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Guest TroubleOnWheels
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Guest TroubleOnWheels

First, a disclosure: I'm currently a volunteer with ChumpCar and I was co-captain of the #80 Free Range Racing MR2 (think failed windmill/turbo). My opinions and views are biased as such, and they are only MY views and opinions, not 'official' ChumpCar stuff. This is a racer and a volunteer talking only.

The race was stellar. That about covers it all - stellar. Competitors were 99.5% awesome, understanding, and thrilled to be there. The driving was really, really good, particularly considering half the field had never, ever been on a race track before. The four rookies on my team had an out-of-their-mind good time. One had a few track days on PIR an wasn't expecting much from this experience, and he was blown away by how much fun he had.

So, some details...

Competitors got to the track on Friday, put their cars through tech and safety inspections, and then went through the inspection process. What with this being ChumpCar's first time at all this, it was perhaps ~less~ perfect than it could have been. We were a little disorganized and communication between ChumpCar's 'teams' was lacking at times. In the future ChumpCar will get that process down to a science. However, I think for the competitors, it probably wasn't too painful. There is another post right now about the inspection process, and I'm going to talk about the inspection details over on that one, so here I'll just say the inspections got done and registration was completed and no one got hosed in any way, but it could have been smoother.

Part of the inspection process was reviewing school supplies brought for the Portland Transition School, a school for homeless or in-distress kids that is tailored to their situation. We hoped people would step up and bring a few bags of pencils an paper. We set up a sliding scale with estimated $10 spent = 1 bonus lap, with a max of 10 laps available for very very generous teams. We didn't expect to give away to many 10 lap bonuses. What happened blew us away! In the end, I heard we got $11,000 worth of supplies and cash donations for the school!!!!!!!! They literally brought a BUS and we packed it to the roof with supplies. The looks on the school staff's faces was priceless. If there is a true winner in this race, it is all the competitors who made that moment possible. Everyone went above and beyond all possible expectations. This is my personal THANK YOU to every single team that brought their hearts in the form of help for a special school!

Saturay morning people were still wrenching on cars. A lot of people, actually. The 39th car showed up after having spent the night in the hospital with an ailing team mate (word is he's OK now). Their poor car (#6 camaro) suffered all weekend, I think they spent the most time under the hood. But a heroic effort all in all. Driver's meeting went down and everyone was warned there is a chicane on the back straight and if you hit it the charge is $250/barrier. More on this later :)

(Most of) the cars fired up and pulled out on track under yellow. We had a great mix of cars! Some American iron, a few Japanese pocket rockets, and a whole lot of crap. But, they were all running within a few minutes of race start, and the green was dropped.

The track was soaked, and it rained for the first 8 hours on and off. Everyone was reasonably well behaved on-track, with no major incidences of one car smashing another or radical out of control driving. There was almost no diving of corners, no pushing off track, no aggressive posturing. I credit this to the way the race was managed, which was laid out in the novice school and drivers meeting, and well stuck to - ChumpCar was not going to penalize every little thing. Minor contact happens, finding the limit can be tricky and sometimes two or four wheels off is the result of fining that limit. When driving in traffic and trying to find new lines, people spin. ChumpCar recorded every single incident that happened (32 pages of them in shorthand notation!), but unless a particular car AND driver were multiple repeat offenders, it was accepted as part of racing.

Penalties DID happen, have no doubt. If a driver was spinning off at corner 4, then 7, then 4 again, then bumping (etc etc) then they came in for a 'cooling down' period. We had the wrecking crew inspect their brakes, tell them that yes, in fact, they were OK and should probably be used more often, then sent them back out. 15-30 minutes to cool down, realize they needed to find a new driving style. No forced driver changes that I saw. If a car passed under yellow (and OH! how they passed under yellow!!!) they were pulled in, had their engine inspected, had their eyes inspected, had their tires swapped and so on and so on, sent back out with a warning to watch more closely. Repeat offenders got to spend A LOT more time having their car inspected and then getting to put it back together. Only a few cars were pulled in for HARD contact, and that was usually with a wall due to radical over driving, and was mostly paired with damage to the track they needed to be informed of and chastised for.

