this sets the tone for the rest of the season, it is
going to be..."
<<==== Click for short Video
I think the word the
announcer in the video clip was
going to use was "awesome",
but I'm not sure. That was my spin,
which I showed from inside the car during one of my
videos on the Daytona Race page. Well, its
nice to make the highlight reel, but I'm not sure
this is the right way to do it! Thanks to
Brian Phillips of
Rehagen Racing for capturing that clip for me.
I've been reminded that
its been too long since we've had an update, so I
decided to take some time to get you up to speed on
our team developments. The Grand Am Cup racing
season has a huge gap in it from January to April,
and its hard to keep your enthusiasm and energy
level up during that time. It hasn't been made
easier by the fact that coming off the Daytona race,
Danny and I knew we had a lot of work to do before
the April VIR race.
Thinking back on
Daytona, I have to hand it to Danny and Doc when
they insisted we get the car back out on track to
finish the race. I was thinking that
after our 30 minute "pit stop", we ought to just
pack the car up, but in retrospect that would have
been a huge mistake.
I now know that
finishing the race, despite all the hardships, means
something. I don't why it matters so much to
me that we finished, but it does. That
was an important lesson that I won't forget.
Since Daytona, Danny and
I have been taking the RX-8 to the track to try to
work out any remaining reliability issues with it,
and just to get some more practice. Or at
least attempting to, because sometimes mother nature
just wouldn't cooperate.
February 11, 2006 - VIR
The Tarheel Sports Car
Club rented Virginia International Raceway, aka "VIR",
February 11-12 for a driving school / time trial, so
Danny and I made plans to instruct so we could get
some track time. A week before the event, the
weather forecast was pretty good, but as we got
closer, it became iffy at best. Rob and Nick
were going to bring up an RX-8 or two from their
Roar Team as well.
F&S Enterprises - these guys go to track
events and races, and take quality photographs, like
this one. The day started out 35 degrees and
wet, so I decided to have a few laps in my street
car, a BMW 325i, but that was all
the track time I got. By noon the rain turned
to huge puffy flakes of snow, so the weekend was
over almost as soon as it had begun. The event
was closed down by lunch time.
While I was on track
"playing around", Danny and Doc and Rob and Nick
were having a "come to Jesus" meeting to discuss the
future of our team effort. The meeting lasted
three long hours, and during this time, it was
decided that we would split from Rob and Nick (Roar
Racing) - we would agree to disagree, so to speak.
So now we are a 1 car
team - Doc owns the car, and Danny and I rent it
from him for the remainder of the season.
Here are the key changes:
relationship with Roar is over.
2) Roar won't be
transporting our car, so we have to make other
arrangements to get it to/from the races.
3) Doc won't be
supporting Roar any more, so he will have more
dedicated time to work on our car.
The net of it is, that
neither side was getting what it needed out of the
partnership. Actually, its been
like a soap opera behind the scenes - heck, I could
write a book about what goes on, but then I wouldn't
have any friends left!!! Some things are
better left unsaid, just remember there are always
two sides to the story, and I'm not planning to use
this website as a bully pulpit.
February 26-27, 2006 -
Roebling Road Raceway
A couple of weeks pass,
and we make another attempt at getting some track
time. The BMW Club is renting Roebling Road
for a drivers school, so Danny and I sign up to
instruct. Its halfway between North Carolina
and Miami, so Doc will tow the car up from his shop
in Florida, and Danny and I will drive down and meet
And while rain follows
us like a shadow, this time we aren't deterred.
It rained all day Saturday, but Doc planned ahead
and picked up a gently used set of rain-specific
racing tires from Sylvain Tremblay at SpeedSource,
so now we could practice in the worst of downpours.
Sylvain is just a great guy, and a real asset to the
Mazda Motorsports community.
The weather clears up
nicely for Sunday, and here you see Doc
continuing to tune the programming on the RX-8's ECU
/ computer. The car makes pretty good
power on the top end, but the part-throttle response
is pretty poor, so it still needs some more work.
The body damage from Daytona hasn't been fixed at
this point, but with a little "persuasion" the
passenger doors now open.
