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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
No… I have not fallen off the face of the earth. Almost, but not quite. I'll "digress" a little before I even get started.

Those of you who know me know that I'm really an engineer. About two years ago I gave that up to pursue my real passion… automotive performance and racing. (TGSI was originally an engineering firm but I sold my interest to JADTech Corporation).

The reality of the automotive performance and racing business is that if you don't take in the street car work… and that means all the "mung and drool" :( that goes with street cars… you can't put food on the table. The second reality is that very few people will pay what it costs to do performance "right". All want the monster HP, but few will pay what it costs. Every kid with a Honda has a buddy who claims that he got 300 HP for only $500. And the advertisers make it even worse… "Add 50% HP with our $69.95 "swirl thingy". So, my partner and I made a business decision to sell "swirl thingies" and the like… the stuff folks want to pay for. We paid the bills, put food on the table and got to play with the "real" performance and racing stuff… some.

Then last August an old customer from my engineering business hunted me down. I resisted the offers until in late October I couldn't refuse any more. I rejoined JADTech as CTO. Frankly, I went for the "bucks". But before you think I completely "sold out"… this was really a racing decision. Faced with the 2004-racing season on a very limited budget, going back to JADTech meant that I could afford to seriously compete for a National Championship in GT4… an Opel of course. New tires every race (about $800/set)... a new 5-speed sequential gearbox…and everything else it takes to do it "right". That's what it takes to win. And going back to JADTech I could afford a serious effort to win the "Runoffs".

This may sound like TGSI Racing (dp MotorSports) is closed… IT IS NOT. I still have my interest in the business, but my partner runs the day-to-day operation. We will continue to offer performance Opel stuff to those who want to do it right… and win. However, we will not take on any "garden variety" Opel stuff.

The title of this is "Racing Update", so on to the racing stuff.

Out West, our racing starts early… the middle of January at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR)... the first weekend in February at California Speedway, and the third weekend in February at Willow Springs. Going "back to work" meant that I didn’t' have the time I planned to get the new engine built and a whole bunch of other stuff I needed ready. (As it turns out I've been "on the road" since the middle of November… coming back to the shop on week-ends and working on the car.)

The January race at PIR is a very important race since it is a "Double National".. two races and two races worth of points. Miss this race and you are chasing the front-runners the rest of the season. So, I stuffed my trusty old F-Production engine into the "Fastest Opel in the West" and went to PIR.

The "Snowbird" at PIR is always a fun race… PIR is probably my favorite track. Also, racers from all over the country show up so it is a good chance to see how you "measure up". So many racers come to the race, that it is actually a 4-day event. It is held on a 3-day week-end (Martin Luther King) and Friday is the practice day. Last year we learned that if you are not there and ready by Thursday afternoon, you "start out behind the curve". So we left out for the 500-mile trip Wednesday night. "First crack" Friday morning we were ready to race.

I knew that with the F-Production engine I would be down on HP, so I was just going to salvage what points I could until I could get the new engine in the car. I was glad to see that Stan Czacki was there in his Opel GT. (Roger Wilson of Roger's Opel Engineering was there with Stan too.) Stan didn't have his "race" engine either… same story as me… not enough time to get ready for a January race. So, he was using his back-up engine. I hoped he and I could give the folks a good Opel show. And indeed we did.

For the first race, I qualified fourth in GT4 and Stan was qualified fifth… just a few ticks apart. Our engines were good enough, but not as good as a full tilt GT4 Opel engine We were both quite a bit off the times of the first three qualifiers. As it turned out the pole qualifier (Michael Lewis of Trans-Am fame) was under-weight and lost his pole position. (For some unknown reason, he did not go out for the first race even though he could have started at the back of the field.) So, for the starting grid I moved up to third GT-4 and Stan was right next to me. The way we lined up on the pace lap Stan was in the row behind me.

The track at PIR uses 2/3 of the NASCAR oval and then "ducks" into the infield… runs through a bunch of turns and then back onto the oval. As we came around "NASCAR turn 4" getting ready to get the green flag, my goal for the race was to hang onto third and maybe more importantly, stay in front of Stan to get Opel bragging rights. Well… when the green flag waved Stan blew by me and past a couple of other cars in other classes. (SCCA groups multiple classes in the same race group.)

I thought OH! *&$(#&$. !! It took a couple laps of driving my butt off but I got by the cars that Stan had passed and Stan and I were together.

For about 15 laps we raced each other… nose to tail… and side-by-side. I kept trying to pass him in the turns. But on every corner exit, he would "out pull me" and hold me off until the next corner. On the NASCAR oval part of the track, he would pull me by a couple of car lengths in the beginning, but I would catch up just before we would duck into the infield sections. Lap after lap we went around like this, but I just couldn't quite get by him.

