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in the world of drag racing

Fast Mouse Fast Mouse

To go to earlier editions of "What's New" go to  What's Old

The latest update as of June 5, 2001

NOTE: Most of the other updates listed on the left-hand side of this page haven't been uploaded (or even written) yet. The only "live" ones are May 15th to the 31st at the moment. We'll try to get the other days done over the next few days.... if we can find enough time to catch a deep breath.

So what's been happening over the last three weeks? Work, work, and even more work. I flew out of Vancouver on May 29th and arrived in Brisbane on the 31st. As soon as I arrived at Ken Lowe's shop down on the Gold Coast I found myself stuck into the race car. With only 48 hours to finish prepping the car for the Saturday night test-n-tune, and my crew at work on their regular jobs, it was up to me to get busy.

We made it out to Willowbank on Saturday.... about six hours later than planned, but the car never made it off the jackstands that night. Our new Racepak (Pro 1-A model) computer turned out to be both a curse and a blessing. We finally got some data, but not the sort we wanted to see.

It appears that between our twelve nozzle fuel system, and pro-stock style intake manifold, we've got some serious fuel distribution problems. Combining that with air that kept dropping as the evening went on, we kept chasing our tails until finally throwing in the towel at 10 pm.

What about those license passes that had to be made? Well, in a stroke of good fortune, Willowbank offered a Sunday test session for Group One (Pro) cars the next day, at a reasonable cost, with full track preparation. Salvation. We managed to cajole the track manager into letting us park the car and the contents of our open trailer in the scrutineering shed overnight and headed home for a few hours sleep before our last chance test day.

Sunday dawned bright and warm, and we arrived at the track shortly after the gates opened at 9 am, got the car pitted and warmed up just after 10 o'clock. The personal computer we'd set up on a work table under the grandstands then appeared to die just as we went to check out the cylinder temperatures from the warmup.

Luckily, Darren's daughter Nicole sussed out the problem (the monitor had been turned off) and we soon got the readings we'd been hoping for. There were still some wide variances, but at least nothing appeared to be melting, so we figured we were safe to do the half track pass without making any radical modifications to the fuel system).

Shortly after noon, we fired up the car behind the water box and proceeded to do the first license pass; a half-track pass was required.... and as it turned out, THANK GOODNESS! We made it through the burnout safely on our one remaining blower belt and everything looked good as I pulled into the stage beams.

With the clutch still loaded down with a tonne of counterweight and a huge air gap, and the fuel system very rich, we weren't disappointed with the 1.04 sixty foot time and the car moved well through low gear. Then it all started to unravel.... quickly. I shifted just short of 8200 rpm, then the car laid down and lumbered to the half-track shutoff point.

Coasting down through the braking area, I tried to figure out what had happened. The engine didn't make any funny noises, it didn't feel like anything had broken, but the power just fell off. Guessing that we just had the fuel system far too rich, I shut the engine off and rolled to a stop at the far end.

When the crew arrived, all they could report is that it was hosing fuel out of one cylinder on the launch, then dropped two more at the shift point. Hmm.... "Let's get 'er back, check out the data and see what happened. We'd better hurry, as we've got two more passes to make and only four hours left to do it."

Our first hint of impending doom was difficulty in removing (aka: prying) off the rocker covers. When they finally came off, we could hardly believe how much damage we'd done in so short a time. The rocker stands were bent upwards nearly 30 degrees at either end, on both sides, and we'd obviously damaged nearly every rocker arm. Most of the pushrods were beat up, and some of the lash caps were missing. Ouch....

While the crew set to work stripping the top end off the engine, I checked out the data on the computer. As we'd seen, number one was a dead player before we left the starting line, and numbers two and three died before the 300 foot mark. Number seven and eight started to go away just about that time too. No wonder we weren't making any power with three dead holes, two weak ones and only three healthy ones.

And the bad news didn't stop there. After the valley cover came off, we took an inventory of the lifters and counted three dead ones. Plus, one very second-hand looking camshaft. This was starting to look very bad. The general consensus was that the cam could be run, with some "in the field" grinding and massaging. We had enough spares to replace all the other damaged parts. Now all we needed was enough time to get it done.

The crew of Darren and Mick were soon augmented by Lawrie Moore, Michael Bailey and "whatever you need mate" help from Victor Bray. As the clock moved on, we worked as quickly as we could, with me making several phone calls to Ken Lowe, begging for some extra nozzles and hoses to put in the fuel system. Ken showed up, with Dave Coles in tow, shortly after 2 pm, but we were still a long way from being ready to run.

A close inspection of the cylinder heads showed that nearly every rocker stand mounting bolt hole had stripped. Luckily, Victor Bray had just enough (we used all he had) heli-coils to fix that problem. With time running out, we thrashed the engine back together in what we assumed was a runnable condition, when word came down from the tower that we were out of time.

Everyone's watch had a different time, but the consensus was that we had indeed run out of time and we'd run out of chances to get the last two license passes done. Or had we? A quick brainstorming session came up with several options to get the deed done.

One included a trip north (350 miles) to Benaraby Raceway in Gladstone. Another involved a trip south (120 miles) to Warwick Dragway and the third was dropping back to the Supercharged Outlaws or Modified Eliminator category and using the runs I'd made in March as passes towards an Unlimited Drag Racing License (one notch down from the Group One Top Alcohol license I was seeking).

