the cold, hard, facts… NASA AIX Javelin update

After two race weekends it’s clear that both the car and me are way out of our league. At Infineon I’m 10+ seconds behind the leaders and I’m even slower than the CMC2 cars (even though I should have almost 100 hp on them). So, the question was, how much is me and how much is the car. I know I’m not a very fast driver and I also know the car is far from optimized. I’d been thinking about trying to have a good driver do some laps to evaluate the car and try to answer the questions:

1) how far is the car off the pace vs. the other AIX cars?
2) how far off the cars potential am I?

I asked around in the garage at Infineon and Adam Ginsberg immediately suggested I talk to Dave Brown about driver coaching. Dave’s part of Life’s Good Racing. I hadn’t met Dave before but I’ve run into a lot of the other guys involved with Life’s Good Racing; Karl Chicca, Mark Deshelter (see the bad ass tube frame Javelin he’s slowly putting together here) and Charles. So, I called up Dave and we decided on meeting at Thunderhill for a NASA event. The Life’s Good Racing team was going to be at Thunderhill all weekend anyway running their ’69 Camaro in TTU. The idea was to get to Thunderhill on Friday and possibly run with Trackmasters in the afternoon to get familiar with the track again and then to run the full day on Saturday in NASA’s TTU class.

This would also be my first event where I “camped” out overnight in the back of my truck. I’ve been planning to start camping instead of booking hotel rooms to save money and to stay at the track and be close to the car and the rest of my crap. Since the first 2 race weekends had been at Infineon I had just gone home to sleep so I hadn’t had to sleep in the truck yet.

Anyway, things started out pretty rough on Friday. I got my trailer hooked up to my truck, loaded the truck and then went to start the car to pull it out of my garage and drive it up to my trailer. Well, the battery was dead. I had it on a trickle charger until 2 days earlier when I finally pulled off the charger and used the extension cord for something else. turns out I had left the master switch on which allows the alternator to draw current from the battery and run it down. ugh… I have an inclined driveway so I can’t just push the car out. I tried putting a battery jump pack on the battery (which is in the trunk) and it wasn’t enough to get the car started… I was really stuck. Finally I had the idea to try to use the jump pack at the front of the car (under the dash) thinking that maybe the resistance from the several feet of battery cable was keeping the starter from seeing max volts. turns out I was right. I put the positive clamp on the back of the master switch and the neg. clamp on the accelerator pedal (it was the closest bare metal I could find!). Well it worked but then I climbed out the car to un-clamp the jump pack and move it out of the way (you can see where this is heading). I climb back in car and the instant I’m about to touch the gas pedal the car stalls… climb out, get the jump pack, do it again… anyway, I manage to stall it a couple of more times before finally getting it up to the trailer… what a clusterf@ck!

After that fiasco I managed to get to the track ok and got pitted next to the Life’s Good Racing guys. But the drained battery would be a pain for the rest of Friday and into Saturday until I managed to get it fully recharged…

It had rained some on Friday and when I got there the track was still wet. I wasn’t going to run in the wet but later in the afternoon it had dried out. So I got signed up with Track Masters took to long getting suited up and on track and only had about a half session. then the rain came again for the last session so that was it for Friday. Saturday weather was great. I went out for the first session and only managed a 2:21.xx. yuch. one annoying thing I found out about running in TT is that the leader sets the pace for the out lap. The guy who was in the lead has this annoying habbit of going insanely slow (20 mph) so he bunches up the field behind him. I guess the idea is that when he finally goes he won’t run into any stragglers getting on track late and he’ll get a clean lap or two. Nice for him I guess but the problem is that it makes the outlap 4+ minutes, which out of a 20 minute session is a lot. Basically what I’m saying is that a 20 minute session only get’s you 4 (or 5) laps…

Next Dave got in the car and went out in HPDE 4. He did 3 laps – a 2:12.x, 2:04.x and a 207.x (traffic) and then he came in… (but I only knew about the 2:07 at the time as Karl just happened to time Dave’s last lap). that’s how a pro does it. wow. when he came in he said the accelerator pedal was sticking open and needed to be fixed. This was my fault. I had monkey’d with the pedal trying to raise it to try to make it possible to heel / toe, which I haven’t been able to do yet. in raising the pedal I created a situation where WOT had the pedal about an inch above the floor board and there was no positive stop on the pedal. I knew this and so I didn’t “floor” the pedal. But I didn’t think to tell Dave this and of course he DID floor it. the cable got kind of kinked and that was what was causing the sticking. anyway, I made a wooden “stop” and bolted it to the floor. but all this monkeying around made me miss the 2nd session…

In the 3rd session I got down to 2:15.x. I only got 3 laps though because my damn oil pressure light came on so I pulled in and added a quart of oil. Finally in the last session I got to 2:13.8… better but still pretty damn slow (although I had cars ahead of me on that lap I was not at full speed starting the lap so I should have been a bit quicker). So, I had my time and Dave’s time but I needed a time for one of the other AIX Outlaw cars. Well, I lucked out. Robin Riner was there with his Mustang so I had a comparative time from one of the guys I’m racing with in AIX Outlaw. So, here are the cold hard numbers…

Robin Riner (mid-pack AIX Outlaw) – 1:58.X (this was his best time on Saturday, on Sunday he actually did a 1:56.x but the track was more hooked up)
Dave Brown – 2:04.x 8 seconds back
Me – 2:13.x – 9 seconds back from Dave

OUCH! So I’m 9 seconds off the cars potential and the car is another 8 seconds behind mid-pack in the class I’m trying to race in. 17 seconds. That’s an eternity in racing. Obviously I have a lot of work to do on my driving. As for the car, Dave’s main comment was that the car pushes bad in high and even medium speed turns. Everyone’s been asking if the car is loose or if it pushes. I keep saying I think it pushes and Dave’s confirmed that’s the major issue. the car doesn’t want to turn…

So, how to fix it? Lowering the car will help a lot and I’ve got some 2″ drop spindles I’m going to try to get on soon. After I get the car lowered I need to try some aero to get more downforce on the front of the car. And I need to seal up the front grill area to keep the air from going into the engine compartment. multiple people have said the car tries to “fly” the nose going down the straight and that they can see the hood pops up slightly as the air gets under it.

So there you have it. The truth hurts. car is slow and I’m slower. I guess this is all part of the adventure. at least I have some hard numbers to work with now. next race is Buttonwillow in only 1 week!

here’s a couple of videos. First, Dave’s 3 laps. I love this video. it’s so cool to see the Javelin driven like it should be! next video is my fast lap (ok slow lap)…

1974 Javelin-road race, American Iron, Track Events, video


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