(I need to
apologize for the quality of some of the photos on this page –
apparently while I was taking pictures, I had gotten my camera
lens a bit dirty. I’m
thinking that it was dog slobber from my trusty one-lap-dog
Shadow, which my wife had brought along for the day.)
Bill and I
rolled into my home just north of Raleigh around 8:00pm.
We were kind of thinking, this doesn’t feel right.
We actually have gotten somewhere before 3:00 in the
morning – we could get used to this.
Not only that, we beat Scott and David in their M3 (who we
offered to put up for the night) by almost an hour.
Scott and David are becoming legendary in their ability to
eat up long distances in very short time.
The first thing out of Scott’s mouth when we next see him
is “Boy aren’t those cops in <insert whatever town we just
passed through> really scary?
They were giving us the once over on Interstate…”
We think this is pretty funny because WE haven’t gotten so
much as a dirty look from the police.
Fortunately none of us four has gotten a ticket yet (knock
on wood). But maybe that explains why they get there ahead of us almost
every time, despite leaving each track a half hour to an hour
We hope Jerry
Churchill and Bill Evans can afford the ticket we saw them getting
yesterday on I-85, shortly after we left the Carolina Rod Shop.
They were beside the road in their beautifully modified
Viper (rumored to cost over $200K), pulled over by South
Carolina’s finest driving a Chevy Camaro Z-28. I think being pulled over by a cop driving a Z-28 has
to be the worst – they probably view it as a personal challenge
to write tickets to folks in fancy, expensive sports cars.
We saw this team further up the road and they were driving
MUCH more slowly, so I don’t think they got away with a warning.
David arrived at our house at 9:00pm.
By that time, Bill and I had already taken the wheels off
of my RX-7 and were giving the brakes and suspension a visual
inspection. We wanted
to determine if we needed to change any brake pads or brake rotors
and make sure there weren’t any problems with suspension
linkages, bushings and the shocks themselves.
We noticed some slight grooving on the front rotors, but
the overall wear was acceptable.
It looked like we had over 50% brake pad left on the rears
and maybe 40% left on the fronts.
We decided to forego any changes, and broke for dinner when
pizza arrived. We
resumed our work after dinner, and then noticed something a bit
disturbing about one of the front shock absorbers on the RX-7 –
the bump stop on top was pretty badly damaged.
The bump stop is essentially two large solid rubber disks
stacked together, and this keeps the top of the shock absorber
from slamming into the fender when the suspension is heavily
were blown out of the bottom disk, which must have been caused by
a pretty heavy impact by the shock.
I think this must have happened at Michigan International
NASCAR oval tracks have a pretty steep transition from the banked
oval section to the flat road-course section.
The car experiences some rather large suspension
compression as it tries to deal with this.
Getting a replacement at this time of the night was out of
the question. We
decided not to fix it, and continue to run it as it was.
Here is our reasoning.
Much of the bumpstop still remained. Also, the tires appear to hit the top inside of the fender
anyway when the suspension is fully compressed.
So we will essentially be using the tires themselves as
bumpstops. This is a
consequence of our relatively soft, street-able suspension.
(Note to self: Need
stiffer springs to prevent suspension from fully compressing and
We aren’t going to any more NASCAR tracks with their
really hard transitions, and VIR and Watkins Glen don’t have any
left hand turns that should cause the suspension to fully bottom
on the right front side, so it won’t matter that we don’t have
a bumpstop on that corner.
We only have at most 15 racetrack laps left to run (2 time
trial sessions at VIR + 3 time trial sessions at Watkins Glen = 5
sessions x 3 laps each = 15 laps).
Surely the remaining bumpstop will last 15 laps.
And we won’t need or use up the bumpstop on the street,
unless we hit a parking lot speedbump at 50mph.
Dang it, we drove this far, and we’re not stopping until
the wheels fall off!
was #4 that was the real reason we decided to go forward, but the
other 3 reasons will make my wife feel like we know what we’re
talking about. And
then we found more bad news.
When we were
putting the wheels back on Scott’s M3, I noticed that one of the
rear wheels wobbled disconcertingly.
I crawled under the car, and sure enough, one of the lower
control arms was missing a nut on the bolt that held the control
arm in place. Fortunately
the bolt was still in position, and all we needed to do was find a
nut to secure it. Unfortunately
this had to be a very special nut, because the car is German and
expensive. And only the BMW dealer will carry this nut, and if he
doesn’t have it, it will have to be flown in from Munich. Since this was a serious safety issue, and the car wouldn’t
handle predictably with a wobbly control arm, Scott couldn’t
consider going on until it was fixed.
