Archive for September, 2010

Discover Ontario ORRC Rally No. 5 – 5 June 2010

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

This rally would start in Woodstock, ON and finish in Brantford – with about a half hour’s drive separating the two locations. And Gary had to return to Ottawa the same night, for his daughter’s graduation the next morning. So we decided to travel to south western Ontario the night before, to spread the commute over two days. After about a 5 hour drive, we arrived at the Motel 6 Mississauga Friday night and tucked in early. Saturday morning, we had a hearty breakfast at the Sunset Grill (a Don Henley song!), and took a side trip to Legendary Motor Cars in Milton – the home of Dream Car Garage. We had a great tour of the facility, admiring all of the Cobras, Mustangs, Corvettes, muscle cars and antiques, including a beautiful 1957 Mercedes 300SL convertible. We met the owner – Peter Klutt – and talked about the Cobras and driving at Calabogie. Maybe we’ll get him up there one of these days.

A little before 11 AM we set out for Brantford, to drop off the truck and trailer before continuing to the rally start point in Woodstock. The weather looked very promising in spite of the rather gloomy forecast of intermittent showers; and it turned out to be a beautiful sunny afternoon throughout. At the truck stop in Woodstock, we gassed up and reacquainted ourselves with old friends from rallies past, before attending the drivers’ meeting and preparing to depart at 1:36 PM.

As we began the first Section, I noticed our friends in the Triumph had turned right out of the truck stop, only to reverse their direction and drive off to the left. So we read the first few lines of the instructions and realized that the very first instruction was incorrect! The second instruction had us passing a Highway 401 on ramp, followed by a turn onto the next on ramp – which could only be achieved if we turned left. What an auspicious beginning! The distance to the odometer check was very long – at 25 kms – so Gary had lots of time to work ahead on interpreting the instructions in Sections 2 and 3. This would serve us well throughout the rally, as he always had free time to keep working ahead.

Shortly into Section 2 we came across the first checkpoint and believed that we must have zeroed it, since our timing and average speeds were spot on. But when I looked at the distance and elapsed time on the sticker, it appeared that we were a little over a minute late. This puzzled me for the balance of the rally, as I couldn’t imagine how that could have happened.  As it turned out, the scoring contained an error, which resulted in all teams being penalized at that checkpoint, to varying degrees. I think they should have eliminated all the penalties in the final scoring, but I suspect it wouldn’t have changed the rankings for anyone – certainly not for us.

I am a little fuzzy on the details of which instruction set applied to each of the remaining Sections. However, there was quite a variety, including: simple distance to turns, straightforward tulip diagrams, a line map and accompanying table of speed changes, instructions using a clock face (in by the hour hand, out by the minute hand), a five column table covering Left, Right, Straight, Stop and Average Speed, and a unique set of tulips using a legend of different standard configurations combined with a key identifying the “In” and “Exit” road numbers. The Expert and Intermediate instructions were even more complicated, requiring the use of protractors, rulers and other special techniques. All of these teams struggled to stay on route and on time, using their maximum allotment of Time Allowances. There a lot of changes to average speed, so it was more important than ever to stay close to, but just above, the target speed. I was careful to keep some speed in the bank, so to speak, since you lose about 3 km/h on an average of 72 km/h just by stopping and making a turn.

Before we reached the halfway point, the car started to misbehave when we left a checkpoint. It would stumble and hesitate under full acceleration, and the condition worsened the farther we went. This had happened to a very small degree at our previous event, but had cleared itself shortly. On this day, it just kept getting worse, to the point that I could accelerate only at half throttle or less. There were many long stretches where the target average speed was 72 km/h and it took well over a kilometre to reach that speed. Fortunately, we were able to do so most of the time, in spite of the sluggish performance, and we were able to compensate in subsequent sections by exceeding the target speeds and calculating estimated times of arrival. At one checkpoint I asked for three extra minutes in our out time, so I could try to find the source of the problem. I discovered that the throttle cable had jumped out of its guide, resulting in random amounts of throttle being applied when the pedal was depressed. I fixed this and the car ran better for a while, but the problem returned and the cable wasn’t the problem. By the time we finished the rally in Brantford, the engine was stalling at every stop light and in the heavy traffic we encountered while driving past the town fair parking area. I need to perform some tests of the fuel injectors, throttle position sensor and maybe other things to find the cause and repair this problem.

Despite the car troubles, we felt that we had done extremely well, since were able to track our progress at each checkpoint. We only took one Time Allowance – for 2.5 minutes – as a result of missing a turn in the map section; and it was very close to the amount of delay that we’d incurred. We finished with a total score of 2.3 penalty points, including 1.1 for the error in the first checkpoint scoring. That turned out to be the lowest score of all classes in the rally and, of course, lowest in Novice. So we earned our first ORRC (or MCO) victory and got the big trophy for this event, which has been awarded since 1983. We received congratulations from many of our friends and saw several of them along the highway on the way home, honking and waving every time. Tired but happy, we got back to my house around midnight, still pumped from our successful day. We now have about ten weeks until the next event, which should be more than enough to repair the engine problem and the leaking fuel filler and even do some body work. I believe we’re still in second place in the provincial standings and it will be a close race with our friends in the Triumph right through until year-end.

Videos are available at

Photographs from Legendary Motor Cars are filed at

MCO Open Road Rally #4 – June 2, 2010

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

The fourth rally in the Open Road series was held in Almonte on a rainy evening which promised potentially torrential downpour and a tornado warning. Fortunately, the forecast was wrong and all we got were light showers throughout the evening. That was a bonus, since we drove some of the trickiest dirt roads in the Lanark Highlands area, most of which were muddy or had loose gravel. There were only six cars entered – possibly because of the weather or possibly because of the more distant starting point – so the checkpoint workers almost outnumbered the competitors. We started in the Superior restaurant but finished in the Subway restaurant which stayed open until 11 o’clock to accommodate us. Neither place made much money off us though.

