Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The schedule for Streets of Willows... as spoken by Pete

Friday 3~pm, shake hands and say how's the flight?
Friday 3:15 mighty 440 comes to life, small children cry.
Friday 3:45 Mr Deuce freed from Magnolia Prison
Friday 4:00 Children again cry, epic quest for the Holy Gravel commences.

Hours of mindless 7 ton pole position and salami sandwiches. BEER!!!

NOISE.... darkness and chili, followed by sun and checker flag at 1:00pm.

Sunday 2:pm we stuff carcass into trailer
Sunday 2:30pm we drive into the sunset with much stench towards Morgan Hill.
Sunday 3:45pm Stop, look for smoke, continue onwards in due haste.
Sunday 10:pm dump wreckage in master chump's lovely driveway
Sunday 11pm ditch trailer in Milpitas
Sunday 11:45 Knock on Padrid-o-peeps door in Oakland, small children again cry.

Subject to wind variables.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Golden Gate Petrolium Story

The Golden Gate Petroleum team is more than just a bunch of nice people, it's a great story. I don't think anyone outside the team knows their story, so I'd better tell it - after all, when I asked their captain Pat O'Keefe if he had a blog he replied "I've never blogged before!"

Lets go back in time. It's the holiday break, and everyone in the ChumpCar world is getting ready for the Infineon race. We've wound down our marketing efforts assuming we have all the teams we're going to find, and we're working on our cars and organizing for the race. On Dec 22nd I get the word - we have two new teams signing up. And they don't have cars. And they've never road raced before. Enter Golden Gate Petroleum.

The V.P. of Golden Gate, Pat, had heard about us through his friend and our Marketing Director Cathy. They got immediately excited and dove in head first. I got updates every few hours for the few days surrounding Christmas: we're in the junk yard looking at a Datsun 510 and a 280Z, my neighbor has this Mitsubishi Turbo laying around, sheesh there's a lot of $500 cars on Craigslist.

Nearing the end of the year, the updates got a little sparse. A note about mad dashes to install cages (three of them, they were working on the Racey Diva car too), tales of woe over poorly running cars, a lot of silence. With my experience being what it was, I was 90% sure they weren't going to make it.

On Jan. 7 the word came in: one car was dead. They were only going to bring one car for their seven drivers, and were sharing with Racey Diva and her seven drivers. 14 drivers for two cars in a 14 hour race. It was a disaster in my opinion. They'd literally dumped hundreds of hours into the dead car over their vacation, only to fall short. What a bummer. "What car is it" I asked.

1989 Mitsubishi Mirage Turbo. DOH!

It's no surprise to anyone in the car world it didn't run. It wouldn't rev over 4000rpm and had no power. I encouraged them to bring it anyway, as I had an ace in the hole.

Race day comes. These guys storm the garages with a huge crew and two cars. A yellow RX7 dressed up as a cab, and the Mitsu looking like a delinquent cop car. Pat came over and shook my hand, thanked me for all the encouragement and last-minute registration. As a thanks he offered to sponsor our Free Range MR2:

The guys over at Golden Gate Petroleum showed up to the race with a special delivery for Free Range Racing...
A case of Joe Gibbs XP6 racing oil. For those who know oil, this stuff is the best you can get! It was more than generous and will keep our motor alive for the next two races. Since our car is stuck in Cali without any way to get supplies except the local parts store, this is a life saver.

So it was time to fix their car, my 'ace in the hole'. I called on our race steward, Ron Cortez, who raced Mitsubishi turbos back when they were new. He had lived the car inside and out back in the day. He didn't know, but grabbed his phone and called none other than Fred Lux of Lux Performance, who had been the Mitsubishi Crew Chief. Fred said 'check this' and 'check that' to no avail, then one of the Golden Gate guys mentioned "hey, this all started after we washed it". Fred laughed, said "check this connector buried right here". Sure enough, full of water and corroded. A little WD-40 and they were running like a champ. Sometimes there's no replacement for experience.

One last thing to mention about this team: they were sponsored by Les Schwab, the west-coast tire dealer. Their local Les Schwab had put new tires on all three cars (including Racey Diva). Sadly, they had put what amounted to hard-as-rocks all season radials on all three cars. They raced on ice skates all weekend! If I could recommend one thing for the team - new tires!

These guys were hilarious ALL weekend, great competitors, and all around nice people. They even opened the Mitsubishi up to some of those less fortunate teams who blew up early AND the Chump Tech Assistant, Big Dave. I truly hope ChumpCar can attract more teams like the guys from Golden Gate Petroleum.

