September – October, 2000
The Sky is Falling
"I wanna know, have you ever seen the rain?" - CCR

The NSX, kart trailer, car trailer, 944 Turbo sitting lazily at the shop

Raceaflais vs. The Ferraris
We have seem to run across a streak of bad luck.  Last month, Wayne was complaining of a funny sound coming from his Ferrari F355.  He took it into the dealership, and they said that he has a cracked header.  Headers are under warranty for seven years, as it is an emissions part, so no problem, right?  Except that this seems to be a common problem with many F355’s, and there are no new headers anywhere to replace the old headers.  So just weld the cracks in the old headers for now, and swap them out when the new headers come in, right?  Except that Ferrari North America doesn’t want anyone welding these cracked headers, they want the original piece that broke, and they want that part returned.  So they tell Wayne that it will be at least three or four weeks until they can get a new header in.    Bummer for Wayne.  I crack up laughing…..hey, ya got about six good weeks of use before it last went into the shop, what do you expect???

The very next day, I take my F355 to the dealer for an oil change.  The service manager calls me later that day, “Oh Mr. Hayashi, you have TWO cracked headers, your car will probably be in the shop for three or four weeks, and you are in line for new headers right after Wayne get his.”  Damn…’s gonna be a rough Autumn….. 

Three weeks later, the FNA relents, and lets the local dealer weld the cracked headers so we can rip around town again.  So we get the F355’s back after three weeks.  Thank God, Wayne and I were going through the same withdrawals that heroin addicts must go through when they try to kick the habit.  Wayne was driving the Ferrari guys crazy, calling every day to check on his car to see if it was finished. 

But now, I have another problem.  My rear tires on the F355 have been excessively worn for almost three months.  I have to tiptoe around corners, or else the backend will swing around and put me into a spin.  No Tread = Ugly Crash.  Three months ago I ordered some unidirectional Goodyear Fiorano F1 tires from the Tire Rack.  They have been backordered since.  They are backordered everywhere.  What’s with that?  Goodyear sells and markets these high performance rear tires that last about 4500 miles, and they make people beg for them?  I had a worn pair stored at the shop, so I put those on, trying to wait for new tires to come in.  Every week I call the Tire Rack, and every week they say that Goodyear has said that the tires will be in next week.  They have said this for the past 5 weeks.  But now I am down past the wear bars, and starting to ride on the threads.   I decide to get the same tires that Wayne has, which are the Pirelli Pzero Asymetricals, since I will crash and die if I don’t get some new rubber on the car.  I am not a big fan of the Pirelli tires, but I figure I can use them for now until my Goodyear tires come in, and then sell my used ones back to Wayne, as his tires will only last him four months.  Unfortunately, all of the USA is sold out of 265/18 rear Pirelli tires.  This is really, really irritating.  Finally, I give in, and decide to go with the Michelin MXX3 Pilot SX tires, otherwise I have to park the Ferrari in the garage for who knows how long?  Could be until Christmas at this rate.  Those bastards at Goodyear are probably switching all their production facilities to make the Firestone replacements tires for the Ford Explorer, and are probably making a fortune on that strategy....

The Michelins come in two days after I order them.  And the F355 sucks with these tires on it.  With the Goodyear Fioranos, it was virtually impossible to make the tires squeal around a turn.  They just stuck to the ground.  The stupid Michelins squeal around every damn turn, even when you are not going fast.  Before, I could never chirp the tires upshifting into 2nd and 3rd gear, now I can do it all the time.  Which means to me that the tires aren’t gripping the pavement very well.  I check the Ferrari manual for recommended air pressures, and it says for the Michelins, front tires are 28 psi, and rears are 32 psi.  Curiously, for the Goodyears, they want the fronts to be 38 psi, and the rears 34.  Something sounds wacky here.  I examine the tires, and it appears that they are asymmetrical tires, and they are mounted wrong.  I head over to Allen Tire, and they look at the tires and say that they are not asymmetrical, and that the tire tread would be the same if they flipped one of the tires over.  Curious, as I could swear that the tires have the tread pointed to the left on both the right and left hand side tire.   In any event, the car handles crappy, so I drop it off at Dave’s Frame and Alignment in Huntington Beach, hoping that maybe the car is misaligned, and the Dave can work some magic on the alignment to make these tires work halfway decently. 

