Sunday, May 10, 2009

Biggest THANKS!!!!

To my best friend and love of my life...Suze.

Simply......THANKS and I love you!

Co-Driver Extraordinaire

What can you say about Woody Hair? He is a wonderful person and another great mentor in the game of life. I am so glad that I was able to complete a One Lap of America with him.

He always keeps a cool head and puts a positive perspective on things. Last Tuesday afternoon when I vented my frustration at the car by chucking a water bottle at it while it sat idle in a garage with no fix in sight, Woody remained calm. He was obviously thinking about what our options were. For a fleeting moment, I was thinking one option was to pack up and head home as we are done. I can say that option never crossed Woody's mind.

Woody's cool temperament calmed me down and we walked through the options together. Borrow Rafael Garces' car and finish the event then drive back to Atlanta to pick up the 335i before returning to Arlington (talk about some road miles)? Drive home and pick up Woody's M Coupe and meet up with the One Lappers in Kershaw, SC? Not once did pulling out of the event come up. We had to finish....for our sponsors, for ZERO, for the tech's at United BMW, for men fighting prostate cancer everywhere, and for Tom Holcomb. We were not going to throw in the towel. Woody made sure I did not think of dropping out again.

Everyone knows the rest of the story! We absolutely made the right decision in every respect to carry on.

I am proud and honored to call Woody a friend and I will never forget the week we spent traveling together. We had our disappointments, but they were all overshadowed by the spirit of the event, the people and friends, the laughs (more than I could ever count), and our own feeling of self accomplishment for having stuck with it. If ever the opportunity arises to have Woody as a One Lap co-driver, you can bet I'll be calling him...hopefully he will join up. In the meantime, it will be more track weekends and occasional beers after work.....oh and that event called the Targa Newfoundland!


Thanks United BMW of Roswell

This is a quick and HUGE thanks to all the folks (Steve, Dave, Cliff, Todd, and Ed) at United BMW of Roswell, GA for working on the 335i. The entire team was tireless in their effort to diagnose the problem and repair what they could.

This dealership can be very proud of their staff and the professional manner in which they conduct themselves. I will never hesitate to stop and look them up if ever in the Atlanta area.

Hope to see you all at O'fest in September!!!

Thanks Everyone!!!

I cannot thank everyone enough for all of their support. Especially all of the sponsors who donated so graciously to ZERO - The Project to End Prostate Cancer. This includes all the folks who came to Mate to "Stick It to Prostate Cancer".

While on the road, we met several gentlemen that were either fighting prostate cancer or are survivors. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them and their families. At the end of the day, this is why we do this event, to raise awareness of this disease that strikes so many men and hopefully one day in the near future, find a cure.

ZERO testing, ZERO pain, ZERO CANCER. We are making a difference!

Success Stories - One and All

It is Sunday morning and it is great to be home after a little over a week on the road. Sleeping in my own bed last night felt terrific. Seeing Suze was even better as I missed her terribly. And although Woody and I did not finish as well as we had hoped, we did make it back to South Bend, which was luckier than a few other teams nor were we the only team with problems....

The team of Derek Whitis and Tom Long in a Nissan GTR missed the second half of the week due to limp home mode problems after their run at Daytona International. This team was running in the top three all week and even after their "DNF's - Did Not Finish" were able to carve out a 29th over all position. After Daytona, they motored home to Tallahassee, FL.

Mike Babcock and Norman Babcock in their Audi S4 Quattro had limp home issues and shock mount stress fractures appear in earnest on the last day at BeaveRun. They finished 8th over all though as they ran strong all week.

Rene von Richthofen and Huge Bate in a 911 Turbo had a small coolant leak most of the week which required constant vigilance and care and on the long night drive from the BMW Performance Center in Spartanburg, SC to Koppel, PA they (Huge) hit some small rodent that took out the condenser for the AC. Rene appeared more upset about no AC.

Reg Noble and Bill Unwin (our Canadian brethren) in a very hopped up VW GTI had motor problems during their run at the BMW Performance Center and in fact had a DNF in that event. They worked out the issues as best as possible, but drove straight to South Bend for the finish and missed both events at BeaveRun. They still finished 21st over all.

Matthew and Pete Zekauskas in a BMW 328i developed clutch problems after Sebring and Daytona. On the way to CMP in Kershaw, SC from Daytona, they had the clutch replaced at a shop near Charleston, SC and then drove until approximately 1:30 am before stopping an hour shy of Kershaw. They completed all the remaining events and became our competition the rest of the week. They finished 47th over all...sorry Matthew and Pete, our 44th place wins and the dry skid pad had to pull it out of the fire for us.

Phil Munschauer and Russell Vester in a super-charged Ford Mustang GT had an electrical issue that caused a fire in their car while at Sebring. The damage was not catastrophic, but did take out the car's ABS rear braking function. Apparently, it made for some frightful experiences coming down the front tri-oval straight at 160+ mph at Daytona in to turn one where speeds drop to 50 mph. The team kept going, but later developed an ignition/firing problem that kept the car from performing at its best. Limp mode you might as well say.....there seemed to be a lot of that going on.

