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Team PontiAxed (#55) Post-Race Report


JustinParcher
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Team PontiAxed Portland 2010 Post-Race Report

We're a brand new team, with three newbies, and one veteran Chump, in a brand new car... so forgive me if some of this is relatively uninteresting or blatantly obvious... we're learning!

From the beginning- we got the car to the track under it's own power for tech inspection on Friday, which was a relief. Since the car is still road-legal, and we live only 30 minutes from the track, we figured we'd save on transportation costs, and just drive it to the track. We got some funny looks on the way, but the car got there alright. This proved to be a bit of a blessing in disguise, and we discovered a loose hose clamp and tightened that before the racing began. We passed through tech with only one hitch, we had never tested the cutoff switch with the engine running... and of course the alternator still powered the engine, and it continued to run. We spent the better part of Friday night setting things up, and then rewired the cutoff switch correctly to be ready for the race on Saturday. As you will soon learn, all the handling of the wiring leading up to that switch may have been an issue.

The car had electrical problems on the pre-grid Saturday morning- it stalled during the initial roll off and wouldn't restart. We push started it and made it to pit out before it died again. "The Yellow Truck" towed it back to the pit, and we spent about the first 45 minutes or so tracking down and fixing the issue. The battery cables on both sides of the cutoff switch had some weak crimps, which with extended handling the night before had become very loose. The intermittent electrical power was solved by recrimping those connections. That at least got the car starting, running, and turning laps.

Another issue was that something in the electrical system was preventing the car from starting on it's own for most of the weekend, so we had to bump start the car any time it left the pit. Our guess is that the newly replaced battery just doesn't have enough cranking amps to overcome a heat soaked starter with a bunch of extra battery cable imbetween.

Aside from a couple other loose hose clamps at different points, the car had no breakdowns the entire weekend, just persistent slow cranking from the starter. As I'm sure most of you at the track were aware, this became a bit of a problem with three new-to-racing drivers behind the wheel... nearly any off-track excursion or spin meant coming in behind the yellow truck again. I think we got towed a total of five or six times during 18 hours.

Sunday, we missed pre-grid by a few minutes trying to fix the starting issue, but were unsuccessful in getting that sorted out. We seemed to drive better Sunday, possibly because there were fewer cars on track, or plainly just because we had some experience under our belts. :lol: One minor overheating issue caused by a cheap (Made in Mexico) replacement thermostat cap was taken care of quickly, otherwise the car was mechanically sound for all but one lap on Sunday. In turn 6 on the last lap, the car massively blew out about a 6" tear in an engine coolant hose, dousing the rear tires in water, and causing the car to spin. The driver was able to get the car back to the pits alright, albeit at 30 MPH or so. This was really our only issue Sunday, aside from the persistent electrical/starting issues carried over from Saturday.

Overall, I think the car is a pretty darned good start. We could easily cause the brakes to fade to nothing, and so we had to be real conservative with them at the ends of both straights. Thats the biggest improvement we can think of to make with the car, will be to take the stock brakes off, and find some better replacements that fall within the 2x rule. That, and get the starter issues squared away, and I think the car will be up to racing in the top-third of the field or so. As far as the drivers... only one of our four had ever been on track in race conditions before. The rest of us were turning our first race laps in a car that had never been on the track as well... so forgive us if we looked scared or inexperienced: it's probably because we were!

Big picture is this - we learned a lot, had a remarkably fun time, and will definitely be back in April to race at PIR again!

Also, if any of you have anything you'd like to share with us as a team, I would appreciate constructive criticism. Did we get in your way? Make a dumb move on track? Let us know... We're trying to get the hang of this racing stuff as much as possible, so we can collectively have as much fun as possible.

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Guest weezilusa

Did you have any type of brake ducting installed on your fronts at least? Even with stockish brakes with upgraded pads, a simple little duct can help cool the brakes a lot!

It was my first time racing as well, sure is intimidating at first!

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No, didn't have anything to cool the brakes. It was on our list of things to do, but we just didn't have the time to get it all done. For perspective: we were still mounting the seat into the car as the gates were opening at the track for tech... and managed to show up with the car ready (save for the kill switch issue) before the infield was open.

