View Full Version : My ARRC 2003 Story - Post Yours Here

Greg Amy
11-10-2003, 05:15 PM
As you know, we attended the ARRC Runoffs at Road Atlanta this past weekend. Talk about your highs and lows!

The adventure started well in advance of the trip itself, as Matt Kessler spent the prior two weeks busting his ass on the car. We were mostly prepared for the event chassis-wise, as our development and tuning were completed subsequent to the prior event. However, realizing that Road Atlanta has two very long straights, and that our main competition had engines of a rumored up to 240 crank horsepower, we decided to step up the engine program and build a new one for the ARRC.

Matt pretty much got up early and stayed up late for two weeks prior to our departure, sorting through disassembled engines for key parts and doing all the machine and assembly work needed to build a top-shelf SR20DE IT engine. Nissan Motorsports and FedEx provided the remainder of the necessary components (relying heavily on my MasterCard) and the final assembly was completed the Friday before our scheduled Tuesday departure. Installation was complete on Saturday, chassis setup was done on Sunday, and the car terrorized the streets for a few hours on Monday while Matt broke in the engine (the car is still registered and insured, believe it or not). It was quite entertaining listening to the little rocket ship pulling up to 7800 RPM around the industrial neighborhood for an hour...

Tuesday afternoon we met up the group and headed south as a caravan towards Atlanta. The "NE Caravan" drove straight through the rainy, drizzly, foggy night down the East Coast, arriving at Road Atlanta bleary-eyed and irritated at 1:00 PM on Wednesday afternoon. There were no major damages or failures except to Ray's Ford's ECU module, which decided to crap out exactly 2.7 miles from the interstate exit for Road Atlanta. Go figure. It was a fine thing that it didn't happen in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere North Carolina... Unfortunately, right when they opened the track for arrivals at 5:00 PM the skies erupted and it began to pour on us. Most everyone got into their paddock spot and departed; I, on the other hand, decided I *had* to get the overhead canopy up and in the process of putting it together got both Matt and I soaked. Hey, I drove all night; can't expect to be too bright on no sleep, right...?

Thursday was a scheduled Road Atlanta test session, four half-hour sessions. The goal for the day was to evaluate the new Hoosier S04 tires and adjust our chassis setup to suit the new tires and an effectively new-to-me track, plus finish the engine break-in with a lot of power changes. Right as we arrived a fellow walks up and introduces himself: Tim Rogers! Tim and I had exchanged emails in the past in regards to our Nissan cars, plus he had gotten photos for me when I was seriously considering buying Joe Hermes’ Touring car early this year; it was a pleasure to finally meet him and we invited him to join us. As you'll see, I'm damn glad we did...

The overnight rain had stopped but the track was still damp and cool, and the new tires, while gumballs, were still cold as well. I drove out the first lap, working to heat up the tires while consistently throttling up and down. The car started to stick a lot better but I was still driving VERY conservatively. I passed by the pits, still working the engine, and turned into Turn One. Without warning the back end of the car swung out; even with full and immediate opposite lock the car refused to comply. Seeing the wall approaching at an oblique angle I straightened out the wheel back into it and waited for the whomp as I yelled "Aw, fudgesicles!" The resultant hit wasn't *too* bad, but I certainly noticed it and the flying Georgia clay. After putting it back into gear and driving away I noted that the rear hatch was still latched and there was no visible damage from the pilot’s seat; fortunately that area of the track is protected by tire stacks fronted with a large rubber mat. A quick pull into the pits showed only cosmetic damage so Matt told me to go back out.

As I pulled gingerly back onto the course I continued to work up the heat on the tires while running the engine up and down, never exceeding 7000 RPM (redline = 7800). During the fourth lap I went into Turn 7, the one preceeding the longest straight, and I approached the corner with gusto, looking to grab second gear and make a couple of full-redline full-power runs to the Bridge Turn. As I braked hard into Turn 7 and rolled onto the throttle I felt a loud but muted "BRROOOOPP - BOOOP!" and the car shook violently. The drive wheels locked up and smoke poured into the car. I put in the clutch and brake and rolled to a stop outside Turn 7 out of the way. After unsuccessfully trying to contact Matt on the radio a couple of times I shut down the car and got out; it looked fine overall but it was obviously a Bad Thing: coolant and oil were pouring out of the nose of the NX and there was a horrible smell of oil permeating the area. Making sure there was no fire I dropped the hood, signaled "safe" and "flat tow" to the corner worked across the track, and jumped across the concrete barriers. They black-flagged the session. A corner worker walked across the track to me and said, "I don't think this is too good; there's a small pile of metal parts on the track back where y'all locked up your brakes." I asked her to gather up those parts for me, and as I watched the wrecker pull the car up onto the flatbed she came up to me with a large fire glove filled with pieces of aluminum engine block, mangled rod bolts, and a very, very damaged #3 rod. Yep, you're right, honey: this ain't too good...

