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You wax...I'll race
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Took me over a month to get to posting my report from the last track session. No legitimate excuse. Just busy and stuff. Yet like “The Karate Kid Part 2” picked up with the previous left off, so does this entry from here:
The Driver's Edge at Motorsport Ranch Houston -...

The body shop installed the subframe and then dropped the GTO off with performance alignment shop Track Time Performance. Said I was in no hurry, so took some time to get to it. When we spoke on the phone, they indicated that an alignment cannot be conducted because perhaps the left lower ctrl arm is bent. How could no one notice the lower ctrl arm is bent when the GTO was in pieces for a week? I myself have picture of my site visit and did not see anything.

Had the body man meet me at Track Time so all four is us could review simultaneously: Me, body man, Track Time owner and mechanic. Seemed to agree need a new lower ctrl arm, which by all accounts is hard to come by. Body man said he can probably source the part. I drove the GTO the body shop and Ubered home.

Couple days later body man said it is fixed. He is able to move the suspension adjustment without a new lower ctrl arm. So he drops off at Track Time again. About a day later, Track Time said it is good. This was Thursday last week 25 June 2020. The entire time since the last track event 16 May 2020, the GTO has been in and out of two different shops. Ready for the track again with only one day to spare…

Not knowing if it was going to be ready, did not prep. So got a hotel and boarded the dog. Both the hotel and track allow dogs, yet do not want to deal with the dog when (we know it is going to happen) the GTO breaks down again. Drove out Friday night.

Day 1

At the track nice and early Saturday morning. Usual checks:
  • Torque lugs
  • Tire pressure
  • Review suspension
  • Again check fluids
  • Look for leaks
  • Second inspection of tires
  • Yadda yadda yadda…
Tire pressure was high considering they were cold and it was going to be hot day. At around 34 psi Dunno how they got so high. Decided to leave as is to see what happens.

One of my brake lights are out. And from the new pedal assembly with the T-56 Magnum-F, the switch on the brakes lights does to always catch properly. Just a little switch, yet kinda important. Not only illegal but also unsafe. The speed shop installed and tested, but either moved or not in the perfect location initially. Per my request, the mechanic showed me how to adjust myself, and the body man adjusted on his own while he had the car for the rear subframe. Yet still does not catch properly. I can get the adjustment to move, but not to the correct location. So now one of my tail lights is out and all the others stay on all the time! Not starting out the weekend as smooth as hoped. Yet this is always life with the GTO. People often wear t-shifts at the track saying: “Race it. Break it. Fix it. Repeat.” I wish I could just race it.

Good news is familiar friends faces at the track: Evan, Charles, Chris, etc. A couple notable exceptions as a some drivers said they are taking the summer off from racing.

Social distancing was strictly indicated and adhered to. As with the last event, Rick (The Driver’s Edge owner) has the medic speak first at the driver’s meeting. We wore masks, kept a little distance, and due to social distancing, no spectators allowed. Usually anyone can hang out and watch for free. Not during COVID 19.

Checked the exhaust since it falls off so much. Added hose clamps back on to hangers to hold on. And now I got my newest latest and greatest modification: High performance floors mats! Yes they do make me go faster…just kidding. Saw custom GTO mats for about $150. Got cheap black and red ones from Amazon for $20 instead.

So as I cruse out for the first session, what should be on my mind? I think about what my buddy Neil said:
  • “Concentration and relaxation will bring the smoothness and speed. At the moment it looks like you are working hard.”
  • “Most of all just have a bloody good time and laugh lots when you get a corner right and it feels great. Then move on to the next corner till you put a whole lap together and it feels magic”
Neil is 20 years older than me and raced an Escort in the 70’s in Australia. But that is another (very long) story.

On the second session coming off of Carousel, I heard a pop. I am still driving. Get situational awareness. Where are the cars around me? Check the flags. Do I have a way out in case of catastrophic failure or incident? All good. I am still driving, so not the motor or the transmission. Check behind me in the mirror. See a puff of smoke. But I am still driving. So maybe it is not me? I just went over something or it was someone else? I am still driving.

