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Unread 10-24-2011, 10:23 AM
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Fair! Fair! is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2004
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Default Re: Vorshlag $2010 GRM Challenge car - BMW E30 V8

GRM $2011 Challenge Update - Part 3: Continued from above.

As great as this event was from the beginning, this is where it took a turn for the worst, in my eyes. Much of this was Mother Nature's doing, but I feel some of the issues could have been handled differently and wouldn't have altered the final result. Just my opinion, but I think they rushed the track prep and allowed some drag racing in wet conditions that were unnecessarily dangerous. In the end I'm just glad nobody crashed or got hurt.

Drag Race

Saturday morning we were again at the track by 7:30 am, waiting for the gates to open. The weather wasn't good - skies were dark, looked ready to dump at any moment, and the radar showed a big red blob wider than the state of Florida "coming right for us!". We went ahead and got the car ready for drag racing by 8:15 am, and were more than ready for the drag strip to be opened at the announced 10 am. By 8:45 am it was raining, and we were discretely and quietly doing the happy dance. We knew that once the skies opened up it probably wouldn't stop raining all day, so the drags had to be cancelled, and therefore we should take the overall win.

Au contraire mon frere! Right after the rain started we pulled our car under the covered covered arena / concours area and dried it off - the GRM folks had asked us to stick around Saturday afternoon after the drag racing for some photo shoots, which we were more than happy to do. We also wanted to take some more pictures ourselves, before we loaded the car into the trailer for the long tow back to Texas. It rained pretty solid for a good bit, then slowed up. We were about to go grab the front 15x10" wheels and mount those on the car, so we could get pictures on these wheels, but we were told to "stay ready for drag racing".

Left: Weather RADAR at 7 am, at the hotel. Right: At 7:50 am, out at the drag strip site

"What the...?!?" The pavement everywhere had standing water, the track surface was under water, the skies were still very dark and overcast, and the main weather system hadn't even hit the area yet. The PA announcers were adamant - they were going to dry the track off and get everyone at least one drag pass.

We were doubtful that the track could ever be dried enough to be safe in the short amount of time before the next wave of the storm front rolled in, but we watched as the track crew worked valiantly to push/blow/sweep/burn the massive amount of water off the track. A local drag racer said "It takes about 2.5 hours for the track to dry out here, if the sun is out, which it ain't." Still, the workers kept at it and concentrated on drying only on one lane of the drag strip, and didn't dry anything past the finish line. We were warned to "not get on the brakes hard" after the finish, and to "only try to make the 2nd turn-off", not the first. If anyone crossed the center line, or had tire spin after the finish, or got on the brakes too hard, well... they were probably out of luck.

"Is this really happening?!?" we said. There were a lot of confused looks, and we said we didn't want to drag race in the rain, no matter how much the drags added to the event. But then you have to realize - every team except ours + the organizers wanted the drag strip runs to happen; the teams all wanted the chance to move up in the overall standings, and the organizers wanted to keep the show on a roll. Many folks knew that a few teams would likely displace our top spot, and they said as much over the PA several times, so our safety concerns seemingly fell on deaf ears.

Oh well, we're good sports and I drove into the staging lane, getting in line about 11th out of 48. Note: we didn't hang back, trying to get in line late and wait for the rain everyone knew was coming, because we were told "the drag race is going to count". So we had to get a time in, or risk falling way back, even possibly to dead last. Everyone lined up and waited for a couple of hours in the staging lane while they worked on drying the track. I felt rain sprinkles more than once, and the staging lanes were still plenty wet, but they kept at it.

The Nelson wonderbug was first in line, and he made the first pass down the track about mid-day. The run was pretty scary (see the video here), and you can just barely see where he let off at about 1000 feet, because the car got sideways from the still-wet track. That could have been ugly. He still managed a 10.58 @ 114, letting off and without nitrous, and he mentioned his mph was way off (esp. for the E.T.), expecting to run 127 mph on motor. This is a 10 flat car, easily. Nobody else had built anything that fast for the drag strip. I don't know how you do that on $2000, but its not my event to police (as far as I know nobody has ever been protested or kicked out for any rules infraction). Cars kept lining up and making passes after Nelson's car, as it got slightly wetter and wetter.

