Touring Car Racing Association
Willow Springs, January 5/6, 2002
"First Race for the S2000"
So much for the non-modified street car....
Most of the Christmas and New Year's holiday was spent with friends and family. Dagmar's sister and her 4 month old baby cruised in from Australia in the middle of December, and her husband Tony followed shortly after that, and her parents right after that. We had a full house at our rented town home, but we had a lot of fun. Tony is a damn good cook, so I gained about 6 lbs off my ideal "fighting weight", gorging ourselves with food and wine like those folks in King Arthur's Court. We musta drank 30+ bottles of wine, cases of steak and sea food. My idea of a good wine is a wine that doesn't give me loogies in the back of my throat after a huge gulp.
Wayne tells me that he will be racing less this year, so he can save money to put some furniture in the new house that he and Amy bought. He says that it is ricockulous to have a huge house, with many of the rooms with little or no furniture in them. But then the next day, Wayne convinces me to go to Touring Car Racing Association race for our first event of the year, despite the fact that he feels this will be the year that he reduces the amount of time and money he spends on racing. Wayne is a total contradiction sometimes.....well, make that all the time....
7 Tracks in 7 Days! Do you have what it takes to be the OTC King?
I decided to do some trailer maintenance, so I got the karting trailer refitted with new brakes and grease for the bearings, as well as getting some brakes on our old single car, open trailer that we still use to shuttle Wayne's car back and forth from Vision. The lease on Wayne's Ford Explorer ended, so he had to return that vehicle. We figure that since the first event is at Willow, and since Tony is still in town, we should also trailer up the karts to Willow Springs and do both cars and karts. Which of course means that we have to put electric trailer brakes on Amy's Dodge Durango to pull the karting trailer, and use the Ford F350 to pull the big 48 foot trailer with the cars in it. It would have been nice if we had a 53 foot trailer instead of a 48 foot trailer, as then maybe we could stack four karts and related tires and tools along with the cars. It could then be a self-contained Go-Fast Crack trailer.
Tony in the "spare kart"
So the plan was that Wayne would race his car in the race group, and I would put my S2000 in the time trial group, as I am still waiting for the suspension bits for the NSX to come in. I figure the NSX won't be operational again until late February. Larry was real busy with customer cars, so he could not make it to the track for this event. Wayne had to work on Friday, as he took 10 days in a row off already, and only worked on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. The Willow Springs karting track was reserved for Saturday and Sunday, which means we could only practice the karts on Friday. Tony wanted to do the karts, but probably didn't want to stay around all weekend to watch us do cars. We didn't have another vehicle for Tony, as the F355 was in the shop, the NSX was in the shop, the MR2 was being borrowed by another friend, and Wayne got rid of the Explorer. So then the plan became that I would trailer the 48 footer up on Friday along with Tony driving Amy's Durango and trailering the karts so we could practice on Friday. Later, on Friday night, Wayne and Amy would drive up in Wayne's NSX, and then Tony could drive the NSX back on Saturday if he wanted. Confusing, no? Racing can be a logistical nightmare, and requires logical thinking.
But then I started thinking some more. Tony did well at the Amago kart track the week before, slowly building up speed without crashing or spinning out. I could have him drive the S2000 in the time trial group, and then perhaps I could run the S2000 in the uh.....race group. The TCRA has a separate race for the 2.2 liter and below cars. Most of these car are full blown race cars, stripped down, etc....but what the heck, it would be fun anyways. I check the TCRA rules, and my car qualifies for just about all the rules, meaning rollbar, five point harness, etc. All I really needed were some arm restraints since it is a convertible car. The arm restraints are there just in case the call rolls over, as the natural inclination is to put your arms up to to save the car from rolling over. I call Longacre, and have them Fedex some arm restraints to me. This is bad.....I can see where this is going to ultimately end up...
