Thursday, April 30, 2009

Let the Craziness Begin

The day started early with a 5:30 alarm and a 45 minute snooze before my better half nudged me then notified me I was already behind.  The morning pre-departure chores were simple; pack the car, get cleaned up, get 30 minutes of real work done, go through the One Lap must have check list for the hundredth time, gas the car, pick up Woody at 8:30.  Check and check!

Having picked up Woody and his gear we head off the the Star Bucks at Chesterbrook Plaza in McLean, VA to link up with Dick Clark and Tucson Jerry (Dick's brother.....from guess where?).  Neil Simon, Woody's regular One Lap partner sees us off from Woody's house and wishes us luck....thanks Neil!  My wife, Suze, also stops by to see us off and capture a couple photos to memorialize the moment.  It is now 9:15 and we have 600 miles to South Bend, IN.  The caravan is smaller than last year, but fun will be had.

I take the first stint which lands us at Breezewood, PA and the Penn Turnpike.  We top off the fuel tank and start the next run.  Woody is now behind the wheel and as we hit the Ohio state line at 1:45, it is time for another restroom break and lunch.  

As we are in the queue for our first official gourmet meal of the week at Micky D's, Dick and Jerry start discussing their shopping for a ZR-1 Vette.  Woody and I are looking at each other......nice, they'll get home and have a new toy.  But no, Dick is looking to trade up right now....or at least before the One Lap starts on Saturday.  Dick is currently sporting a very nice and very fast Z-06 Vette, but for the past several hours has been on the phone with Chevy dealers from Indianapolis to Chicago looking for a ZR-1.  He has located one in both cities.  If he goes for the Indianapolis car, Woody and I are out on the caravan deal.  If the Chicago car pans out, Dick and Jerry will head to Chi-Town Friday morning.  It's official....Dick is on the fringe of lunacy.  But I also wish him luck as it would be a great story to finish....stay tuned!

After a lovely meal, it's back on the road.  We are down the highway no more than 10 miles and Woody receives a call from his son, Brian AND it starts to rain in earnest with yours truly behind the wheel.  Brian has news on a fellow competitor, Eric Brum,  who's luck has been a little down.  

Eric owns a BMW Z3 M Coupe.  In preparation for the One Lap, Eric decides to stuff a fully prepared turbo race motor in the car along with some light weight carbon fiber body parts.  The car was just finished last Friday and was taken to Summit Point for a shakedown.  During the initial test, the car appears to have suffered a turbo over boost which throws a cooling system hose and eventually leads to Eric having a small spin at turn 10 narrowly missing the inside concrete wall.

The car is brought back to the shop and over the next few days is gone over in detail.  What comes to light is that the car has a blown head gasket and some piston/valve damage.  After milling the warped head and securing the other go fast replacement parts, the re-assembly commences.  Unfortunately, it does not go well and the "project" comes to a close.  It is Wednesday evening...the day before Eric is scheduled to leave for South Bend.

Undaunted, Eric contacts Brock Yates, the One Lap's chief cook and bottle washer.  Brock suggests Eric call TC Kline, a BMW tuner in Columbus, OH.  TC has several cars and may be willing to "rent" a car to Eric allowing him to participate in the One Lap event.  As luck would have it, TC does have a car....none other than his well known (in car circles) bright orange BMW Z3 Carbon Fiber M Coupe.  A deal is struck and Eric lines up a one way rental car to transport him and his c0-driver, Dave Flogus, to Columbus.  Eric will pick up the rental car in the DC metro area and then head to Philly to pick up Dave.  From there it will be an all night drive to Columbus, determine if the One Lap tires he has already purchased and carried with him will fit the M Coupe.  Then on to South Bend.  WOW.....way to stay with it Eric and Dave and we look forward to seeing you in Indiana.

The remainder of the trip is uneventful other than the rain.  We arrive in South Bend at 6:45 and have a quick beer at the motel bar before heading out for dinner.  Getting back to the fine luxury accommodations, we stop in for a night cap.  Dick's deal has not come through so it appears he'll need to wait until next year for the ZR-1.  Life is tough.

It's 11:30 and it has been a long day.  Tomorrow we register and plaster more graphics on the car.  For now....good night!!!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What a DAY!

Yesterday could not have been better for a golf tournament. What a was picture perfect with temps in the low 90's, but just enough of a breeze to keep things cool and club selection something to think about. The course at Westwood Country Club was in prime condition with the fairways rewarding well placed drives, the rough punishing wayward strokes, and the greens running true and fast.

The day started with a quick business meeting at 9:00 am and then a run to the local car wash to have the 335i cleaned for the debut appearance to her sponsors. At 10:30, my better half Suze, and a good friend Judy Butler (both lovely women) manned the registration desk. On cue, the first of the players arrived to check-in and it was official, the 2009 Drive to End Prostate Cancer Golf Tournament was underway.