Aware that something happened but I do not know what, down the straight I go. Could be bad. Could be nothing. Knowing my car, probably bad. Or…it was nothing! Everything is going to be a-ok. Next corner: There it is. Lost power steering. Again, situational awareness. Most of us probably know what a (so-called) modern vehicle is like without power steering. Drivable. But not made for it. I can still maneuver. Reassess vehicles around me. We are OK. Making it around the corners with great effort on the wheel. When safe, put my fist out the window straight up by the roof: “I am coming in.” Make it around the track safely, placing my fist out the window straight up letting others know that I am coming in when I can. The steering is obviously quite heavy…and I do now have a T-56 Magnum-F M6 instead of a PerformaBuilt A4. So need to focus on shift simultaneously. Got off the track safely and get to the onsite mechanic shop. Long story short: They again came through for me. Got me fixed up and back on the track. Just a hose popped off. Later checking power steering, hot as can be. Power steering pump cooler forthcoming.

Go to town for ATF, the brake lightbulb that is out, and food. Food places are busy. Whataburger seems the least busy. An older gentleman, evidently Mr. Melvin who is in his 90’s, is trying to order. The counterworker tells another worker Ms. Simone that he is requesting her. Ms. Simone comes over and slightly loudly asks: “How many to do you want, Mr. Melvin?” Ms. Simone takes Mr. Melvin’s order. Seems she was loud not because she was mad, but so he could hear. I add to the story since it was nice to see everyone look after an older gentleman.

Back at the track, replace the brake light that was out but I cannot get the brake light switch to adjust properly so now all the brake lights are on all the time. Getting a bit frustrating. I am a nervous nerd and I have some little skin issues. So now I notice myself scratching more due to nerves and sweating. Took the car to the mechanic again but he was busy. So go back to my pit to get tools and tape. Go back to the mechanic shop and pile blue painter’s tape usually used to mark my car number on the switch so that it will catch. Then mechanical Jeff had time. Came out to the car and fixed in five minutes. “No tape required”, he said as he held up the tape I had piled up on the switch to make it catch. Only missed one session.

Next session. Two cars in in front of me are coming into the pits. Previously I missed black and yellow telling all of us to come in and really beat myself up over it. Do not want that to happen again. So remember how in class they talked about looking at as many flag stations as you can from various parts of the track. We are in SE Texas so mostly flat land and can often see multiple flag stations. Quickly look around seeing two stations with no flag. Stay out. No black and yellow! I made the right quick decision this time.

Between sessions, sit and chat with fellow drivers and stuff. Last session of the day is a slightly more comfortable. I feel a little more happy and relaxed. Drivers in Yellow are so respectful. We work with each other and adjust positions on the track as required seamlessly.

Day 2

Smooth so far. Got gas and food and water and stuff at Buc-ee’s. Saw a GT-350 there again. Drove out, unload, eat at my folding table and chair. Chat with GT-350 guy Joe. Check the car.

At the first session the suspension has a tiny clunk and when I get off the track the power steering pump is hot as can be. Both manageable.

Class on tires which is excellent from the same Instructor guy John. Jack my car up just to check it out and Joe stops by again. Everyone is sociable here. I am not good at meeting people yet I can here.

For the second session an instructor rides with me. Got a download from him afterwards while eating lunch. Lots of ideas to try different techniques and lines. Most of which I see as enhancements, some of which I like my way better.

The food truck owner’s father Dennis and I used to work together. Dennis said our old Project Manager is sick. The PM and I did not see eye to eye. He actually kicked me off a project but I already had another better offer anyway. I verify I have the correct number for that PM and reach out to him laster to see if there is anything I can do but do no hear back.

The Instructor’s session is first after lunch. I ride with one in a Mini Cooper.

In the third session I am first on the grid. There are three lanes and we do not know which will be on track first. This time it was me. No one passed me! Except a black Turbo S #91 who should probably be in Red. I try my new techniques. When I get off the track buddy Chris in a Porsche also in Yellow asks me how it felt out there. Yellow is the group to be in for me for now. Felt fantastic to stay out there without mechanical issues and to keep pace in Yellow with such a respectful group.

Last session of the day. Turbo S #91 grids up in front of me. So now no one passes me for the entire session…and I pass about five or six cars! Chris comes up to me afterwards noticing me working through the pack. Packed up and drove home. Which is a win in itself with all my mechanical issues.

Status now is that during a check and reassessment of the suspension, needed new front tires. They are not always holding air. Track Time Performance is addressing. Next mods are subframe connectors, Harrip rear dif cover, 3.91 gears, and power steering cooler. Parts are on the way…

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