For the next installment of the adventure....
With the new transmission installed, the car fueled, and my camping gear packed, I headed out. The event was loosely planned on a forum and I invited some automotive enthusiast friends, but conflicting plans and such meant I was going at it alone other than a forum member I had never met. I figured at worst I was going to get to drive my car in a safe environment, and get a chance to test out my camping setup in the Z.
I looked up the address at work, google was telling me I would be going through the national park, but when I looked it up before I left it told me I was heading another route, saying I would arrive a few minutes earlier.
With headphones in I started off. About an hour in I realized I was getting a bit light headed, a combination of the heat, possible fumes (no cat), and lack of sleep. That along with my GPS speedo not picking up a signal, and the compounding fact I didn’t have time to stop and reset, meant guessing my speed based on the road and RPM on a transmission I had driven maybe 25 miles on.
My phone informed me I was 2 minutes away and since I had made good time I also had about 20 minutes, so I took a break stretched my legs and used the restroom at the local gas station. Hopped back in and took off, to realize I had the wrong address.
This definitely was the place, but it wasn’t. I had typed in several times mill at packwood, but it had corrected to the mill in Randle. 10 years ago I had gone to an autocross at Packwood, and more recently on the last offroad adventure we had driven past the site, so I knew this wasn’t it and must be further up ahead. I jumped in and stormed off realizing I was not going to make the cutoff for tech.
I desperately searched for an address, and finally found that Tire rack had a national event there and listed the address.
I arrived about 5 minutes late, pulled in and realized I could at least watch if not run the next day, to my surprise a very friendly looking individual ran up and introduced himself as the forum member. He also told me he would try and get tech back open.
I waited, and someone came to help me tech, and someone else came and helped me registered, I would be racing!
Unfortunately I wouldn’t have a chance to walk the course, but once again the friendly forum member offered to take a ride with me and show me the course and give me pointers.
The site really is gorgeous, sitting in a valley the weather was fairly cool with a constant slight breeze. The acoustics were amazing as well with backfire bouncing around in the valley.
Pulled the Z up to the line, and putted around while the friendly forum member showed me the course, I was familiar with the first section, having stood at the corner for course work, but had a hard time with the later half.
We got about 6 runs, I missed so many gates or had to back track that I was sure they were making the car behind me wait extra before starting. I was thankful my car was loud enough that I couldn’t hear the commentary and thankful I had made the distinction that this was really very new to me when asked. Fastest time was around mid to high 70 seconds (fast cars were running in the 50's)
Then came the test and tune. My goodness, they give about an hour for as many runs as your group can squeeze in. The first group was fairly consistent, I think about 10 cars or so with individuals swapping out. Then it came time for our group, about 10 cars lined up, and after the first couple runs people started dropping out, that meant those of us willing could basically hot lap our cars. I want to say I got a couple runs in then asked the friendly forum member if he would take my car out, his first run annihilated my time (65 seconds), it was fascinating watching within even the small confines of the course how he setup or how he approached certain lines and gates. With new found vigor I went after it, consistently driving down my time, breaking into the 60's coming down from the 70's, then I realized I was seeing the temps climb up to about 193, opening the hood I found the oil catch can line had popped off and everything was just super hot. Turning the car off the engine continued to cook to almost 200, letting it idle with the hood open it dropped back down to 185. Definitely need to get some kind of extractor in there. I let it cool and adapted a new policy of 3 laps then cool down then repeat, I want to say I got maybe 12 runs or something pretty ridiculous, near the end it was basically a honda S2000 and I that were going out, and when I sat out it was him just hot lapping. I had to call it early as the car started to bog on turns, while my fuel gauge optimistically read 77%, I knew that couldn’t be it (I usually fuel starve on hard corners under 50%)
After that I parked and threw the hood up, while I went to use the restroom, I came back to find a small crowd around the car, was a bit concerned, then someone pointed out that my intake was sitting on my serpentine belt. Hose clamp was gone and the intake was chewed up.
Someone offered some zip ties for the drive home. Quite glad I called it a day and didn’t cause any harm to the car. On further inspection I found a new oil leak (from the oil level sender) and also my brake line on my hydro seemed to have sprung a leak probably from the hard braking.
Not good, but with some repairs I knew I should be fine for the drive home.
It also gave me a chance to look over some cars, the friendly forum member has a purpose built autocross Z.
He cut I think something like 500 pounds out of the car.
He walked me through quite a bit of it, and with my acquired knowledge I was able to ask questions and chat, not something I was able to do 10 years ago.
He welcomed me into his little group, I’m not the most sociable person as I’ve mentioned, so I appreciated the hell out of the gesture.
If that was not enough, the Oregon SCCA group had a potluck as well.
The spread was impressive, and I was happy that I was told so I brought some snacks to share. They had burgers, hot dogs, salad, fries, chips, cookies, fruit, and even cake for goodness sakes.
Later in the evening a trailer pulled up, the friendly forum member said he was going to say hi, and said it was a really cool car. I recognized the company from the internet and tagged along.
It was really really sweet, once again, I was able to hold a conversation, going over what was done. 3D printed parts, accessory deletes (no accessory belt at all, no alternator, running an electric fuel pump, and electric power steering!), crazy lightening of the chassis with weight distribution. Intercooler and radiator were mounted flat to lower the center of gravity, so many crazy little things. The guys were really really cool as well, encouraging me to take a look, and taking real pride explaining what they had done and how they did it.
Someone had brought a portable fire and I sneaked my way into the circle and stayed warm, they talked of cars, of events, of racing. Really it was a great day.
The next day I stayed around to watch the some of the cars run, mainly I wanted to see the Evo from the night before. Boy was it fast. After a few runs I started heading out, annoyed now that my fuel gauge was saying I was at 17% vs the 77% the day before. I knew I should have checked earlier, but alas. I drove to the nearby gas station, when I pulled in I found my door wouldn’t latch. After filling the tank, I took to the task of taking off the door panel, realizing if it didn’t latch I was going to have to tape myself in. Luckily I was familiar enough to realize the rod had popped out of the striker connecting it to the door handle, after quite a bit of manipulation I was able to set it straight. Back on the road. This time since the GPS knew where I was it told me to go through the park like it originally stated. The first bit was fine, gorgeous, with temptations to pull over and take photos, but then I realized it was the road I had taken earlier in the year with my friends and suddenly it was much more frightening and fun in the Z, we just kept heading up and up and up, passing was a breeze when I needed to and the turns were easy.
I kept a weary eye on the oil pressure and the temp, but much to my surprise, the car ran fine even under extended load uphill. Then came the down hill, I left it in gear hardly touching the brakes the whole way down, a good 30 miles or so it seemed. I ended up driving past a store I recognized that a youtube channel guy works at, I figured if I was unwilling to stop at an amazing backstop centuries in the making, stopping at a pizza place of a local youtuber seemed to be silly. After a quick bite nearby I finally made it home.
I will say, someone mentioned it before, but pretty much my inclination to speed is all gone for the moment. Additionally a new found appreciation as well. During the runs you would see people consistent as hell suddenly spin out, similarly as I was finally getting the course and starting to push power, on a corner I had yet to miss I suddenly found my self sliding into a “wall.” Just a reminder to take it easy in the real world.