Then there was the chicane. The back straight had a chicane to slow speeds down. See, the back straight has a wall ON THE TRACK edge, and speeds of 110 are possible. Oh, and it's not actually straight, it's a long, shallow, off-camber corner. At 110. In the rain. On street tires. So, there was a chicane. Was. A couple hours in to the race, the green SHO taurus clipped the outside barrier trying to sneak through. The race was stopped, crews were sent out to fix it, the SHO was hauled into the penalty box and parked for 2 hours. About a 15 minute delay in racing. A few hours later, we had word that <edit>a miata<end edit> had literally OBLITERATED the final wall of the chicane. Racing was stopped, and we went to inspect the damage. There was a 150 yard STRAIGHT skid mark right into the barrier:

(picture to come when my blackberry doesn't suck so much)

We were getting down on barriers at this point, as the sharks had obliterated three more. Then the call came. The Breast Men (car 00) had slid sideways into the barrier and taken out like 8 of them. The chicane was done. In a stroke of genius, the breast men team walked the pit and held out a had and said 'hey, what's it worth to you if we take out the chicane' while the teams still didn't know what had happened. Word is, they collected a handy amount of cash :)

So the rest of the race was run without the chicane. It worked out fine, everyone handled the speed well, or moderated themselves to a speed they were comfortable with. I only got on track for a few hours, but I was so incredibly impressed with the quality and fierceness of competition. This is very legit racing, and because of the more realistic penalty rules, much more fun and competitive than 24H-LeMons can be. I prefer this format far and away, but again I may be biased.

The attrition rate was very low. The shark bit it. The Volvo wagon busted an axle. The brakes on my car caught on fire. I'm not sure who else was out at the end, but I'd bet it was less than 5 cars.

The trophies were amazing. I'm sure photos will come up, but I don't have any. Huge cash prizes were handed out (first, second, third and theme and engineering). I could barely see straight when I towed home last night :)

I can't wait to see what other competitors have to say, but for my $$ this was the best racing I've been a part of.

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Guest wipeout

I was crew chief for the 00 and I'll have my own recap coming later (been uploading photos).

The back chicane - we went around and collected money after the restart Sunday morning - the question was actually "How do you like the back straight today? We're paying for it!" We collected enough to probably pay for most of the damage done. Our driver had 3 options - go left, get into the grass, and crash into the wall, hit the slow cars trying to navigate the chicane, or go to the right, slide sideways, and take out the remaining three barriers with the right side of the car...I think he made the right choice, and we STILL managed to stay out and keep racing.

We had a ton of fun.

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We were getting down on barriers at this point, as the sharks had obliterated three more. Then the call came. The Breast Men (car 00) had slid sideways into the barrier and taken out like 8 of them. The chicane was done. In a stroke of genius, the breast men team walked the pit and held out a had and said 'hey, what's it worth to you if we take out the chicane' while the teams still didn't know what had happened. Word is, they collected a handy amount of cash :)

Thats AWESOME!
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I am glad to hear you guys had a good race.

After just completing the largest LeMons race ever, 130+ cars at MSR running full course with no chicanes, I am starting to believe chicanes cause more trouble than they save. We raced like the SCCA does and everyone seemed to have a great time safely. I am sure there was contact here and there but far less than we had with the chicane.

A Spec Miata guy in my car is totally hooked. He had a blast.

With both races seeing positive results without chicanes, maybe that is a sign.

Regarding penalties, I guess it took until this most resent race to realize the #1 thing people need to get out of a penalty is to pull their head out. It doesn't really matter what you did or your punishment, you need to realize you messed up and adjust accordingly.

"The brakes on my car caught on fire." TroubleOnWheels

Just pointing this out but in my opinion, most stock brakes are not made for racing. Fire is bad.

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Guest tallzag

Well as one of the cars that didn't make it very far I was very disappointed, not at the race but for our car. We were the Size Does Matter Chrysler and had a push rod go through a rocker arm which took out a rod bearing and we were done for the weekend. Think the car inspections could have gone smoother (will be interesting to see a couple of these cars go through the Lemons BS inspection) but liked the penalty format. We only got three hours on track and 4 of our drivers didn't even get to race but that is racin'. This was our 7th "crap-can" race and our first major breakdown. Time to scramble to find a motor before Thunderhill in three weeks.

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Guest TroubleOnWheels

With both races seeing positive results without chicanes, maybe that is a sign.

No one likes chicanes. Unfortunately, with a bunch of newbies on very fast tracks, it is a matter of slow multiple accidents vs. one high speed very bad accident with a wall. Organizers must choose safety. In the end, people had experience with the track and the missing chicane wasn't an issue. This will be reviewed on a case by case basis.