With lots of phone calls to various parties, from the ANDRA Division Director, to the track managers at Benaraby and Warwick on tap for the evening, we set to work loading up the race car and all our gear as the sun set at Willowbank. A quick trip back to Ken's shop, the car unloaded, the hired ute (truck) returned, and we turned our attentions to the phones.

Before we'd made the first call, Simon Holgerson rang Ken to inform him that he'd hired the Warwick track on Thursday and had already arranged for an ANDRA Steward to be present. Hmm, looks like we've got an option there. Calling the division director, Helen Hansen, proved promising, but she couldn't make any decision until she'd talked to her superiors in Adelaide. "I'll ring you in the morning, Bob".

Looks like it's getting down to nail-biting time in a hurry. Exhausted from the last four days of non-stop thrashing, I loaded up my rental car and headed back to Dave's for a well-earned full night's sleep. Monday's going to be a looooong day.

The day turned out to be a weird mixture of emotions: elation and despair, sometimes simultaneously. Cutting to the chase, I can report the following: After several back and forth phone calls, ANDRA decided that my license was valid to race in Top Alcohol at the Konica Winternationals. Hooorayyy!

With the requirement to travel to either Gladstone or Warwick removed, we could concentrate on prepping the car for Friday's first qualifying session at Willowbank. Bliss. Three days to get it ready, then haul it up there and set up our pit area on Thursday. And then all day Friday to get through scrutineering (tech) inspection and prepare for the 6:30 pm qualifier.

What about the despair? While I spent the day removing what I could from the car, cleaning and organizing everything, I had to wait until Darren arrived in the evening to lift off the blower and tear down the engine. We thought we were ready to run again on Sunday afternoon, but with three days to carefully inspect everything, felt it best to take it down completely.

A leakdown test gives good results in seven out of eight cylinders. The readings are all under 10%... except for #4 which is 65%. Bad news. And it's not coming out of the valves. Worse news. Let's get the heads off and run the pistons out.

No surprises up top, no chunks of metal in the sump or filter... things are looking "good". First three pistons out okay, then it hits.... number four rod looks a little funny; the piston attached to it sticks in the bore and when it finally comes out the top.... OUCH!

While Darren knocks out the remaining four pistons, I inpsect the remains of number four. The piston is wasted, the rings are welded in place, the liner looks decidely second-hand. Worst is the rod, which is bent at a 20 degree angle and has bearing material protruding from both sides of the bottom end. Even the pin, one of those "you couldn't break it with dynamite" 1.156" nitro pins is bent.

How in the heck can you hydraulic an alcohol motor? Quick answer: let Wilson drive it. Correct answer: when the rocker arms (especially the exhaust ones) quit rocking, and the fuel pump is still putting out 14 gallons a minute, bad things happen very quickly.

On the bright side, we've still got a healthy block, the main bearings look okay and the crank doesn't have any cracks. Thank goodness for small mercies? But we still have some serious problems to deal with. We've got no spare piston pins (who would have thought we'd have needed them?), we've run out of spare pushrods, we're looking very marginal in the rocker arm department and a close look at the cam reveals more damage than we'd originally thought.

Fortunately, we've managed to build up a network of friends and suppliers and the plan is put in place for me to call Sainty Speed Works in the morning for the pins, while Darren tries to find a cam grinder that can save our hurt piece. The rocker gear may be available at Performance Wholesale; Darren will ring Brett Ehmer there during his coffee break to find out.

Suddenly, the three days of relaxed preparation has become two days of frantic thrashing and hoping. Oh well, eight days from now I'll be on the plane back to Canada; I can rest then.

Tuesday was a slow process getting through to the right people, arranging for the pins to arrive on Wednesday (thanks heaps, Stan and Marg), getting the cam to Tighe Engineering for a quick repair and sourcing the rocker arm gear. Add in all the small details like arranging for an awning for the race, getting the needed pit passes for all the people who've bent over backwards to help us and getting the sign-writer up to measure the car for all the graphics and lettering.

Last night we worked until midnight... again, with Darren and Mike putting in six hours after a full day at work. I don't know how they can keep doing it; must be their youthful enthusiasm. All I can say is: Thanks heaps guys. You don't know how much I appreciate it.

We managed, with not a little effort, to extract the dead liner and replace it, then turned our attention to the cylinder heads. We decide that the repairs done during Sunday's thrash may not hold up and start drilling and tapping deeper into the heads for much longer rocker stand mounting bolts. We can't finish the job tonight as the promised heli-coil kits that Darren had ordered didn't arrive. Looks like another long night on Wednesday.

Before we pack up for the night, we formulate a plan for the next day, divide the jobs amongst us and resolve to not let any of these setbacks keep us from getting the car down the track on Friday night, and Saturday night, and, if all goes well, Sunday night.

As I write this update on Wednesday morning, the weather outside is more of the same: warm and sunny and looking very promising for this weekend. The day ahead is going to be a long busy one preparing the car, then tomorrow will be another long hard slog, getting two cars (mine and one of Ken's) out to Willowbank and setting up our pit area.

I'll try to get the next update (and some of the missing ones from the past week) posted by Friday morning. Then the plan will be to post daily updates (sorry, not live ones this year) of our progress at my first competition event in Australia. As always: stay tuned!

Black Bar
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