Wedge Racing in 2017
Sebring - January (MAJORS Hoosier Super Tour)
A good trip down - looking forward to an escape from the COLD weather around Atlanta. We left home, running the heater and had to change to AIR CONDITIONING at about the half way point . We stopped in the vicinity of Tampa to meet up with Allan Adderley (FVSilverBullet.com) to pick up a couple new noses. (Somehow, I seem to have destroyed too many recently). We arrived at the track just about the time that registration was opening, signed in and then went to sit in the long line for paddock entry after test day was over. Finally, they opened up and we found a place in the grass just behind the 'tower' building (our usual area of choice) and set up and unloaded Bullet. This would be the first test after the Runoffs concrete contact. Needless to say, I was .. CONCERNED .. whether we had found all the important stuff and gotten it repaired adequately. As group 1, we would find out shortly after the sun came up on Friday morning.
P1 - The track looked good despite heavily overcast skies and threatening rain. We took the track gently for a couple of laps before gradually turning up the wick. By the end of the session, I was feeling pretty good and Bullet was performing quite admirably. It REALLY felt good. At then end of the session, we found ourselves some 5+ seconds faster than anyone else in class. Not bad for a 'first out' after a huge crash.
Q1 - The rain clouds hung heavily over the track all morning and even started to sprinkle rather heavily during lunch just prior to our first qualifying session. I rode on the scooter to a couple of turns to scope the track and, once the rain stopped, the track had dried quickly and was looking pretty good. As the session started, there were a few small puddles here and there around the turns, but nothing that I couldn't drive around. Being VERY careful, I again 'gradually' turned up the laps until we were going as fast as I could manage. Bullet felt great and the engine seemed to be pulling well. I pulled away from all the other Vees, so never had an opportunity to see how we stood against the others on the back straight. At the end of the session, I was pleased to find us well on the pole by some 4+ seconds. The turn out was a bit light and we were missing some top drivers, but .. we did have 2 or 3 that I expected to give me trouble. It all left me a bit confused. Happy.. but still wondering. Anyway, go back over Bullet again to search for anything we might have missed .. or that has worked itself loose on this HUGELY ABUSIVE track surface - large sections of the track are like running down railroad ties!!
Q2 - Saturday morn. Clouds still hanging around and dropping some moisture here and there - but so far no real rain. To conserve my tires, I decided to go out on the Spec Tires that I have been testing. This would be their 12th session on track. At the end of the session, I was about 1 second slower than on Friday afternoon, but still almost 4 seconds ahead of 2nd place. Michael Landon, from Indianapolis, and Russell Fredericks, from New York, both made the trip for the doubles at Homestead last weekend and here at Sebring. They were the class of the field at Homestead and were LURKING back behind me. I was expecting to see a lot more of them when the racing started. Sandy Thalheimer tagged the wall lightly at T1, but was able to back off it and continue. Back in the pits there was little or no damage, so he was still good to go.
Race 1 - Sat afternoon. The skies continued to threaten and we drug out the rain tires to make sure they were aired up and ready to go... but nothing more than a light sprinkle or 2 fell on us. When race time arrived, we had some sun peeking around and things were looking better. At the start, Russell and Michael were right on my tail going into T1, but Michael's motor was a bit off .. and then BLEW UP without completing the first lap. Russell hung around for about 4 laps, but I gradually pulled away until he was no longer in my mirrors. In this race, I was only lapped once, and then only by about the top 5 FF cars. Three caught me at once going into T9, but I was able to point them by with no issues and cruise to the win. Sadly, one of the FF cars tagged Sandy near the end of the race, putting him into the concrete wall and destroying the front of his car. He was forced to load up and head home before the Sunday race and Michael had already headed back to Indianapolis earlier. 2 cars gone .
