Portland International Raceway

Portland, Oregon, USA
May 7 and 8, 2005

On Thursday, Beaux and Dave at Sign-A-Rama in Woodinville finshed taping-up the car with the graphics Beaux had created. We ended up with The Lizard and a partial spiral on both sides on the rear, and a bright green skirt around the whole car. It looks awesome: the rear-end is really dressed up, and the skirt makes the car pop off the pavemet. The only problem is the very back of the car: there's nothing back there. We have to add a Sign-A-Rama logo soon so it looks completed.

Turnout at Portland was quite light. I got into line outside the track around 430pm on Friday after driving down during the afternoon. Traffic was flowing very well the whole way down, so my drive with the traier was less stressful than it has been in the past. I pitted with Carlo and Taryn and their Miatas, and Ralf Paul with his second-generation RX7. We saved some space for John Ament and Bessie, and their Miata.

After setting up and registering, I got through my technical inspection quickly because Ken had signed me off for an annual back in Mission. There's nothing like getting tech squared away quickly! I was able to go back to the hotel and register, and then Carlo and Taryn and I went to dinner. We hadn't spent much time together since the Thunderhill enduro, so we had a great time catching-up again.

On Saturday, I found Mark Cockle already at the track and waiting for me. The car was running great, and I had good traction. Mark suggested that I scrub-in my rain tires, which were sticker-new. So I did that in my Group 1 practice session, and then went back out in the afternoon to run the car hard on my slicks. I ran the practice and qualifying sessions and had great success. I twisted off a fast lap that put me in third place and set a personal record for myself: I finally got under one minute, 24 seconds!

At the driver's meeting, I had signed-up to do the novice driver observation. This is fun, and I had a great time out in turn eight making notes about what I saw. That part of the track is relatively simple, but quite important since it leads to a long sweeping corner -- which might as well be a straightaway. There were no major incidents in the novice races, and the drivers all looked great.

John found that his transmission was failing, and got stuck in fifth gear. Amazingly, he worked on repairing it with Carlo at the track and the were getting it together when I returned from the novice races.

We had a later dinner at the pizza joint, and hit the rack for some shuteye before the racing on Sunday.

All the weather reports said we'd have rain all day. When we awoke, we found the parking lot was soaked and there was a waning drizzle. But the rain went away and nothing happened! There were some threatening clouds at the track, but it didn't rain until the last race group was running--around 445pm.

My Group 5 race was just fantastic. I got around a GTL car and found myself in second place at the end of the second lap. All I had to do was keep the hammer down and not make any mistakes. Ahead of me was Rick in his CRX, and his car pulled incredibly fast out of the corners and on the straight. After the race, everyone who talked to me couldn't believe his car had more to it than my BMW. But there it was: I was going faster than I had ever done before, and couldn't catch the little ITA car.

After a great ITS race, I expected to take it easy through my C Production race. Boy, was I ever wrong.

A couple of laps into my C Production race, I found that I was in a great race with four other cars. I was trying to figure out if I was interrupting someone else's race -- maybe it was an SPM battle that I didn't need to be a part of -- when I picked up an odd vibation in the engine and lost power. I had really been taking care of the car, and was disappointed that it was breaking down on me. I coasted in after getting myself out of the way, and when I reached pit road the car ended up stalling. Fortunately, I coasted to the pits.

Mark helped me take off the intake elbow, and we found steam and foamy oil in the intake manifold. With no diagnostic tools at the track, we were hoping for the relatively minor problem of a blown head gasket. Unfortunately, the guys at Strictly later confirmed that the problem was actually a failed wrist pin. The piston head was left by the connecting arm to float around in the the engine, and eventually got blown into the bottom end -- after smashing the head and valves into being useless.

I hope everything to get back together in time for Seattle.