If you're in the area, or hell.. just need some oil. Call these guys, and tell em ChumpCar sent you!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Day 2... Rain? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

We awoke Sunday morning to a dense cloud of fog over the entire track. I'm pretty convinced it didn't actually rain overnight, but the track was SOAKED! Dennis pitched a fit the night before because he didn't get any track time.. so he MADE SURE he was first out on Sunday. I think he was kicking himself when he woke up.... wet track = slow laps!

Dennis out. With Dennis' track record, I was expecting the car to blow up in the first 10 minutes.. but much to my amazement... it was running great! Dennis was going toe to toe with a local Portland tuning celebrity... and winning! Team Produnk and their Miata were putting the pressure on our little MR2, but in the end... Dennis held him off and Produnk spun at the entrance to T11!

We had been trying to call Dennis in for the last 10 minutes, but there was an issue with the radios... so we had to just sit and wait for Dennis to come in on his own. 15 minutes or so later, the MR2 heads to the pits.

Well just as Dennis rolls to a stop, I notice something was wrong. REALLY wrong. The next 10 minutes or so is a blur.. even now.

"Dude, I don't feel so good"
"Yeah, I puked all over"
"Sorry man, I tried to hold it"
"OMGWTF?!?!?!?! Get the f*** out of my car!"

I spent the next 10 minutes with a roll of paper towels and a wet shop rag... cleaning bits and pieces of breakfast from the harness and the seat.

Dennis IN, Dad Out... in dirty harnesses. ugh. Dad stays out for an hour or so since we had 5 stints to get through on the second day. The was possibly the most entertaining 45 minutes of racing I've seen. Dad and John's Miata were head to head for at LEAST 20 laps. From our vantage point, we could see about 1/4 of the track.. and the lead was exchanged at least 7 or 8 times. Way to go Dad!

Dad in, Matt Out. You know those people that talk about those moments in your life where things just "click"? For about 45 minutes of my life, everything made sense... True, I drive a POS car in a race for amateurs.... but in these 45 minutes, I felt like I could take on Tom Kristensen at Le Mans. I managed to set the fastest time of the day across the entire field, and had the time of my life!

Matt in, Dennis back out. This time Dennis lasted about 30 minutes before coming back in the pits. "WTF are you doing?" "I have no brakes!" "ugh". While I was out having the time of my life, apparently I managed to cook our brake pads. You know those people who feed their baby, shake em up real good and hand them off to an unsuspecting grand parent? yeah, that was me. Into the garage for a quick pad change. 30 minutes later and a full tank of gas we were back on the track.

Dennis out, Leo in. Leo had family in the bay area, so they made the trek up to Infineon to watch him race. As they showed up, we were franticly trying to replace the pads that DENNIS cooked. Leo did great and managed some great tight quarters passes in the final minutes. Checkered flag drops, and we finished!
Congrats to team #112 A+ Trailer Trash Racing for a ChumpCar victory! Can't wait for Streets of Willows!


Beer and parts in hand.. we had a quick bite to eat and started work on the car.

Luckily for us, we had a resident electrical wizard on hand to make the repairs. Enter Pete (aka Killer Bee Racing)(also AKA Zom-BEE).

Pete and Leo made quick(ish) work of the new battery install with matching terminals. Dad and I got to work on the o2 sensor, starter and alternator. 2 hours, 12 beers, and about 2 gallons of diesel through my 75k BTU heater and we had a running car!

It was now time for Beer Pong brought to us by the ever-popular Krider Racing. Rob Krider is a lemons veteran and now an official Chump. As part of the festivities, Krider Racing sponsored a nifty graphics set from Figstone Graphics to entice the Beer Pong entrants.

Conveniently enough, while my team was working away at getting our car back to track-worthy... Erik was over in the corner winning beer pong! Thanks to a last minute drop-out in the finals, Erik and Charles were awarded the vinyl graphics set. New professional numbers here we come!

Race Day!

Sleep? Who needs sleep? It's race day!

Up early for an 8:30am drivers meeting, the rest of the team gathered around the car to do final inspections. Leo and Dennis screwed with their data acquisition systems, Dad got ready to head out on the track and I was double checking our braking system. T-minus 30 minutes until the start.

Dad decided to go out first to get a handle for the track. Leo, Dennis and I had all seen the track in video games our whole lives... did it help? Probably not.

In theory, our car would be measuring telemtry through two on-board MaxQData systems and recording video on 4 webcams placed throughout the car. We had never really gotten them to work, but were determined for this race!

Dad goes out and the rest of the team huddles in the grandstands to watch. With only about 27 cars on the track at race-start.. there was going to be LOTS of open track after the first hour or so.