We're still undecided if we should make an attempt at just making some cooling ducts and run stock (non-vented solid rotors, stock calipers, and semimetallic pads), or find something that does a better job at stopping what is a deceptively heavy car.

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Solid rotors, so it is not an 88. Grand Am brakes are a cheap upgrade that easily fits the 2x rule.

Also the rears can be upgraded by using ones off of the rear of a 97 Firebird and can be bought at NAPA (Part # 4886407) for ~$25.00. These are 11.5 in. (as I recall) I put these on the front of an 88, don't remember what differences you will run into.

More details here
/>http://www.pelkie.com/fiero.htm

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You guys were great to race with when I saw you out on the track. Always looking and being considerate passing and being passed. Nice job! Having worked on a Fiero before I"m impressed at how successfully you fellows campaigned it.

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Guest Methius

I'm impressed for a couple reasons:

1) You showed up in a Fiero

2) The Fiero actually RAN

3) You did not get the spin award

4) You had 0 cooling issues

I never had a problem with you guys on the track. I was in the beat-to-hell MR2

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Randy - You guys were wicked fast, at least whenever I was on track. There were only a few cars that could get past us on the straights, and I think your car was one of them. We were no competition at all in the corners, I always wanted to move over for that Scirocco, just because it would scream past me in the twisties if I gave it the chance.

Matt-

1) We did show up in a Fiero, which is good, because that's what we have been preparing for a year. I would have been concerned if we arrived at the track with something else entirely. :lol:

2) Fiero has run great for the first year of ownership, until 1 minute after pre-grid on Saturday when it decided that the battery cables didn't want to stay crimped, but we got it back out 45 minutes into the race Saturday.

3) We didn't get the spin award, surprisingly. With the 5 people who were in the car on track over the weekend, we collectively spun 6 times I think. So roughly once every three hours or so.

4) We had 2 cooling issues, it lost some water from the radiator hose clamp in front half way through Saturday, pegged the gauge and I brought it in. Topped it off and went back out. Sunday, it failed a cheapie thermostat cap, which was easily replaced with the 25 year old factory original that worked better than the new NAPA one. That caused a short overheating issue, but it went back out. Last lap Sunday, it blew a 6" tear in the coolant hose at the engine. We repaired that after awards on Sunday, and drove the car home. :D

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Randy - You guys were wicked fast, at least whenever I was on track. There were only a few cars that could get past us on the straights, and I think your car was one of them. We were no competition at all in the corners, I always wanted to move over for that Scirocco, just because it would scream past me in the twisties if I gave it the chance.

Yes your car did have some good power down the straights. I think our car only seemed to be faster because I was able to carry so much more speed out-of and into the corners. We really were running a junk yard engine. It was a block out of a crashed car and I used parts from 3 previous failed Chump and lemons engines to put it together. Our car was really on rails through the corners wet or dry. I could drive any line and it still seemed as fast or faster than any other car even if they had the race line.

I really appreciated the consideration from some of the higher HP cars down the straights. I was able to carry speed out of a corner and pass but the high HP cars could catch me by mid straight and almost always would give me just enough room to make a good corner entry so I could create a gap so we could both continue with no problem. Thanks :)

If you need any help with setup, talk to Hank at Advanced Auto Fabrication. He really knows how to set stuff up to go fast. If you are coming to the Spokane race, get there early and have him check it out for you

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Yes your car did have some good power down the straights. I think our car only seemed to be faster because I was able to carry so much more speed out-of and into the corners. We really were running a junk yard engine. It was a block out of a crashed car and I used parts from 3 previous failed Chump and lemons engines to put it together. Our car was really on rails through the corners wet or dry. I could drive any line and it still seemed as fast or faster than any other car even if they had the race line.

What were you driving Randy?

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^Haha, sounds about right. The two squirrel cars looked great this year on their new wheels!

Team PontiAxed: I can't remember any time where I was dissatisfied with your guys' performance, so yeah, you must've done well! :) I was driving the #96 Volvo 142 early afternoon and second to last stint of Saturday. We kept drinking "coolant" for the last 4 hours of the race and were all(except for one driver) too beat to drive the car on Sunday. We were working up until the start of the race on Saturday as well, trying to get it all ready. Bedded in the pads during the first stint!

