The Coop Chronicles
The June Sprints 2011
Elkhart Lake, WI
“Disappointment In The Dells”
Talk about cutting it close: All 3 lots at the airport are full, and our flight to Milwaukee is scheduled to depart in 35 minutes!
We have just had the gate at North Terminal Parking Lot unceremoniously dropped horizontally in front of the ‘Yota truck, the “Lot Full” sign displayed, and instructed to drive over to a lot I’ve never heard of.
After taking the most whacked out, circuitous route, something straight out of “Candid Camera” (Punked V 1.0 for you kiddies out there) we arrive at the “Park Atlanta Prefered Parking” lot.
Thirty minutes later we have cleared security, and are on the way up the really long escalator from the terminal train. I leave my crewchief behind and start to sprint up the stairs, two at a time. Between Ana’s Ice Hockey injuries and my Motocross/Roadracing knees, it is decided that I will make the mad dash to the gate, not such an easy thing to do in an airport these days, mind you.
Why is it every time I fly somewhere, the departure gate is all the way down the loooooooong terminals at Hartsfield/Jackson Int’l Airport?
I swear it’s damn near ¼ mile long and I start my sprint, which in reality is a moderately paced jog, just a few RPM quicker than speed walking…
I’m so out of shape I can only keep this up for about 2 gates at a time, with a wheeled carry on and a large tote in tow, and resort to the aforementioned speed walking for a scosh, then back up to ½ speed – “Must…puff, get, huff, to gate, huff, before, puff, door closes!”
I round the corner, and the attendant looks up and says “Glenn Cooper”?
I look around to make sure there are no Homeland Security types standing nearby with those really long white zipties/handcuff deals stuffed in their back pocket and only after I have determined the all clear do I reply (between shortness of breath) “Yep right here, and my girlfriend Ana will be along in just a few moments”.
The door to the aircraft is literally closing as we sit down.
All I know is the rest of the trip better go smoother than the start…
Ah Wisconsin in the summer!
It’s impossibly green everywhere you look, and about 30 degrees cooler than Atlanta.
When we were last up this way in September ’10 for the National Championship Runoffs it was very cold and crazy windy. Nice change…
This is remarkably my 11th June Sprints, only missing the ’03 edition due to a Star Mazda Pro Series race at the same venue in August. You might be inclined to think I enjoy racing up here, especially this time of year, and you’d not be wrong!
Test Day / Thursday
We have two sessions of 30 minutes each, not really enough time to try the new wing package out, but it’s all we get. Indy has brought over some bits from England: New flat front wing to replace the stocker that is lower in the center area. Mine is falling apart after a season and a half of launching the car off corner curbing all over the east coast. The new front wing is also sporting some very sexy end fences, and the winglets/flaps have been modified further, cutting off the vertical wall at the rear, and removing a good portion of the flat surface as well.
The rear wing meanwhile is seeing some major changes as well: New wing mount plates take out a major portion of rear main element installed angle, and a new one piece, long chord upper that while made in the UK is not part of the RFR updates, rather something I have had wrapped up in the trailer for a good while and wanting to try out. It is being tried out in place of the standard two piece, feeder flap and upper main element.
Ya know, for a guy that does not gamble, hates card games, doesn’t watch Celebrity NASCAR Wives Poker Hour, nor has ever been to a Bingo night at the local VFW – I’m showing up at the 2nd most important race of the year w/ a totally untried aero package, and have a total of two 30 minute sessions to try and make it work.
No problem, I have fixed a washing machine before with nothing more than an old skateboard wheel, a flat file, and a hand drill. This is gonna be cake…
Session 1 – I have driven some ill handling cars before, but this NO (Not LOW, but NO) down force setup is speeding up my graying – kinda like Grecian Formula in reverse.
I’m running wide coming off of some corner exits, into the dirt and grass, bouncing over curbing – any spectators seeing this could not be faulted for thinking they were watching some newb in a high powered car for the first time – “Honey you gotta come see this guy, he’s all over the place…Hon?”
I come in and have a wing adjustment made by Indy, and go back out. Hmmm, not much better and this time I get it wrong in T13 and come out fully across the grass at about a buck-o-five, and mow a strip right out of the middle, getting back on track just in time to throw it into the T14 right hander and Pit Entrance.
“I just mowed the lawn out there, can ya check the sidepods for grass, and crank in some more down force please”? Good thing it was dry, cause if the grass was wet, it woulda been ‘spensive – once you are into the wet stuff, the car will keep going in the last direction it was headed and no amount of steering, braking, throttle, or prayer will have an effect.
The overwhelming theme at Road America is straight line speed, and (almost) all else be damned. One lap is around 4 miles, much of it spent in the higher gears.
Narrower wheels and tires, wings trimmed out, special attention given to gaining higher top speed (upright blueprinting, ceramic bearings, etc) are just a few of the tricks.
Post session Indy makes mention that the upper rear wing element I am trying to make work is most likely a road that not only leads to a dead end, but a dead end at a Gypsy campsite, complete with broken down caravans and Combi’s (If you have not seen “Snatch”, or “Lock, Stock, and Two Smokin' Barrels”, Redbox or Net Flix it tonight).
Why I would not take the advice with someone of Indy’s knowledge/resume/experience level, someone with over 35 years of involvement with all levels of open wheel racing from Formula Ford to Formula 1, is beyond me. Maybe it’s the 1/64th Polish ancestry? Were the Poles stubborn people? Upon further reflection maybe it’s just me, and not an ancestry thing…
I really thought this rear wing would be The Business, and was willing to keep trying it, but the fact is you can only angle that sucker down so far before it becomes useless and will stall, providing next to nothing in down force, and incurring a drag penalty too boot. NOT COOL!
For session two I throw more front wing flap and more angle on the rear wing, all to no good. I can almost keep the car flat through the carousel, and can go flat through the kink, but every time it feels like it’s on a knife edge, and is just a matter of time or laps before I have a Big One exiting The Kink at the top of 5th gear. NOT COOL!
Friday Practice/AM, and Q1/PM
The weather continues to defy the highly paid local meteorological prognosticators who have continued to call for rain, yet we are in the midst of some rather splendid weather, I must say.
Note to self – I really need a job where you can be wrong quite often and have no one to answer too. That or a Government job. Oh wait…
We are paired up with cars of differing acceleration and top speed potential throughout the weekend. In past years, we were only with one other class, but this year sees us with two other classes, for a total of three classes on track at the same time, trying to stay out of each other’s way, running around, trying to get a clean lap, only to be caught out by slower class cars at the most inopportune time.
Ahh, mixed class racing – gotta love it, right?
(I can sooooo not wait for the Formula 1000 Championship Series that will start up next year-no mixed class racing!)
I again go out, with more wing angle than ever, but barely make it to pre grid and the engine just dies. It fires right back up and I’m not really sure what to think. On the out lap it dies on the way out of T2 and I coast it down into T3 where I know there is an escape road, and park it.
A corner worker comes over and I ask her to cycle the master switch – Off then back On. The dash lights up, I punch the starter button and the GSXR mill lights off, sounding happy.
I continue the session, but make a mental note to pay a visit to one of the vendors and get a new switch after the session.
Post session reveals my oil leak is back. This is something that has plagued me for the last three races, literally puking a half quart or so in a 30 minute period, coating the whole rear of the car and filling the chassis floor tray behind the engine.
Each time I get it right, only to find out I didn’t.
I have my buddy Critter (Yep, real name – I’ve seen the long form birth certificate) lay eyes on it and he notices the not-so-sano plastic bicycle drink bottle I am using for an oil system breather/puke tank has melted through on the bottom where it had been in contact with one of the aluminum cooling system pipes.
I immediately replace it with an aluminum Coke can (It’s lightweight, affordable, won’t melt at any temp that would not melt the car, is easily accessible from most any garbage can – what’s not to like?) and wedge it between a few solid bits, crush slightly and secure with zip tie.
Amazingly my time is 2nd quickest of the 8 F1000 cars in attendance.
I know that the two or three guys behind me are capable of more, and are definitely a threat, but I also know that I have gone faster with a damaged car in cooler weather, last year at The Runoffs. I just gotta get this thing balanced!
I have a new master switch installed, rear wing upper element angle now maxed out, front winglets further adjusted, and manage to go slower yet, not getting many, if any clear laps.
I end up 4th on the charts, heading in the wrong direction.
We better pull something out of somewhere for tomorrow’s Q2!
I have installed a different set of throttle bodies, replacing the set I had been running which had been modified by me in an effort to delete something I thought only useful to the motorcycle riders that this engine started life in.
We have also taken off the rear wing upper element and replaced it with the modified V 2.0 standard dual element upper.
I run the session, the car is feeling world’s better, more planted in the high speed corners. I’m starting to feel good about things for the first time since we got here.
I actually go 1.25 seconds or so quicker, but am now 5th on the grid.
It is only after we are back in our paddock garage spot that I am not bummed about being 5th – I notice that I had not adjusted the throttle cable after the throttle body swap, and am only getting about 65% opening!
It sounds crazy, but the fact that the car is now handling like it should be has allowed me to lower the lap time by over a second, even with the throttle opening discrepancy.
I believe I have a very legitimate shot at the podium, but if it’s dry I’ll be happy with a 2nd or 3rd. If it’s wet, well all bets are off, and the order could get really mixed up.
The first races are starting and the track is being treated to little bursts of rain here and there with pretty standard results – lots of folks balling stuff up. I swear I saw no less than 40 Spec Miata’s, about half their field coming in on the hook in varying states of smacked up.
It was not very confidence inspiring, but we still had hours to go before our race, and the weather.com site showed a rather large greenish blob heading N-NE towards Plymouth, WI.
Maybe one day they will have a free wireless at the track that will not require you to wait 4 minutes every time the screen gets refreshed, hooked into the T Mobile hot spot offa the smart phone.
(Damn that sounded all Prima Donna, din it?!!)
Yep, time was men would look to the sky and be able to give you a pretty good idea of what wicked weather this way comes.