Race 2 - Sun morning. The skies were still quite cloudy, but the rain held off again. My biggest concern for the race was the SUN. Low on the horizon, it would be shining directly in our eyes from T9 until we turned onto the back straight at T15 unless some clouds were there to block it. On the pace lap, I got the vees a little too far back this time to see when the green came out but Linda called the green on my radio and I held station as Russell did his best to beat me to T1. I guess his engine was off this day too, since he quickly faded and then dropped out on lap 2 - leaving me quite alone at the front. Without a serious threat, it made no sense to beat the car any more than necessary on this truly abusive track, so I focused on hitting proper apexes and leaving speed on the table in the roughest turns .. specifically T1 and T17. I got lapped twice by FF's in this race and it was quite a challenge. The first time they came through, Linda alerted me when they were a few turns behind me and I was able to adjust my pace so that they caught me on the front straight so I could get out of the way. I counted as the pack came by .. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 .. hm... 6, 7...8! cars - by that time, I was WAY outside of the line in T1 and had to knock off another 10 MPH in order to make the turn. Sure glad I had plenty of room to work with. Another pack coming up, so I poured it on so I could stay ahead through the tight stuff... pointed 3 more cars by between T8 and 9 .. and then another 2 in the big T13 sweeper (where I got CLOBBERED last year). Then it was mostly clear for a while as the remaining FF's came through 1 at a time. A few laps later, we did it all again, except the packs were smaller this time. The first pack was only 5 cars and it was easier to 'make room'. Finally the F5 cars started coming through, but Jack Walbran was leading that class handily and they all progressed through with adequate spacing between them. Interestingly, the lead FF and F5 groups both caught me on the LAST lap. The lead FF got the white (one to go) flag behind me, then passed me to take the checker. So I got the checker WITHOUT ever seeing the WHITE. I hadn't considered that possibility until it happened. Fortunately, it had no impact .... this time.
The Sunday podium. I am flanked by most likely the youngest (Megan Gilkes - 16)
and the oldest (Harry Schneider - 85) drivers at the event this weekend. You should
be able to guess which is which .
Pair of nice trophies.
We were able to load Bullet into the trailer, a winner and absolutely UNDAMAGED. Quite a relief! I still have a few things to attend to before heading to NOLA in early March (back to back weekends with Road Atlanta the 2nd weekend), but at least a little time to relax from WORKING ON THE CAR with the full month of February to work with. Linda and I are headed to Colorado for a week of skiing now (if my knee can take it) and I'm looking forward to it.
NOLA - March (MAJORS Hoosier Super Tour) - a month off from Sebring this year...
An additional circuit is planned to mirror below the existing track.
That's a Kart track at the top right. The paddock area is the large paved area just right of center. Track length is 2.75 miles.
Well... a little 'hickup' in the plans this time. I was beginning to feel 'not so good' - like a cold coming on, but figured I could stave it off for the weekend . and hope to recover fully before Road Atlanta the next weekend.. HOWEVER... We left Thursday morning about 8a to avoid the worst of the traffic through Atlanta, almost 2 hours away. All went well through Atlanta and into Alabama... through Montgomery and we stopped for fuel about 1/2 way between Montgomery and Mobile. Leaving the fueling station, we got back on I65 and up to speed for about 4 miles before the steering started to feel 'odd'. I wondered if the outside WIND was picking up, but as I negotiated a curve in the highway, I suddenly got a BAD FEELING. I weaved a bit on the road to confirm that MY POWER STEERING WAS DEAD! Once I realized that, I remembered that the PS was driven by the main hydraulic system PTO directly off the engine (which was obviously running just fine) .. which also drives the COOLING FAN for the C8.3 Cummins motor. My eyes jumped to the temp gauge .. which was normal .. or was it? It started, slowly at first, then rapidly to climb. UH OHH!! I immediately pulled over to see if I was blowing hydraulic fluid everywhere (blown hose?), but NO. No fluid coming out. THIS IS BAD!! We were on the side of the interstate, getting almost blown off into the ditch by every passing tractor/trailer rig. Consulted my laptop map to get the distance to the next exit. 5 MILES. (could be worse). Let the engine cool off for a while and then started it up and 'ran' for the exit. About the time we reached the off ramp my TEMP LIGHT came on and the gauge was climbing past 200 degrees. I decided to go for it - to the top of the ramp and YES ... there a convenience store where I could get off the road. I maneuvered into a 'safe spot' that was mostly out of the way and shut town.
Went inside the store and explained the situation to the attendant and then back out to see if I could find a 'fix'. To make a long story shorter.. I could find nothing. I called my towing service with Progressive insurance and they said they would send a tow truck suitable for my rig and would tow me to a service facility in a small town about 12 miles away. I called the 'service facility' number that they gave me and the phone was DISCONNECTED. Searched the internet on my phone - found the place and the same number .. Still disconnected. Called Progressive back and got to the same person .. explained that the place they were towing me to was non-existent and got nowhere - they INSISTED that it was really there. Not wanting to be towed to a place that was CLOSED, I gave up and cancelled the service call. Spent the next 2 hours (now getting DARK) trying to find a RV/truck service place that was OPEN and ABLE to tow me somewhere reasonable. Finally found ONE GUY that could/would tow me to HIS shop, but would take him 2 more hours to get to me (he was busy). Set that up but continued to search .. to no avail. Waited and WAITED... called him back and he confirmed that he was still coming but would be delayed another couple of hours. He finally arrived at around 11P - spent 30 minutes or so trying to find something fixable and then another 30 minutes dropping the driveshaft, so that he could hook up to tow me back to his shop. That's when I found out his shop was over an hour away .. instead of the 30 minutes or so that I thought. Brewton, AL. We arrived at about 2AM and he dropped us in the lot and headed for home.
