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Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Spirit of Sunshine 2014 Lake Gairdner.

We had Highway to Hell blasting, we were on the western side of Renmark and had been making good time. There'd been a momentary hitch and a moment of levity when we stopped at the quarantine roadblock for fruit at the beginning of the Riverland. I still had some of my home grown peaches in a bucket...."can I eat one now?"...."No you can't , too late, do you have any other fruit and vegetables?"...."No , we don't " I said. " I need to look in the back"....There are a couple of issues with the top tailgate on the F100, firstly, it doesn't lock, secondly, the struts don't hold it up, but third, and most importantly, if you lift it too high it falls out. The fruit inspector was very keen to look in the back, which was jam packed with tools and camping gear, but first he'd have to deal with the tailgate.. By my estimation he grabbed it with both hands and lifted it quickly. We hadn't yet got our feet on the ground when we heard a loud "CONK" which was the sound of the tailgate pivoting in his hands and striking him squarely on the forehead. My nephew Tom and i arrived at the back of the truck from opposite sides to see the inspector resting the tailgate on the ground and rubbing his head, he looked a little ticked off.

"So, are you fellas going to fix that?" I asked. He shoved it at me, so i repeated the question. He handed it to me and walked off. It appeared the inspection was over. We put the tailgate back on with funereal expressions. We laughed for a good three minutes solid as we drove away.

AC/DC at dangerous volume, but through it, at the top of a long third gear hill I heard a noise, a sharp clattering , we turned onto the Goyder Highway and I began looking for somewhere to pull over, power was down, the beast was wounded. As I stood with my head under the bonnet a car pulled up, "are you OK?" "Yeah, we should be right "I said hopefully, "you've got a long way to go"....he'd recognized the bellytank, he was going where we were going.

We weren't right. We'd blown a head gasket, punched out the fire rings between 2 and 3 on the right bank, We sat at a roadside stop and I thought to myself that this year I'd really blown it, that I wasn't going to make it, that the manic period of preparation, which was barely enough , was wasted and now I had an expensive problem in the middle of nowhere.

I didn't know exactly what was wrong but I knew I could do about 50k's an hour and that giving up was not the answer, whatever the question was. We set off at about 7pm heading west without a real plan. After an hour I rang Dirty Dave who was coming to the salt and lives in the Barossa, we changed course and went south, 170km's to our oasis. We saw 100km/h down a hill at one point but mostly it was 40-50k's, it took three and a half hours. We got to Dave's just before midnight.

Dave had planned to leave at sun-up the next day with his friend Miles in Dave's beat up old Hi-Ace. With a bunch of phone calls, some expert opinion and some hard yakka we had it back together by about 7pm Saturday. Then, after starting it and doing a pretension of the head bolts I broke a rocker stud. We sourced another one ten minutes away , but while fitting it I bent a push rod, we got another, and a spare from Johnno again, this time we had it together and we could leave. We'd originally taken the route up the Calder after getting a text from Graham "the Colonel", it read "roadworks, roadworks, roadworks" and referred to the western highway, it's a shorter way but also includes the Pentland Hills, a few of my cars had died there, so the Calder via Mildura had been confirmed by Damian Moylan, a truck driver as the better way to go to Port Augusta, especially when towing. So much for that plan, we were now in the Barossa and the road to "the Gutta" was up hill and down dale for the first hundred and fifty k's.

When we pulled over for the first look at the motor I had jammed something up under my right thumb nail, the next day it was sore but today it was swollen and angry, anytime it touched something I jumped, so, a suspect motor and a septic thumb, just the right combo to be heading out to the desert for a week.

We got to Port Augusta by midday and spent an hour shopping and refueling. Dave had stopped at the first place that had gas.." yeah, we're the only place that has gas on a Sunday here" smelt like rotten chicken and she looked like she hated everyone. Dave paid 65 bucks for a small cylinder, the next place, and the two after that had gas, Dave, needless to say made light of it. We split up for shopping and agreed to meet "at the dirt", the point where you turn off the bitumen at Iron Knob and head west 165km's to Lake Gairdner.

It's always a great feeling leaving Port Augusta, it's where the desert really begins and you can't help but be awed by the size and age of this tired old landscape.

We arrived at the dirt and start the last checks securing everything and tying a tarp over the car to protect it from stone damage. Mike Davidson, club Dry Lake Racers of Australia club member number one arrived with his brand new streamliner "Flatattack", he's a seasoned campaigner but he didn't look well. He was talking to me as I checked the tie-downs, one of them snapped back and hit me squarely on the end of my rotten thumb, a ball of pus oozed out. I broke off the conversation as my body pushed out an allover sweat, I felt ill, it hurt like it had been smashed with a hammer. I'd been soaking it in peroxide on the drive from the Gutta, so now at least some of the pressure was relieved.

The drive in was much as always, nearly three hours of corrugated, dusty unmade road, we hit a washout about half an hour in that bounced the trailer off. It stayed on the chains and didn't damage anything. We arrived lakeside at 6pm to be told we couldn't drive on til the next day, we set up camp and shuffled down a few beers, hot and tired. We started early and got the rig out onto the lake by 7, pitting next to Tiny and Wilso who'd saved a spot for us and Chris Bryson, or as we call him, "Maxwell Smart". We spent the rest of the day preparing the pit and the car, much of it cleaning the dust from the drive in, removing the transport tires and fitting the safety gear. We had a new trailer this year and it vastly improved the loading/unloading procedure. We got through tech with just a few issues, no brakes.....We had to bleed the brake system which consists of drum brakes on the rear, apart from that we were ready to roll.

We had changed the final gearing of the car from 2013's 2.41:1 to 2.14:1 skipping the 2.28 gear set we had. Last year we ran 215.041mph(348km/h). We figured that 2.14 would be too tall, but if the car wouldn't pull it that it would give us an accurate idea of the cars total drag which we as yet hadn't been able to calculate..

This is the fourth year we had had the car there, and I now know that I need at least one run to get over the willies, it's always the second run when I seem to be able to commit to just mashing it. This year was the first year we have used first gear off the start line, the car stepped out to the right as I booted it, then again when I shifted into second, I wasn't thinking straight and changed too early, at 155mph instead of the planned 175, it bogged and accelerated slowly, tick tick tick on the mph, it got into the 180's and started to take off but at 190 it died. I still had a little power but nothing useable, I turned off at the five mile. When I pulled up I was too close to the second track and had smoke billowing from the cowl. The fire crew wanted to hit it with extinguishers, I said no and they waited. For my trouble I got a yellow sticker" CONCERN: BURNING OIL". We had to tear the car down in order to satisfy the scrutineers,the smoke was from oil that had soaked into the fiberglass exhaust wrapping during last year's diff change, while we had it apart we found that I'd also broken the 1st/2nd gear selector, the manager of the Mt I've station offered to lend is the part we needed from his eleven year old daughters Holden Ute, in the end we drilled a hole in the selector, tapped a thread and screwed the selector back together. The offer of the part was above and beyond but we were pretty sure we didn't want to be back under a Ute putting it's gearbox back together on Friday afternoon when we wanted to be driving home. In all it took about three hours and we had the car reassembled. Chief scrutineer Bob Ellis signed off on the sticker and we were free to line up again. We'd kept the same 2.14 gearing in the diff after realizing I had simply run out of fuel on the first run, yes, at 190mph I simply ran out of fuel.

We were nearly out of the pits when we turned back, and filled the tank with premium unleaded.

It was Wednesday, we had to get some track time. Like last year when it came to the second run I was more than ready to go, the trepidation of the first run was gone. Tom had been elected as the man to close the canopy as he seemed to be the only one other than me who had the knack of making it latch. With Dave and Miles pushing I left the line, last year we'd pushed the car with the truck as I was driving off in 3rd, I was using first gear this year. I was kind of shocked how hard the car accelerated off the line, I looked down and despite our best efforts we had managed to swipe the GPS to the menu screen and I already knew it wouldn't respond to my gloved hand. I ran up to the pitch I know is close to the red line, the car was pulling hard, in second it went sideways briefly as I dropped the clutch but I stayed in it. Once again I ran it into what I hope was the 6000rpm range and shifted into third, same again, it pulled hard but held traction with my foot on the floor. I could feel the acceleration in top which was encouraging rather than the sensation of bogging I'd had the day before. I held my foot on the floor and listened to the pitch climb until the last mile where it remained constant. I pulled off the track at the seven and a half mile and this time I could see the "Bali flags" and knew where to stop. Northern rescue arrived and gave me the thumbs up, one of them jumped out..."are you OK? yeah? did two hundred and four, congratulations!", he jumped back in and they drove away.

