Open Track Home


Starting Line | Spring Mountain | Willow Springs | Streets of Willow | Buttonwillow_1 | Thunderhill | Buttonwillow_14 | Las Vegas | Epilogue | Contact Us

return to the home page

Open Track Challenge 2002 -- Pat and Mark's Vegas Vacation
Event 4

Buttonwillow Raceway, Buttonwillow, CA 

As usual we arrived at the track at around 7:15 or so, and I took the electric scooter dohicky-mobile for a couple of laps around the track.    After doing that, I took a couple of photos of the paddock area.

Bill Arnold is a fellow BMW Club Racer, but more important he is a master BMW mechanic as well.   Since our Mini contains many BMW components, he was able to help us figure out our fuse-blowing problem.   Right now Bill and his co-driver Tammi Hull are battling for first place in Bill's M3 in the Touring 3 class.  I joked with Bill that I was so thrilled with his ability to keep our Mini running, that he would be the first I would marry if I every switched "teams"!     Bill is always willing to roll up his sleeves to help fellow competitors, despite the fact that he is probably busy dealing with his own problems.  He has an almost constant stream of folks looking for his advice.  Honestly, I don't know how he does it, but I'm sure glad he does.

It turns out we encountered a second problem with the Mini as well, although minor.  The fan that cools the power steering pump has failed, so under extreme conditions and very tight tracks, we can lose our power steering until it cools.  I found this out yesterday at the end of my last session, and the power steering went away.  We ended up removing the fan, since the non-moving fan was actually blocking any air from getting to the pump.  We then fabricated a duct that would direct air on the pump.  So far that appears to be working.

We also have applied the sponsor decals from Mini-Madness to the hood of the Mini, and although you can't actually read them in this photo, they look great in real life.  Unfortunately I have to cut the resolution of my photo's down so they load reasonably well for those of you still using slow internet connections.

Here is the yellow camera car preparing to go out in a run group with the competing cars.  The Official OTC video will be shot at all the tracks, and only the best footage will be compiled into the final product.  See the Willow Springs page for details on how to order it.

Here you see many of the Touring class competitors in the pit area.  Touring class cars are not allowed to be towed from track-to-track.  This adds to the challenge as you are competing in your street driven car.

Unlimited class cars can be towed from track to track.  Here you see a double-deck trailer that actually stacks the cars. 

Alan Chavis, one of the event organizers, is competing in this Mustang.  You might remember Alan from my One Lap Adventure last year when he and his wife bought us lunch in Oklahoma City.

This Mustang makes so much power, that it actually broke its aluminum driveshaft in a most unusual way...

Usually a driveshaft breaks at the flange, but in this case it was simply ripped apart by the torque.  I have never seen a driveshaft fail in this way.

This is another competing Subaru WRX that runs in the Touring 3 class.  You can see their motorhome in the background.  Sleeping at the track is very popular and convenient.  You don't need to commute to and from the track (which saves a ton of time), and once the day is over, the track is actually a very peaceful place to rest, as usually there is nothing stirring for miles around.

Another shot of that ultra wide Porsche race car that I showed in a photo yesterday.   Here it actually looks like a car.  Many trailers like this have canopies off the side that can provide much needed shade in an asphalt pit area.

Do you know those UPS commercials where they talk about UPS as "Brown".    Here we see that Brown likes the race track.  This driver wasn't actually delivering parts to the track - he was just stopping by to see what was going on at the track, and he happened to bring along a few thousand parcels as well.

Brown likes Mini!  Brown says he may buy a Mini for his wife, but we really know who Brown is buying the Mini for, don't we?

The day proceeded quite well, but we blew one of our fuses trying to start the car, and then our jumper wire started to smoke.  So from here on out we will be push starting the car, Pat says just like a REAL race car.    We obviously have a short somewhere in the starting system, or perhaps a bad starter.  

In a disappointing turn of events, we finished 2nd in class today to the Turbo-II RX-7.  He is very fast at this track (according to one of the drivers this is their favorite track).  So our first place lead has been chipped away, almost completely.  We are still  leading Touring 4, but only by the absolute slimmest of margins.  This is going to be a dogfight down to the wire.  The Turbo RX-7 is very fast, and has about 40-50% more power than we do, so we definitely have our hands full.  Our advantage over them is that we drive very well at tracks that we haven't been to.  But if they have already been to that track, that advantage is nullified by their own experience there, as we can see.  Since we have never driven any of these tracks, what we need is a track that they haven't been to either,  but I'm not sure there are any of those left.

Unfortunately the Honda from Hell did not make it to the track, but we have heard they may try to make it to Thunderhill with their replacement motor installed.   However since they missed this Buttonwillow event, this will put them too far back in the points to compete for first place.  This is a shame, because they were clearly the car to beat at the start.   But part of an endurance event is to keep the car running, and sometimes you break because you overbuild your car, and sometimes you break simply due to bad luck.

We left the track by 5:00pm, and with a 350 mile drive to the next track, we did everything we could to make good time.

A slight disaster struck the Mini on I-5 this evening.  We lost part of the front fascia / spoiler when we struck a Semi-truck tire retread at about 70mph.  It was laying completely across the lane, and since it was dusk we saw it too late to avoid it.  Losing this front body piece under the bumper certainly won't help our aerodynamics, and it doesn't look too good either.  I will post a picture of it tomorrow.  We will be using LOTS of duct tape in the morning to try to cover up the gap was left when the part fell off.

We made it to the hotel just before 10:00pm.    Sorry for the short update, but I need to get some rest as we have a full day ahead of us tomorrow.  Since I have been following the Mini on the road with my truck, I am not able to write until we make it to the hotel.  But please check back when you can for an update...


  Go to the next part of the adventure:   Thunderhill