1 hour and 45 minutes later, Dad came in with the biggest $hit eating grin on his face i've ever witnessed. "How was the track Dad?" "****ing fantastic!". Hell yeah! Historicly, I have tagged along to my dad's hunting and fishing events with all of his friends. I have a GREAT time, but racing is really the first activity that I've roped my Dad into... I like to think he has a good time at these things

Dad in, Leo out. Leo took a few slow laps to get used to the track format and started to put on the gas. At this point we were sitting at about 7th place with 5 hours of driving left to go. Lots of time for lots to happen. Entering turn 1, Leo decides it's a great idea to dive in late and suddenly realizes he is NOT going to make the chicane. He does the right thing by going off track, but the car stalled out and would not start. Bad battery? Bad starter? Who knows.. get him in the pits and push start his a$$. Back on the track!

Leo in, Matt (me) out. Turn 1 coming out of the pit lane was REALLY steep... sure I knew you could take it at a pretty good clip from the Gran Tourismo laps... but I was not prepared for the ridiculous incline. I shifted to 3rd up the hill and the car just fell on it's face. Note to self... keep it above 4500 rpms. I was out for about an hour and a half and managed to climb us a couple positions, even with our crap DZ 101 tires.

view from the grand stands at the base of T1

Matt in, Dennis out. Poor Dennis.. it turns out that Dennis would be the butt of all of our jokes for the next 48 hours. You see, if you follow my blog... you know that in Portland our brakes caught on fire with about 40 minutes left to go. Dennis was driving and refused to get out of the car when I told him the front brakes were ON FIRE. He simply looked at me and said "well put it out, I want to go back on track". Remember this? Yeah, that's Joe putting out a fire and me trying to get Dennis out of the car.

Dennis lasts about 2 laps before bringing the car back in with a broken CV. I hear the following over the radio "Uhh, I think I just blew up the motor". F*#@. Back in the garage, Dad and I worked together to get the replacement CV in the car. 22 minutes later, we were pushing the car out of the garage and Dennis was to go back out on the track. PUSH! No battery, no starter... it worked last time! 15 minutes later, we could not get the car started... we tried pushing, we tried jumping it, we tried bypassing the starter cylinoid. Nada. We were done for the day :(

Upon further inspection, we figured out that when the CV exploded it wrapped itself around the O2 sensor wiring and pulled the wires clean out of the harness. With no O2 sensor, our ECU was running an open loop and DUMPING fuel into the combustion chamber. No wonder it wouldnt start, we were running pig rich.

To Sonoma!

New battery, starter, o2 sensor (90 bucks!), and a quick alternator test and we were back on the road to the track. Did I mention we got more beer?

Playing Softball at Yankee Stadium

As you are well aware, I am not a veteran racer. Nor am I a crew member of an existing race team.. looking for my chance behind the wheel. I was not born into a family that enjoyed racing. I was not karting before I turned 10. I am simply a guy that has always been in to cars.. and always wanted to see what I could do behind the wheel. But mostly, I am a gamer.

Enter crap-can racing. My rotating door into racing. Finally, my opportunity to drive a REAL car on a REAL track.

Last weekend, the nut cases at ChumpCar ( ran dual 7hr endurance races at the world famous Sears Point (Infineon). For those who are not in to cars.. and not in to racing... Infineon is probably just a word you can't pronounce. For us gear-head gamers... we've been racing Infineon since the introduction Gran Tourismo for playstation. It's been a staple track for the Sony game for the last 10 years. I can't even begin to count how many pixelated laps i've driven on this track. And they were going to let ME drive MY race car on INFINEON? epic

As we arrived, I was literally choked up taking in the awesomeness of Infineon. Leaded 118 octane via an onsite 24 hour gas station? Check. 10+ onsite buildings that house cars worth more than I will make in a lifetime? Check. Billboards the size of Texas? Check. Rental garages that housed some of the most famous racers of all time? Check. Seating for 50,000? Check. Sheep wondering around to keep the grass down? WTF? Really? Check!

Weather was marginal with a layer of fog covering the nearby hillside. We were running a little behind schedule thanks to my genius 'shortcut' to avoid Oakland traffic. It turns out that hwy 121 is straight on a fold-up map of the west coast...

But hell... we made it! And tomorrow we get to go racing!

The night time brought bench racing stories of events past, and lots (and lots) of drinking. We had some work to do to get the car prepped for race day... but NONE of us were touching the car sober! We managed to install a new brake master cylinder (thanks Leo) and install matching new front brake lines (nice work Dennis). Prior to the race, we installed new front and rear rotors and inspected the brake pads to make sure we had enough to last. The car was ready! And I was drunk.

But at least i was warm!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Thunderhill 09

1. We placed in the top 25
2. Pete's team rolled their MG
3. Pete drove the MR2 and did great!
4. Jeff was sick, so we drove with 3 drivers
5. Nothing broke

Boring, I know.. but it's been a LONG time since then, and I want to blog about the Infineon race.