Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Hawk International Challenge with Brian Redman 2015




As far as track time goes, The Hawk is not exactly at the top of the list. When you are at an event with 550 cars you don’t expect to have just too many sessions, nor very long ones. But The Hawk is a party beyond any other. Personally, because it's in one of only a few real "racing towns," it's even better than The Mitty at Road Atlanta..

We showed up at noon on Thursday and enjoyed the scenery and a bit of relaxation. And we got to meet our newest Volvo buddy, Goran Nyberg, who came with his three kids plus one boyfriend (a daughter’s,  not Goran’s) all the way from North Carolina. The kids were visiting from Sweden.

Most of our cars started as someone else’s; Goran’s came from Richard Schnabel several years ago, but it has been improved upon, without question.

Goran Nyberg came to play

The Three Vänner of the weekend -- Perry, Nyberg, and Freiwald
And Goran is F-A-S-T. (Plus just one hell of a nice Swedish guy with a strong Volvo affiliation.)

Friday night’s Race Car Concours in downtown Elkhart Lake is just about beyond imagination. The race cars get a police escort into town to park along the street sides. The path downtown is lined with parade spectators.

Crowd control in Elkhart Lake? 
Here's our Fox Cities Sign Country friend, Travis Pfrang, with his beautiful 'Vette. 
In the early 20th Century Elkhart Lake was the playground for Chicago. The city has retained (and even enhanced) its charm. Siebkins Resort and the Osthoff play strongly in the history and natural beauty.

If you have read Burt "B.S." Levy’s fictionalized account of road racing in the 1940’s and ‘50’s, The Last Open Road, no red-blooded male can walk past the lake without envisioning Buddy Palumbo and Sally Enderle cavorting on the beach in the moonlight.
Elkhart Lake beach on the left, scene of ...


Live music at Siebkins reving up the crowd on a spectacular evening.
The Hawk itself is a ‘see and be seen’ event that attracts people from everywhere. It’s a spectator’s delight with just about every type of race car imaginable. Vendors come out to add to the ambiance and automotive attraction.
A modern Morgan
A group of Cobras, including No. 99 that Rollie Stephenson has had since he was a kid (he's a late middle aged kid now), was on hand to share space with Tesla.


One of two LaCarerra cars on hand. This behemoth actually ran with Group 8!

The Hawk includes a Sports Car Concours on Saturday night. The Brabenders won first in class with their P1800A, beating out Ferraris and others!

Oh yeah, about the racing ...

I had a new first experience during qualifying on Friday. On the second green flag lap as I downshifted entering Turn 1 the rpm’s jumped. It only took a microsecond to realize that the throttle was stuck open. I did my version of trail braking around 1 and jabbed the gas petal, freeing things up for Turn 3. But the problem returned as I approached the tight Turn 5 so I slapped off the ignition and rolled into the exit straight off 5.

At first we thought the cable had stretched and caught up on the linkage, so we tightened it. Of course, it can’t be that easy. While Doug Senk was cranking down on the nuts that squeeze the cable the shaft broke. Our 5 minute job turned into 90 minutes, including borrowing Jeff Johnk’s drill and creating a new shaft.

Then on the next outing – Qualifying -- it happened again! I rolled to a stop on the access road outside Turn 5, jumped out and, with the help of Jim Stephenson, Mark School and Amish John, found that there was binding in the linkage with a wide open throttle. It must have looked a little bit like the Keystone Cops. It’s a mystery why this would show up all of a sudden since that had not been a problem at Blackhawk, and I had not touched the carbs since.

So how did the weekend turn out? Not bad. In Sunday’s late afternoon Feature Race we placed 3rd in class, behind Brian Davis’ Elva Courier and Goran’s ’65 Volvo 1800. Goran had me beat by a handy 7 seconds per lap! I’d like to use my friend Cana Comer’s line “Don’t get used to it,” but 7 seconds is a tremendous difference …


Ray Freiwald’s drive train gave up on him late in the qualifying race on Saturday, so at the end only 2 Volvos were running, and that was only thanks to Goran’s ingenuity of finding a tractor top link at Mill’s Fleet Farm to replace the nice aluminum trailing arm that broke on him.  Now it's a real 'Swedish tractor!'

