The weekend go off to a bad start, when
the car had essentially no brakes when it was unloaded from the
trailer. Bleeding the brakes helped, but the pedal was still
somewhat soft. Things didn't improve when Ron took the car out
for the morning warmup session, and immediately returned to the pits
with a bad vibration in the left front. Tom and Ron immediately
went to work disassembling the front suspension, looking for anything
which might be causing the problem. With no obvious source of the
problem, the team decided it was probably caused by a badly out of
balance wheel, and installed a known good wheel and tire for the
qualifying session. They also bleed the brakes again, trying to
improve the pedal feel. Carlos was fastest in the morning warmup,
with a 2:05.2, followed by Scott Neville with a 2:07.2
Working on the rear brakes.
For the qualifying session, the vibration was improved, but still
there. Ron soldiered on anyway, and managed to put down some
times. Ron qualified third, with a time of 2:06.5. Carlos
earned the pole, with a time of 2:04.6, followed by Scott Neville wit a
2:05.8. Dan Piña rounded out the field with a
2:07.5. Joe Craven did not run in the qualifying session, and
would start at the back of the field.
Thinking the vibration could be caused by the bearing failing, (and
grasping at straws somewhat) Tom swapped the hub and bearing assembly
with the known good spare. A drive around the paddock showed that
this seemed to have fixed the vibration, so Ron suited up for the race
with confidence that the car was ready.
Setting the toe. Again
The car felt good for the reconnaissance lap, and Ron settled in for
the start. The green flag fell, and Scott Neville got a good
start, and led the pack up the hill. Scott continued to lead into
the carousel, where Carlos drove around the inside. Scott and
Carlos touched, kicking Scott's car sideways toward the inside of the
turn. Carlos took over the lead, with Ron right on his rear
bumper, drafting him all the way down the straight. When Ron
turned in to T7 the vibration came back in the left front, shaking the
car violently. Ron limped his way back to the paddock and parked
Scott leads the pack up the hill
With Ron out of the race, Carlos had the lead, followed by Joe.
Scott got back underway, and began chasing down Dan for third
place. Around lap five, Joe pulled off the track with a shifter
linkage problem, moving Dan and Scott into second and Third.
Scott caught Dan on lap 8, and the pair battled for position for the
remaining laps of the race, swapping positions six times in the last 2
laps. Exiting turn 11 on the last lap, Dan had a one car length
lead heading for the checkered flag. The drag race was on, and
Scott pulled slightly ahead when Dan bobbled the shift to fourth
gear. Scott took the checkered 0.2 seconds ahead of Dan and 10.8
seconds behind Carlos who took the win. Joe had the fast lap of
the race with a 2:05.1, followed by Carlos with 2:05.4, Scott
2:05.5, and Dan 2:06.7.
Scott after contact with Carlos
With the car broken, the team conferred to try and isolate the
problem. Scott Miller as a NASA driving instructor was allowed to
drive in the Time Trial groups, so he got in the car and ran a couple
laps to try and isolate the problem. He determined that the
vibration was speed related, and happened both in gear and in Neutral,
also with the clutch in or out, and independent of engine RPM.
The only possible culprit was the driver's side axle. The outer CV
joint was inspected when the hub was replaced, and showed no signs of
problems. The inner CV wasn't checked, simply because the inner
joints are very lightly stressed compared to the outer, and very rarely
fail. The plan was to replace both axles. The problem was
sourcing new axles at 4PM on Saturday afternoon. Luckily, Dan
Piña works at an auto parts house. Dan got on the phone to
his work, and sourced the new axles before they closed. There was
no way to get from Sonoma to Redwood city to pick up the axles before
the shop closed, so they hid the axles next to their dumpster.
Marcus volunteered to drive Ron down to pick up the axles, while Tom
took the car apart. Marcus and Ron spent the next 2 hours
fighting San Francisco traffic on the way to Redwood City.
When Tom disconnected the driver's side CV from the Transaxle, a metal
chunk fell out, which was later identified as a bolt. The stock
output flange has a plastic cover to keep the gear oil in the transaxle
from mixing with the grease in the CV joint. Somewhere along the
line this plastic cap was replaced with an aluminum cover, with a small
bolt through the center to hold the cover in place. The bolt had
backed out, and had rattled around in the inner CV joint, causing the
Ron and Marcus returned with the parts, and they were installed around
Sunday morning, Tom took the car out for the morning warmup, and the
car was good. The vibration was gone, and the car was handling
well. In the middle of the Tom ran wide in turn 3A, dropping the
left side wheels off the track, knocking the toe out of alignment. Even
with the toe change, the car felt good. Tom was second fastest in
practice, with a time of 2:07.3. Dan was fastest, with a
2:06.7. Scott and Carlos turned times of 2:08.6 and 2:092
Between sessions Tom and Ron tried to adjust the toe, and discovered
that they couldn't adjust the toe any farther. There was not
enough adjustment available to set the toe to the desired setting of
1/8" toe out. With both rod ends screwed completely on to the tie
rods, they still had 1/8" toe in. The team conferred, and the
hasty solution was to use the sawzall to remove about 3/8" of material
from one of the tie rods. This was quickly accomplished, and a
rough adjustment was made to the toe, with the plan to run the
qualifying session and do the fine adjustment before the race.
Tom took the car out for qualifying, and was happy with the
handling. The only problem was a very occasional miss under
load. Tom Qualified third, with a best lap of 2:06.05.
Scott Neville earned the pole with a 2:05.00, followed by Carlos with a
2:05.05. Dan qualified fourth with a time of 2:06.2. The
car had developed an exhaust leak, but aside from the sporadic miss was
Ron and Tom set the alignment, and decided to pull the spark plugs to
verify the plug gaps to try and troubleshoot the miss. One of the
plug gaps was a little tight, it was regapped and reinstalled.
After everything was buttoned back up, Tom started the car and
immediately heard a metallic knock from the engine. The noise was
RPM dependent, and a vibration could be felt in time with the
noise. With no way to determine the actual source of the
noise short of a full teardown, and no time or parts to fix it in any
event, the team threw in the towel.
Tom and Ron used the come along to load the car on the trailer, and
packed up for the somber trip home.
Scott started the race from the pole, but Carlos took the lead in turn
2. Joe worked his way through the field, into second place.
Final positions were Carlos 1st, Joe 2nd, Scott 3rd and Dan
4th. Joe had the fast lap of the race, with a 2:03.84, followed
by Carlos 2:04.70, Scott 2:05.38, and Dan 2:06.62.
With the engine dead, and their DNF and missed race putting them out of
contention for the GTI Cup championship, Tom and Ron decided to call it
quits for the season, opting to sit out the last race.