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?

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