Dana, ready to rumble
Wayne's nephew Dana was still on vacation from high school that week, and wanted to know if he could go karting with us. I told him that if he wanted to be part of the pit crew (meaning slave boy) for the weekend , he could ride up with me and Tony on Friday. I call Willow Springs to make sure that there is "open practice" on the karting track, and they said the track is open. We drive up on Friday, and we pull into Willow Springs, and we see about 100+ trailers parked by the karting track. Apparently the IKF (International Karting Federation) was holding their "open practice". Looks like the Willow Springs people got the term "open practice" mixed up, as Dana has only a couple of days of karting experience under his belt, and Tony only one day. To have them practice with guys who are preparing for a race would be suicidal, as well as time consuming as there are about six different run groups. So I tell the Willow Springs employees responsible for this fiasco that this is a disaster for us, as Dana and Tony really can't practice with the IKF drivers, and they drove all the way up here with me. So then they tell me, well.....you can use the other karting track to practice on. "Other karting track? What do you mean?" Apparently, above Turn 4 of the big track, they recently constructed a smaller karting track that is used by beginners and for people on those small 50 cc mini-motorcycles that you see sometimes. We tell her that will be perfect, and head up there. There is a guy up there who brought out a couple of single speed 80cc karts for his niece and nephews to play on, and that seem to be perfect for us. The basic track is very short, lap times are probably around 20 seconds depending on the configuration that you run. The guy that was there before us put a small left-right-left chicane at the end of one of the straights to slow down the track a bit, and make it a more challenging track.
Bad picture of the track above turn 4
We park the big trailer over by Turn 9, thus reserving ourselves a good spot for the weekend. We head back out to the new karting track, and whip out all the karts, check the timing equipment on all the karts, and we go out for some practice. Part of the way through the practice, we see a bunch of people running to the far side of the track. We don't see anyone out there, and we are not sure what is going on. I see a person's head pop up over the embankment, and it is a girl's head. Apparently this 14 year old girl went too wide at the end of the track, lost control, went off the track, into the dirt, hit the three foot high dirt berm, when OVER IT, and dropped down about five feet on the other side. Ouch! We all run over there, and the girl appears to be a little shaken, but no injuries at all. She must have flew up in the air for about 8 feet, and dropped down 5 feet. If that was me or Wayne, we would broke some bones. Kids.....they just bounce, nothing breaks when you are young.
BMW Lightweight that was in the race group
We practice for a couple of sessions, and Dana and Tony are turning lap times around 26 seconds or so. I go out there, and am turning lap times around 21 seconds. Dana and Tony want to know how to be faster around the track, so I have then stand by the chicane. I show them how they are braking way too much around these turns, and the proper way is to haul ass into the turn, stab the brakes, turn left, downshift a gear, and drift the kart all at the same time, hit the gas, accelerate for 25 feet, stab the brakes, turn right, downshift another gear, drift all at the same time, then accelerate for 20 feet, stab brakes, turn left, drift, accelerate onto the main straight. After they see me doing it, they are amazed and intimidated. "No way we can do that!". I am ripping around the turns, sliding the kart, barely missing the cones and narrowly staying on the track, so it does look pretty hard. I tell them, "Just haul ass around the turn, let the back end come around, hit the gas, and steer out it. The kart will hold 2+ g's in a turn, so just trust me that you won't wipe out." 15 minutes later, Dana and Tony are sliding the kart around the left-right-left chicane at full power, and look like professionals, cutting 3 seconds off their previous lap time. They come into the pit area with a glazed look on their eye.....they have now experienced the wonders of the "Go-Fast Crack Pipe", and their life won't ever be the same again. The want to cut two more seconds off their lap time to match my lap times, but I tell them that it will probably cost them $10,000 and 80 hours of practice, and not to mention weeks of preparation and traveling time for that practice, in order to gain the next two seconds.....
Front brake duct that NSX Modified made for the S2000. Yours for $250.
We keep practicing on the go kart track until the 5 p.m. closing, and then pack up and head to the hotel. We are starving, and every time you go back to the hotel and take a shower and then eat, you somehow lose at least three hours, especially because all the restaurants in Lancaster get real crowded on the weekend. We decide that we will instead head straight to Subway, grab some sandwiches, head to the movies, and sneak the food into the theatre. Tony and I also decide that we gotta have a couple of beers after a hard day's work, so I head out and grab a four pack of Guiness. And also sneak that in. I am starving....that pastrami sandwich is gonna be good. By the time I pick up the Guiness, Tony has already eaten half of his sandwich. We head to the theatre for the 7:45 showing, and I am dying of hunger, and I can smell the foot long pastrami on white bread, with lettuce, tomatoes, mayo, mustard, olives, etc. On the way to the theatre, Tony eats the other half of his sandwich. Dana and I are still dying of hunger. I put a knot a the bottom of the sleeve of my Pulp Racing jacket, and put four beers in the sleeve. I joking ask Dana if he wants to carry the jacket into the theatre, as if he gets busted, I can bail him out. If Tony and I get busted, he can't bail us out. Dana says, "No way. My parents would kill me". So the plan is for Tony to put my foot long sandwich under his shirt, Dana is putting his foot long sandwich under his shirt, and I will walk in nonchalantly with four beers in the sleeve of my jacket that I am carrying.
