NutDriver Racing   Carl

Race 7: Virginia International Raceway

Event Name: Goblins Go
Dates: 2006 October 28-29
Race(s): Carolina Cup Pro Series
forty-five minute enduro codrive
Organizer: North Carolina Region, Sports Car Club of America
Location: Virginia International Raceway
Danville, Virginia
Car(s) Used: #91 RX-7 (running as #31)
Class(es) Contested: Sports Car Club of America IT7 (Improved Touring 7)


A series of problems with the car led us to several DNF results this season. Which meant that we each had acquired only one of the two race finishes that we needed to renew our licenses. Which led to our situation of having only this race and the ARRC left in the season to get our needed finishes. The ARRC, though, represents a championship race, and we’re really green. So we really needed to get our finishes this weekend at Virginia International Raceway in the Goblins Go event organized by the North Carolina Region, SCCA.

We arrived at the track with a newly-rebuilt engine, and we had high hopes for the weekend. We were a bit nervous, too, though. The last few events had given us more than a normal share of problems getting to the finish line. They’d been a bit expensive, too. Add in our unfamiliarity with the track and we were walking on eggshells a bit.

Getting There

First off, it’s a long way from Atlanta to VIR. It’s especially a long way when you have a couple of tons of load behind you. And you start off after work in the late afternoon. Lefty drove up as far as the intersection of I-85 and I-26 and bedded down for Thursday night. Righty met him Friday morning and they towed on to VIR. Most of the tow proceeded under leaden sky and light to moderate rain. Not our favorite traveling weather. We finally arrived at VIR midafternoon, in a cold rain shower.

We had planned to camp, but the cold, wet weather convinced us to try to find a hotel room. We mentioned that to someone at the track, and they pointed us to the Best Western in Danville. Luckily enough, they had a room available! So we had a much better experience than camping in the cold and rain. There was even a Hardees right out front.

Setting Up

As noted, it was raining when we arrived. And it had been raining for quite some time, apparently. The entire area was soaked to the skin and beyond. Everything was wet and nasty and the cold rain was still falling. So we weren’t all that enthusiastic in our setup and preparation. As it turned out on Saturday, we didn’t get enough done Friday night, and we didn’t get up early enough on Saturday.

Pretty much, when we started the car on the trailer to unload, we thought the starter sounded a little weak. We didn’t think much about it though, and put it on the charger as soon as we had it unloaded and under the canopies. It being miserable out, we didn’t do much more than set up the canopies and unload the car and start the charger. We did take the time to put up some of the walls of the canopies to help keep the rain out. Then we headed to the hotel.


Righty on the false grid

Our first experience at VIR occurred on the two-and-a-quarter mile North Course. We didn’t get to experience Oak Tree, but that was just as well. In our inexperience, we were going to be too busy to notice such things.

Saturday morning we arrived bright and early, since we were in the first run group of the day. Well, we thought we arrived early. Since we had left so much undone last night, though … Saturday morning was a scramble. In the end, Lefty only got an out lap, and at speed lap, and an in lap during the practice session.

We were really wishing that the defogger still worked on the #91 RX-7, too. The windshield and rear hatch both sported thick layers of fog and condensation. We got off what we could, but visibility was challenging during the session.

In addition, the track had a heavy dose of overnight rain on it, so grip was hard to find. And on a new track, with low-angle sun throwing glare all over the place. We won’t do that again … have to run the test day before the event on new tracks.


Righty qualifying the #91 RX-7

The qualifying session went unspectacularly but solidly for Righty. We didn’t end up on the pole for the class, but we didn’t end up Dead Freak’ Last, either.

After a little back-and-forth with the company, Righty’s employer, DaVita had allowed us to run their logos on the RX-7. This was the first event after our vinyl cutter finally got them to us. Lefty got some good shots of Righty during this session, so we sent them to the proper people at Davita and we ended up in the company newsletter!

The Race

Righty qualifying the #91 RX-7

As we often do, we planned to split the Carolina Cup Pro Series (CCPS) forty-five minute enduro race to get a finish each with one race. Also as usual, Righty started the race and Lefty took the second stint. Unfortunately, Righty lost one rotor in the engine a few minutes into the race. Losing a rotor is similar to losing a cylinder in a piston engine, but a 12A in an RX-7 only has two of the blighters.

So, Righty brought the car in a few minutes early, after about nine laps. As Righty came down pit road, Lefty could tell something was wrong. As Righty hops out of the car he says

Something’s wrong with the engine.
Shit. The rules require the stop to be two minutes, so we had a bit of time to bum out over the engine problem, standing there in pit lane. We were both really frustrated, since that was a brand new engine build by a reputable shop. And now, with maybe an hour of angry time on it, the engine craps out.

Well, we still need the finish. And the car will go quick enough to stay (mostly) out of the way. So, after a bit of cursing, Lefty took it back out to nurse it around the track, with a severe limp, to the finish. Hopefully with enough laps finished to get an official finish.

In the end, we did get enough laps to officially finish. So we could renew our licenses next year without drama. Amazingly enough, we ended up only four laps down. And Lefty was able to keep within about 20 seconds of the before disaster lap times. We ended up as the last running IT7, but two DNFs kept us from being DFL. :-)

Lefty got his first love tap on track during the race. While nursing the car, front straight times were quite a bit slower than normal. On one trip down the front straight, a pack of Spec Miatas caught Lefty from behind. As he stayed to the outside of turn one and pointed everyone by on the right, toward the apex, there just wasn’t enough track for all of us. One of them couldn’t get on the binders hard enough and … It didn’t send either of us off the track or anything, just probably irritated him as much as it startled me. :-)

Going Home

Hand built rear-engine 240 SX

The race finished by early afternoon on Sunday. We ditzed around with the wounded car and looking around the paddock. So we didn’t get away until late afternoon. But we did get to see a really cool pair of Diasio D962 cars! One had a motorcycle driveline but one had a 13B rotary!

Diasio D962

The ride home was long, too, especially after the disappointment of the engine failure. Lefty overnighted with Mom, while Righty went straight home, since it was only another hour or so.

Diasio D962

Monday morning, on arriving in Atlanta, Lefty didn’t even unload the car at home. He just dropped the loaded trailer at the storage yard and went home. There was no way to get it in the garage if he’d wanted to, since it wouldn’t start anymore. A couple of days later, he took it to the race shop to see what went wrong.


We got our finish, but we lost an engine. The engine builder determined that both the electronic timing advance in the MSD controller and the mechanical advance in the stock distributor were operational at the time of the failure. He estimates that the engine was seeing a maximum of about 35 degrees of advance at the point that it failed. It apparently never mattered to the tired old engine, before the rebuild. The new one went lean enough to blow the apex seals. The engine builder and race shop worked excellently with us and we can’t thank them enough.


NutDriver Racing would like to extend thanks to the following people and organizations for their help in making this an enjoyable and fun experience:
Bennett’s Service Station
Herb O’Toole

OPM Autosports
Sunbelt Engines

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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