Hold the Fries
Savannah Double 7 Jul 02
I've been going to the double National at Savannah for years now. I like the track, unlike Sean, Mark, and Dan, and have done quite well there in some years. Weather can be quite brutal with temperatures and humidity at 100+. Last year, the temperatures were tolerable and the forecast for this year was reasonable at the low 90's.
The SE Division runs the race. They annoyed many this year increasing the entry fee 33% to $400 without explanation or any good reason. All the Florida DSR guys chose to stay home in protest. Kathy and I headed the new Envoy tow vehicle south on Thursday, 4th of July. Sean would also be attending. Only five DSR's showed up, which is quite poor for the SE Division. Robert Gelles was also there, but ran his Kokopelli DSR as a CSR.
Friday practice day was unexpectedly very hot with temperature at 105 in the shade with the big fan going full bore. Track temperatures were likely above 140. For some reason, my front tires lost their ability to hold air, so I mounted new Hoosier R45 tires. I ran the not too old R35's on the rear. Sean ran his older R35's. The rear of my car would step out in all corners and was worse in the slower corners. I could not do turn 3 flat out Despite the lack to traction, I was still able to turn 1:13.0 laps which somewhat surprised me. . I quit after about 7 laps and got the new R45's mounted for the rears.
The qualifying session was even more brutally hot. I followed Vic Moore very closely for the 10 laps I ran. We left Sean and Mike Kamalian in our mirrors. I almost passed Vic in turn 2, but botched a shift at the exit. I figured that I ran equal times to Vic. I was amazed when the qualifying times got posted. Vic took the pole with a 1:11.98 and I recorded a 1:12.98 and 4th, with Kamalian and Sean in between. Rodger Cook was having carb problems with his Prince and ran a distant 1:14.80. Traction was still a big problem and running turns 3 and 9 flat out was scary. The rear end was still stepping out. Sean mounted new R45's but was still having big handling problems. Hoosier measured his tire temperatures after a few laps and they were showing 275+ degrees. The tires were being cooked. All the new paving at Savannah of a few years ago has worn off and the track surface is back to the highly abrasive ground seashell texture. Vic was running Dunlop radial tires used in the UK, and they appear to work much better than the Hoosiers with the intense heat.
Friday night, after Kathy returned from her shopping adventure in Hilton Head, we went to downtown Savannah for a very nice dinner at the Churchill Pub. Excellent.
For race day, I changed my sprocket (my data system was working and showed I could turn more revs before turn one) and added a bit more rear wing. Sean changed springs and serviced his shocks in search of grip. Being in the second row for the start, I was able to see the green flag clearly. Sean was beside me and is quite good at starts. Sean downshifted vice upshifting at the flag and backed up a bunch. I was able to hang on Vic and Mike tail to turn one. My motor seems lethargic and they put about 25 yards on me immediately. I was somewhat puzzled, as I had been able to equal or better their speeds the day before. More wing helped, as I was able to do turns 3 and 9 flat out and hung about 25 yards behind the leaders. I checked my gauges, and everything looked fine. At lap 6, the motor began to run very poorly. Within a few corners, Sean passed me. I decided to nurse the car and try for a finish. Approaching turn one on lap 7, the motor blew up (rod failure, cylinder #2). There was big smoke and a big flame (oil on the headers) at my right shoulder. I coasted to the flag station and the squirted some fire extinguisher on the residual fire. Within a few laps, Mike Kamalian duplicated my blowup and parked in turn one also. Vic cruised to a victory, and Sean took second (also cruising since he could not equal Vic's speed). Vic's best lap was 1:12.6.
Why did my motor expire? The heat? Maybe. I had a rock hole in the radiator at Summit Point two races ago and severely heat stressed the motor. Since then, it spewed coolant, but seemed to run fine. (I took the lap record and first at Summit). Last race at Road Atlanta (also very hot), the clutch slave cylinder broke and I over revved the motor many times getting gears. More stress. I was gonna pull the motor after Savannah and have it rebuilt for the RunOffs. Now it is spare parts.
I packed up rather than putting in Sean's spare motor. It was too hot (and the pits were infested with an army of repellant resistant gnats) to face the several hour task of swapping motors. Sean considered packing it in also, but ultimately decided to use the Sunday race as a test session.
Kathy and I hooked up the trailer on Sunday morning for the long trek home. According to Sean, race day got a two-hour delay for a big thunderstorm. His race got off quite late in the day. He still did not have traction and couldn't run with Vic. Somewhere, mid-race, he had a coming together with a couple of S2000's. and suffered some damage to his exhaust system (plus minor fiberglass damage). A few laps later, he also joined the blown motor club.
It was a shitty and expensive weekend. We did figure out where most of the entry fee increase went. The race officials sported custom embroidered shirts (NOT tee shirts) each day. Very annoying. I have done my last July Fry at Savannah.