The car handles
fairly well on track, and we are getting some much needed
practice, but unfortunately we discover that the
fuel system problem that caused our 30 minute "pit
stop" at Daytona still isn't fixed. This is
despite the fact that back in his shop Doc has been
working on the fuel system, and swapping out every
moving part or electrical component that could cause
The RX-8 fuel tank is
really like 2 fuel tanks - a passenger side and a
drivers side, with this hump in the middle that goes
over the drive shaft tunnel, kind of like a pair of
saddle bags. The fuel pump itself sits inside
the tank on the drivers side (indicated by the
number "3" in the diagram above). It has a
scavenging tube which crosses over the "hump" in the
middle, and allows it to siphon fuel from the
passenger side. It seems like we can only use
about 1/2 the fuel in the tank before the fuel
pressure drops and becomes inconsistent - so our
first inclination was that the siphoning tube was
clogged or disconnected. So we remove a cover
on the passenger side of the tank, and we can see
with our own eyes that side of the tank is bone dry
(which is good). In fact, all of the remaining
fuel is on the driver's side of the tank where the
fuel pump sits. How strange. We try
different fuel pumps and that doesn't fix it. So we
are back to the drawing board, but this time we have
at least eliminated a few culprits.
Danny and I load the car
on his trailer. Danny will take the car back
to Jon's shop, German Speed Merchants, in
Wilmington, NC. This is because we are
planning to do some more testing with the car at VIR,
and this way Doc won't have to transport it all the
way from Florida every time we want to drive it.
We drew straws and I
lost, so I got the task of driving the car into the
trailer, and crawling out the window. You can
see its a pretty tight fit - I'm going to need to go
back on that diet...
3-5, 2006 - VIR Grand East Course
I'm in Hawaii
vacationing with my wife, but Danny is able to take
the car to VIR by instructing for a BMW drivers
school. He reports back that the fueling
problem is fixed. Doc came up to Wilmington
and replaced some more of the hard plastic
components inside the fuel tank, and we can now draw
down to about the last 2 1/2 gallons in the tank
before we get fuel starvation. I'm not sure
that is good enough, though, to make it through a
2+ hour race on one fuel stop. Our fuel mileage
is pretty abysmal and it looks like we can only go
about 57 minutes max before we get bad fuel
starvation. And I suspect that number may be
optimistic. Of course, some full course
yellows during the race will stretch our mileage,
but not by much, because typically the pace during
the yellows is still pretty high. Maybe
with some more work on the fuel mapping of the
computer, we can improve that.
F&S Enterpises photo, with Danny at the wheel.
Here you can see the body repair on the RX-8 has
commenced. You can view more photo's from this
event at their website.
Afterwards, Danny negotiates with Doc to buy the
RX-8 outright. It turns out Danny had invested
with Doc in the development of the car, and he
already had an interest in it.
So in less than a month, the racing team has reorganized once more.
1) Danny is team
owner. He owns the car, and he has the final
say on everything. I rent my "seat" from Danny
now, not from Doc.
2) Doc is now an
engineering consultant to the team. As we speak, Doc has built another RX-8 for Mike Smellie and
some other driver to compete in. This
car may be ready for the VIR race next month.
So Doc will be pretty busy with his other effort,
but he should have some time at the races to help us
with our car as needed.
3) Jon's German
Speed Merchants shop will provide race support.
GSM will prepare the car between races and provide
4) Danny will take
responsibility for transporting the car to races.
Occasionally Jon might help out in that regard,
particularly when we are taking the car to "test
So this test day is
pretty successful. The fueling problem is
declared fixed, and Danny got a whopping 400 miles
of practice with the car.
2006 - VIR North Course
Mazda Club is renting
the North Course of VIR for the weekend. You
know the drill - Danny and I sign up to instruct.
Instructing gives us the freedom to hop in the RX-8
pretty much anytime we want and take a few laps in
it. It does carry with it the responsibility
of riding with other students and making sure they
have a safe and fun event. All-in-all it
means a pretty busy weekend for us - hopping in and
out of student cars, and into the RX-8 for practice,
in an almost continuous rotation.
Its a chilly March weekend,
temperatures in the high 30's, and clouds threaten
rain throughout the day. We are
supposedly in a drought here in the east, but lately
every track event has included some rain.
Jon hauled the car up in his GSM trailer - Danny
wasn't going to be able to join us until the second
day - he was vacationing with his family on a
cruise. Better get that in now, because once
the season starts back up, you won't have time for
that kind of thing.
