Sean and I were off to Road Atlanta for the second F1000 championship race. Having just returned from Australia for less than two days, I am still very road weary and perhaps a bit punchy.
Sean’s 2008 season has been one of disappointments. In the spring race at Savannah, a spinning car removed his right side suspension. $$$. His next two races were very brief as he suffered engine failures. First one is a mystery, but the second caused by a loose oil fitting. He was chasing cooling challenges all along. With new cooling mods in place including a large water/oil intercooler addition, he tested the car at VIR while I was in “Oz”. Test was somewhat successful from a cooling perspective, but fuel flow problems prevented a full test. A new fuel pump and cleaned injectors were fitted for the ARRC and he was somewhat optimistic despite any meaningful seat time since 2007.
The test day on Thursday offered four sessions. With the run group including much slower FV, CF and CFC’s, the traffic would be horrendous. The shift cable came apart in the first session and he did not get a lap at speed. Fortunately a replacement cable was found at the Comprent trailer (a drawer full of many cable to choose from). Running on year old tires and in fierce traffic, the second session when OK, but the driver was rusty and lap times were lacking. The third session found the car sounding very BAD. A header had come loose and there was a huge exhaust leak. It took some time to remove the headers, do some filing and to fix the problem. The final session was very late in the day and the sun being very low caused vision problems. That plus the car sounded very FLAT. Kevin of Comprent came by and said the car sounded like it was running on 3 cylinders.
It was getting late and dark, but we checked fuel flow, changed the spark plugs, fiddled with the wiring, and changed the battery. No solution. With a few hours before the Friday qualifying session, we left the work until the next day. Engine guru George Dean would arrive Friday morning and would be begged for help.
Friday morning, while shaking some connectors to the injectors, the engine ran better. Found a connector that wasn’t seating (pins slightly bent). Problem solved just minutes before George showed up to assist. By then, it was too late to mount new tires, so Sean went out on the old “skins” but once again heavy traffic prevented any great lap times.
New tires were mounted for the afternoon qualifier. Another problem! One of the brand new Jongbloed wheels was bend and not useable. Tires were dismounted and put on the old wheels. Afternoon qualifier was gridded in order of previous lap times and Sean went out 9th. One would have thought this would have allowed some clear laps. Not so. Because there were so many cars in the group and it took so long to get them on the track, lapping slower cars began in one lap. Again, no great lap times.
Post session inspection found the chain to be very worn and loose. A new chain was assembled and fitted (not that easy to do). Sean discovered that the pillow block that held the differential in place had become loose, causing the sprocket to become misaligned and wearing the chain. Taking some washers out of the pillow blocks to tighten the chain would take a lot of effort.
Saturday. While prepping the car for the race, we found that the front sway bar was broken (weld failure). No wonder handling was less than good. Sean found a replacement in his “spares” but it was much stiffer. It was better than nothing and we set the adjustment on full soft. Perhaps, at last the car would be ready to make some speed. At least it seemed to be cooling adequately.
Race. Sean was gridded 9th in the 30+-car field. He got a good start, passing the Stohr DSR in turn one. He was immediately turning his fastest laps of the weekend. He said the car was handling MUCH better. He passed our paddock neighbor Ben Cooper in his new F1000 on lap 2 and was closing on a group of 4 cars. One lap 5, he didn’t come around as a full course yellow came out. He would come in on the hook with his car badly damaged. After passing a backmarker in a old Reynard FC going into turn 10, the guy forgot to brake or whatever and ran into the back of Sean putting him into the wall. Big impact. Race over. $$$.
We went over to talk to the Reynard idiot (Riesert) afterwards. He had no clue but did say that the speed differential was daunting. Corner workers told Sean that it appeared that the guy had hit him deliberately. Sean chose not to protest the guy, but did talk with the stewards about the incident (which Sean had on video quite clearly). Officials decided to only give Riesert a verbal reprimand. This white haired guy was old and said he was retiring from racing after this race. Too bad he hadn’t hung up his driver’s shoes earlier.
2008, the season from HELL.