Speed is an addiction. Speed will take your time, your money, and your sanity. Speed leaves grown men dazed, mumbling incoherently about the importance of every tenth of every second. Speed is a cruel temptress, luring us in with glimpses of what could be, inflating egos and inspiring (false) confidence in talents and abilities, only to reveal herself as a fleeting fantasy, unobtanium for us mere mortals. We’re left wanting more, we’re left knowing intrinsically, that there must be more.
Speed is an addiction, and I’m back, again. I want more. I know that there is more. I need more.
The drive to nowhere is quiet. More time to obsess over numbers. In December of 2014, I actually made New Years Resolutions. Never in my 23 years, at that time, had I ever made New Years Resolutions, but with the encouragement of my girlfriend, I did. One of them was a 2:03 at Buttonwillow’s 13CW configuration. Last year, I had gotten down to a 2:09.5. 5.6 seconds from that was an ambitious jump. My track schedule for the year had 3 allotted shots at it then. This was number one.
I had made a few changes to my car since my outing at Button. The car now had a Torsen LSD via MFactory, the cooling system had been flushed with distilled water and water wetter, with the goal of lowering running temperatures, and I had fresh front rubber on the car. I was hoping that with the cooler February temperatures, and the changes to the cooling system, that I could keep the car running cool enough to turn the boost up from stock to my usual street setting of 13psi.
The drive to nowhere is uneventful. Turn over some mental movies of my last event at Button while idly cruising through the desert. Check into the same hotel, and slot the car in a free space between all the other racers at the hotel. Check out is going to be loud tomorrow morning.
People came out of their rooms, and some were taking pictures. It was 7:00AM and racers readied themselves for the day ahead. It was a parade of decibels at check out. The sounds of engines violently exploding themselves into motion, and the loud idles of one too many cars without mufflers. My people.
About 15 minutes later, there we were, all lined up outside the track gates, waiting to slither by the guards of the gate, and ready for track warfare.
Once inside, everyone began the frenzied scurrying that happens at every event. The unloading of supplies, pre-flight checks to cars, tire swaps, suspension adjustments, weight reduction.
Oh yeah, registration!
Timing transponders. 1 pound projectiles, swathed in orange jumpsuits, hooked to the outside of your car.
No. I didn’t. I couldn’t have.
I just broke my windshield.
In my excitement of doing pre-flight checks, and boy, are those exciting, I set my transponder on the windshield and began dithering about under the hood. My excitement continued as shocks were checked, and fluids inspected. Time to move on. I slammed the hood shut and heard the sound of money burning a painful, fiery death.
I didn’t have the foresight to think that the transponder was situated just right, so that if I shut slammed the hood shut, it would pinch between the hood and the windshield. The metal clasp of the transponder’s case punched through the base of the windshield.
My natural reaction was calm, cool, and composed. I screamed at the car “Fuck!” and walked away. About 37 seconds later, I decided that I had already come all this way, I was going to try and track the car with a broken windshield. I began some low speed tests, driving through the pit, looking for bumps to see how stable the crack was. Was it spreading?
Thank God for the event’s “self tech” process, that I completed before the car had a broken windshield. If I tell myself that everything is okay, and ignore the big crack in the glass right in my direct line of vision, then it is okay.
The search for speed had already begun showing it’s lurid, cool grasp. It was taking my money before I had even begun.
What do you mean the GoPro turned off? Well, at least some good had come from it. Session 1 proved to be a great refresher on how to handle the track, and what to expect with the car, the way it drove, and what sort of speeds I should be expecting throughout the course.
Also, my quick and easy cooling mods seemed to have helped. Water temps were rock solid at 205*F (t-stat value), and oil was about 265*F. The JB4 has oil temperature protection, and bypasses itself when oil hits 270. So, I was just able to squeak out under that threshold, and the car was happily hitting 13PSI of boost.
My last outing here was at stock power, and I was able to do a 2:09.5. With the boost turned up, getting caught in traffic, I managed a 2:08.5.
The crack in the windshield spread about 4″ over the course of the session. Uhhh, it’s safety glass, right?
I got the bump, and was told to go play in the red run group with the fast cars. Huzzah!
