Friday, August 17, 2012

Midwestern Council Double Race Weekend-Return to Road America

How long can one chase a problem and not find the solution? This is not rocket science! Nothing as complex as landing Curiosity on Mars. But it might as well be.
The 2012 season has been plagued with overheating issues that just will not go away. And the August 11-12 “Midwestern Council Double Race Weekend” was no exception.
In preparation for the “Return to Road America” event I had put the Sellholm transmission back in the car (nothing amiss after hearing all sorts of noise coming from it in Portland) and installed the more favorable 4.1 new limited slip differential rear end. I ran it Thursday night on the lift and there was way too much noise. Dave Buettner and I decided that two alternatives would be more prudent than running (and possibly runining) it: 1) skip the event, or 2) put the 4.56 back in. So Friday morning at 7:30 I was out in the shop doing the rear axle transplant yet again, only to have the same noise with the 4.56! So, I did a little test drive and the noise was gone.
Lesson: Don’t run the drive line on the lift and expect it to sound like what it would on the road.
Competition Specialists also trued the head because we were pushing water into the catch tank in Portland. I checked the block to make sure its surface was flat, and got some very expensive Cometic head gaskets to see if we could not seal this darn thing up.
Saturday morning dawned 54o and beautiful. We were the first group out at 8:30. The rest of the Swedish Pavilion included Jeff Babcock (122, No. 122), Alex Christopher (1800, No. 92), Ray Freiwald (1800, No. 93) and cousin Mark School (Saab Sonnet). Support staff included Doug and Mike Senk, and Britanny Maule.  
The field is a lot smaller than the “major” events, but there were still more than 30 cars in our Group
I had also changed back to 195 main jets in the Weber carbs. That proved to be a big mistake. The car ran about as poorly as one could imagine. Felt like I was dragging an anchor on the bottom of a new flowage. Alex walked up after the run and said he wanted to confirm what I knew – the car “sounded like crap.” And it got hot.
I went down to 175 main jets and retorqued the head. In the 11:30 race the running problem was solved but not the overheating.  So I had the afternoon to think about it and confer with Crew Chief Buettner by phone, who was visiting son Mike and family in Phoenix. We decided that we would not remove the head because now it is time to let our friends at Competition Specialists have a go at solving this long-standing issue.
I refilled the system with water, started the car with the radiator cap off and watched the water rise and eventually come out of the expansion tank. Ray and I discovered that the top return port in the top of the radiator coming from the expansion tank was plugged. We removed the radiator, cleaned out that port, took off the water pump to make sure it had no issues, and reinstalled.
“Joy, just move the thing-a ma-jig a little bit and I think we'll have it" (Phil Koller photo and caption. Car number had to be changed because a car that was NOT there has the permanent number "1." Go figure.)
Logic would suggest that if water from the expansion tank could not return to the radiator the water would end up out of the system and in the catch tank. That removes a couple quarts of water from the cooling system and … overheating results! Took the car for a ride around the perimeter roads of Road America and the temp never went above 160. Hot diggity dog, we’re in business!
Midwestern Council had its Saturday evening event at Elkhart Lake’s iconic racing watering hole, Siebkins Resort. It was a gorgeous evening, and the Swedish Pavilion crowd had a great time on the deck. Ray Freiwald even had his annual bottle of beer. (Seriously!) We were joined by Dennis Birkholtz, who is babying his Sonnet until the Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival but who had served as a corner worker all day.

Fun at Siebkins. Left to right: Trevor School, Trevor’s fiancĂ© Andrea, Jeff Babcock, Alex Christopher, Ray Freiwald, Dennis Birkholtz, Mark School, Doug Senk and Joy Perry. Missing: Sally Enfield and Buddy Palumbo. Maybe they’re down at the lake ...

We get to see this once a year! (But that "Lite" stuff is hardly real beer, Ray.)
As I crawled into the tent I was genuinely excited to think I had the problems solved and really looked forward to our qualifying run on Sunday morning. But as I came out of Turn 14 I smelled water and the rear wheels slipped in something greasy. I looked down to see the temperature spiking and knew that we were back to old tricks started in May. Sure enough, we had lost a freeze plug.
They don’t run so well with gaping holes like this.
As soon as the car cooled down we were back at work taking off the carbs and intake manifold. The stock of 45 mm freeze plugs was located and we pounded one in place. That was followed by JB Weld, and all that was left was left was to wait until our last race of the weekend came around at 12:55.
Things started off well. Alex, Ray and I had a great time running together for several laps. Coming out of the carousel I overtook Alex, as did Ray.  But then the temperature started rising again and I had to call it quits. Alex was experiencing power loss and some ugly noises coming from his engine.
Nice sight – three 1800s running together. (Phil Koller photo)
So that was our weekend. You might call it a bust. But things could always be worse …
Jeff’s weekend disappointment – the driver’s right wall out of the carousel took its toll when Jeff lost traction on exit
Post Script: Often big problems have simple causes and solutions. On Tuesday Dave Buettner and I determined that the timing was way too far advanced at racing rpm’s, causing excessive cylinder pressures, and overheating. That’s been corrected and I am now hoping for a little circle track test time in order to push the car. Stay tuned …

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