Matt and Tim met me at the paddock space as the wrecker pulled in and I jumped out and showed them the pile of "not good" parts sitting on the flatbed, still too hot to touch. Matt was obviously disappointed but immediately got to business: he directed the unloading of the car off the wrecker and into our paddock space. We opened the hood and saw the baseball-sized matching hole in the front of the block. By the time I was out of my monkey suit Matt was already removing parts from the engine compartment. To my pleasant surprise, Tim was RIGHT THERE helping him and I felt it was best just to stay out of their way for the moment.

When Matt and I were loading up the truck back home we looked at the old engine we had just removed from the car and thought about leaving it sitting on the floor in the shop. We figured that neither of us would have the motivation to change an engine at the track, so why bring the temptation along? Besides, Matt built this engine RIGHT and we were 100% confident that there was no reason for a backup plan. However, we both looked at each other and realized how stupid we'd feel if something went wrong during the test day and we had just driven 1000 miles to be spectators at an SCCA Regional race. Besides, we figured if we brought it, we wouldn't need it, and we had the space and carrying capacity in the 1-ton van, so why not...?

And a damn fine decision that was. I started a “to buy” list while Matt contemplated the meaning of life. After taking stock of what we’d need to swap over the engine (we not only had to swap the long blocks but camshafts and all external parts as well as the oil pan) Matt gave me a laundry list of gaskets, filters, fluids, and parts we’d need. To our dismay, we also noted that the departing rod had seriously dented the header and holed the Nissan Motorsports radiator. Tim made some phone calls to help find a replacement radiator; finding no reasonable replacement he turned to us and offered his radiator and header off his car sitting in his garage back home. To top it off he even offered use of his engine hoist!

Bidding Matt farewell for about the millionth time (“…are you SURE there’s nothing else you need?”), Tim and I departed in my van to gather all the stuff Matt would need. Between Tim’s house (neat garage!), the local Nissan dealership, and three other parts stores we were able to get everything corralled and returned to the track within about 3 hours. Matt had the engine stripped and hanging on the mounts with the camshafts already swapped over, ready to go. Tim, without hesitation, jumped right in there with Matt and they had the engine on the ground within 10 minutes. I took on the role of go-fer, making sure they both had the tools, parts, food, and drinks to be reasonably happy.

Due to the efforts of those two guys (and several parts store trips) the engine was installed, running, and tuned by 6:30 PM that night. An absolutely incredible feat, worthy of the round of applause they received from onlookers. It was right about that point I realized how important my contribution was going to be for the next two days. I realized that no matter what I did I couldn’t suck, that at the very least I had to give it 100% to justify the time and effort from them. I took the time to walk the track that night to make sure I understood every nuance of the new layout and to absorb everything I could.

On a side note, we won’t know for sure exactly what caused this failure until we’ve done a full inspection, but it appears in casual post-mortem inspection that we had a catastrophic rod bolt failure. There is clear visual evidence that it was a fatigue failure initiated at a possible cracked area on the threaded portion of the bolt, with about 4-6 major cycles before it finally let go; there is no way that I could have felt this in time to prevent it. If found to be the cause, this is most likely some kind of manufacturing defect that would have been impossible to detect short of Magnafluxing every bolt prior to installation, and then still unlikely to be found. We used stock Nissan rod bolts from the SR20DET engine, having been told they were more than sufficient for the task at hand. Matt will disassemble the engine to determine direct cause, and we may even send the bolt out for metallurgical inspection.

Friday morning dawned sunny and cool. The track was clean from the testing the day before and we were ready to go early. I had asked for the rear spring rates to be swapped out for significantly softer ones, as I would not have the time to “sneak up” on our typical setup (which, as you noted above, is fast but can be a hoary bitch for the unprepared). I needed a car that was predictable and consistently understeering so I could attack the course to get some good qualifying times. Matt and Tim had the springs swapped and the car re-aligned in 30 minutes, max.

