Race 1

The April race was to be twin 7-hour races; one on Saturday, one on Sunday, which is a typical ChumpCar race weekend. Before the race, we did several test days at GrandSport Speedway in Hitchcock, and at Harris Hill Road in San Marcos. Plus, we ran a bunch of laps on Friday, the day before the race. Running on worn out springs and shocks and with the car sitting up like a 4x4 after we removed all the weight, it understeered like a pig. Those front tires were taking some abuse. But it was all good. This was our first race, and all we wanted was to finish.


We made 2 key mistakes in prepping for this race. 1) We were using the factory radiator (mechanical fan removed; the electric fan wired to a switch). 2) We had no aftermarket gauges, only the factory cluster. (How's that for foreshadowing...)

Everything went great for our first driver. No real drama. He came in for fuel and driver change at the 1:40 mark. We were in 12th place. Our second driver went out, and steadily climbed into 7th place. But a little before his time was up, he radioed in that it was running a little hotter than normal. Not having a real gauge, we didn't know how hot. So he came in for fuel, and I got in for the 3rd stint.


During the stop, the car did burp some water.  So before going out, my team popped the radiator cap (on a very hot car), and refilled it with water, and sent me out. Stupendous effort by the guys.
 
The first half of my out lap, the temp was fine, as I wasn't pushing it very hard. Once I got on it, the temp gauge immediately started climbing, so I came back in. The team did an awesome job, trying fix whatever could be wrong.  Right there on pit road, they pulled the thermostat, got it back together, and sent me back out.  That wasn't the problem.  The factory gauge pegged on me, half a lap out. I've never actually seen a temperature gauge peg before, and it's not a welcome sight.

So I came back in, and we replaced the water pump.  No joy.  We replaced the radiator.  No joy. (We bring a lot of spare stuff with us to these races...)  We were finally forced to admit the truth: Blown headgasket.  Our weekend was done.  Changing a head gasket on this car (KA24DE motor, for those with a Japanese Car Secret Decoder Ring) is not for the faint of heart, and not something we were prepared to do at the track.

John pulled it apart and sent the head out to be resurfaced.  It turned out that the head was warped 20 thousandths of an inch from the overheating.  Factory spec is 1.2 thousandths of an inch.  Being out of spec by a factor of 15 can be a problem.

Breaking the car during our very first race left a bad taste in our mouths, and we were determined to do better in the July race. A few weeks after the race, we found a junkyard engine and put it in the car, along with real gauges for water temp and oil pressure. We did some testing at GrandSport Speedway, and found 2 things:
1) The stock radiator is woefully inadequate for racing purposes; and
2) The factory gauge can be in the "normal" range when it's as hot as 250°.
So we installed a Mishimoto aluminum radiator and aftermarket fan for the next race.  Due to the rules of the series, we take a value hit and penalty laps for the radiator.  But it's a choice of a few penalty laps, or not racing, so we take the laps.

With our "new" engine in, some testing under our belts, and a lot of crossed fingers, we headed back to TWS for an 18-hour race.
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