"So" I thought, that is the first time we'd hit an aero wall. With the gearing (2.14:1) we had that speed translated to 5280rpm, at those revs we have about 270 horsepower, it seems now that at 204mph our car has the equivalent of about 270 horsepower of drag, until now we'd gone faster and faster, now we knew what the limits were.

We took the car back to the pits and began to dismantle it to change the final gearing to the as yet untried 2.28:1. Everyone got dirty, Dave, Miles, Tom, Graham and I. We hoisted the car onto the metre high stands, off with the body, drained the water tank of its 60 litres, hoisted it off, hoisted the motor off it's mounts, removed the exhaust, the gear shift gantry, the furl tank and fuel system, just to get to the diff. It sounds ridiculous but the car is fast because it is small and has a good aero shape, to make that possible things need to be packaged very tightly. What does make things difficult is that the car has been hammered by it's time being transported on it's four trips to the lake, things don't fit as well as they used to.

We started at 4.30, working with the headlights of two cars we finished, exhausted at 10pm. We went back to our camp, had a few beers and crashed by 11.30. We were back on the lake by 6.45, Dave cooked breakfast while we fitted up the last of the body, refuelled and made some last checks, we were three groups from the start. There were delays as the track had been move across due to it's soft condition between the two and three mile where lots of cars had spun. We wouldn't run until 1pm.

I fumbled with the shift as despite our prep the car wasn't in first, once, twice, three times, I cursed, I shifted it into second, the clutch slipped and the stench filled the cab, I bounced it a few times before I let it out, now the car pulled hard. I ran to 95 mph just short of 6 grand. In the third the car pulled like a train, the numbers on the screen reeling, 120, 130 150 160, I shifted into top at 176mph, it took briefly, and then died, I pulled the clutch, revved the motor and dropped it again, nothing. I freewheeled for a bit, I was halfway through the three mile. I shifted back to slow it down. I was off the track by the four and a half. The crew arrived and it was all in the glance between Graham and I, it was Thursday, something was broken, the week was over.

Although the best run of 204mph wasn't as fast as we had run in 2013 we had still made some progress. 2013's 215.041mph was run with a 2.41:1 diff gear and we believed it was a rev limit in the motor ( valve bounce, lifters we don't really know)that had stopped us going any faster. Up until this point we had no reliable figure for the drag coefficient of the car which meant we could not calculate how much power we need to achieve the speed(240mph) that ultimately we hope the car will run. When the car ran 204mph with the 2.14 gearing and could not accelerate any further it told us the power it made at 5280rpm which is about 270hp equaled the drag at that speed, we will be back, we know more than we did before.

Getting home is always a dose of reality, it's a week later. the car is still on the trailer but at least I've washed this stuff off......

The rig. We went through about $1000USD in fuel....

The Malley country....

Your correspondent, red hat and all......

The road to Gairdner, wasn't the worst I'd seen it by a long shot, but that doesn't mean it was good.

What a place.....

Bali Girl danced all week

it's big

Me, a BNI/SCTA Inspctor who followed me out there  and Dirty Dave our resident plumber, gourmet chef and wine buff

I got a sticker!

Lining up at marshalling

Motor hoisted, water tank, fuel tank, exhaust and diff contents removed....

Graham pulls the pinion bearing during the diff swap

My nephew Tom, Dirty Dave and Miles pose in front of Simon's luxury mobile digs...

The best run, 2.14:1 gear set 5285 rpm
The Spirit of Sunsine in her 2014 "flipped" color scheme.....

Sunday, 3 March 2013

2013: The Spirit of Sunshine makes 200mph, and more.

Here is the story of the Spirit of Sunshine's 2013 Speedweek at Lake Gairdner in South Australia between the 18th and 22nd of February 2013.

As always the preparations for Speedweek were manic. We’d made several major changes to the car in the three years since it had last run and although that is a long time, it never seems like long enough. There was a new rear end courtesy of advice from our friend Bill”Sparky”Smith in Phoenix, and the top of the roll cage and drivers compartment had been redesigned in order to accommodate the new rules regarding head restraints. There was also the new motor. Similar in many ways to the motor that was demolished in 2010 it had spent three days on the dyno but we still had not been able to find whatever it was that prevented it from revving beyond 6400rpm. In a way it had been a godsend that 2011 was cancelled because with the same 2.77 final gearing and an although more powerful motor we weren’t going to go any faster without being able to exceed 2010’s 6400rpm.

The prep also included the new tow car a 1976 F100 bought from Morwell in the Latrobe Valley, a 302 4 speed short wheelbase that had been set up as a tow vehicle with heavy suspension and long range tanks. After discovering our tandem trailer was completely rusted out we decided to use Pete Quick’s , the car had traveled there in 09 and 10 in the trailer behind Pete’s Toyota Troop Carrier, this year though the Troopy was dead, the trailer though had been cut down  into an open car carrier, a quarter ton lighter.

I picked Pete up at the airport on Thursday night after a work trip and we hitched the trailer at his place, I took it home and spent Friday getting the car on and working out the pack. Pete arrived Friday evening and we had a few beers. Saturday we knocked off the last few things and were ready to roll by 9am, the trailer was too low. We flipped the hitch and decided to leave the wobble bars off.

It’s a left turn at the end of my street and then eight hours of 60mph driving to get to Adelaide.The first hour is to Ballarat and that involves the climb over the Pentland Hills that start at Bachus Marsh , I waved at all the spots where previous cars have broken down. The trailer pulled well, the truck sang. We stopped in Beaufort for a coffee, my brother and sister in law saw the car as they drove past and stopped in to wish us well. It was hot, and dry out there as we headed west. We arrived at Port Wakefield where we hoped to stay at 9.45pm to find there was no room at the inn, or the caravan park…we had a terrible steak sandwich at the roadhouse( yeah, the BP) and decided to push on for Port Augusta, 209km’s away. At Port Augusta we found a spot in the big truck stop on the edge of the park and set up beds beside the trailer, it was 1am we were stuffed. We got up just before sunrise, moments before the sixty billion flies that live at “The Gutta”.
We fueled up, checked everything and went for the last few bits of shopping.

It’s sixty klms( 35mile) to the turn off at Iron Knob, that’s where the dirt starts. The road was in great condition and rather than Saturday afternoons when it tends to be busy we barely saw another vehicle on the way in so it wasn’t too dusty, Pete drove, I had a bit of shut eye. Pete was keen to stop at the station for a refresher, me?...I woke up cranky and couldn’t understand why we weren’t heading for the lake at lightening speed, Pete’s good like that , he gets things done in a way that doesn’t involve my usual flapping around like a trapped wild animal, it was blisteringly hot, that weather calls for gentle movements and lots of fluid.

We hooted when we first saw the salt and within minutes were at the entrance blowing the dust off the rig before we drove on, the salt looked great, not as stark white as some other years but the crunchies were low and it was hard, hard, hard.

The Silverton crew had saved us a spot , we found Tiny ( GeneratorShovel here) in no time and got to unloading. I drank two and a half litres of water in the first half hour that we were there, it was extreme. We got the pit sorted and the car reassembled, race tyres, harness, a wash out, fire bottles  and a general check over done. We fitted the push bar and the new trail bar made from and Anglia wishbone. We gently trialed the bar to find it worked a treat allowing us to tow the car without a driver inside. We pushed the car up to tech to leave it in line overnight and headed to the campground to erect the “Casa del Canvass”. The Casa has always provided some amusement, it’s a biggish tent with an unusual pole arrangement. We’d just met Jon Bennett from Brisbane who is building the single engined bike-liner and we were to camp with he, his son Dave and Ross Brown another bike liner builder from Brisbane, I already knew I was going to like these guys.