The day’s first qualifying session went very well, with my being able to really grab the car by the scruff of the neck and toss it around the course. Our times were not particularly bad, but they were not as good as I’d liked. I was still learning the course and was still a bit concerned given yesterday’s spin and blowup. The second session I developed more trust in the car and lowered our lap times, really beginning to use the new Hoosiers to good effect (awesome tires, by the way.) We qualified 18th of 29th, as I recall, far in advance of other similar cars, but also far in arrears of the class-dominating BMWs. Our goal for the following day was to “not suck” and to finish in the top half of the field. I knew that between my improving familiarity of the track and my history of always going faster in the race versus qualifying that I had a decent chance of a top-10 finish, fate willing.

Race Day was cooler and sunny. Our warm-up session went well, with my having dropped an additional half-second off my best lap time. After the spring swap we had made no changes to the car, as our Lime Rock setup seemed to work perfectly. Matt and Tim attacked a minor engine oil leak and rotated the tires, we bled the brakes for good measure to make the driver feel better, but other than that we were ready to go well in advance of the race. Lunch, drinks, and a lot of time to watch other races (the Spec Miata and ITA races being the best ones…) Soon it was our time to go and I jumped into the car. My nervous meter was climbing but I didn’t have much pressure other than to finish. I knew the butterflies would go away the minute I released the clutch from the false grid so I spent the remaining time trying to relax and taking stock of what was in store.

The pace lap showed the car was in great shape and I made special effort to get the tires warmed up. Lining up two-by-two we came under the bridge and I was full-throttle when the green flag dropped. By the time we got to the top of the hill past One I had passed at least 4-5 cars on the outside of the turns and by going over curbs, and I could see more than a few shocked glances as the little red rocket past some guys playing grandma behind other cars.

The race itself went fairly straightforward except for a few metal-to-metal contacts. Two of those were side-to-side contacts as other cars were driven wide in the corners and then came back to take their lines only to find a little red car filling in the cavernous voids they left. Two more came from the little red car flying out of the exits of the corners with throttle flat to the floor, expecting the higher-horsepower cars in front of him to get on it and go; for whatever reason they didn’t and were rewarded with red marks on their rear bumpers. The NX took these beatings very well, with only a slightly-creased quarter panel and scuffmarks on the front bumper.

The only other odd thing was that I was chasing a 240SX on the last lap, trying to take him for 11th place. I could get right on his butt under braking and in the corners, but he’d get straightened up out of the corners and leave me hanging in the breeze. As we came under the start/finish I saw the “1” board being displayed and I called over the radio to verify it was the last lap, and I got an affirmative response. At this point I was so close to the S14 I swore I tapped him, and coming out of Turn 7 I had him in my sights. Going down the back straight I never got more than 6 inches from him and we were flyin’! I tried to outbrake him into 10A but couldn’t make it stick, but I took a super line through the bridge turn and stayed on his butt under the flagstand, so close I couldn’t see anything else but 240SX, and disappointed because I had a head of steam and would have easily gotten him into Turn One but for the lack of ONE MORE LAP. As we went under the flag stand (which I never saw) I lifted off the throttle and pulled aside from him to get airflow through the radiator. Tim immediately came on the radio and said, “You did not take the checkered flag, the race is not over, you did not get the checkered!” Agh! Back on the throttle, back on the line, and I carried so much speed through Turn One that I was back on his butt halfway through the lap. No matter, as that lap ended the same as the first, with me 6 inches off his bumper under the checkered flag (which I glanced up to see this time.)

During the cool down lap an E36 BMW, one of the ones whose void I filled, came alongside and gestured hands-up, but nothing else came of it. I entered the pits with a big smile on my face, pleased with our performance, and finding out I had lopped off over 2 seconds from our best lap. I got called to the tower to talk to the stews about the front-to-back hits but after a discussion and verbal reprimand I was released and walked back to the paddock. The E36 driver walked into our paddock afterwards to complain about the side hit, but no penalties came of it and I’ve got video to share with him when I get his contact info.

We were pleased with our performance and glad that we were able to drive it up onto the trailer under its own power. After changing out the radiator to yet ANOTHER one borrowed from Tim for the trip (so we could give him his NisMo one back immediately) we packed up the truck and trailer and headed home to CT. The caravan stopped for dinner and a hotel for the night before leaving early Sunday and arriving home before bedtime.

