Got up early Friday to finish packing and hitch Lucy to the Suburban. Left work at noon, and after filling my two 5 gallon gas cans with cheaper MD gas, hit the road for PA. Met up with Jonathan Kendig and we caravanned the 240 miles to the host hotel getting there around 5. Quite a few ‘vairs were already there, so I visited until dinner. After a restless night of little sleep, I was up early and headed to the track. I mounted my spoiler, checked the air in the tires, marked the sidewalls, and emptied out Lucy all in preparation for the tech inspector that never came. At registration, we received a tech form that we filled out and signed and that was it. Next, it was the drivers’ meeting where the track layout and format for the day were explained. We had been divided into three groups and each group would get twenty minute sessions on the track until three, when the time trials would be run. The passing rules were also described – the two straightaways would be used and faster cars could only pass after receiving a point-by from the slower car’s driver. After the meeting’s conclusion ride-alongs were available for those who’d never driven the track before. I climbed into the back seat of one of BeaveRun’s school cars (an ex-cop car) driven by Chris (one of the track instructors). He drove three of us around the track and explained the proper line pointing out the cones that marked turn-ins, apex, and corner exits. All good info that jived with what I’d read and saw on the web. Then it was time for the first group to line up on the false grid. Once they’d entered the track, my group was called to line up. After a few minutes of standing around, I buckled in, donned my helmet, and got Lucy running to warm up. Suddenly, it was time to head out onto the track. We had been told there’d be two laps under caution before they turned us loose. Those two laps went by quickly. It’s funny how I had to run my caution laps almost full-out to keep up with everyone else’s caution speed. With the green flag out, it was time for me to let a few of the faster cars past me. I was able to stay ahead of a couple, so it wasn’t all embarrassment. I focused on hitting the marks and not pushing the brakes too hard. Street tires make it tough to carry lots of speed through the tight turns, but I was still having a blast. After about ten laps it was time to come in and park. Getting out of the car, I felt a little weak in the knees. The instructor that I did the ride-along with had offered to ride along with me if I wanted pointers, so I hunted him down and asked him to be ready to climb in the next time my group gridded. I had time to check the marks on the sidewalls before they announcement to head to the grid was made. Soon after Chris was buckled in, we got the signal to head out. It was great having a pro along. His advice was invaluable, urging me to brake later, pointing out other small corrections. There was only one mildly scary moment for us when I had to do some quick steering to keep Lucy on track. He calmly explained I should NEVER, EVER lift in the middle of a turn. I had missed the turn in point and had gone into the turn too hot. After that I felt so much smoother and felt like I was wringing the maximum out of Lucy’s tired, old engine and cheap, used tires. At the end of the session, he praised how much I was getting out of a 40-year old car with drum brakes. That made me feel good. I was able to get a couple more sessions in before lunch. During the last one, the first mechanical mishap occurred. I had come out of the hairpin in second gear and shifted into third at 5500 rpm. Almost immediately after I felt a pop under my right foot and I noticed the GEN/FAN light was illuminated. The fan belt had broken and hit the throttle linkage, so I shut off the ignition. At that point I had just passed the entrance to the pit, so I had to coast through turn 1 where right after there was a pull out area where I coasted off the track. The corner worker called the tow truck and with the session over, I came into the paddock on the end of a tow rope. I ate lunch and then attempted to install one of my spare belts. It was too short. It was one I’d bought at Advance Auto, and they’d mis-matched the length. I’d been able to get it on Ringo’s engine, but it wasn’t going on mine. Fortunately, I had a second spare that did fit. We had time to get two more sessions in after lunch, during which I was really pushing the car. I was able to get up to nearly 85 on the back stretch before late braking into the hairpin. The brakes and tires were really starting give up by the end of the last session, and then the replacement belt flipped off coming out of the same turn. I noticed it soon enough that I was able to get into the pits and coast to the paddock. I reinstalled the belt, this time a little tighter. It only had to make it four more laps of the time trials. We lined up on the false grid for our turn to be timed. The guy running the trials put two cars, staggered, onto the track at once. Each got a warm-up lap, two timed laps, and a cool-down lap. I was about eighth in line. Going through turn 4 on my first hot lap, I carried too much speed and as I hit the apex the rear end started coming around. I tried to keep my foot in it and catch it, but I overcorrected and she went all the way around. I ended up with the rear tires in the grass and the engine off. I was able to get her started and I pulled away. The rest of that lap and the next went off smoothly until I passed by the flag stand. I was expecting to see the checkered flag signifying my cool-down lap, but instead the flagman pointed me through. They were giving me another hot lap to make up for the one I’d lost with my spin. We were told to keep it floored through the flagstand because that’s where the timer was stopping the lap, so I kept my foot in it. As I let up to go into Turn 1, the belt came off again. Not wanting to hold up the show by pulling off and waiting for the tow truck, I decided to coast back to the paddock using the pit exit road. This is like the wrong way on a freeway on-ramp - typically bad things are going to happen. Since I knew they weren’t going to let anyone else on until my laps were done, I felt confident that I wasn’t going to cause any problem. After getting out of the car, one of the older guys came over and told me I needed to go see the coordinator and he was not happy. I walked up to Brian (whom I’ve had plenty of great conversations with) and he asked why I ignored the flagman. I explained that the belt had come off, and his demeanor immediately changed. “Okay, I needed to know why. If you want to, you can put another belt on and get back in line.” All’s good. I was out of that doghouse. I politely thanked him, but turned down his offer. I walked back to the car, feeling good about my one lap – all things considered. It only took about twenty minutes to remove the spoiler and attach Lucy to the Suburban. A five+ hour drive and I was home by 10:30.
Permanent Link to this Blog Post: