Thunderhill 2021

We raced at Thunderhill last weekend. As usual it was a crazy weekend, but I’m fairly pleased with how it went.

My son and I towed it up on Thursday evening so we could get in early and get a spot under the big metal canopy. We did get a spot there and it was a life save. It got into the high 90s on Saturday and about 105 on Sunday. The next morning another team arrived and pulled in next to us with another CB7 Accord. That was pretty cool. Their car had an F20B that they said was good for 200hp. We passed out tech inspection without trouble and they put is in B class with 0 laps like usual. Oddly they did the same for the 200hp Accord, B 0.

One of our regular drivers backed out a week or so before with health concerns, so we got the same guest driver that joined us at Laguna Seca. But then Thursday another driver also decided against driving. I decided we were not going to be competitive and to just have fun. The other drivers suggested that, since I’m the oldest and least in shape, that I should go first while it was cool out and drive as long as I could.

I did and it went great. Started in 79th drove for 90 minutes and finished my stint in 28th place and just 2 laps down from the leaders. The car was running great and handling better. It was a joy. Except that the the exhaust started leaking and then the 4 to 2 connector came apart and it got very very loud. But they didn’t black flag me so I decided to stay out. After that I started shifting earlier which probably slowed me down a bit, but not too much. This car is really a momentum car, and finally for the first time I felt comfortable carrying very high speeds through turns 1 and 8 (like top of 4th gear fast). 8 I could do without lifting, though I usually lifted a bit to do a little weight shift forward to get a nice turn in. 1 required only a lift during the turn in, unless there was traffic. These two corners scare lots of drivers and so you can just blow by them on the next straight if you can carry full speed through them. My previous fastest lap on the Thunderhill five mile was 3:56 and Saturday morning I did a 3:53.9. I was wiped out when I came in even though it wasn’t super hot yet. The guys did a great job reconnecting the exhaust, but we lost lots of places during that stop.

Our guest driver went next and went off twice in his first lap then couldn’t find the pit entrance. So we were in trouble with the judges. The rest of the team and my son worked on me hard and convinced me to let my son (17) drive. We got him enough safety gear to wear, and late registered him after our third stint started and the car was still running.

During the day we started having fueling issues again. I never experienced it, and it seemed to help when the tank was full. Our fuel usage was quite high too. During Jason’s drive he hit a curb pretty hard and a few laps later that wheel decided to go for a walk. All 4 studs were sheared off. Luckily he went off and the disk only hit sand. We were able to replace the studs put the wheel back on and send him back out.

Before my son drove we found that the fuel pressure regulator was loose and leaking. We hoped that would solve the fueling problem but it didn’t seem to.

While my son was driving I was a nervous wreck, but he did pretty well. The the red flag came out. Red flag means every car stops and pulls to the side of the track because there is a bad crash or a fire. I panicked, but it was just a minor grass fire. That was about 20 minutes from the end of the day so they just called everyone in and ended racing for the day.

The next day I started again and again didn’t have fueling issues. I had a great time driving and managed a 3:47.6. It really handles well, enough that the lack of power isn’t too big a deal.

So the guys with the 200hp F20B accord that had a paddock space next to us? They blew up their engine on the second lap. Worked all day and night to swap it with another F20B. The next morning on lap one the passed me like I was standing still but on the second lap I passed them back. They had blown up a second motor and were pulled off on the side of the track. So maybe a high strung VTEC motor isn’t the right answer for low budget enduro racing after all. I tried to convince them that an F22A is a ticket to finishing the race and getting in lots of laps, but they didn’t listen.

We finished in 63rd place which wasn’t even in the top half, but no surprise we had several issues during the two days, and any race where I have the team fast lap isn’t our best.

On the way back we returned the car to our new house. It’s in the garage now. With an indoor work space I can take on projects like an engine rebuild and replacing the camshaft.

Some Volvo Work and a Killer Jackstand

Yesterday Ewan and I took the Volvo over to Tedds for a few tasks, but we left my toolbox behind, so we were a bit limited. We did figure out the clunk in the rear suspension. One of the sway bar nuts was loose. We fixed that. We wanted to try to replace the transmission mount, and to look into what we’d need to do to replace the motor mounts. But I decided we’d go back home.

We’d made some progress. While we were there we picked up a pair of jackstands that we’ve been using for a few years that had been recalled by Harbor Freight. They can collapse! We stopped by HF on the way home and basically traded them in on a set of 1/2″ drive metric sockets. I’ll be getting my life safety equipment elsewhere from now on. If you have these jackstands, stop using them. HF is buying them back for $20 for a pair.

Back Together

Ewan and I went over again and re-installed the exhaust and buttoned it all up. The studs and gaskets had arrived from rockauto. Naturally when we got there the gaskets were the wrong size by just a bit. So we made a trip to the Autozone on 29th but that was a bust, they had the same, sligtly too large gaskets. So it was up to the O’Reillys in El Cerrito. I like that place much more. They found us what we needed.

We got it all back together and hung in place. We turn the power on and off a few time to try to pump fuel back through the lines. Then it started right up.

Back to work

Two weeks ago I decided that I needed to get out and do something. I’ve been super fortunate that my job can be done from home and that my job has been secure, so far. But that means that I rarely leave our apartment anymore. Over time it wears on you. Well Ewan and I decided to work on the racecar. At the last race we had problems with fuel starvation and we decided that it was probably a failing fuel pump, and we chose to to try to replace it at the track. I’ve been feeling guilty about that.

Well some time ago I ordered an entirely new pump assembly. It’s been sitting here waiting for a long while. Ewan and I decided last weekend that enough was enough and that we could do this safely. We almost never see anyone at Tedd’s other than Tedd and sometimes Tedd’s crazy tenant turned squatter who lives in the garage unit. But she does not talk to us, which is fine, and we can keep Tedd at “arm’s length.”

To replace the pump assembly you have to drop the tank. Thankfully Tedd had emptied the tank already. So we started by removing the exhaust. We have a bit of a custom exhaust so it is basically all one piece. We discovered one stud missing and the gaskets needed replacing. So that wasn’t the worst thing, since we’ll fix those. The tank is held up by two straps but it is connected to the car by about 4 hoses and one pipe, and about 3 wiring connectors. 4 of the hoses are fairly easy to access with the wheel off from the driver rear side. but the wires and the pipe are a pain to reach and can really only be accessed when the tank is partially dropped. So it was a bunch of trial and error until we got in there. Tedd did show up for a bit and help us get going when we were stalled.

We got the tank out and replaced the pump assembly and then started on getting it all back together. Turns out the left and right tank support straps are different and naturally I put them on backwards at first which didn’t work. We got the tank back in and the fuel system reconnected before calling it a day. As always we had to scramble to cleanup and get home in time for dinner.

Muffler for the Volvo

While I was working on the front suspension. Tedd and Ewan were replacing exhaust hangars in the rear.  All I know was that I hear a lot of swearing, and that they discovered that the exhuast pipe leading into the main muffler was broken.  So this morning I took it to the muffler shop.  Turns out Mitch retired last year and sold the shop to Pele.  I left it with him.  Pele did not give us the race team discount that Mitch used to.

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It’s always fun to see the underside of your car when it is up on a lift.

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So this afternoon the Slow Swede will have a classy new muffler and a more refined exhaust note.  Please pass the Grey Poupon.

 

Back to the Volvo

Last weekend Ewan and I dived back into working on his Volvo.  The goal was to replace all the bushing and the strut insert on the front right corner.  After hours of trying I realized those old bushings weren’t coming out without resorting to extreme measures.  The ball joint press kit was not going to do it.  And I guess those bushings didn’t look that bad after all…

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So we changed plans.  We decided to replace the strut inserts on both front corners.  Even this wasn’t too easy.  Turns out there is a special volvo tool for removing the top strut nut.  It is basically a 24mm socket with a hole on top through which out put another tool to hold the shaft from turning.  There was no way to get this tool over the weekend.  So we disassembled both sides and called Saturday a day.  On the way home we bought a 24mm deep socket to use with an impact gun.  I figured short bursts would work that nut off.  Lara took us home and we left the slow swede at Tedd’s.

Sunday morning  Lara dropped us off on her way to church.  Ewan and I spent our day at the Church of Grease Stains and Bloody Knuckles.  The impact gun worked!  Yay.  Then getting the strut gland nut off was tough.

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This gland nut is at the top of the strut tube, it is as big around as the strut tube and it has about an inch of fine threads.  After trying a variety of things and wishing I had a huge pipe wrench, I applied some heat to it until the penetrating oil (applied earlier) was bubbling back out of the threads.  Then a chisel and hammer did the trick.  After that it was just a matter of putting it all back together, getting the alignment very roughly correct, and bleeding the brakes.  That last step took a long time, there was a lot of air in the system and it took a quart of brake fluid to finish.  After it sits a few days we’ll see if it worked or needs to be bled again.

Sunday

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Sunday morning we put Jason in the car for the first stint.  He started having fuel issues from the start.  About 10 laps in I saw him coming through turn 11, he lost power, and a bunch of faster cars came around and barely missed him.  Two went into the dirt to avoid him.  It was clear it was dangerous so I called it, and we brought him in.

With hindsight I wish I had cut a hole in the floor to access the fuel pump.  We might have had a good day of racing.  What a waste.  Sorry team.

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So we loaded it all up.  Lara insisted on taking Ewan and I to lunch, so we did that.  It was expensive and was pretty good.  Then we went back to the track and started towing the car back.  I wish we had skipped the lunch too.  We probably would have made it back in time to drop off the uhaul stuff. Instead after unloading we parked it at work. I was afraid someone might steal the trailer if we left it on the street at Tedd’s.  At work I was able to back it into a tight spot so the trailer could not be stolen without stealing the truck too.

My biggest driving challenges of the weekend all involved backing up the trailer.  I even parallel parked it. ( I easily could have gotten it into a smaller space, but we never would have gotten the car off then)20200105_171402

Friday and Saturday

Friday morning Ewan and I loaded up his Volvo with race stuff and drove to Tedd’s.   Lara picked us up and shuttled us to the Uhaul office.  There we picked up the truck, a new F150, and trailer.  Can you believe that when you rent a tow vehicle and a trailer, the hitch is not included?  The truck came with only 1/4 tank and the usual warning that if I returned it with less they would charge me $10/gallon.  I wasn’t too happy about that.

At Tedd’s I had to figure out how to back the trailer into his driveway, so we could get off the road while loading up.  On my first try I decided that there was just not enough room.  But then I decided that by using a bit of lawn I might squeeze it in.  It worked!  We filled the bed with all our race stuff, and got the car on the trailer.  The car rides way too low to drive on, so we had to jack up the tongue so the car wouldn’t bottom out at the top of the ramps.

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Then we pulled it out, parked Ewan’s Volvo in the race car spot, and headed for a gas station to fill up.  Though we were at Uhaul as soon as they opened, with the loading and the drive, we got to our motel in Monterey at 3pm.  After checking in we ate at the Denny’s down the road and then arrived at Laguna Seca at 5pm just as they opened the gates.

It was dark by the time we unloaded the car and the trailer.  I took the car to tech and passed inspection with no difficulty.  That was the last pass I made that weekend.  They gave us about 20 stickers from “sponsors” that we were required to put on our car.  We must be real racers now, because we have sponsors.  I thought that sponsors were supposed to give us money or parts or at least moral support. These just gave us stickers.

Since Tedd had to stay home and take care of his Mom, Jason recruited a friend of his, Danny to drive with us and pay a share of the entry fees.

We arrived early on race morning to check the alignment and tire pressures.  We had to adjust the toe before heading to the driver’s meeting.  The owner of Lucky Dog, Kathy, is long winded.  It went on and on. At 9am we lined up the car for practice/qualifying.  We each got three laps by 9:40 and at 9:50 Dennis was in the car for the rolling start.  He did pretty well posting a 1:58.  At some point he came in complaining of power loss under throttle.  I went next and had several laps in which I had bad power loss heading up the hill to the corkscrew.  I kept deciding to stay out one more lap because I knew there was little we could do about it.  Eventually it cleared up and I got about 2 laps before the car started shaking badly under acceleration.  I limped back in and they tightened some things in the front left suspension and told me to go out again.  It was immediately obvious that it was worse, so I limped around the track and came in.  This time I got out and put on some gloves and grabbed the axle and it was loose on the inside cv joint, it was also hot as hell.  So we rolled it back into the paddock and replaced the axle.  Unfortunately the spare axle we had was for the right side so we had to send Danny to get a new one.  We got that replaced and by then it was Danny’s turn.  He said he had fuel starvation nearly the whole stint but he did get a 1:55.  I was concerned that he would push the car too hard, but he didn’t really get the chance to.  Then Jason was up and he had a perfectly clean drive and set a 1:53!  With all the lost time we finished in the bottom 10.

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Our Race is Over

Fuel pump keeps cutting out. It was only a matter of time before we lost power in a bad spot and caused and accident. Replacong the pump requires dropping the tank out. Major surgery. So I called it after I saw Jason have a close call. I’m sad.

First Day Done

We got down Friday afternoon and at 5 got to the track. The car passed tech, they gave us lost of sponsor stickers we had to put our on our car.

Today we raced but we had some troubles, including pissinle fuel starvation and a blown axle. We finished 34th of only 45 and Jason had a 1:53.6.