ChumpCar race at VIR

posted Aug 12, 2013, 7:51 PM by Scoob Edoo
For seemingly the umpteenth weekend in a row I was away from home, this time to VIR to race the ChumpCar 24 hour classic with the Schumacher Taxi Service team.  I took the big trailer so we'd have air conditioning throughout the weekend.  The trip started off badly, with a flat and disintegrating trailer tire just 20 min from home.  It cost me an hour, but thankfully a Virginia DOT truck found me and the nice man helped me with the tire change.  Good thing, too, since I don't apparently have a a lug wrench to fit those wheels.  Odd.

We had scheduled a practice day at the track for Friday afternoon and the team was swapping rear axles to replace what Rob thought was a bad differential.  Two problems arose from this change: the gears were much taller and we never made it past the middle of 4th gear on the longest straight, so we were losing a lot out of corners; and the diff was in perfect shape.  We found during the practice session that the noise Rob thought was a bad diff was actually the exhaust system rubbing the drive shaft on hard turns.  So after we all had turns in the car, we swapped the axles again.

During the practice, Dave took me out to show me what it looked like at speed.  It was exhilarating and the car handled very neutrally.  Then it was my turn and it really was quite fun.  The gas pedal, unfortunately was very far forward and the brake pedal very long, so heel-toeing was out of the question.  In fact, transitioning from gas to brake was challenging since the end of the seat was pretty far forward, too.  I could have gotten used to it with more time, but I only went about 4 laps to get a feel for the course and some of the trickier corners.  No overheating, no real nasty grinding, and only one minor off at Oak Tree.  I loved it and really looked forward to driving in the race.

Sleep was elusive Friday night, though I should have been exhausted from the trailer, working on the car, driving, and the heat.  We had the AC cranked down and it was a bit too cool for my little sheet.  Lesson learned.

Saturday dawned beautifully, with a chance for rain in the afternoon.  We had decided to start with 1-hour stints to ease everyone into the race, with me scheduled last.  Bruce went out first and ran some great times and even mixed it up with a wandering red car (Golf, I believe) to trade a little paint.  No damage.  The next few stints went by without any incidents, then Lori's came and she didn't make it a lap before smoke was pouring out the back and the marshalls made her pull off and get towed back to paddock.  When they eventually got her back, we set about diagnosing the problem.  It seemed to be a power steering fluid leak, but we couldn't get a handle on where it had leaked.  After checking the level and tightening the connector, Mike took it around paddock to see if it did anything odd.  When he left, we saw a huge puddle of transmission fluid.  When he got back we looked underneath and saw that the tail-shaft housing was cracked about 270 degrees around, oozing fluid for over an hour.  The smoke was from the fluid being deposited on the exhaust immediately behind the transmission.  Game over.

So what happened?  My best guess is that when they mounted the trans in the car, they had to weld on a new mounting point.  Where they mounted it was either a weak point on the housing, or something stressed the mount during Dave's stint, causing the crack.  We looked on craigslist for over an hour seeing if we could find a replacement T5 trans, to no avail.  Meanwhile the rain came and went a few times and the rest of the team decided to pack up everything and head back home.  Since the storms were coming directly from Kingsport, I said no way and decided to stick around and watch a little night racing and hope for better weather in the morning.  And it's a good thing, too: I was exhausted.  I fell asleep by 10 pm, watching the Phantom Menace.  I didn't move until 4 am, the best I've ever slept in the trailer.  I watched a little racing in the morning, ate some breakfast, and got ready to leave,  10 min before I left, the fog descended on the area, making for what must have been very interesting conditions on the track.  Alas, I had to go to try to beat more storms hitting home, so I drove in the fog for a few hours throughout North Carolina.  I had decided to take the long way home after the short way had led me down a 10 mile stretch of very twisty and hilly terrain.  At one point, I had 6 miles of 9% grade to drive down which was a bit too harrowing for my tastes.  The long way added about 30 min and 40 miles, but it was well worth it.

So what did I learn?  Racing is an expensive hobby.  And it's expensive whether the car works or not.  I already knew it, but it was made really obvious this weekend.

Now I have no weekend events planned for awhile, so I'm looking forward to relaxing with the family instead.