First race report! – NASA AIX Javelin – Infineon Feb. 11/12 2012

wow… after more than a year and a half the Javelin completed it’s first race weekend! it was sooooooo much work and I was completely exhausted by the end of the weekend. here’s a summary of how the weekend went down. On Friday I went to the shop and spent the day just trying to tidy up the car. I secured the wiring for the electric fan I installed, I applied my rookie “R” stickers that are required and nut and bolted the whole car. I also adjusted the driveshaft loop, AGAIN to where I felt it was 100% centered at ride height. then I loaded up the car and got to Infineon around 5:30pm. American Iron parking was way over behind the grand stands. I found a spot, unloaded and drove the car over to the pumps to fill it up. Adam (American Iron series director) had said he would try to get me a spot near him and some other CMC guys who had garage spots. well, I lucked out when Derek Tissinger was able to sell me an extra garage spot he had right next to him! this was great because it had been raining off and on all day and was starting to rain again. I had no car cover for the Javelin and had thought I was going to have to leave it in the paddock all night in the rain. instead I got a garage spot which meant the car would be dry and secure all night! I went back to where I had unloaded, disconnected the trailer and brought my truck over to the garages and unloaded all my gear into the garage. my plan for race weekends this year is to camp at the track but because Infineon is only about 45 mins from my house I went home and got to sleep in my own bed.

got back to the track the next morning a little after 7am. I had to run around to take care of a few odds and ends. I had to turn in my rookie license to race control. then I went looking for a transponder. I thought you were supposed to be able to rent them but apparently they don’t do that in Norcal… so I had to buy one from I/O port racing. I got the transponder installed and went out for the first warm up at 8:25am. The track was wet with standing water in some places. so I just tooled around for 4 laps and brought it in. a few hours later I did the full warm up session. There was (is) a really bad vibration when I get going fast. I’ve tried to describe it to lots of people and I haven’t figured it out yet. it doesn’t seem to be a huge problem but it just doesn’t feel right so it keeps me from trying to push the car harder. people have made all sorts of suggestions about what it could be. it is not a “shimmy”. it doesn’t feel like something is out of balance (a wheel or driveshaft). what it feels like is that something that vibrates is touching the chassis and resonating it. like if you took a sawzall, pulled the trigger and held the body of the saw against a tin box the box would vibrate/resonate like a mofo… based on that my latest theory is that the exhaust is touching somewhere when the car is accelerating and leaning in sweepers. I’ll check the entire exhaust system next time I’m with the car to see if I can tell if it’s rubbing anywhere.

after explaining the vibration to guys back in the garage the idea was floated that my diff. was going 🙁 that set up a whole chain of events where I was concerned that I shouldn’t run the car anymore. Adam said if I thought the car could make it that I should take the green flag for the race so I could get points. I didn’t really feel getting points mattered for me but I decided to follow Adam’s direction and started the race and then pulled off after one lap. because there was only 1 other AIX car all weekend that meant I actually got a 2nd place for that race.

back in the garage I decided that I needed to find out if there was a problem with the diff. or not. so I jacked up the car, drained the gear oil, pulled the rear wheels and axles and pulled out the diff. ugh… the LAST thing I wanted to do with this car was start pulling it apart after spending the last 18 months putting it together?! but I did it. there was no obvious big damage. there was some fairly fine metal in the gear oil but no chunks. one interesting thing we did find though was a small aluminum insert that was threaded into the end of the axles had come out and was floating around in the diff! not good but the piece was not chewed up at all and is so light everyone doubted it was the cause of any vibration. by now it was after 6pm. the rest of the guys had gone to a banquet at the track for dinner. I didn’t have a ticket for the banquet. I was exhausted and starving as I hadn’t been able to grab lunch before the grill closed. so I bailed and went home to get food and sleep. on the drive I started thinking about what I could do to get back on track the next day.

after thinking through a lot of things Saturday night I decided I would head back to the track Sunday and try to get the car put back together in time to at least take the green flag for the race (which was at 2pm). I also had a couple of ideas to try to find/fix the vibration. during my first couple of test sessions with the car I had trouble with the driveshaft rubbing the safety loop. I didn’t think I had rubbing any more but I couldn’t tell because the driveshaft already had wear marks and you couldn’t tell if any of the marks were new. so I spray painted the driveshaft so I would be able to tell if there was fresh rubbing. the other vibration issue I knew had existed earlier was the 3rd link upper mount touching the bottom of the trunk sheet metal. Joe had shaved down some of the mount so we thought that had probably fixed it but I wanted to be sure. so I borrowed a grinder from Derek and Daniel and cut a hole in the trunk over the mount. there was no way the mount would touch now. it had tons of room to come up into the trunk if it needed. while doing all this we noticed that the drivers rear coilover had the bottom locking ring loose and was all the way down and binding on the mount. we got that sorted and tightened up the rings on both sides. but we also noticed that the bottom of the shock body was touching the moount. we disconnected the bottom of each shock from mount and Daniel clearanced it with a grinder. then we buttoned it all back up. for the rear-end, Ron Klamecki explained to me that I could separate the pinion carrier from the ring carrier and get a closer look inside. I did that and the opinion was that the pinion bearing felt notchy or rough if you put your fingers in it and turned it. but everyone agreed that it didn’t look like it was ready to blow any second. so, I put the whole mess back together and filled it up with new gear oil and got on the grid for the Sunday race.

Robin, in the only other AIX car there, was having major clutch slipping and said he wouldn’t make more than a lap or two. I went out and followed him for the first lap. I got a little too fixated on following him and carried more speed than I could handle going up the hill and spun out. I got the car going again and kept going. the vibration was as bad as ever so I was not pushing very hard at all. the race ended early under yellow because a BMW had gone off. Robin had pulled off on the lap I spun so that meant I won. So I got a 1st and a 2nd on my first race weekend. this is not a strategy that’s going to work long term. the AIX outlaw guys are going to be running the next race and I am significantly slower than them. I need to get rid of this vibration so I can really focus on my driving and improving the handling of the car.

still I feel pretty happy to have survived the weekend. I had the car completely apart and got it back together and made the race on Sunday. one more clean race weekend and I’ll be through my rookie period and can take off my “R”s and my orange panel on the back. looking back now I feel like I could have tried to ignore the vibration and I could have gone faster. it’s hard though when you don’t know what’s wrong. you don’t know if you might be ignoring something that’s going to let go and put you in a wall…

ok, now it’s time for the thank yous! first off, the car would never have even gotten to the track without a lot of help from Jeff, Joe, Dan, Matt and Don. at the track I would have been sunk if I hadn’t gotten a spot next to Derek and Daniel. All the CMC guys (Adam, Mike Plum and Ron Klamecki) gave advice and loaned me tools, etc. but Daniel (Derek’s race mechanic) helped me a TON. Even on Sunday when he wasn’t feeling well he took time to help me. thanks Daniel! I also had Rob and Richard Alonzo from Sacrament show up on Saturday to cheer me on. They both got under the car and helped me with the rear end. On Sunday Gaetano showed up and got to crawling around helping me put the car back together. and Don was there running his TT Miata and was in the garage helping me whenever he had time between his sessions. thanks everyone!!!

so here’s a video of Sunday’s race. unfortunately the GoPro ran out of juice before the end of the race. for the next race I’m going to wire an accessory plug so I can get the camera plugged into the cars power and not have to worry about it running out again. next race is just 3 1/2 weeks away… yikes!!!

1974 Javelin-road race, American Iron, Racing, video


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