Our next race was at the Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival put on by SVRA. Held each spring, it is a great event with lots of great cars, and big crowds of spectators. SVRA does a great job with this event. One of the highlights each year is the R&R party they put on on Saturday night.
At this event I raced the Willis Special and the Luigi CSL. Both cars ran well all weekend, and I was able to finish 7th with the Willis and 6th in the CSL with a best lap of 1:53.4.
I ran pretty much all alone in the Willis. The car slots in between the much faster F1 cars and the much slower cars in the group. One of the great things about this group is the sites and sounds and smells of all the old cars that run in this group.
The Willis is a very difficult car to drive. It is extremely loose in the rear end. This trait is particularly noticeable in the Carousel where the road drops constantly as you make the 180 degree turn.
In the CSL I had a great race long battle with Bill Lyon in his 914/6 Porsche. We have raced together many times and we always have fun, close racing. At some tracks he is quicker, and at some I am quicker.
Sonoma seems to favor my CSL because of the torque the car has. I am able to really pull Bill coming out of the slower corners.
Here’s the video from the weekend. Hope you enjoy it:
We had the privilege of attending this years Amelia Island Concours and bringing along Luigi. He was driven by Hans Stuck in 1976 at the famous Nurburgring in the ETCC race, and since this year’s honored driver was Hans Stuck we got the call.
Friday night after cruising the displays of trophies, auction cars, and vender tables all at the Ritz Carlton, we attended the BMW dinner in honor of Stuck.
Saturday morning we unloaded the car in time to catch the end of the Cars & Coffee before heading off to the BMW Drivers seminar.
The panel of drivers for this seminar consisted of Boris Said, Bill Auberlin, David Hobbs, Brian Redman, Hans Stuck, and John Fitzpatrick. It was a spell-binding 2 hours of funny stories, friendly banter, and great BMW history.
Following the seminar we had too get back to the car and drive him out on the field for the “Cars of Hans Stuck” official photo shoot. The group included the BMW X5 with the 700 HP Le Mans winning V-12 in it that Hans drove around the Nurburgring in under 7 minutes.
We then parked the car in its assigned spot on the concours field and headed back to our motel for the night.
Sunday morning came with a threat of rain. We were told that all events would be wrapped up by 3:00 in hopes of beating the rain. The crowds poured in at 9:00 AM, and by 10:00 it was packed! I was told that over 35,000 people attended this year.
We had entered Luigi to be judged in the “Cars of Hans Stuck” group. Our judges included German driver Jochen Mass, former Porsche racing director Norbert Singer, and Steven Pastiener.
Needless to say we were floored when we were awarded Amelia Award for our class. This is a real tribute to the work of Jim Froula, Terry Forland, and the rest of the skilled guys at Racecraft.
Both Mary and I were thrilled to be a part of this spectacular event. It was a weekend full of wonderful memories.
What they had discovered was the aluminum calipers were so old and porous they were leaking brake fluid around the seals on the pucks. This was causing the spongey pedal after just a few laps.
There was nothing that we could do for this race, but Jim was already planning how to permanently fix the problem. His idea was to sleeve the calipers. Certainly a winter project.
For this weekend they would plan on bleeding the brakes for every session. I would be sensitive to any softness in the pedal and just take it easy.
One of the highlights of Saturday for Mary and I is having our whole family come out and cheer the car and Grandpa on. We usually get some team shirts and hats made up for everybody. It’s a lot of fun.
The time came for the qualifying race and I lined up 23rd out of 44 cars. Unfortunately I got stuck behind a turbo Porsche that was quick down the straights, but slower than my CSL through the corners. It was pretty frustrating not to be able to get by him. I ended up finishing 19th.
I got an excellent start in the feature race, which was good because I desperatly wanted to get by the Porsche early in the race. Once by, I found myself racing with Ernie Spada in his IROC 911, and Dennis Singleton in his green RSR Porsche. We ran nose-to-tail for several laps. It was a lot of fun.
I sneaked by Ernie as he was balked by a slowing Ferrari coming out of Turn 5.
About this time Adam Carolla came up from behind in his ex-Paul Newman 300 ZX Datsun. He got by me just as we turned up the hill towards the Cork Screw. As we got to the top of the hill the red flag came out so we all pulled over to a stop.
Unfortunately Ken Epsman in his Dekon Monza had a wheel break going through Turn 4. He went off into the tire barrier in a big cloud of dust, and his left rear tire bounced over the fence and into the grandstand. Fortunately no one was struck, but all emergency vehicles were dispatched to the scene.
After collecting the field with the pace car we had one last lap under green. I had a mirror full of yellow and green Porsches, but I was able to hold them both off to finish 6th. It was a great race, and a lot of fun.