First thing Monday back on the salt, we let the guys behind us go through as we tooled around with a few small items. The car cruised through tech except I’d left my new boots and gloves at home and had to borrow some that would pass the 200mph rules. I did the bail-out in no time, we got the sticker.

We decided to put Grumm through his 125mph license on the GPS track, we lined up behind every single person who thought they’d like to try landspeed racing, and some other people I think who saw a line and joined it just in case there was something fun happening, after about an hour and a half I heard that marshalling for the main track was bare. I went and asked Animal the race director if we could run a 125mph license there, of course we could. We arrived at the main track pre-stage as the track closed after an incident.

I have been trying to convince Grumm to drive for years, for various reasons he hasn’t but this was to be the year . When we arrived at the main track we found it was very sparsely marked at the start, in fact for the first half mile there were no cor-flutes, no cones, no bollards…..just one solitary black flag and as the wind was blowing straight down the track it was all but invisible. We suited the Colonel up and shoe-horned him into the car. He wandered a bit as I pushed him off, then began to track right, finally running off the track and shutting down.  He couldn’t see. There was another problem, the car is built for the Reverend and I and Grumm being slightly wider and shorter couldn’t get his arm to the shift when fully suited and harnessed, it was a very low moment. Grumm just said, “nup, that’s it, can’t see, can’t shift that’s it for me” , I  was terribly disappointed that I couldn't share this thing he'd put so much into with him, I’d been dying to see his face at the other end after a run, but it wasn’t going to happen. We dragged it back to the pit where I worked on sorting out a fire system line in the elbow area which had given him grief, I could flip the fitting and get more room there that would help me too.

It was Tuesday before we got the car back to the start again. As we were staging we realized that the new steering wheel boss had a problem when assembled the quick release fitting had been attached backwards leaving the shaft proud and unable to lock into the fitting, Jon Bennett disappeared with it, twenty minutes later we were ready to run, he'd effected a perfect repair not a bodge up. It was lucky Grumm hadn’t left the line the day before with the wheel in that state.

I had been as anxious as it was possible to be, I’d felt like vomiting for the previous few hours and was getting sharp powerful cramps from electrolyte depletion, in my legs, back, feet and hands, it was really really hot.

The new engine combo sounded brutal, a manic bark and loopy idle got people’s attention. …My legs felt weak and the clutch in the car is unforgiving. I was in, the canopy down and I was waved away….the F truck pushed and I fumbled with the 1-2 gear lever, it felt like rubber again, again, again nothing. I grabbed the 3-4 it didn’t feel much better, once , twice, three times, I thought about pulling off the track, clunk , I was in third, I looked up the track which had received several hundred cor-flutes since our complaint the day before was ahead of me , my leg buckled and I stepped into it. There was a whiff of clutch and the car shot off. There were a few seconds as I thought “FMD , here I am” I centered the car and collected myself as  I realized I had a bit of space under the throttle, I decked it and the car pulled hard, real hard. I settled in aiming down the middle and listening to the motor, my first glance showed 154mph on the GPS, just past my 150 shift point, I missed the first poke but she dropped into fourth on the second push. The car seemed to accelerate harder again in top. I looked down 185, back up as the car shook violently and skittered on the track, 194 , the track was narrower and the cones were getting closer together, 199, this was taking forever but in reality 8 or ten seconds had passed. The next time I looked it said 206, then 207 , then 206 I passed the four, then it seemed like no time and the sign said six, I buttoned off and rolled. I shifted back to third at 140 so it must have been the eight that I turned off at as I didn’t see the “adequately” marked turn out at the seven. I made a few hundred yards before losing the return road and hitting the crunchies, clunk, clunk, clunk silence.

I popped the canopy and stood up fumbling with my gloves I finally got the helmet and HANS off, it was dead silent……

“I F***** DID IT” !

I screamed with all my lungs, once twice, three times and then a few more times just for good measure, “ I love you little car” …..I patted the top of the cage and laughed , and then yelled a bit more. As I stepped out I noticed oil, lots of it, coming out of the cowl, the tail….

It was three or four minutes before Grumm, Pete and Damon in the F truck arrived,

” you ran 205”we all shook hands and grinned like five year olds, “but that’s as fast as it will go….” I said
….we slid a tarp under the car and grabbed a spade to collect the oiled down salt and hitched her up, we drove back to the pits elated.

Opening her up we found oil from a-hole to breakfast time, but it seemed to coming from the front. A friend of Tiny’s son called Damon had hooked up with us. A diesel fitter from Broken Hill he’d followed the SOS’s fortunes on the net and was keen to help, we needed it. It turned out the front seal had blown out, we pulled the balancer and there it hung. It was glued back in and punched for good measure.

Then there was the other issue. We’d run the 2.56:1 rear end and I’d run the same speed for 3 miles, we had the same rev limit, 205.088 was 6375rpm. We decided to change the ratio. That meant hoisting the car and removing the tub and tail. Not long after the run a guy had come up to congratulate me, he seemed every bit as happy as me….     ” Mate, Andre’s my name, I love that car, congratulations, what are you gonna do now?” He followed me back to the pit, when we said we were going to change the ratio he said” I’m an engineer at a factory, I’m kind of mechanically minded, been around cars my whole life…” he was a diff whiz and took control of the job. We had people come from everywhere, the car was hoisted, the tail and tub came off, the exhaust, the fuel tank, the tail-shaft scatter shield….the pinion was loose. We had to hoist the engine to get the tail-shaft enough room to come out of the pinion yoke, we got a half inch. By the time the back-plate came off we could see that the pinion had been colliding with the carrier and had taken about a desert-spoon full of metal off it that had collected on the magnet in the housing. Andre looked over everything and decided we were good to go, we didn’t have a bearing for the 2.28 and the 2.41 had been set up in the housing so that was the job. In just over three hours we had the new gears installed and everything buttoned up again, in the process we’d replaced the crank-angle sensor which had been bothered by it’s close contact with the seal housing.

It was 10.30am Thursday as I sat on the line again. Luke Zietara who had come to my place to shoot some footage for a 3D doco he is putting together set up at the line filming. This time I wasn’t anxious, this time I was ready to give it a real kicking, everything went together better, I felt more focused, they pushed me off, the motor sounded great, I’d decided to leave in third again, I slipped the clutch, the motor stalled, I pressed the button, nothing, I dropped the clutch, nothing, I turned out at a hundred yards. We quickly dragged the car back around and requested to be added to back of the group. The cowl came off, it was the crank angle sensor. Both Grumm and I had brought a are, because it looked cleaner Grumm had decided to use the one I brought….it was cleaner because I has taken it out of the holder and cleaned it, when I put it back it wasn't adjusted properly…both our faults. We took her back to the pit, pulled the balancer and replaced it. We then joined the back of the enormous line at pre-stage/marshalling, our final run would be Friday.

We were in the second group of ten on Friday, this time I felt at ease, completely focused.
I would leave in third, change at 150mph , and see what happened. We had Nat a journalist from Australian Geographical Magazine and her photographer in the push car, this had better work I thought. I felt great, the track looked wide and welcoming, I felt great in the car, I was itching to go, I did. I didn’t wait for the three toots as I was pushed off, I bounced the clutch and the car shot forward, I dropped it and eased in. I got the car settled in the middle of the track and stepped into the throttle, it was really pulling hard and it felt great, there was no wind and I could choose where I wanted it on the track rather than steering to keep it centered. There was a plume of smoke hanging in the cab, and I’d swallowed about half the clutch compound in the launch, yhr stench was so bad I could almost chew it…., I could tell the smoke was diff oil ( spilt on the exhaust during the ratio change)by the smell and I figured that they way it was sitting there that the canopy was leaking because normally smoke gets pulled straight out, but there it was hovering in front of me I could hear the cam coming on and looked down to the GPS, it took a couple of goes to focus as it was a little low, 148mph, I changed in a clean shot and floored it , The front end started to chatter, each wheel alternately at a pretty high frequency, I was worried I just watched it go , it subsided, then started again, I could tell it was due to the track and it didn’t upset the car so I stayed in it hard.  Now we were boogeying, next time I looked it was 185, then 194, then 208. I forgot about the GPS and concentrated on the track, next thing it was the six mile, I let it off and rolled, at 154 I shifted back to 3rd and had a toe on the brake. I hit the seven mile turn off at a hundred ,m the car had stalled as I turned out, I pressed the starter nothing, I tried a few roll starts, nothing, the car was slowing quickly …… I rolled as far as I could and got out as the Rescue team raced toward me, I stood on the car and gave them a double thumbs up. “Are you OK?”….”yeah, I’m fine I yelled back”….they had huge grins on their faces “YOU RAN 215!” they shouted  as they jumped out of the truck to push me away from the course…. My legs were like jelly but they mustered and we pushed the car another couple of hundred yards clear, they shook my hand and radioed through….

