July 3rd/4th, 1999
PRO Racing/Touring Car Club Night Enduro at Willow Springs
Working on Her Night Moves
Click here for 30 second sound clip
The Flamemobile at 125+ MPH at night on the front straightaway at Willow Springs
So Wayne and I have this fantasy. In it, we are at the 24 Hours of Daytona with Ota, Jeff, and James in an NSX, running against the Big Dogs in GT2, and we are leading our class(of course!). Only problem is that I don't think any of us have raced at night. (and the fact that my car "as is", would not be competitive, and we don't have an FIA license, and we don't have any sponsors, etc. etc. etc.) But Wayne and I figure we might as well run the two hour night enduro sponsored by PRO Racing and the Touring Car Club and team up in my car for this event. And at least pretend we are at Daytona.....
This is the reason we thought we needed to get a forklift. Trailer and truck must go in rear door of building
TCC and PRO setup an agenda that had practice and a sprint race on Saturday, and followed by a night enduro starting at 8:00 p.m. There was also the final sprint race on Sunday, but Wayne and I decided that if we did all the events on Saturday, that would be enough, and we might as well enjoy the 4th of July relaxing at home, instead of spending all of Sunday in hot, dusty, Lancaster for a 10 lap sprint race.
Except there is no room on driver's side to easily make the turn, nor is there room on passenger side.
We are getting better at preparing for these events. There is less thrashing around. But then again we got Marian(father-in-law) and Doyle helping us with the shop, prepping the cars, etc. And we have most of our stuff already packing in the trailer, ready to go. We get Wayne's car back from Vision Motorsports, where they replaced the two rims that Wayne shattered at the the Hill Climb, aligned the car, and pounded out the dents on Wayne's kick panels and threw some stickers over the dents.
But I can expertly back the trailer into the building.....with two other people helping guide me with two way radios....so no forklift is needed!
For quite some time, there has been this discussion on the NSX email list about those PIAA driving lights, the blue bulbs, etc. (also an interesting discussion on ah....snap rings...sorta..). I pretty much deleted all of those emails, because I felt that:
1. Driving lights make it so that if you are driving fast, your
local law enforcement officers can pick you speeding out of a crowd 2 miles away
2. Driving lights make your car look dorky(as if stickers don't)
3. Driving lights don't make you really go faster, as I usually don't go super fast at night on dark highways.
So I emailed Mark Johnson of Dali Racing, and asked him what type of driving lights would he recommend. He replies back, "Big Round Ones". Okay, I tell him to get some shipped Fedex to me, so I can have Doyle install them.
Mark in turn calls Sube Motorsports in Huntington Beach which is about three blocks from our shop, and gets some lights dropped shipped to them. Chad at Sube Sports seems EXTREMELY knowledgeable about these high powered lights, and says he will drop some off at the shop. When I take delivery of them, I burst out laughing. Mark Johnson wasn't kidding when he said, "Big Round Ones". We are talking Big Round Ones like Anna Nicole Smith.
Big Round Ones!
I tell him I ain't gonna put those on my car, and I would rather have those little PIAA driving lights that I see on cars driving around. Chad calmly explains that if you want those, he will get them, but they only put about about 17,000 candlepower, and these Big Round Ones put out 300,000 candlepower. He also says that if you are doing 130+ in pitch black darkness at Willow Springs, you want Big Round Ones so you can see. Kinda makes sense...........
Doyle fabricates a bracket to fit the lights. Nose piece of NSX has to come off.
Later on, I show the lights to Wayne, and he also bursts out laughing, and saying the same thing that I did. "What about those little PIAA lights?". I calmly explain the scenario to him just like Chad explained it to me....
Up close view of the big round ones.
I get Doyle to figure out how to put them on. These is no really secure place to bolt the lights to, so Doyle took off the nose piece, put a hunk of metal inside the nose piece, and put a hunk of metal outside the nose piece, and secured the lights that way.
The night before we are ready to leave, we realize that Wayne ripped out the plug for his helmet radio. He proceeds to take my helmet apart to see how the plug is soldered in, and succeeds in breaking mine also. So we have to pickup TWO new plugs. Luckily, Marian is an electronics wizard, and he proceeds to solder and double-check the rest of the wiring in our cars.....
Andy's fast CRX
Wayne and I decide to drive up on Friday afternoon to Willow Springs, and get a good night sleep, so we can do the practice and sprint races on Saturday, along with the night enduro, as well as packing everything up and driving home that night. Since there is no casino within three hours of Willow Springs, we try to get a karting lesson late Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, it doesn't work out, but we are able to do some testing with our cars for a couple of hours. I want to park the big trailer right next to the pits, but the management at Willow Springs informs us that all trailers must be parked on the dirt about 100 feet away. Which means that we won't have everything we need for the night enduro at our fingers. Oh well. It is about 95 degrees with a 40 mph wind. Wayne was showing me this rolodex card with a bunch of girl's phone numbers that he got while cruising on America Online. He was pretty proud of it, as he was figuring he can get a couple of dates out of it. This card was very important to him, as he doesn't carry one of those personal organizers, and this is the ONLY place he wrote down the phone numbers.. Unfortunately for him, he had the passenger side door of the truck open, and when I open the driver side door, the 40 mph wind zipped into the truck, grabbed the rolodex card, and sent it moving across the front straightaway at Willow Springs at, you guessed it, 40 mph. He jumps out of the car, and starts chasing the card, but the wind whips it all over and then into the dirt and tumbleweeds, across the straightaway, over the barrier, and out of sight. Bummer......the card is gone. I tell him just dial 411 and ask for the person's name, and he says that no one uses their real last name on their "screen names" on AOL. Oh well.........
Anyways, we do some testing, and the cars seem okay, so we pack everything up and get some sleep for the night.....
John with his NSX and two other NSXes
Next morning, pull the cars out of the trailer, and we are ready for practice. Our first session, we are scrambling around to get out on the track, and we didn't get a chance to plug the radios in. Next session, we plug the radios in, but discover afterwards we were on different channels. Oh well....so much for the radios.
Two of the Porsche cars
In the afternoon, there is a qualifying session for griding purposes for the sprint race. I make sure I am one of the first people out on the grid, as I don't want to get stuck behind any slower cars that may screw up my lap time. On my second lap, I click off a 1:33.25, which ain't all that great, but it is hot and windy, and everyone else is running a couple of seconds slower than they normally do. Then a car spins off right at the bottom of turn 5, so everyone has to slow down their launch into the back straight. It seems like the car is there forever before they pull it off the track, and it screws up other people's qualifying lap times. But who cares....as I got at least one decent lap in.
Jovo's Supra. He's the guy who created, built, and manufactured the GTECH gizmo
The session before the qual race, Wayne's car blows a big radiator hose. Luckily for him, Chris Cervelli is at the track, and he has one of everything for a 944 Turbo. Wayne throws a hose on, but we still have to bleed the air out of the system. And it seems like there is a hell of a lot of air in the system. The stupid water hose at Willow Springs is cut to be about 24 inches long, and it doesn't quite reach to the radiator overfill, so we are shooting water all over the engine of the car. The system keeps shooting out air through the bleeder hose. Meanwhile, they are calling cars to grid, so I have to bail, and I get John to help out Wayne.
Sitting on the pole is an awesome 911 Turbo S. He lapped us. Five times. Each.
I find out that I am gridded 2nd out of 25 or so cars! This is probably because of the accident that slowed down everyone else during qualifying, as there are some Porsche drivers that are pretty fast that are in this event. I am gridded right behind a stripped down, fully raced out 911 Turbo S with extra wide fender flares, big ass wing, and huge slicks. Behind me is another stripped down 911, three monster 914's, a 944 Turbo(not Wayne's), Jovo in his Supra, and the rest of the pack. Wayne is at the back, as his shifter was loose and he had to be towed off the track during qualifying. Coming down the straight, the green flag drops, and the 911 Turbo S blasts out about ten car lengths ahead in about two seconds. DAMN!