Its a pretty heavy rain
in the morning, and we didn't bring rain tires - an
oversight on our part.
I go out on the slicks and can't keep the car on
track (I go off twice in one session), so I decide
to pack it in until it dries up a bit.
People are joking about how dorky I am driving, but
in my defense, I am on slicks, and the water was
puddled all over the place. The Grand Am Cup
Hoosiers have no grooves what-so-ever, so they are
very different from the standard club race Hoosiers.
Plus they are a relatively hard compound that
refuses to heat up in the cold temps. Excuses,
excuses, I know. Fortunately the rain clouds scatter, and we get a
little sun for the middle part of the day.
Its now purple.
Well, not all the way purple. Purple and red.
Danny had told me he has arranged for some guy to put some
fancy graphics on it, so you hardly won't notice its
two different colors. I've seen some
photo-shopped pictures of the car with the new
graphics, so I'll reserve judgment until we see the
No more body damage.
The body shop did a great job getting the car ready.
Of course no one at the Mazda event recognized the
car, which gave us kind of a stealth profile for the
weekend. People would come up and ask us if we
brought the Grand Am Cup car with us, when they were
standing next to it.
Today the car runs
without incident, and Jon has very little to do
except try to stay warm by catching the few rays of
winter sun that occasionally peek through the
clouds. We don't seem to have any type of fuel
starvation issues, which is a very good thing.
Its nice to have that issue behind us.
The overall engine
drive-ability is still causing me fits - the engine
backfires and pops when you breathe off the
throttle, making it difficult to smoothly balance
the car in turns. Under full throttle its
fine, but anything less than that and the car can be
somewhat unpredictable - you give a little lift off
the gas (maybe to transfer some weight to the front
in order to get the nose to tuck-in), and it may
turn into a really big lift even though you barely
moved the throttle. Then you have to "catch"
the car, which makes it difficult to drive smoothly.
So we have some work to do.
Jon has some experience
with programming engine computers, and since Doc
can't be with us during all of these test weekends,
we decide it would be a pretty good idea if he could
figure out how to tweak the computer.
So Jon and I decide to
pop open the hood and see if we can't figure this
thing out. Unsnapping the underhood plastic
covers that house the RX-8's computer, we find a
shiny silver metal box that seems to be velcro-ed on
top of the standard Mazda ECU (Engine Control Unit).
There are no logo's on this box - they have been
removed for some reason. Doc probably peeled
them off to keep
casual observers from knowing exactly what it is -
racers want to keep their technology secret, after
all. But I'm not going to do that - once we
figure out what this sucker is, I'm going to let you
know. Doc's going to kill me when he reads
Hmmm, this is curious.
It appears that this silver box is a "piggy back"
type computer - it doesn't replace the Mazda ECU,
but it plugs between the ECU and the car, and
modifies the ECU's output to the fuel injectors and
the spark plugs. Its not as
sophisticated as the Motec Engine Management that
the SpeedSource cars run. The Motec systems
completely replace the Mazda ECU, and can run as
much as $8,000, while something like this piggy-back
unit can be had for under $1000 dollars.
I find the word "Trust"
in small letters on the unit, and what appears to be
a model number. I whip open my laptop (and
using the free wireless network that VIR provides -
awesome), I eventually come up with this:
THE e-MANAGE ULTIMATE (Engine Control Unit
"Ideal for optimizing
and fine-tuning performance products such
as; Exhaust, Air Intake, Intercoolers, Boost
Controllers and Turbo upgrades, the e-manage
Ultimate does it better than any other
system on the market. The GReddy e-manage
Ultimate does what no other piggyback ECU
can, engineered to preserve the best
features of the original e-manage
(Economically priced, there is no need for
tuning from scratch and it is compatible
with most Japanese performance vehicles).
Some of the new Ultimate features include;
add and subtract fuel and ignition maps, a
two-preset memory, A/F Target Map (for self
tuning), built-in adapters and correction
maps, and extensive data logging with Map
Tracing for easier tuning. The new e-manage
Ultimate includes the Support Tool CD to
access all features from a standard USB
Ok, now we know what we
are dealing with. We don't have the
Greddy software or the cable to talk to this thing
from my laptop, so we are temporarily stuck.