We decided the best course of action was to make sure Scott
had the BMW at Leith BMW (Capital Blvd, Raleigh NC), first thing
in the morning, and maybe they would have pity on him and get
right on it.
We got to bed
after Midnight, and rose at 5:45am this morning, because we still
had 1.5 hours to drive to VIR.
We had hoped to get a solid 8 hours of sleep, but our car
problems from the previous night prevented it.
Dang it, the sleep deficit continues to grow.
Jean Wilkins, who works for VIR and helps manage the
running of events there, immediately noticed the bags under our
eyes. We thought this
was odd because we had been looking at each other for a week now,
and never saw them.
Our first heat
was on the south course, and it went well except for the fact I
bobbled the car just a little on the final corner of the final
lap. It probably cost
me a couple of tenths, but I was thinking it was no big deal since
you rarely win or lose a three lap “race” by 2 tenths of a
couldn’t be more wrong, as I found out later that I had been
edged out of 10 place by Greg and Dale’s other RX-7 (the one
with something shy of 400hp), by only 5 hundredths of a second.
That bobble really cost me, and this was at least the
second time (that I can recall) that another car had edged me out
of a position by less than a second.
I was kicking myself about this – being down by 100 or
200 hp means I have to drive a perfect session in order to have a
chance to beat those guys.
David arrived at VIR in the nick of time to run their first heat.
They got a 10 second penalty added to their laptimes for
arriving late, but this is better than not running at all, and
losing out on about 200 finishing points.
It turns out several of the mechanics at Leith BMW knew all
about the One Lap of America, and when they saw his race car they
rushed him to the front of the line and fixed it very quickly.
Way to go Leith BMW, Capital Blvd, Raleigh NC!
Tarheel Sports Car Club folks arrived before lunch.
Some of us posed for a group photo, but we didn’t get
everyone that came in it, because the paddock at VIR is large, and
people like to wander around and see the sights.
We really appreciate it when supporters show up at the
track, as it gives us an emotional boost.
and John Duff drove down from the Washington DC Area, to see their
buddies Greg and Dale run Greg’s RX-7 at One Lap.
John has his name on the side of Greg’s car, so he must
have helped provide some of the go-fast parts on it.
John is a true race fan, and spends what appears to be
virtually all of his time attending CART races, and helping others
make their RX-7 much faster.
Jr. and several of the big wigs at Car and Driver, get to drive
someone else’s car for the event.
Now Brock Jr.
isn’t actually competing (although he does seem to have quite a
bit of on-track experience), but he does have to drive between
tracks the same as everyone else, and then when he gets there he
has to run things. So
he is often the first there and the last to leave, which means he
has to really haul you-know-what to get to the events.
Two nights ago on the way to Road Atlanta he blew by us on
the interstate doing at least 90 in this sharp Audi TT.
As usual, Bill and I are among the first to leave and the
last to get there. If I hadn’t mentioned it before, Bill has a commercial
drivers license, and he just can’t risk getting a ticket. He actually has significant paycheck incentives to keep a
clean driving record. Despite
this we average a very good clip, because he is an iron man behind
the wheel, and can drive tirelessly for hours on end.
Here is a dog
slobber covered photo of the BMW M-coupe, provided by BMW to Bob
and Jayne Stommel to drive just for One-Lap. This is the NEW version, the one with the 330+ HP
note to BMW Motorsports: Next year, if one of these opportunities comes up, CALL ME!
I race a BMW
E30 series M3 in BMWCCA class JS, and have gotten a JS Class pole
position at least once at every track I have ever raced on.
Also I hold the JS race records (unofficially anyway, since
no one keeps track of this stuff) at VIR, Mid-Ohio, and Texas
World Speedway. Pick
up the phone – operators are waiting!!!
End of side note to BMW Motorsports.
3000 miles in close quarters, Bob and Jayne still appear to be
happily married, which say’s a lot, believe me.
I think the stress of this event is such that it is not
always a good idea to have a co-driver that you are too close to
or familiar with. On
the other hand, some of the teams that were total strangers were
having some difficulty as well.
So there seems to be a happy medium – someone you know
you get along well with, but maybe you don’t see them everyday.
Notice in the background of this photo, the beautiful red
buildings at VIR, with their cedar shake roofs.
VIR is without a doubt the best facility for amateur
motorsports in the country, and it is also better than many
professional level facilities, too.
If you like to drive on track, you must drive VIR.
Car Guys (a group I instruct for) will visit there the end
of July. Sign-up and
maybe I’ll see you there. Their link is on our “Great
Here is yet
another free ride at One Lap.
