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Saturday, 30 July 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.

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