There were many success stories, but none bigger in my opinion than our own local hot shoe team of Dick Clark and "Tucson" Jerry Clark driving a Z-06 Vette. Admittedly, Dick started very poorly at the wet skid pad event and at the autocross in Kentucky. Heading to Alabama, Dick had put the car in 39th place over all. At the same point in the competition and before we had our issues, we were in 15th place. That all changed once Dick saw the "tracks" and not a sea of orange cones. He drove very well in the wet in Alabama and then in Sebring which we unfortunately missed. In short, he never looked back and battled his way to a top 10 finish over all (9th to be exact). To finish in the top 10 of this event is a huge deal folks!

Congratulations Dick and Jerry....well done and well deserved!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Round and Round We Go

Again folks, sorry for the late posts from yesterday, but I was exhausted and wanted an early bedtime Friday night.  After all, I needed to be prepared to drive the dry skid pad event.  We had arrived in Koppel, PA on Friday morning at 2:00 am and were in bed finally at 2:30.  Our wake up call was scheduled for 6:30 am.  After the Friday track sessions, the stop at GLBC, and the drive to South Bend (which I did all on my own for no good reason) being in bed at 11:00 pm was looking very good.  Blogging was low on the priority list.

So it is now Saturday morning.  The last official day of the One Lap of America 2009.  The only remaining event is the dry skid pad.  Before we leave for the Tire Rack, Woody and I meet up with Dick Clark and Tucson Jerry at the breakfast joint across the street from our motel.  Eggs, sausage, toast, hash browns, and fresh-squeezed OJ.  Yummy!!!!

In a short period of time the skies have turned from clear to very gray, the wind is blowing 20-25 mph, and the temps have dropped in to the 50's.  We unpack the car and move to the skid pad for the first time today for a group photo of all the cars.  It is not long after we return to our "paddock" that I suit up and then head to the grid queue.  The dry skid pad is run in reverse order of the current standings so I get an early start.  It doesn't take long to go round and round the 200 ft diameter circle.  Two timed laps in one direction, turn around,. and two timed laps in the other direction.  A computer adds the times for the best lap in each direction and converts that to a g-force.  The higher the g number, the better.  My score is 0.963 g.   As I am returning to my paddock spot a violent front hits with high winds, spitting rain and temperatures plunging into the 40s.  That solidifies our decision to pack up and head for home immediately rather than waiting for the 1 pm awards luncheon.  As we drive away shortly after 10, the announcer is saying that my 0.963 score is still tops. We know that the hot shoes have yet to run, but even though the rain has stopped, it looks like it could return and hamper their performances.

It is now 4 pm and we are near Pittsburgh.  Expected arrival in Arlington is 7:30.  Final scores have been posted on the internet.  I was 9th on the skid pad (remember Woody was 8th on the wet skid pad last Saturday).  That puts us in 44th for the event.  Considering we got 0 points for the 4 events we missed last Tuesday, and the car was only running right for four events early last week, we are content.  Of course all next week we will be speculating on what might have been. . . . 

Our Dash All Week

This has been our view all week...half a motor symbol and reduced power.  Also, please note in the one photo that we needed half of Ohio to reach that speed! 

Side Effects

Suze....I did not read the small print on the possible side effects of using goat weed.  Should only last 6 months or so.  Sorry!

Woody in Turn One at BeaveRun

My Secret Weapon

For overcoming limp mode and to beat Woody in three separate sessions I used this....stuff really works ;-).

BeaveRun, Koppel PA

Sorry folks, we got a little behind on the posts, so here we go.  Yesterday, we ran at BeaveRun which is a 10 turn, 1.6 mile track just off I-76 approximately 40 miles west of Pittsburgh.  Woody and I have both driven the track before, so the days competition was straight up.

Woody won the toss and opted to drive first possibly in an attempt to throw down a good time and then watch me sweat.  There was also a possibility of rain in the afternoon.  Oh the stratergery in play here!

After watching 90% of the field run, Woody finally has his chance.  Watching from turn one I again have the privilege of witnessing the awesome power the 335i possesses as it climbs rapidly to 20-30-40 mph in 5+ seconds.  We are leaving no tire patches either which indicates the suspension and tires are hooking up well.  I click off a few photos as Woody comes through turn one and as the track is only 1.6 miles, the three time trial laps are over quickly.  I do have a concern though as I watch the session in that Woody has gained on an E92 M3 BMW that ran in front of him.  The car is still in limp home mode, but Woody appears to have thrown down some good laps.  Yikes.

After Woody returns to the pits he mentions that on his re-con lap he went to second gear at the slow uphill turn 10.  Apparently, the car did not like it as it threw another code and seemed to have reduced the power even more.  How low can we go?  We have noticed that the car is running a bit rough in idle...hope we can nurse her home.  Anyway, Woody re-started the car at the line and it cleared itself.  Woody said he never used second again and had no issues during his run.  By lunch the times are posted and Woody squeezes out a 4:03 which is good enough for 45th place in the BeaveRun Event #1.  The effort is not good enough though to keep us at 44th position over all and we drop to 46th.  It was also good enough to beat the E92 M3.

