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Old 07-28-2008, 12:57 PM   #1
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Join Date: Jan 2007
Fan#: 42718
Location: NOVA
What I Drive: 2002 RED SVT Focus

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Track Weekend - RECAP & Great Stories

It was a great weekend for a track day at Summit Point in WVA.

Pics and video will be posted tonight.

A grand total of TWO (2) SVT foci came out to play. Sadly, only one would survive.

The entire weekend saw a total of 70 cars come out to play. The novice group was light with only 22 “rookies” and 20 instructors to assist them. The instruction was good and the drivers were able to work quickly and efficiently with their mentors. So much so that we “solo’d” 7 novice drivers and that is unprecedented in my experience.

The first day brought heat and more heat. Thankfully, there was a breeze that helped keep some of the air moving. However, the cars performed flawlessly and we had some really interesting cars come out to play. Just a sampling:

- Mercedes Benz 6.3 (This thing sounded like Lucifer’s Hammer on the straight)

- Ford Mustang FR500C Challenge car. (The owner was sorting it out before his first race in 2 weeks)

- 98 Pontiac Firebird (the #46 car that won the Daytona support race at the Rolex 2 years ago – it was the only car LOUDER than the Benz)

- BMW 1 series coupe (the first one that I’ve ever seen. The driver was a novice, but the car looked really good on the track)

- Race prepared NASA Lotus Exige (Easily one of the fastest cars on the track)

As for me, my weekend started and ended with trouble. I’ve been battling shifter cable issues for the last month, but finally came away with a diagnosis. Periodically, the shifter would “pop out of gear”. The cables are all intact and there was no external physical signs of failure. In my first session, a casual upshift to 3rd gear disengaged the linkage and I was forced to coast back into the pits. We tore out the air box and noticed that the bushing that attaches the cable to the shifter linkage was COMPLETELY OFF of the car. The locking mechanism (made of plastic) inside the bushing was broken causing the cable to slip off of the linkage. Some ingenious “West Virginia engineering” and clever use of zip ties got me rolling again. Thanks to Aaron and Mark for figuring out what stumped me for over 3 weeks. The shifter cable held up for the remainder of the event and performed without issue.

We went incident free for the remainder of the day until the last session before lunch. A Porsche 944 Cup Racer high sided the banking in the carousel and boxed the tire wall. The tire wall won…or so we thought.

The driver loaded the car onto a trailer, took the car to a friends shop. Pulled the frame, realigned the bumper, pounded out the rear fender, replaced the front brakes and was back on track less than 3 hours later. Amazing what you can do with the right tools and resources.

Day 2 brought humidity along with the heat and thunderstorms. We had to suspend track activity for about 30 minutes because of lightning (corner workers are very exposed). We were able to get rolling again without further delay.

As is almost ALWAYS the case, the last run group tends to have the most dramatic incidents. The same was true for me. Earlier in the day, I tried a new line on the track that enabled me to shave nearly FOUR (4) full seconds off of my previous fastest lap on Shenandoah. I was turning 1:38 second lap times, which is very respectable for an old, fat guy like me with an underpowered car. By way of comparison, this is about 3-5 seconds slower than the full blown race cars.

Then, near disaster. I was entering “Big Bend”, the final sweeping turn that leads onto the main straight when I encountered a substantial vibration from the front of the car. VIBRATION, VIBRATION, THUMP, THUMP. I was convinced that I had a tire going down and eased to the right side of the track and slowed down pointing cars by. I came into the pits and got out of the car. Once again, no physical signs that there was anything wrong with the car. No fluid, tires were inflated without any tears or cording. We put the car in neutral and began rocking it back and forth to recreate the noise. No noise, but instead were rewarded with a lug nut and a broken stud FALLING OUT OF THE WHEEL !!!!

I am VERY meticulous about checking and rechecking lug nuts on the car. Yesterday was no exception. So, how could this have happened?

A lesson here. If you have aftermarket rims and go to track events, invest in STEEL hub centering rings TIRERACK carries them. The plastic hub centric ring that came with my wheels melted and disintegrated allowing the rim to shift on the hub. The cornering pressures effectively rotated the lug nuts and SAWED a wheel stud completely off.

I was very lucky that I didn’t lose a wheel.

The little SVT came away injured, but I was able to limp home at the end of the day. There will be a few hundred dollars in repairs and maintenance, but the little Red foci did her job well.

The same cannot be said for a pretty Sonic Blue SVT. Sadly, late in the day, she carried too much speed into the carousel and high sided the banking. The car ended up 3 feet, nose first, into the tire barrier. The nose was completely destroyed along with most of the passenger side body panels.

Consensus was, from both witnesses and in car video (I did not see the wreck), that the driver did everything right. CROSS-DRILLED rotors lengthened the stopping distance and caused the driver to carry too much speed into the turn. The banking then launched the car out of the back side and hurt the car. Thankfully, the driver was not injured. He was in good spirits (all things considered) about the experience and intends to repair the car and be back out soonest. Only this time, he will have solid rotors, and Hawk pads instead of the cross drilled rotors and Hawk pads.

For me, if I could say there was one highlight to the entire weekend, it was my wife and 3 month old daughter taking their first laps on a race course. The “Wee WeeAsp” was strapped in and Mom was at the wheel and we headed out for a parade lap. My little girl giggled and smiled through the whole trip and waved her arms all the way through the banking. Some might say it was just gas, but I know that racing is in her blood.

FORMER Avenging Moderator of the Apocalypse and Leader of the Axis of Oversteer

"I live with fear every day and sometimes, she lets me race."

2002 SVT Focus... Stock
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