(Again .. shortening this story).. The next morning we set about to find THE PROBLEM. Loosened some hoses and decided that the main hydraulic pump was "not pumping". It took his staff about 4 hours to get the old pump off (I was NOT impressed), to find that the input shaft to the pump was BROKEN. I figured all we needed was a new pump. The guy (Mike) ordered a new one .. to be delivered NEXT DAY (which was Saturday - additional cost). Then 'they' all left to go work on other stuff. The next morning (they don't usually work on Saturday) while waiting for the new pump to arrive, I decided to remove the port adapters from the old pump (to install on the new pump) .. and found FOD (Foreign Object Debris - an Air Force term) in both ports. That means that the pump was able to pump FOD into the rest of the system before it died .. meaning that we don't have JUST a pump problem. I took the old pump apart and the insides were LOCKED UP completely - the shaft had SNAPPED OFF when the pump locked up and the PTO drive didn't. Some hours later the new pump arrived .. and.. it was the WRONG ONE and was in no way useable. So.... now we're stuck in Brewton with a bad pump, a system full of FOD and can't possibly do anything else before Monday. I called friend Jim Belay that has a 'summer house' in Pensacola only about an hour away. He offered me his truck which was parked there. All I needed to do was figure a way to get to Pensacola. .. [I'm skipping several more hours of additional aggravation and sadness here, but] eventually, he and his wife decided to DRIVE down to pick up Linda and my trailer so that I could stay until the RV got fixed (Linda had to be back at work on Tuesday morning).
After they all left for home, it dawned on me that I had just sent off pretty
much ALL of my tools (in the trailer) leaving me with little I could do. I
slept fitfully overnight (getting more sick each day - lying on the ground under
the RV), but realized several things ...
1). I was definitely NOT IMPRESSED by the lack of knowledge from either Mike or his staff about RV rigs. Trucks, maybe, but NOT MOTORHOMES.
2). There was NO WAY to get anything even STARTED before Monday.
3). If I decided to leave the rig there and go home, I could easily end up with a $10,000 bill and STILL have a broken RV. (I had NO confidence that they would/could properly clean the system of the FOD).
4). Even if I stayed to oversee everything, I had very limited control over what happened and no access to 'take over' when I didn't like what I was seeing.
So... the only other option was to have the RV towed back home where I could work on it at my leisure .. as time was available. The tow cost would be .. very high...... but at least *I* would be in control. Mike stopped by the shop on Sunday and told him I had decided to tow it home. So, Monday morning we started the process. Right away, I found that his 'out of state' tow truck needed service of it's own, so that added 3 hours before we could start hooking up for the tow. Somewhere around noon the service was done and only then did Mike start getting the needed permits to cross the state line. Getting the permits turned out to add ANOTHER 2 hour wait, so it was 3 PM (4PM in Atlanta) before we got on the road. We finally rolled into my driveway about 9:30p. At least HOME .. still broken, but safe and sound.
Now .. can I make the Atlanta race? I think my truck will pull the trailer.. but I have to add a brake controller before I dare put it on the highway. No way my truck is going to STOP that trailer without it's own brakes. I'm still getting sicker, but not "feeling" that bad .. just coughing a lot mostly, with some burbling in my lungs.
Repair story continued after Road Atlanta report below....
Road Atlanta (#1) - March - MAJORS weekend
More HICKUPS for this weekend too... Not only was I sick with walking pneumonia (I went to the doc on Tuesday after the race and found that out), I found the left side main beam on the race trailer BROKEN! (see pix below) while finishing up the brake controller install on my truck. Almost nothing holding the front and back together. I agonized over it for a while, but ultimately decided that this had not happened suddenly, rather over an extended time. It SHOULD stay together for one more short trip to Road Atlanta and back. I can fix it later, after the race weekend.
I got to the track OK, but feeling pretty miserable and no energy to work on the car .. and the weather was cold and damp, things didn't go well. The weather treated us pretty decently as we had no real RAIN, but it was threatening most of the time. I manage to screw myself together for our only qualifying session on Saturday morning and took the pole. This being a 2 day Majors event, things moved pretty quickly and suddenly it was race time. I felt like crap and it was REALLY tempting to just load the car and go home. The skies were threatening seriously and rain was "in the air" .. but we stayed. I figured we were THERE, and had already turned a wheel, so the entry fee was spent - might as well run the races.