Amy drove Wayne's kart around on Saturday morning
We cruise into the theatre, no problem getting past their "security", as it is Lancaster. Brain surgeons don't live in Lancaster, because there is nothing to do there unless you are a racer. I am about ready to walk into the theatre #9 to see Lord of the Rings, when the knot in my sleeve comes loose, and a Guiness falls unto the floor. At least I bought cans, not bottles. I quickly grab the can, and we get our seats in the theatre before we get thrown in jail. The pastrami is calling me......Tony said the guy threw on two heaping piles of pastrami on the sandwich. Dana and I are dying of hunger. We get into the theatre at 7:30 p.m, 15 minutes before the show is to start. We can smell the pastrami, as probably everyone within 20 feet of us can probably also smell the food. We are waiting for the lights to dim so we can eat our 3 lb pastrami sandwich. At 7:44, one minute before the show starts, we get ready to unravel the paper off the sandwich, as we need the lights to go out before we start eating and drinking beer. 7:50, lights still don't go out, but they start the preview of the movie. Perfect......we are ready to start devoring our sandwich, but this is Lancaster. They apparently do not turn off the house lights for the movie previews. We can't eat the damn sandwich, nor drink the beer. For 25 more minutes, we have to endure previews with the house lights up. We haven't eaten since noon. Finally, the movie starts at 8:15, and Dana and I finish eating our sandwich in about 3 minutes. It was the best sandwich I ever had in my life. Tony and I wash it down with two beers, and now we are ready for the movie.....
Since it is the first weekend of the New Year, there are less people than usual at the TCRA event. Which is good for Tony, as he is in the school/beginner group, and he will get lots of personal attention from the TCRA instructors. We get to the track early, but we never, ever have enough time to be ready for the first run group. I put on my transponder, and I read the instructions. Apparently, the transponder has to have a clear shot vertically to the ground. I look all over the S2000 for a mounting point, but due to the lines of the car, there is no way to secure the transponder in the prescribed fashion. But, using a little ingenuity, I figure out a way.
Securing the transponder so it has a straight shot to the ground with the Death Card
I get out my trusty deck of cards, four tie wraps, and secure it to my rear license plate. The deck of cards pushes the transponder out from the license plate to give it a straight shot to the ground. And since I plan on kicking ass and taking names, I put the Ace of Spades, otherwise known as the Death Card, for all those behind me to see what is in store for them in the race. Five minutes have already gone by for the race group practice, and I have just finished dicking around with the transponder. I turn on the video camera, and I get my ass over to the pit out. The track worker checking for proper wrists bands looks and me, and asks me where my arm restraints were. Shit, forgot to put them on. I rush back to the pits, pull the arm restraints out of the cellophane, and then promptly realize that I don't know how the hell to put them on. Does it connect to the rollbar? Top part of harness? Bottom part of harness? Side part of harness? I have no clue. I find Andy, and ask him how the hell you work these. He adjusts them for me, and they are looped through lap harness. I get on the track with about 10 minutes left in the session, and I get about five or six laps.
The grid for I think the qual race, with Andy in the yellow Integra on Pole
This is my first time with the S2000 on the big track at Willow. The only mods so far to the car are brake ducts, the roll bar, Porterfield R4 pads, and Hoosiers. The car felt great at the Streets of Willow a couple of weekends ago, but that is a much smaller, lower speed track. However, driving the car on the big track is like trying to drive a centrifugal single speed kart. There ain't a lot of power out of the corners. I am used to trying to feather the gas on the NSX coming around a turn, as if you give it too much gas too quickly, you will spin out. The S2000, on the other hand, requires that you drive the car to absolute maximum speed around a turn, and get on the throttle much earlier and faster than the NSX. My fastest lap in the first practice session is a 1:48. Damn.....this is going to be harder than I thought. I immediately run over to the TCRA sign in both.....and I sign up for another time trial group, so I can practice in the race group and the blue time trial group. I will cheat any what I can to be faster. Tony will be running in the yellow beginner group
Andy Hope's CRX race car. He turns 1:36 with this machine. Damn.
