'Tis better to be Lucky
Summit Point National, April 01
I always look forward to going to Summit Point. I consider it my "home track" and think I have an advantage there. It's a challenging and technical track, and one must know the fast way around. Over the past five years, running only National races and visiting Summit only once a year, my home track advantage must be approaching zero. Still my best laps with a (well-worn) stock motor are within 0.5 seconds of the lap record, and I want the record. Again, this year it was not to be.
Kathy and I drove up Friday morning (0500) with the intent of doing the practice day. Sean and Mark would be coming up to crew (something I rarely have). Dave Gomberg met us as we arrived. The motor in his Cheetah DSR had expired on the Thursday practice day. He would hand off his paddock space to me. (All the good spaces were taken by Wednesday . . . usual Summit madness). Weekend did get off to a spectacular start. As I was unloading the loose stuff from the trailer, I asked Kathy to lower the tongue jack so that the trailer would be level. As it was lowered, the trailer side door came to rest on the fire extinguisher handle and, WOOOOSH, it discharged its dry chemicals much to the shock of everyone around. Ugly mess, too. We drew a small crowd for a bit. Weather would not cooperate as it rained most of Friday, so I just visited around. Sean and Mark entertained themselves by helping Dick Knoblauch to put his FF back together. It got very cold and damp at times. Kathy, as usual, went off to DC in search of SAKs, etc. We did our now obligatory visit to Madam Wong's Friday night.
Saturday began with light rain. I had bought new tires from Hoosier but had to take them off and put on the hated RAIN TIRES! Crew had a bit of a last minute hassle having discovered that the rear tires were not balanced and finding out what spacers work. I got out at the second lap of the session. Car handled comfortably but the gearing was way off as I ran out of revs at the start/finish line. When I came in my crew told me that I (as had many others) had been disqualified for sound. I had fitted a new muffler following Savannah after mine came apart at the welds. Hasty had "procured" one for me like his. It wasn't good enough for this cool, very 100% moist air. My times, despite bad gearing (rain tires are smaller in diameter), were good enough for the DSR pole. Fortunately, I had welded the old muffler, so we put it on and waited for some dryness. Dan Carney, another member of our 90's racing group, arrived to hang out.
Our afternoon qualifying session was off at about 1:30 PM. It was still very cloudy, but the track was dry on line. Once my motor got up to temperature, it started to miss at high rpms. I could not pull more than 9000 rpms. I went to the pits to have the plug wires checked (this was the cause at the last race). Sure enough one of the wires was not "clicked down" hard. I am beginning to hate plug wires. Went back out and had full power for the first time of the weekend. Hurray? Not so fast. The clutch was now slipping with full application of HP. Had to short shift at 8500. Gave up and came in after two laps. At least my old muffler resulted in 94 dB sound readings. I was shocked to find out that my 1:18 lap was good enough for the DSR pole
Looking for someone who had at least taken a ZX10 apart, I went and roped Larry Kropp into working my clutch problem. Larry was crewing for Don MacCluskie and I had lent them an oil line off my spare motor earlier in the day. In order to get the motor sidecover off to get to the clutch, we had to move the motor in the chassis to the left about 3 inches. This kept Sean, Mark, Dan and me busy for a couple of hours as we unbolted many things. Once we had the sidecover off, we summoned the Larry guru, who pronounced the clutch discs fine but the pressure plate severely worn. Since the spare motor has a ZX11 bottom end, the pressure plate did not fit (of course). We did use the sidecover since it had an intact gasket. I had some new clutch discs, so Larry guru added an extra disc to take-up the wear thickness of the pressure plate. We carefully checked engagement, etc. We finished getting the car back together at about 7PM and I took it for a test spin about the paddock. All seemed well. Tired and very dirty, we were in need of Red Meat. I have worked Sean and Mark far too hard. They will not be eager to come to the races with me again. Kathy, who had returned from her days shopping at 5PM, had wisely hid out in the Jeep while we finished our wrenching drill.
We had to begin Sunday much too early since I wanted to do the 8:30 AM "hardship" session to test the fix. I ran a couple of laps and the clutch was fine and the slightly higher gear (one tooth) was better. Unfortunately, the sidecover had a significant leak. Being the second race of the day, there was not time to find any temporary solutions. I added extra oil in the dry sump tank and promised myself to keep a sharp eye on the gages.
I was gridded 7th overall behind six S2's and ahead of all four CSR's and five other DSR's and another S2. Steve Carroll, AMAC ZX10, would start 9th with a CSR between us. The S2 in front of me was driven by Fred Knoll, an unpredictable driver. (He caused the first lap melee at Moroso earlier this season and once took great delight in the "racing" after he ran into my FC at least 4 times at a race several years ago). I don't like to be anywhere near Fred. At the green flag, the other row got a big jump and Steve immediately pinched me to the inside track edge. It was either backoff or drive on the grass. After turn one I found myself behind Steve and Fred. Getting clear of Fred, SAFELY, and getting at Steve was suddenly a daunting prospect.
Not to worry. Steve spun exiting turn 5 (ended up in a small lake . . . thanks to the rainstorms). Bob Houston would be hit on the first lap and would retire in a couple of laps with a rubbing rear tire. In the first two laps, I passed 3 of the S2's and the trailing DSR's would disappear from my mirrors. My car seemed loud from the second lap on, and sure enough, they showed me the meatball board with my car number and SOUND on it (my muffler had come adrift, AGAIN, and I am beginning to hate exhaust systems). It was a warning and if I got another they would black flag me out of the race. Thereafter, I would coast past the sound guys on the front straight (so much for good lap times). Despite being down on power and having to coast on the long straight, I still managed to turn several laps in the 1:17's. I'm sure I spooked a few guys after I passed them and then slowed significantly on the straight. Crew was showing gap to the second place DSR, and I began to back off further when the gap got to 50 seconds. I lapped the second place DSR around lap 20. Suddenly my motor started to run very poorly. BLAAAAAAAaa. I checked the gages, but all seemed OK. I continued on but was only able to do a 1:36 on the last lap. Turns out that a coil wire connector had broken. A ZX10 running on just two cylinders sounds very BAD. I got passed a lot on the last one and a half laps, but still had a big enough lead to take first in DSR. Car was so bad; I passed up the victory lap. I did get Sean to fetch my checkered flag though.
Got points, got free tires, got a hat, didn't stick around for trophy but got a flag. Good weekend. This time being lucky is better than speed.