At the Awards Ceremony we were given the Rolex Award of Excellence for Group 5A. Certainly this was due to the beautiful restoration work done by Racecraft. Thank you Terry and Jim!
Adam Carolla does a video podcast called Carcast. He featured his outings in his Datsun, and there are some shots of the Luigi CSL. NOTE: These are rated PG-13 for language.
First, though, here’s my in-car video:
Now here’s Adam’s two videos:
Finally, here’s a dramatic video of the Monza loosing its wheel:
Every year during the 2nd and 3rd weekends of August there occurs an event that boggles the automotive mind. It is called “Car Week,” and it happens on the Monterey Peninsula.
During the week there are 5 major auctions, 7 major car shows or concours, a dozen minor events, and the Rolex races at Laguna Seca. People come from around the world to attend the event.
This year I signed up for a couple of new events for us, including the Friday evening car show in downtown Monterey. About 25-30 race cars are escorted by CHiPS from the track into downtown Monterey and put on display for anyone and everyone. One of the local restaurants provides hors d’oeuvres for the participants. It is a very fun event that really kicks off the entire car week scene.
On the way back to the track the lead motorcycle officer cracked the throttle, and of course, we had to keep up with him. He had a big smile on his face when we arrived back at the track. Fun duty!
We raced the Pre-reunion race on Sunday. It was a bit of a disappointment because we only got 2 sessions on track for the whole weekend- qualifying and then the race.
We were still fighting some brake issues, but I managed to finish mid-pack. The group we ran in is was quite a mixed bag with a GTP Toyota, some big-block IMSA cars, and some tube frame Trans Am cars, along with the usual mix of turbo and non-turbo Porsches.
On Tuesday we again were part of an escorted group from the track. This time we traveled to downtown Carmel for the Concours on the Avenue. My grandson, Andrew, rode with me in the car. It was a lot of fun to come down from Highway 1 through Carmel to Ocean Avenue with crowds of people snapping pictures and cheering us on.
Luigi was awarded “Best in Class” among the race cars. Quite an honor and tribute to Racecraft’s work!
Racing began in earnest on Thursday. We had a practice session on Thursday, one on Friday, and then 2 races on Saturday. Luigi was in Group 5A- “1973-1981 FIA, IMSA GT, GTX, AAGT, GTU Cars.”
There were 2 other CSLs in the group, Henry Schmitt’s IMSA car, and the factory museum car. There was also the factory museum M1 driven by Randy Probst, along with Porsches, Datsun Z-cars, big block IMSA cars, an IROC Camaro, and Adam Carolla in is turbo 300ZX. Quite a collection of fast cars!
On Thursday I had the brake pedal go to the floor as I broke for turn 5. I was right outside of a 935 Porsche, and had to pump the pedal furiously to get the car slowed enough to make the corner.
I thought, “Oh no, here we go again!”
It turned out to be a new brake “problem.” It seems we threw a wheel weight, which struck the retaining clip for the brake pads, allowing them to move back out of position. How strange is that?
Friday’s practice went much better. I put in a couple of good laps and qualified 23rd out of 44 cars. I still didn’t have complete confidence in the brakes, and was breaking pretty early for turns 2, 5, and 11. After 5-6 laps the pedal was still getting spongy. Something was still not 100% with the brakes.
Saturday Mary and I arrived at the track early to find Terry, Jim, and Mike huddled over Luigi’s left rear brake caliper on the table in front of the Racecraft truck. It didn’t look good.
I had three cars entered for the 2014 Portland Historics, held July 11-13 at Portland International Raceway- the freshly re-done 700, the Koepchen 2002, and the Luigi CSL.
Right from the very first lap of practice on Friday the trouble began.
First to go down was the 700. On my very first warm-up lap in
practice the left side barrel separated from the block. Not knowing the cause, or if any internal damage was done, we decided it was best to park the car for the rest of the weekend.
Next up was the 2002. This car is pretty quick, however, the Group it was running in was made up of ‘B’ sedans from the 60’s and early 70’s, and since Datsun was the featured marque this year there was a whole bunch of very fast Datsun 510’s up from California in my group.
I was able to qualify well, about mid-pack, and ran both races on Saturday without incident.
Sunday morning I went out for the warm-up session, and the motor did not feel right. Jim started to check the engine and found it had no oil pressure.
At first we thought that the drive gear had come off the oil pump shaft, but it turned out to be much more serious than that.
The motor went down to Terry Tinney and he found that the chain tensioner for the cam drive chain had broken and dropped down into the front of the timing chain cover. There it lodged in the chain and broke the crankshaft.
So we had 2 major engine failures. But wait there’s more.
That left me racing the CSL. You may remember that we had brake issues in Sonoma that almost caused me to wreck the car. Those issues reared their ugly head this weekend as well with similar results.