A very successful, and mostly fun, trip.

I’ve got to make the obligatory thanks, not because I want to sound like a NASCAR driver but because they are incredibly noteworthy.

First and foremost: Tim Rogers, you saved our butts. Not only did you provide parts and tools (OFF YOUR OWN RUNNING CAR!) that we would not have had access to otherwise, your motivation and personality was far more than the icing on the cake. I meant it when I said that words failed me to express the gratitude we have for you. You are welcome to go with us anywhere we go, and you’ll never buy another beer or dinner any time I‘m around. Plus, you’re a damn fine guy to boot.

Matt Kessler: a damn fine job. Damn fine. Can’t wait until I become filthy rich and can pay for a race shop.

We didn’t have any direct sponsors other than my wife, my job, and Matt’s considerable time and effort, but we do need to thank the contingency sponsors for the IT2 Challenge:

- Sam and Grant Lockwood of Lockwood Raceworks for providing $750 in cash awards to IT2-eligible entrants.
- Raceshopper.com for their $250 in IT2 contingency sponsorship
- Gregg Baker of the Isaac Device for providing **TWO** of his head and neck restraint devices for the top-two-qualifying IT2 entrants in ITS!
- Appalachian Tire of Louisville, TN, for providing instant credit of one tire for the IT2 Challenge winner
- Ony Anglade (an ITA entrant!) for providing $25 to the Hard Charger of the IT2 Challenge

All entrants were ecstatic at the support and at least two of them said outright that the only reason they drove to Atlanta was because of the IT2 Challenge.

I can’t say enough for all the folks that made this happen, including the ARRC committee that, despite preconceived concerns, managed to pull off one hell of an event. Regardless of the excuses or reasons you have for missing this event, you missed one whale of a show. Put it on your calendar for next year and I hope we see you there.


11-10-2003, 07:17 PM

Wonderful write up. Thanks for the whole story.

You had a great group, and I enjoyed meeting my other crew members. http://Forums.ImprovedTouring.com/it/smile.gif

Ditto on the Atlanta Region's work in putting this together. They did an excellent job.

It was a great weekend. My face still hurts from grinning so much. Sign me up for next year.

Gregg Baker
Isaac, LLC
[email protected]

11-10-2003, 07:49 PM
I'll have Raymond write something up for me since I am living internet less up in Vermont!

I will say it was an awesome time, a very cool track, and a very very long drive!


11-11-2003, 04:10 AM
So heres my story. Thurs test day, 1st session, duuuuh! Which way do we go george? What a track. Very fast and a little furious. Had to keep the right arm pointed out the passenger window as everyone was going by. I'm doing about a buck thirty down the lengthy back straight and GT1 and other like cars are passing me as if I was standing still. Just imagine standing on the side of a road and a car passes by you doing thirty or forty mph. WOW! Session two started out a little better with my speed steadily increasing. As I turned Right to go down through the esses, an RX-7 up ahead starts to lose it so I take caution. All of a sudden, the rear end of the car decides that it wants to go ahead of the front end so around we go, through the grass and Georgia clay and THUMP, into the tire wall at the bottom of the hill we go. What the.....? Somebody up ahead had dropped some fluid and the RX-7 and I found it. The RX-7 driver was able to correct his car and continue. Session three, rain (slight drizzle)but still went faster, 1:53's, no issues. Session four, no problem, 1:52's. On Friday, Qualified 15th, 1:51(?). At the end of the day, Anthony S. suggested we check the timing on the car to see if we could squeek out some more power. Timing is good. No problem. Sat. morning warmup, made some suspension adjustments and the car felt better than ever. Don't touch it. Let's go racing. Got jumped on the start by the two miatas that were behind me but eh! no problem. I'll try to get em back. On lap two, ran the fastest time so far, 1:49. On lap three, we come up towards the bridge and pop pop! The engine dies so we pull it off the track. Watched the rest of the race from the chicane and as I was standing there, I thought about the sudden loss of power. Hmmmmmmm? Pop, pop, not bang, bang or any big smoky blow up. I figured that i probably blew the ignition module. First the truck on the way down, and now the car. The disappointment factor sets in. So back at the paddock, before I opened the hood, I stared at it and then said to Kimmie, "We checked the ign timing last night but I don't remember tightening the distributer bolts". Sure enough, I opened the hood and there lies the distributer hanging by one of the three retaining bolts. Disappointment factor just trippled http://Forums.ImprovedTouring.com/it/frown.gif . Bolted the distrib. back on, fired it up and proceeded to load the car on the trailer. The disappointment factor, however, was quickly overcome by the joy of being there and realizing what a great time we had. It was fun and comforting being with friends in a strange land. Bob Pinkowski and Atlanta region put on an excellent show which I'll be sure to attend again.(Have to redeem myself) Thanks to everyone who helped to make this trip possible and thanks to Road Atlanta for having those exceptional tire walls http://Forums.ImprovedTouring.com/it/biggrin.gif
02 ITA Integra

