Monday, October 23, 2023

October Autocross Report

Somebody else reserved my favorite number of 77, so for this event I was running as #17. Easy to do with painter's tape!

On a beautiful fall day, the NMS-North Cayman headed north before sunrise to Autocross again with the Porsche Club of America. This time we got 9 runs on course at the Greensboro Coliseum, which was also hosting a massive wrestling tournament of some kind. Luckily the wrestlers kept their wrestling indoors, and the drivers kept their driving outdoors. I don’t think the world is ready for a combination of RACECAR-WRASSLIN’, but maybe someday it will be a new Olympic sport!

An important part of the day, the Drivers Meeting goes over the basic rules and how things will work during the day. 

Full disclosure, this Porsche Club also included pizza for lunch as part of the entry fee, so I likely have nothing but good things to say about them! It was pepperoni. The phrase "will drive for pizza" comes to mind. 

Here is a very groovy Porsche 914-6; some had 4 cylinders, this has 6. 

In a field of 27 drivers, I managed the fifth fastest time, which included first in my class of only two, and also put me ahead of the non-Porsche cars. I’m not making excuses, but I will point out that the four faster competitors ahead of me had at least 55HP more, so I guess if you want to go fast you might consider getting a GT3, a Boxster Spyder, or a Cayman GTS instead of my base model Cayman. 

Ford Fiesta ST, with a BIG WING! Spoiler alert!

The course was compact and very straight forward, so I’m embarrassed to say I went off course twice (mental mistakes) and hit a cone on another run. On top of that my Track Addict app couldn’t read my settings right and I didn’t get a good video with my speeds on it. Of course, it MIGHT be that I input the course map wrong too, so let’s just call it operator error on me! Oh well, one of those days!

Super cool Porsche GT3!

After the start and a 90-degree left-hander, we had a flat out downhill that my app says I hit 57mph on, and then a big braking spot into a long sweeper. That was challenging to resist the urge to brake sooner and then try to carry speed through the left turn. After that was a short 3 cone slalom, then a hard right into a right sweeper of 3 gates. On my fastest run I cut the second gate short here, so no wonder my time was faster, it didn’t count!

Ready to drive, don't forget the helmet!

The next right turn and a 90-degree left made up the trickiest section, and I saw a good number of others miss part of it or hit the cone on the right turn apex. It wasn’t until my last run or two that I managed the right turn with no braking. Pro tip: braking slows you down!

Fastest British car of the day, Jaguar R-type

The next element was a single cone to turn left around, maybe 120 degrees, and this spot gave you various options on how to approach it. Just for fun, there was a a bit of a pothole in the pavement just past it, but I don't think that came into play after the turn and getting back on the gas. From this point, it was a series of 3 off-set gates right to the finish, making for about a 44 second run on my best time. 

Here's a classic air-cooled 911, with a great license plate that reads "Without Water" in German!

For what it's worth, here's the best times for each driver:
NMS = 5th fastest

Here's a video look at the course, it was challenging trying to go faster out there!


Saturday, October 14, 2023

Bunch of Idiots Do Road America

 This past weekend, the Bunch of Idiots loaded up our 1990 Miata and headed almost 1000 miles north to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The 24 Hours of Lemons was returning to the 4 mile track for the first time in about 10 years and we all had it on our list of tracks to drive once, so we decided to make it our one race this year. 

NMS rig rolls through a diesel pump on the way north. 

We spent the night Wednesday night in Greenville at Kyle's house to get a 90 minute head start from Columbia. Thursday morning we rolled out about 4 am. Kyle, Phillip and myself rotated driving duties on the way up. Just past Indianapolis we got stuck for almost 2 hours behind a pair of trucks that crashed and completely blocked I-65. That delay got us deeper into Chicago rush-hour traffic than we planned on. 

Hanging out on I-65....waiting.

Interestingly, we took a detour to avoid some of the traffic and ended up driving right past a Ford assembly plant and got to see some of the UAW protests in action. Beyond the protest we merged back into some very slow moving traffic before getting through the city and into Wisconsin. We rolled into the track at 9:59pm, one minute before the gates were scheduled to close for the night. Whew. 

Test day sticker. Road America!

Friday we all rotated through the car, spending 20-30 minutes each getting familiar with the track. Phillip has been crewing for us since the first day we got the Coronet and we made sure he got some seat time during practice day since we didn't know how soon any of us would be back and it just made sense for everyone to get a chance to drive. 

Shot of turn 5, up to the Corvette bridge as seen from the concession stand.

Going into the weekend we knew we'd be at a disadvantage with our little 1.6l engine against the huge 4 mile track with long straights. In Lemons, they class you into three classes, A, B, and C with A being the fastest. Typically we're in A class and are shooting it out with the pointy end of the field and a lot of 6 and 8 cylinder cars. We decided to put more effort into a theme and try to get into B class and have some shot at winning something. 

Bees. Worker Bees.
Thanks to a friend of the team, Justin, we decided to go with dressing the car up like a bee. After all, who wouldn't put a bee into B class? We decided we needed to dress up like worker bees and stage a Bees for B Class protest to campaign the Lemons judges for a bump down to B class. To our surprise, it worked! We were granted B class with 2 penalty laps. This meant we would start the race Saturday with two laps in the hole we'd have to make up. 

Bees for B Class!
Friday night they hosted a block party in downtown Elkhart Lake and rolled in all 140+ cars and teams to show off their themes and have a good time. It was all going well until the rain showed up and most people disbursed and hid out in the local restaurants. 

Shot of the block party before the rain.

Shot of the block party during the rain.

