Saturday, February 11, 2012

One for the Record Book

The Road America 2011 Kohler International Challenge is in the record book. For P and B Motorsports and the P1800 Volvo it was a challenging weekend that ended up pretty well given the potential for the alternative. The weather went from quite nice on Thursday to oppressive on Sunday. Thank goodness for the Cool Shirt and the ice box in the trunk!

Group 2 was enormous. Almost 80 cars were registered for it, with a whole bevy of fast Porsche 356’s. Volvo had three representatives, all of the 1800 variety – Perry, Gary Jebsen and David Hueppchen.
Friday morning practice started off with a little spin in Turn 5 with no damage, but looking the wrong way up the track is still a little uncomfortable. Our installation of an AFR into the header allowed us to confidently change main jets for the afternoon Qualifying Session, but the miss that had plagued us for weeks did not disappear. More disappointing however was a pretty violent jerk on shifting on the last lap at Turn 13. I knew we had a pretty major issue when I heard and felt clunking in the rear end on pitting. Oil was pouring out of a couple small holes in the differential cover. Spider gears had given up the ghost.

Joy and I climbed into the truck and headed for home to pick up a new rear end while P and B crew Dave Buettner and David Farrington, aided by Doug Senk who showed up to help dropped the rear axle. Four hours later we were back, and within a couple more hours we were ready to go racing on Saturday. The rear axle swap cancelled the hoped for trip into Elkhart Lake to see the Race Car Concours, but as they say, that’s racing.

In Saturday morning’s Qualifying Session we made it 4 laps before the temperature spiked and decided it was best to cut the session short. Found we had a pretty sizable air bubble in the system. Where was that coming from?

About noon friends and the videographer from UW-Fox Valley showed up to do a “What’s The Former Dean Doing Now?” segment for the campus website. Apparently I am a human interest story about an academic administrator turned road race driver as Road America seems interested as they issued a media pass to the Tom Frantz, UWFox Director of Instructional and Information Technology and a desire to feature the segment on their website once it’s done. Tom got to go into “the danger zone” with his camera for the Qualifying Race.

That afternoon Qualifying Race turned into a repeat of the morning session, with the high speed miss continuing to aggravate and the water temperature spiking after 4 laps. On pitting we immediately decided that it was time to find the source of the problem. After letting things cool off to an ambient 85 Dave Farrington and I started down the path of pulling the head off, only to discover that the water temperature sender was loose. We put the head bolt nuts back on and reattached the manifolds, but upon start up we saw we had broken the head gasket seal and water was entering the cylinders. Not good. So, it was back to square one, removing the head to replace the head gasket. Crew Chief Dave Buettner got back from a pre-planned foray to the Fox Cities to help button things up under the fluorescent work lights at 10 p.m. Again, the intended relaxation and fun of Elkhart Lake had been replaced by car work. That’s racing.

Sunday dawned hot. In anticipation of the 8 a.m. practice session we fired the motor up at 7:30 (after waiting to hear someone else break the silence before us) and did a valve adjustment. Out on the track we were treated to the best ride of the year, with a purring motor running at normal operating temps.
The Group 2 Feature Race was the first of the morning at 10. Based upon a pretty poor performance on Saturday we started in the 41st position in a field of 52. For the first time all year the car ran flawlessly. The numerous C Production Porsches were out front and stayed there, running in the 2:46 range on the 4.048 mile track. We passed more than passed us and ended up 6th in Vintage D Production. More important than the position was the absolute exhilaration of driving a fully functional car, and not getting into trouble. Our best lap time of the race was 2:58.914, down slightly from the 2:57.779 turned earlier in the weekend. Gary Jebsen finished ahead of us; OJ Rallye (David Hueppchen) spun in Turn 7 on the first lap and ended up a ways back.

In the end, the KIC was a kick. There were lots of people, lots of incredibly neat cars, lots of old farts driving cars that they woulda loved to be in when they had their reflexes, and a several really good women drivers, including Lisa Weinberger in Janet Guthrie’s ’72 Toyota Celica.

Time for a break! Next up likely will be the Fall Festival in September. Thanks to all who stopped by for our little party and to provide encouragement and good wishes.

What didn't make it into the Rolling article

P and B Motorsports team members Jim Perry and Dave Farrington landed a great article in January/February 2012 Rolling magazine. VCOA staff did a fantastic job laying it out (I especially love Adam Pepper's huge shot of three Volvo models racing together). As good as the article is there are always bits that fall to the cutting room floor so here they are:

In the end, the KIC was a good weekend. There were lots of people, lots of incredibly neat cars, lots of old farts driving cars that they woulda loved to be in when they had their reflexes, and a several really good women drivers, including Lisa Weinberger in Janet Guthrie’s ’72 Toyota Celica. She smoked me!