The trailer setup at the track
I need more power. Going into Turn 1, the red 914, the yellow/purple 911, and Jovo in the Supra come ripping into the turn in front of me on the inside. I made a massive miscalculation, I thought down the straight I would have enough power to get a nice launch on the the people behind me and I could take the fast outside line through turn 1 and dive into the apex, but the guys with more HP(or better HP to weight ratio), come ripping by on the inside. DAMN, I should tried to protect the inside line. Going into Turn 2, Jovo wipes out and goes into the dirt on the outside of the turn. By now the 911 Turbo S is about 500 feet in front of me, and I am right behind the other 911 and the 914. Going down the straight, the 911 and 914 pull away a little bit. The 911 Turbo S is now about a quarter mile infront of me. And then going into turn 1, the red 944 Turbo comes ripping by me. DAMN! I gotta throw more weight out of my car! For the next few laps, I keep the red 914 and red 944 within my eyesight, but then a monster 914 with huge wing, and 12 inch wide slicks comes ripping by me. DAMN, I need a big ass wing and a splitter! Anyways, I end up about 5th or 6th in the sprint race, behind the Porsche dudes. Not only are the Porsche drivers fast, but they are also very consistent, and I didn't see them make any mistakes. Wayne was making a mad rush through the pack, and claims he passed 18 people and he had me in his sights before his car temperature started to hit the red. Thus, he is a DNF. I tell him that I NEVER even remotely saw him in my rear view mirror, and that he is dreaming....
Red 914 with big round ones mounted high on the rollcage
TCC/PRO then has a three hour break for a barbecue before the night enduro. Larry, Chris, Lena, and Josh drive down from Riverside to watch the night race as well as help in the pit. Larry is helping to prep the car, check oil, swap tires, etc. We also recruit Jovo and his friend to help with fueling and timing during the race. We also have John and Luigi from the NSX List there helping with radio communications from the pits. We look around at our competitors, and we realize that they knew they could not park their trailers next to the pit wall, so they were armed with portable generators, portable halogen lights, rollaway tables, laptop computers, telemetry, etc. We realize that we will be using our Maglite flashlights for our pit stop......and a lantern that someone left with us at Laguna. (Hey, if it is yours, email me!)
These guys were obviously prepared for a night race...
Okay, so we are gridded the same for the night enduro. Our plan is that I will drive the first half, and Wayne will drive the second half. The enduro is 2 hours and 10 minutes, and you need to do either one 10 minute pit stop, or two 5 minute pit stops. This is a bit of a problem for us, as we would prefer to do one 10 minute pit stop. I am not so sure that we can make it on one pit stop. The advantage of one pit stop is that:
1. We have more time to relax
2. We can fill up the tank completely
3. We can do our driver change
4. We only have to come into the pits once, thus saving us some time.
I filled up the gas tank completely earlier in the day, ran a session, and then filled up the gas tank again to calculate mileage. It comes out to we get about 5 miles to the gallon in full on pedal to the metal racing at Willow Springs. So in doing my math, that comes out to:
1. 18.5 gallon tank (from the NSX Owner's book)
2. 5 Miles to the gallon
3. 2.5 Miles Per Lap
4. Figure we use about 16.5 gallons of gas before we pit(leaves us with two gallon reserve)
5. Means that we get 33 laps for a tank of gas
6. We figure we will run about 100 seconds a lap(Meaning 1:40 lap times at night)
7. There are 3600 seconds in a hour
8. 36 laps in an hour
9. Two hour race, so 72 laps we need to complete or so
10. And there is the fudge factor, meaning that since we are running at night, we will be running a little slower than usual, so we should get better gas mileage than racing during the day.
11. According to my calculations done in my head, I think we can make it on one stop.....barely...
Mike's Vette had power steering problems. He just bought another World Challenge Corvette that he plans on racing soon...
We decide that I will go as far as I can, and then during the race determine whether to do one or two pit stops, and radio back to the pit as to what we should do.