We are starting to feel like we are the only guys that
brought their own car and paid their own expenses.
This Audi TT was provided by Audi North America to Stu Sack
and Pearce Sloan. I
would never have guessed that a car could look this good with a
battleship gray paint scheme, but somehow the designers at Audi
have pulled it off. I
also thought the folks that put the graphics and decals on the TT
did a super job – the best of any car at One Lap in my opinion.
I sure don’t have as much imagination and artistic
ability as these guys. I guess that’s why “I are an engineer”, and not some
clever artsy-fartsy designer type.
and Gwen Butler are fielding this red Porsche 944 Turbo.
I’m pretty sure that since this car is at least 10 years
old, that they are paying their own way just like us.
These 944 Turbo’s make excellent track cars (actually
anything with Porsche on the side of it makes a great track car),
with enough power, handling and braking capability to get you into
and out of serious trouble.
These cars are a really good choice for someone that is
interested in attending driving schools, because they go fast,
handle predictably well, and don’t cost too much.
Matt and Gwen seem to be driving it quite well and I
thought I’d give them a little recognition of their efforts.
you aren’t running in the top five overall, you don’t get any
well deserved press, but this Saturn (left) and this Acura (right)
are scary fast. Blake
and Peter Fuller are piloting the Acura (another family team),
which you can see sports an unpainted Carbon Fibre hood.
Carbon Fibre is the stuff that Formula 1 racecars are made
of – it is among the lightest and strongest materials ever
designed by engineers. The
Saturn is the car on the left, and has a mean looking hoodscoop,
feeding some kind of supercharger or turbocharger.
I think this particular Saturn is driven by Chris Berube
and Tom Brandlehner (but I’m not sure if I got this right –
send me a correction if I’m wrong).
Together these two cars are embarrassing a lot of more
expensive and more exotic iron, and in the process are damaging
the egos of those drivers they pass.
Keep up the good work guys!
being embarrassed, how would you like to lose to a car that costs
only $300? Actually
Bill Arnold and Tamara Hull may have up to $3500 total invested in
this car, after they raided some junkyards and put it back
together in good shape.
Bill and Tammi have a little contest going between the two
of them – taking turns competing for best time amongst
themselves at each track.
Bill is an excellent BMW mechanic and as a testament to his
skills, this old BMW 5 series is hanging in there quite well.
Bill and Tammi actually race BMW M3's just like like the
one I have. Plus Tammi has another BMW racecar that she owns, and a third one that she is
building. In order to
start this event, they drove this car across country from the left
coast, and probably have put 7000 miles on it so far.
session finally started shortly after lunch.
A brief rain shower made the track a bit damp.
With every lap it was drying off somewhat, but the
conditions on the back side of the track were a bit slicker than
usual. We ran a
pretty good session, except for a bobble which cost us 2-3
seconds, so it wasn’t our best effort, but it wasn’t all bad
either. For some
reason, the car seemed a little lower on power than this morning,
but I can’t put my finger on anything specific. So we may be a
few positions further down the finish than I would have liked.
I know we are flirting with 11th place right
now, and we really would like to get into the top 10.
We are a
little concerned about Greg and Dale, as when we left, they were
working on their motor. We
don’t think they had a good second run at VIR.
Between John Duff, Greg, and Dale, they have a mountain of
RX-7 knowledge, and we left them our shop manual, so I think they
will be able to fix it, provided it isn’t serious.
As usual, we packed up immediately and headed for the Glen.
If we hurry, we may be able to get a decent nights sleep at
our favorite hotel, the Best Western Lodge on the Green, and
believe me, I could sure use one.
As I write
this, Bill is driving us through some wicked, curvy hills in the
mountains of Virginia. Bill
is wondering how I’m not getting sick, typing and looking at
this tiny laptop screen as the world tosses around us. It must be because I originally grew up in West
Virginia, where I got used to this sort of thing.
Nothing on a car seems to last as long in West Virginia,
because you are always stressing it.
The tires and brakes, engine and transmission –
everything seems to wear out quicker, due to the fact you are
always climbing or descending hills, or going around curves.
This became apparent to me when I first moved away, and all
of a sudden I didn’t need to get new tires and brakes nearly as
often. So a word of
advice – if you are buying a used car, don’t buy one with West
Virginia wear and tear, if you can help it!
Today I am
really tired (have you heard this before?), and I know my writing
may be suffering because of it.
I would have written more for my VIR update, but I just
can’t manage to do so. I
hope you will enjoy reading about this, and check back for our
next update, which will be the final event, Watkins Glen.
go to the next story, click on this link: Watkins