I ran the #34 2002 at the SOVREN Spring Sprints held on April 28-30 at Pacific Raceway outside Seattle.
It was a fun weekend with lots of track time. I had some good racing with several other cars.
I should mention that this car has the old style long-neck differential in it. Because of that there are a limited number of diff ratios available for the car.
Seattle has a very long front straight and with the gear I had in the car I was hitting 8,000 RPM about 1/2 to 2/3 0f the way down the straight. So I had to feather the throttle and this was costing me about a second a lap.
Our 2017 season began with the David Love Memorial Races at Sonoma Raceway on March 31 – April 2, 2017 put on by CSRG. I brought my Koepchen 2002 to run in Group 8, and my Chevron B16 to run in Group 7.
It was a beautiful weekend, mid 70’s and lots of sun. Quite a change from our long, cold winter here in Oregon. With all the rain they have had in CA the hills around the race track were a bright green. A perfect setting for a weekend of racing.
Let’s start with the 2002. I was trying a new set of the Avon ZZS DOT radial tires this weekend. They are a little wider than the Toyos we normally run on this car (215 mm vs. 205 mm). I found I liked them a lot. They were very consistent through a run, and didn’t seem to be as affected by temperature as the Toyos.
I love driving this car at Sonoma. It is a track that suits the 2002 perfectly. As a result the car punches above its weight. By that I mean it can compete well against cars it normally would be easily beaten by. I was able to turn a 1:55.3 on Saturday morning during qualifying! That is a lap average of about 90 mph.
The car runs in Group 8 at CSRG events. This group is made up of sedans and sports cars from the mid 1960’s up to the mid 1970’s. There are GTO Corvettes, Camaro, Porsches (911’s & 914’s), and Datsuns (510’s and Z’s). Quite a mixed bag of cars.
I qualified 10th out of 23 cars and began the race outside of David Martin’s GTU 240Z. I was able to get ahead of him at the start, but on lap 2 he tried to out brake me going into Turn 7 and got behind on his steering and I was able to repass him.
I held off David and 2 other Z cars for the next 6-7 laps until he was able to out brake me again for Turn 7 and get by. Then down in Turn 11 the other 2 Z’s snuck by me. I ended up finishing 10th with a best race lap of 1:56.4.
I also entered my Chevron B16 this weekend. I am still trying to learn to get the most out of this car. It is quite different than my other production based cars. My biggest problem is that I don’t fit very well in the car so I am not comfortable and confident. I really struggle with consistent footwork on the pedals. Jim @ Racecraft will be doing some modifications to the pedals to try and help.
The car runs in Group 7 with CSRG. This group is made up of both closed and open wheeled cars. There are a lot of Formula Atlantic cars, some Can-Am cars, an mid-1980’s F1 car, and a few 2 liter sports racers in the group.
I started 10th and finished 9th in my race, with a best lap of 1:48.7. My goal was to log laps and work on feeling comfortable driving the car. My best guess is that I will be turning 1:45’s once I get more experience with it.
Here’s the video from the weekend. Thanks for watching!
The mid part of our season consisted of races in Seattle and Portland, both events close to home.
The Northwest Historic put on by SOVREN are always a fun event. This year was no exception.
This weekend was especially fun in that I was able to track test my recently refurbished 1800 Ti. Terry Forland from Racecraft did a superb job of creating an homage to proper mid-1960’s touring car. Here’s the short video I made of that test:
I had my trusty Koepchen 2002 at this event. The racing was very tight all weekend. I was in a large group of mixed production cars, sedans, and older sports racers. The grid of the race was mixed up because there was a rain shower for qualifying and some of the faster cars chose to start at the back of the field. Take a look at the video from the event:
The Portland Vintage Festival was the weekend following Seattle. I raced the 1800 Ti and my Chevron at this event.
The Chevron and I were still coming to terms. I was getting a much better feel for the car, but still needed to work on downshifts. I had a fun race with a Lola in the feature:
The race debut for the 1800 went really well. It ran flawlessly all weekend. I learned quite a bit about its idiosyncrasies and had a fun race with Steve Smith in his potent VW:
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:
Our opening races of the year were down in California- the David Love Memorial at Sonoma, and the HMSA Spring event at Laguna Seca.