There was a little twist in the instructions for Expert class, whereby we were given an envelope that couldn’t be opened until the end of Section 2. Glen said there might be a marshal at the end of that section to verify that the envelopes were still sealed. There wasn’t, but the threat prevented us from reading ahead. The instructions for Sections 3-5 weren’t all that complicated, but a little advance work would have helped, so it was a useful ruse.

We got off to a good start, zeroing the first two controls on roads that were pretty simple, although picturesque. At the third checkpoint, the volunteer was involved in some kind of heated conversation with the driver of the car in front of us, so he didn’t record our time in to the second. As it turned out, he had arrived late at the control and had completely missed giving car number one a sticker. So he also must have missed car number two’s time and a conversation resulted. I didn’t berate him, but we made a note and advised Glen and Jeannie at the next control. In the scoring, all cars were given a zero for that control, since some were scored inaccurately. At the third control we were 10 seconds late because the checkpoint was just around the corner from a speed change, so we picked up our first tenth of a point.

Then it got interesting, as we entered Umpherson’s Mill Rd and drove at speeds varying from 37 km/h to 63 km/h on a narrow, twisty, hilly old logging road. The surface wasn’t too bad but visibility was challenging because of the tight turns and steep hills, so the slow speeds were appropriate. In daylight it would have been easier. I used all six headlights to help pick up the details and our speed was pretty good. Later on it became harder to maintain speeds in the 60’s, because the first piece of a new road would be straight, lulling me into not building up a reserve of excess speed. Then when the twisty bits began, I slipped a little and couldn’t recover before checkpoint 4. So we took a penalty of 0.6 there – a time allowance wouldn’t have helped much, since there’s a 0.5 penalty for taking the first one.

The same thing happened in the next section, where there were numerous speed changes and it was hard to keep track of whether I was ahead or behind, since all of the speeds were tricky. We took a time allowance of 30 seconds at checkpoint 5, but should have taken a minute and thirty seconds. However, it didn’t affect our placing in the final scoring. We zero’d the time at the check-in at Subway, by adding 4 minutes 32 seconds to the time we reached the intersection of Mill and Bridge in Almonte. Gary tried to calculate exactly what our check-in time should be, but ran out of time. So I just told Robert what I believed it to be and it was correct.

The car ran flawlessly and we didn’t miss any turns, although we drove past an end-of-section and an intersection by a few yards, necessitating a reversal of the odometer to correct it before proceeding. It all worked out accurately and our distance measurements remained correct over the entire 115 km of the event. We have another ORRC rally in two days and I want to bleed the brakes before then, since the pedal is a bit too soft for my liking. Otherwise, we are suitably tuned up for a good run in Woodstock. We finished in third place with 1.5 points, so the competition was pretty good. That should leave us in second place in the standings, subject to seeing the final posted results.

A video of Umpherson’s Mill Rd is at

Le Circuit Mont Tremblant – May 24-25, 2010

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

For most of the Montrealers in attendance, this was their first track experience of the year. But for me (and several Ottawa-based friends), it was my seventh track day already. Unfortunately, the Ottawa connection proved to be a jinx, as three guys found out. It was the first Rennsport PCA Driver’s Education event of the new season and attendance was very good, despite the fact that it was held on a Monday/Tuesday.

After a two and a half hour drive, complete with two rough construction zones, I arrived at the track Sunday evening around 5:15. My friend Al from Vermont arrived while I was unloading, along with his Rottweiler, Enzo. A couple of young men from Montreal came over to admire the car and we struck up a conversation, since it was the first DE event for the one who was staying. I tried to show him the ropes and explain what to expect, for which he was grateful. I saw him several times over the two days and by the time it was over, he was hooked – of course. A bunch of Ottawa guys arrived as I was finishing up, so I moved my trailer to where they all parked and got caught up with them.

After I finished unloading, I took the truck to my hotel to check in. Then I went to a friend’s condo to look her up. But there was no one home – just a pair of yappy dogs that responded when I rang the bell. I left my DPI business card at the door, but I haven’t heard from her. Maybe they had rented the condo to someone else. I grabbed something to eat and relaxed in the hotel, since the next morning would start at 6 AM.

Monday morning dawned bright and cool, with the promise of very high temperatures later. I grabbed some breakfast and coffee and got to the track early enough for the tech line and to check tire pressures, wheel nut torque and to install the camera. My run group was Blue and we were scheduled to be the second group, so I didn’t have long to wait after the drivers’ meeting.

I started my first stint on the front row and it took all the GT3’s, Boxster and Cayman S’s and newer 911’s at least two laps to pass me – in a crowd! I had noticed the types and vintages of the other cars in Blue, so I knew I’d be giving lots of passing signals. But I don’t mind – it keeps me alert to the traffic around me. The twenty minutes went by quickly but the driving felt good and the track familiar. I had forgotten to open my passenger window, so the sound on the video I shot is pretty good. This was brought to my attention as I left the track. As it turned out, I did my fastest lap in that stint, because I had to start short shifting whenever I saw the sound metering van at trackside. Yes, I was black-flagged again (in my second stint), for a too-loud exhaust, despite having installed a much quieter Bursch system.

After our second stint in Blue, while were sitting around whining about the sound level issue, there was an incident in the Black group which brought the track to a standstill. One of our Ottawa guys – Rene – was pushing his GT3 too hard through Turns 10 and 11 and couldn’t make the left handed Turn 11. He went straight off the track into the tire wall on the right and spun clockwise, crushing the left front and side of his car. He said afterwards that he was doing 190 km/h in Turn 10, but I don’t see how he could know that. It’s not a good place to be looking at the instruments! Needless to say, he was a little sombre over lunch and Bruce spent quite a bit of time talking with him. His days as an instructor trainee are over.