Seems I am not the only one that spends time doing this stuff!
Overall it was a great weekend.  And now we have a bit of a break. Speaking of brakes, I need to figure out why I have a pedal that goes nearly to the floor at inopportune times, like at the end of the fastest straights on the course. Never a dull moment!


Here's a relatively short (6:53 min.) video of the Feature Race. Sorry I cannot get the video to synchronize properly with the data so there is no speedometer or tachometer.


And check out the September 2015 issue of Classic Motorsports,  p. 7 to be exact. (Thank you, Mueller Motorwerks.)

Here's a link to a really nice video done by Jessica Johnk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xrf2mJBbkJc

Bonus photos
"Everyone get out your cell phone. Now take a picture to remind yourself that if you think about doing something crazy, these are the guys who will come to visit you."

'Nuff said
The Nybergs. L to R, Eric, Cecelia, [boyfriend], Victoria and Goran. I could understand them once in a while. I bet they were talking about me in Swedish.  
Mark School and Doug Senk.
Jeff and Jessica Johnk, great folks (Phil Koller photo)
How long before Road America has a water slide? (Phil Koller photo)
Turn 5

Friday, July 3, 2015

Blackhawk Classic XXIII



Sometimes things start off well and go all to hell. Sometimes things start off all to hell and turn out well. The Blackhawk Classic XXIII was pretty much of a mix of these two.

Built in 1967, Blackhawk Farms Raceway is 1.9 miles long, flat as a pancake, and has the very best facilities bar none. Owners Paul and Carol Musschoot have really put a lot of money and effort into it. The chalet serves as an eating area on the lower level, with a very nice spectator tower above. The grill is 3 steps from the chalet, and the food is good. The shower/rest rooms are clean, showers far better than the "name tracks" we have attended. Grounds are meticulouslymaintained, and camping, be it with a tiny tent or a motor home, is welcomed without additional charge. Each year improvements are made.

Alex Christopher (L) shares some quality time with Blackhawk owners Paul and Carol Musschoot


Following Spring Vintage we decided it was time to find the source of the oil leak and elevated coolant temperature. Suffice it to stay that once one starts heading down this path it becomes a long one, with lots of twists and turns.

Off came the head and down to Competition Specialists it went. The almost inevitable call from Steve Blom came: "Jim, you have a really beat up exhaust valve seat. And the guide is completely destroyed." This after only three race weekends! Crap.

Well, that was the only good head for that block, and it needs to come out anyway to search for the oil leak. We have two weeks. Wait! Make that 4 days given all the other commitments. Crap. Life became very regimented. Again. Still.

Transportation Coordinator Sam Seward came up from Milwaukee and we lifted Block A from its moorings. Not much sign of a leak from the engine, but there was a transmission cover bolt standing very proud of its seat. And that confirmed Race Coordinator Joy Perry's sharp olfactory observational skills that we were throwing Mobil 1 gear oil from the top of the 'new" Sellholm tranny. The bolts went to the drill press for safety wire holes.

Racer's Best Friend
And those bolts ain't goin' nowhere again!

The car ventral surface (that's biologist speak for bottom) got a good pressure washing and new coat of Ford Gray paint.

While I was at it, I decided now was the time to get rid of the very heavy driveline spacer made necessary by the 'new' Sellholm transmission. Off went an Amazon drive shaft to Appleton Crankshaft to be shortened. Of course that's not as simple as it sounds because BOTH halves need modification and then because it's a two piece shaft, it has to be sent out to be balanced. (Don't trust Internet ads that say "We balance two-piece drive shafts.") $423 later we had a shiny dandy looking correct length  driveshaft.

Might as well replace the clutch while we're at it -- after 2.5 years and knowing what it has gone through, it must be time. The new Tilton disk and pressure plate arrived from Pegasus in time, Of course, it can't be just that easy -- the new one has a slightly different profile and also, most ominously a different number on the pressure plate, A call to Pegasus ended up in a call to Tilton, which ended up with a consult with their fabricators, and eventually the message that it was indeed the right plate, that the numbering was now a serial number and not a PN. Geez, why cannot they say that up front and save everyone some angst?!