Sitting next to piles of used tires, the 944 Turbo needs a heart transplant

Raceflais vs. the Tony Karts
Jeff, Wayne, and I were at the kart track last week, practicing in the clockwise (reverse) direction for the KRC race next month.  Diego from the TCRA was there also, checking out the shifter karts.  The motorcycle dudes where at the big track in full force, meaning the Ducati Factory Team, Honda Factory Team, Suzuki Factory Team, etc, where all preparing for their big AMA race weekend.  There must have been 60 big rigs there are the track.   (Update October 11th:  Rumor has it that one of the Ducati drivers set a new record at Willow Springs for a motorcycle.  He ran a 1:19 lap around the track.  Comparisons?  That is 10 seconds faster than me and Wayne in our cars.  GT1 Trans Am cars run about 1:23 around the track, and a 700 HP 911 Turbo with a GT3R body on it ran a 1:20.6 at the PCA Tribute to Le Mans this year).  Rumor has it that the Ducati driver was hitting 180 mph down the straightaway.  As a reward, the Ducati driver is getting an NSX from his sponsors, and Larry at NSX Modified is going to prep the car for delivery.)

Going the reverse way on the kart track is tricky, it takes a while to get used do.  On our second session out on the track for practice, Jeff passes me down the back straight, and I am determined to get right on his bumper to attempt a pass down the front straight.  We go into the chicane section a little too fast, Jeff hits one of the candy striped berms, goes up into the air, and spins to a stop.  Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t looking ahead at the next turn like I should have been doing, instead I was just concentrating on being a foot off of Jeff’s bumper and assuming he was going to make it through the chicane cleanly, so after he hits the berm and spins, I promptly plow into the rear of Jeff’s kart at about 30 mph.  Jeff’s neck gets a little whiplashed, but he is okay.  I pretty much wiped out Jeff’s rear bumper, and I bend part of the front part of the frame that holds up the bumper on my kart.  The good thing is that both karts are still handling okay, so we didn’t bend the kart’s crucial frame/suspension parts, just the outer part of the frame that holds the bumpers and Jeff’s muffler.   After assessing that the damage isn’t too bad, we go back on the track for another session of very close, wheel-to-wheel racing.

We grab one of the motorcycle dudes, and ask him to be the flagman for us, so we can do about 10 one-lap races.  This way, we can practice our starts and fight each other for the apexes in close, one-lap races.  And then do it all over again from a standing start.  This turns out to be a lot of fun, especially since I get a couple of decent starts, unlike my last KRC Cup races.  Wayne, Jeff, Diego, and I are duking it out on race #7, and Jeff passes Wayne on the inside, but Wayne gets him back on the exit, and as they go into the next turn, they slam wheels together, and both of them wipe out big time.  So now Jeff’s kart has a bent tie rod, and Wayne destroys a rim and bends his rear axle, which seems hard to do, as the rear axle is about 2 inches thick.   So Wayne can’t practice anymore, and Jeff has to find a tie rod.  Wayne and I feel bad, as Jeff probably thinks we are ganging up on him and destroying his kart.  My accelerator pedal is bent in a little too much to the center of the kart, which is irritating as part of my leg hits the accelerator pedal wire under braking.  So I try to “bend” the accelerator pedal to the left, and I bend it a little to far, and I snap the bolt that holds the pedal in.  Good move, Jackass.  Between the three of us, we each break our kart, so we have to drop all the karts back off at KRC for more “maintenance” work…

Preparing for the NSXPO Convention
There is a big NSX Convention in Atlanta on October 23/23, and they are renting out Road Atlanta for two days.  Now this sounds like it could be fun, as Wayne and I have never been to Road Atlanta.  But, we had on our racing schedule the last race for the KRC Cup, and we were both hoping to finish in the top 3 in points for our karting series.  Three weeks prior to our KRC race,  KRC had to change the date and venue for the last race, so now we have this weekend free to go to Atlanta.   Wayne can’t take his 944 Turbo on the Road Atlanta track, as this is an NSX-Only event……and besides, Wayne’s 944 Turbo engine is still blown up from the last event, where we were duking it out with the Vettes and Vipers.

We debated about driving the Pulp Racing Trailer out to Atlanta, but then realized that if we averaged 60 MPH, that would be at least 32 hours of straight driving, or if we broke it up and stopped at hotels to sleep, more like three or four days to get there, and the same amount of time to get back.  So we cancelled that idea.  The next idea was to get a certified, insured driver to drive the truck and car out there.  Unfortunately, most 3rd partying trucking companies wanted at least $6000 bucks to drive the truck and trailer to Atlanta and back.  Screw that idea. 

