The Touring Car Racing Association at Willow Springs Sept 2/3, 2000

Pulp Racing vs. The Vettes and Vipers

The Flamemobile is all set to take on the Vettes and Vipers at Willow Springs
(photo by Colin)

(Disclaimer:  This is how I remember the event.  If there are any wrong facts in here, let me know.  If your browser shows broken links, hit the "refresh button" on your browser. You need to buy a faster internet connection!)

Wayne and I were not planning on running at the Touring Car Racing Association Race (Formerly known as the Touring Car Club/TCC) this particular weekend, as we were in Vegas the weekend before practicing on the karts, and the weekend after this car event, we are back at Vegas again for a kart race.  So it was pretty much three weekends in a row of racing, which is fun, but you can get burned out, because that means three weeks of prepping cars/karts/trailers to get ready for the races, three weekends of travelling, and three weekends of unpacking, etc.  We figure it takes 50+ hours to prep the big trailer and cars.  And that doesn't count NSX Modified labor hours, that is 50 hours just running around getting stuff for the trailer, packing the trailer, getting supplies, testing radios/cameras, getting race tires on the rims, moving the NSX and 944 Turbo from the mechanic shops to tire shops to dyno shops to alignment shops, washing the cars/trailers/truck, inventory of the tools and replacing missing supplies (since Larry rips off half my tools) etc.  It also means that on the race weekends we get about 4 hours of sleep a night, as we usually have to wake up at 3:30 a.m. in the morning to drive to the event, and around 5:30 a.m. for each of the race days.  In other words, it is a lot of fun, but it ain't no piece of cake.  You don't do this to do it to race.

So we were going to skip this event.  But then Mike Eckhaus calls us up, and he says that he and Sean are going to the TCRA event at Willow to test out their World Challenge ready Corvettes, and he said that the Viper guys are going to be there also in the race group.  Hey, now, that sounds like it could be fun, as Wayne and I can dice it up with Mike and Sean.  One of the Vipers guys has been kicking everyone's ass lately at the TCRA events, so we figure it could be a very competitive shootout to see who is on top.

We plan to get everything packed into the trailer by Wednesday afternoon, so we can relax on Thursday, and drive out on Friday night around 7:00 p.m., and try to miss the Labor Day Weekend traffic jams.  I hate running around with my head cut off the day before an event.  It is way too stressful, and since it is usually me that drives the truck/trailer, I like to be showered, shaved, and relaxed before towing a 15,000 lb. trailer with containing two cars, two bikes, 12 tires/rims, all of my tools in a big Craftsman rollaway, all of Larry's tools including exotic NSX only tools in five huge containers, 4 ice chests, 12 cases of water/Snapple, compressor, car lift, jacks, 7 gas containers, welder, vacuum, 12 chairs, 3 tables, extra car batteries, two car battery chargers, three camcorders, battery jump starter, 4 two-way radios with headsets, vise, 150 feet of extension cords, and a lot of other stuff that we need to be a full race shop at the track.

On Wednesday morning, Larry asks me if I want him to put in the new gas gauge for the fuel cell.  When we put the fuel cell in a couple of months ago, we hooked it up to the stock NSX gas gauge.  Unfortunately, it don't work like that, as the NSX gauge is calibrated to work with the stock fuel tank.  The fuel cell is actually a little bigger than the stock fuel tank by about 4 gallons, as it can hold a total of 22 gallons.  (Which we measured).  So for the past couple of races, I had to calculate how much gas we have by when the tank is full, and counting how many laps we did, and knowing that I get 4-5 miles to the gallon, and then doing the math.  But it is kinda irritating, especially since the fuel cell doesn't fill smoothly, it has to be "burped".  More on that later.  Anyways, I tell Larry not to touch a thing on the car, as it is working fine, and I don't want Raceaflais coming down upon us for any minor mods we do right before we pack the car in the trailer.