Regarding the brakes, definitely look into ducting in addition to whatever else you may come up with!

See you next year!

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Like I said in a previous post, I think we'll be doing some easy mods to the car over the winter, to be ready for April back at PIR. Fresh pads, some brake ducts, and a better alignment will do wonders to getting the car to stop reliably, and be able to keep more speed entering a corner. More speed on corner entry = less brake effort to slow the car down.

Also, less tire pressure would be a step in the right direction when it's wet out. 31 lbs cold pressure makes a Fiero dance kind of funny when the tarmac gets slick. I am scared to run that high in my street Fiero, let alone when it's on track, building up heat/pressure in the tires, going faster, and in more treacherous conditions. Not gonna listen when my guys tell me to run them that high again.

We had one driver who took one short stint in the car, and got really unnerved. He didn't think racing was his cup of tea after that. First race out, and he paid for all his gear new, and the seat payment for the weekend, and all he got was minimum time in the car. I felt terrible about it. After talking to him a couple days later, it seems he was just so overwhelmed by it all. He thinks he'll be OK for the next time so long as he gets some time in the car off-track, and gets to walk the track to get a feeling for where the line is. Time will tell. This situation was kind of a blessing however. Our "ringer" former LeMons and ChumpCar racer Zak was a valuable resource- he has raced his own crapcan Fiero, and was able to give us a lot of useful info before and after the races. His buddy Nathan was in the right place at the right time, and took our newly vacated seat time on Sunday. Some of you may remember a very faded gold Fiero at the Portland race last year- #15 PontiHack/Government Motors. Zak and Nathan were two of the drivers on that team. They both were extremely valuable in telling us what was good and what needed improvement on the car. I asked Nathan and Zak Sunday afternoon if they were reminded of the first iteration of their car, after driving ours. I was impressed and a bit shocked when they both agreed that they felt our first try at a Fiero ChumpCar was better than theirs was originally. All the long nights, months working on the car, money spent getting it going, and braving the cold and the rain suddenly seemed worth it.

I jumped out of the car after my first stint on Saturday and proudly exclaimed "That was the best hour and a half of my life so far!" Hyperbole or not, it was an exhilarating weekend. I'm going through withdrawals already... April can't get here soon enough!

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We had one driver who took one short stint in the car, and got really unnerved. He didn't think racing was his cup of tea after that. First race out, and he paid for all his gear new, and the seat payment for the weekend, and all he got was minimum time in the car. I felt terrible about it. After talking to him a couple days later, it seems he was just so overwhelmed by it all. He thinks he'll be OK for the next time so long as he gets some time in the car off-track, and gets to walk the track to get a feeling for where the line is.

Reminds: When does a Chumper get to acquire non-race track time these days, without belonging to one or another of the clubs which run up here?

(It's always been a bit of a worry in my mind: Getting prospects seat time well before the race, so any -- issues -- can be worked out in advance of the event, and avoid the situation described above. Not least because if I ever do get to run a CCWS event, *I'm* going to *be* one of those prospects.... :P )

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Guest Methius

Reminds: When does a Chumper get to acquire non-race track time these days, without belonging to one or another of the clubs which run up here?

(It's always been a bit of a worry in my mind: Getting prospects seat time well before the race, so any -- issues -- can be worked out in advance of the event, and avoid the situation described above. Not least because if I ever do get to run a CCWS event, *I'm* going to *be* one of those prospects.... :P )

most "clubs" don't require you to be part of the club to run the event, you just need to have money :)

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most "clubs" don't require you to be part of the club to run the event, you just need to have money :)

Hey Matt, as our regional Chump guy, maybe you could post track days that are like that(just sign-up and pay) so we Chumpsters could get to them. Are there any at Kent you know of?

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Karting at a good rent-a-kart track would probably be very valuable for someone who has no racing experience at all. I learned a lot that way myself.

The nearest karting facility to me is a Malibu Grand Prix; I'm not sure that would pass muster, even if I ran one of the Big Cars.

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