Videos - all 13 drag race passes start here, and if you hit "next" you can watch them in order. The E30 was the 11th car to go down the strip. It started raining at about car 9, and really started to dump by car 11. I don't know how car 12 and 13 made their runs, other than they were both fairly low-powered (16.0 and 16.2 ET's). Somebody had a moment of sanity and stopped the drag racing after car 13.

Anyway, so I'm the 11th car in line. I kept edging forward as cars were going down the strip, with Costas talking to me on the radio. "Hey, its raining... they have to stop this." But I refused to give up. "Let's stay in line until they call it." He was worried - "Fair, this is insane... you have to pull out of line." me - "No, they will call it any minute now". "Terry, pull out of line now! You're going to get hurt!" "No, let's just baby it down the track and get some sort of time on the board - they told us the drags were going to count, no matter what." They didn't stop me as I got to the burn out box, where the windshield is covered in raindrops, because it was raining. I turn on the video. "This is insane!"

Left: The in-car video from my one drag race run, fully captioned. Some audio is NSFW. Right: External video of run

So I drive around the water box (no need for that, and I'm only on the Hoosier autocross tires anyway - we couldn't afford special drag slicks and additional rear wheels in our $2011 budget), did a quick burn-out in 1st, to try to dry the tires off. No stick at all in the heavily glued launching area, massive easy wheel spin, axles and tires hopping like mad. This isn't good, as we know that wheel hop and subsequent abrupt loading/unloading is what keeps breaking the transmissions. I line up, stage, and plan on a super easy launch. Still, I have to get a decent time in to try to salvage a top 5 finish, so I cannot take an "easy run" in the 14s, then work my way down to the 12 second ET in another 3-4 runs, like we had planned on if it was dry. I have to drive FLAT OUT.

The lights come down the tree, and since reaction times don't matter I take it easy and launch at 1000 rpm, just off idle. The rear tires instantly go supersonic - its like driving on ICE! What the Hell am I doing, drag racing in the rain? I try a few light squeezes on the pedal, hoping for traction. The tires are just free-wheeling so I to back completely out of the throttle, tires hopping like mad, and reach for 2nd gear. CRUNCH! The wheels are going 5 times faster than the car so the synchros cannot cope. Finally in 2nd, I roll into the throttle ever so gently and WEEE! Tires spinning madly, hopping badly, there is zero traction. You have got to be kidding me! Shift into 3rd gear, roll into the throttle... spinning, back out of it, roll back in again... finally grip there, then... BANG! Something broke.

Oh no, not again. 3rd gear let go again, but not from abusive speed shifting, it was the tires hopping from all of the damn wheel spin... because we're freagin drag racing in the rain! I was so pissed. This should never have happened. Coasted through the lights, transmission sending gear teeth through and eating itself. BANG! CLANG! CRUNCH! Coasting down the drag strip, across the line, rain is really coming down now, and I am having trouble seeing the opening in the wall for the 2nd turn off. Finally find it, still coasting, make all the way down the return road under momentum, find the timing shack, and somebody runs over hearing the loud crunching noises of the transmission to take a look. They look for fluid under the car, see that its a self-contained explosion, and give me the thumbs up. Its raining pretty steadily now but I see another car coming down the drag strip!!??!!

I ask the timing shack worker "When are they going to STOP this!? It is pouring rain!! Someone is going to get killed." I grab my 14.6 @ 86 time slip, which you can see in the pictures, covered in water drops. A total of two cars were allowed to take passes right after me, in the beginnings of a downpour, but luckily they were slower cars. Then they finally stopped the madness after the 13th car. It was over, as the skies opened up once and for all. Costas is trying to hail me on the radio, asking what broke, and seeing if I need a tow back. Since we're familiar with this exact transmission failure mode, I tell him I can make it back under power, in another gear. I limp the car back over to the trailer and hop out, furiously mad. This didn't need to happen!

Because we were drag racing in the rain, and had such ridiculous amounts of wheel spin, the tire hopping shock loaded third gear so badly that it broke the trans. What a waste. This transmission wouldn't have broken if we were running on a dry track, as I've safely run the same unit on road courses in the same 3rd and 4th gears, on the same sized/grippy R compound tires, lap after lap, without wheel spin or tire hopping issues. It only breaks when the gears see shock loading, from axle hopping or curb jumping, while under power. That's how I broke the trans at MSR in March - going over a big bumpy track section under power, with the tires on/off the ground.