It seems we have grown more and more dependent on (captured and only recently reverse engineered alien) technology as the years fly by.
At this rate we are probably 2, maybe 3 years at best away from kids growing up never getting caught out in the rain w/o their galoshes. Never to know the joy of a warm summer rain on their face, or floating a raft made from Popsicle sticks down the raging torrents of water at curbside, down the street and into the storm drain. **Sigh**
The race prior to ours was the combined CSR/DSR/S2000, which had a bunch of our friends in it. There was a little bit of sprinkling, but most folks showed up at grid on slicks.
A traditional little thing they do at this race is to have a cannon go off at the 5 minute mark each race, prior to releasing the cars from the pre-grid, out onto the track behind the pace car for the warm up/sighting lap.
Well it was freakishly eerie when at the exact moment the cannon goes off, all hell breaks loose as it just immediately just starts dumping rain.
The look on most folks faces was priceless. Folks were in shocked disbelief before snapping out of it and scrambling to get mounted wet weather (rain) tires/wheels onto the cars, along with the regular rain setup items that normally take place back in the paddock, but now would need to be executed rather quickly, in the pouring rain, in the pregrid.
There was a bit of a mad rush for some folks that had not brought mounted rains to the hot pit and had to run back to their rigs and trailers to get the needed bits. I might have jumped in and lent a hand, but we were up next and the computer was showing clearing on the way.
Mind you there was no way of looking up and gleaning this info, as the sky was very dark, but there was clearing coming – we just did not know when.
The SCCA officials made the call to declare the races as WET, which meant we would time out, rather than make the 50 miles. The races were all also reduced to 10 laps or 30 minutes iirc…
The Sports racer race went off, with the 3 classes taking a green in very wet conditions – The rooster tails coming off the cars was more reminiscent of an Unlimited Hydroplane race than a car race. When you factor in the tunneled floors, huge rear diffusers, and rear wings all working together in maximum down force mode, the cars had to be pumping literally gallons of water each second at speed, thrown high into the air and coming down right back on the track until the next car came by.
We are getting real close to go time and I have made a big wager.
I am “All In” on this too. I have decided that the rain will stop, and the track will develop a dry line by half distance at the most, and I will then mount a charge, on SLICKS, that will see me come up on and pass anyone ahead who had went with RAIN tires, tires that are woefully inadequate in the drying conditions and must be kept cool by running in actual raining conditions, OR run through every puddle that they can!
I roll up to grid to see a sea of Formula Fords, Formula Enterprise, and Formula 1000 cars, almost exclusively on rain tires. I am starting to doubt my decision when 4th place qualifier Jeremy Hill rolls into his grid spot just ahead, on slicks. Yes! This has the makings of a rematch/vindication scenario: At Mosport in ’09, I took O/A pole at Jeremy’s home track, with him just behind. For the race I chose slicks, and wouldn’t ya know it - the moment the grid crew had just pushed me back into the #1 grid slot, it started to dump rain. Arrrrrrrrrrgh! Jeremy won that day, lapped the field as I recall. On rain tires of course!
The vindication comes from last year’s Runoffs that saw Hill off at T1 on the start, and having another car come to a stop right on top of his front wing. Hill had posted the fastest trap speeds back in September and was reday to show his true potential…
Twins from different mothers, I tell ya!
As we take to the track, I’ve not gone 500 feet mind you, the engine dies, no sparky. Just as suddenly it chimes back in. WTF?!!! I get going into T1, and it dies again, then comes right back on. At first I thought I had hit the ignition toggle in the cockpit, but I was no where near it. Remember I had replaced the master switch the day prior. The only difference from that session to now is it’s damp, and I now have the rain light on. As the rain light is made up of a dozen or so LED’s I know it’s not taking that much juice out of the equation to power it.
My heart is sinking pretty quickly now – there’s no way I will stay out and “see if it clears up” and endanger not only myself, but the whole rest of the field also.
Several times on the way around the track and it almost comes to a complete stop, before chiming in again. I just KNOW the guy’s behind me are wondering just what the heck I am doing!
As we come onto the front straight, I make a quick dash into the hot pit to have Critter give this thing a look-see.
“Dude, wiggle the master switch key!”
“I’m wigglin’ it”
“Well turn it off!” Red plastic key is held in front of my faceshield as the engine sits there idling away like nothing’s wrong.
“Put it back in and turn it on, I’m outta here!”
I rip on down the long pit lane, and it promptly dies again, right at pit out.
I pull over in the grass, hop out and push it back the 10 feet into the paddock entrance.
Race over, thanks for coming, time to go, thank-you-very-much, don’t let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya…
The curse of the $21.76 battery cut off switch.
There has to be a better way, and that way will be incorporated prior to the next time this car takes to a track.
Maybe something aviation grade, from an F18?
All I know is this ugly scenario will never play itself out on any race car of mine, ever again, as there is too much time, effort, and money (especially money!) put towards this to have all hope go away in an instant.
[FONT=Times New Roman]Next up for Team Coopsport will hopefully be the SCCA Double National at Watkins Glen International Raceway in NY, in 2 weeks time.[/FONT]