These races would be my first chance to drive my newly acquired Chevron B16 so I was excited for the season to begin. I also raced my trusty Koepchen 2002.
My 2002 races in Group 8 which is a mixture of mid and large bore production cars and sedans. Sonoma is ideal suited to the 2002 so they do very well there against the larger engined cars.
I started about mid pack and had a great race with John Murray in his 2002, and Gary Cook in his 240Z. My best lap time for the weekend was 1:59.3. Here’s the link to the video of that race:
This was also my first opportunity to drive the Chevron B16 I purchased over the winter. We had to make some modifications to the car so I could even fit into it. We trimmed the bottom of the dash for my knees, took out the dead pedal, and put some spacers in the drivers side window to give me a little more head room.
My objective for this first race was to just get comfortable in the car. It is significantly different than driving my other cars. It is a purpose built race car with a lot more speed than anything else I own.
This Chevron has a BMW m10 motor in it. It produces about 220 HP and is very tractable. It pulls hard from about 4,000 RPM up to its red line. The brakes are phenomenal, much more effective than any of my other cars. It has amazing amounts of grip, yet is quite neutral and predictable in the corners.
The weekend following Sonoma we went to Laguna Seca for the HMSA Spring Event.
I had another great race with John Murray in our 2002’s. I was able to beat him this weekend by out braking him going into the Cork Screw and holding him off for 6 laps. A lot of fun!
The Chevron and I continued to get to know each other. Unfortunately I broke a half-shaft in the car during the race and had to retire.
At 10:50 all drivers are to be in their car, strapped in, and ready to go. The pace car leaves the grid at 10:55 and after 1 pace lap the green flag is dropped and the race begins.
There were a number a pretty fast cars (and trucks- see the video) that chose not to qualify in the rain. They started at the back of the field, but by Turn 4 of the opening lap they were coming up through the group I was racing with. It got pretty tight a couple of times.
After 2-3 laps I settled in and just tried to drive the car smoothly and consistently. Our goal was to make sure we finished, and I didn’t want to be stupid or break the car in my first stint.
All in all I drove 5 stints during the race, including the start and the checkered flag. It was quite an honor.
I had raced my 2002 at Thunderhill just a few weeks before this event, so I was very comfortable in the E30.
For the 25 Hour race they use a by-pass of Turn 5. It is a blind rise over the shank of the hill. There is quite a camber change as you go over the rise, and it gets worse the more you are to the right. The fast line is staying left, but when the fast cars come by we had to move right for them.
Just over the rise the track takes a hard, off camber, right around the base of the hill. It’s quite a handful, especially in the dark.
Our race went smoothly until my 10:00 PM stint. About 45 minutes into it morning. I was driving the car just shut down. The lights and everything stayed on, but the motor would not run. I coasted to a stop under the bridge on the back straight. Fortunately not to far from pit in.
After a short wait while the pace car picked up the field, I was towed back to the pits and the crew set to work diagnosing the problem. I went off to bed for a 4 hour sleep before my next scheduled stint.
When I got back to the pits the car was back out on track logging laps. The high pressure fuel pumped had failed, and it had taken about an hour to find the problem and fix it.
Mary had volunteered to act as cook for the team. She had prepared meals ahead of the weekend and warmed them and set them out for the team. We also had a table full of snacks, fruit, and drinks that she kept ready for the entire event. Her efforts were greatly appreciated by everyone on the team. What a gal!
Our race settled down again after the fuel pump replacement. We were able to do about 90 minutes on a load of fuel. The rules state that you can only change one tire during a pit stop unless you take the car behind the wall. We had developed a schedule of changing one tire about every 3rd or 4th stint. The system worked pretty well for us.
Everything was going great until our pit stop and tire change about 2 hours from the finish. Unfortunately one of the wheel studs broke off. We debated whether or not to fix it and continue. We were far enough ahead of the next car in our class to stay ahead of them even if we stopped.
At Mary’s urging the crew fixed the stud and I hopped back into the car and drove it to the finish. It would have been a shame not to drive the car under the checkered flag. It had taken about 30 minutes to fix.
We finished the race 36th overall, but 2nd in our class! To keep that finish we still had to pass tech. Seems like a no brainer, except for the fact that we had filled in a tech sheet that qualified us for our class and now those items would be checked thoroughly by the inspectors.