The Flamemobile headed down the straightaway
(photo by Colin)

Wayne gets his car back late from Dwayne's place.  He doesn't get the car back until Thursday afternoon.  I wanted the trailer packed the day before.  I was also a bit behind, as I was late getting my car aligned, but I was ready to start packing on Thursday afternoon.  Thursday afternoon, Wayne takes his car to Dave's Frame and Alignment, and Dave says that Wayne's car steers like crap.  It does, because Wayne's 944 Turbo has power steering, but in an attempt to save weight and get some "feel" in the wheel, Wayne's previous mechanic ripped out the power steering.  So instead of being a regular manual steering rack, it is a power steering rack with no power steering.  The difference is apparent when you drive it.  Have you ever driven a car with power steering, and turn the engine/battery off, and then tried to steer it?  You can barely turn the damn wheel.  And that is what Wayne's car feels like.

So Dale tells him that this sucks, and he can get a used manual steering rack Friday morning, take out old rack, install new rack, and alighn the car.  I see Raceaflais smiling down upon us, as everything should have been in the trailer on Wednesday night, now we are trying to make modifications to Wayne's 944 Turbo on Friday morning.......

Mike's Vette has been kicking our ass lately.  It is time for me and Wayne to take him down

Friday morning the rack comes in late.  Of course.  When it does come in, Dale takes out the old rack, and starts to put in the used manual rack.  One uh....doesn't fit.  Great.  The damn rack doesn't fit.  Mark from NSX Modified drives the car from Dave's Frame and Alignment back to Larry's shop.  Wayne goes by there, and they decide that Wayne will hunt around for another used manual steering rack that will work.  Larry takes out the manual rack that doesn't work, and waits for Wayne to find another rack.  Now it is Friday afternoon....and Raceaflais knows that he is in total control of this fiasco....

After marking a bunch of calls, Wayne finally finds another manual steering rack that will fit.  He calls Dwaine to verify that this rack will work.   Wayne goes out and picks up this other rack, and gets it back to Larry's.  But now it is about 4:00 p.m.  Larry starts putting in rack #2.  These steering gizmos are a pain in the ass to put in.  Larry gets it installed......and it appears that this rack is too short.  It won't work in Wayne's car.  Now it is 6:30 p.m.  Okay, so now Larry has to take out rack #2, and put in the original steering rack, and Wayne's car will now be back to where it was on Thursday afternoon....meaning a power steering rack that you can barely turn, and a car that is not aligned.   It is now 7:30 p.m., we are a half hour late.  Our plan was to get to Willow Springs by 10:00 p.m., get a good nights sleep, and wake up at 5:00 a.m. to go to the track and unload everything.  So much for that plan.  Wayne goes over to Larry's shop, and Larry is cursing about getting one last bolt on that is in a hard place.  Wayne can't understand what the problem is, so Larry takes a phone call, and tells Wayne, "Okay Redman, you do it".  Wayne tries to get the bolt in....and he curses for 30 minutes before he, Mark, and Jesse can maneuver the rack and the bolt into the slot.  Meanwhile, Mark Allen from San Diego is has been waiting there since 6:00 p.m., ready to go, as I told Mark don't be late, as we always pull out on time.   I almost have it to the point where before we leave, I tell Larry that we will be at the hotel room tonight at 10:05 p.m, and only miss the time by plus or minus two minutes.  I have conquered Time.  I can predict what time we will arrive anywhere in the western United States when we are driving before we leave for our destination, and only be off by minutes.....

Wayne saw this 20/20 program on TV, and they were showing how drivers with little sleep (like 4 hours or less), show reaction time similar to drunk drivers on the road.   This is scary, as we rarely get more than 4 hours of sleep the night before a race, sometimes we only get 2 hours of sleep, as we are thrashing around the night before, by the time we do get to bed, we are too excited about the next day's event to get to sleep quickly.  Kinda like how kids can't sleep the night before Christmas.  And then we are trying to take our cars at 135+ miles an hour around turn 8 at Willow Springs.  So we are desperate to get to the hotel and get some sleep.

Finally, around 9:45 p.m., we are ready to go to Willow Springs.  So much for conquering Time this weekend.  I have been pacing around my shop the past 3 hours,  pulling my hair out, as I want to get on the road and get some sleep.  So now we have to pack the trailer with Wayne's car, tie it down, put the rest of the stuff in the trailer behind Wayne's car, and get all hot and sweaty in the process.  So much for a relaxing drive.

