Our Fifth Race!
This was our first actual race of the 2006 season, but our second event (see HPDE #4 for the first one). We aimed primarily at getting a finish, since we each need two finishes a season to keep our licenses current. We’d already missed a couple of races this season for various reasons and were anxious to get a finish toward that requirement.
When unloading the #91 RX-7 after the previous event, Lefty heard a strange noise from the right rear of the car. It was sort of a moaning noise, and only happened when rolling forward at low speeds. So, he took the car up to Sam Henderson’s place the next weekend to have it checked out. Sam heard the noise, too, and went through the car, but couldn't isolate a cause for it. He said if it was his car, he’d go to the track and have fun. He’s been racing RX-7s for a long time, and knows a lot more about them than we do, so we went!
During the week between the fourth HPDE and taking the car to Sam’s, Lefty replaced the oil catch can (windshield washer reservoir) on the car with the one from the parts car. <foreshadowing>We still hadn’t thought through the implications of the oil in the catch can.</foreshadowing>
We needed to pick up the car from Sam’s by Friday of race week, because Sam would be at the race. Since all of our sessions were on Monday, the 29th, we waited until Sunday to drive down to Kershaw. So Righty picked up the car on Friday, and we met on Sunday on the way to the track. The trip down was uneventful and we got there early enough to set up in daylight.
About the time we got to the track, we realized that Lefty had forgotten to get the Toyo tires mounted. Since they’re required in the IT7 class in SCCA Southeast Division, we had to switch our class at the last minute from IT7 to ITA.
We made the last minute checks on the car, then ate and got to bed early (for us) to be ready for the early morning that was coming.
As has become our routine, Lefty took the practice session (at 0800), with the plan that Righty would qualify the car, then we split the actual race. The practice session itself was uneventful, but the after-session checks were not. We noticed that the car had pumped quite a bit of oil into the catch can. To the tune of about a half ounce for every minute on track. We emptied the can and tried to check the oil level. No matter what we did, the dipstick came back covered in oil, even after the car had been sitting for a while. Lefty threw a bit of oil back in it, and we soldiered on.
Righty took the car out for qualifying about an hour later. Everything went well until near the end of the session, when he experienced a nearly complete brake failure similar to the one Lefty experienced at the end of last season.
When Righty brought the car in, we found that it’d pumped another ten or so ounces of oil out to the catch can, so we emptied it again. Righty found Sam and we discovered that meant the side seals on the engine are blown. Serious, and expensive, bummer. That probably means a complete engine rebuild. And that engine only had four or five events on it.
We frantically tried bleeding the brakes and anything else we could think of to do, check, inspect, or whatever. Nothing we did got us any useful amount of brakes, though.
Since we couldn't get any brakes in the car, we didn't even start the race. There’s no need to risk other drivers and cars, or ourselves, for that matter, to get a $20 trophy. So, we trailered up right after lunch and headed home. Thank goodness, this trip home was uneventful.
Unlike the brake problem last year, this time they had not recovered when Lefty got the car home and unloaded it.
Since the brakes didn't recover over time, we’re doing more substantial work on them than normal, replacing the master cylinder and flushing the system and replacing the brake fluid. When Lefty drained the old fluid, he got very little fluid out of the left rear corner (compared to the other corners). We bled them after the failure, but apparently messed it up.
The blown side seal(s) in the engine represent a complete pain in the backsides. An expensive pain in the backsides. Repairs will require as much labor as a complete rebuild, and that is the bulk of the cost. So thousands.
We sure hope we haven't forgotten anyone. If we have, please let us know and we'll get you listed.
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