”Northern Rescue to timers, little bellytank 374 clear of the course”

As they drove away I laughed , all the anxiety, all the hard work, all the hiccups? They were gone, the little tank that could was on its way………the offer we’d had for help with a stand alone ECU was going to make this thing a contender, she’d pulled the 2.41 just like the 2.56…….we just needed more revs.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

2010: Lake Gairdner Speedweek...

Ok, this is the wrap.

We left Sunshine at about 10am on Friday the 5th, the Rev and Colonel arriving together before PJQ and Frank who were in the Land Cruiser( the "Troopy") which tows the tank in Pete's(PJQ) trailer, Pete had had a little drama in peak hour traffic with fuel system and had had to bleed it on the side of the road. I'd trailered the car the night before and finally finished the sorting and packing of spares and tools ....but as always there were things that I wish I'd done as well.

It's a left turn at the end of my street and then 450miles before we leave the Western Highway at Murray Bridge. The Troopy pulls fifty to fifty-five so the two station wagons went ahead. The train spotters will be interested to hear that my 3.8V6 with an older style fogger LPG system and a canvas top trailer got exactly the same fuel economy as the Colonel's 5.7V8 with an injected LPG system pulling a slightly bigger slope front trailer.... and I mean exactly the same, er, except when it used might be down to driving style rolleyes...

So we turn off at Murray Bridge and head toward the Barossa Valley one of Australia's premier wine districts where we were going to stay with our mate Dirty Dave , plumber and bike nut. Dave and Christine turn on a feed with the best t-bone steak I have had in a very long time....also there for the night was Brett de Stoop with his 1000cc waterbottle in tow and his mate and early DLRA member Nigel Begg who was one of the founders of Deus ex Machina the Sydney custom bike business .

We head off the next morning after an early night , we miss the highly recommended organic farmers market and stop in Nooriootpa for fuel and the Reverend asks" where is the aeroplane museum?"'s a few miles out of town. We find the place and get out of the cars for our first meeting with WH700 the Canberra bomber that our "bellytank" came from...the plane has two tanks on and we are still unsure as to why the one we have was separated from her but the build plate indicates it was one of the originals manufactured for the plane.We take some "family snaps" and get back out on the road for the four hours to Port Augusta.

In the "Gutta" we shop for food and buy a few things we've forgotten, then we go to the bottle shop shocked From the Gutta to the Lake is 130 miles, the first thirty five are sealed then it's onto the dirt....Saturday afternoon is generally busy and so it was , after passing a bunch of buses and slower moving tows we settle in behind Gnome Racing's Torana being towed behind a turbo diesel and they were hammering ,we made it to the Lake in under two hours and the road was generally good, dust was severe but the corrugations weren't as bad as they have been.

I drive straight out onto the Lake to claim a pit , laying out a tarp and dropping most of the tools and stuff off , a very very strong southerly wind is blowing. I head back up to the lakeside camp and we set up the "Casa del Canvas". Pete and Frank arrive with the Troopy and we send them down to the Lake to drop the trailer, Pete looked real tired , we owe him the world for towing our car these last two years, Pete decides to camp down the end of the campground with a view of the lake while we for some reason are in the boonies, our site at least was flat. We've barely eaten but after the massive meal we'd had the night before it wasn't surprising...we fixed a couple of gin and tonics, it started to spit.

It was a cold , blowey, and yes ....wet night....estimates of between a half and an inch of rain ....exactly what had happened last year, the sun rose with doom and gloom on the UHF, the Lake, was closed. At least this year we had the car in the pits. We walked down to the Lake and out to the pits which thankfully were a good mile and a half closer to the shore than usual, the stream which runs around the southern shoreline was flowing fairly quickly to the east but there was between one and two inches of depth and it was at least a quarter mile wide. When we got out to the pits we found there was a quarter of an inch covering the whole area, visibly flowing south east toward the shore and the stream, it was miserable. We opened up the trailer and got the car out and started getting organised.........the wind was blowing , the air was warm and the sun was starting to peak out, this was going to get better, the salt was rock hard, it might have had a covering of water but it was like concrete. There were already quite a few spectators walking out to the pits and taking photos and asking questions....we need to build a little box with a button and speaker because my jaw got sore telling people about the car, I reckon i told fifty separate people what we'd done to the motor in about an hour, always ending with " I'd better get on with it". We buttoned the car up , made everything weather tight and headed to the canteen.....we were in the middle of nowhere, out of contact with a bit of time on our hands and there on the hill was a little shack that sold food and was time to let our hair down a bit...truth is we were stuffed, I think we hit the wall at about 10pm and bedded down.

Monday morning was a better deal again, the air was dry, the clouds were gone .....we walked out to the pits and the surface layer of water was gone, the stream was only half as wide, this was going to happen. We set up the shade and the annex on the trailer and did all the fit up in the cart, the seat, computer and harness, did the "wheel alignment" mentioned above , polished the screen and got the car ready for scrutineering....there were mixed message about when this would happen so the last thing we did before walking off the lake was to push the tank into the line for tech, we were number four.

I got up at 6am and went for a shower, they are cold , and it was....I yipped as the water hit me...there was an old bloke laughing in one of the cans.." you're a braver man than me Gunga Din" I got on the push-bike and rode down to the pits, yep they were gonna start scrut'. I got the suit , helmet and log-book and unbuttoned the necessaries on the car. The Rev arrived just as Gaz finished . He picked us on a few things. We don't have a master kill on the extinguisher system to take out the hot side of the battery, he wanted more drainage holes in the bodywork, he picked a few bits of wiring that could be better protected , they will all be rectified for next year.

I left the tank sitting near tech until Rod Hadfield came over and asked me" how long are you gonna leave that there for James?"......I was pretty keen on being right on the spot when they opened marshalling.....we pushed her back to the pit about a quarter of a mile away and then hung around trying to work out how to swing it. The drivers' meeting was confirmed for 3pm, to be followed by the track drive....before the drivers meeting we rolled the car back near tech, the moment it finished we pushed to the marshalling point, we were fourth in line.....we went on the track drive with Simon Davidson photographer from Street Machine , he's a great bloke even if he is from Sydney and drives a Ford.

We get back from the track drive and it's all systems go. Its four o'clock as I drive straight into the crunchies from marshalling and everyone else drives around me...just like last year..this is the first proper drive I've had with the new motor...we elected to steer clear off the test track as it looked even rougher than last year, and I couldn't see then so we skipped it. The graded areas were rougher than last year we think because the salt was so much harder, another factor was that rather than using the club's old Dodge truck much of the work was done by tractors and some believe that the towing speed may have been too high giving a less satisfactory result.

So, here I am at the start line area for the second year. Last year the car ran 160 odd and felt like it was on hotmix and required almost zero steering input, we had a new motor ...I was itching to go. There was a succession of minor hitches with the clocks, then the first guy off the line was an altered 125, who stated he would be running a record, well, he ran the long track and they couldn't find him.......Speedweek 2010 was on.

I sat suited and belted in the car for nearly an hour, I'd had a small bowl of cereal and nowhere near enough to drink since dawn....I was feeling turned out we were to run eighth.

With a rolling push from a few guys I took off and the car felt strong, but I hadn't got my posi right ...the change to the seat base meant I was sitting lower....I shifted into third and was getting hammered while struggling to get a good view AND keep my helmet off the cage. The track felt rough and the cross wind was strong.