We are gridded the same for the enduro as the sprint race, which is surprising to me. I thought they would use the finishing results for the sprint race, but instead they opt for qualifying laptimes. There are only 14 cars entered in the enduro, and I am gridded 2nd again behind the 911 Turbo S. It is 8 p.m., so the twilight is just coming on. Green flag drops and again the Turbo S kicks ass going into turn 1. Right behind him is a the other yellow/purple 911 which gets by me on the inside, and then two of the monster 914 Porsches get by me. Going into the back straight, the red 944 gets a good run and takes me on the inside of turn 8. DAMN! Another lap later, the red 914 with big round ones up high gets by me. Now I am pissed. I make a mental note to have Larry throw out all the air-conditioning and heater equipment out of my car after this race. After seeing the 914's with big wings rip through the turn 8 sweeper turn and the deadly turn 9, I make another mental note that I need to find a big rear wing and a splitter to get some downforce.
Sean's Vette had overheating problems.....bummer
And now I discover that my push-to-talk-switch on the two-way radio that was strapped to the my side rollbar has fallen off its velcro fastening. It is on one of those coiled up cords, and I think it went "BOING", and snapped back to somewhere on my left side. Meanwhile, Wayne is on the radio going, "Can you hear me. Hello. Can you hear me?" on the radio. Now picture this: The only way to try to find the PTT switch is to take your hands off the steering wheel. Unfortunately, the only place you can really do that is on the front or back straight. I try doing it on the back straight, but it is not a good idea going 120 MPH to take one hand off the wheel right before the sweeper turn, especially if there are cars behind you. I try doing it on the front straight, but doing that at 120+ MPH is also very uncomfortable. I can't look down, as it is fairly dark, so I can't see the black cord. Meanwhile, Wayne keeps going "Can you hear me. Hello. Earth to Doug. Hello.". Unfortunately, I have to slow down a bit while fishing around for the stupid PTT switch. Which means now the all the Porsche guys are way out of reach. DAMN! It is getting darker and darker, so I give up trying to find the stupid PTT switch, and now concentrate on not going off the road. About 12 or 13 minutes into the race, I see a pair of headlights coming up fast on me. It is the 911 Turbo S. DAMN! He laps me. 12 minutes later, he comes ripping by me again. 13 minutes later, ZOOM, he rips by again.....
Phil's Z was running real strong at this event!
35 minutes into the race. I decide that I HAVE to find the stupid PTT switch, as I need to know how much time has elapsed. I slow down considerably on the front straight, dig around, and finally find it! I radio to Wayne and John and tell them that I cannot secure the switch, and I need to know how long I have been out on the course. The NSX gas gauge is horribly un-optimistic when racing on the track, meaning that it shows you that you are on "E" when you are racing, but when you park the car suddenly you have about a quarter tank left. My gauge shows it is almost down to "E", but I know that if only 35 minutes have elapsed, that is 2100 seconds, and figuring 100 seconds a lap, that is 21 laps, = 10.5 gallons, which means I have at least 8 gallons left according to my calculations before it is bone dry. I continue to drive, hoping to get to the 55 minute mark, which means that Wayne needs to drive 65 minutes, but since he is driving at night, he will be going a little slower and will be able to conserve gas. At least that is my theory. Approaching the 55 minute mark, I tell Wayne to get ready for the pit stop. As I come around turn 8, the gas warning light comes on. I never knew that there was a "low gas" warning light on the NSX, as I never let the gas get that low before. Anyways, I come into the pits, hop out of the car, and Jovo helps me fill up the car. We put in about 17 gallons of gas, which is more than I ever put into the NSX. Wayne hops into the car, and we send him off into the darkness. Wayne's first comments on the radio are, "Hey, it is DARK out here". So Wayne is out there driving, and he is running consistent 1:38-1:40 minute lap times. The faster Porsche guys rips by him also, ("Holy shits that guy in the Turbo S is fast"). After 30 minutes, Wayne radios in and says that he ain't gonna make it, as the the gas gauge is getting close to Empty. I tell him don't worry about it, he has lots of gas. He starts cursing back that he has 35 more minutes of driving, how can he possibly make it without refilling? I tell him I did the math, he should be okay. John and I are cracking up, because every lap or so, Wayne is bitching about how much gas he has left, and how he is going to be a DNF out on the track and someone is going to crash into while my car sits with no gas in it. I explain to Wayne that we need him to do about 40 laps in the car, and he only has done 20 laps, but he should have enough gas for an other 20, and just keep driving as fast as he can.