Okay, so I am pulling the big rig at a steady rate sorta close to the speed limit (picture a runaway freight train going down hill). Mark from San Diego, on the other hand, rented one of those U-Haul open trailers for his NSX, and it is swaying back and forth behind his trailer whenever he goes over 45 mph.  Looks like it will be a long drive for Mark over to Willow, and he had to wait four hours for us to get our act together before we left.   We finally make it to Willow, and it looks like we might get about 3 hours of sleep tonight....

Brad's Ferrari 360 Modena
(photo by Colin)

The next morning, we wake up early, and get to the track.   So far, so good.  We unpack the circus, and then we try to get ready for the first run group at 9:00 p.m.  No matter how early we get to the track, we are always thrashing around to get ready for that first run group.   We have about 115 minutes to do the following:

1.  Unpack the trailer
2.  Unpack the cars
3.  Get front splitters put on cars (they won't go up the ramp into the trailer with them on)
4.  Check tire pressures
5.  Check radios
6.  Check cameras
7.  Get both cars teched by the TCRA inspectors.  Wait in huge long line for inspectors.
8.  Sign in for the event
9.  Attend the drivers meeting
10.  Get stickers on the car
11.  Setup Hot Lap transmitters at the track
12.  Test hot lap receivers
13.  Get racing gas put in the cars

For this morning's thrash around, we get everything done except for Wayne setting up his camera, and both of us setting up the two way radios.  Before our practice sessions, Colin, Bob, and Chris come by the trailer and introduce themselves.  They have been following this web page for a while, and they said that The NSX-Files is partially responsible for their coming out to this event, which will be their first track event ever.  They are all high school friends, all 18 years old, and this is the summer before they go to college for the first time.  I can barely remember when I was 18 years old and driving my dad's 1965 Mustang, which I cut up the interior and installed one of the first 200 watt Fosgate Amplifiers, Concord head unit with pre-amp disconnected, going directly into the Fosgate pre-amp, two Phillips tweeters and two 5.5 inch Phillips midranges in the doors, and two 12 inch woofers in the rear deck of the Mustang.  Back in 1977, this was big time stereo stuff, everyone else was upgrading their 3 watt factory radios to 12 watt Craig Powerplay stereos.   The Craig stuff was for amateurs.  Unfortunately, the Fosgate Amp was kinda like the Ferrari, it was absolutely fantastic, when it worked, but it blew up about every two months and had to be repaired.  And those amateurs with 12 watts in their cars seemed to always have tunes in their cars while I was busy trying to make sure my trunk didn't catch fire.  Anyways, I am digressing here.  The point I was going to make is that it would have been cool if I was at the track at 18 years old like Colin, Bob, and Chris, instead of waiting until I was 32 years for my first track event.  Shit, I would be REALLY fast by now.

Chris and Colin's vehicles were "Virgin Track Cars" prior to this weekend.  
(photo by Colin)

Okay, so we do our practice sessions, and Wayne and I are running high 1:32's or so around the track.  Wayne and I are kinda learning from the karts that suspension setup is everything, and we are trying to apply some of this to the cars in an amateurish way.  I notice that I used to be able to hit 100 mph around the turn 2 sweeper turn, but I am having problems holding 92 mph around there today.  Suspension tuning is a black art.  I know that we took out some of the rear wing angle on my car for the LA Street race, as we figured we would need more acceleration coming down those short straightaways, so maybe that is the problem.  We are pretty much running with the Vette guys and one of the Viper guys, but the other Viper guy is blowing by all of us like we are standing still.   TCRA checks some lap times during the last practice session, and they come up with the grid for the qual race for Saturday afternoon.  How you finish in the qual race determines how you will grid for the final race on Sunday.  TCRA's somewhat random timing comes up with:

1.  Silver Viper
2. Mike's Vette
3. Blue Viper
4. Sean's Vette
5. The Flamemobile
6. BMW
7. Wayne's 944 Turbo
8. and about 20 other cars here, including a bunch of spec racer cars.

The TCRA is getting some pretty big fields for their race group, it makes it really fun to race in as well as to watch from the grandstands.