After lunch we had to wait a while for our third stint, so we relaxed in the shade with plenty of water. By now it was really hot.  I checked the tire pressures as the time of our stint approached and let out a couple of pounds of air. This would continue throughout the event, with even more air to be released on the side which was more exposed to the sun. I began short shifting when I learned where the sound van was parked and didn’t get stopped again. But it added about 5 seconds to my lap times. Before we could begin our stint, there was a lengthy delay while an oil spill was cleaned up. Another one of the Ottawa guys – named Santi – had blown his 944’s engine in Turn 2 in the Red group, spreading oil on line through Turn 3 where he got onto the grass safely. It turned out at there was baseball-sized hole in his oil pan, so that’s going to be expensive. It took them quite a while to get some Absorbal and spread it on the spill. Then we were asked to do 2-3 laps under yellow and drive through the powder to bed it in. I did so, but many didn’t. So the powder remained a factor in that stint. Both the third and fourth stints were uneventful for me, as I continued to work on my line. I stopped downshifting to second for the Bridge turn (12) and I liked that much better, since it allowed me to be smoother and carry more momentum through the corner. It might have cost me a second per lap, based on a comparison of two videos, but it felt better because otherwise the 2-3 shift was coming up very quickly.

At the end of the afternoon, Bob (the executive in charge of DE and former Chief Instructor), came over to talk to me about my line through Turn 1. He reminded me that two years ago he had cautioned me about turning too soon and I had been doing it again. The telltale sign was a little “eek” from my tires at the top of the hill. He said that whenever he heard an “eek” there – from any driver – he waited for an incident with a wall to occur. As he put it, old habits die hard. I corrected the problem on Tuesday and there were no more “eeks”.

Monday night I was invited to join the Ottawa guys at the house where they were staying, which was a six-bedroom, three and half bathroom luxury cottage. It belongs to one of Paul’s clients and is set up a hill overlooking Lake Tremblant. In the group there was Peter, Paul, Chris, Santi, Jason, Jamie and Michael (our president). It turned out that Michael was going to prepare a very nice meal of chicken parmesan in exchange for a free bed. We had a great evening with a few beers and laughs, plus the excellent meal. I went back to my hotel and turned in immediately but I had trouble sleeping because of a headache, probably related to too much sun.

Nevertheless, I awoke Tuesday refreshed and raring to go. I was determined to get a check ride to try and qualify for promotion to the Black group. I had two good stints in the morning, despite brutal heat outdoors, but we had another incident. Another Ottawa guy, named Ted, had a fire in the engine of his GT3 when a power steering line broke, spewing fluid on the hot exhaust. At least it occurred in the exit area just after he left the track, so we didn’t have to wait for a clean-up. During the lunch break I spoke to Bob and asked him to organize a check ride if he felt it appropriate. We arranged it that we would use the Black group right after my first afternoon stint.

So I polished up my technique and tried not to overheat the engine in that stint. When I left the track, I waited for Bob in the staging area for 10 minutes and he didn’t show. I drove up to the paddock and encountered him leaving to get gas. He apologized and we re-scheduled for the last Blue stint of the day. When we started, he showed me a faster line through Turn 4, just before the esses. After taking the right-handed kink which is Turn 3, he grabbed the wheel and held the car in the same turning arc, entering Turn 4 well right of centre. And in a straight line. At first it was a bit of a surprise, but when I did it unassisted next time, it was very easy and effective. He said, “You just picked up two car lengths”. Also, at Turn 8, he grabbed the wheel after the first apex and said “Don’t accelerate”. But all I heard was “Accelerate”. So I did and we swerved a bit, since he had tightened our line with the wheel. After we got that straight, I was able to get on the gas sooner and harder than I had been.  He really liked the smoothness of my no-down-shift approach to Turn 12 and complimented me on the way I navigated the esses and Turn 1.

The one problem I had was with the braking for Turn 7 and to some extent Turn 8. In both cases, one is building pretty good speed before braking, so the temptation is to brake a little too late. At Turn 7 that could be disastrous, since the corner is noticeably downhill if you walk it. You do not want the front of the car bobbing up after releasing the brake pedal at the moment when you start your turn. It’s better to brake early, smoothly and lightly, allowing the car to settle down before turn-in. I had been jabbing the brake too hard to take off speed and releasing it sharply to allow time to settle. I should have braked sooner and less, and more smoothly. Similarly, for Turn 8 it is necessary to brake fairly heavily to reach the appropriate cornering speed. But one doesn’t have to do it abruptly. This is easy to work on, although it’s generally not an issue at Calabogie, where I spend most of my time. So at the end of the stint Bob said the only thing between me and Black is more smoothness in braking. And he still loves riding in these old cars. By the way, when I told him about the black flag for sound and the need to short shift, he said my car was louder than his GT3 RS – cars which are notorious for sounding loud under acceleration, but which get away with it on track somehow.

So overall it was a good event for me, despite the disappointment of not being promoted. I am very confident that I will make it at my next event, where ever that will be. At present I’m scheduled for my next Rennsport DE in July at Le Circuit, but I’m thinking of not attending Fiat Freak-Out in July and going to Calabogie with them instead. My quicker laps were around 2:14 to 2:17, which is average speed of 114 km/h. In total, I drove 270 km on track in eight 20-minute stints.

The drive home was relaxed and a bit slow, since there was no point in rushing. The construction zone near St. Jovite had been watered down for dust control, so it was quite muddy – as well as being very bumpy. When I stopped at the end of it to check the tie-down straps, I discovered that the car and trailer were covered with mud! It looked as though I’d been in a rally, not at the track.

I got home around 8 o’clock and ate a lot of ice cream to cool down! It was mid-thirties both days and I drank gallons of water to remain hydrated. I lost five pounds to boot! My car was fine although the oil temp hit 120 C more than once due to the ambient. But it was running a bit rich because of the heat, so that was fine. And it used no oil.


There’s a video at

And photographs of the paddock at lunchtime Tuesday are at

Mosport International Raceway – May 15-16, 2010

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Five of us Ottawa-based Rennsporters went to Mosport, intending to convoy down Friday afternoon. There was Peter (’07 GT3), Dave (‘04/05 Carrera S cabrio), Paul (‘06/07 Boxster S) and Thane (’81 911 SC Targa). Peter and I had trailers and Thane had rented one, but at the last minute realized he didn’t have the right straps. So he was delayed while getting those and loading up. The rest of us rendez-vous’d in Perth a little after 2 PM and arrived at the track about 3 hours later, via Highway 7. It’s a very relaxed way to travel and takes only 10-15 minutes longer (if any) than 416/401. Saves gas too.

