldin around 1400. We go straight to Sam”s shop to drop off the car so he can replace the wheel bearing, since we don't have all of the tools to try to do the job.
Photos by David Zipkin, FastForward
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