After lunch I suit up and wait for them to call car #18.  By god, we will compete in our well earned run group at the last full on track event!!!!  Even if it means keeping my hand out the window the entire three laps to point other cars by.  It will also get us on the road sooner and to the Great Lakes Brewing Company (GLBC) in Cleveland, OH for a beer with other competitors.  We stopped there last year on our way back to South Bend and the mandatory sticker stop at DEI.

I grid up last in our run group and let the starter know that he does not need to hold me as I will never catch the BMW E36 M3 in front of me.  I get the green and off we go.  This track is fun and has some great little turn complexes that when in an underpowered car can be taken virtually flat out.  There are also two hills right after corners that bog the car down to a crawl.  OUCH!  I keep saying to my self over and over...MOMENTUM, keep up the momentum.

As I am getting out of the car, Woody approaches and informs me that by his stop watch I ran a total elapsed time of 3:58.  That is a 5 second victory for Chicken Hawk.  (Side bar on the origins of Chicken given to me on my first One Lap by Mike Pederson from Colorado as he could not quite get the double bird thing sorted out at our first meeting.  It stuck and I kind of like it too.  "I say, I say, thanks Mike...hope to see you on the One Lap again.")  

Final score on the inter-car competition; Robin 3 and Woody nil.  This and $25 cents will get me nothing.  It was fun though and despite what Woody thinks, I believe my strategy of putting up the back seats to create less of an air "scoop" and drag is worth something.  Let's call it 5 seconds at BeaveRun and 7 seconds at each of Daytona and CMP.

We quickly and efficiently pack up the car (I think we have it down to less than 5 minutes, including folding up the canopy) and head off to Cleveland by 12:30.  A week of practice has finely honed our skills at this chore.

It is a short 96 miles to Cleveland and we arrive at GLBC for a quick beer before moving on to South Bend.  Woody and I have a mission to get to South Bend so we can watch the end of the Caps/Penguins playoff game.  Another 250 miles are clicked off and we arrive back in South Bend after being on the road for 6 days and 3,900 miles (we have added in the 200 miles we drove from and back to Atlanta on Monday evening).

After checking in, dinner is in order and so we gather up Dick Clark and Tucson Jerry and head to downtown South Bend and a sports bar that can show the Caps game.  Dinner is not good at all (at least the burgers Woody and I had) and it is washed down with a Caps loss.  Oh well.

Returning to the Quality Inn, we head in to the bar to have a beer with the other One Lappers and regal a few stories.  We return to our room by 11 and are quickly sound asleep.  We look forward to the dry skid pad tomorrow and kicking some butt.

Cheers from South Bend......until tomorrow (with photos).

Friday, May 8, 2009

Rice Boys at CMP

Rice University racers getting in wrong in turn 14.

Adult's ONLY

For all of the women who have wanted to see Woody in the buff.  Here he the shower at Beaver Falls Motel in Koppel, PA.

Plumbers Friend

The toilet crack fix-it at the Executive Inn in Kershaw, SC....plumber's putty.

The CMP Garage

The 335i catching some shade in the CMP paddock

Mr. Flogaus at CMP Turn 14

Dave in the Z4 Carbon Coupe getting it right!

Woody at "Speed" at CMP

Turn One, CMP

Thursday, May 7, 2009

CMP, BMW Performance Center & NC's Finest

We arrived in Kershaw, SC at 10:00 pm after having dinner with Dick Clark and Tucson Jerry at Sam Keller's in Camden.  Early by One Lap Standards.  As we leave the restaurant, Woody and I flip a coin for picking rights on tomorrow's first or second drive at Carolina Motorsports Park (CMP).  I win the toss and take the second session.

We are up early as Woody wishes to scooter the track as he has never driven it.  Off he goes after we unpack the car in our covered garage area.

A long time passes before Woody's run group hits the track.  I guess we are in the all remaining cars category after all.  The car launches itself off the starting line like a snail running from the caviar cannery.  It is rather impressive to watch just how slow it is in limp mode.  Woody cannot even grab third gear by the first turn....go, go, go!  The entire session seems to take an eternity, but at last the pain is over.  Woody posts a 6:34.052 which is good enough for 46th.  It maintains our over all 45th position.

As we are lounging around, Doc Hill arrives.  He is a BMW enthusiast of the highest magnitude and an all around good guy.  Doc drove in from Pinehurst, NC just to see us.  Doc has just purchased a new E92 M3 BMW.  Absolutely gorgeous car.  I ask Doc if he would let me take it for a test spin.  He agrees and wow, what a car!!!  Woody also gets a chance behind the wheel and on the track to boot as part of some charity laps.  Lucky dog.  Thanks Doc for all your support and the seat time.

Lunch having been consumed, it is my turn to take a few laps on the track.  To catch everyone up, there are two configurations of CMP.  The original layout which has two turns that make the track times slower.  The new layout eliminates those turns and makes them in to a long right hand increasing radius sweeper.  Woody ran the original course in the am and I had the new, faster one in the afternoon.  Oh, and due to the faster track, Woody and I, after some research and asking some of the local hot shoes for confirmation, agree to a 12 second (4 seconds per lap) handicap to be subtracted from Mr. Hair's over all time.

I too (s)nail it off the line.  The G forces are almost to much to take.  Lucky it is over soon?  I post a 6:15.565.  Good enough for 45th place in the session.  It does drop us however to 47th over all as there were a few cars that were faster in the afternoon.  On the inter-car competition though, it is 19 seconds faster than Woody and with the handicap adjustment, 7 seconds faster.  End of day two competition...Robin 2, Woody 0.

We pack up quickly and head to Spartanburg, SC and the BMW Performance Center for an autocross on their teaching track.  We arrive at 4:30 just as the first cars are starting their time trials.  It is two hot laps after one re-con lap.  Hit a cone and it is a 10 second penalty...ouch!  Woody runs in his group as we are anxious to get on the road with a 560 mile drive ahead of us.  In one short hour we are headed out.  Harwood runs the two laps in 3:06 which is 35th for the session.  It also moves us up to 44th over all.  We are kicking some ass out Nissan GTR.

We are quickly out of South Carolina and are merging with I-77 in Charlotte, NC when NC's finest, Johnny Law, in an unmarked Dodge Charger pulls up next to us, pops his siren, and points me over.  His next victim, a One Lap Porsche GT3 car, needs to be chased for approximately a mile or so before pulling over.  I finally catch up and pull in behind the Trooper.  "I have you doing 82 mph sir and him, 85."  "License and registration please."  10 minutes later I have a ticket and a mandatory court date June 16th in Charlotte District Court.  Anything over 15 mph is a mandatory court date.  "So sorry says the officer."  Great....if I could only have told him I was limp and 82 mph next to an impossible speed...ha ha HA!  Any one know a good lawyer in North Carolina?  I am dead serious.

It is now 9:30 pm and we still have 305 miles to go with the GPS showing an arrival time of 2:36 am.  Woody is behind the wheel.....faster Woody, faster!  I'll sign off for now and see about getting some shut eye before my turn comes up again.

ps:  will add photos tomorrow morning after down load.

Good night all!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

More Photos from Today's Action

Dick Clark in his red Z-06 Vette at speed in the International Horseshoe.

Woody and I catching some shade before his afternoon run.

Ben Shaut blogging in the paddock.  He and his father are running an E90 speed at the tri-oval....170 MPH.

Mike Renner in the BMW Performance Center E90 M3 at the International Horseshoe.

Daytona International Speedway - WOW!

What a ride!  Even if I could only muster 120 MPH out of the old girl in limp mode.  The high banked corners are just a hoot and the tri-oval fun too.  I ran in the next to the last group as we are slow, slow.  Not quite in the category of "all remaining cars" though.  What does that mean?  Cars are called to grid all day in order of speed.  Those that are really slow are at the end of the sessions and at some point they just call for all remaining cars...ouch!

This will be short....In case we did not mention this, Woody and I have set up an inter-car competition for the rest of the One Lap.  Today was race one and I drove the morning with Woody in the afternoon.  The results are in....drum roll please.

I took 51st position with a total elapsed time for three laps of 8:15.574.  Woody took 50th position with a total elapsed time for three laps of 8:22.334. After day one....Robin 1, Woody 0.

Tomorrow we drive CMP in Kersaw, SC and Round 2 in the "Battle of Limp Mode".

Enjoy the photos....Woody on grid and at speed (not fast enough though) through the tri-oval.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

We Finally Head South!

9:30 pm in Northern Florida:

I'll try to make this short - Robin is driving now and doing a poor sing-along with Elton John.  We had the 335i back to United BMW in Roswell, GA at 7:30 this morning and Todd Wilson, one of their techs immediately set to work trying to determine what is causing our now full-time reduced power (limp home) mode.  Robin will probably give more details later, but by 3:00pm Todd, with a great deal of assistance from Shop Foreman Dave Ballard and another tech, Ed Albers, was only able to determine that the number one turbocharger may be the culprit.  No replacement was available, and they weren't sure about that anyway.  Two different friends in Atlanta had offered me the use of their cars if we wanted to carry on.  We also discussed limping home to Arlington, getting my BMW M Coupe (a 2-seater), and re-joining the One Lap in an "unofficial" capacity on Thursday.  After much deliberation, and the assurances of the professional service people that it would not harm the engine, Robin and I decided to carry on in the event with the crippled Project ZERO BMW.  Having missed the two Sebring time trials, and the two drag-racing events in Gainesville tonight, our 15th position will drop into the 40s.  But we will be able to continue in support of every man that has or will suffer from prostate cancer.  LET'S FIND A CURE!

We have received many phone calls in support of this decision, particularly from Suze and Kay.
Despite our disappointment in not being able to achieve a top 20 finishing position, we have many people to thank for help, offers of help, and advice.  The entire staff of United BMW, including One Lapper Steve Maguire, Jay Chamberlain and Scott Doty from Dinan, Derek Whitis, Jon Czarney, . Jim Conforti, Rafael Garces and Rob Levinson.

Showing the Car Some Love

Enough said!

Two O'Clock Update

We are still sitting here in Atlanta as the tech's pour over the car.  So here are a couple of photos to feast on......please stay tuned as we still have hope to get to Daytona tonight for tomorrow's run!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Don't Go Back to Hot-lanta

This status report will be short and sweet as we are exhausted and it is 1:00 am.