It started decently enough. Mitch took the lead at the green and Donnie passed me on the left even before we could see the start stand (the GREEN was already out for the first 2 classes and we were just too far back to see it). I held my own, dropping into 3rd, then passed for 2nd on the back straight. Mitch had a pretty good lead, but I was slowly reeling him in when DOUBLE YELLOWS came out for 2 cars in the gravel at T1. 2 laps under DY while it started to sprinkle. There were a couple of slow F5's in between Mitch and I as the sprinkles increased. At the restart and he took off before the green, leaving me stuck behind the 2 slow cars. I got by them, but couldn't close on Mitch .. then Donnie passed me again on the back straight ... and I SPUN in a small 'patch' (not quite a puddle) of dampness (aka WATER). I recovered fairly quickly, but lost positions back to 7th. Over the next few laps, I made my way back to 5th but had no 'fight' left in me by this time. On the last lap I lost 5th to Greg Bruns as he drafted by me going into T10A. Oh well...
On Sunday, the weather was looking slightly brighter, but still full overcast and cold (not good for sickies). We had only the one session - the race - and it finally came after a LONG wait. Saturday's times were slow due to the sprinkles, so I was still on the pole and I got a decent start, but we ended up with a 4 car pack for the lead on the back straight. I was feeling even worse by then and ended up 4th ... then 5th ... then 6th ... then 5th ... then 4th .. and then lost 4th to Sherman on the last lap. Bullet seemed to be feeling a bit sick too as I had to fight like the devil to pass.. but could be passed quite easily. At least I didn't spin this time. A pretty disappointing weekend, but what could I really expect feeling the way I did.
Made it back home without incident. Now I sit with pneumonia, a broken RV and a broken trailer. I think I'll just spend the next couple of weeks trying to get well and worry about everything else after that.
After the Atlanta weekend.. and 3 weeks of recovery from pneumonia I finally felt like starting on the motorhome.
The motorhome repair was an unbelievable effort. I first found and ordered the CORRECT hydraulic replacement pump. Then, it was time to start the REAL WORK.
This is some of the FOD from the pump ports
I could not install the new pump until I found the source of the FOD and flushed all the various other parts of the hydraulic system .. and, of course to CLEAN IT ALL OUT. Leaving out most of the details, I had to remove the fan motor ( I had a choice of removing the entire back end of the RV - hydraulic fluid cooler, radiator, charge air cooler (for the turbo), and all of the hoses and support structure for them. (I figured about 2 weeks just to get them out before I could access the fan motor) .. OR.. I could CUT OUT the fan motor support structure from the inside)...
The fan weighs close to 25 lbs alone. With the pump and structure .. more like 60 lbs.
.. and then figure out a way to put it back in with BOLTS .. which is what I decided to do. It was no small job and took several full days of work to 'cut the supports and get it out', develop/build the 'bolt in' structure that would be needed, check it for FOD, flush it out, and 'get it back in and bolted'. But it was still less work than removing/reinstalling all the other stuff.
and the manifold
This is WAY up inside
the main frame rail of the RV.
The gray 'box' with the relief valve sticking out the bottom. (which contains the fluid proportioning valve). Of course, the relief valve had to come out (to clear any FOD) and it took a 26mm deep well socket to get it out. One of the very feel tools that I did not have .. but do now . The proportioning valve is on TOP of the manifold .. requiring that the manifold be REMOVED (several hour job) to get it out and clean it.
Getting the hoses themselves off was also quite the pain - they hadn't been touched in 25 years and it was almost impossible to get a wrench of any sort on many of them (they were all originally installed with NO MOTOR installed). 2 of the hoses, I could never get loose - they were too close to each other to get a wrench of any kind on them - so I had to flush them from the other end of each hose back through the manifold. I just cannot begin to explain the frustration in getting this job done .. but I did. After 2 weeks of working on it every day, I was finally almost done. Then, I opened the hydraulic fluid reservoir and found .. RUST.
HOW it rusted in there is a mystery, but it's also the only source of the original FOD that I came up with. The rust was SO bad that particles of rust had fallen into the bottom of the reservoir... where they (bypassing the filter) apparently got directly sucked into the input port of the main pump.
The pump clearances became clogged with that debris and started to shave off new debris from the inside walls of the (aluminum) pump housing - leading to a rapidly worsening FOD condition that finally locked up the pump and snapped the shaft. So... more parts and delay.. I had to order a replacement reservoir (thank goodness it was still available).