The lineup for the qualifying race


Okay, so let's go to the play-by-play for the qualifying race.  Here's what the track looks like:

The Start. The Viper leads us to an 18 MPH rolling start.
(note: lap counter and laptime is not working on the Datacam)
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This had to be the slowest start speed for a grid I have seen. Usually it is around 30-50 mph.  But I guess the Viper on pole figured that since V10 motors kick ass 0-100, he opted for a low speed start so he can use his torque to outrun everyone.

Going into turn 1, the big HP cars pull away, and Wayne's adjustable boost kicks in
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Unfortunately for me, a supercharged NSX isn't as fast on a start as other cars that have big HP and big torque.  Wayne's 944 Turbo passes me on the start.  Damn, I thought I shut off the inside lane.  Wayne says it is because his reaction time is so fast that he blew by me.  I tell him that I know he turned up his adjustable boost, but he denies this.  

My Definition of "Adjustable Boost via Driver turning knob in cockpit"

Going into turn 3, it is Viper, Sean, Mike, Viper, Wayne.
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Under braking into turn 3, we catch up to the party.  At the top of the hill is the silver Viper, next is Sean's Vette, and Wayne is on the bumper of the blue Viper, who is on the bumper of Mike's Vette, and I am on the bumper of Wayne.  So far, the race looks pretty competitive.

Coming town the hill from turn 4, a white BMW M3 sneaks in on the inside.
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I go a little wide on the entry to turn 4, hoping to get a good run down the hill, but I didn't see the white BMW that was on my butt, and he takes the inside line and squeezes me out.  Damn.  The BMW blocks the passing lane on me pretty good for 2 laps, and then I finally get around him.  Meanwhile, Wayne and company are almost a quarter mile in front of me by now......

About 4 laps later, I reel in Wayne, who is hot on the tail of Mike's Vette going into turn 4
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Four cars wide coming down the front straight
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I get an excellent launch out of turn 9.  Going down the front straight, Wayne and Mike lap slower traffic, with Wayne on the left, and Mike on the right.  I get such a good run that I also pass the slower traffic AND I get by Wayne into turn 1.  The lap prior to this, Wayne said that he finally got around Mike, but then his boost gauge went down from 22 lbs to 17 lbs of boost, and Mike passed him back later in the lap.  Wayne claims that the only reason that Mike got by him again and me passing him in the above picture is because he started to lose turbo boost.  Yeah right.....

I pass Wayne, two slower cars, but I can't get by Mike going into Turn 1.
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Huge controversy here.  I made a copy of this video tape to show Larry, Jesse, and Mark what a good race it was.  They look at the tape and then accuse me of driving like a wimp.  I look at them like they are Crackhead Bob Fred the Elephant Boy, and Beetlejuice, and having them explain to me how to drive wheel-to-wheel.   "What are you talking about?", I ask them.  They said that there were numerous places that I should have passed Mike.  I tell them they have no clue of what they are talking about.  They point to this scene above, and said that the lane was clear and that I should have stormed in with the Brembos and passed Mike on this turn.  I review the tape and ask them, "What the hell are you talking about.  There is NO WAY that would have worked".  They insist I should have went for it.  I calmly explain that they should leave the driving to me, and I won't tell them how to install superchargers and build short gear transmissions.  So I explain to them the reasons that I didn't pass here are the following.

  1. Look at Mike's car.  It is at least three car lengths in front of me.

  2. And, he is moving in towards the apex for the fast line through the turn.  He can legitimately claim rights to that apex.

  3. In order for me to claim the apex, I have to be be on the inside of Mike, AND the nose of my car needs to be even with Mike's door, so he can clearly see me next to him and that I have the "right" to grab the apex on the left hand side.  Unfortunately for me, I am a good three cars behind Mike.  I cannot claim that apex as mine.  It turns out that Mike ended up leaving racing room in that turn, as he did not dive all the way to the apex, so it appears to Crackhead Bob Fred the Elephant Boy, and Beetlejuice, that there is room there for me to dive in.  Wrong wrong wrong.