Jon is going to deal with this when he gets the car
back to the shop. He's going to order the
software and the cable, and take a stab at
tweaking the programming. We don't want to
lose the valuable work that Doc has done, but we have to
improve the engine drive-ability because the way it
is right now, it's taking some of the fun out of
this! Its making the car a bit of a chore to
drive, instead of a pleasure.
I throw the video camera
in the car, and manage to record a session.
Its a drivers school so we can't officially time the
car, but we can go back and look at video to see how
we are doing. This lap on the video was a 1:43 - I
estimate we need to do a 1:39-1:40 on the North Course in
order to be halfway competitive with top running Grand Am ST cars.
But given the track conditions (cold, starting to
rain), the fact that it
wasn't a completely unobstructed lap (I had to enter
turn 7 off line to get by a Porsche) and that we are running on old tires (costing about 1-1.5 seconds), this might not be too bad.
<<<==== Click on Picture for Video
The next day arrives with a little more sunshine, so
no rain is in the forecast for a change.
And speaking of Mr.
Sunshine, Danny Warbucks has flown up this
morning in the ol' Seawind 3000, and he seems well rested from
his weeklong cruise through the Caribbean with his
family. This gas powered golf cart is Danny's newest
toy, and a very worthwhile purchase. Race
track paddocks are huge, and often you are pressed
for time. Not to mention it can be 1/4 mile
walk to the rest room. So for the races it is
invaluable to have a pit cart that you can use to
carry tires or tow your massive toolbox around with,
or to just go to the bathroom.
The rear seat flips down to make it
like a pickup truck, so you can carry tools, tires,
etc, or flip it back to carry people.
Its a fairly uneventful day.
Danny and I spend it flogging the RX-8, burning up
the old leftover tires we have from Daytona.
These Hoosiers are fairly slow wearing tires, which
means after we race on them, we can practice on them
for several weekends - but they definitely get hard
to drive on as they get used up. ALL of the
racing and practicing we have done up to now, has
been on 3 sets of tires. As they age,
they lose about "2 seconds of grip" compared to a
new tire (on a typical lap) - I base this on
back-to-back testing I did at Roebling back in
January. Today we finally
wear one tire down to the cord, and discover that its not
at all like the Hoosier tires that we are used to
racing with in Club Racing. It appears to be a
bias ply tire, not a radial. How did we not
know this? We just never thought to ask. That explains why
we'll need to set up the suspension so much differently
than we are used to for our club racers. Based
on some of the tire temperature data we have been
collecting, it appears
we need a lot less camber in the car, and the tire
pressures need to be a lot lower as well.
One of Jon's customer's, Bill Koff,
has brought this neat little Lotus Elise sports car.
Super small, super light, the ultimate track car.
The engine is actually built by Toyota, so you get
the benefit of having a Lotus with the reliability
of a Camry. If I had a few spare bucks, I'd
buy one myself.
Another of Jon's customers,
Rob MacClaskey, owns this pristine BMW M3, which is
completely stripped out and ready to race, just add
numbers. It has a full cage, a racing
suspension and a motor to match. Rob is
using these driving schools to hone his skills, and
I expect within a year or so he'll be campaigning it
BMWCCA Club racing,
which is where I got my start with wheel-to-wheel
(L-R) Rob MacClaskey, Max Koff
(son of Lotus owner Bill), and Jon, ready to call it
a day. One of the really neat things about
racing and drivers schools is that you see a lot of
father-son pairs at the track. Max is having a
ball learning to take a Toyota MR2 to its limits,
and he's not doing so on the public highways.
2006 - VIR North Course
Jon has been working on the car since
the last event. He has now tweaked the Greddy piggy-back computer, in an effort to improve
the drive-ability of the car. After all the
repair work, it was decided he should re-corner
balanced the car and re-align it, so he spent quite
a bit of time doing that. He took some of the
camber out of the suspension, because these Grand Am
Cup Hoosier tires are NOTHING like the ones most
club racers use. He also put a new
gasket on the the differential, which had developed
a leak, and generally went over the car to make sure
nothing was about to break.
The Tarheel Sports Car Club was
holding a combination driver's school and time trial
at VIR, so we decide to take advantage of that.
Danny hauled the car up in his rig, and brought
along GSM mechanic Matt Hayelle, who was a great
help throughout the weekend.
Once again the weekend starts out with rain.
