Alfa Romeo Club of Southern California
Willow Springs November 13/14, 1999

"Winding Down the Season"

Larry and Jesse, the Official Bodyguards of the Flamemobile, posing right before final race

So we are down to the second to the last event of the season.  Wayne, Doug Ota, and myself decide to go to the Alfa Romeo Race and Time Trials at Willow Springs.  We haven't run with the Alfa Club since February, mainly because a lot of their events were overlapping the PRO Racing Series and the Touring Car Club events that we also attend.  Here's the story.....but before that, I just wanted to mention that the Pulp Streaming Video project is taking a little longer than I thought, so I don't think I can debut it for another month.  I  promised a December 10th debut, but, I sorta got behind this month....

Thursday, November 11th, 1999. 
Unbelievable.  For the first time in a while, it looks like we are beating Raceaflais.  We got our cars ready to go.  The cars are at the shop.  We are not waiting for any parts.  Truck and trailer are working.  I even have most of my clothes for the weekend packed already in the truck.  Recent modifications to my car for this weekend are that Larry
built me some straight through pipes that replace the mufflers.

The new racing muffler that connects to the cat replacement pipes.  11.5 lbs, and VERY LOUD

Meaning that he got an old NSX muffler, cut off the flanges that connect to the headers, and had someone weld a straight pipe to the flanges, so that we can take it off and put on the street exhaust if necessary.  Larry said that at Las Vegas, my car was way too quiet, and it was like  having a street car vs. race cars on the track in terms of sound.  Now it is as loud as some of the fast 911 racing machines, and as loud as a NASCAR Featherlight car.

Wayne with his new look splitter and rear wing in an attempt to catch the flamemobile

We had to make a couple of slight mods to the truck.  The truck bed seemed to be bending a bit from the weight of the trailer.  The electrical brakes for the trailer didn’t seem to be working that good.  I took the truck into Big Tex West Trailers, and had them checkout the trailer brake and the bed.  They looked at it, and said yes, your trailer brake isn’t functioning correctly.  Which means we were stopping a six-ton trailer with just the brakes on the truck (ahh…that is why it seemed like it wasn’t stopping too good).  Which is why the bed of the truck was bending (all the weight of the trailer was pushing on the bed when stopping without the trailer the brakes), thus crushing the extra support bars in the truck bed.   Whew, dodged a bullet here.

Coolest car at the track.

Dagmar hates it when I go racing for the weekend, as I am not home on Saturday night, but she hates it even more when I have to leave on a Friday evening to go racing, and therefore I am gone two nights in a row.  Driving a truck with a trailer requires about double the amount of time to get there and unpack everything.  So instead of driving up on Friday night at 8:00 p.m. or so, Wayne and I decide to leave the shop at 4:15 a.m. Saturday morning.  Which means that I have to call Wayne at 3:00 a.m., and Larry at 3:00 a.m., to make sure they wake up.  Bobby, Wayne’s brother, is going to go to the track with us, and run Wayne’s 944 Turbo in the time trial group.  Looks like we are going to get the racing hooks in Bobby also…….

Another cool car at the track

2:50 a.m.  My phone rings.  It’s Larry.  He’s wide awake, wondering when I am going to pick him up at 3:00 a.m.  I remind Larry that I am suppose to pick him up at 3:30 a.m., not 3:00 a.m.  I pick Larry up at the Best Western Hotel, where he and his wife have been living the past month.  We almost had an apartment hooked up for them, but at the last minute it fell through.  With Lina forced to be at the shop most of the day dealing with inspectors and contractors and the landlord and electricians, she hasn’t had much time to find an apartment.  Larry thinks he is going to find a cheap apartment by the shop in Huntington Beach, and I have to keep reminding him that he has to pay extra for the convenience of being close to the shop, and a couple of miles from the beach.

Joel's F355 Spider

3:50 a.m.  We get to the shop.  Jesse, a friend of Larry’s, is there to help us out this weekend.  Except Larry told him to be there at 3:00 a.m. instead of 4:00 a.m., so Jesse has been sitting in the parking lot for an hour.  Wayne pulls in, Bobby pulls in, and Doug Ota pulls in also.  Ota just finished getting his BMW M3 supercharged.

4:25 a.m.  We leave the shop.  Incredible, we are only 10 minutes late from the departure time.  Instead of our usual 60-120 minutes late.

Joel installed F50 calipers on his F355.  Checkout the size of the caliper!

6:40 a.m.  We make it to the McDonnell’s by Willow Springs, and have breakfast. 

7:10 a.m.  It takes us 2 hours and 45 minutes to get to the track.  We park the trailer, unpacking the cars, rollaway tool chest, tables, chairs, tires, stereo, ice chest, etc.  For the first time in ages, we are fairly relaxed at a track event, instead of running around with our heads cut off.  As the guys are unpacking the trailer, I even have time to refill the gas tank of the truck from our 88 gallon external diesel tank in the bed of the truck.