So now we are back to shipping the NSX out on an enclosed transporter for about $3500 round trip.  We could then ship about 300 lbs of tools, equipment, tires, etc, via UPS, so we would be able to fix any minor things that we break. 

We have only one problem:  The Flamemobile seems to have a lot of oil blow by.  What is oil blow by?  It is when excessive oil is blown through the pistons and rings, normally caused by uh…abnormal conditions…like boost from a supercharger or turbocharger.  What are the symptoms?  Usually, a lot of smoke coming out of the exhaust pipes.   There are ways to minimize this.  Larry installed an oil “catch can” to reroute the oil that is blown thrown the valve cover to shoot into a catch can with a breather on it.   The theory is to relieve a little pressure, as all that boost has to be vented somewhere.  There are many NSXs that have these catch cans installed.  I have had one on my car since the last big rebuild, and everything was working fine….until that last event with the Vettes and Vipers.  At that event, the catch can was filled up with oil after each session on the track, and oil was blasting through the mini K&N airfilter on top of the catch can.  The catch can holds about 16 ounces of oil, so oil was blowing through the rings.  Once the catch can gets full, it can dribble oil, and since the catch can is by the left rear tire…….you get the picture……it increases your chances for a spectacular high speed spin.   Definitely not good….

Now the oil blow by is a kinda tricky thing…..usually you cannot make it happen when driving on the streets.  You really have to be hammering the car under full throttle conditions to notice it.  So, before shipping the car out to Atlanta, we decide to do a test day at Willow on October 5th.  Larry recently installed the fuel cell, so I wanted to make sure that the gauges and fuel pumps are working okay under race conditions.  Larry also made some minor modifications in hopes getting rid of the oil blow by.  He also did a compression test and a leak down test, and the NSX passes both of those test, which is a good indication that maybe things are not as bad as we think they are. 

We decide to take the big trailer with the NSX and all the equipment in it to the track, instead of taking the little open trailer with minimal tools.  KRC did some minor tuning/maintenance on our Tony Karts, so we had them drop the karts off at Willow Springs.  Our plan was that at the track, Larry and Mark could work on the NSX, I could drive the NSX in test sessions, and both me, Wayne, and Jeff could rip around the karting track going clockwise (which is backwards) to practice for our next kart race which is now rescheduled to November 9th.  After each session in the NSX, Larry and Mark could take their time with any tuning/mods on it, and then I can hop in the kart.  Sounds like fun, right???

So Wayne, Larry, Mark and I ditch work and head for the track on Friday morning at 5:00 a.m.   Jeff also ditches work for part of the day, as he needs to get some practice in with his kart, as he missed the last race.

First session on the track with the NSX
Using old Hoosier tires from the previous Touring Car Racing Association event that I DNFed at, I am able to smoke around the track with 1:29/1:30 laptimes.  Now this is good news…despite the oil blowby from the last event, the NSX is making good power, even more power than at the last TCRA event.  Now this could be because weather conditions were better, or track conditions are better, or I am driving better, or the car is faster.  But I notice that I am hitting 139 mph at the end of the main straight, which is good considering I have the big wing on the car and my tires are bigger that stock(which means speed reads a little low).   At the previous TCRA race, I was hitting about 135 or so down the straight.  There is no smoke coming from the exhaust, so at least we know we are not burning oil through the exhaust.  I pull into the pit area, and we check the catch can.  Unfortunately, there is oil all over left side of the engine compartment, and I have blown about 12 ounces of oil into the catch can.  Oil is blowing through the top of the K&N filter.  Bummer.  Larry sits down and puts his thinking cap on, and Jeff, Wayne, and I head off to the karting track, which we are parked about 50 feet from. 

Despite all the crashing from last week with the karts, we decide to continue to do the close racing tactics again.  This seems like it is real good practice, as you can really find where potential passing areas are, and you can also practice countering another person’s pass.  Meaning if they drop down and pass you on the inside going into the turn, you can try to gather speed from the outside and then pass them back coming out on the outside of the next turn.  We do this for about 20 laps or so, then take a break.