What I didn't know at the time (and found out after the race) was that Stan was running a "3.90" rear-end. I was running a "3.67". So he would "pull me" coming out of the turns, but I had top speed on him and would catch back up at the end of the straights.

While Stan and I were racing for third, the other two GT-4 cars had driven away and we had lost sight of them. Then, somewhere in the middle of our "battle" I saw the "Teal Honda GT4" parked off to the side of the track. That meant Stan and I were racing for second… and of course Opel bragging rights.

The race at PIR is 30 laps. My "crew chief" radioed me "ten laps to go". I knew that my best chance to pass Stan was at the end of the NASCAR oval… just the track "ducks" into the infield. The turn sweeps down off the oval and then goes into a 2nd gear "left hander". Stan went just a "tad" wide so I ducked up the inside on the left side of Stan… right next to the inside wall. I stayed inside of Stan (on his left) down into the tight "left hander" and pulled off a "block pass".

The next section of track is an area where there was no way that Stan could pass me back, and as luck would have it we were getting into slower "lapped traffic". I was able to put a lapped car between me and Stan. Over the next couple of laps I pulled out about a 1 second lead (over Stan). Then I was able to catch a couple more lapped cars in places where I could pass them "cleanly". Stan caught them too, but in places where they held him up.

With a couple of laps to go, I was still racing my butt off. I didn't want to give Stan a chance to catch me. But then my crew chief radioed me to "back off a bit". I said "SAY AGAIN?!!!" He said "The "red Honda's out… don't throw it away". The "red Honda" had been the GT4 leader, so now Stan and I were racing for first. So I backed off… but only a little… I could still see Stan in my mirror and he was probably only a couple of seconds back.

At the checkered flag, that's the way we finished… OPELS FIRST and SECOND. Not bad for F-Production and back-up engines. And of course, I got bragging rights… for now.

Before I go on to the second race, I've got to take a "time out" to say some good stuff about Stan. First, Stan and I have raced together several times over the years (but always in different classes… F-Production/GT-4 and never that close) and he is really a good guy. After the race I discovered that I had lost the clutch adjuster jam nut… you know… the one on the bell-housing. It is a bizarre size and I couldn't find one anywhere. Stan had a spare with him and he gave it to me without any hesitation. Second, we raced side by side for a lot of laps without touching at all. He never "slammed the door" on me and always gave me "racing room". He always raced me "cleanly" and a lot of racers won't do that. Thanks Stan.

On to the next day and the second race of the weekend. This was almost a "re-run" of the first race except that the "Teal Honda" had blown up and gone home. They fixed the "Red Honda" and he qualified on the "pole" for GT-4, I qualified second and Stan qualified third only a few ticks back. This time there was another class car between Stan and I. So, maybe I could hold him off to the first turn.

Not a chance. When the green flag dropped Stan blew by me and a couple of other cars again. After a couple of laps, Stan and I were at it again. For about 5 laps it was another Opel show. But then Stan started over heating a bit and had to back off enough to save his engine. Discretion being the better part of valor, Stan figured that third place points and a running engine were a lot better than a "fried" engine and a "DNF". So the rest of the race was un-eventful. The "Red Honda" finished first, I finished second, and Stan finished third.

I left Phoenix with a commanding lead in the championship. Since Stan races in a different SCCA division than me… he races in the "Pan-AM" division and I race in the "Southern Pacific" division… he takes the points for his second and third place finishes "out of division". No one in my division gets those points. That combined with the DNFs the other guys got gives me a considerable lead.

All in all an exceptionally good week-end… Opels did exceptionally well. Remember a couple of pages back I mentioned how important the "Snowbird" is. I went to PIR hoping to get enough points so I wouldn't be too far back… now they are all chasing me. And more importantly, I've got Opel bragging rights… for now :D
 

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Let's face it. Money does talk. As long as it dosen't change the individual and it adds to his private passion, so much the better! It's the guys that sell-out to the sponsers "Brand" is the indicator. "Opel on!" I say. :cool:
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I ran out of time the other night and did not include the stuff from the California Speedway and Willow Springs race. So, I’ll continue now with the California Speedway race.

The California Speedway race was 2 weeks after the PIR race. So there was no time to do anything to the car. In fact, I was out of town the whole time and didn’t even get to change the oil. I had someone else haul the car to California Speedway and I flew in Friday night.