As participants began to arrive in rapid succession, Suze and Judy went to work in raising donations in support of ZERO buy "selling" mulligans for $5.00 each or $20.00 for four mulligans AND your personalized "Stick It to Prostate Cancer" sticker on the car. I don't know what they did besides show their lovely smiles, but at the end of the registration we had raised another $2,000 in the fight to end prostate cancer. Peter O'Rourke made a large donation in support of his dad who is a prostate cancer survivor. THANKS and many others are making a difference!!!!

The time slips away quickly as players are warming up and I am trying to catch up with everyone. The turn-out is spectacular with 104 golfers participating......WOW! Just before tee time, I am overcome with emotion as Glenn Brown, the head pro at Westwood, announces why everyone is here and I think about Tom Holcomb and the great times we had together before he lost his fight to prostate cancer. This is all in memory of you Tommy.......your friends, our friends, dads, uncles, brothers, grandfathers.

As the noon bell tolls, 26 foursomes head out for a day of fun. Woody, my co-driver and the hot shoe of Team ZERO - 2009, and I grab a golf cart and head out for an afternoon of "poor shot" harassment, including my own offerings made to the golf gods. We crisscross the course many, many times, regale stories, and have numerous laughs with everyone. Suze and Judy have a cart of their own and are certainly a prettier pair than Woody and me. In the end, the four of us become beer wenches as the weather temperatures and fierce competition have sparked a thirst among the players. In five short hours, the "game" is over and the crowd rushes back to the club house to hand in their cards and await the final score postings.

As the postings are being calculated, teams head up to the main banquet room for cocktails and snacks. From listening to everyone it has been a great day filled with fun, some terrific golf, catching up with friends and business associates, and supporting a wonderful cause in men's health. Dinner is served and I am handed the final results of the tournament winners. After a short address and HUGE THANKS to everyone for supporting ZERO, I announce the men's and women's winners for the longest drive and closest to the pin along with the teams with the three lowest scores. Jamie Bearse, COO of ZERO, also offers a few words about prostate cancer and ZERO's role in ending this disease.

After a wonderful dinner, folks begin to say good-bye and the day comes to a peaceful and successful end. Suze and I remain at the club for awhile longer and savor a glass of wine or two on the lawn while watching a setting sun. Next stop....South Bend, Indiana on Thursday!

I'll end this post by again thanking everyone for participating in the event and to the sponsors of the event, especially the tournament sponsor, Patella.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Testing - Round Two

Let's just get right to the issues. If you have been keeping up you know of our engine software problems. You also know that Thursday evening was a huge success for the first test of the car and that the Dinan software would undergo its test on Saturday. So picking up the car from Passport BMW late Friday afternoon with the software download completed was a good first step.

Saturday morning came early as I had arranged with Woody to pick him up at 6:15 for the hour and 15 minute drive to Summit Point. As planned we arrive at the track and the all hands meeting at 7:30. Once the meeting is over we wait our turn to speak with NASA's Mid-Atlantic director, Chris Cobetto. As always, Chris is very pleasant and listens to our plight and begging for just one or two track sessions to test the car and the Dinan upgrades. He gives us an okay with the parting words of "don't blow up the motor on the track or I'll be very upset". He'll be upset?

As Woody still has not driven the car at speed, we opt for him to go out in the first session for the test. At 8:20 he is directed off pit lane and headed for his warm up lap. After completing the warm up, he passes by several more times and still at a rapid pace. It appears round two testing is a success. But just to make sure, I climb in the car approximately an hour and 30 minutes later and go out for another 5 lap session. I thrash the car rather hard and return to pit lane feeling very good about the testing and the results. Woody and I look at each other with a great sense of relief that the engine problems have been resolved (knock on wood everyone, please!!!).

As we are hanging around the paddock talking to friends and watching some of the other on track activities another 2 hours pass. I look at Woody and say, we're here, let's go around one more time just for a final, final check. Having packed the car to head home, we unpack it and I strap in for a session with the Time Trialers. Again, I only complete 4-5 laps, but there are no issues and I have pushed the car extremely hard. With this, we again feel very good about the car. We then pack up, wish the RRT boys good luck in the weekend NASA races, say our good-byes, and head back to Arlington.

I will call Passport on Monday to give them the great news and on Wednesday will run out their way to see them for a personal THANKS!!!! Could not have done it without them and Dinan. Again, THANKS gents as we have a GO FOR LAUNCH!!!!

Testing - Round One

It is a very warm Sunday afternoon and we depart for South Bend in three short days. Hard to believe and where has time disappeared to?