The start line had been moved because of the wet to where it was only about 1 and a quarter mile to the quarter trap. The two mile mark was coming at me when I checked the GPS, this was a 175mph license and 'chute pass , I was pulling that moment I hit a patch of track that threw the car and caused me to back off momentarily, I got back into it and was immediately hit by a gust that pushed me from close to the right side of the track to hard on the left, once again I backed off , when I stepped on it the rear end broke loose causing me to back I hit the first clock I glance down to see I was doing 155, I left the quarter at 165 and pulled the 'chute. It hit hard and as a consequence I clutched and hit the throttle at the same time giving her an over rev. I pulled off at the four mile worried that I hadn't made the cut.....I stopped about a mile off the track and waited for the Troopy.....the return roads were rough and the cones were scarce making it difficult to drive back unaccompanied and also for the first time there was a second track and I didn't want to risk the possibility of getting lost near the end of it. I followed the Troopy back going over the run in  my head....while I was driving I kept hearing what I thought was a clatter from the motor, and then I began to notice that she was feeling unresponsive, nothing  at part throttle and then blast off, it made it a real handful. We took it straight back to marshalling, I rolled the last few hundred yards, the Colonel was there...." how did it go?"...."there's something wrong" I said, "it doesn't feel right, i may have hurt it"......we fire her up and it's running on five, there is a clatter, after about ten seconds the Colonel kills it with a wry grin on his face and points at the left rocker cover and says "yep, there's something wrong, there, I can see a push-rod hitting the cover"............They announce that marshalling in closing so our number is taken and we roll back to the pit. On the way the Colonel says to me...." so, you've got that spare rocker gear with you?"....truth was when I elected not to bring the spare bottom end  and a spare head the parts that I had with them were left behind too.

We waited with baited breath as the first cover came off. There was the rocker sitting there , a tiny bit of swarf but nothing else...the bolt had simply backed out.  Seems the Colonel had undertorqued them. We checked the push-rod for true and did it all up again, then the other side. What a relief that was.

We hit the canteen , when people asked I confessed that I was disappointed, that I had been in a bad frame of mind, that I was impatient and that I had a bit of brain fade for the first fifteen seconds of my run. We had a great feed of roast chicken( no JN ,much better than it used to be) knocked over a few beers and had another early night, a camp near us kicked on til really late but we were in race mode.

As we were going to sleep the Rev said ....." fourth gear is forward right?", .."yeah, fourth is forward".........Come Wednesday morning we were up at sparrows and down to the lake .In the pit we checked the basics and rolled her up to marshalling. As usual the Rev was everywhere but hanging around the car , I got him belted in, with the general adjustment of the harness better than  we'd had it the day before with the catch centered better for the slightly lower seating posi. I stressed to him that he needed to "get into it early"....I didn't listen as he left the line, I raced back to take the Troopy......due to a change of arrangement at the last minute there was no way to avoid driving through the pits on the way to the return road...When we got down there the Colonel was waiting , " I think he broke it, he only pulled a hundred" ....we found him at the end of the GPS track, lost on the crunchies....he was very dull..." i put it in fourth, by the time I realised what I'd done it was too late so I got out of it and rolled through" he was shattered , I felt his pain.....we'd both driven three shades of shithouse and our pretty little car with it's new motor wasn't looking so great....... We went straight back to marshalling

As I sat at the start-line area I thought hard about what had gone wrong on my first run and what I had to do to. I had just scraped in on my 175 license so at least I could use the long track now....The seat felt better and I moved my head around trying to find a sweet spot off the roll bar padding and the head rest, most importantly I decided that I had to concentrate on staying in it, that I had to steer out of any wind effect and NOT back off, the peakier motor and no suspension mean that squirting the throttle means wheelspin and an unsettled ride.

I left the line and was on it from the get go, the car pulled very strongly  and I made the gear changes cleanly.....this time I was over 170 when I left the quarter and the car was pulling well with the speed increasing evenly. I passed the five mile and the GPS read 193, then 195 then 193 then 189...I had my foot in it still so I took this as a sign to get out........... I made it a mile or so off the track before missing a cone and going crunchy...I stopped and got out....the GPS read "top speed 195mph"...I was soup...exhilarated and exhausted ,I felt like yelling......but why did the motor go away , there was no noise, no oil light just a rather quick loss of power.

We thought about it. If it was windage and excess crank-case pressure we would have seen a rev-limit effect rather than the loss of power. We feel that the standard valve train is the cause as the hydraulic lifters will only handle 6250rpm for so long and then pump up holding the valves open. Other than that the ride was a little more "interesting" than it had been last year. Last year the track was really smooth and the car ran like it was on rails. This ride had a bit of wind in it and the track was much harsher. I fought the whole way down constantly steering back to the right in what felt like long carves with my foot on the floor……..

We whipped the cowl off and gave it all a look over when we got back to marshalling, it was AOK, it sounded good……we were fifteenth in line when they closed for the day.

The next morning the Rev told me he thought it would be better if I made another run for 200 rather than he repeating his ‘chute run , then he would go and if there was time have a crack at 200 himself. Anyone who shares a car will know that this was a fairly noble thing to do.

At the line for the third time I reasoned that I had to get going even quicker than I had the day before, to keep the ET down and see if the difference would get me over 200 before the lifters let us down…… I sat at the start and really concentrated, I paced a bit with my right hand going through the gear change routine……the night before the battery had given up, a motorcycle Odyssey type it was three years old, and dead….no-one had one with anywhere near the CCA we needed so the Colonel put an antenna base on the outside of the car as a hot contact so we could jump start her on the line without removing the cowl…… It all seemed to happen in a real hurry….one minute we were tooling about, next thing I jump in, we do the harness and then Cled waves us to the line, and signals me to go……. I nail it and aim for the right hand side of the track , the motor is wailing as I go into third at about 4 and a half, I change to fourth at about 5 grand and try to settle. The wind is strong and I feel like I’m crabbing….just as I hit the quarter trap my visor goes funny, like it was badly scratched, I think it may have been a bit of salt water from somewhere in the cab dripping into the air coming through the nose vent, whatever it was it meant I couldn’t see the GPS, or read the tacho…but I could see the track markers …..this was a pretty wild ride, I just kept my foot in it and steered her in long arcs fighting my way back to the right, in a straight line I had the steering quartered…I just figured I’d stay in it til the seven mile and so I did, I didn’t feel the power go down like I did before but to be honest I had a bit on my plate and some of the subtleties were lost amongst the noise , vibration and hairiness (NVH)………..Somewhere between the seven and eight I hit a rough bit of track and I think I got airborne, braked momentarily and got a little out of shape and then when I couldn’t see any cones I took the decision to pull off, then I saw the eight mile exit road, I lost track of that very soon after …the motor roll started once and then wouldn’t so I stopped…………I got out of the car and took my helmet off, the GPS read “top speed 195mph”….exactly the same as the day before, the clocks gave me an extra mile per hour, I reckon because I’d topped out a little earlier …..the Rescue crew took about a minute to reach me, they won’t tow or push so one of them helped me roll the car…I think he was a rugby player because he was as strong as an ox, we pushed the car about 400yards at which point I said “mate ,I’m going to die in a second”, then he ran back to the rescue vehicle and they called clear track….. I sat on the car , my adrenaline ebbing I realized we’d found the limit of the motor for this year…….it took about six minutes for the Troopy to catch up after various directions as to where to find me……….this time towing home I sat on top of the car with the canopy open….we had managed to keep the cab completely salt free but riding it like this meant the wind blew the flick up into the cab…but at least it was sort of bearable
…..being towed over some of the return roads the day before had been excruciating……….. As I rode back sitting like a rodeo rider it occurred to me that I drove a shorter distance to work each morning.

As we pulled into marshalling again I noticed a drip of oil under the car and a smear of it coming from the front of the cowl, action stations…… 
We took of the cowl to find the front of the motor wet and the source seeming to be the front seal, where the oil pump is. The Colonel said ….” It’s all over, pack her up”

I felt awful for the Rev who’d handed me another drive at his expense and now we were packing up and he’d had one unsatisfactory run……

We’d put 32 mph on our best speed from last year, we hadn’t hurt the motor( or so we thought) and we had plans for next year. It would have great to get to 200 but it was only our second year and lots of cars that had been knocking on the door got their 200 this year so it seems right that we wait…We met hundreds and hundreds of people, lots of them were fans of the car and had been following these build diaries, it is very touching some of the things people come up and say, we appreciate every bit of it .

