Road Atlanta In The Snow

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FJCamper
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Road Atlanta In The Snow

Post by FJCamper » Tue Dec 19, 2017 12:52 am

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Road Atlanta in the Snow

07Dec17; Thr. The weather report was good to start. No rain, days in the 40's (F.) and freezing nights. Not bad for early December at Road Atlanta. It was all a big lie, of course. As we towed out of Birmingham noon Thursday in sunshine, we had no idea a massive blizzard was chasing us.

This trip we have a full team, Hawk and Dr. Steve, David Scott, Jamie "Jamrod" Chambers, and a defector from a Chevy Camaro team, Justin Tela. Driving the Blitzwagen has changed Justin's whole take on automotive performance.

The race will be two seven-hour days around, up, and down the hills of Road Atlanta, where novices and pros alike come to terms on the (pick one) (1) dreaded (2) exhilarating down hill plunge to Turn 12, a 90-degree corner with concrete walls on each side. Do it at full throttle wet or dry and you'll never have to prove your courage in any other way. Do it on ice and you'll have trouble proving your sanity.

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Above: Downhill to Turn 12. Major pucker factor.

The dark, freezing weather meets us at the Road Atlanta guard shack. Snow is already in the air. Only a handful of teams are parked on the bleak asphalt hilltop hoping to run practice tomorrow. We set up camp in the billowing snow.

08Dec17; Fri. Practice Day. Teams have been arriving all night. We wake to snow and sleet. It takes more time yet as we stumble in the sleet to get our tents set up, run wires for the generator, and get the propane heater burning.

Amazingly, even in this storm, the LeMons management seems to be willing -- no, determined -- to have an event. Not that I ever wanted to, but I've never raced in the snow. Cars out in practice trying to lap the track are sliding and ditching themselves in doomed slow-motion groups.

But weather misery isn't enough. The racing gods are already liquored up and pissed off. When Steve takes the Blitzwagen out for practice, he soon comes back in and reports the throttle is sticking, he has no power, and he almost couldn't get up the hill off the track. We adjust and readjust the clutch until inspection reveals the engine is rocking fore and aft. The front trans mount is broken.

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Hawk, Steve, and Justin sneak the Blitzwagen through Tech, where Hawk displays the latest in his LeMons Show & Tell series, a bag of fake but realistic drugs and money representing the infamous Blue Thunder Racing Team bust, at Road Atlanta, during the early 1980's IMSA days.

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Above: "Honest, officer! That's not my bag!"

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Above: Never missing a trick, Hawk has spiffy Blue Thunder decals for the Blitzwagen's flanks.

The crew works into the night, on the wet, icy pavement under our tunnel of linked tents. David improvises a rubber-hose enclosed, multiple bungie-cord hold-down for the Blitzwagen's transmission nose cone. Impressed, Jamie says "The man is an artist."

During the nose cone repair we replace the aluminum "racing" distributor clamp on the Blitzwagen's engine with a standard stamped-steel clamp. The aluminum clamp was worn and allowing the distributor to slowly rotate clockwise, advancing the timing, making the engine hard to start until retimed.

I have NGK BP9 (very cold plugs) experimentally installed. Our compression is a modest 9:1 and BP 8's or even 7's might be better. The only way to tell is to do it. The Solexes are equipped with 34mm venturis, 160 mains, 44mm throttle bodies, and .60 idles. Both nylon FilterWear velocity stack socks have been burned away by carb backfires caused in the roving timing. We don't even have sink-strainer screens on the stacks. We're going commando.

09Dec17; Sat. There are about 97 cars starting the race. We are up early, a sunrise without the sun. The morning is gray and freezing, our generator powering our dual coffee pots and work lights. We put Dr. Steve in the first shift. The snow itself has stopped, but there are lots of frozen patches still on the track.

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Above: Slip-sliding away, and ice spots from melting runoff take a toll.

At 0900 hrs the green flag drops, and we soon notice Steve is lagging behind, then he stops lapping altogether.

The Blitzwagen comes in on the strap, and we rapidly deduce the clutch is the problem. Hindsight is 20/20. The engine was loose, and we'd adjusted and readjusted the clutch to try and stop it from slipping. Now, adjustment was futile.

It takes two hours from tow-in to return to the track time (1100 hrs) to drop the engine and replace the scrap that had been a brand-new 4-puck, spring center, copper-coated feramic disk leaving Birmingham.

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With the clutch working, David takes over at 1300 hrs, and starts to set some 2:04 laps. Not bad. Last spring, Barret set a 2:01 here with the 1.7 litre HSR Ghia. That's near legal-engine 356 Porsche times. Engine power is good and the handling is excellent. The bungies are working.

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Above: The downhill run, including tracks in the snow as one unlucky car spun all the way to the bottom.

Jamie goes out next. With the wild traffic and ice, getting Jamie into the car is a little like putting a cat in a carrier to go to the vet. Once underway, he realized in the car no one can hear you scream going downhill under the bridge. He noticed 200° F. oil temperatures under heavy load without the fan. This is as expected because of the freezing weather. At least we're over 185° F. The big red warning dash light's wire has lost its connection and we have no in-your-face warning. Oil pressure has been consistent at about 45psi at operating temp at idle or under power. We're still using Rotella diesel oil.