Lisa Weinberger (R), driving an early Janet Guthrie (L) car. was one of several of the excellent woman racers at the KIC. (Lisa Weinberger photos)
While waiting at registration I struck up a conversation with Richard Morrison from Salina, KS, who was there with his 1939 Lagonda V12 LeMans replica, Now that is one classic car. The cars in Group 1 may not be the fastest in the world, but they are among the most beautiful and speak of the really early days of road racing, with hand built cars. (Jay Leno interviewed Morrison recently; you can see that at

Richard Morrison’s Lagonda reproduction was one of many beautiful Group 1 cars on hand at the Fall Festival (David Farrington photo)
Alex Christopher’s 1800 after a run in with Road America’s Kink (Jim Perry Photo)
Jeff Babcock (122) and Todd  Jongen (142) do battle at Road America (David Farrington photo)
Nice ancillaries to the Elkhart Lake Fall Festival include a historic “reenactment” of the real road race course of the ‘50s on Friday night and a Gathering on the Green at the historic Osthoff Resort with a Concours de Elegance on Saturday. My ES got invited to the Concours, so we cleaned up at spent time looking at some wonderfully unique cars, sipping wine and listening to big band music in one of Wisconsin’s most beautiful settings.

P and B’s Chief Torque Wrencher Joy Perry with their award-winning ‘73ES “On the Green” at the Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival (Jim Perry photo) 
When I started the (Rolling) article I mentioned resources and that they are bit more limited than the big-time Volvo boys and girls with K-PAX. Of course there is a wide variation among we amateurs as well, but for us, long distance travel is quite a stretch. The Nissan Titan I pull the enclosed race trailer with gets about 7 mpg under tow. So going to Watkins Glen was quite the trip, but I’m glad we were able to swing it. Being on another big time track and staying at the Seneca Lodge was a great experience. As was seeing some of the Right Coast Volvo guys.

After hours at Seneca Lodge: Todd Jongen and Julie Gotham (Jim Perry photo)
Babcocks and Perrys caravanned. Doug Senk drove his modern Volvo out, and the Babcock groupies, erh … crew, met us there. Todd Jongen met us there. P and B Motorsports’ Crew Chief stayed behind, but the Race Engineer got to drive his ES from Rhode Island to the heart of New York. A 70’s advertisement said the Volvo ES was the car that could really haul. Farrington proved the advertisement, as he brought six, yes six, 1800 windshields that I had scored from a supplier from the Boston area. There are six happy people who did not have to pay $400 for their windshield!

Jim Perry racing in the rain at Watkins Glen (Adam Pepper photo)
I am really fortunate to have a spouse who is as bitten by this racing bug as I am. (She took our – you did not hear this – ’73 BMW 3.0CS to a HPDE day at Blackhawk herself, with me the crew and spectator. As the day dawned she told me she was not ready for this. At the end of the day she said she wanted to drive Road America.

Chief Torque Wrencher Joy Perry had time for a track day herself (Jim Perry photos)

GPS allows us to know where we are on the track each lap. Black is fastest line in Turn 1 at Road America. (Position on track is exaggerated for purposes of illustration.)

David Hueppchen – David Farrington photo
Joe Brabender – David Farrington Photo
Alex Christopher – David Farrington Photo
Ray Freiwald – David Farrington photos
Dale Schmidt – David Farrington photo
Gary Jebsen – David Farrington Photo
Jere Stahl (Julie Gotham photo)
Vintage Volvo racing’s largest crew and extended family – the Babcock team at Elkhart Lake Fall Festival. (J. Todd Babcock photo)
Saunders, Jongen, Babcock and Stein in the Watkins Glen Grand Prix (Adam Pepper photo)
A portion of the soggy gathering of 1800s at the East Coast celebration of the car’s 50th Anniversary (Julie Gotham photo)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Spring Vintage Weekend at Road America

Flashback to Spring 2011: It was a great weekend for the No. 1 P1800 Volvo, even if it was a terrible weather weekend. Thursday was 84 and beautiful (but that was only a travel day), Friday we had a fog delay! It was pretty amazing, but we still managed. Saturday it was misty and cool (sometimes raining), Sunday it was just plain cold (46) and we ran in 35 MPH winds. Lots of jokes about how much snow was expected to accumulate. But ...

We ran 3 personal best laps. In the Qualifying Race on Saturday we took first in class, despite a little wonky stuff in Turn 3 and the development of a high speed miss after a and extended caution following the meeting of a Healy and the wall in the kink just in front of me. We had access to a different set of plug wires and rejetted for the colder temperatures. That qualifier was supposed to have placed us on the grid for the Sunday feature but for some unknown reason they went with times.

Sunday's warmup had the car running flawlessly. We took 2nd in class in the feature behind a Healy 3000 (why would a car with a full liter displacement more be in our class anyway?????).

All in all, a successful weekend. No broken people or car!