Tuesday, September 9, 2014

It Was Fun While It Lasted

My day at the track was fantastic while it lasted. Yesterday morning I pulled into the paddock around 7:30, and, after tightening a wheel bearing nut, got Glinda to pass tech inspection. While waiting for the 8:30 drivers' meeting, I walked over to drool all over a super-cool '68 Model 500 and meet Geoff Flynn and Mike Pietro. I’d been communicating with Geoff on Facebook for the past few weeks following his documenting the work they’d been doing on the car. They, like me, took it to the wire on making some significant modifications to Mike's 27,000 mile, basically original car which they then drove down from Albany, NY for the day. A couple of great guys.

While we were chatting, Smitty Smith walked over to join our conversation. He’s an older gentleman with MANY years of wonderful Corvair experiences. I could stand and listen to his stories for hours, but we were being called over for the driver’s meeting.

I sat down in front of John Egerton, a fast driver with a rare EM racercar. He had to hassle me about “going over to the dark side” (my decision to sell my EM street/track car and focus on racing a LM). After being instructed on how the day would be run, Group A (the non-Corvair cars) racers headed out onto the track for 20 minutes of getting acquainted with the twists and turns of the Thunderbolt circuit. I was in Group C, so I took advantage of the wait by driving around the paddock area to heat up Glinda's transmission. Shifting into first, when she's cold, is almost impossible. I needed to engage third, let the clutch out, and then second and let the clutch out before I could get first gear. Frustrating, but at least all the up- and down-shifts seemed fine between second, third, and fourth.

When I returned to my parking spot, I found my newly arrived neighbors were Brett Aston and his son. I’d met Brett at the 2012 Convention Autocross, where we ran in the same group, so we’d spent a lot of time chatting while waiting for our turns. A really nice guy with the fastest 2-carb ‘vair I’ve seen (I’m sure a good part of that speediness is his skill behind the wheel).

Finally, it was my group's turn to enter the track. I lined up second on the pit lane behind Brett, and, after he was through turn 2, I was waved onto the course. Soon after heading out, raindrops appeared on the windshield, but fortunately it wasn't anything more than a slight drizzle - the track never looked or felt wet. The first two laps were run under yellow flags to keep our speeds down, but after that, they cut us loose. I drove another eight or so laps, braking later and accelerating sooner at each corner. Most of the turns were taken in third gear, while a couple were fast enough that they could taken in fourth. Two annoyances quickly reared their heads. First, hard turning would cause the engine to bog (running only one race-modified carb), and, second, the engine didn't want to pull much higher than about 4500 rpm in third and less in fourth. At the end of the front straightaway, the speedometer's needle was bouncing, but I think I the engine was turning around 4300. That calculates out to about 90 mph.

I actually passed someone on the track – an experience I’m not really used to. Another unusual occurrence for me was that throughout my track time, no one came up behind me.

Way too soon, the black flags came out signaling us to exit the track since our twenty minutes were up. As I coasted into the pit, I heard a racket coming from Glinda’s rear end and saw the tachometer bouncing around. After parking near the truck, I pulled off my helmet, unbuckled my harness, climbed out, and immediately popped the hood of the still-banging engine compartment. Nothing appeared loose, but it was making a metal-hitting-metal sound. As soon as I gave the throttle a little blip, the noise went away immediately only to come back as soon as the rpms dropped back to idle. One of the racers walked by and told me it was just a starved lifter clattering, but I didn't believe him. Brett came over and thought it sounded like a noise his car had made when one of the transmission mounting bolts had come loose. Remembering that one of the three bolts attaching the transmission to the crossmember never really torqued up, I jacked up the right side, lowered it onto a jackstand, and slid under to investigate. Sure enough, the bolt had backed out and there was now an eighth-inch gap. I grabbed a wrench and with only some optimism started tightening the bolt. As soon as the gap started to close, I'd hear a pop and feel the bolt loose its torque - a stripped hole. Brett went through his collection of spare parts, but couldn't find a new bolt. I was sent to the trailer of another racer who, it was thought, would have a helicoil, but he didn't.

Knowing I had to have all four of her wheels spinning to get her home, I made the hard decision to hitch Glinda back up to the truck and go home. I'd been fighting a head cold, and I didn't have a decent camera with me, so I was not enticed to hang around to take any videos or photos. While I was packing, John wandered over to find out what was going on and to share a couple great David and Goliath stories where he and his unsafe-at-any-speed car beat some impressive competition. A nice way to end my time at the track – a reminder that it’s the people, not just the track time that make me enjoy these events so thoroughly.

After a long two-and-a-half hour drive home, I pulled up in front of the house. Later, I unhitched Glinda from the truck and fired up the engine. The noise sounded worse, but I was able to get her backed up the driveway and parked by the garage.

Combining the shifting problems and the noise, I’m more inclined to point my finger at something inside the transmission. I will, though, helicoil the stripped hole and get everything back in line before I go pulling the transmission apart. But NONE of that's going to happen any time soon. I'm done with working on Glinda for the foreseeable future. All my Corvair time is going to be spent working on Mikhaila's car.

Highlights of the day were: spending time with Corvair racers, getting some green flag time while being oblivious to my car’s woes, listening to the awesome-sounding engines as they raced around the track and cruised through the paddock.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tom, We always enjoy having you at our track day events! Hope to see you and Glinda the Corvair next year, wherever NECC may be running! Al Lacki