The guys were all staying at the Whitby Quality Inn and of course I was at Les’s, so we parted after unloading, leaving the cars there. I arrived at Les and Maureen’s about 10 seconds before she did, so that worked out well. Les got home shortly thereafter and we had a beer while getting caught up. I had been planning to buy them supper Saturday night, but I suggested changing it to Friday, just in case there would be a track walk Saturday at 5 PM. So we ordered and enjoyed some good Chinese food and I hit the sack around 10.

The main reason for doing that was that I had to get up at 5:30, to reach the track around 7 for registration. I got my McDonalds coffee and egg McMuffin and arrived a few minutes before 7. This year they handed out umbrellas at registration, instead of driving shirts. The theory was that if everyone was prepared for rain, it wouldn’t come. It worked.

BUT, it was cold on Saturday! The temperature never exceeded 8 C and the wind made it feel like +1 at the most. I had not taken my leather & wool Porsche jacket and I sure wished I had. I was assigned to the Yellow run group with an instructor (as were Peter and Dave), so we had to find some place out of the wind to stay warm while we waited for 10 o’clock. Actually, Peter and Dave were “working” the staging line Saturday morning – checking wrist bands, closed doors & trunks, etc.  I had the same duty Sunday afternoon. The drivers’ meeting and tech line were the usual superficial Upper Canada Region fair. In the tech line, I didn’t want them to torque my wheels; they didn’t even look in the trunk or engine bay; all they did was verify brake lights and fire extinguisher and give me a helmet sticker. They didn’t actually check the helmet to ensure it was current! The drivers’ meeting was similar, with as much emphasis on announcing the next social evening as on proper technique for giving and receiving passing signals.

My instructor was named Mike and he didn’t have an intercom. So we talked very little after we got started and he only used a few hand signals to suggest improvements to my lines. I was pretty good right out of the box, so he had little to say when we finished each of the first two runs. I had a substitute for the third run, because Mike had to go pick up some new tires. The new guy was funny. He had a closed-face helmet, so he was a little hard to hear before the intercom was connected. But I think he said his name was “Urine” 😉 (Maybe Yuri?) The session began a few minutes early for me, when the PA announcer called for me to come to Staging, right now, “your instructor is waiting!” Three times in 30 seconds! We all wondered what that was all about, but I hustled up there. “Urine” was a little upset because he thought we were late and we’d only get a couple of laps. I tried to reassure him that we still had 10 minutes to wait, but he wouldn’t believe me – until one of the staging volunteers set him straight. From then on, after apologizing, he barely said a word. He just held on tight and enjoyed the music (as he put it) – squealing tires and the engine note 😉 When we finished, he said “Well, you drive all the same lines as I do, so I don’t see a problem.” Mike was back for the fourth stint and also was speechless, making only one or two comments as suggestions of different things to try. He also loved the engine note. When we finished, he signed me off to solo on Sunday in the White group.

Shortly after arriving at Les’s, Maureen announced that she was going to the casino, since she didn’t want to listen to us talk about cars and hockey all night. Whatever – no harm, no foul. So she went and we did, after a nice pork chop and Caesar salad meal. Another early night for me, although this time I could sleep in till 6 o’clock.

Same routine Sunday morning, with an even more cursory tech line. I checked with Stephen (head instructor) in the tower and he confirmed I would be in the White group. So my first stint began at 9 o’clock, since White always seems to go first (it’s the largest group).  They were much better behaved than the last time I experienced that group; giving and waiting for passing signals properly. Of course, a number of the former members have moved on, either to Black or to greener pastures. This was the time that I first installed the camera to shoot some videos. Since the battery only lasts about 50 minutes, there’s only enough capacity for two twenty-minute stints. It’s hard to reach back and start recording while doing 150 km/h, so I start it up in Staging.

Just like at Calabogie, my driving is very consistent – as I found out by watching the video afterwards. Lap time are all about 2 minutes, with a couple as low as 1:57. I didn’t experiment much with different lines. I just tried to use more power in the short chutes and brake a little later and a little less. But these tactics didn’t seem to affect my times much, if at all. What did seem to make a difference was taking a different line through the sweeping turns at 1, 3 and 8 (all right handers). Dave confirmed this afterwards as well. Instead of starting at the extreme left side of the track, you can move closer to mid-track and shortcut the corner somewhat, thereby reducing the distance you travel. Sort of like taking the passing line on the inside. It made quite a difference in Turn 1 alone, when I passed a car going in and stayed mid-track as I turned.

In the first stint Sunday morning, I followed a recent silver 911 out of the pit lane and stuck with him for a couple of laps while traffic thinned out. During that time, Susanne blasted past me in the BMW M3, giving Thane a demo ride. She was my instructor last year. I kept catching the 911 in the turns, so he waved me by after three laps. A couple of laps later a green GT3 blew past before Turn 4, but then we both caught a 944, who let us by after Turn 6. The GT3 disappeared, but then I caught a near-duplicate silver 911 at the front straight. I followed him for a lap and then passed him on the front straight. A lap or so later a couple of 944’s passed me and another silver 911 – possibly the one I had just passed. All in all, it was a good stint with only a small amount of passing and no troubles once again.

In the second stint, I followed Paul out, but he disappeared after a couple of laps and I was passed by two newer 911’s. A lap or so later, an additional car (a 944) joined the track right in front of me at the exit to Turn 1, which introduces a new set of concerns while his tires are cold. Then we joined a train of five cars following a newer silver 911 – possibly the same one from the first stint. He let everyone but me past on the back straight, when we ran out of room. But then I passed him on the front straight and had a clear track for while, until three guys passed me on the back straight. Then we toured around for a couple of laps while a few more passed me, until I caught up with yet another newer silver 911! He let me by on the front straight. It’s an epidemic!  Thus began my fastest lap.