As we left things a few days ago, the car was being attended to by Passport BMW and Dinan for engine malfunctions and over-boost issues on the twin turbos. Passport had re-flashed the car to stock specifications and we were awaiting a test run at Summit Point Raceway in West Virginia. RRT was able to arrange the testing for last Thursday evening. And so with the car emptied of all items that can fly around, Barry Battle from RRT exits pit lane for the first of 4-5 hot laps. Summit Point is a 2.1 mile road course and in a stock car with street tires I expect Barry (an extremely hot shoe) to turn a 1:30 time. I never realized how long a minute and 30 seconds can be. I am standing in the pit exit tower looking impatiently toward the crossover bridge and turn 10 waiting for a sign of the car's nose.

At last Barry comes in to view and he is still putting the whip to the ponies. It may be a warm up lap, but it is a good sign. As he passes by the tower I occupy my mind by starting the stopwatch. This time the minute-thirty seems even longer, but again he comes in to view and moving at a rapid pace. I have no idea how much he is pushing, so to say we have passed the test would be premature. It was in lap two just a couple of short weeks ago that we had the issue expose its ugly head.

Lap three has started and time appears to be slipping by faster now. Barry passes under the bridge and starts lap four. He has cranked out a 1:29.30 lap....almost a full second off the beginning laps. I am starting to feel as though the test of the car is going well and that the first phase of our fix is in place. Barry does one more lap and returns to pit lane for a debrief. As he comes down pit lane, I am asking for a thumbs up or down. Through the windshield I see a thumbs up...hooray! I have a huge smile on my face and as Barry and I chat track side, he relays how he pushed the car very hard banging it off the rev-limiter on multiple occasions. Since owning the car, we have not been able to get it to the red line without going to "limp-mode".

Wanting to make sure we have fully tested the car in stock, we let it rest for 10 minutes and then send Barry back out. Again, Barry completes 3 laps and turns a very fast time at 1:27.50. He pits once again and gives it a huge thumbs up as he later acknowledges he pushed it even harder. Not wanting to use up the One Lap tires and new race brake pads on the car, we decide the test is a 100% success.

I stay for few minutes to chat with the RRT racers and discuss how the testing of their Koni Challenge ST class BMW 328 Sedan is going? That's right, Barry and Michael Dayton were also testing their Grand Am car for an upcoming race in New Jersey. The race will be their first of the season and their first in such a highly popular and well known series. They are making a huge leap to Grand Am and I am very proud and happy for them. I wish them all the luck in the world and cannot wait to see them in action. For now though, all I can do is give RRT and Barry a huge thanks for getting us through round one of testing.

I leave the track around 7:10 and start making way to Passport BMW in Marlow Heights where Woody will pick me up and the car will be left for the re-installation of the Dinan software upgrades. Saturday comes round two testing....back to Summit Point and a NASA race weekend.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

One Lap Preparations

Deja vu has hit the 2009 Drive to End Prostate Cancer team. That is we are experiencing engine malfunctions and reduced power with the BMW twin turbos just as we did last year. Two weeks ago, we had the car at Summit Point for a track day. A test and tune if you will with some seat time for Woody. As it turned out, neither us saw much seat time as the car went in to limp mode almost continuously.

So what has transpired since? Well, the car has made its way to Passport BMW of Marlow Heights, MD which also happens to be a Dinan dealer. As the car has upgraded ECU Dinan goodies, we thought it best to get it in the hands of the two powers that be for a diagnosis.

It was a smart move as both Passport BMW and Dinan have worked hard to clear the cobwebs out of the ECU and re-install the cars software to the stock configuration. The car is back in our hands as of today and tomorrow we are planning on returning to Summit Point with RRT (Road Race Technologies) for a test and tune. If all goes well the car will not have any faults at which point we'll return to Passport BMW and have the Dinan "go-faster" software reloaded. And just to cover ourselves, we'll return to Summit Point on Saturday to test the car again and hopefully for the last time before departing next week. HUGE THANKS to Passport BMW and Dinan for all the support we have been given and continue to receive in sorting out the issues.

Unlike last year though, we have had three weeks to work the problem before departing for South Bend. If folks remember, last year we had this issue the day before we left for the One Lap of America event. I am remaining positive that all the effort put in to solving the issues will finally bear fruit and produce a faultless run.

Of course, all this has put us behind in preparing the car for the "normal" wear and tear items. Fresh One Lap branded tires to be mounted, new brake pads and rotors, oil change, the list goes on.

Stay tuned as we'll post how the test goes tomorrow.

"Stick It To Prostate Cancer"

The "Stick It to Prostate Cancer" happy hour held last Thursday evening at Mate in Georgetown was a grand success. In fact, $2.5 GRAND in donations were raised in support of ZERO - The Project to End Prostate Cancer.

I want to give a huge thanks to Lisa Scala from Herman Miller for organizing the event and of course to everyone who turned out to support the cause. Because of you we are making a difference!