Fortunately we passed without any problems, so we got to keep our finishing position.
What a fun event! I can’t wait to run it again. It is the type of driving that suits my style and skills to a tee.
Following this event our trusty E30 was put up for sale. While it was very reliable, it was pretty slow. We got beat by a Honda Fit! We all want to run the event again, but with a better chance to place well.
Currently the team is looking for another, faster car.
I finally got the chance to do something I’ve always wanted to try- endurance racing. It was a real gas!
Terry Forland, Jim Froula, John Hill and I all went together and bought a 1989 E30 BMW Pro3 car. It was an old war-horse needing a few things, but E30’s are pretty simple, and the rules for Pro3 require only factory parts. We also purchased a couple of extra sets of wheels for the car.
We ran it in the Cascade 8 Hour Race in Portland last October as a warm up for the 25 Hour race at Thunderhill in December.
The 8 Hour is run without the chicane on the main straight. I used to race PIR in a lay-down go-kart without the chicane, so I quickly adjusted to not having to break at start-finish. The biggest problem for me was heading off into turn 1 in the pitch black at very high rates of speed. It was my first experience driving in the dark, and the lack of visual cues required some re-thinking.
All in all we had a good race. We finished 4th in class and 14th overall. Here’s the video from that event:
The 25 Hour Race at Thunderhill is held the first weekend in December, and it is a really big event. There are typically more than 50 entries, with several big teams and big names that run it each year- Randy Probst, Al Unser Jr., and Kurt Bush were all entered this past year.
Walking through the paddock Friday afternoon before the race was eye-opening! The amount of equipment, people, and support stuff was mind boggling. It was not like the vintage races we usually attend. One team had 3 Radical sports racers they were running, with 6-8 mechanics for each car. Mazda had 3 diesel 6 series sedans entered that were being driven by a collection of their dealers.
We arrived with the Racecraft semi loaded with our car and a spare E30 we could use for parts if the need arose. We figured that if the weather turned nasty the semi would also make a dry place for the team to hang out. As it turned out, that was never an issue.
Once the car was unloaded and our pit area was set up the crew set about giving the car a last once-over. Brett and the crew spent time checking everything over one last time- the suspension, the brakes, the engine, and even the lights. Once that was complete it was time to tech and qualify the car.
We had a bit of a problem in tech. When the officials looked over the roll cage they found some areas that had not been welded fully. These were up on top of the main hoop, and on the outsides of some of the diagonal braces. These were areas that you could not see, but had to feel by reaching in with your hand.
The crew surged up and down the paddock looking for someone who had a welder. Finding one, Jim folded himself up and jammed himself into some tight corners, and welded up the bad places. The car went back to tech and passed.
Qualification was on Friday night, and it began pouring rain about 30 minutes before we were scheduled to go out! I was chosen to qualify the car because I was the only one lacking sense. Being the old guy on the team has some advantages.
The big plus for me was that the rules required the driver that qualifies the car also has to start the car in the race on Saturday afternoon. I ended up qualifying 43rd out of the 56 cars entered.
A big problem I had to deal with was the fine spray put up by the cars with ground-effects. With our bright headlights it made it almost impossible to see. Quite a thrill!
This time of year it gets dark in northern California by about 4:30, and the sun doesn’t come up until after 7:30 AM. This means you spend a lot of hours racing in the dark at this event.
Thunderhill doesn’t have any lighting around the track itself. They have pretty good lighting in the paddock, and they rent portable lighting for pit-in and pit-out, but the rest of the track is pitch black.
The lights you have on your car are critical. We had invested in a powerful LED light bar we could mount on the hood, plus a set of aircraft landing lights in place of the factory high beams.
Qualification showed me that we needed to adjust them all slightly for maximum vision, but in general they were pretty good.
Saturday dawned clear, dry, and cold. The norm for this event is pretty nasty weather, with cold temps, lots of rain, and even snow some years. Looked like we had gotten lucky.
The cars are required to be on grid and ready to go by 10:30 or you have to start at the rear of the field. There is a lot of pomp and circumstance before the race with military color guards, bag pipes, and dignitaries walking up and down the grid of cars.
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.