California Speedway is a schizophrenic track. Half super-speedway oval and half twisty road race infield circuit. The total track length is about 2 ½ miles long and split approximately evenly between super-speedway and road sections. My lack of time to work on the car meant that I still had the F-Production engine (down 30+ HP) and the 3.67 rear end.

The “National” part of the weekend was to be run on Sunday, but there was a “Regional” race on Saturday. So I entered the Saturday race to get some “seat time” since I had never raced on the track before.

The track was wet for the Saturday morning practice so I did not go out. That at least gave me time to change oil. Our E-Production car went out and broke a half-shaft. So rather than go out for the qualifying session, I chose to attend to E-Production car… I really don’t care about the regional race, so I decided just to start last on the grid to get the “seat time”.

Not going out for practice or qualifying turned out to be a mistake. I found out just how far off I was with the rear-end. At California Speedway, the infield “road coarse” comes onto the super-speedway just before the “tri-oval”… shifting to 4th gear just after getting onto the speedway part. Cars stay on the speedway through the tri-oval… through the high-banked NASCAR turns 1 & 2 and about 1/3 of the way down the back straight. Man!!! That’s a long way. I should have had the “3.44”. I was at the rev limit just as I entered NASCAR turn 1 and had to back off the throttle… or “pop” the engine… for about another ½ mile.

The rest of the track is kind of “neat”. About 1/3 of the way down the “back straight” the road racers turn into the infield “road coarse”. The turn is a hard 2nd gear “left hander”. Coming off the “speedway” you have to really brake HARD…. Throw out the anchor… drag your feet… and anything else to get down from about 120 MPH to what seemed like 20 MPH. (I don’t know what the speed really was.)

The infield section is mostly 2nd, and 3rd gear with a couple of 1st gear turns and short shifts to 4th gear. (The 3:44 would have made it 1st, 2nd, and 3rd gear.) The whole infield section is tight, twisty, and rewards hard driving… but punishes mistakes.

In case you are curious, I have established the redline on the F-Production engine at 7250 RPM. This is mostly because the F-Production rules limit the carb size and valve size so that the engine is essentially “done” at 7250 RPM. So I use softer valve springs to save about 5 HP of “pumping loss” to the springs. Even though I have bigger carbs for GT-4, the engine and valve springs are F-Production. Any way, if you do the math, 7250 RPM. with 21” diameter tires and a 3:67 differential gives you about 120 MPH top end… not nearly enough for California Speedway. A 3.44 rear end and engine red-line at 8000 RPM would give about 145 MPH top end.

My race group was the last group of the day. On the 3rd or 4th lap I went by my teammates E-Production car… parked off course with a broken half-shaft. I passed some of the GT-4 cars, but I pulled in a lap early. I didn’t care about the regional race and wanted to keep from abusing the engine.

Unfortunately, I still had to go to “Impound” after the race was over. By the time we got released from impound it was almost dark. I had a decision to make… drive 275 miles to the shop, get the 3.44 rear-end, drive back the 275 miles, swap rear-ends, bleed the brakes, and get no sleep. OR… race with what I had. I got a good night’s sleep.

Sunday morning I didn’t go out for the National race practice. Partly because I didn’t want to abuse the engine… partly because I had gotten enough “seat time” in Saturday’s race… and partly because I was working on another half-shaft for the E-Production car…%^&%^&$%.

Then it came time to go out for qualifying… Good news and bad news… I warmed up the engine about 20 minutes before heading down to “pre-grid”. Everything was fine. I started the engine to go to pre-grid, and it started OK. But when I pushed down on the throttle… nothing. The throttle cable had broken. Bad news… with no qualifying time I would have to start at the rear of the field. Good news is that it broke now and not during the race.

Starting last is not a “killer”. The races are long enough so that if you have a fast car and are good enough, you can still do well. In fact, a couple of the faster cars (including the “Red Honda”) had broken during practice/qualifying and had gone home. I figured that I could work my way up to about 3rd.

Indeed, by about half way into the race I had gotten into 3rd and to my surprise, I could see 2nd just about 15 car lengths in front of me. (First place was long gone.) In the infield section I could drive really hard and catch up to the 2nd place guy. Then when we got onto the speedway part of the track he would drive away from me through NASCAR turns 1 & 2. I managed to pass him a couple of times, and each time he would pass me back on the “speedway” part. But each lap I was a little closer to him as we came off of the speedway and went into the infield. The third time he passed me back on the speedway, I was close enough to try and out break him just before going into the infield… and if I could get in front of him at the beginning of the infield I knew that I could gain enough so he wouldn’t be able to pass me back.