Motor B had been lounging in the trailer for over a year, awaiting its turn. This is the one that was the original creation from bottom to top by Competition Specialists. Thanks to help in my absence from Crew Chief Dave Buettner, we got 'er done in time to get to Blackhawk Farms for the annual Father's Day Blackhawk Classic.

As we sat waiting for the track to open for us to cross into the paddock we watched the late morning practice session. Our three Volvo buddies Jeff Babcock (122), Joe Brabender (123) and Alex Christopher (92) were out putting their Swedish Iron through the paces.


On the last lap Alex came around trailing a plume of white smoke., When I got to the paddock Alex's hood was up and the guys already in discussion. Removal of the valve cover revealed a broken roller rocker . Unfortunately, that was not the extent of the damage as a look inside the cylinder with our 'protoscope' showed lots more damage. Well, one did not need to even get in quite that far ...
Uh, something doe not look right here. (David Farrington photo)
I really admire (and am jealous of) Alex's ability to face adversity. While he was disappointed that his weekend had ended before it really even started he made a great weekend of it nonetheless. Class act. VSCDA helped out in this regard too; they refunded much of Alex's entry and race fees. Thanks VSCDA.

I got out onto the track for the afternoon practice sessions. The new motor had only 20 minutes of break-in run time on it. so I took it easy. But I could tell she was really rarin' to go! In fact, after the session I texted Buettner that we had one sweet motor.


That feeling held up until the cool down lap of the second practice, when very suddenly I lost a cylinder. So now it was my turn to look for issues, and once again it was found under the valve cover.

No. 4 exhaust valve spring
Now, I carry just about every spare imaginable. But "my kingdom" for this too!

... which, unfortunately, was home on the shop pegboard.
And my buddy Duane Matejka sent me this so I can duplicate it. This is a mechanical engineer's work at his best! (Well, maybe that's just a little overstatement.)

R Sport Engineering Valve Spring Compressor
I need to give credit here for some really wonderful help that managed to find a way to reinstall a spring to get us back on the track., I went to Autozone and bought a valve spring compressor make for the wimpy stock springs. Ray Freiwald suggested stuffing a rope in the cylinder with the piston at TDC to prevent the valve from falling into the cylinder. Then Dennis Birkholz and Mark School spent hours trying different things, and after a good night's sleep Dennis used a channel locks to compress the new spring, and Scott Barr suggested wrapping a small hose clamp around the whole mess to keep things from flying apart. Wahla! It worked!

It looked a bit like an operating room late into the night.
So how did it all turn out? Pretty darn good! On both Saturday and Sunday we finished first in class and on Sunday second overall, behind only the insanely fast Bugeye of Colin Comer. In the Dad's Day Handicap Scramble (staggered start with slower cars first) I set a personal Blackhawk best lap and 'beat' my buddy Colin, finishing 3rd overall.

Here's the video of the race that really counted.


Next up: The Hawk with Brian Redman at Road America.

And here are a few bonus pictures ...

This racin' is a tiring business! Jeff Babcock (David Farrington photo)
Colin Comer, in his usual position  (David Farrington photo)
Doug Senk was there to help out whoever needed help. (David Farrington photo)
Mark School gave me one heck of a run for my money with his Saab Sonnet on Saturday (David Farrington photo)
###

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Spring Vintage 2015 @ Road America

Wisconsin + Early May + Lake Michigan = Unpredictability

Spring Vintage at Road America is an SVRA event. Tony Parella and his crew were out making people feel welcome. The tech sessions were serious, the anticipation for a good weekend high.


P and B's Race Engineer David Farrington flew in from Chattanooga, picked up at what we old timers still call Billy Mitchel Field by our Transportation Coordinator Sam Seward and handed the keys for a TR6.



1st in Class 3DP

Meanwhile, our Race Coordinator (AKA Joy Perry) is addicted to weather, or more specifically, weather forecasts. I start getting the reports a week ahead. As the week wore on this year, I said. "I don't want to hear it. Tell me if it's good. otherwise I don't want to hear it!" But I hear it anyway.