Greg Amy
11-11-2003, 11:12 PM
By the way, while I may not have said this publicly, I had a B*L*A*S*T being with all the other NE Caravanners this past weekend. Honestly, it would not have been the same without you guys. Ray, Kim, Jake, Dick, Anthony, Stephen, Raymond, Dan, Nick, Wendell, and all the crew and family, thanks for a wonderful time! I do hope we all get together and do it again next year.


Greg Amy
11-12-2003, 08:26 PM
I've added the few photos that I took to my weekend write-up at http://www.gatm.com/cars/nx2000/ARRC2003.html. Click on any photo to see them all...

[This message has been edited by grega (edited November 13, 2003).]

11-13-2003, 11:05 PM
Thanks to the guys who wrote the detailed posts! It was a bummer not to go. I had the car ready, but had a business trip right on top of it - would have been gone for 2 weeks total.

I will be with the caravan next year!


#33 ITS RX7


11-14-2003, 07:11 PM
Gentleman and crews,

Thanks for making the trip to the ARRC as it is always good to see some out of area competitors. Due to my busy work schedule I wasn't able to spend as much time at the event as I would have liked and get around to seeing people, but it was nice to put some faces with names on here.

See y'all next year!

Bob Pinkowski
Atlanta Region SCCA
OPM Autosports
ITS Honda Prelude (for sale)

Team Twenty
11-14-2003, 08:06 PM
We will save you a spot again next year, remind us, will give you 5 more feet if it is not raining and dark(grin), But it made all you good CLOSE friends right?(grin) Glad you had a good time, Thanks for thee KUDO's Sandy and Fletcher

11-17-2003, 06:13 PM
Its sorta done, I finally had time to write up our lengthy adventure...

After many hours on the frame machine and lots of hours in the garage the Blue #50 Audi Coupe was ready to start its journey to Road America in Georgia for the American Road Race of Champions. Our plan was to leave at 6:00pm, but that quickly moved back to 9:00pm as we continued to stuff as much as we could into Dan Sheppard’s enclosed trailer. We (Stephen Blethen, Dan Sheppard, and myself (Raymond Blethen)) all crammed into the front of my fathers (Ray Blethen’s) Dodge ram Dooley pick-up. We are off and we quickly learned that the pick-up had no troubles pulling the 7,000+ pound trailer, however due to the gear ratio’s it maxed out at 85mph (uh I mean 70mph dad).

The trip down didn’t have to many other adventures as we drove straight through (1,093 miles). We only stopped for gas and snacks were grabbed… We arrived on Thursday at 2:30-3:00pm just in time to get the car unloaded and put Stephen on the track for one practice session so that he could learn the track before qualifying on Friday morning. Stephen went out on track and made 1 lap then coasted into the pits. Dan and I were not impressed as he barely made 1 lap. We found that the wires had fallen off the full throttle switch causing a ground that popped a fuse. I replaced the fuse, as Dan fixed the wire, the car started up and he drove away, only wasting maybe 5 minutes of the session. He went back out and learned where the track went, within a couple laps he was turning mid 1:55’s. We were happy with this since he only had a few laps, and were busy pointing people past most of the time. Our goal was to be down into the 1:50-1:51’s by the end of the weekend. The session was shorter than the said 30 minutes but Stephen didn’t mind as he felt a major vibration in right turns (Road Atlanta is mostly right turns) that made him feel a little nervous. After the session we determined that is was a broken left front axle.