  4. I also calmly explain to them that Mike has the fast outside line through the turn, and I have the slow inside through the turn.  Even if I was to dive into the turn, go side by side through the turn, Mike's momentum would be better than mine, and since his straightline speed is slightly faster than mine, he would beat me to the next right hand turn (turn 2) anyway.

  5. Therefore, diving in like a yahoo with the Brembos to grab the apex in this scenario is a futile effort, as it could create a situation where Mike and I could bang fenders and go spinning off the track.  And, even if I was to pull it off so that Mike and I go side by side into the turn, Mike still beats me to the next corner, as the next turn is a right hander.  Thus, it is an unnecessary risk, with absolutely nothing to gain.  Better to wait for another passing opportunity.  The only way that this would work is if Mike spun off the track and I didn't, or if Mike missed a shift coming out of this turn.  Given that I haven't seen Mike spin off the track in 4+ years of racing, and he rarely misses a shift, it is better to set up for another turn to make the pass.  If you watched the Formula One races the past couple of races (prior to the Indy Race), Schumacher crashed going into the first turn because of confusion between drivers as to who had "rights" to the apex into the first turn, as people didn't see who was diving in on them.  This happens all the time in our KRC kart race, with people yelling at each other as to who had rights to the line into the corner after a big pileup.  It is usually the fault of the guy behind, who tried to pass when he had no right to dive underneath another person.

  6. The ideal pass when you have cars that are similar in speed is where you get a better launch out of a turn than the person you are chasing so you have a little bit better momentum down the straightaway/exit of turn, then get right behind the other car to get a little bit of a draft, and then juke out and pass the car using either power or Brembos into the next turn.  

Of course, Larry, Jesse, and Mark still disagree with me.  I suggest that they participate in an "Intro to Time Trialing" class in their street cars, and maybe drive around a race track at least ONE LAP at speed before they start giving me, the "NSX Modified UnOfficial Test Driver" any tips on passing in a wheel-to-wheel race....

Anyways, on the next lap, Wayne starts trying to chase me and Mike going into turn 8, the deadly sweeper turn.  Wayne is going about 125 mph, when he sees  the following in his windshield:

Below is an artist rendition (note: Not a very good artist), of what the spectators saw of Wayne's car as it entered turn 8:

Wayne's car looked like this after the engine blew up

Wayne said that he heard a "Blam", and then he saw a big fireball come up from his front hood, and then smoke entered the cockpit and he couldn't see.  Meanwhile, coolant/oil dumped from his engine onto the ground, which means his rear tires hit the slippery liquid, and then he went off of turn 8 at 125 mph in REVERSE into the dirt.   Bummer for Wayne.  Afterwards, the spectators said that it appeared to them that he jumped out of the car as the car was still moving.  Wayne said he jumped out so fast that it just appeared that the car was still moving.  Wayne grabs the fire extinguisher out from the car, pulls the pin, and starts putting out the fire.  1.5 seconds later, the extinguisher is suddenly empty, but at least the fire stopped by itself.  So it appears that Wayne is a DNF for the weekend.  He insists that he did not put the boost over 22 lbs, but we all think he is lying, and the reason he passed me on the start so fast and the reason he got by Mike was due to his engine running 30 lbs of boost.  Wayne insists it was driving skill.

Okay, so back to the race.   I need to get a good run on Mike coming out of turn 9, which then gives me a shot at getting right on his bumper to attempt a CLEAN pass going into turn 1.  In turn 9, I setup on the extreme outside to launch into the apex like a slingshot, but then out of nowhere comes a Mustang driven by Blaine Butler who takes the extreme inside line and passing me going into turn 9.  Damn.  Blaine's car  has 297 HP at the rear wheels, and his suspension is setup by Global West Suspension Systems.  It seems that Global West hooked him up real good, as his car was ripping around turns pretty well, including taking tough inside lines on turn 8 and 9.

Setting up on the extreme outside of 9, except Blaine in the Mustang takes the inside line
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I don't know where the hell the Mustang came from.  I didn't even know he was close to me.  Anyways, he snags the extreme inside line, but ya all know what happens when ya take the extreme inside line.....the guy on the outside racing line can get on the throttle faster, so halfway down the straightaway, I pass the Mustang, and continue to chase Mike.