I put my car in sixth place on the grid, out of about 14 cars. My fastest lap in the race group practice sessions was a 1:41, and in the time trial group it was a 1:40. My goal was to get to 1:38, so I am about two seconds off. Something is wrong, I quite haven't figured out what it is. I know it can't be the driver. TCRA sends us out for the warm up lap, and while we are going out, they remind the drivers that we have a standing start. Hummm.....this should be interesting, as I have never done a "burnout" with the S2000. I treat it primarily as a car that corners and brakes well on the street, as opposed to being a stoplight demon and going for 0-60 times. During the warm up laps, I try to figure out how I should launch the car. As we are gridding up on the front straight, Paul Mumford looks at John Coffey and says, "Hummmm...I probably should have told Doug about how to launch the S2000 off the line". In the meantime, I am on the grid, thinking about how I am going to deliver the "Death Card" to everyone on the grid.
Don Mock's CRX race car, a 1:37 car. He's figured out how to race all year on a $3500 budget!
I decide to launch the S2000 like a bat out of hell, and rev the car to 7500 RPMs. Green flag drops, and I drop the clutch in an attempt to do a smoky burnout. The car immediately bounces off the rev limiter....but the car doesn't move. Confused, I shift into second, and hit the gas and pop the clutch again....and car still isn't moving. Cars 7 thru 14 on the grid blow by me like I am standing still. It is because I am standing still. I put the car into first, slowly release the clutch.....and I have forward movement again.....but I am last going into turn 1. Apparently with sticky Hoosiers, it is impossible to get a burnout with a stock S2000. Instead, what happens, is the the tires grip, but the stock clutch is the weak point, and just spins and spins without transferring any power to the ground via the tires. Which is why I bumped the engine off the rev limiter, as the tires were not doing a burnout. Instead, my clutch was doing a smoky, smelly, burnout.....
Andy Site's racing Integra. A 1:33 machine. Damn, that's a fast car.
I fight my way past some of the other cars at the back of the pack, and end up taking 7th place. With a good launch, I might have had a chance at 5th place. Andy Sites crushes everyone with a best lap of 1:33.977 in his stripped down Integra race car. Andy and Don in their racing CRXs also give me a good ass-whupping. I thought I was going to smoke all the racing Miatas at the track, but I narrowly nip Alan's Miata coming out of Turn 9. And that was only because he spun during the race. I never spin. Yeah yeah, I know, an S2000 should beat a Miata, but mine is pretty damn close to stock, and Alan's is a stripped down, noisy, ugly (just kidding about the ugly) Miata. Some people even call it a "Girly Car" like these guys and these guys, much to the consternation of other Miata owners that can't take a joke. (But at least these two teams had the cojones to enter their cars in the Open Track Challenge) And it looks like Alan is used to driving low powered cars around Willow Springs, as I destroyed him in Turns 6, 7, and 8, gaining about 15 car lengths on him, but he made it all up with his excellent speed through Turn 9. Note to self: Damn.......I might needs some shocks for this track....
Results from the qual race. Yeah, I know....Sites lapped my ass. It ain't happening again!
Wayne's race was in the 2.2 liter and above group, which had three Vipers in his race group. Mumford took pole, but he was fighting overheating gremlins most of the day. Wayne was gridded 3rd. I really never watched a TCRA race before, as usually I am on the track. But after my race, we rushed over to turn 1 to watch the action. It was a great race, since Wayne and three Vipers barreling into turn 1 at 140+ mph was awesome. After a couple of laps, Mumford had to drop out to overheating problems, so it was Wayne vs. the other two Vipers. The other two Vipers were in front of Wayne, but you could see Wayne trying to stick the nose of his car underneath the Vipers. Wayne was trying to make a pass on the inside and the outside of the various turns. The Vipers would pull away on the straightaway sections, but Wayne would use the handling and brakes of the 944 Turbo to catch them in the slower turns and get right on their bumper.
