Monday, October 5, 2015

Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival 2015

Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival 2015

Our 2015 season began at one RA (Road Atlanta) in April and was completed at the second RA (Road America) in September. Another successful season – no blown motors, no bent metal, no black flags. And overall a good season with consistent top three finishes in Class.

The finale was the Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival. Except for a little rain in the darkness of Friday night/Saturday morning (we can say that, we were in the trailer Friday night; the tent-dwelling Farringtons might beg to differ with the adjective “little”) it was a spectacular weekend.

The prep leading up to this race had promised to be as easy as I have ever had. Only needed to bleed the brakes. And of course I waited until Monday before the race to do it. Trouble was that I found I had no rear brakes when I got ‘done.’ Seems it was time to rebuild the rear master cylinder, and of course I had no spare AP Racing rebuild kit. That’s what overnight shipping is all about, right?

Never a dull moment.

David and Sue Farrington flew into our "new" INTERNATIONAL Appleton airport Thursday night.(air freight directly from Thunder Bay to Appleton, just what I need).  It's always great to have the effervescent, always positive Suzanne in our midst.

Sue’s sister Rachel Durfee came over from Madison. I think I need to send Rachel a P and B  Motorsports T shirt! (John Tuteur photo)

The featured marque this year was Jaguar, with a smattering of really nifty Allards along for the ride too. The Jaguar show outside Turn 5 was beyond impressive. So let’s take a look at the weekend in pictorial form.
Over 80 Jags came from around the nation for their national show and shine

Joy and I helped out during registration. It's a great opportunity to meet people and see all the problem-solving that goes on behind the scenes. Makes one appreciate what our single VSCDA staff member, Laura Hire, has to deal with.

The Friday night Team Dinner featured an Allard show

Maybe they all have history, but this one seems to have a bit more than others

Alex Christopher had plenty of help (?) dealing with a cracked head

It was a picture perfect evening for the annual  Saturday night Gathering on the Green at the Osthoff.

The Gathering provided time for relaxed conversation. Here’s VSCDA’s Laura Hire, Joy and Alex enjoying the company.

Jaguar legend Bob Tullius entertained us at the VSCDA banquet.

Chuck Rydberg and his Jaguar XK 120 - one beautiful machine (David Farrington photo)

Photo op – Perry and Jongen on the grid (David Farrington photo)

Todd Jongen filled Jeff Babcock’s mirrors in Turn 5 (David Farrington photo)

Joe Brabender and Alex Christopher overtake the sole VW at Canada Corner (David Farrington photo)

Mark School and his Saab really put the pressure on Ray Friewald  in Turn 6 (Phil Koller photo)

Race Control at Road America. No one gets away with much with this sort of scrutiny.

This GoPro test resulted in an interesting perspective (Sue Farrington Photo)

Group 1 guys may not be the fastest of the weekend but they are the most photogenic ... (Phil Koller photo)

... and Bill Stelcher's '29 Ford was at the top of the heap. (Phil Koller photo)

I had my best lap time in our Sunday Group 2 Race: 2:49.725. Here's the video along with some commentary and self-assessment.


Perhaps the best race of the weekend for us was the Sheldon Cup, one of the special races for cars that have a typical lap time of 2:45-3:00. Falling pretty much in the middle of that range, I ended up pretty much where one would expect, in the middle. But it was a good race as this video illustrates. Tony Drews had some really great video that allowed me to watch myself from the perspective of another driver. You can see that at

Tony graciously allowed me to use some of his footage to be part of my own video of the Sheldon Cup. Thanks Tony! Here it is:


So what is ahead as we go into the down period? Well, both motors will be stripped down, inspected for wear and new rear main seals installed. The Group Race video will show why that's necessary. All the calipers will be rebuilt. The front master cylinder will be removed and get new seals. The transmission may get a new front gasket. I have a stock Volvo M47 transmission that needs to be gutted, the case reinforced, and then the salvagd straight cut gears from a couple broken ones installed to create a spare. And we will prepare a new motor to be installed in Cameron Lovre's 444 as we prepare for April's  Chihuahua Expess rally.

Mid-development photo of Can's 444 that we will be running in Mexico in '16.
Never one to sit idle, I'm happy to say I will be deeply involved in planning nexy year's ELVF -- the Volvo Nationals: Swedish Speed and Style!

Should be an interesting "off" season.

And as we sign off on the 2015 race season I want to express deep gratitude to the myriad of folks who have helped this all happen.

And espcially these individuals:
  • Joy Perry, P and B Motorsports Race Coordinator and spouse
  • David Farrington, P and B Race Motorsports Race Engineer and email buddy
  • Dave Buettner, P and B Motorsports Crew Chief and consultant
  • Phil Koller, P and B Motorsports Photographer
  • Doug Senk, P and B Motorsports Crew and Northern WI Volvophile buddy
  • Steve Blom, Competition Specialists and P and B Engine Builder
  • Duane Matejka, R Sport Engineering and P and B Advisor On Call

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:

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)