I don’t remember the details of the last two stints and have no videos to help me, but they were very similar and very enjoyable. By the end of the day I was pretty tired and very satisfied. I had to work the staging lane in the afternoon, but it was not very taxing since there a lot of workers. Mike came over to shoot the breeze and to tell me that he had put a few comments in my log book. When I saw the comments later, I was a little disappointed that he said I should work on my heel-and-toe to be more consistent. I was having a bit of trouble early Saturday because the brake pedal was a bit too high as a result of installing new pads, which I told him while we were driving. After I lowered it twice, it was perfect and all my shifts were much better. Oh well, I guess he had to write something!

I was able to stow all my gear and get loaded up by 5 o’clock, so Peter and I hit the road a few minutes after 5. We stopped once in Madoc for a stretch and a pit stop; then I stopped in Perth for gas. I delivered Paul’s tires to his house a little after 9 and got home a few minutes later. The car stayed on the trailer overnight – I was ready for bed! It was a great weekend and a really good driving experience. I’m looking forward to returning in the fall.

A video of my fastest lap is available at

Photos are posted at

Blossom ORRC Rally No. 4 – May 8, 2010

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

The Blossom Rally is held in the area around Campbellville and Milton, ON, which is about 500 km from Ottawa. So Gary and I left my house a little after 7 AM on that Saturday morning with the Mazda on my trailer and drove to the Mohawk Inn at Campbellville, taking about 5 hours. The first thing that happened after our arrival was that I was given the trophies we had earned at the January Jaunt but didn’t stay long enough to receive. So now the bookshelf will fill up a little more. We registered, had some lunch and talked with a number of fellow competitors until it was time for the drivers’ meeting. The weather looked pretty ominous, since it was only about 4 C and very windy. The forecast had been calling for rain all day with a risk of snow, but as it happened there was very little precipitation of any kind – just lots of high winds.

The rally was divided into two stages, the first being exclusively a provincial event and the second being combined with a local Kitchener club event. We were car number 6, so we left the Inn at 2:06 and began Stage A. The first section was a little odd, in that there was no odometer check per se, just a precisely measured end of section mileage and time schedule. It was all simple distance-to-turn instructions and Section 2 was straightforward tulip diagrams. There were numerous changes in average speed, so precision was called for. There were also numerous checkpoints in Section 2 – a toal of seven I believe – situated at each successive turn and speed change mileage. We did pretty well on those, although we were 0.4 points early overall for the seven controls.

Section 3 had a new feature, which was do-it-yourself controls. These were unmanned landmarks at which we simply had to record our measured distance as we passed them. The key here was to stay on route and have the correct cumulative kilometres at each point. Even though we missed one and had to double back, we got a perfect zero score on the section as a result of careful manipulation of the rally computer. The time allowed for the section was fairly generous, so our miscue didn’t cost us anything in the form of a timing penalty.

As I recall, the Section 4 was based on a map with very few roads labelled. All we needed to do was take the next left or right turn (or whatever) and follow along with the average speeds provided on a separate sheet. We did pretty well in this section although we accumulated 0.4 penalty points for being early at two controls. This must be described as driver error, although it is affected by the precision of the rally computer and the timeliness of resetting the average speed when instructed.

I don’t remember the format of the instructions for Section 5, but it had a table of average speeds at the bottom of the sheet. The table had two columns, requiring fairly frequent speed changes. Unfortunately, Gary didn’t use all of the data in the table, so our average speed was way off. We wound up with 2.7 late and 1.3 early as a result. Just before the end of section, there were two unusual features. The first was a dead-end turn-around, which we’ve never seen before. The second was a route control, where we stopped and checked in, receiving a sticker with no time out on it. The process took us about 1:10 to complete and the rules say “a one minute time allowance must be given in calculating the elapsed time to the next control”. We didn’t know this and I still don’t understand how it works, but somehow we were scored two minutes early at the end of section control, which included some calculation error on Gary’s part as well as this odd rule.

So for Stage A we had a total of 6.9 points, putting us in fifth place – not very satisfying.

Between Stages A and B there a meal break of a little over an hour, during which I also filled up the tank. Stage A had been only 130 kms and Stage B wouldn’t be any longer, so the total rally was a reasonable distance. We just relaxed for a while but didn’t have a meal, since we’d had a good lunch.

We began Stage B and 6:06 and finished at 8:29 PM. I must have getting pretty tired by then, because I don’t remember much about the different instructions for each of these sections. We took three time allowances as a result of missing a couple of turns and pausing to interpret instructions. So we got an extra 1.5 penalty points for taking the TA’s. But in total we finished Stage B with 4 points, which was good enough for third place in the Stage. We did drive a couple of good roads in this Stage, which are shown in the videos. Most of the other roads were pretty straight and carried low average speeds, since the area is quite well-developed.

So overall we finished in third place with 10.9 points, but didn’t receive trophies. That’s OK. The trophies were little 2″ flower pots with fake blossoms sprouting out the top – from Giant Tiger, I think. There were at least 30 check points, so even if you’re only 1 sec late at each, that would be 3 points. We had a bunch of zero’s, plus 3 missed turns (leading to a 1.5 penalty for taking TA’s), plus some calculation errors for another couple of points. We had a problem figuring out a couple of instruction sets, which contributed another few tenths. It wasn’t a totally frustrating day, but we can do better with more attention to detail.

In the provincial standings we’re still in second place, since a couple of normal competitors worked checkpoints for their club (Kitchener-Waterloo). The winners were a couple of nice Brits in their ’64 Triumph TR4a, who are in first place.

Videos are available here

Calabogie Motorsports Park – April 30 and May 2, 2010

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Day 1 of a Two-Day MCO event

Today was another outstanding day at the track, of course. It’s getting so there are very few people there that I don’t know. When I arrived at the gate, my friend Lance, was camped outside the gate with his Dad (Barry). They had arrived last night around midnight, having driven from Collingwood. We paddocked together and spent a lot of time talking and comparing notes. Lance races a BMW sedan and his father is attending the race licensing school this weekend.

