Ohh boy, where to begin? Well, perhaps at the beginning, which would be at the end of Jersey. While the car preformed admirably at New Jersey Motorsports Park, we knew we left a lot on the table. We assumed the car had at least a few seconds in it, there were certain parts that needed to be repaired and we needed new tires as well. That being said, the car was in good shape; faster without having to take big risks and Autobahn looked to be an event where we would shine.
Toyo Tires came through quite quickly with a fresh set of their R1R’s, a solid tire on paper, but a little bit of an unknown. Additional repairs were made to the car with time to spare, all seemed to be going well for an extremely solid showing in Chicago. Apparently while we sat on our mountain top, looking down with a sense of comfort, we were completely unaware of the avalanche headed down from above waiting to hit. That was Thursday afternoon, just two days before we needed to race, that was about the time the ‘fun’ started happening.
So on that fateful Thursday we started to retune the car due to minor engine revisions as well as the addition of our new, super sweet Zeitronix EGT (Exhaust Gas Temperature) sensors. On our initial pull on “The Dyno” I learned something new and valuable for the future: For the love of all that is sacred, pay attention to boost levels on a safe run before fully committing to a 4th gear pull! Long and incriminating story made short, we blew our head gasket and the first of many helpful people came to the rescue.
Tony Szirka at UMS Tuning informed us that two 2000 Mitsubishi Eclipse head gaskets with a little copper spray would be a suitable substitute for our high performance head gasket that couldn’t be purchased locally. Giddy with our new found information we called the Mitsubishi dealership to see if they had any… Nope… Well perhaps Indianapolis… Negative… Well perhaps… NO!! No dealership in the entire state of Indiana had even one of our needed gaskets. Apparently Mitsubishi makes a really good Eclipse engine that never blows gaskets so they don’t have to keep them in stock.
Next step: Autozone, Advance Auto, Napa, O’Reilly, ect… all the parts stores were called looking for an aftermarket head gasket that would work and two were found!! One was in Indianapolis and the other in Fort Wayne, a few hours in essentially opposite directions. Luckily for us, modern parts stores have no problem shipping parts to their local stores for free and after a little bit of driving, two Fel-Pro gaskets were given to “The Scientist” Friday afternoon and off to work he went.
Approximately 7pm on Friday night we had a running car that needed to be tuned, but otherwise was ready to crush records at 8am the next day. Back to “The Dyno” and on our first, cautious pull, our car felt strong, alive, ready to fight! On our second, also cautious pull, our car felt strong, alive, ready to… WTF?! What the hell was that? She’s still running just fine, but it’s like the clutch is damaged. Well, at least she’s idling fine… wait a minute… why is she idling fine while still in 4th gear?! Crap and double crap. A short and far less incriminating story made even shorter, 4th gear was gone while all other gears remained happy and functioning properly. A second time coming back from “The Dyno” and I felt a sinking feeling, but at least she was still running. At least there was still a chance.
Back in the good ole days if a young plebeian was preparing his chariot for the big race at the Colosseum he didn’t have many options if there was a last minute issue. If 8 hours before he was supposed to be at the starting line the axle on his model year 50 BC Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione Chariot fell off he was screwed. You can try praying to Apollo or you can start whittling a new one, but chances are that douche bag from Sparta in a Fiat Panda is going to get all the glory because he went with the boring, simple, cheap and plentiful chariot option. Well luckily for us we live in a world of cell phones, Facebook and a strange need to feel in constant contact with the world around us.
It was a mere 3 hours after breaking our transmission before we had it out of the car, disassembled and found a viable replacement with our second group of helpful people, Sierra Motorsports in Northwestern Indiana. “The Scientist” and “The Bear Jew” slept for a few hours to prepare for the war that would take place in the garage while “The “El Matador”” and “The Intern” went on a late night trip to retrieve their prize, a coveted 2006 Evolution IX transmission.
I don’t know much about what happened between 2am and 6am as I was sleeping but I swear I heard wild screams, grinding metal, large bangs, and I think sobbing coming from the garage. All I know is when I awoke, I had a perfectly good Professional Awesome Evo VII waiting to be tuned and ready to go to the track.
Once again back to “The Dyno” and this time all was right with the world. A few pulls to check to make sure everything stayed attached, no problems there. Boost turned up, power made, fueling good, EGT’s spot on and a nice, warm feeling in my heart knowing I wouldn’t be punched in the face upon my return. The car was placed lovingly on the trailer, everyone piled into their awaiting vehicles and our sleep deprived convoy started the journey to the track.
We arrived a few hours late to Autobahn Country Club and our story winds to an end. Why? Well, it was uneventful. The car ran perfectly which is testimony to the amazing work the crew does, even at 4 AM and our newly added sensors showed the engine ran well all day. We had the class win in our first session, the track record in our next and in our last session we went a hair faster. We had a little scare with our serpentine belt and tensioner, but everything held together fine. Sunday was full of rain and the car wasn’t taken on the track. Global TIme Attack put on a great show, unbelievable stories were told from Chris Rado, driving tips given from Jeff Westphal and giant checks received from John Naderi. There seemed to be a renewed sense of purpose for the team, perhaps it was the smash to fix everything last minute, perhaps it was the presence of our wonderful friends and family or maybe it is just due to a lack of sleep. Whatever the cause, it is nice, it is exciting and we look forward to California in November as a chance to prove again that Professional Awesome is just that, no more, no less.
When- September 17th and 18th
Where- Autobahn Country Club Joliet, IL
Record Lap Time- 1:34.275
Cast and Crew-
The “Scientist” – Grant Davis
The “Bear Jew” – Mike Lewin
The “El Matador” – Daniel O’Donnell
The “Intern” – Darren Rabaduex