We're prepared though, because Danny brought the
used rain tires that Doc purchased for us for the
earlier Roebling event. Danny takes the car
out during the first instructor session and reports
the RX-8 is much improved.
But then it dries up, and it turns
out we don't have enough dry tires mounted up to
continue testing. We still have 3 used/old
tires mounted up, but that doesn't make a set.
We hadn't worn out all of our old tires, but we
really wanted to test the car on new tires so that
we could better evaluate its handling. Danny ordered 2 new sets of Grand Am Cup Hoosiers,
but was unable to find a tire shop that could mount
them all the way. Most of the tires just wouldn't seat on
the rims (they wouldn't "bead up"), so we have only
two of 8 new tires fully mounted up.
I spend lunch time trying a couple of local tire
places, but these tires are extremely difficult to
mount, and these places don't have the right equipment.
I return to the track so that I can instruct my two
students for the afternoon. Danny has the
afternoon off from instructing, so he heads off in
search of a tire shop that can do the job.
In order to keep myself
entertained between sessions, I beat the tar out of
my street BMW, giving joy rides to students.
Unfortunately I'm just a bit tooooo rambunctious
with my driving, and I'm black flagged by the corner
workers for being a little wild. Sidenote:
In the next morning instructor's meeting, Mark
Vitacco, chief instructor, warns all of the
instructors - "This is NOT a drifting competition",
as he shoots me a sideways glance.
Danny's rig holds two cars, so he
brought this other project car, which he and his son
Brian built together (there's that father-son thing
again). Its still a little
chilly - they've taped off the grill to keep too
much air from getting under the hood.
This E30-M3 is very light, and has a stout race motor under the
hood, which is just the way Danny likes his cars.
Since this afternoon I couldn't drive the RX-8,
Danny offered to let me drive this car for fun, but
I had to decline. The last time I drove one of
Danny's personal cars (his $400,000 M3 GTR racecar),
I disintegrated the clutch before I even got to turn
3. I offered to pay for it, but he
wouldn't take a dime - said I didn't do anything in
the car that he wouldn't do. Uh, I don't
know about that, but that's just the kind of guy
Danny is. He wouldn't take a dime from me, and
that was a pretty pricy triple-plate carbon fiber
clutch that I disintegrated into a million
smithereans (probably cost as much as some folk's
Yep, Danny's a special
Kevin Butler, a Tarheel Sports Car Club member, also
likes light and powerful cars - he stuffed a 1.8L
supercharged engine into his little Miata, so now it
has the power to match its great handling.
The engine bay is very "clean" on
Kevin's Supercharged conversion. He did all
the work himself and it looks like it could have
come from the factory that way.
This is Grover McNair, owner of
McNair Performance, an import car repair and tuning
shop right near RDU (Raleigh/Durham) Airport.
When I was just starting out with this racing thing,
Grover was one of my first instructors, and he was
always the benchmark by which my other instructors
were measured. Once I road with Grover,
I knew I wanted to possess his skills. He has
the SCCA IT-7 track record at VIR, and Grover often
travels the country instructing for professional
driving schools. Grover is a true professional and I consider him a
mentor and a great driving coach. This weekend
I asked Grover if he wouldn't mind driving the RX-8
to give us his opinion (once we got tires for it).
Do not try to adjust your set - this
picture didn't come out clear - I probably juggled
the camera a bit - my bad. But its the only
picture I got of the ROAR team. Bob and Nick
brought two of their cars to the Tarheel event to
test, and I must admit, they looked great.
They also had a couple of street driven RX-8's on
hand, which gave them a full tent. Nick said
they have been spending 70 hours / week since the
Daytona race working on the cars, and their
preparation showed. Bob was his usual gracious
self - he's always a pleasure to talk to. We are no
longer partnered with Roar, but that doesn't mean we
can't wish them well.
Danny was able to find a
tire shop crazy enough to finish mounting the tires
onto the rims.
He said it took 160lbs of air pressure to get the
tires to bead, and they sounded like a gunshot when
they finally seated. That is absolutely scary
- I've mounted my own tires before, and never had to
go above 70lbs or so of air pressure. I'm
surprised the tires didn't explode under that
pressure. No way would I have tried that -
those tire shop guys were nuts to be standing next
those tires with 160lbs of air in them.