Doug Ota runs the practice sessions, and he isn’t as fast as I thought he would be.  He is running consistent 1:33’s and 1:32’s.  Maybe he still has to dial in that supercharger.  He and Wayne are about even, but I can pull on them.  Unfortunately, Ota can’t run in the qualifying race, as he has a business meeting for work at 6:00 p.m. in Orange County, which is a good two hours away.  Want to know how the world's largest software company got to be such a dominant force?  Through lots of hard work.  They even schedule internal team business meetings on a Saturday night!  How many government employees do you see working 80 hours a week?  The car is running pretty good in the practice sessions.  I am getting a little bit of oil blow by from the valve cover hose, and Larry makes a makeshift catch can with a little hose that has an itty bitty K&N filter on the end of it. 

Ota's M3 with new supercharger installed

The only real problem that I have with the car is that I am noticing that I am having a problem downshifting from 6th to 4th, or from 5th to 4th.  Comptech warned me that the six speed is sometimes hard to downshift into fourth, and now I know what they mean.  Going into Turn 1 at 135 mph, I dive into the turn, outbraking the Dunestang.  Unfortunately, I downshift from 6th gear into 2nd gear, and the car shakes violently, the engine screams like it was at 11,000 RPMs, back tires get squirrelly, and the Paul in the Dunestang probably thinks I am driving like an idiot.  Luckily, I don’t spin off the track or into the Dunestang.  I check all the gauges, I still have oil pressure, temperature is okay, car is running okay, no smoke or parts left on the road in my rear view mirror.  Whew!  I thought I blew up the engine.

The infamous MPRV Dunestang.  (Multi-Purpose Racing Vehicle)

Qualifying race.  I am gridded on the pole for the race.  I am running consistent 1:31’s in the practice sessions.   Next to me is a 914/6(but not one of those monster ones), and right behind me is the infamous Dunestang, and a stripped down racing 240Z.  Wayne is gridded 7th or so.   Wayne, Ota, and I have radios in our car, and Larry and Jesse have one in the hot pit area.  Green flag drops, and the supercharger kicks in and I take off.  The Comptech supercharger kicks in, and I immediately start building a lead.  After one lap, I am ahead about 400 feet or so.   Wayne is making his way through traffic.  Around lap 6 out of 12 laps, I hear Wayne on the radio trying to taunt me.  “I’m coming.   Don’t look back.  I’m coming.   Don’t spin, or I will catch you.  I am coming.”  He says this for the next three laps.  A female standing next to Larry keeps overhearing the radio, “I’m coming.   Here I come.”  She gives Larry a weird look, like he is listening to a porno movie.

I still take the conservative approach, and driving fast, but not so fast that I will screw up and spin off the track.  I get caught up in traffic, and instead of dive bombing on cars, I take my time and only pass when absolutely safe.  Meanwhile, Wayne gets to within 6 cars lengths of me, chanting, “I’m coming.  I’m coming…”.  More weird looks from the lady next to Larry.  I am not too worried about this, as I know I am at least a second faster than Wayne, and I can turn it on if I really need to.  Wayne’s smiling, knowing that he is faster than the other 20 cars, and he has me in his just a few car lengths in front of him.   But now Raceaflais looks down from the heavens and decides to rear his ugly head. 

Paul also throws treaded tires on it and takes it racing in the desert, using it like a Dune Buggy.

I hear Wayne continue his chanting, "I am coming.....lookout, I am catching you." Suddenly, on the radio, I hear Wayne screaming, “Oh shit, oh f***, I can’t f***ing believe it! Son of a bitch! Dammit!  Oh shit! MY CAR IS OVERHEATING!”.  Wayne starts slowing down.  I tell Wayne to just short shift and get the car to finish the race, so he can start next to me on the pole for the final race on Sunday.  Wayne is screaming, “My temperature is in the RED.  MY CAR IS OVERHEATING.  HOW MANY MORE LAPS?  DOES ANYBODY KNOW HOW MANY F***ING MORE LAPS?”

Wayne keeps driving the car.  But then the driver compartment fills up with smoke.  “MY CAR IS FILLING UP WITH F***ING SMOKE!”.  Bummer, he is done, and DNFs again.   I pretty much cruise to a first place finish in the qual race.   Looks like he will have to start from the back of the pack, providing we can get his car running again.  After the race, we diagnose it to be that either the radiator cap might be bad, or this thermostat might be bad, or an outside chance that it is something worse.  In any event, we decide to work on it in the morning, as everyone is dead tired from being awake since 3:00 a.m. this morning.  