Finished 23rd in the morning session with a total 3 lap time of 3:50.346.  Finished 23rd in the afternoon session with a's that for consistency!!!!!  Was good enough to maintain our 15th position over all.  Put us in a tie for 2nd place in class.

We are back in Atlanta and will return to United BMW to see if we can figure out the now constant limp mode.  I have a hope that the new fuel pump is bad and that we can replace it and start toward Gainesville, FL for the drag race event.  Sebring unfortunately is a washout for us.

Stay tuned for an update after we arrive at United tomorrow morning bright and early.



It's 8:00 pm Monday evening and we are just now passing through downtown Atlanta.  Rafael Garces is our support chase "team" after departing United BMW in Roswell, GA.  Rafael is trailing us in the event we have an issue after the recent work completed by the fine mechanics at the United shop.  

Who is Rafael Garces you ask?  Rafael is a long time BMW fanatic, BMW National Capital Chapter member, auto-crosser extraordinaire, and ex-MCI employee.  Woody of course knows Rafael from the BMW club and cone chasing weekends.  I know Rafael from the days we worked at MCI together.  Rafael now commutes between Washington DC and his job in Atlanta.  Woody contacted him and said we are in town for a period yet to be determined and if he had time, may be could come say hello.  No need to say more on whether Rafael headed our way...but more on our visit later in the program.

So let's back up and start the day from our wake call that came at 6:00 am although we were watching the Weather Channel starting at 5:30.  The TV screen is this dark green color and it is right over I-20 and about 30 miles east of Birmingham, AL which is Oxford, AL.  Woody...."where are we?" I ask.  Oxford, AL comes the reply.  That explains the rushing sound of water outside our motel room door from the 6" diameter downspout.  I decide to open the door and take a good look outside at the situation.  Holy weasle-s**'s a monsoon.  The drainage ditch is awash with rain water and there are frogs by the hundreds committing suicide right in front of me.  

We go through our normal morning routine and decide that a good option would be to request an extended check-out time from the motel so that we can leave our clothes, PC, cameras, anything that should not get wet, in our room.  As we must pass by the motel on our way to Atlanta, there is no issue with back tracking.  Eric Brum and Dave Flogus in the Carbon Coupe are also at our motel and they would like to add their critical belongings to the pile.  No problem for us.  So it's off to our complimentary continental breakfast and a bargaining session with the front desk clerk.  The breakfast was breakfast...I've already said to much about it.  The negotiations for the extended check-out did not go well.  We are dealing with the wrong person and the manager is not yet in the "office".  If we really want this to happen it appears we may need to pay for an extra day.

As we head back to the room to sort out what goes and stays, I decide to head back to the front desk.  I am now begging to let us have the extended stay at no charge.  "Sorry sir, I can't do it" comes the answer.  The manager is only moments away though from walking in the door I learn.  May be there is hope yet.  I layout our situation with her and she says if we can have the room empty by 1:30, there will not be an additional charge.  Great, sounds like a plan.  I head back to the room again to tell the boys of my awesome negotiating skills and what Woody will need to give up upon returning for our stuff.

As we head to Talladega Grand Prix Raceway, the rain begins to lighten up and actually stops.  We unload what little there is left in the car and then start a track walk.  Halfway though the track walk there is blue sky and the sun is fighting hard to show its face.  May be the day will turn out to be a good one after all.

The cars start to grid up and within 30 minutes I am there too.  The track is still damp, but drying.

Sorry folks....need to cut this has just gone in to engine mafunction while cruising on the highway.  Pulling over to reset and see what happens.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

An Afternoon at Highland Rim

Thanks for the update on the last posting Woody.  I wanted to add that we are working to sort out our engine malfunction.  It starts with Dan Schaut who is running an E90 M3.  Dan had disconnected the rear sway bar for the wet skid pad event.  Great strategy, but in the process of running the skid pad it tore the CV boot.  Dan and his son, Ben make a temporary fix that they hope will hold until they can get to a BMW dealer.  

This is where Steve Maguire with United BMW of Roswell, GA, a co-driver with Mike Renner of the BMW Performance Center, comes in.  As I speak to Dan I learn Steve has made arrangements to have the CV boot replaced in Roswell.  The suggestion from Dan is to speak with Steve who just happens to be paddocked right next to us.  After discussing our problem with Steve, he graciously agrees to make arrangements for us to take the car to his BMW shop as well.  So, late Monday afternoon after we leave Talladega, AL we'll head to Roswell with the goal to download the fault code and hopefully determine what the issue is.  Sound familiar?

As I am discussing the issue with Steve, Woody arrives with a gentleman, Jay Chamberlain, who is wearing a Dinan sport shirt.  Appears Woody has mentioned our problem to Jay and Jay is a Dinan representative.  I lay out the whole story again and Jay agrees we are doing the right think by getting the car to a BMW tech.  Jay and I discuss a few of the other Dinan goodies on the car with me mentioning how successful the Dinan oil cooler is.  Worth every penny!!!  Jay does not have any decals for the car (lord knows I would not know where to put them anyway), but does return with two Dinan hats and his personal Dinan license plate holder for our rear.  He even brings his own screwdriver and installs it.  Thanks Jay....Steve....Dan!!!! 