Justin takes over at 1400 hrs, and is soon also turning 2:04 laps. Then, just as things are going good, he comes in with low-power issues. We see little to no fuel flow in the engine compartment clear plastic filters. Jamie and I check out the Solexes floats with a quick disassembly but find no problems. On restart, the float bowls fill.

A fuel delivery problem is a test of deductive reasoning. How complex can it be?

Hawkeye goes out at 1545 hrs and soon experiences power problems. We check ignition. Nada. We pull spark plug. Nice tan burn. Interesting, considering the heat range and fuel delivery problem. We get erratic fuel pressure. All of it is enough to keep us hunting, Hawk and then Steve splitting up the remaining time to the 1700 hrs end-of day checkered flag.

Back at the track, David, Justin, and Jamie swap fuel pressure regulators, and install A new Holley fuel pump up under the tank. They also pull the 8AN in-tank pickup to check it, and remove the screen filter. A valve adjustment check shows good, and the timing in locked in.

10Dec17; Sun. We're behind in Class C lap count, but have confidence in how the Blitzwagen is running (when its running). David goes out first at 0900 hrs., and starts feeling fuel starvation within the hour, but not before logging two very fast 2.00 minutes laps. So much for the Ghia's time.

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Above: David sets 2 minute laps, flat out.

The race is scheduled to be paused at 1100 hrs for "quiet time" to respect any churches in possible earshot. David comes in at 1030 hrs. the engine sputtering, fuel filters in the rear dry. During the quiet hour, we swap the new fuel pump for the old one and recheck the in-tank fuel pickup. We get enough fuel moving to start again and send Jamie out.

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Above: Cold and fast. We run without the engine deck and wing, tired of removing and refitting it.

Jamie laps for an hour and we put Justin out, but by 1400 hrs, he is back in again. Fuel starvation.

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Above: Jamie and Justin work on the fuel problem, fingers numb, the clock ticking.

David detects a vibration in the fan housing. He thinks the fan is coming loose. We do a fast alternator/fan unit swap and remove and inspect all accessible fuel lines, hoping to head off another problem. But the big one remains. One moment we have fuel, the next we don't.

Justin goes out at 1430 hrs, and this time has to be towed in. No fuel moving at all. I put a fuel pump pickup line in a cup of gas and remove the outlet line from the other side of the Holley Blue pump. When the pump is switched on, the fuel flow is excellent.

That settles it. The main fuel line through the chassis, is obstructed. We have about two hours left in the race. We do not have enough fuel line to run a new line, and by the time we left the track and got it, we'd be down to minutes to get back out.

Dr. Steve pulls his iPhone and declares time of death as 1510 hrs. EST. We are retired from the race, exhausted from the cold, the wet, and the effort.

Our next race will be February at Barber. Another cold one. We're looking forward to it.

FJC

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Clatter
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Re: Road Atlanta In The Snow

Post by Clatter » Tue Dec 19, 2017 10:42 am

EPIC!!!!

Love these.. Love 'em. Love 'em..
"Oh, You don't need to do all that... The valve seats are just going to fall out of it anyway!"
- Doug Ellsworth

Beginners' how-to Type 4 build thread ---> viewtopic.php?f=1&t=145853

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ps2375
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Re: Road Atlanta In The Snow

Post by ps2375 » Tue Dec 19, 2017 11:23 am

It never ceases to amaze me what could and will go wrong. How many times must you race this car to get the bugs worked out of it? Your persistence is uplifting. Someday you will have a trouble free race, and when you do, I don't see how you would not place in the top 2 or 3 in class.

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FJCamper
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Re: Road Atlanta In The Snow

Post by FJCamper » Tue Dec 19, 2017 11:50 pm

Gentlemen,

The things that fail at the track are amazing. We think we had a weak nose cone mount that might have been broken when driving the car up into the trailer.

Swapping the alt/fan unit was probably not necessary, as by that stage in the game anything that seemed problematic was going to get attention. I checked the alt/fan unit later, and it felt fine to me.

As for the broken mount costing us the clutch, if we had not been on ice that was causing most of the cars to spin their driven wheels, with excessive loss of traction and feel of clutch slippage, we'd have felt the problem for what it was.

Last, the fuel line blockage was so on-again-off-again it was a real puzzle. We blew out the line once we got back, and it took my 5-ft tall air tank, at 125psi, to finally pop out whatever the obstruction was. I tried to catch the obstruction in a pan, but when it did blow through, it had such power behind it nothing stayed in the pan. We estimate the obstruction was disintegrating fuel cell foam, as fine as talcum powder, and in a lump.

Remember, the material had to go through one filter coming out of the fuel tank to the big Holley Blue fuel pump. Fuel additives, fuel cleaners, etc., can do that to foam, and our foam is a sort of neutral gray color.

But, if there was ever a team who could tell about the series of unfortunate events we're experienced time after time, it's us.

FJC

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