Kent, Washington, USA
May 21 and 22, 2005
Incredibly, Strictly managed to find, clean-up, and install a new engine in my race car. I just couldn't believe it. In fact, they were done on Friday morning. I stopped by the shop and picked-up the car, and was on the track by noon.
After warming up the engine for an extended period, I ran an easy session the first time out because of the rain. The weather was violently changing, and it was tough to get clear track time. This was fine for my needs, though: I could shake down the car slowly and begin the process of getting used to the new sounds and smells the engine would make.
The weather cleared just as I began to get ready for my second test session. Unfortunately, a BMW E30 driver crashed his car hard a few hundred yards ahead of me--on my first lap! The car was likely totalled; I couldn't find a panel that wasn't bent. Because of the complexity of the cleanup, the session was stopped. It's frustrating when a single driver's misjudgement costs time for everyone in the session.
Later in the afternoon, I finally got a clean dry session and started leaning on the car. I couldn't find anything wrong, though the engine certainly sounded quieter and felt a bit more responsive than the old unit had.
Bruce and Mark were there for their first run of the season. They had some problems with their exhaust, and before I had arrived, drove it to a muffler shop to be welded. The shop ended up welding the pipe backwards, so Mark and Bruce had to load their car up, drive back to the shop, and have them weld it again. The day ended up almost a total loss for them.
I hung around for a while and got my registration done. I went home and had a nice dinner and got some sleep. While waiting for registration, the winds really picked up. I had to disassemble Bruce's unmanne tent because it was getting ready to blow away. Within 45 minutes, the storm passed to the north and we hardly got wet.
When I returned to the track the next day, I was relfecting on how my home track involved the longest commute. When I visit any other city, I stay at a hotel very close to the track. In Seattle, I go back home. One way, from Pacific Raceways to my home, is almost an hour of driving!
There was a bit of a line at tech inspection in the morning because the station was unmanned. Eventually, I had my gear checked and my sticker in hand. I went out to practice and qualify and turned a pretty isappointing time. The problem was obvious: my tires, from last year, were shot. I was babying the car a little bit since I was terrified of having more expensive problems, and that probably didn't help either.
After uneventful sessions, I hauled my old tires home and loaded the Jeep with some fresher rubber from my garage. And that move paid off!
On Sunday, I ran a qualifying time in ITS that still wasn't so great, but was far closer to my potential. In C Production, I manged to click off a time that was within a few tenths of the record I had set for myself last year, around 1:40.5. Guy stopped by to tell me that he had to move his car to DP because of his Lexan windows. This was very disappointing to me, as I couldn't understand why the safer window material gave him any competitive advantage. He still had to make the same minimum weight, and so I couldn't understand how he gained any advantage.
I ran a great ITS race, coming in third of six cars. There wasn't much traffic for me after the first few laps, and I managed to have fun and stay out of trouble. The CP race wasn't much fun: I had nobody to race with. A faster PRO3 car moved away from me at the beginning of the race, since I got stuck behind a Dodge Viper that had a rough corner or two at the start. I couldn't reel in the PRO3 car, and walked away from the other PRO3 cars behind me. In that bubble, I just cruised home and listened to my engine.
During one of the Sunday qualifying sesisons, the car had a terrible vibration which seemed to shake the whole rig. I couldn't figure out what was causing it, so I slowed down. It only happened once again, and never manifeste itself during the races. The issue is a bit worrying, but I'm thrilled with the way the car came together and that the guys at Strictly got me back racing so quickly.