Moving along, our next venue is/was to be the 1/4 mile at Highland Rim Speedway (HRS) just north of Nashville, TN  and approximately 3 miles west of I-65.  After leaving Florence Kentucky we take a somewhat leisurely pace to HRS as we will gain an hour moving to central time.   Even with a slower speed relatively speaking we arrive at the speedway exit at 2:30 local time and pull in to the only gas station lot.  A few cars have already made it to the track and back.  Apparently the gate is not yet open and there is no room to queue.  So, we'll just sit and wait and watch the rain fall.  It has rained for the past 200 miles in route.

We are not waiting long before Brock Yates arrives and informs us that there is a patch of clearing weather headed our way.  We will wait until 6:00 pm and then make a determination on whether to run or not.  Oh joy!!!

It is now 3:00 pm and we have 3 hours to kill.  Woody's significant other, Kay, has family in the area and they were scheduled to come to the track for a look at the spectacle that is One Lap.  With the weather as it is, Woody will go to them.  I opt to hitch a ride with Brock out to the speedway and wait it out with about 20 other teams.  I am armed with a folding chair and an umbrella.

The folks at the track are either milling about discussing the autocross or watching Brock and a couple of the event timers drive the small oval in an attempt to dry it out.  I am doing both with an occasional stop at my chair with the umbrella over my head.  Eventually it stops raining, but only for the time being.  At 4:00 pm Brock announces that if it is raining (there is currently a hard mist falling) at 5:00 pm he will call the event at HRS a wash.  I call Woody on his cell phone to pass along the news/status.

Another 30 minutes pass by and more teams are arriving to await a verdict.  Woody also arrives after his short, but pleasant "family" visit.  Not long after Woody's arrival, the autocross results are posted.  Yahoo.....Woody's time of 42.733 seconds lands him an 8th place finish.  It also moves us up in the overall standings from 18th to 15th.  At this posting we are not sure where it puts us in our class, but the time was the best for our class so we are guessing we have moved back in to second on our own.  As Woody points out, we still have a long week ahead of us.

Sorry for the blow by blow here, but the 5 o'clock witching hour finally arrives and the verdict's RAINING!  Brock provides the all clear and we are dismissed.  En masse, we load up in our cars and hit the road.  Next stop is Talladega, AL and the Talladega Grand Prix Raceway.  Chance of rain.....50%.  Oh joy.  Hopefully we'll stay out of limp mode for the event.

Tucson Jerry has just called and a dinner garden spot serving barbecue has  been located in Decatur, AL.  Another 45 minutes and may be we'll have some descent chow.  The GPS has us arriving in Talladega (without stops) at 9:30.  My guess is well pull in around 10:30....a nice early night and much needed as tomorrow night will be a long one having to drive 60-70 miles out of our way and then wait for the diagnoses and possible fix on the 335i before a long haul to Sebring, FL.

It may only be 6:30 here in Alabama, but I am saying good evening until tomorrow.  Besides, Woody needs the company as it has been raining hard since departing HRS.

Autocrossing at the Horse Track

Last night on the drive from Joliet to Florence, Kentucky Robin came out of a gas station with a big s***-eating grin on his face.  In the men's room vending machine he had found the perfect gift for Dick and Jerry Clark - a package of Horney Goat Weed ("sexual stimulant for men").  Since they were staying in a different motel in Florence, and had made a dinner stop in Lafayette to see Dick's daughter, we had plenty of time to take the package to their place and leave it at the front desk it in an envelop addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Clark.

Robin and I checked in to the Extended Stay Hotel at 11:00pm.  Since they had given away our room with two beds, we ended up in separate single bed rooms - two for the price of one.  The relatively early hour enabled us to have a beer and chat 'til close to midnight.

This morning we departed the motel at 6:30 so Robin could eat his breakfast at a Cracker Barrel with the other old ladies.  At least a couple of One Lap teams from Canada were there to join us.  The rain that had started sometime during the night had almost stopped.  So we arrived at the nearby Turfway Horse Track before the required 8:00 am registration for the AUTOCROSS to be held in the large parking lot.  The Clarks arrived and pretended to have no knowledge of the envelop left at their front desk.  They finally gave in and admitted that Robin had really gotten them with that one.  

Unlike our normal road course time trials, an autocross competition is a time trial done on a twisty course marked by orange traffic pylons or cones.  In the distance of a half-mile or so, a typical autocross might have more than twenty turns or changes of direction.  A very intense 40 seconds.  Today each competitor got three runs to establish his best time.  Robin chose me to do this event since I've done hundreds of autocrosses to his handful.  The run order was based on our finishing position at yesterday's Autobahn event.  At 32nd, this meant the earlier runners would help dry the pavement for us mid-pack people.  Soon after starting my first run I realized two things:  1.  It was sill quite slippery.  2.  I had forgotten to disable the car's stability and traction control systems.  Since the Traction Control will drastically cut engine power when the rear wheels slip, this can hinder autocross performance.  Partway through that first run I made a stab at the dashboard button and was able to turn off the intrusive stability control.  I'd worry at traction on my 2nd and third runs.  After the finish several spectators complimented me on my time, 46.986 seconds.  I had no idea where that stood with our competitors.  My biggest concern was the announcer giving credit for the "great run" to Robin.