We look at the catch can, and try to come up with different ways to fix it from filling up.  I say that we should take off the mini K&N air filter at the top of the catch can, and stick a rag in the air filter, which would then let the air blow by go through the air filter, but it would stop part of the oil from spitting out of the top of the air filter, and then the oil would dribble down harmlessly into the catch can.  Someone else says use paper towels to stuff the oil filter, and another person says stuff it with steel wool.  Whenever we go to the track, Larry always lugs around 6 large plastic bins with all kinds of "stuff" in them.  We bitch and moan at him for bringing so much stuff, but we usually end up using some of the "stuff" that he brings along.  Larry decides that instead of the air filter at the top of the catch can, he will use another steel braided hose (in his bin of stuff) instead to redirect the oil back into a new “wide body” throttle body (in his bin of stuff) that he brought to the track to test, plug the bottom hole of the catch can with a bolt (in his bin of stuff), and still use the middle hole of the catch can to suck in the blow by.   Jeff says that we are all on drugs, as if there is blow by, we are only treating the symptom, and not the actual problem of the blow by.   But we decide to test like this for the meantime, as we do want to go to Road Atlanta and hang out with the rest of the NSX drivers that are making the annual pilgrimage to the NSXPO convention.

Iteration #3:  Blow by enters via middle, to catch can, vapors exit out of top

I take the car out on the track.  This open test day is also being used by the HSR West, which means a lot of historic racecars are on the track.  I hookup behind some type of Martini and Rossi Formula car, and hang behind them for about half a lap and then they blast away.  Then I hop behind an older Lotus open wheel Formula car, and I think about passing him down the straight, but then I decide to hang back and see how he does through the turns.  Sure enough, he kicks my ass in the turns, but I make up some ground on the straights, but not enough to legitimately pass him and stay in front of him.  So I am content in ripping around the track right behind him.   I try to stay with him in turn 2 going 100 mph, but then the NSX gets a little loose near the end of turn 2, and I go spinning off into the dirt like an idiot.   I bring the car back into the pit area, with a little bit of dust on the car.  Larry checks the car, and at least we aren’t dripping oil out of the catch can and we aren’t spurting oil through the air filter, since we replaced the air filter with a direct return hose back into the throttle body.   So things are looking better, maybe we can make it to Road Atlanta.  But then Larry disconnects the catch can, and then pours about 12 ounces of freshly blown oil into an empty Snapple bottle.   So it looks like we lose about one ounce of oil per lap.  Which isn’t bad, considering that we are making real good power and are running fast lap times.  Wayne and Larry say that since the car is making excellent power, let’s just ship the car to Atlanta, whup some east coast ass on the Road Atlanta track <big grin>, and just empty the catch can after every session.  We aren’t blowing any smoke out of the exhaust (like what happen at last year’s NSXPO at Laguna Seca) so they think it is just a minor problem for the moment.  After some discussion, we decide not to take the NSX to Atlanta, as we could spend all this money to ship the car up there, and then have a ring break, and have the engine blow up.  Now that would be ugly, and expensive.  What would be even worse would be if I dumped oil on the track, spun going 120+ mph, and crashed into another car. 

Okay, so much for that, I figure I will get one more session in the Tony Kart before leaving the track.  I am following Jeff, and then suddenly my Tony Kart loses power and dies.   I try to restarted it, but the engine seems locked up.  Uh oh……..I think I blew up the Vortex motor.  

So let’s see, now we got:

  1. Wayne’s 944 Turbo motor is blown up.
  2. The Flamemobile motor seems to be in dire need of at least a ring job
  3. My Tony Kart Vortex motor appears to be blown up.
  4. The Ferrari has re-welded cracked headers and crummy tires.
  5. The NASDAQ has crashed and keeps heading downward, thus screwing up our "funding"

Looks like it could be a rough winter if this keeps up…….hopefully investor confidence in technology stock will rise again, and then we can generate enough cash to fix the cars and get back on the race track.  Hopefully we can make the Touring Car Racing Association events at Sears Point and Laguna Seca in December……otherwise, it looks like we will be spending more time driving the Tony Karts…

But there is a glimmer of hope in the distance.  Maybe the following will happen:

  1. Wayne can find a 944 Turbo Race Motor on Ebay for a decent price
  2. The used NSX engine that Larry obtained last month as a "spare" will turn out to be a good motor, and he can throw all the go-fast parts in my engine into this spare engine
  3. The Tony Kart motor can be fixed cheaply and quickly
  4. The Ferrari won't break for another six weeks
  5. Investors will realize that 99% of the "dot com" companies will never make money, and throw all their investment dollars back into real companies with real earnings (MSFT) instead of sitting scared on the sidelines holding their cash, and the NASDAQ will thus continue upward.

In the meantime, I guess I will get off my ass and start working on Volume IV of The NSX-Files…..I have two years and about 100+ hours of video tape to sort through. 

Stuff thrown in the trailer.  Looks like it will stay like this for a couple of months..