Jim had changed the brake fluid to a higher temp fluid. But the problem showed up again during my first qualifying race. Going into the chicane on the opening lap I almost wrecked it again when the front brakes didn’t work.
Jim put on some heat shielding for the next race, but still the pedal went mushy after a few laps.
The cherry on top of the sunday came on Sunday when a thunderstorm came through just before the flag race for the CSL. Since I don’t have rain tires for the car I was forced to sit it out.
Not a very fun weekend to say the least.
I did get some fun video though. Here are the links. First is the video from the 2002:
In just over 90 days since his arrival in America, Luigi is back in action on track.
Last weekend we took him to the Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival at Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma.
The weekend was not without drama. On Friday I came into Turn 11 and found I had no front brakes. I ended up spinning the car to the inside of the turn, missing the stacks of tires placed there to keep people from cutting the turn.
It turned out that there was a loop in the front brake line that went up over the transmission tunnel, but went way up high on the cowl. This was allowing air to accumulate there, making the front brakes ineffective.
Jim re-routed the line, bled the system, and all worked as it should after that.
The car is quite a bit different than my other CSL. This car is built from a factory motorsports chassis which is lighter and more flexible than my other car.
This car is also fitted with the motorsports suspension and brakes which are much more effective than the street suspension and brakes that was on the other car.
We ended up 11th out of 22 cars in my group. I am very happy with this result, especially since many of the cars were much younger than Luigi!
I am looking forward to getting to know this car, and learning how to getting the maximum performance out of it.
All the credit for the quick turn around for the car goes to Jim Froula up at Racecraft. He planned the project, found the people who could execute the work well but quickly, and effectively managed each step in the process.
The reassembly of Luigi is coming along nicely. Jim and his shop have been on top of every aspect of the rebuild. They do such a great job! Here’s some shots of what is going on presently:
Here is the new fuel cell. The one that was in the car was a hill climb can, and didn’t have enough capacity for circuit racing, so out it came. We decided to not plumb up to the inlets in the deck lid for now, but that may be changed later.
Here’s what’s going on inside the fuel cell. The picture is taken looking down from the top of the can. There’s is a catch tank that holds fuel under cornering and braking forces, a low pressure pump moves it from there into the black swirl pot which fills up and has a 10psi relief valve on top to provide a constant column of fuel available for the high pressure pump to draw off of so that air bubble free fuel goes up to the injection pump on the engine.
Finally, the gauges are back from the rebuilder. The car had a stack panel that was installed during the rebuild of the early 90’s. We wanted something more authentic, so we decided to replace the stack panel with a fiberglass dash and then re-install the proper gauges. Yes, I know they are ‘P’ gauges, but that was what they used back then:
We have begun the restoration/race prep of the Luigi CSL. We have decided to return the car to the same livery it wore in 1976, the year it won the European Touring Car Championship.
The first order of business was to remove the wide Group 5 fenders and the front air dam that were installed in the 1980’s.
It was interesting to grind down through the old paint and bondo and find all the old layers of paint the car wore through its racing career. Down at the very bottom we found the black/green/red paint from its original Castrol livery.
When we removed the front air dam we found that the front valance was in need of some repairs. We want to make the new air dam removable to aid in loading/unloading the car from the trailer and need a solid base to mount it.
The old valance was cut out, and a new one was grafted in.
Once the old fenders were removed and the valance repaired, the engine was taken out and shipped down to Terry Tinney for a freshening. The car was then taken to the painter’s shop.
Jim Froula from Racecraft, visited the CSL recently at the painters.
He said that there is not too much progress to report except that they have stripped all the paint and filler from both sides of the car and it’s in amazingly good condition underneath all that mess that was there. No rust and only the slightest indication of contact at each front corner.
The fiberglass parts turned out to be a real disappointment. They are nowhere near close to fitting.
The rear flares are about 2″ narrower than the fronts, but the shape is okay so making them a little wider will be easy.
The front flares are just wrong in every way. The good news is that the fiberglass guy we have on the job can make anything so I’m confident it will look right in the end it was just a hurdle we didn’t expect.
The main reason for Jim’s visit was to get really detailed about how the flares need to look, how much gap to allow around the tires, how far they need to protrude from the fenders, how they need to be attached, etc.
They reviewed a whole bunch of photos, made a bunch of notes and measurements and they now have some clear guidance on how to proceed. More importantly they are still confident that our schedule is realistic and promise to meet our date for the Sonoma Motorsports Festival in May.
Jim has have allowed a month after painting to reassemble everything and maybe even get it out to a track day before we head south with it.
On the engine side of things. The injection pump and injectors are out to the specialist that will thoroughly clean them out and make sure they are flowing properly.
Terry Tinney should have the motor disassembled and inspected early next week so we’ll have more information on any issues there might be there.