After my run I was able to watch the 2nd runs for the top guns.  The pavement was getting drier and more familiarity with the course had their times dropping into the 42 second range.  My second run was a 44 without any of the computerized controls.  On the third run the #3 Nissan GT-R, an all wheel drive car, established the fast time at 39.2.  Ian Stewart, a national autocross champion, driving a Porsche 911 GT3 and a local in a much-modified Subaru STi were also on the podium to the  best of my knowledge.  My 3rd run was a 42.7  and we think good for first in class.  Results should be posted soon.

Now we're on the road south of Louisville and headed for a quarter-mile stock-car oval near Nashville.  Yes, the One Lap organizer tries to throw everything at us.  Hopefully it won't rain as predicted because, unlike road courses, they don't run ovals in the rain.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Waiting for Disaster

After my last post, I hopped on Woody's razor scooter and took a lap around the track.  It was strangely familiar as we had run here in 2007.  There has been a lot of rain in the Midwest of late and where water had run across the track it had deposited a fine layer of silty sand.  It would be good to be mindful of these areas once the actual runs started.

As I said, the weather was great.  We had our chairs unfolded and periodically got up to take a stroll around the paddock to see what was up.  We had arrived at approximately 11:30 am central time.  The hot laps were not scheduled to commence until 3:00 CST even though the south track, which was the One Lap venue, was not in use by the Autobahn members.  All I will say is that it was a lot of sitting around and waiting.  I guess we'll work on our tans.

Moving along, the 3 o'clock hour finally arrives and cars start griding up.  As we are originally seeded 18th, our turn comes on the 4th run group.  As I head out for the re-con lap the areas with the silty sand are in fact something to be weary of.  I experience oversteer in several turns and at the exits of a few more.  The mental notes are piling up.

The re-con lap is short and I am 4th in line of 6 cars in this run group awaiting my green flag.  I am followed by a super-charged Shelby Mustang (circa 2008) and a 400 bhp VW GTI.  I queue to the front of the line after the three in front of me make their starts.  The green flag drops and I am off.  The first few turns are no problem, but in quick succession I come to the "dirty" parts of the track.  There are some more slight oversteer conditions, but I hold it together and forge on.  At the start of the second lap I begin to push the car just a bit more and start breaking much later entering the turns.  Approaching one turn off the longest straight of the track, I miss the breaking point by approximately 2-3 car lengths and over cook the turn in point...oops!  I mumble to myself, "don't push....stay smooth".

As I exit the slowest chicane on the track I opt for second gear.  Just as get on the gas, I notice there is a significant reduction in power.  I glance down at the dash and sure enough, ENGINE MALFUNCTION.......reduced power!!!!  DISASTER!!!!!  I am still running though and approaching the last turn before the pit in entrance.  There is another quick discussion with myself...."do I go in or finish?"  I immediately say I have to finish and so I trudge on.  Now that I have no power, I leave the car in third gear and begin to use the experience gained with driving my E30 M3.....stay smooth, brake as little as possible, keep up the MOMENTUM.

I limp it to the checkered flag and start the cool down lap.  The Mustang and GTI never caught me, so may be things aren't so bad?  I return to the paddock and immediately look at Woody and say the words he does not want to guessed it.....engine malfunction.  Woody says that explains why your third lap was 7 seconds slower than your second.  It is several hours before he realizes that the problem actually affected a portion of the second lap time as well.

Needless to say, we are both very disappointed after all the work and testing that was done just before we left Virginia.  What to do now?  We'll continue on and start looking to hook up with a BMW dealership in Atlanta on Monday evening en route to Sebring, Florida.  Hopefully, they can read the ECU fault codes and if needed replace a defunct part.  Or is it the software?  Dinan?  Stay tuned.

We pack up and start our journey to Florence, KY which is 310 miles down the road.  We opt to take the Brock Yates' route which avoids south Chicago and takes us through the farm lands of Illinois and Indiana.  As I write this, we have just passed through downtown Indianapolis and are on I-74 East headed to Cincinnati.  But, before I leave the two lane farm land country roads, Woody says, "it's strange we have not seen another One Lap car on this route since the white Porsche 50 miles ago".  He no sooner opens his mouth and we look down the road and there are several cars pulled over on the apron.  We had just passed through Kentland, IN.  Pulled over are the Nissan GTR, a Vette, and a Porsche GT-3 all assisting Catesby Jones and his co-driver on their super-charged E46 M3.  We also pull over and see if the two "mechanics" in the limp mode 335i can assist.  Right!  It appears the engine on the M3 has developed a miss...also known as a non-firing cylinder.  Woody and I both take a few pictures to document the occasion and then head off as we can add nothing to solving the problem.  Approximately an hour later we run in to them again after a gas stop and dinner.  Through the windshield, Catesby gives us a BIG thumbs up.  Appears their issue is resolved....bad gas, low fuel????  We'll find out tomorrow.

