The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) holds its annual Run-offs to crown national champions in 24 different race groups. The SCCA holds the Run-offs at different tracks around the US so we can race at tracks we normally wouldn’t and tracks worthy enough to crown national champions. Such is the case at Indianapolis Motor Speedway the Racing Capital of the World. Racing at Indy would be any racers dream come true so that’s why there are over a thousand competitors here vying for a national championship. This is probably the one and only time we’ll be racing at Indy. Indy has so much racing history having started in 1909 with a brick paved 2.5 mile track thus giving it its nickname the “Brickyard”. Winning at Indy would be a higher honor then winning at any other track in the US and would have your name recorded as a winner at Indy next to the legends like Mario Andretti, AJ Foyt, Rick Mears, Al Unser and Helio Castroneves.
The Run-offs are comprised of 24 race groups of all sorts of race cars from open wheel, to prototype, to strictly stock cars you’d drive on the street, to purpose build race cars. Our BMW Z3 was built to race in E-Production. It’s a purpose built race car with several modifications over a stock Z3. The engine and suspension have been modified to produce higher speeds and safety equipment like the roll cage and special racing seat were added. The body is relatively stock except for the windshield being removed and the addition of the front fender flairs.
Our Run-offs started off on the wrong foot but 20/20 hindsight may prove it to be a blessing in disguise. We planned to practice and test on Friday last week. We went out for our first practice session with high hopes everything was going to be OK especially the brand new engine. We had tested the engine last month at a track in West Virginia and dyno’ed it to make sure it was tuned properly. Everything went fine at those events.
On Friday morning all of that went naught. After 2 laps on the track Kevin Leigh, the driver, radioed in to tell me the engine is overheating and all the coolant had drained out. He came in and went right to our paddock spot. Initially we thought maybe the radiator cap wasn’t on all the way. So we changed caps and went out for the second session only to have the same thing happen. Next we thought the thermostat or water pump might be the problem. So we changed those to no avail. Since we changed and checked everything we could, the problem had to be in the engine. We surmised a small crack was letting compression gas into the cooling system pressurizing it above the release pressure of the radiator cap. When the cap released the pressure all of the water in the cooling system was released and the engine overheated.
So, in order to fix this, we had to change engines but the spare engine was back in Pennsylvania at our teammates Chris and Bonnie Dryden’s shop. Luckily, our friends Steve and Joelle Sinclair hadn’t left for Indianapolis yet and they were more than happy to go a little out of their way to retrieve and deliver it on Saturday night. We worked all day Sunday installing the spare engine and got it running at 3 in the afternoon. This exercise was an example of great teamwork to come together overcome a challenge and not quit.
Our first qualifying session was this morning in cooler air as opposed to the 90 degree days we’ve been having since we arrived here. Cooler air makes more horsepower. Since Kevin wasn’t able to practice on Friday and learn the track he had to do that today. His fastest lap time put him in thirteenth position which is where we wanted to start the week. He feels he can get close to the top five qualifiers which is what we’ll work on through the next 3 qualifying sessions.
I’ll report back tomorrow after our qualifying session and let you know how we did.