Lance’s car is kind of odd now – different from when I saw it last, at Mosport last year. His buddy Steve was driving it at Mosport and made the all-too-common mistake of overcooking it in Turn 1, resulting in a collision with the concrete wall. The front left was badly damaged, as well as some on the right. To repair it, they basically front-halved the car. It now has a tube frame structure up front, which supports the engine and suspension, covered with conventional fender panels and bumper. It looks normal, until you pop the hood – then it’s a bit weird. But someone did a really good job on the welding and shaping, so it works.

There were a lot of cars registered, so we had three run groups with 20 minute stints. As usual, we were late starting – due to the need for sound checks and paper work at registration – so the morning’s stints were shortened to about 15 minutes to catch up. Hard to get the tires warm at that rate. And there was lots of time to schmooze between stints. I’ll post numerous pictures on Photobucket, so you can see the selection, plus Lance’s front half. I’ll only mention a few of the cars and interesting people.

There were two Audi R8’s. A previous V-8 model driven by Nick from Toronto, who also has a full Viper-based race team . The other was a new V-10 model owned by Rob of MCO . It was scary fast – scary to Rob also. I seemed to find myself sandwiched between them in staging often, so at least only one had to pass me.

Dennis was there with his new track car – a 996 GT3 in Guards Red. Today was his first track day in 16 years and he was grinning all day. He moved the licence plate “OVERDRFT” onto it from their Range Rover (formerly a Cayenne Turbo). He also has a new 997.2 Turbo, which he invited me to come and see. As well, he has a four-post lift in his garage, which he offered if I ever need one for maintenance. He used to be jealous of my garage at Wicklow.

The experienced group that I was in had the two Audis, a Radical, Lance’s BMW and a couple of others, a Mustang and about 4-5 Miatas and 2 Honda S2000’s. Those damn girly cars are really quick in the corners, when equipped with R-compounds. So I was passed a lot, but everyone said my engine sounds really strong and I got lots of thumbs up. My lap times stayed pretty consistent around 2:50, except when traffic slowed me down a bit (I had to lift to let the girly cars pass). I was reaching an indicated 180 on the straights, which is about 170 actual. So the re-jetting didn’t improve that much. But the AFR was higher while still remaining a tad on the rich side.

I had a nice visit with Angele in the Kanata Ford store and I bought a good quality tire pressure gauge to replace my decades-old pencil style gauge – which I’d been planning to do anyway. Had an interesting chat with a guy who had been at Spring Mountain, where he saw them producing Radicals and where they had something like 6 ZR-1’s available for rent, with more due to arrive soon. I have twelve laps on video, that need editing to separate them from longer files. I may upload one of them, but they’re basically the same as last week’s, except for the amount of tire squeal in certain corners. It was hard to put together a quicker lap because of traffic.


Day 2

Today was absolutely outstanding. Not a drop of rain, intermittent sun and temps around 25. There was one lapping group plus the group of 26 race school students. This morning we had unlimited lapping on the east half of the track and this afternoon we did alternate stints with the racers on the full track. It’s my first time driving the east half and it was very cool to learn. Turn 1 is a high speed right hander off the front straight, leading into the back half of Temptation. It gives a completely different perspective and line on Turns 8, 9 and 10, at much higher speeds. My lap times were about 1:35, which translates to 106 km/h over 2.81 km. They’re short laps, but quick ones. Here’s a video of one lap where Les wasn’t a passenger, so I could get a clear view with the camera:

 Our last stint of the afternoon (on full track) was amazing. I think we were the only car out there. In any event, we didn’t see anyone else. What a feeling! And we were smokin’. What a great weekend!

Calabogie Motorsports Park – 24 April 2010

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

OK. So it was perfect. The weather was perfect. The car was perfect. The friends were perfect. My driving? Perfect, of course.

Couldn’t have asked for a better day at Calabogie.

I left here at 6:30, stopped in the Prior for a pee, Egg McMuffin and more java and arrived at the track around 8 o’clock. Saw several of the usual suspects and signed in. Immediately both Rob and Paul told they weren’t happy with Bruce’s position that instructors who aren’t instructing must pay for lapping days. There will be more conversation on that score. I went for my sound check got a lousy 88 dB! That’s almost a whisper, for cryin’ out loud. I’ll certainly have no concerns in that department, but I wonder how much more horsepower I would get if I put the Billy Boat back on?

I got a red wrist band and a bit later Paul gave me an En-Track Instructor’s cap (photo attached), so I’m almost there. The stints were scheduled every half hour, but I decided to do only 20 or so minutes each time, so I wouldn’t be worn out by 3 o’clock. It actually worked out well – I had plenty of social time, plus a bit of instructional time in the green group after lunch. Most of the other still photos I took were of the green group, although I did a paddock scan at lunch time. I’ll put them in Photobucket.

There was a guy named Chris running in the yellow (advanced) group, in a black Audi RS4. If you’re not familiar with it, the RS4 is the standard 4-series sedan with the V-8 out of the R8 supercar. It has 420 bhp and he was running Pirelli P Zero tires – very sticky and very expensive. After a couple of stints, Rob had to talk to him about passing zones, since he’d given an incorrect signal. Then Rob asked me to go out with him to coach him on passing and generally help him out. Even though I would forfeit my stint to do this, I readily agreed – it’s all about sharing the knowledge, right? So I went with him a 11 o’clock, let him drive a lap with no comments, then jumped in with a few tips. The car has so much power, such good grip and so many electronic driving aids, that he was getting away with murder without knowing it. After we finished I pointed out how blue his brake rotors were, which is evidence of excessive electronic intervention. During the lunch hour I offered to take him for a few laps in my car, so he could see the line and learn something about smoothness, braking, shifting, etc. So we went out in the green (novice) group, so as not waste another of our stints. It was a good experience for him. He commented without prompting that he could see how far ahead I was looking and it really helped him learn the line. Also, heh heh, he was hanging on for dear life 😉

I shot a 16 minute video in my 10 o’clock stint, but that would take 5 hours to upload. I’ll shorten it to one lap, so you can see the conditions and the line. I had to deal with a bit of traffic early in the stint, but then I had two back-to-back clean laps, which were identical at 2:50. So I shaved 4 seconds off last week’s time and I know I was faster this afternoon. Smaller jets will help too. Today I was hitting 180 at the top of Rocky Road, but I’m sure there’s more power to be had.