We pretty much had it all. Saturday was beautiful. But the most notable was Sunday morning wind off the big pond 20 miles east of Elkhart Lake.. 

Spring at Road America. Where's the tower????(David Farrington photo)

Because Road America has decided to get sticky with competitors camping by their rigs, we decided to drive home Saturday night and enjoy the comforts of home. We left Larsen in sunshine and 70's and arrived at Road America to fog, wind, damp, chilly. Ugh. But it could have been worse!

You're really not interested in that, are you?

OK, we had a good weekend. The field was not as deep as in the past; given SVRA's push, that's a bit surprising. Too expensive? Too iffy with respect to Wisconsin weather?

Groups 1, 3 and 4 were combined. 1 is the very slow group (there was only 1 car in it) .4 is a whole lot faster than 3, so we got to hear the road of Chevy V8's as they blurred by on the back or front straight. Group 3 was where the action was for the most part, and we were in the thick of it. More or less.

I never really know exactly how to refer to our car. Farrington calls it No. 1. Something about that bothers me; maybe it seems presumptuous. Well, anyway, the car ran well all weekend, and here's what I think you might be wanting to know: We placed 1st in class in both the Saturday and Sunday races.

We had lots of friends stop by, including one of our major sponsors. Because the car was running well there was enough down time to really enjoy the weekend, as you will see in the large photo gallery below.

Nothing like having a P and B Motorsports sponsor come to see what is being supported! This is Louise Googins of Googins Advisors, Inc.  (David Farrington photos)


One has to finish in order to come in 1st. On Saturday, On Saturday Pat Star (Class 3DP) and his Morgan had me beat handily. He was racing hard with Dawn Meyer in her Class 3EP '61 MG but on the next to last lap he suffered ignition issues and, well, I did not. So we ended up 1st in our class.

The only other Volvo there was our good friend Ray Freiwald. Here's a bit of trackside video of our racing on Friday. (Video length-33 sceonds)


And here's a little of the action (and inaction) on Saturday. Note the beautiful blue sky! (Video length-55 seconds)


On Sunday we changed to a set of new Hoosier Speedsters. Until you have run a bunch of these races it's a bit hard to imagine just how significant a new set of rubber can mean. Meyers and I were gridded next to one another. From the drop of the green flag to the end of the race we were on a tether. I could see that her tires were not performing as well as mine, so I was doing a lot better in the corners than was she. But her car had a bit more than mine, so, well, here's the video ... (5:52)



Captioned Photo Gallery

No visit to Elkhart Lake is complete without a visit to one of America's most iconic racing watering holes, Siebkins

Joy does her 1950's impression of a Coke Girl.

New Glarus Brewing Company (their beers are not sold outside Wisconsin) has a knack for brew names, and Siebkins has a knack for displaying them.

Race Engineer David Farrington holds courts with Louise Googins, or is it the other way around?

Jim Slapikes brought his new 1800 creation. This started as a basket case, and Jim got into it before he realized just how deep he was, but it turned out great.

The Sign County crew makes these events into a real family affair! Always fun to watch them. 

Saturday night dinner in the cavernous Road America Center, home of America's worst acoustics.
SVRA honored Gordon "Duck" Waddle  for his decades-long service to our sport.

More video displays around tghe track allow spectators to keep track of the action on the various parts of this 4 mile track. new this year is a screen rotation that shows standings.

Racing and fishing, especially when one is from Montana, is not a bad life. (Phil Koller photo)

Racing can be very very stressful. 

Ray Freiwald and Dale Schmidt catch up (Phil Koller photo)

Must be nice to have a modular car like Rick Phrang's.

Race photographer/videographer (new job title, only slightly more pay) Phil Koller on the other end of the lens.

Some people arrive in a little more style than others.

One has to see structural beauty here - Gunnar Phrang's Camero


When Jeff Johnk is contemplating, he sees his daughter Jessica. Does the middle of the steering wheel have any philosophical significance? (Top David Farrington; Left, Phil Koller; Right, David Farrington)



Next up, Blackhawk Classic at Blackhawk Farms Raceway on Father's Day Weekend. We should have a full complement of Swedish Iron there. Guess I need to get out into the shop and work on that "minor oil leak."