This is a friend and one of my
students this weekend, Matt Hensley, with his soup-ed
up Subaru WRX. It's chock-full of aftermarket
modifications, such as a modified ECU, and JIC coil-over shocks,
just like our RX-8.
Matt works for one of my customers, and I met him on
the job. When I found out he was a car nut and
had a hopped-up Subaru and liked driving fast, I
suggested he bring it to the track. He did -
this was his first full driving school - and he said
he had an absolute blast! He's hooked, and now
unfortunately doomed to a life of poverty since all
his expendable cash will now be flushed down the
The next morning arrived bright and
clear, and now we had tires to drive on. The
only downside was that it was chilly (38 degrees).
Danny said that yesterday when he drove it (in the
rain with rain tires), the RX-8 felt like a
completely different car, which was a good thing.
I was really looking forward to trying it out - I
hadn't driven it since Jon had reprogrammed the ECU,
realigned it, Danny moved the seat forward, bent the
brake pedal for better heel-and-toe, etc. Lots
of little changes that add up to make the car easier
to drive fast. Plus we had a fresh set of
tires on it. This was going to be fun.
Danny strapped me in the car, and I
started it up - it actually held the idle pretty
good and rev'ed smoothly - that was a welcome change.
Before I went out, Grover leaned in the window and
gave me some good advice - take it easy for the first
few laps, work up to it - its cold and even though
the tires are new, they won't have the grip you are
I took Grover's advice
to heart, and took it pretty easy the first
couple of laps - this morning's "instructor session"
was quite crowded with
cars, so I worked my way through traffic. We
were testing out a new radio setup and it was
working well too, so I was able to report back to
Danny that the car did indeed feel much better than
ever before. Actually, I think my words
were "Is this the same car?"
Before this weekend, Jon
had called SpeedSource and gotten some advice from
them on the suspension setup. They wouldn't
share all of their secrets with us (which is only
fair), but they did give us some tips on setting up
the car for the Grand Am Cup Hoosier tires.
And Jon had done wonders with
tweaking Doc's programming on the Greddy Piggy-Back, and the car felt
genuinely fun to
drive. I started pushing the car harder,
and I was thinking, this is great - this is the best
the car has ever felt. And then I thought,
Grover is really going to enjoy driving this thing.
The only downside is that the car feels a little loose, particularly
when trail braking into turn 3, and also in the
off-camber sections of the North Course crossover
(turns 11 and 12). But, heck, I'll take a
loose car over an understeering car any day, so I
can handle it (so I think).
Then, on the 5th lap, I make a
I let the back end of the car get out
of line in turn 11 - too much throttle for the
conditions. I countersteer, and end up
over-correcting going into turn 12 - now I'm
hopelessly "behind" the car (using racing
terminology). Knowing that I've lost it, I put
both feet in (clutch and brake) and then slide all
the way up the hill. My first reaction
I'm absolutely in the clear, the car will stop well
short of hitting anything - the corner worker
station on the outside of turn 14 looks like its a
mile away. But the car just won't slow down on
the damp grass, and it ends up going sideways into
the tire wall. I hit it completely broadside
with the passenger side of the car, and it was quite
a wallop. The corner worker station is right
on the other side of the tire wall - the corner
worker could spit
on me, he's so close - I'm sure he's waving the
yellow flag at this point, warning the other cars of
the incident. I'm not really in any
danger, so I crank the starter on the car, and it
eventually starts. Surprisingly, I can drive
it right off the tire wall (which I had moved back 2
feet), and I carefully work my way back on track,
heading slowly back to the pits. I break the
bad news to Danny on the radio, and tell him I hurt
the car bad, although from inside the car, I can't
tell exactly how badly. I'm amazed to find
that it actually seems to drive ok - the steering wheel is
relatively straight, which is always a good sign.
As I pull into pit lane,
the Pit Marshal looks at me funny when I tell him I
hit a tire wall, because from his angle it looks fine
- but he's standing just to the drivers side, and can't
see the passenger side, which is completely torn up.
I pull it into the paddock, hop out, and survey the
damage. The passenger side front door is
trashed, the front fender badly dented, the rear
door damaged, and the rear quarter panel mangled.
Both rims look ok, as do the tires, and the wheels
seem to be pointed in the right direction.