The Reverend and I  worked our guts out for years building this thing but there are two people particularly that we need to point out have been instrumental. The Colonel makes it all work, keeps our feet on the ground and provides a necessary balance in the team between our personalities . Pete (PJQ) is our immaculate transport, he is there providing support and anticipates everything, we couldn’t do what we did without him and I’m never sure how to thank him.

We left first thing Friday and drove for thirteen hours, for thirteen hundred kilometers to my brothers house, we got home to Melbourne at 11am Saturday……yesterday I had a gig at a community festival ………..bring on 2011


2009 The Spirit's first year at the salt, Lake Gairdner Sth Australia.

OK, as mentioned elsewhere the week started with rain,we got in Sat night and copped it as we tried to erect the tent. A miserable night with on and off rain and blustery winds. Sunday there was a general feeling of disarray as we all wondered, walked back and forth to the lake to check the situation and chit chat went on on the UHF , the good thing though was that it was blowing a southerly and it wasn't raining. There was grumbling as word went around about a film crew who'd shot a car ad and apparently dumped thousands of litres of water at the entrance ramp to the lake when they washed their gear the day they left.

Come Monday the situation improved again and the word was that we could get onto the lake on Tuesday.We headed out and set up our pit, unloaded the car and got everything organised.There were a couple of hitches. We'd never attached the canopy with the tub on the car and that proved to be a hassle as we weren't in any hurry to hoist the car onto the stands,after we'd done that we went looking for the third fire bottle that Grumm had brought from Melbourne, it was the wrong size. Our fire system supplier had sent us a new one when one failed a test.It was too big and wouldn't fit into the spot where it was supposed to go, technically we could run without it as we weren't going 200 this year, so we removed the mount.In a happy ending another crew had a non-compliant fire system and the bottle we couldn't use got them through.

We were the last car scrutineered on Tuesday,

apart from a few small issues which were noted in the log-book for attention we cruised through. It was a strange feeling as they handed us the sticker and said, "congratulations boys , you can go racing".

Wednesday morning we started early and took the car to the test track.I got in , belted up, fired her up and took off. The test track was very rough and our car has no suspension and less than two inches of clearance . It was immediately apparent that the clearance on the cheek bars in the cage were too tight and the rock hard SFI padding was transferring vibration to the helmet, I couldn't see, anything. It felt as though there were two people using my head as a speed-ball.I got back to where everyone was waiting and flipped the canopy up..." it's f***** , I can't see " was a very low feeling .Apart from that the car seemed great , it wanted to go, sounded good and felt right. We took it back to the pit and pulled out the SFI padding on the cheek bars and put in the softer "you'll go to hell" red stuff and went straight back to the test track. This time I could see , I had to concentrate on trying not to lift my head up and try to see over the tacho, that made for less stepped out nicely as I gunned it back towards the crew.

"Let's put it in line" , it was about 4pm before we were called in our group of ten to the start line. From the marshalling area I drove straight into the crunchies and couldn't see... we are too low to easily see the graded areas and once there is fine vibration the cones are hard to spot, fortunately the guy behind me drove past....I followed him to the start line keeping my distance as he seemed to be able to brake a whole lot better than me.

The vibration issue had me deeply concerned, I had the worst case of pre-gig jitters I've ever had and was at that point convinced I was going to struggle to see well enough to avoid taking out either trackmarkers or timing gear, I decided that I would abort if it was too severe ,my guts were churning.

Next thing I'm on the line, it's really hot and my sunglasses are fogging so I push them to the end of my nose, I'm trying to remember a million things at once...there's banter going on between the starters and Cookey the timer "it's Dr Goggles for his inaugural run....give him a pat on the head for me "......then Cled the chief starter gives me the rolling signal.

The car goes and sounds good I take it to four grand in second ( we start in second gear) and shove the stick forward against the lock out , grab the front stick and it snicks into third I get into it I realise there is no vibration ,the track is as smooth as a baby's bum. I've got the shift light set at 3750 which should be 125 in top gear, it blinks as I change into fourth. It comes on again as I pass the mile marker.

The quarter trap is at the 3 mile, the start is at the one so I've got a mile of this before the lights .I settle in , I listen to the motor as I hover around 3750, make a note that there are fumes and that I may have burned the clutch on the trip to the line. I'm sticking to the right side of the track looking out through the screen to the right of the tacho and watching the little cor-flute markers zing one point there was a bollard that was a little too close for comfort but the car was right at home,it felt like a kiddies ride. 30 degrees of steering castor make for something that just wants to go straight , no shimmies no drift in the was tame.

The 3mile came up , the light went off briefly so I kicked it a bit. I stood on the clutch pedal and rolled for a few seconds before I shifted back to third the car slowed gradually over the mile and I turned out after the four , I got off the return road for a bit into the crunchies , at eighty miles an hour it's pretty severe, found the road again and headed back to the pits where I rolled up to the end of the staging line. Grumm lifted the canopy ...."nice one , you did 114". A huge weight had been lifted, the car that we built in the back yard , went, it did what it was supposed to do, it had no bad habits, it wasn't broken and the vision aspect wasn't an issue on the properly prepared track.

Next it was the Reverends turn to do his 125 pass , he was to run in Fuel class which has never been contested at Gairdner.Just as we were called to the start line the battery refused to start the car , we towed him there and did a battery change at the start line area, there is no "idiot light" so the alternator wasn't charging under 2000rpm We wound the shift light up to 4000....I'd left the gearing charts at home and the 3750 figure was from memory. Due to the number of entrants it was 24 hours after my 125 pass before he got to behaving like a dad at junior sports day the Rev at his Zen like best...wandering around seemingly unconcerned about anything...." get in the bloody car Dik".

Off he went. It was an indescribable feeling to see the car speeding away from me and although it’s a V6 that’s still very stock it sounded sweet. He too ran 114 which as a matter of course was a record, when he got to the pits it was straight onto the end of the line . We were number 22 when the course was closed for the day.

My 150 license pass had a little sweetener . No-one has run an E class Gas Lakester since 1998 and the record was set at 145mph. Within the stipulations I could run to 165 for my license which is what I intended to do. I left the line and the car felt great ,  I got into it a little harder than I had and was pulling 138 after the first mile and the motor was singing with the speed climbing steadily. I got to the three mile at 160 , the GPS was showing 162 163 when the car began missing ……momentarily I thought “Dodge, don’t let me down now” when I remembered that I hadn’t flicked the fuel pump over-ride and the pump was cutting out at 5200 rpm.

This is a video from inside the cab...

I got to the pits and again Grumm opened the canopy and said “congratulations you did 161”, once again the car was a pussycat , straight as a die.

It was Friday and there were thirty cars ahead of us, word went around that if the competitors stayed to help dismantle the track equipment that everybody in the line would get a run.

The Rev was suited up , the signage on the car changed to E/FL and off he went on his 150 pass
, you can see him leaving here.....

, a bit of an over rev on 3 to 4 but the car sounded sweet. We set off in the chase car as the radio announced he’d run 152 , a quick check over the pits as we passed to make sure he hadn’t beaten us there as we headed out the return road… not there, about two miles out we saw the “Taxi” headed toward us …he’d run after the Rev…..we turned around..”he must be in the pits” just then Grumm came along on a scooter” where is he?” …”we couldn’t see him in the pits”….OK “ “I’ll go back and check again , you go on and call Northern rescue”…..we called the rescue guys” Support crew for the red and white Lakester , we cannot find the car”, they came screaming toward us with lights flashing and as they got closer they pointed out towards one of the islands….There he was , a mile off into the crunchies.

As we got to the car I hung out the window with a thumbs up “Heeeeyyyyyyy”……but he wasn’t in it, he was nowhere to be seen , and there were no footprints. Standing there with puzzled looks on our faces we made jokes about him being abducted by aliens…..then another support vehicle turned up , he got out with a huge grin on his face, he’d missed the five mile turn off, got the sixth but promptly lost sight of the road and after being belted around inside the car his knee broke the back off our kill switch and the car wouldn’t start.

That was the end of the week , we’d achieved everything that was possible in the time we had , the car held up we were all still friends and we’d had one hell of a time.

I’m very happy.

Mangalore: The first test drive......

