Oak Tree National, VIR

8 August 20, 2007


My zest for racing my Cheetah DSR has seriously waned.  With the arrival of the Stohr WF-1’s, cars such as mine are 6 to 8 seconds too slow.  The Southeast has a pretty good population of older generation DSR owners.  Before the WF-1, ten to fifteen would show up for a National race.  In the mid Atlantic, it seems that I am the only non WF-1 who shows up. With no one to race with, you ask yourself what is the point of showing up, much less spending money of tires, etc.  Moving the Runoff to Nowhere in Kansas at a terminally boring track at a very racer unfriendly time of the year is also a significant contributor to DSR malaise.


I was looking forward to VIR, not for my race, but for Sean’s.  He picked up his converted Van Diemen chassis from Jay Novak a couple of weeks ago.  The rear quarter of the chassis is removed along with the Pinto motor and Hewland tranny and replaced with a Suzuki GSXR motor. It is called a FB.  It is a new class of racecar and Sean was on the team that created the rules. 


The car as delivered from Jay needed outfitting with fuel system, cooling plumbing, wiring, data system, oil plumbing, and some body modifications.  There were lots of bits and pieces to be ordered and occasionally reordered.  There were solutions to be devised, tried and revised.  Our two weeks of garage time coincided with a HEAT WAVE.  It was frequently over 100 degrees in Sean’s unairconditioned garage.  Undaunted, we pushed on.  The plan was to take the car to VIR for the Friday practice day.  We finished the car (mostly) on Wednesday, but the springs we had did not fit.  Finding springs of the right size proved to be difficult.  Looking at the Friday Heat Index for VIR of 119 degrees, we decided we had enough hard times and elected not to take the FB.  Jay Novak was going to come down for the test, but he got to stay home (hopefully in the cool.)    


Engine Guru George Dean from Seattle was joining us at VIR.  He had a new customer (Garry Crook) with one of his motors and George was hoping to see Sean’s FB. I had just put a George Dean wiring harness in my car and George had reprogrammed (again) my BPD ECU.  My car also had a new front upright (after bearing failure last race) and new rotors.  I was hoping for some better performance.


With Kathy away on her annual summer 3-week odyssey, I would be flying solo.  Sean would join me at the track to crew.  Brian Little would also join us.  Hasty would be there in his Maloy CSR.  He had managed to score a garage with the AIR Conditioned quarters above.  Really nice.


I got to VIR late Friday afternoon. With the heat, there was no logic to getting there sooner.  Found Hasty at the garages, but paddock space around there was taken, so I went over to join Eric Cruz and the FE gang which was fairly nearby.  Sean managed to time his arrival after I unloaded, which I did at a very leisurely, sweaty pace.  I found George in Hasty’s area.  He was dying from the heat and humidity.  He was wearing an iced towel around his neck.


Since the North Carolina Regions runs two tin top enduro races as part of the weekend, track time gets compressed.   The Saturday morning practice was a combined group of ALL formula and Sportsracers.  The thought of over 60 cars on track with wide differences in lap times was unappealing, if not just dangerous.  I need not to have worried.  With the newly programmed and wiring harness (verified on George’s dyno), my car would NOT run over 7000 rpms.  I immediately came in.


George was baffled.  He took apart my injectors to look for clogging.  Nothing. We put the stock ECU back on.  Engine seemed to idle and no-load rev nicely.  Hey, it did the same with the BPD ECU.  Our wings and things qualifying session would happen before lunch.  (Hell, they had to get us pesky National racers outa the way so they could run their jalopy enduro.)  The engine ran.  Great.  On the out lap, a what was he thinking FA hit my front wheel hard while dashing past on the straight.  The rest of us were still warming our tires.  (Have it on video)  Despite what turned out to be a seriously bent rim, the car felt OK and I was having fun and going reasonably fast.  Saw a 1:58 on my dash (timing had a 2:00).  Had picked off 3 FE cars and was closing fast on another at the top of the “rollercoaster”.  He obviously did not see me coming and drove left to the track edge before turning right.  Unfortunately, I had the same spot picked out.  I braked hard and put two wheels off left to avoid him.  Spun, didn’t think I would.  Didn’t get the clutch disengaged in time and killed the starter motor.  (I have been racing motorcycle powered cars for 10 years now and have killed just two starters…. But it happened in the last two races!)  Had to get a flat tow back.  The tow truck driver was a major asshole (wish I had left my video camera on) and dropped me at impound rather than taking me back to my paddock space.  Love to push a racecar 300 or so yards in 100-degree heat.  Some nice guy came along and towed my car.


We had some minor fiberglass work to do to the nose and front splitter.  Trip to the grass was a bit harsh.  Brian feels I do these “offs” just to provide him some ‘glassin’ entertainment. 


Race Day.  Our race got off at about 10 AM before the heat was a major concern.  I was 23rd of 33 cars.  There were just four DSR’s, three new WF-1’s and my dinosaur.  I was gridded amongst a gaggle of FE cars.  I didn’t want to mess up their race.  Hasty in his CSR was just behind me.  My goal was to stay in front of Hasty. The pace lap was slow and annoying.  We didn’t get a green.  We got another terribly slow and annoying lap.  I was thinking that I need another gear lower than first.  Finally a green.  Cars pan out in front of me.  I see Tommy Schweitz in the Piper FB with four wheels in the grass on the right.  I cool it thru the first 3 or so corners.  Several FE cars bonsai past.  There are cars off  and in several places I arrive to a dense cloud of red dust, no knowing if there was safe passage.  I survived the first lap.  In the next couple of laps, I passed several cars as I picked up the pace.  I was having fun.  Lap 5.  Suddenly the engine lost fire going thru the uphill esses.  I played with the switches and it re-fired.  It only lasted for a couple of seconds before going dead again.  Ignition switch off/on and I’ve got fire again.  I kept this up until I got back to the pits.  Parked the car.  Now it wouldn’t fire at all.  Pushed it back to the paddock space.  Now it seems to run fine.  Gremlins.  George took a look at my tipover switch (the pendulum is glued in place) and declared it OK.  I hate electrical gremlins.