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.

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