The early part of Thursday night was spent rebuilding an axle to get the car ready for the early qualifying session on Friday (we were race group 2), not exactly what we had in mind after an 18 hour trip. Later that night after the rest of the New England Region members finished fixing their mishaps from testing we all went out to dinner. We found a restaurant/pub that had 3 or 4 police cars sitting at the front doors and someone decided that this would be a great place to get dinner. Turns out it wasn’t that bad!!! After dinner it was very late and Stephen, Dan and myself went back to the hotel, checked-in, and immediately hit the floor and fell asleep.

6:00am came very fast and amazingly we all actually woke up and arrived at the racetrack as planned (7:00am). We finished getting the car ready for Stephen and before we knew it he was on track qualifying. Almost as fast as he made it onto the track, he made it off as the car broke only a couple laps into qualifying. Again it was another left front Axle. Stephen was just getting warmed up but did post a qualifying lap time at a 1:54.??. This put him in the back of the pack and we were a little disappointed because we didn’t think we had a chance at the top 10 given the fact that Stephen didn’t get much track time to learn the track. We worked all morning replacing the Axle once again and trying to determine why we broke two axles in 2 sessions.

Stephen went out for the second qualifying session and we were optimistic wondering if he would make the entire session. We started Stephen in the front of the run group so that he could follow some of the “experts” such as Derek Lugar. This paid off as Stephen quickly learned the quick way around the track and by the end of the session he was in the mid 1:50’s. We were very happy with this, as he was 4th fastest in the session. After combining the morning qualifying times and the afternoon qualifying times he was 6th fastest. We were very excited for Saturdays race, realizing that Stephen had a chance at a top 5 finish on our first visit to the track!!! Stephen complained of the horrible vibrations on right turns that he had all weekend and we spent the afternoon trying to track down the vibrations. We noticed that the left front tire was splitting along the sidewall (not uncommon for Hosiers). It was split more than normal so we thought maybe this was the cause, and brought the tire to the Hosier trailer for further inspection. They agreed that the tire was split more than normal and warranted the tire, giving us our only “new tire” of the weekend (all the tires we brought with us were used tires from earlier in the season). Friday afternoon we took it easy and did some spectating from different parts of the track. That night we enjoyed the free entertainment and meals at the racetrack “after party” then went to the hotel and got some early shut eye.

Saturday morning came a lot faster than Friday morning and before we new it we were running late to get to the track. We arrived with just enough time to get Stephen into the car, I on the other hand forgot my SCCA ID and pass at the hotel and needed to run back otherwise they would not let me in the gate. I got back in the track just as Stephen was pulling out. After the 10-minute warm-up session Stephen still complained of the violet vibration and we determined that it was probably the axle. We did not have enough time to change another axle so we checked over the rest of the car, signed up for the contingency stuff, put a million contingency stickers on the car, put in the video cameras into the car (one forward and one backwards) and it was time for grid.

Stephen went out hoping for a top 5 finish and was determined to get to the top 5 before the first turn. At the start he proved once again that he was a master at starts and was in third place going through turn 1. The car got a little sideways on him causing the field to bunch up behind him and allowing the first 2 cars to pull away a little (Sam Moore in a Volvo 142E and Michael Glassburner in a Dodge Omni). On lap two Stephen again went very sideways losing a lot of momentum (this is a 4th gear turn leading to a long uphill), this time 4 cars passed him and he was now in 7th place as he started the third lap. The first cars drove away from the ITB field as the 3rd through 8th place cars battled it out, switching positions every lap. At about the ¾ mark in the race Derek Lugar and Chris Winkle crashed on the front straight while weaving through lap traffic. Derek and Chris were the two top VW’s at that point, as they were in 5th and 6th on the tail of Stephen and Justin Poole in a BMW 318I (Justin had qualified on pole). Luckily Stephen was not involved and it was now a dual to the finish between Stephen and the Justin for 3rd place. Stephen was leading the entire last lap until the last turn where he got loose throwing it sideways loosing his momentum. Justin snuck past to capture 3rd and Stephen finished in 4th. After the race Stephen and Justin were instructed to go directly to impound and to see the chief stewards (top 6 have to go to impound for tear down and inspections).