Wayne dukes it out with the big boys
Bobby, Amy, myself, and other Pulp Racing fans are at Turn 1 cheering and rooting for Wayne to make the pass on the Viper dudes. Wayne is all over their butt. After about 8 intense laps, Wayne passes on the inside of Turn 3 and gets one of other Vipers, so he is in 2nd place. Another lap or so, Wayne makes another great pass, and takes over 1st place! The crowd goes wild (well, at least our little crowd of people rooting for Wayne). Bobby and I start looking for the white flag, signaling one lap left in the race. Wayne gets a little bit of a lead on the Vipers, proving that they were holding him back. I look again at the start finish line, but still no flag. Wayne has about a 3 second lead, and I tell Bobby and Amy that only a mechanical breakdown will prevent Wayne from losing this race, as he is slowly building a bigger lead on the Vipers. He is driving with supreme confidence.
Wayne's car, and another Vision 944 Turbo ready to go mano-a-mano against the Vipers
Then it happens. Wayne said that his gearbox got stuck, and he had problems with the 3-4 shift, and the car wouldn't go into gear. That's all it took, snd in a split second, both Vipers blew by him. The white flag now comes out, and we are rooting again for Wayne to make another set of spectacular passes, but it doesn't happen. Wayne takes 3rd, but gets top time of the day in the race group with a 1:29.8. Bummer for Wayne.
Gridded up for another standing start. That's me in 6th place.
Mumford tells me that he thinks if I put the top up, it might help me aerodynamically, and I might be faster down the straightaway. I give it a try, and instead of hitting 120 mph down the straight, now I am hitting 124 mph or so. Good tip! Tony does a great job in the time trial ground, keeping my car in one piece without spinning or crashing. I am gridded 6th for the race. I practiced some "burnouts" with the S2000, and pretty much came to the conclusion that unless it is raining and you have oil on the ground, the S2000 isn't suited for burnouts. I have Tony throw about seven more gallons of gas in the car, figuring that should be enough for 15 laps, or about 37.5 miles. I get a decent launch this time, and end up duking it out with a Porsche 914 and Alan's Miata. I follow the 914 for about five laps, and then I make my move. I gain lots of ground on him between turns 5 and 9, but he is faster through 9, but I have more power going down the straightaway. After I pass him, unfortunately, he is all over my butt. This goes on for about two intense laps, and finally I give up and let him by, as my rear tires are starting to slide more. I figure I will pressure him into making a mistake, and then blow by him with a lap or two left in the race. After he passes me, I get right back on his butt, and decide to stay there until there are a couple of laps left in the race. After a couple more laps, he lets me by, as he is having a mechanical problem. The other guys are way in front of me, all that is left is this pesky Miata. He is gaining a little ground, but I figure I can hold him off. With about three laps to go, I am going up the hill and in Turn 3, and the S2000 starts sputtering. What the hell? Uh oh.....looks like there is a problem with the gas pickup line....and I am running out of gas going up hill. Damn. The damn Miata is quickly gaining ground, as now I am short shifting, as I want to be able to finish the race. I do not want to be a DNF in my first race. Going up the hill on the next lap, car sputters again, so I resign myself to having to point the Miata by, as I don't want to take a chance at the car sputtering when he is right on my bumper, as he could make contact if I can't properly accelerate. Damn.....
Lookie-Loos checking out the damage on the Viper
So I think I end up taking sixth place, or somewhere around there for the final race. Not as well as I wanted to do, but not bad considering it was my first time on the big track with the S2000. I still need to get used to the car on the big track. In the 2.2 liter and above race, Wayne is duking it out with the Vipers, and pressures one of them to lock up the ABS coming down the hill into Turn 5, and the Viper goes flying off the track. Wayne said it looked pretty ugly. Wayne continues his race, but he ends up having shifter problems again, and gives up and DNFs. Oh well.....
Final results of the qual race that Wayne was in
To sum up the weekend: It was pretty fun, except I need to find at least two more seconds a lap out of the car without going overboard with modifications. Something isn't quite right, and I am not sure what it is. I might have to call Comptech and see what goodies they might have for me. So it looks like the S2000 is slowly turning into a "backup race car", instead of being my daily driver. But if the Go-Fast Crack Pipe calls you, and your main race car ain't working.....a man's gotta race SOMETHING to be able to get that racing buzz going on in the brain.