Remember back in the beginning I described, “throwing out the anchor… and dragging my feet” to get slowed down? And remember I said that you get “punished” for mistakes? Well… I ran out of things to drag :eek: and “blew” the turn. There’s plenty of run-off area on the course, but to get back on track I had to stop and turn around to get back on track. By that time I had been fallen back to 4th place. In the time left, I did manage to get back into 3rd, but I never saw the 2nd place guy again.

Normally, I’m not happy with 3rd place… or even 2nd place for that matter… 2nd place is just first looser. But in the season championship race… which is what I’m really after… this turned out to be a good race for me. The guys who finished 1st and 2nd had not gone to the Arizona (PIR) races. And since the guy in the “Red Honda” was my closest competition for the championship, I actually stretched my championship lead by the 3rd place points I got to his DNF (zero) points.

So, on my airplane trip back to work, I felt pretty good. The season was 3/7 over… yea our season is Jan – April and it’s too hot after that… I had a “healthy” lead for the championship… and Willow Springs was next. I own Willow Springs! :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Willow Springs in February is unpredictable. For this annual race, I have raced in every kind of weather… relatively warm (mid 60’s)… or cold, or rain, or… one year Saturday was in the mid 60’s, and Sunday was cold, rainy, and during my race group that year the rain turned into snow flurries.

This year was really miserable… at least for most folks. It was rainy all weekend and the temperature peaked in the low 50’s both days. I say “for most folks” because I look don’t mind “rain races”. I started my racing career in Great Britain, and if you are going to race there, you had better learn to race in the rain.

Racing in the rain is mostly about preparation and strategy. Preparation like windshield wipers… good ones, and RainX for the windshield... Rain tires, both “full wet” and “intermediates”… water-proofed electronics… oh yea anti-fog coated windshield. Most cars in the “GT” classes run Lexan windshields. The anti-fog stuff you buy at to parts store doesn’t work well on Lexan windshields. So when you build the car, you’ve got to get the much more expensive anti-fog Lexan… about 2X more expensive. So, if you’re building a racecar, you can persevere through most rain problems, but a fogged up windshield isn’t one of them.

In the Southern Pacific Division, very few prepare for rain. Most of the cars don’t have windshield wipers installed and few own even one set of rain tires. Even though all of the racetracks in the division have race tire shops at the track, none of them stock rain tires. In fact, rain tires are “special order” only and take about 2 weeks to get. So in the Southern Pacific Division, if it rains and you don’t bring rain tires, you might as well go home.

I talked about rain racing a bit, because it wasn’t much of a race. Right off I’ll tell you that I won… and that I was the only GT-4 in the race. The weather forecast correctly predicted rain all weekend. About half of all the entries (in all classes) didn’t even show up at the track. About half of those who did showed up never went on course. And the brave souls who tried to go out without rain tires soon found themselves “in the weeds”… a few with bent cars.

As most of you probably know, for all but the “RunOffs” SCCA groups cars from several classes into the same race. For this race there were nine different classes in my race group… GT1 through GT5 and E-Production through H-Production. On the starting grid there were 11 cars: 1 GT1, 2 GT3, 1 GT4 (me), 5 E-Productions, and 2 G-Productions. That’s out of 40 “odd” entries. Since I was the only GT-4 in the race all I did was motor around and take the first place points. So, although the race was a “gimme”, being prepared is a large part what winning championships is about. So, I’ll take the even bigger points lead in the championship.

During the race… errrr, the “motoring around” I noticed that the oil pressure was falling off. By the end of the “motoring around” the pressure was down to less than 20 PSI… something was “going south”. The F-Production engine had gone as far as it was going to go. The “real” GT-4 engine wasn’t ready… the custom valves and valve guides I had ordered for the head had arrived but were still in the box.

The “bottom end” of the new engine was ready, and just waiting for the head. But with only 2 weeks to the next race in Phoenix (only one week-end to work on the car if I didn’t go home), there wasn’t enough time to properly do the head. It takes around 40 hours to do everything to a full tilt race head, and the head I was working on was only about half done.

I had a new “week-end warrior” head on the shelf so I stuffed it on the block, “buttoned it up” and swapped the engine. Including all of the other usual between race work (brake pads, bleed brakes, wheel bearings, and a dozen other things on the check-list) it took about 17 hours Saturday and 14 hours Sunday to get everything done. The dp MotorSports shop is at Buttonwillow Raceway Park… about 60 miles from my house and I keep my motorhome parked there. So it was another weekend without going home… :( but I was ready for the Phoenix race. :)

The next Tuesday I got an email from the Arizona Region “Regional Executive”, saying that the National race was canceled. The recent rains had caused damage to the track at PIR and there was no option except to cancel the race… aaarrrrggghhh.
 
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