Regarding penalties, I guess it took until this most resent race to realize the #1 thing people need to get out of a penalty is to pull their head out. It doesn't really matter what you did or your punishment, you need to realize you messed up and adjust accordingly.

Truer words have never been spoken. The one team that had a seriously bad time did so at their own peril, because of course they were never at fault and the officials were after them. I hope they live and learn.

"The brakes on my car caught on fire." TroubleOnWheels

Just pointing this out but in my opinion, most stock brakes are not made for racing. Fire is bad.

Fire is bad. So, it turns out, is running four races without replacing pads. This was a maintainence failure, not a brake failure. We simply finally wore through the inner pad, welded the steel backing to the rotor and ripped it out, then puked out our piston on the next brake application. The brakes are more than adequate for racing, we just needed to be more diligent in our pad replacement. Except for a few notable exceptions, most stock brakes are fine for racing if they are maintained properly and have quality components.

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Guest TroubleOnWheels

Well as one of the cars that didn't make it very far I was very disappointed, not at the race but for our car. We were the Size Does Matter Chrysler and had a push rod go through a rocker arm which took out a rod bearing and we were done for the weekend. Think the car inspections could have gone smoother (will be interesting to see a couple of these cars go through the Lemons BS inspection) but liked the penalty format. We only got three hours on track and 4 of our drivers didn't even get to race but that is racin'. This was our 7th "crap-can" race and our first major breakdown. Time to scramble to find a motor before Thunderhill in three weeks.

We were very sorry to see you guys go. From now on, bring a spare 318 so you can get back on track! Heavens knows its not a 440, but they're dirt cheap, smallish (for towing around with you), and will run forever!

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Guest village idiot

The shark miata didn't hit the barricade at all. Our driver was following a Camaro in the dark at about 1:45 am when the Camaro decided to drive into the tire wall. We followed him into the tire wall since it seemed like the thing to do at the time and THEN we were done. Apparently Camaros are a bit togher than Miatas. He drove away, we didn't. Just trying to keep the facts straight. :)

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Guest TroubleOnWheels

The shark miata didn't hit the barricade at all. Our driver was following a Camaro in the dark at about 1:45 am when the Camaro decided to drive into the tire wall. We followed him into the tire wall since it seemed like the thing to do at the time and THEN we were done. Apparently Camaros are a bit togher than Miatas. He drove away, we didn't. Just trying to keep the facts straight. :)

Fixed, sorry. It's hard to keep straight.

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Guest AndyDenver

We were very sorry to see you guys go. From now on, bring a spare 318 so you can get back on track! Heavens knows its not a 440, but they're dirt cheap, smallish (for towing around with you), and will run forever!

I bet that might run the radiator fan and alternator - but when you kick it into gear, instant stall. Not enough torque to move that much beef. ;)

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Guest Tuff240

The attrition rate was very low. The shark bit it. The Volvo wagon busted an axle. The brakes on my car caught on fire. I'm not sure who else was out at the end, but I'd bet it was less than 5 cars.

For the record, the Volvo did change the rear end at the 23rd hour and ran the last 20 or so minutes.

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Guest schwank

Yeah we (00) certainly do thank the paddock for helping our one driver with a $750 debt! All the money you gave went to charity and certainly not to us. The PCC Automotive Tech program thanks you!

I drove from 10-12 PM and had not seen the chicane prior to lap 1. As a racer with Portland as my home track, my first impression was that it was dangerous. Yes, I understand the purpose. However the sweeping bend results in drivers coming around the corner and bearing down on the water filled walls, which are only wide enough for one car. I had a situation with a 5 car group that I thought was pretty hairy... two rows of side by side mixed traffic. Everything came off fine but obviously in several incidences it didn't. To my knowledge there were more issues because of the chicane than without it. I certainly thought it was cleaner during my second stint Sunday afternoon. The back chicane encouraged 'big balls' driving, and in instances of widely varying car types, resulted in wild variations in capabilities (braking and handling) in that section of track. In Portland, that leaves the main straight for power cars and the rest for handling cars, when that back straight normally provides an area for traffic to sort itself out.

I enjoyed it, but we did have a red flag during our session for obliteration of those walls by another car. My personal belief is that I understand the intent, however that setup does not fit the nature of the Portland circuit.

Thanks to everyone for an awesome event. There is a groundswell of support to keep our car and ready it for battle again in the future. This weekend was so much more than I anticipated, and I look forward to being back out there!

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