The car felt good. Engine temps were still bang on and the car was running great. Traffic was still an issue. Our lap times may have been similar, but Buttonwillow rewards both power cars and momentum cars, so the flow can get a bit off. Also, with the boost turned up, the rear tires were struggling to keep up. Some areas where I could have used 2nd gear to power out were relegated to 3rd gear to keep those rear tires from blazing.
And the times just keep on dropping, 2:07.5:
I like where this is going. What I didn’t like was that the crack in the windshield had spread another 4″. It seemed like it would only move so much in a given session, and then just stop and stay put. Young and dumb, let me back out there!
Excluding the windshield, everything about the car felt great. The mild weather meant the engine was in it’s happy place, and the car had a good balance to it with the fresh front rubber, which helped balance out some of the natural understeer built into the car.
However, you can’t beat everything. Funny enough, this video cuts out at the last lap I was able to complete during this session. I was really in the zone for this one, and after this I was on a mostly clear, solid-feeling hotlap until I came around sweeper, heading towards the esses and the back straight. The car choked and shut off. I looked down, and temps were fine, but I was completely out of fuel. I went through over 1/3 of a tank of fuel in this one session! The car had fuel starved on my cleanest hotlap of the day. Fortunately, I was able to coast the car from sweeper into the pits, and to the on-site gas station and fill up. Unfortunately, I saw track marshalls waving the checker as I was filling up. Damn.
Well damn, or be damned: 2:07.250, another quarter of a second down! That last lap would have been a fast one, I just know it.
Hmm... Bode well for track day, this does not.
Aww man. At least the windshield isn’t leaking. As the clouds unleashed a small, but furious storm upon us, the event was halted.
Eventually, rain became drizzle, and drizzle turned to mist. Track marshalls began trying to dry off the track surface with a tractor and a large street sweeping attachment, hoping to whisk away all of the standing water. Slowly, event organizers began driving the track, hoping to clear up the racing line. Eventually, it was go time.
Wet, slick, but drying, we were up. At least the sun was coming out.
2:10.6 on a damp track. Not bad. Not much else to say, really.
Actually, I do have one quick bit to get in here. I would like all readers to acknowledge that the windshield is a structural part of your vehicle. The reason that it was progressively cracking throughout each session was that it was giving a practical demonstration of chassis flex. The broken glass acted like a weakened link in the chassis, and any flex was put through the crack. This was an expensive science lesson, but still, neat to watch unfold.
Didn’t happen. In the run group before ours, a Hyundai Veloster Turbo caught fire after going off track coming around the left hander and onto the main straight. The driver was fine. The car didn’t have any obvious exterior issues, looking from the pit lane wall. Just poof, up in flames! The emergency rescue crew were there in no time and doused the little Korean. Looks like some sort of mechanical failure in the engine bay started a fire. Marshalls towed the car back to the pits, and the inevitable mob formed around the car. It was covered in soot and fire extinguisher residue and water, so it was tough to tell what had happened.
There was oil on track. Perhaps a hot oil line blew off? Once they got the car off track, and cleaned the oil spill, we were told to gear up for a short session, 2 laps max, no times. The majority of us were sufficiently spooked, and headed back to grid. The day was done.
Blessings manifest themselves in strange ways. Right after coming back into grid, my friend Mika found 4 VERY loose wheel studs that surely would have resulted in a 3-wheeling FR-S, and not long after that, the crack in the windshield hit overload and the crack lengthened until it ran from side to side of the windshield. I guess we were done here.
The drive home was slow. Since the glass had suddenly devolved so greatly, I didn’t want to risk it collapsing on the ride back across Southern California’s bumpy roads. I dialed the suspension into full soft rebound and creeped along doing 55mph the whole way home.
The lighting isn’t great, but you can see that the crack had spread all the way across the length of the glass.
I was able to arrange for a mobile glass installer to come to my office in the following days to replace the windshield. A couple hundred dollars later, and we’re ready for action.
I’m thinking about commissioning for a custom vinyl that says “No transponder” and putting it on the bottom of my windshield. Call it insurance for the forgetful speed freaks among us.
I felt good leaving the event knowing that despite the traffic, and small issues, that the car still improved so much. There was a lot of time left on the table. I’m resolute in my resolution, 2:03 or bust.
I guess I just still want more.