Early start yesterday morning, the car had been put on the trailer the night before and all that remained was to load up the tools , fuel ,water and other sundry bit and bobs and hit the road.Mangalore is about 60 miles north of Melbourne and it's freeway all the way , I picked up the Colonel and we were on the way...some of you will be pleased to note that we played Dwight Yoakam's "Guitars , Cadillacs" most of the way there....

On a trailer for the first time

We had a few friends and family who rolled up to watch , mostly I think they were there to confirm their own suspicions's abounded , my 80 year old mum was there telling all who'd listen stories about me as a kid and monitoring the "coarse talk". The Reverend's name is "Dik" , my mother steadfastly refuses to call him that , she calls him Richard.. wink

There were about eight other cars there when we arrived as well as three bikes , the factory blown Vincent from Adelaide owned by the Penn's and Greg Watters with an R1 he just picked up still with grind marks on the tailpipe and lights from being flipped , Greg did a couple of runs around 250km/h(~158mph) .Spook had his Trumper there but wasn't entirely happy with the tune he had going and didn't get to wring it's neck but gee it looked a treat.Rod and Carol Hadfield were there with his new HAMBster 

,Brian Nicholson and the Moe boys, David Partridge with his indescribably violent sounding RX7 which I have renamed ( unofficially) as "Swearing Around Children" because no-one wants to hear it.

Max Ellery was there with his Commodore he got in some runs around 120mph and was happy with what he's done with the car, there was a new streamliner sans bodywork with a Toyota twin cam 1600 that got a lot of attention owned by a Graeme who's surname I missed and a couple of cars with number plates on 'em.Graeme's streamliner was a little "wanting" in the electrical department , our Colonel , who's a Graham himself felt a kinship bond and got it sorted out , he's a genius. Sadly Norm Bradshaw who organised the booking of the airport and has run an early Mustang with a 499 that's gone about 210 til recently couldn't get his new car there due to engine management issues and a near disastrous fire the night before .Norm's new car is a late model Falcon dressed up as a taxi with a big block Ford and a turbo "big enough to put your head in " , still Norm had a good day and his booking didn't go to waste and I think the hat that got passed around covered him.

We got the tank off the trailer pretty quickly

and put some juice in it , made a few checks and fired it up sounded a bit rough and then started shutting down, fuel?? I changed the fuel filter as the tank is new and it had had a crumby one in it previously...turns out the MAP sensor wasn't properly plugged in...try again ,still a bit rough, oops , two leads were mixed up!!!!!

, try again ...r,r,r,r,r...poop, is the battery flat? huh? we pull up PJQ's car next to it and get the jumpers out...this is embarrassing. The alternator is either dead or we've got a wiring takes the Colonel about three minutes to work out that there's a broken's it starts , now it sounds good....we pushed it back to the start of the taxi-way that we're parked on

( on the way it runs over my foot and wrenches my noticed. embarassed) and I jump in and give it a little test , it REALLY goes!!!!!....

roll it back and another little test. Right! , it's on. I get the suit on and we get ready , Greg Watters goes down and checks with the guys at the end of the taxi-way , we're on.  I get it down there and start struggling with the gear shift , if you bend your wrist inwards and hold it up near the right side of your chest where it feels like it has no strength then it is where our gear stick is.....grind , screech , grind , clunk... my leg is already tired.......a hand signal and I turn left out onto the runway .Rod Hadfield had said " just take your time and have a few looks at it all and find the rough bits before you get into it"....I'm in third and I can't tell where I am on the track ...I can't see the line , I can't even tell the grass from the rougher tarmac at the edge ...F#%&* it I think and give it some throttle takes off ...ahh ,there's the line over there , man it's rough but the car is great , it wants to go straight , and fast .I see some cones and get on the brakes , well at least that's what they're called...I manage to get it back into second and get off the clutch and put all my strength into the brake pedal slows enough to be able to swing around the cones ...I'm ah kind of excited at this point and have a little trouble getting my s#%* together again this time I get it into fourth as I go past the end of the taxiway though I'm probably around 2000rpm , it's just chugging , apparently the radar trap that has been set up registers 119km/h( about 70) I turn at the other end and two things hit me ...I can barely breathe as the fumes are so strong in the cab and my legs are nearly shot from being tense and trying to work the pedals........I overshoot the turn off and pull up and pop the canopy.

Back at the pit we work out the fume problem and cut a little "smile" vent in the nose to pressurize the cab ,further work will need to be done to seal the body against the frame.The gear shift will need to be sweeter and there will need to be changes to the geometry and hydraulic ratios of the brakes and clutch.....but apart from that IT'S FANTASTIC....... grin grin grin

The Rev suits up.

After noticing that the cable mount of the gearshift looks fatigued( turns out I tacked it in position when I was setting it up and never ever went back, oops)we decide to get him to run in third only.......he does six passes and returns completely buzzed . I got back in and gave it a bit of curry , I'm too far over for the speed trap to register but I'm in fourth and well over three grand the runway has several really sharp bumps that are jarring ... I overshoot at the end despite turning it off and getting both feet on the brake pedal, when I finally do swing it around I flick the switch and it blasts off again , I might get to like this .when I get back in the temp gauge reads 200 , when we take the cowl off we realize she's thrown the belt.....we deal with that and send the Reverend out for another run, he canes it and comes back with a grin from ear to ear ....we were both thrilled.

Apart from a water leak from a dodgily installed sender( me) a gearbox oil leak ( a breather will help) and the fume problem it went astoundingly well.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Genius of Jack Dolan....landspeed linguisticisms

This is a collection of posts from Jack Dolan ( Jack D) from . Jack has been involved in many significant landspeed contenders , has set many records but most of all had a way of putting it into words that not necessarily everyone agreed with, but gee they make great reading.....

Jan 24 2006:
A lifetime work is just that and deserves all the time you have
 over what ever length it takes for your satisfaction.
  Don't be consumed by it.
You are not playing to anybodys schedule but your own.
The idea is to get it ready for an event but never call it finished or you will be.

Jan 24 2006:
You guys are going to be vicious spectators that I wouldn't wish on anybody.
 Armed with a camera, a curious eye, and the time to use it.
 As part of your probation we expect a full report.
 Take a lot of pictures, we can turn them over when they get here.
How else are we going to know you were not just having fun while we have to stay home.
You must realize the blender deal is for medical use only, but you do have a Doctor and a Chaplain along.

Jan 31 2006(after what appeared to be  a naked picture of Dr Goggles was posted).......

The pictures were very inspirational and touched many hearts.
 Just this afternoon we have raised over $12k American and after I deduct my
usual fees we have enough left to get both of you in new clothing.
 Not any of that second hand stuff.
 We are going to put it with one of your regularly scheduled air drops every 3 months.
 We just missed the big Christmas deal but the first 1/4 will really go fast.
We hope that will help, actually we are really counting on it.
Jack wink

OBTW: BBB was a little concerned that it looks like you don't eat too good.
 Maybe if you don't spit out all the flies.

same day
 our politicians start out in a suit and end up naked.
The big difference is they are all much bigger in the end and the belly button is quite a distance from the backbone.
It looks like you are spending all your lunch money on the car again.

and again

Actually maybe not enough or the choice is wrong.
Be particularly careful when dating out of your species, sometimes they want a long term commitment.

Then when we couldn't get the tank ready in time I decided to build a sidecar for the Colonels Vespa...

Jack named it the "Marriage Mobile" and wrote this....

That Marriage Mobile sounds like you have given it a lot of thought.
 I see your business really booming.
 The only thing I might suggest is a small trailer suitable for vending.
 You don't want to let the crowd go away wanting. wink
 June 10 2006
Now is the time to stop feeding your driver because they tend to grow over time.

In hindsight Jack was right , after weighing in at 73kgs for 25 years I hit 40 and promptly put on 13kgs....

June 27 2006

If something works but it is not pretty, that is my favorite.
 If asked, I won't hint that it works but suggest it is just a temporary short cut until the pretty one gets back from polishing.
I have spent more time polishing off questions than polishing parts.
One of the most efficient aero packages I have ever seen is from a really unthought of source.
The true lines are confused to the on looker with a mish mash of stickers that trick the eye .
 The viewer will often dismiss it as junk.
Too bad for them.

