Brian Provost, one of the
organizers of the Open
Track Challenge, hooked me up with Pat when he
learned Pat was looking for a co-driver. Pat
was determined to come to OTC this year, even more
determined than I was, as it turns out.
Nothing was going to stop him from going.
Pat proposed that we would drive his 300zx turbo
in the OTC. I said fine, but I would like to
check it out first. So Pat brought his 300zx
up to VIR one sunny day, so that I could drive it
on track. Needless to say, it didn't go too
well, because quite frankly the 300zx needed some
sorting out. The engine was smoking so
badly, that I told Pat he needed to get a
compression and leak down test on it. And
sure enough, Pat later determined he had a bad
cylinder, so it would need rebuilding. So
the 300zx was out.
2 Weeks to
So then Pat asked me, if I
could drive any new car in OTC, what would it
be? I thought about it a bit, and then I
said, "A Mini Cooper S". The
"S" stands for supercharged.
it turns out I'm not the only Mini Cooper S fan
around. Pat was at the Mini booth at the
Detroit auto show earlier this year, and they
photo-shopped his image onto a Mini Cooper S
So what does Pat do?
He goes out and tries to get a brand new Mini
Cooper S! The Mini Cooper S is currently the
toughest car on the market to purchase.
Unfortunately there is several month long
list to get one, and there aren't more than a
handful in the US. So that seemed
out. But Pat persisted, and he started
talking to Flow BMW about using their Mini Cooper
S demo model in the OTC. Flow finally agreed
to sell Pat the demo car, but then we found out
they couldn't release the car until it was
replaced with a new demo Mini Cooper
S. Since one wouldn't arrive in time,
we went back to square one.
than 1 Week to go...
So then Pat's
wife offered to let us drive her 1992 Porsche 911
turbo. Pat brought the 911 turbo up to VIR
so we could check it out. But then disaster
struck. I was driving the 911 on track when
the brake pedal went all the way to the floor - no
brakes. Unfortunately this happened at a
terrible place on the track, and I took an
excursion into a tire wall. The impact was
not as bad as it could have been (light enough so
the airbags did not deploy), but it did ruin the
front bumper and one of the fenders. And the
brakes will need repairing as well. Things
were not going well.
so now what are we going to do? I offered
that we should drive my BMW M3 J-Stock Race
car. After all, I just crashed his Turbo
911, its the least I could do. That was
going to be the plan, so we started to make
preparations. So we had a firm plan.
We ordered tires, spare parts etc.
days to go...
Lee Davis from Flow
BMW called Pat on Saturday morning and said we
could have the Mini Cooper S! Special
permission had been obtained from Mini USA, so we
could get the car in time. Uh Oh, this is
almost our worst nightmare. We have to
figure out how to get spare parts, race tires,
racing brake pads, change fluids, etc etc, and we
don't have much time. If we are going to
make it to the starting line in Nevada by Saturday
night, we have to leave on Wednesday. And
they are not actually going to give us the car
until Tuesday night.
So I spent the
entire weekend researching what racing tires will
fit, what brake pads are available etc, etc.
But no one has raced one of these yet, so there is
NO information out there. Things are
starting to look grim, and we are getting
2 days to go...
were running out of time. We aren't going
to be able to take delivery of the car until
Tuesday night, less than 24 hours before we had to
leave. We decided we didn't have time to do
anything but get race tires and rims, and brake
pads. The rest of the car was going to be
Monday comes, and
we hit the phones, calling all the Mini Cooper
performance shops (which had been closed over the
weekend). We get the same answer
everywhere - "there are no performance parts
yet, in fact, we haven't even seen a Mini
Cooper S yet". Finally, the folks
told us they had sent some of the standard Mini
Cooper brake pads to Porterfield
Enterprises to have some high performance pads
made, but they didn't have any they could sell
us. So we called Porterfield directly, and
the nice folks there said they would be able to
sell us pads sometime in the near future..
We explained our situation to them, and pleaded
for them to make some racing brake pads, which
they agreed to do! Hooray! One hurdle
has been cleared.
But we don't know
what size tires to buy. We want the widest
tires that will fit, but once again, we are
breaking new ground. So we took a risk and
guessed what would fit, and then placed a very
expensive tire order.