Post Race Pictures

I took a moment to calm down, then brought the 15x10" front wheels out of e the trailer and mounted them in the rain, in record time. I'm soaked at this point but we half drove/half pushed the car into the covered concours arena for pictures. By now I realize, once again, that they have to throw out the drag racing so I'm in less of a bad mood. We broke the trans but at least we'll get the win.

Video of post-drag racing meeting - announcement of drags not counting.

A total of 35 entrants never got a shot at the drag strip, but it took several meetings and 2 hours before they decided to not count the drag racing runs in the overall score. They talked about counting the drags even though only 13 cars made passes, then discussed using "theoretical drag times", given to the officials by the teams, to judge overall placings. I can't make this stuff up. I don't understand the confusion - its not like this is the first time they had rain at a GRM Challenge event, where they had to throw out the drag racing. Its happened before and it will happen again - its in Florida, where it rains often. Per gave everyone the news that the drags were not going to count a couple of hours later, and we were relieved. We weren't really sure what they were going to do up until then.

It made for a nerve racking day, both before the drags and up until they made the announcement. We stuck around and helped some other racers dry off their cars and take pictures, they did a video interview with me and Costas, and took a ton of pictures. Then we loaded up and headed to the race hotel for the banquet.

Awards Banquet

We got to the banquet about 3 hours early, since the rain cut everything about half a day short and we had checked out of our hotel that morning. I stuck around the lobby and listened to the same loud guy tell the same car story to about a dozen different groups of people, while Costas wisely slept in the truck. By 6:45 pm we went into the banquet room and grabbed a table. The food was excellent and we got stuffed. Since we planned on driving back to Texas immediately after the awards, we didn't celebrate with any alcohol, although that would have been a nice distraction from the stress of the past 2 days. They had an odd video presentation made by one of the competitor's (a joke on his car's name, Uranus), plus had a video slide show of pictures from the event showing while we ate.

They gave out dozens of awards, but saved the autocross and overall awards for last. We were pleasantly surprised that Kumho offered up a set of free tires to the overall winner, and we thanked them profusely. When Per handed us the overall trophy he built, he said "Be careful - its heavy." Boy, he wasn't kidding! This thing must be 50 pounds, and its filthy dirty, but I've got it proudly displayed in our new shop's showroom anyway! We thanked everyone, loaded the trophy up into the trailer, then drove though the night, straight back to Dallas in a hair under 17 hours.

Worth Every Minute of It!

As much criticism and bitching as I've offered up here, we did have a really good time and I'm glad we came back this second year for vindication. The $2010 Challenge was such a disaster for us, and winning in 2011 made it all worthwhile. This was just a very stressful event for us, both in waiting for the autocross times on Friday and waiting for the rain/trans explosion/drags cancellation discussion on Saturday. By Saturday night it was a huge relief for it all just to be over.

Yes, we got lucky and won the whole thing based on autocross + concours alone - but I've been on both sides of this "rain thing" before. I'm overjoyed with the overall win, and would have been more than happy with just the autocross win. Big thanks to all of the volunteers who helped build this car in 2009-2011! Cannot thank you guys and gals enough. We put so many hours into this thing - never could have pulled it off without all of this help. Thanks to Grassroots Motorsports, Kumho Tires, CRC, Racing Junk and all of the sponsors for making this event happen. Lots of fun, and I encourage others to build for and enter this event.

What's Next?

First off: We are not bringing our E30 V8 back for another GRM Challenge - we accomplished more than we set out to do with it, and the car is so imperfect for the GRM Challenge in so many ways. If we were to ever come back it would be armed with everything we know - from building the wrong chassis, making budgetary mistakes, and seeing what other teams have done (and gotten away with). We could make another $20XX autocross car that was easily 3 seconds quicker, for instance. I will talk more about what we think it takes to win in an upcoming post. I will also talk about the future of this car very soon - we're already working on several repairs, out-of-budget upgrades, and finishing touches on the little car.

Thanks for reading!

Last edited by Fair!; 10-24-2011 at 04:58 PM.
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