Larry and Jesse working on Wayne's overheating problem

We get in the truck, I turn the key……oooops, car won’t start.  Apparently when I refueled the truck this morning, I turned on the ignition key to fire up the electric fuel pump, and forgot to turn it off.  No problem.  I bought a portable battery jump starter.  We plug it into one of the two batteries on the truck, but no luck, it won’t jump.  No problem, I also brought the 110v battery recharger/jumper.  We fire up the generator, plug it in.  No luck.  Still won’t jump.  No problem,  I got jumper cables.  We use Jesse’s Civic and the cables on one battery, and the portable jump starter on the other battery.  Still no luck.  An hour goes by, and we still can’t start the stupid truck.  It is dark, it is getting cold, and we are starving.  Just as we are ready to throw in the towel, Kit comes by and says that ya gotta use two jumper cables and two cars to jump start the two batteries in order to start a diesel truck.  We try that, and the truck finally starts.  90 minutes after I first turned the key and tried to start the truck,  we take off for dinner.

BMW Roadster and driver that wiped out at 90+ mph in turn 9.  Car was green, now is brown.

We go to dinner at the Sizzler in Lancaster, which has really crummy mashed potatoes.  During dinner, I mentioned that I have enough energy now to watch the Holyfield-Lewis heavyweight fight, except that we won’t be able to find a place that is showing the fight.  Wayne says that he feels that there is someone in the Sizzler who has to know where the fight is.  I offer to bet him $100 that NO ONE in this restaurant can tell us where the fight is.  After we argue for a bit, he takes the bet, as he is sure that someone will know where the fight is.  Wayne starts running around from table to table, interrupting everyone’s dinner in the restaurant, asking them if they know where we can see the fight.  Larry is thinking that maybe he should bet against me also, as someone here should know where the fight is being shown.   After Wayne interrupts half the diners in the restaurant, he comes up with two places that the fight is allegedly being shown.  He got the information from a lady with tattoos who claimed she was a fight fan and knew where to watch the fight.

Rick's the Porsche Chief Instructor's car

We call the first bar, and they said, “No, we are not showing the fight”.  We call the second bar, and they are not answering the phone.  Wayne gets the address and directions, and we decide to drive to Schooners to settle this bet.  We cruise over to Schooners, and sure enough……they are NOT showing the fight.  I win the qual race, and I win $100 bucks.  Heh heh heh.   Larry says that there is no way I should have won that bet.  I reply, “The customers in that restaurant looked pretty clueless to me, there is no WAY they would have any idea about where to watch the fight.  I mean, most of the customers in the restaurant looked like they had trouble trying to eat with a fork without drooling out of the side of their mouth, if you know what I mean.”

Sunday Morning:
Larry and Jesse start to work on Wayne’s car, trying to figure out how to stop the cooling problem, and why the car was smoking.  Hoping it is not a head gasket, they go through various excercises like taking out the thermostat, buying a pump to pressurize the the cooling system to 16 lbs, etc. After fixing a couple of potential areas where air could have gotten into the system, we cross our fingers and fire up the car…….and white smoke comes billowing out of the exhaust system.  Bummer……looks like head gasket.

In the last of the practice sessions, I am coming into Turn 1 again in 6th gear, and I botch the shift again, and almost blow the engine up again.  Now I am getting paranoid, as I don’t want to screwup a shift in race and cause an accident.   

The final race of the weekend is about 15 laps or so.  I am gridded next to the Dunestang.  Green flag drops, and the supercharger kicks in.  I start building a lead, and after a lap or so the lead is pretty big.  My first four laps I run laptimes in the low 1:30’s.  I cruise it the rest of the way, taking time on passing people only when safe, as the only reason I would lose is if I spin off or break.   With about 1.5 laps to go, the alternator light comes on, which means the supercharger belt broke.  But my lead is big enough that I can still cruise home and win by a comfortable margin without the extra boost.  I first place for the first time in what seems like almost a year.  It was a pretty uneventful race.  Of course, people can say I easily had the fastest car there, so I shoulda won.  But screw them, a win is a win, and you have to overcome Raceaflais and keep your car running to win!

Sitting in the pole position for the final race of the weekend

Next event is Laguna Seca December 18/19 with the Touring Car Club.  Wayne's 944 Turbo is in the shop getting the head gasket fixed, seal for water pump replaced (that is why it was overheating), and super duper engine studs so that he doesn't blow the gasket again.  Since he is getting the super duper studs, now he is turning the boost  up another 4 lbs.  And traded a phone system for a new, lightweight, wide body fiberglass kit on his car, to reduce the weight by a 100-200 lbs.  He is walking around bragging about how he won the last Alfa Romeo race at Laguna Seca in February, and he considers himself the defending champion at Laguna.  Let's see if he can actually beat the Flamemobile, and more importantly, finish a race for a change.......

We also decided after the Las Vegas fiasco where I blew up the clutch, that we are going to take preventative measures if this were ever to happen again.  We picked up a portable lift that will fit in the trailer, so next time we are the track and anything labor intensive like a clutch breaks, we now have the capability to swap it out fairly quickly....

Larry and Guy next to the new portable lift

Official results of the race are at:
and the calendar for next year's Alfa events in Southern California are at