1 day to go
need to leave tomorrow. We are committed to
run the Mini Cooper S, and we have brake pads
lined up (they are being sent to our hotel in
Nevada, ahead of us), but we don't have wheels and
tires yet. I managed to borrow a couple of
sets of rims from fellow Tarheel Sports Car Club
members Ron Spencer and Chris Crumpton. This
is because we have been told the standard Cooper S
rims may not work with the tires we've ordered.
major milestone falls into place. Pat drops
off the car at my house at 10:30pm, the night
before we leave. I have less than a day get
the car ready. I am up late into the night,
test fitting rims and tires, changing
0 days to go
D-Day. We have to leave tonight if we have
any hope of making Nevada in time for the
start. I determined last night the rims we
have borrowed won't work, but interestingly
enough, the tires that I ordered for my M3
(because we thought we were going to run it
instead), look like they might fit, if we could
find the right rims for it. We had also
ordered some other tires for the Cooper S, but the
M3 tires would be wider and offer more grip.
Hmmmm, this is an interesting turn...
quick phone call to some tire and rim dealers, and
I get hold of Rodney at Discount Tire in
Raleigh. Rodney says that if I bring the car
down, he will find a solution to our rim
problem. I explain to him that I need a
solution today, and he says he can do it.
(Rodney tells me later that after he hung up the
phone, he realized maybe he went out on a limb!)
Lord (the webmaster from last year's
onelapadventure site), stops by and lends me a
hand. We go down to Discount Tire, and
Rodney comes through in the clutch. He finds
a rim that will fit the Cooper S AND allows us to
run the wider M3 tires. Another major
milestone has been reached.
Neal's help, we finish packing, get the car loaded
up and hit the road. Which brings us to the
Wednesday night (May
8th), finally on the Road, heading to Nevada...
Sigh. Quite frankly I had serious doubts we
would ever get this far. I never thought
we'd be doing this event in a Mini Cooper S.
But Pat's efforts to get the car were nothing
short of miraculous. He never gave up trying
to get it. And Flow BMW went to great
lengths to give us the car in time. They use
the demo models so they can take orders for the
Cooper S, and by giving this one early, they
risked losing some business because they might go
without a demo model for awhile.
We will be driving straight across
I-40 to Pahrump, Nevada. Because of our late
start, we only get about 400 miles behind us on
Wednesday night, and end up somewhere in eastern
Tennessee, before we stop for the night.
May 9th - 2 days to Vegas
we are, the first team to compete in an on-track
event in the USA in a Mini-Cooper S. I'd
better explain that a little further. Some
folks have competed already in a standard Mini
Cooper, but the supercharged S version is
special. The car has a 1.6L
Supercharged 4 Cylinder motor, making 163hp.
Despite its small size, it does weigh a bit much
at around 2600lbs. Nonetheless it is quick,
and we should have a fighting change running it in
class T4, despite the fact it is bone stock except
for tires and brake pads.
a nice picture of Pat in his stocking feet,
carrying his cowboy boots and gear out to the
truck, early this morning.
my F250 TurboDiesel that we are using, and Pat
went out and bought a small open trailer to haul
the Mini. We decided it didn't make sense to
use my 32' long enclosed trailer to pull an 11'
we are currently hauling this diminutive racecar
2500 miles or so to Las Vegas, and right now as I
write this we are crossing Arkansas.
We've gone about 1050 miles so far. We'd
have gone farther, but the roads in Arkansas are
perpetually under construction.
So folks, this is about all I can write
today. Maybe tomorrow if I have some time,
I'll write a section about the Open Track
Challenge itself, so you know what we are up
Friday, May 11th
Last night we made it to a point just west
of Oklahoma City, which we calculated to be the
mid-point of our drive out to Pahrump. We
hit the road this morning by 7:00am, after a quick
stop at Walmart to pick up a few things that we
forgot to pack in our rush to leave.
of today was fairly uneventful. The scenery
turned quite beautiful when we reached New Mexico,
so we stopped the car for a photo-op.
still don't have a lot of our sponsor decals on
the car (with the exception of Flow Mini), but
that will change soon as many of our sponsors are
overnighting decals to our hotel in
Pahrump. Pat and I have been wheeling
and dealing with sponsors on the drive out, so we
hope to have decals on the car from the mini
specialty tuners Mini-Mania and Mini-Madness, as
well as Virginia International Raceway. So
the car should look like a real race car in a day
or so. I will provide more details on our
sponsors as the event progresses. Needless
to say we greatly appreciate their support.