During my repair, I also noted that there were 2 main return lines back to the
reservoir and only ONE of them had a filter on it... so I added a filter into
the other line as well. It was with much trepidation that I finally
reached the point where it was time to CRANK THE ENGINE with all the new/cleaned
parts. Quite scary since there was a reasonable possibility that my brand
new pump (almost $1000) might last only a few seconds if I missed even ONE significant FOD.
I held my breath and cranked and was quite relieved to find PS and cooling fan
both working properly. I drove the RV for about 10 miles (around the
block) and then went back and changed both hydraulic filters again just to be
safe. I HOPE it's all done now.
(I am also happy with my decision to TOW HOME. I have NO belief that this repair could have EVER been done right at the shop where it was.)
The RV is finally fixed (I hope) and I can address the trailer beam issue. Pix and text below...
Gap at top left to floor is about 3/8 inch.
Note significant HOLE at top to access brake wires.
A little larger than it needed to be, I think.
I spent several hours trying to come up with a way to realign the beam before welding it. Everything I tried failed. I really needed to winch the front part of the beam to the ground .. somehow. Couldn't come up with anything, so dropped by my local body shop and asked about using his frame jig again. He said yes, but needed another week to clear out some work. After TWO weeks, as we were getting close, he had a need for his jig and during that work, realized that we really could not get the trailer up onto the jig, since the platform sits about 3 feet off the floor. There is no way I could back the trailer up the relatively steep ramps. So.. back to the 'thinking board'... HOW could I get this done? After sleeping on it another couple of days, I went out to the trailer and just STARED at it (lying on the ground, looking up). After a while, it occurred to me that, if I jack the very back of the beam, with the front supported by the hitch structure, it would tend to make the beam sag in the middle - it MIGHT just realign itself! Well.. NO... it didn't, *BUT*, it did reduce the load and Lee and I were able to put some steel wedges all 'whichaways' to allow use of my digger bar to get some force between the front and rear halves of the beam. After several attempts, we got it to move a bit. Repositioned the wedges again and moved it some more. After about an hour and 5 'adjustment cycles' we had it as close as it was going to get - something less than 1/16 offset. I tack welded it in place so we could remove the wedging plates and digger bar to allow me to fully weld the cracks. I then positioned and welded overlaying plates on either side of the cracks .. then welded the plates to each other. The result is shown below. I'm confident it's stronger than before, but I'll be keeping a close eye on it in the future.
Outside plated over
You can see that the bottom of the rail no longer has the offset shown above.
Inside plated over
This side was VERY difficult to get to. Welding up over your head
underneath a trailer is NO FUN! I also covered most of the access hole.
After 2 bad weekends in a row, I seem to have lost a lot of my 'drive' to go racing .. at least for the moment. Between the RV and the trailer, my energy bucket is depleted. I need to do something else for a while. I'm going to basically write off the season. I didn't really want to go to the Indy Runoffs anyway as I think it's going to be a major fiasco. The older I get, the less it seems worth it to put up with all the CRAP that comes at the Runoffs and the MANY additional restrictions and additional COST of it all. Maybe I'll run the last SEDIV Majors at Roebling on July 4 weekend. I haven't been to that track since the Majors program started since they did not HAVE a Majors event. This will be their first .. and MAYBE I'll feel more like racing again by then. We'll see.
VIR (Virginia International Raceway)- April - MAJORS Hoosier Super Tour event
Skipped for 2017!
Roebling Road Majors? - We'll see...
Runoffs - Indianapolis Road Course - September
Not sure if I'm going to this one. It's expected to be WAY oversubscribed and I'm not sure if I'll feel like fighting all the battles related to parking and whether or not I'll be allowed to race at all. SCCA has to figure out a WHOLE LOT of things yet, so I'll wait until some answers start coming .... and see how my season progresses before deciding.
Thanks as always to Rollin at ButlerEngines.com, JR at RoxannesHeaders.com and ... Mike, John, Tim and Bruce at Hoosier tires (RaceTire.com) and Dietmar at QuixoteRacing.com . Not to forget my wife, Linda, who travels with me to almost every race, and suffers me the joy of racing for all these years!
Regular Season team stats(EC races in yellow)
|Atlanta MAJOR#1||2nd||6th||15||Sick driver(spin)|
|Atlanta MAJOR#2||2nd||5th||16||Sick driver|
|VIR MAJOR #1||-||-||-||-|
|VIR MAJOR #2||-||-||-||-|
|Season Total SouthEast/Nationwide||81||count best 8 races|
Runoffs/Divisional Finishes for the Wedge Racing Team
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