After Stephen and Justin met with the stewards they were told that they were being penalized 3 positions each for 3 mettle-to-mettle contacts they had with each other. What we didn’t understand is that there wasn’t even any dents on either of the two cars. They ran a very very close race (went an entire lap side by side) and barely bumped each other in “just racing” incidents 3 times over the course of the entire race. It was even mentioned in the worker reports from the corner stations that they were “just racing” incidents, as neither car was effected by the incidents and continued on (Stephen was pushed off the track once but never slowed down and continued on). Stephen was now bumped back to 7th place, Justin was bumped to 6th place and our impression of the event was that it was not a race of champions but actually a high-speed drivers school. As other races were completed multiple cars came into the pits showing multiple dents on their cars. These drivers were also called to the tower and the drivers received verbal warnings (no penalties). Because of this we decided that the ruling was unfair to penalize only Stephen and Justin 3 positions when other drivers deserved equal penalties and were not given any. We made the decision to protest the steward’s inconsistency and severity of penalties. After about 5 hours of debates and gathering witness statements Stephen won the protest and was awarded his position back.

While Stephen was dealing with his protest the rest of the ITB cars were tearing down their engines. After Michael Glassburner had the Dodge Omni all apart for inspection he was told “by the way your lack of an interior door panel on the passenger side door is illegal so you have been disqualified.” All of the other cars were found legal and the final top 10 results were as follows:

Pos PIC No. Class Name Make/ Model
10 10 76 ITB TOM ROGERS VOLVO Volvo 142E

The weekend was now half over as the American Road Race of Champions (ARRC) sprint race was complete. Now it was time to prepare for the 2-hour Enduro on Sunday. When looking over the car we decided to take apart the left front axle, as it did not feel right when we tried moving it around. As we pulled it out the “balls” fell out and a mangled caged dropped to the ground. Yes another one was destroyed. We spent the night examining all the destroyed axles and decided that the car was not perfectly straight and that the engine was to close to the driver’s side of the car (a half an inch can make a huge difference). We moved the engine as far over on the mounts as we could and replaced the axle. We also changed the ride height to try and lengthen the distance from the wheel bearing to the transmission. We did not reset the camber/toe and figured we would just give this a try (We figured it would last 1 lap and it wasn’t worth spending hours of time setting the car up).

Dan and I were running the Enduro in Stephens’s car only to get a chance to race at Road Atlanta. As with most people that go to the ARRC and as a team we concentrated on the sprint race and had no plans of contending in the Enduro. The qualifying session was ½ hour and the plan was to have Dan run the first 5 laps, then pull in switch drivers and I would run the second half of the qualifying session. This would give us both an opportunity to see the track before the race. Unfortunately just as Dan finished the warm up lap he pulled off the track with yet another left front broken axle. We spent the entire morning building another axle out of all the left over parts. We could not start the engines from 10:00am-12: 30am (local ordinances) so we could not test our axle when we got it done. The organizers of the event requested that everyone push their cars to grid before 12:30 but since we did not post a time and were starting dead last we did not think it was necessary for us to be on grid.

All we wanted to do was get the car to last 1 lap so that I could get a chance to drive on the track. So when we herd the 5-minute whistle blow and cars starting their engines we went to start ours. When the car didn’t turn over we realized someone left the kill switch on which caused a draw on the battery and killed it. We tried push starting the car but to no avail. Because I was starting the race I sat in the car and got all strapped in while Stephen and Dan got extension cords and the battery jump box. After everything was hooked up we tried starting the car again. Now it turned over but would not start. After looking around for something wrong Stephen and Dan noticed a hanging wire. Somehow when working on the car we had knocked of a wire to the fuel injection system thus causing it not to start. The wires were reconnected, the car started and I went to grid all ready to go. When I got there the cars were actually already on-track and finishing their first (of 2) pace laps. After the field had passed they let me join at the back of the field. I let the cars get a little lead on me then tried some of the turns I saw so much video of before. I was a little nervous at the start as I had never driven the track before, and I was expecting the car to break at any moment. When the green flag dropped I didn’t make any advancements and figured I would use the first couple laps to figure out what direction the track went in. I was gentle to the car and after a few laps ran consistent 1:54’s. After a ½ hour I came in for the first pit stop and let Dan take over. We made a quick driver change and then Dan was off.