June 28 2006

An aero package is used that is the result of some extensive and successful testing.
It's use at Bonneville is on another brand that one would not connect with the brand represented by the streamlining.
Dimensions in excess of those found to be successful will fail in less than ideal conditions that are seldom seen over the distances traveled.
"Good theoretical designs produce only theoretical results."
"It is better to watch first and then think instead of doing all the thinking first yourself and then end up just watching."

June 29 2006

"It shows ta go ya the Bellytank has not been perfected yet.
When they are, the Chinese will build them cheaper and everybody will have at least one.
LSR is safe for now.
Not enough people have figured how to make enough money yet and completely ruin it for those that choose to do it another way." wink
Aug 6 2006

The last water tank that Nolan built was measured to fit the frame in the nose just as tight as could be made.
IT was a beautiful job of fitted and welded aluminum.
It was all straight cut pieces with some folded corners and the rest was welded and fit pretty good.
That evening ,I came over to check on the progress and found the tank was all radius in the panels and really fit the space available.
 I had no idea who and how all that extra work happened , but now it was better than ever.
As we were locking up that night he said "I saw you looking at the tank and you never actually asked about it." What happened, was during the day he fired it up and chuffed a head gasket into the water jacket and the squeeze from 1 jug " PILLOW POOFED" the tank to fit.
It was an unintentional result ,but he silently enjoyed the credit for all the extra work.
 If you were brave enough to ask , he was brave enough to share the truth.
That is really the important part for both sides that needs more work.

more later

The high ride , or the low ride......height.

Some decisions about aero....

From "Australian Bellytank" on published Jan 2006

I am writing this reply to you and to whoever else is interested or wish to chuck their two cents in.

Apologies for the usage of the high falutin metric system.

For those who missed it Rex pointed to a page in Goro Tamai's "The Leading Edge" discussing the manner by which drag quickly increases below a certain ride height and cited some figures which seem to threaten our design's efficiency.

I must admit that this area has had both the good Doctor Goggles and myself ponderous as to the correct direction to take so I went out and found a copy of the book. Below is a history as to how the bottom is as it is at present.

Our main Aerodynamics text to date has been  "Race Car Aerodynamics" by Joseph Katz, Ph.D which I can recommend for its readability and information.

The difference between the two texts is that Katz's book focuses on methods of maximising downforce due to aero effects whilst minimising drag whereas Tamai's focus is about eliminating downforce altogether.

Tomai's book is written primarily for  solar cars where energy conservation is a priority and traction issues marginal. As the title suggests Katz's focusses on racecars which have different criteria (eg cornering and acceleration issues).

Upon reading Katz and understanding the traction difficulties on salt,  we found ourselves considering all sorts of thoughts of ground effect devices but for a number of reasons were reticent to embrace them.

Firstly we did not wish to destroy the traditional style of the belly tank so we were reticent to go too far with a diffuser etc.

Secondly, we are building against the clock so we wish to keep it simple for its first years out then can tune the shape against a base model.

Finally it is a bit of a black science when you don't possess a wind tunnel and you could do a lot of work that makes the Dodge thing slower.

We were cheered up by the fact that the So-Cal Lakester belly tank wannabe (So-Called belly tank?) turned up sporting a similar method that we considered. Rex mentioned that it hasn't performed well yet but in its defence Bonneville has seemed to be pretty rough of late and not conducive to ground effect technology. Neither is several inches of water  so the jury is out for me on that one.

My understanding of how it works by looking at it is a splitter at the front to stop air creeping under and provide some downforce at the front, then has a difuser at the back to accelerate the air that is underneath so that a low pressure zone is acheived by the Benouli affect pulling it down. It doesn't seem to have skirts so I would imagine that it sucks more in from the side rather than the car down causing drag inducing vortices... correct me if I am wrong. (anyone GM?)

Anyway, for the above reasons we have decided to not have any ground effects for March and have addressed the issue of traction by making it HEAVY. (No replies please Propster).

Our intention was to get the car as low as possible for stability and to acheive the goal of having the axles on the centre line this put the diff in the widest point of the car and meant body panels could sit over each appendage minimising cutouts, oh yeah it looks cool too.

A number of cars at the salt are really low and perform well so we assumed that the drag due to ground proximity was minimal. For example one car we have enjoyed watching develop is John and Paul Brougham's belly tank which has put in multiple 200mph runs over the past couple of years at Gairdner and is very low (see image). Admittedly it is a little TOO low as it bottoms out a bit at the moment but larger Goodyear Eagles are on their way! Both John and Paul have been very helpful in providing us with much info along the way.

The Brougham tank does have a curved base though where we are proposing a flat base. Our favorite tank was the Hooper tank (the flat head killer) (see image) and part of its charm is the low flat base, as is Xydias' original SoCal and we made the decision early to go down this path.

So what height is the best height?

On page 118 of Tomai is a graph outlining the best ground clearance heights for certain shapes to ensure lack of drag due to ground effect.

Rex indicated the row entitled, ?torpedo shape with an oval width / height of 1.25 and length/height of 3.6. has a H/l of  0.3 min. to 0.05 ; that is a minimum ground clearance of 126mm to 210mm for ours (our car being 4.2m metres long.)

Currently we are around 40mm so that looks way under.

But our w/h is 0.88 / 0.81 = 0.92 and l/h is 4.2 / 0.884 =4.75 and extremely tapered. Tomai's calcs are predominantly to be used for a solar car of width of 2metres and 400 to 700mm thick and of fairly uniform shape for the length.

A better zone of the graph therefore to look at is:

?Torpedo with flat bottom with various cambers and width=height? which is worked out as a ratio of height to breadth at a Hmin ratio of 0.15.

For our car that makes 121.5mm (a whole 3.5mm lower!!!!) but at least it confirms that we are at the lower end of the scale.

The fact the whole shape is tapering I assume will lower the impact as well....?

The mention of "Camber" refers to the amount the centreline axis of the shape is above the chord from tip to toe expressed as a percentage. (Bloody ?camber,? couldn?t the nerds have used a term not already in the automotive lexicon???)

The curve of the centerline of our car caused by the extra tank on top and chopped bottom  helps counter the drag caused by proximity to the ground  by increasing the distance traveled over the top of the car and hence similarly accelerating it helping equalize pressure.

The book says the ideal amount is between 3% and 6%. I worked out ours to be 4.7% (yay). Apparently the best shape to have is a slight ?S? shape in this camber. Ours is that slight S shape so that seems helpful.

Drag versus downforce?

It would seem to me though if we are running a car with more horses than we are putting to ground through traction issues on salt then ground effects are the way to go. The racecar book says that the downforce via diffusers et al is a cheap payoff, and we can overcome the extra drag by the extra efficiency of getting power to ground.

If we find that we are only just pulling top gear (or heaven forbid worse!!!) then reducing drag to the utmost becomes paramount and then up she goes!

This will be one of the many possible learning things in March should all go well.

Sorry for the lengthy post Rex (trying to get those points) but I wanted to answer your query with a complete reply and to prompt some discussion on this and maybe even assist someone else...


Thanks for the great reply! I certainly understand the pressures of trying to get something ready for the race, it seems that they will start the race if you are there or not! So you bust Acura to make it happen. As far as ground affects go, I did talk to the young aero engineer that claims responsibility for the new So Cal tank and he claims that the ground affects on that car have no effect on the drag. Well, he was claiming to be an "aerodynamicist" and I am just an old engineer that likes to "diddle" in the aero stuff BUT nothing is free! If you generate any kind of aero lift, up or down, then you have a coefficient of lift which means that you have to supply some kind of HP to make it happen. Yes maybe the So Cal car has a small Cl but it does have one and it does take power to overcome and with HP limited cars that can be the difference between just going fast and going fast enough to have the record. The one think about the "sun cars" discussed in the "Leading Edge" is that they are all very restricted on HPs and so they really do alot to make sure that they have everything low drag and very low lift. It makes a big difference as to the aero detail you need to look at if you have a 2000 HP Hemi in the back.

My favorite tank lakester is Seth Hammonds old car, look at the ground clearance, lots of it! and that car holds more records in more classes with more drivers, than just about any car.

Good luck on making the March meet and let us know how you do!!!!!

Rex Schimmer