Saturday the racing kicked off at 10am with me taking the first stint. There were a tremendous amount of break-downs and car issues that kept the track under full course yellow and even went black flag for a while to pull all the cars into the pit road while the track crews cleaned up an oil spill. All those delays kept me in the car for 2.5 hours until I handed it over to Luke. Luke ran strong and handed over to Kyle after about an hour and forty minutes. Kyle got about half-way into his stint and realized there was an oil pressure issue. I topped it off with a quart of oil and sent him back out. 

Kyle getting set in the car for some hot laps.

I resumed driving duty for the last hour of the day and immediately we topped off half a quart of oil and sent me out with instructions to keep an eye on oil pressure under braking. I didn't notice any drop in pressure and took the checker flag at 5pm. 

Phillip, Kyle, Luke, all assessing the oil leak situation.

Once in the paddock, we realized the adapter that was threaded into the engine block for the oil pressure gauge had failed. Luckily our paddock neighbors had an extractor bit and we were able to remove the adapter. Somehow this thing stayed attached to the engine with about one thread left while the rest was broken off. With that issue identified and fixed, we moved on to put fresh brake pads and rotors on the car for Sunday. 

Offending part. Big points to Luke for the extraction. 

Sunday, Luke led off at 9am. He made a great move to out-brake another car into turn 5, when that car decided it didn't like the little Miata out-driving him and came through the corner too fast and pushed out into our car. Wheels bumped, but both cars continued. In Lemons, contact is not allowed and both cars must come in for the officials to talk to you if there is an incident. While he was in, we decided to replace the wheel out of caution and sent him back out. We were told the other car had broken their wheel and when I saw it later on track it looked like their suspension was bent. 

Getting Luke in line early to jump a few positions on the start Sunday morning.

Kyle took over for an hour and forty five minutes, then I took over for the same duration before handing back to Kyle for the final stint to take the checker at 4pm. As we do with other races, we slowly climbed the field and finished 18th overall out of over 140 cars. Looking at the results, Kyle realized he was right on the bumper of the 17th place car at the finish, so we were very close to jumping one more spot. 

Over 140 teams at the awards ceremony and wrap-up of the race.

18th doesn't sound like much, but with a few laps lost to our 2 penalty laps for taking B class, then a few laps lost for topping off oil, and also a few lost to the contact incident, we were driving our little under-powered car at a pace much closer into the top 10. We all think that's a pretty great result and enjoyed an awesome track with beautiful weather. We'll see what 2024 brings, but whatever it is, we'll keep punching above our weight. 

Here's most of my stint on Sunday...

Friday, October 13, 2023

Another Day, Another Car Show!

We attended a Mid-Century Home tour, and a car show broke out! This Camaro was at one of the cool mid-1900-ish homes in Charlotte NC. 


What's a car show without a Mustang?


More Impala!

Oldsmobile, something you don't see every day!

Studebaker Hawk

And what's a car show without a Corvette?

1972 Citroen. That's French for "Citroen."

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

The "Bunch of Idiots" Racing Team Returns!

The Purple Miata is ready for another trip, although a new color scheme and theme will also be unveiled at this weekend's race. We guarantee it will be hilarious! No spoilers!

The Bunch of Idiots racing team announced that they would be returning to racing with the 24 Hours of Lemons series at Road America this weekend. With their mighty Mazda Miata, the team will be hitting the road for Wisconsin, to enjoy racing at another one of America's famous tracks. The two-day race will be held October 7-8, and the team plans to do some test driving on October 6th at Road America as well.

Pre-race prep discovered a little trouble with the flywheel, so a new part was installed. 

If you're not familiar with The 24 Hours of Lemons racing, you are really missing something! Want to race on a track yourself? Then Lemons is for you! You can get lots of info at the official website:

Some new coolant lines were also installed, so the Miata should be ready to rock. 

The short version is that you find a car for say $500, make it race-worthy with a full cage, race seats, fire suppression system, safety harness, and etc, and then you GO RACING! The Bunch of Idiots team have raced a 70s Dodge Coronet to first place in C class, and currently can be found racing their mighty Miata. Along the way, they've experienced some great tracks, met some great folks, done some overnight car repairs to keep running, and overall have had a lot of fun. 

This weekend will also feature a Friday night parade 5-9pm of all the "racecar" entries (spelled it backwards just to make sure you are paying attention!) So, if you are anywhere near Elhart Lake Wisconsin this Friday night, go check out the free outdoor block party with all the drivers crazy enough to race their $500 cars! This event is free to the public, so check it out. On Saturday and Sunday you can go to the Road America track and watch the racing for an admission fee, or follow along with live timing on the Race Monitor app from your friendly app store!

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Report From National Drive Electric Week

The new Hummer: Electric Vehicle

Last Saturday Julie and I headed up to Troutman NC for a Drive Electric Week event. That's not the only thing we did, because, well, yeah, first we got up and watched the Formula 1 practice and qualifying from the Suzuka Circuit in Japan. Being about 12 hours ahead of us, these events had already happened like at 10pm and 2am, and dang it, I just didn't feel like waking up in the middle of the night! OK, where was I? Oh yeah! Electric cars!

At first glance I thought this was the Rivian SUV, but it's the Hummer.

Hummer tailgate turns into a step, good idea!

I like to joke that since we live fairly close to a hydro-electric dam and a nuclear power station that there should be plenty of electricity around, so maybe electric cars are OK. Here's a few more we saw: 

Polestar. Interesting to see one since I just visited their new Charlotte dealership last week. 

This is the new Nissan Ariya, and maybe the first one I've seen in real life. They have a bunch of TV commercials. 

Kia EV6. Kind of similar looking to other SUVs and electrics like the VW ID4.

Another Kia

Volvo electric, similar looking SUV to the others.