Mark Vitacco, insists I visit the medical station to make sure I'm
ok. The paramedics look me over, check my
blood pressure, respiration, eyes, etc., and declare
me to be reasonably ok. I sign a waiver
saying I won't sue them if I die, and head back to
the paddock. By the time I
get back, the car is loaded in the rig and I then realize
I don't have any pictures of the damage for the
website. So I crawl up onto the upper level,
and snap a few so you can see what I did to it.
View of the front fender and the
door. The front fender will need to be
replaced - fortunately it just bolts on. The
door as well - that foot-deep dent in it ain't gonna
pound out. This is way more damage than
was done at Daytona.
The rear door is dented, and may be
repairable - we'll see - you can't really see it
from this angle. It had been repaired
once before from the Daytona Porsche damage, so
we'll just have to see if it can be salvaged.
The rear quarter panel is pretty badly dented - it
is major work to replace a rear quarter panel, as it
is welded to the car, and part of the unibody.
That will be the toughest thing to fix - if it can
be pounded out and bondo-ed that will save a lot of
time. But I'm thinking it will have to
Needless to say, I am walking
around feeling mighty guilty about letting down the
"team", especially so close to the VIR race.
We only have 8-9 days to get the car ready for the
race, and fixing this damage is going to consume
most, if not all of those days. We didn't need
this at all - we had our hands full of things to do
without having to deal with this self inflicted
I was also deeply disappointed
that Grover wasn't able to drive the RX-8. As
a mentor, I really appreciate his input, and he has
never steered me wrong. The only mistakes I
usually make are when I don't listen to his advice.
We really could have used Grover's input to set up the car for the
upcoming race. Grover took it in stride in his
usual level-headed way - he's been doing this long
enough to know that I'm probably going to crash a
lot more cars before this whole thing is over -
that's just part of racing, and you have to learn to
deal with it.
can drive my street car on track (it comes in handy
as a backup track car), at this point I am so
disgusted with myself, that I pack up my gear, and
vow to sit out the rest of the day in
self-punishment. I'll finish up
instructing my students, but I won't drive anymore
myself. One of the students who was nearby was
asking me if I was afraid to go back out after a
wreck like that. I had to explain that no,
that wasn't it at all, what I feel instead is GUILT.
In fact, the problem is that I DON'T fear
crashing the car - even after a wreck like that.
And that's what scares me sometimes - I'm just not
afraid to put the car at its limits or beyond them,
and unfortunately the beyond part is what got me into trouble. A seasoned racecar
driver would have a better sense of self
Danny's not having any of my self-pity - he is insisting I get
right back out on track - he doesn't want me moping
around for two weeks before the race thinking about
this. He knows if I do that, I won't be any
good when it comes time to race - he wants me back on the horse. So
after lunch, I hop in my trusty backup driver's
school car, and take a few laps. Actually,
quite a bit more than a few.
And I must admit,
it did feel pretty good. Giddy-up...
Mark Vitacco's race prepared VW
Scirocco. Mark was the brainchild behind the
driving school and time trial series - he
and Stacy King (from the
Triangle Z-Club) run the series
jointly. This is Mark's SCCA ITB car, kind of like
the Old Yellar car Danny and I drove in the 13 hour
Enduro. Mark built this himself and you will
not find a better prepared ITB car in the
country, (no offense to Jon at GSM). Here it is waiting on the grid, ready
to run the time trial.
And one parting picture, before we wrap up for
the day. I couldn't resist the photo of
this Ambulance that has been turned into a tow
vehicle (see the racecar on the trailer behind it?).
This is a fantastic idea - I bet he has tons of
useful storage inside the back of that, probably
well organized too, with cabinets and racks.
Ambulances are built on top of heavy duty chassis,
and have strong motors, so its a natural thing to
Unfortunately I also
took some pictures of Matt Hayelle and Danny's son,
Brian, lending us a hand, but they weren't on the
camera when I went to download them. I suspect
my camera's memory card was full at the time, and I
didn't realize it. Matt and Brian were a great
help to us this weekend, and I want to apologize to
them for my photo-miscue.
So now we have some more
work to do than anticipated, to get the car ready
for the VIR Race. Jon and Danny and I will be
working our tails off, trying to get the car ready
in time. As I write this, most of the parts to
repair the damage are onsite, and we expect to take
the car to the body shop tomorrow morning. Its
going to be close, but we just might make it.
Wish us luck!