Passing the Mustang (Left) since he took extreme inside line on turn 9
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I notice that my stupid twelve dollar side view mirrors that I got from Pep Boys can't take the wind at 135, and they bend at the wrong angle, so now I cannot see people on the side of me.  Bummer, now I can't see when I have to protect the inside line.  Anyways, I catch back up to Mike in turn 2, and I take the outside line again to launch into the apex and try to get a run on Mike down the straight, when again, that damn Mustang sneaks into the inside line, and grabs apex from me.   Damn......I shoulda blocked the inside.

Damn Mustang takes inside line and passes me again
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Okay, that was a pretty slick move.  But I know I am faster through turn 9, so I will try again to get him back.   I setup for turn 9 real wide to get a good launch behind the Mustang, and the Mustang again takes the extreme inside line to now to pass Mike on the inside.  The Mustang was hooked up real good to take the extreme inside line and make it around turn 9 without wiping out!

Entering turn 9, Mustang on the inside, Mike on the outside
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Alright, now Mike realizes that the Mustang has the inside line to the apex, so Mike lets him have the apex in front of him, but since Mike and I are setup on the outside, we get another good jump on the Mustang going down the straight.

Due to good launch, I pass the Mustang AGAIN down the straight
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Due to our good launches from the outside, both Mike and I pass the Mustang down the straight going into turn 1.  We all see the white flag, there is one lap left in the race.  Time for some desperation moves.....

Going into turn 3, there is slower traffic.  I am behind Mike, who is behind a CRX.  Mike shoots to the inside towards the apex.  I shoot to the outside, hoping the CRX will try block Mike's move to the apex, and then I can get around the outside of both the CRX and Mike.  Unfortunately, the CRX jukes to the right, opting to take the faster line outside line, and makes room for Mike.  Damn...that means, the CRX jukes in front of me.  And since I am setup on the outside line with a slower car infront of me, that means, yes, racing fans......the Mustang again snags the inside line, pass me and the CRX.  Damn....I guessed wrong.....

CRX goes to outside, blocks me, and Mustang snags the inside into turn 3.
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Okay folks, so half a lap left, I need to pass that Mustang to take 4th place in this qual race, so you know what I need to do......I need one last good launch out of turn 9 towards the checker.

Tower is waving the checker flag, I gain on the Mustang down the straight....
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I get a great launch out of 9 as you can see I am going 130 mph, and I am still a long ways away from end of the straightaway.   I start gaining quickly on the Mustang.....but Blaine beats me by 4 feet to the checkered flag.   Damn.   But that was a fun race, and this is why wheel-to-wheel racing is the coolest thing you can do (next to dating supermodels).

It turns out that the Mustang was disqualified, because he supposedly passed under yellow.  So I end up taking 4th place behind the two Vipers and Mike.

Okay, time for dinner.  Colin, Bob, and Chris (the innocent 18 year olds) want to find out where dinner is, so we tell them we think we are going to the steakhouse, and to meet us there if they like.  For dinner, they hang out with us and the rest of the NSX geeks.  I tell the 18 year olds that they are lucky we aren't in Vegas, otherwise, Wayne, Larry, and I would be creating scenarios for them like the movie "American Pie", since it is their last summer before their first year at college.   We would have definitely gotten them into a bunch of trouble in if we were in Vegas...we would have made them "Almost Famous".......

Chris, Colin, and Bob hanging out with the Pulp Racing dudes
(photo by Colin)