It's getting late and I am tired and stressed about the car.  Before signing off, we go the One Lap of America website to see the Autobahn results.  I have finished 32nd overall and the time has dropped us from 2nd in class to 4th, but only 5 points from the two teams tied for second in front of us.  We need to hold.....for god's sake Robin....get a grip....we'll get through this.  What's a One Lap without a little diversity?

Cheers all and good night once again from somewhere in Indiana.....whoa Woody, was that a cow crossing the interstate?

Wet Skid Pad Test

We're currently sitting in the paddock at Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, IL and just finished lunch.  Great track food.....well, not really.  The weather is absolutely beautiful and we have had to resort to lathering up with suntan lotion.

The wet skid pad event results are posted.  Woody was in the drivers seat and has posted a .874g run which is good enough for 280 points overall and 35 in class.  Did I say good's bloody fantastic as it lands the 335i in 8th overall and second in class behind Catesby Jones in a very fast E46 M3.

I will run the time trial at the 2.1 mile road course at Autobahn this afternoon and hopefully I'll hold up to Woody's great start.  Stay tuned.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Count Down

I'll pick up from where Woody left off, which was ignoring our growing hunger.  After Woody posts the morning's happenings, we head down the road for a 2:15 lunch.  A Subway is located in short order and sandwiches are procured.  Yummy!

The remainder of the afternoon is spent like the morning, talking with friends and making new ones.  More and more cars are arriving which at this point in the proceedings is much later than previous years.  At some point, Woody and I decide to set up the in car video camera mount thus eliminating a chore for tomorrow.  It's now plug and play.

At last 4:00 pm arrives and it is time for the all hands team meeting.  Brock Yates Jr, the event organizer, passes on his words of wisdom for completing the event in safety and fun.  The usual rules of the road and the competition are also presented along with a few updates on the One Lap schedule and official "Route Book".  A few questions are asked with the "best" being, why is there not a track map of Highland Rim Speedway near Nashville Tennessee not included in the Route Book update?  In classic dead pan style, Brock's an oval, just keep turning left!

The meeting wraps up in about an hour and then the buffet opens.  The edible fair consists of burgers, hot dogs, bratwurst, pasta salad, baked beans (these have trouble written all over them), several selections of American beer, and a few dessert options.  We are not very hungry as we had a late lunch, but the beers are good.  (Woody:  speak for yourself Robin.) There is a discussion with Mike Renner, the chief instructor at BMW's performance center in South Carolina, regarding tire pressures for the tracks versus the wet skid pad test versus the high-banked turns at Daytona International.  Mike makes us swear on our graves not to pass along any of the tire pressure secrets so I'll stop there.

We head back to the motel around 6:00 and there are many more cars in the lot than the night before.  One of those cars is the TC Kline Carbon Coupe that was discussed in yesterday's blog.  I bump in to Eric and Dave and they look just a bit exhausted.  But tomorrow is another day and the competition will commence.  Woody and I have not quite decided who will drive when and where for tomorrow's may come down to the flip of a coin.

The last of my two beer limited for the day is consumed and it's off to the room for a shower and the writing of this blog.  Woody heads for the bar about the time I got back, but just returned in sober condition even though this might be our last chance for a beer for one whole week.  It's 9:30 and the One Lap of America starts in earnest bright and early tomorrow morning.  For the next week, it is long days and even longer nights.  Why are we doing this again?

Good night until tomorrow.

Friday Morning Registration and Tech Inspection

Woody - May 1, 1:30 pm

After a relatively mild Thursday evening, Robin and I were both awake at 6 this morning.  We had eaten dinner with Dick and Jerry at a Lebanese restaurant when the popular Steak & Ale was found to be closed and ready for auction.  We did split two bottles of a Rosenblum Cuvee XXX Zinfandel and had lots of laughs, some at the expense of our young waitress.  The bar was lightly populated so we returned to the room by 10:30.  

This morning we met Jerry for a big breakfast at the Pancake House across from the Quality Inn and made a stop at Walmart for some necessities.  Of course we got separated in the big box and had to use cell phones to locate one another.   Next was the Water Works car wash for a good scrubbing before we continued to the Tire Rack headquarters for registration and the application of the required sponsor decals.  As usual, the large Tire Rack parking lot, quite visible from I-80, was cool and windy.

Lots of old acquaintances are here and we've met some new competitors too.  Rene Richthofen, the "Red Baron" (actually a nephew) has a new car - a Porsche 911 Twin Turbo.  With his usual humor, he said, "It has two??"  Derek Whitis, the owner of a well-heeled team has a tractor-trailer with his two One Lap cars:  a Nissan GT-R and a BMW M6.  Derek and his co-driver, Tom Long, are at New Jersey Motorsports Park where they'll be competing in the Koni Challenge race against our friends Barry Battle and Michael Dayton.  Don't ask me how they'll be allowed to meet up with their third  driver in the Nissan (it's a 2-seater) Sunday morning near Cincinnati.  I'm disappointed to learn Mark Simons from Ashburn, who was planning to drive this year with his brother in an E46 M3, has dropped out.  He figured he should stay home with his new daughter and wife KC.

I must say Robin's BMW looks very impressive with its many Project Zero sponsor and donor decals and stickers.  Robin had Brock Yates Sr sign one of the Stick It to Prostate Cancer stickers.  We'll try to get some pictures on here soon.