Richard was there with his wife and we chatted for a while. He has been an investor in the track for about 18 months and he said his investment came in the form of the new admin building opened last year, plus the expanded paved paddock. He didn’t have either C6 today – they were driving a new Lexus 450h hybrid SUV. Jim was there with his brand new GT3RS –medium metallic grey with red wheels, mirrors, end plates and graphics. Talk about a cop magnet. We had a good long chat about VIR, parenting (they’re expecting their third in three years), and setting family priorities. Morley and Miriam showed up this morning and hung out for quite a while, then returned after lunch for another hour or so. He got to meet a few people, ogle the cars and watch some good lapping from the pit wall and the berm.  There was a 16-year old boy getting full instruction in a Miata. Apparently he already races Formula 1600 (Ford) and is planning a career – he and his mother were peddling chocolate bars to raise money.

The engine’s still running rich – at 6000 it was about 11.5, dropping to 10.5 at 7000. Those values should be 13.3 and 12.2, so maybe we can reduce the jet size proportionately. By my calculations, changing from 155 jets to 145 jets would increase the AFR at 7000 to 11.9, if the relationship is linear. But I don’t know if a 145 is available – might have to stick with a 150. I did a total of 167 km, which is about 41 laps – what a great day!

Calabogie Motorsports Park – 14 April 2010

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

The first track day of the 2010 season was held at Calabogie Motorsports Park on April 14, which is very early for this part of the world. We had a very mild winter and the snow has been gone for weeks.

The morning dawned absolutely clear, but pretty crisp at -1 C. I had loaded the car on the trailer the day before, along with all the tools and supplies I thought I might need. But I was still up before 6 o’clock, itching to get on the road. By the time I gathered up a few snacks, coffee and some extra stuff, it was 6:40 when I left the house. I wouldn’t be able to get to the track by 8 o’clock for a sound check or any other activities, but I wasn’t worried about it. Traffic was fairly light and I got to Arnprior in good time, to pick up more coffee, an Egg Mcmuffin and some gas for the truck. Suitably fuelled, I arrived at the track about 8:10 and had a nice little chat with the lady at the gate. They’ve moved the entrance to the gate at the rear of the paddock, next to the new garage and condo building.

Only one other driver had arrived and it was still near freezing, but as the sun rose so did the temperature. I went into the admin building and chatted with Bruce and Jane, and paid my $300 fee – no tax! Then I unloaded the car and changed shoes, while a few other guys started to trickle in. I knew most of them already and we stood around talking until Bruce called a drivers meeting a few minutes before 9. The day would follow Club Calabogie rules, which allow passing anywhere with a point-by signal. So we all had to behave and have fun – unlimited track time! And there were only six marshals working, with none in the Quarry section, so we were asked to signal to the marshals if we saw something between marshal stations, like a car off, dead animal, etc. It’s kind of weird when the drivers have to tell the marshals about hazards! They didn’t bother with sound checks, but I know my car is a lot quieter with the new muffler.

My friend Ray arrived, but inside his trailer he didn’t have his 1979 Porsche Turbo. In its place was the Diasio that used to belong to Bruce! This is his new track toy – he will only use the Turbo at PCA Driver’s Ed events from now on. We talked for a few minutes after the meeting, while he unloaded the car, but it was clear he wouldn’t be ready to hit the track for a while, so I went out without him. I did two or three brief laps, just to get back in a bit of rhythm and to verify that the air/fuel ratio (AFR) gauge was working properly. My new seating position (with the lowered seat cushion) worked great, so I had a much more comfortable and conventional posture.

After a brief break, I went back out for three or four more laps. Bear in mind that it was still only about +4 C and the track was a little slippery, not to mention the cold air coming in through the open window. This time I pushed the engine to 7000 rpm on the straights and noted that the AFR was only about 10.3-10.5 at maximum engine speed. This is a bit on the rich side – it should be about 13.0 or 90% of stoichiometric. At least it wasn’t lean! Oil pressure was good and the oil temperature was still around 80 C, so everything looked correct.

Around mid-morning and following at least one more short stint, Chris arrived to check the mixture readings and make adjustments to the carburetors if possible. After talking for a few minutes and allowing him time to talk to other people, we both went out for a stint. Of course, he could see and hear how the engine was running and noted that the mixture was too rich. He also took the opportunity to point out some areas where I needed to improve my technique. Although he used to be the Chief Instructor for PCA, I’d say his “bedside manner” has deteriorated with age. He’s not subtle or shy about providing direction! It’s a good thing I know him well and didn’t react angrily to his tone. Basically, his tips related to vision and to balancing the car. I have become so accustomed to the line at Calabogie that my vision had become lazy – I wasn’t looking far enough ahead in some corners. It’s especially useful in Temptation, where you can look out the left side window at the marshal stand (right at the apex), as soon as you enter the turn. That allows you to carry a bit more speed and get on the throttle earlier, well before you can see the apex itself. Chris’s other point is that you only have two pedals that you can use to balance the car – the brake and the throttle. If you’re not using either, then anything might happen. The idea is to always use one of them and not to be slow switching from one to the other. You’re either accelerating or braking – never coasting. Essentially, I was squeezing the throttle on so gently that I wasn’t putting enough weight on the rear when I could. It’s always helpful to get advice, no matter how it’s delivered.