has become a bit more difficult, as the wind has
become a serious factor. The gusts are
incredible out here, and I was almost blown from
the trailer when I climbed on top of it for this
picture. We are now very glad we
didn't bring my enclosed trailer, which would act
like a giant sail under these conditions.
surrounding terrain is worn smooth from years of
constant buffeting, making for an almost moonscape
Our spirits are
rising as we just spoke to the hotel in Pahrump,
and our brake pads have arrived there, safe and
sound. Having a high performance brake pad
is crucial to on-track driving, as the tremendous
heat generated can severely reduce the braking
effectiveness of standard brake pads. The
two most important upgrades to the car when going
on track are tires and brakes, so at least we have
that much covered.
As I write this,
we are crossing Arizona, and we hope to cover
another 250 miles before stopping. This will
leave us a relatively short drive on Saturday
morning, and maybe we will arrive in Pahrump by
noon. Pat just told me to write how
impressed he is with the F250 Turbodiesel as a tow
vehicle. It just chugs along, up and down
hills, pretty effortlessly at whatever speed we
dail in. The speed limits out here on the
interstate are set at either 70 or-75mph, and we
have no trouble at all keeping up with traffic, or
setting the pace of traffic, if we choose to do
Tomorrow, after we arrive, I hope
to make the rounds and try to get some pictures of
other folks cars. We've gotten several nice
emails from fellow competitors, and look forward
to meeting everyone. So check back late
Saturday night for an update.
stopped for tonight in Kingman, Arizona, right
along historic route 66. Lot's of old cars,
"historic" museums - a car lover's
dream. We have about 200 miles to go...
With only about 200
miles ago, we got a liesurely start this
morning. Our hotel was situated upon
historic Route 66, and the town of Kingman is
proudly dotted with museums and shops that honor
our motoring heritage.
thought my friend Chris from back home would
appreciate the picture of these two Ford hotrods,
since he's building one of his own.
hit the road by 7:30am, and then crossed into
Nevada shortly there-after, gaining an hour.
This meant we should make Pahrump well before
you are towing with a diesel, its a good idea to
buy your gas where the trucker's get theirs.
This is because Diesel gas absorbs water when it
sits a long time, so its best to only buy it from
stations that move it quickly. The truckers
seem to get a kick out of seeing the Mini.
then headed up highway 93 toward Vegas, which
would take us over Hoover Dam. Because of
the threat of terrorism to the dam, checkpoints
are setup on the highway to inspect vehicles that
will pass over it.
we see terrorist scum getting the once over by
Officer Russ at the checkpoint. Wait a
second, that looks suspiciously like Mark, aka
Mini attracted attention whenever we stopped, and
folks from all walks of life expressed interest in
it, some taking pictures. Most folks
are really surprised when we tell them how
affordable it is.
Mini? If you look really closely in the
middle of this picture, you might see a red speck,
with a bright blue spec behind it. Can you
guess where Mini is?
Mini's not in this picture, so
don't strain your eyeballs...
hit Vegas, and decided to stop and pick up the
remaining items on our list of forgotten
equipment. I had been joking to Pat that my
ideal shopping center for supplies would contain
an Office Depot, a Lowes, and a Walmart.
That makes for truly One-Stop shopping.
Imagine our surprise when we came upon this, and
on my very own street, as well!
in Pahrump by noon, we were greeted by our fellow
competitors, showing up in some really scary
equipment. They are very serious about their
cars out here on the west coast.
you fancy a 380 horsepower Audi with a removable
carbon fibre hood?
a Turbocharged Volkswagen Beetle from the
netherworld, with fantastic dinosaur graphics?
you like your Miata turbocharged with 350+
maybe you'd like yours with a 5.0L V8, shoehorned
between the front fenders.
maybe you really wanted a motorcycle with 4
wheels, which is what this Lotus 340R has been
compared to. 200hp, but only 1300lbs or
so. 0-100 in under 11 seconds. Wow.
But the cutest, toughest
looking little car award goes to our own
Mini. Yes, it may be outclassed since its a
stock car running against 280HP Miata's, but we'll
give it our all, and see what she can do!
thanks to our sponsors - not all the decals have
arrived to our hotel yet, so you may see a few
more in a couple of days!
Tomorrow the competition begins!