Sunday morning.
I wake everyone up at 5:45 a.m., so we can get out to the track and setup for the last day.  Mark and I fill up the NSX with racing gas.  For some reason, the fuel cell has to be "burped", meaning we can't just can pour fuel straight it, we have to pour for about 10 seconds, then stop and let the air out, or the gas comes burping back out.  Larry says he thinks something is wrong with the breather.  Remember, I don't have a gas gauge, as I told Larry to wait until after the race to put the gauge in.  So Mark and I screw around with the gas cans and funnels, and we put about 10 gallons into the car, and it is burping more and more, as if it is almost full.  But we can't tell for sure, we don't have a fricking gauge.  Larry pulls off the panel behind the drivers seat, unscrews a metal plane and looks at the fuel threw a small opening using a flashlight, and says that the cell is almost full to the top, as he can visually see the fuel level in the tank.  So, in my mind, there is now 22 gallons of gas in the car, figure I get worse case 4 miles to the gallon (Larry made some adjustments to the fuel regulator), I can go 88 miles.  I do about 10 laps of practice (25 miles), and then park the car and wait for the final race.   I do not want to add gas, as I don't want to carry too much extra weight.  By doing the math, the final race is 15 laps, which is 37 miles, so I should have at least 5 or 6 gallons of gas left after the race is over, which is a good buffer.  I do pretty good on gas calculations, as on previous enduros, I have calculated almost to the lap as to when we will run out of gas, or when the light will come on. 

We adjust the wing on my car, hoping to get a little more downforce in the curves to catch up with the Vipers and the Vettes, and then trying to launch out of these turns a little faster to try to pass them into the next turn.   At least that is the theory.  It seems to help, as I can hold about 98 mph through turn 2, when yesterday I was only getting about 92 or so.  But then again maybe it is just because the track conditions are better...who knows....

The Grid for the final race, right as the green flag is thrown.  
(photo by Colin)

The Vipers do the running start from 50 mph this time.  There is also another grid of Formula type cars behind the main grid, so there are a lot of entries on the track.  I start 4th, and end up 4th going into turn 1.  We stay like this for 6 laps.  The silver Viper is giving us an ass whupping.  Mike is dogging the blue Viper, and I am dogging Mike.  The three of us are racing pretty closely. 

Turn 2, and Mike is trying to launch wide to chase the Viper into next turn
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Bumper to Bumper at 104 mph into turn 3, braking hard so I don't crash into Mike
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This goes on for about seven laps.  The blue Viper is doing a little blocking on Mike, and Mike is doing a little blocking on me.  We are running low 1:31's for lap times.  This should get real interesting once we start to lap slower traffic, as it should be a great race, trying to dodge between all the slower cars.

But then...suddenly I start to lose power, and the engine sputters.   Uh oh....what's going on.   I stumble through another half lap, with just about everyone in the field passing me........and now the car is starting to die.  I have to pull over off the inside of Turn 8, and helplessly watch the field.  Mike, the Viper, and another Trans Am fight it out for 2nd place, weaving  through slower traffic.  Damn that looks like fun...

After the race is over, (The silver Viper kicked everyone ass), I get towed in by the emergency truck, as the car won't start.  I am praying that I didn't blow the engine.  Larry and Jesse check the car, and say that the fuel pressure gauge shows zero, which means.......we are out of gas.   I tell them that cannot be true, as I can calculate to the lap how far I can go.  And in this race, I only went about 8 laps before I ran out of gas, and I should have been able to run at least 20 more laps worse case, and it is only a 15 lap race, how can this be?   Larry and Jesse say that I am doing the math wrong.  We put in five gallons of gas into the car, and the car fires up!  At least my engine isn't blown.  I yell at Larry saying that he gave me a visual that the tank was almost full, and I based all my calculations on that.  I ask Larry about 10 times in the next two hours, "Are you SURE you saw the fuel level?".  Each time, he says "Yes, Dammit, I saw the fuel level. "A couple of people come by to see what happened, and I have to tell them.....uh...I think we ran out of gas.  They look at us like we are boneheads, saying, "Don't you have a fuel gauge?".  I tell them, "No, but I did the math", which probably doesn't make me look too intelligent.

Well, so it looks like the Vipers and Vettes kicked my ass and Wayne's ass.  But at least we know we can run with them (well, maybe not the silver Viper), and after viewing the video tape, I think I can pickup another second or so, and maybe I can run consistent 1:29's next time we go out to Willow.  So now, it is back to the drawing board, and we have to figure out this fuel cell/fuel gauge fiasco.  If Larry really saw the fuel level up high, maybe the fuel pickup point is up too high?  We won't know until NSX Modified takes out the fuel cell again.....

This Viper took Pole, 1st in qual race, and 1st in final race.  Can you say "Ass Whupping"
(photo by Colin)