The car that won the P2 class. Rumor has it on Sunday he was running 1:28!
15 minutes are now left in the race, and Wayne is getting real worried about the gas. I tell him if he is paranoid, just start shifting at 7000 RPMs instead of the redline. He says that he has been shifting at 6500 the past few laps, as he doesn't think he is going to make it. I tell him only when the idiot light for gas comes on to we have to start worrying, and he should just keep driving until that happens. 10 minutes left, things look good, but Wayne is screaming that he ain't gonna make it. 5 minutes left in the race. Looking good. 3 minutes left in the race. Uh oh......Gas warning light comes on. I tell Wayne don't worry, that means he should have a least a gallon in reserve, and he will make it. John and I look at each other, saying that "uh, at least we think he will make it...". They throw the checker flag to the 911 Turbo S, and Wayne makes it across the finish. WHEW! Wayne would have looked like a real idiot if he ran out of gas.......
We end up taking 2nd in P2, and probably about sixth overall out of the 14 cars entered. We get some help from our pit crew and pack up the trailer, and drive home. We make it to the shop by 2:30 a.m. in the morning.
Jovo, Jovo's friend, and Larry, all who helped out in the pits for the night enduro!
Tuesday(three days later), we are unloading the cars out of the trailer. Except the NSX won't fire up. It idles for about 4 seconds, and then dies. It does this repeatedly about six times. Humm......I wonder.........I throw two gallons of gas into the car, and now it fires up and holds an idle....I guess we are lucky the race wasn't 60 seconds longer, we might have been a DNF........or more correctly, Wayne would have been a DNF.....
Chris, Lena, and Josh...the other part of the pit crew!
Stuff we learned:
1. The lights we had Doyle put on worked good, but we also need some cornering lights. Meaning we could see ahead of us fine at 130 MPH, but we couldn't really see where the apex was for the turns. So we need to have two more lights put on the NSX that point to the side which will help us with cornering speed, and them maybe we could keep up with some of the other Porsche driver and at least be able to dice it up with them a little more.|
2. Night racing is tough. Real Tough, tougher than we thought.
3. We need a portable generator, or a couple of hundred feet of electrical extension cord to connect to the trailer generator so we can use some portable halogen lights for our pit stops like everyone else did.
4. Figuring out gas mileage is VERY important.
5. I need to fix the radio switch. Maybe duct tape it into place.
6. We need to figure out some contingency communications, like turn the lights off and on once if the driver can hear, but not talk on the radios. Blink headlights three times for pit stop on next lap, etc.
7. The six speed transmission with ring and pinion from Comptech felt really good. Fifth gear now pulls really good compared to the old five speed with short gears and ring and pinion. My lap times were not faster this time, but track conditions were not any good(hot and windy during the day, and uh..dark at night).
8. Supercharger belt problem is fixed, apparently all it was because pulleys/alignment plate were not aligned within tolerances, and was shredding the belt. We now have 5+ hours of hard track time on the this belt, plus probably 1000+ miles of street driving.
We took second in class in our first night race, probably sixth overall behind the Porsche drivers.
About a week after the night race, Wayne and are are talking about how fast the Porsche drivers were going in pitch black darkness. Then we started talking about the OI Racing 911 Turbo S that lapped us repeatedly during the night enduro. Let's see....if we sell the F355's, pick up two used Turbo S race cars......we could be invincible......hummm......naw, we can't make that trade......yet......
This car was probably running 13+ seconds A LAP faster than us...and lapped us about 10 times in the enduro..