After that stint, we decided to check the carburetors to see if we could decrease the size of the air corrector jets, in order to lean out the mixture a bit. Removal of the “hats” on the carbs turned out to a bit more difficult that you’d expect, since the nuts holding them on were 11 mm. The only other nuts on the entire car which are 11 mm are on the brake lines, so I didn’t have a socket or speed wrench to use – just a box wrench. And neither did Chris. We also needed a common screwdriver about 3-4” long with a slim handle, in order to remove the jets, which neither of us had. But Ray came to the rescue and we were able to get one jet out to see what size it was. After squinting a bit, we could see that it was marked “180”, which means 1.8 mm. That was the smallest size that Chris had brought, so we couldn’t change them. We’ll get to that job in a week or so, once he has other sizes available. So we put everything back together and took a break for lunch.

Meanwhile my friend Paul had arrived with his Ruf CTR, which drew a lot of admirers. He was there only to watch and meet some people, but he has signed up for PCA Driver’s Ed, which is a good thing. No more speeding on secondary highways for Paul, I hope. By now most people who were coming had arrived, and there was a good selection of cars, including a NASCAR-style truck and car, a Lotus Elise, a couple of Porsche Caymans, a lovely older Ferrari (348 I think), belonging to a Porsche Instructor (!), a C5 Corvette, a Viper, a couple of Porsche GT-3’s, including a Cup car and one of the track’s Mustangs. Bruce was driving the old yellow Porsche 911 that he bought last year from Rob (an En-Track principal).

Ray had offered me the opportunity to drive his Diasio – which was very kind – but I suggested it might be difficult for someone of my size (and age) to clamber through the window and squeeze into the cockpit. During the lunch break I tried it on. While it was possible to get in and out – surprisingly easily – there was no leg room and my head protruded about 2” above the roof (without closing the door)! This was not going to work!

After lunch, Chris hung around watching and talking to various people, including a guy on a motorcycle who was only allowed out when there were no cars on track (during lunch), or any marshals! I continued to do short stints of 3-5 laps, so as not get tired out too quickly. By now the temperature had reached the mid-teens and layers of clothing could be removed. The conditions were perfect.

Around 2 o’clock I was in the middle of a stint when I began to smell something odd around Turn 10. Initially I thought it was oil and of course I had horrible thoughts! I looked at the gauges and saw the red light on, the oil pressure rising to the max and the temperature rising quickly past 100 C. But the engine sounded OK. I realized that the red light meant an alternator problem, so I quickly deduced that I had broken the alternator belt, which also drives the cooling fan – by about Turn 14. I slowed down, raised my arm out the window and proceeded back to the paddock. Sure enough, when I popped the engine cover, I found a broken belt – with scraps of rubber all over the place. Fortunately, I had all the tools necessary to effect a repair, plus a spare belt which I bought a couple of years ago. I took the broken belt over to where Chris and a few guys were chatting at the pit wall and said “I need a 7000 rpm belt – the 6000 rpm belt broke!” They got a kick out of that and of course, everyone offered to help if required. I changed the belt and found the new one a bit tight to get on the two pulleys easily. It was the same size as the old one, but Chris suspects I may have mismatched pulleys which would require a slightly longer belt. I will go to NAPA and get a selection of larger sizes and replace the one I installed.

After that minor crisis I was ready to go back out but I saw that the oil pressure was still pegged at the top of the gauge. It turned out that the broken belt had sheared off the oil pressure sending wire at its connector, so I need to repair that. I had a spare female spade connector and Ray had a good pair of crimping pliers (plus electrical tape for a couple of breaks in the insulation), so I was good to go.

From then on everything went smoothly, but I started to feel a bit ragged and tired around 4 o’clock. But my driving had improved and I was getting back into last year’s form. So I packed up and left around 4:30, having had a thoroughly enjoyable day. In total I did about 200 km on track and burned a little over a half tank of 91 octane. I’ve left the car on the trailer, since I’ll be back there in two days for the En-Track instructor evaluation day. It was a great day! Photos and videos are available at Photobucket and YouTube under “KILRWAIL”.

MCO Open Road Rally No. 3 – April 28, 2010

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

This rally was a good one – Robert used some different instruction sets and a couple of very good roads to the southwest of Ottawa. We started as usual at the Cheshire Cat on Carp Rd. but instead of going west, we quickly turned south towards Richmond and Ashton.  There were a total of twelve cars, including three rank novices.

We made an early mistake by misreading a tulip diagram and had to take a time allowance of 3.5 minutes at CP 2, which gave us a penalty of 0.6 early because it was 30 seconds too much; but that can’t be helped since you can only take TA’s on the thirty seconds. We had tried to compensate for that by making up some time, but miscalculated. During this stage we travelled on McCaffrey Rd. out of Ashton, which is a good, twisty gravel road and the subject of the first video.

Section 2 consisted of several long, straight sections heading south towards Kemptville/Burritt’s Rapids, which were just a set-up to allow us to use Pinery Rd. It runs from Ashton side road to Franktown and is one of the best roads in the area. It’s the subject of the second video. On both it and McCaffrey, I believe the average speed was 68 km/h. This doesn’t sound very fast but it was challenging enough, especially for the three newbie teams.

From here on we didn’t really make any mistakes, but we got held up by some ambiguous instructions and the difficulty of reading street signs in the dark. Section 4 was a peculiar combination of cumulative distance-to-turns and incremental distance-to-turns, coupled with some turns which had no distances provided – it was interesting, to say the least. There were six controls, including the finish, and we zeroed three of them. On the others we took a total of 1.3 penalty points, putting us into second place overall and second in Expert – one of our best results ever.

I have a total of an hour and a half of video, but these are the best roads. The camera angle leaves something to be desired, but short of mounting it on the dash, I think it’s the best I can do. It should be rather different in the daylight – hopefully clearer, so you can read the computer display.

Videos are at: 

Spring Run-Off – ORRC Rally No. 3 – April 17, 2010

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

This is a fun event, run in the vicinity of Hastings, ON, which is southeast of Peterborough. Unfortunately this year the date coincided with an instructor evaluation session at Calabogie Motorsports Park, which was announced rather late and I did not want to miss. So we did not compete, but in 2009 we missed three events and still finished third overall, so I was not concerned about the impact of missing this event.