Dan didn’t really remember where the track was and had 2 “off courses” (in turn #3) before realizing where the track actually went. He had about the same learning curve as I did but stayed out an extra half hour. Before the end of his hour in the car he was down into the 1:53’s. At the 1-½ hour mark I got back into the car for the last half hour. Dan came in we did a driver change and put 6 gallons of gas into the car. I went out and this time didn’t worry about braking the car. We were amazed it lasted this long, we figured we were in last so I just went for it. I didn’t have much guidance, as there were no other ITB cars ever near me. On my first lap out of the pits I managed to spin the car in 10A but kept it out of the gravel trap. I continued on and improved upon my times getting in the 1:52’s. About 10-15 minutes from the end the car started handling horrible and vibrating very very badly on right hand turns. At first I didn’t think much of it and assumed the axle was finally about to brake. The car continued to get worse and worse to the point it almost wouldn’t turn right. I had to take 4th gear turns in 2nd gear to get the car to turn in. I saw Dan and Stephen give me the one lap to go single so I limped it around, and when I got to the finish their was the 1 lap to go again finger and I figured darn it I went to fast, and slowed a little more and limped across the finish line!!! After impound we jacked up the car to see what was wrong. As we jacked up the car the wheel never lifted off the ground. The top had blown off the strut inserts and the “insides” of the strut were completely out as the tire just rested on the ground. The tire moved back and forth a good 3-4 inches, which probably explains the poor handling!!! We were very happy that the car finished and that we were able to turn the lap times that we did with a car that was not expected to make even 1 lap (never mind 57). We were even more pleased when we realized that we finished 22nd overall (out of 41 starters) and 4th place in ITB (out of 9 starters) just behind the 3rd place ITB car (we finished on the same lap). If the car didn’t fall apart on those last couple laps we may have been able to finish 3rd place in ITB!!!

Ok and to put some icing on the cake, (not like we hadn’t had a hard enough weekend already) as the car was idling, getting ready to put in the trailer the fan stopped working, the car overheated and blew coolant everywhere making a mess of everything. We were not very impressed finished packing and left… finally on the 18-hour trip home!!!

The way home wasn’t without events as well. As I was driving just north of Charlotte NC a car about 4 up from us cut across the lanes and clipped another car, sending them across the highway into the guardrail then flying back across the highway again. We were going about 75mph (with the flow of traffic), and found ourselves hoping that something goes right… Thankfully the car didn’t make it across to our lane (as it hit the car in the lane next to us) and we were able to sneak bye with only 2 front flat spotted tires… the next 100 miles or so was thump, thump, thump, thump… I think I will end the story with the last thing I remember happening before I fell asleep; that night at a rest area Dan found $50.00 sitting on the ground!!!

See you all next year, as this proved to be an adventure you can’t miss!!!

Raymond Blethen
RST Performance Racing

11-19-2003, 05:33 PM
Well, maybe you could have had third! Don't forget I spent almost 1:30 in the tire wall out of turn 5, we had a shot at really giving Vantage a run. Their car definalty had more pase than mine but we were running consistent and holding a within drafting range until I decided to make it all up in one corner after a SM ran me wide in 3.

It was definatly good to meet everyone and glad everyone made it home safe.

11-20-2003, 12:17 AM
I got to say,I was impressed,you got that little red car rocken,you looked and sounded great,your corner speed was awesome.Nice

Dave Volante

11-20-2003, 12:27 AM
Raymond wrote;

" ... going through turn 1. The car got a little sideways on him ... "

I watched your race from T1. Watching Stephen during the first few laps was very entertaining. I remember being surprised that he was able to catch one of those lurid slides.

It was good to see the yellow trangles on NER cars. Brought back memories of my LRP and NHIS racing days (and Bryar, even).

See you again next year hopefully.

Russ McBride
www.RussMcB.com (http://www.RussMcB.com)


[This message has been edited by RussMcB (edited November 19, 2003).]

Greg Amy
11-20-2003, 12:36 AM
Thank you, Dave! I'm flattered that someone noticed.

Now, if I can only find 75 more horsepower ... where's that dang rulebook again ...?

11-20-2003, 07:57 PM
Originally posted by RussMcB:
Raymond wrote;

" ... going through turn 1. The car got a little sideways on him ... "

I watched your race from T1. Watching Stephen during the first few laps was very entertaining. I remember being surprised that he was able to catch one of those lurid slides.

It was good to see the yellow trangles on NER cars. Brought back memories of my LRP and NHIS racing days (and Bryar, even).

See you again next year hopefully.

Russ McBride
www.RussMcB.com (http://www.RussMcB.com)

It made interesting video as well! I just kept my foot in it and say oh please no not in fornt of everyone! It was all part of that learning curve I had to conquer. I'll admit that the race start was my 15th lap on the track and I was trying hard to stay up with the big dogs! Next year should be real fun with a little experience!