Photography & Motorsports
Hot-Thunderstorms-a BLOWN engine-Slippery track
With the RX-8 in what I believed was going to be the best it had ever been prepared for a race and be a serious contender for a national event, Dan & I decided to be at Moroso on Friday preceding the Saturday-Sunday event so that we could test and set up the clutch and chassis.
The first and only pass we attempted to make was a disaster and a tremendous let down. The engine blew up (literally) and for the first time in my racing history, I oiled down the track and in a big way. The entire right hand side of the car, especially the right front wheel was COVERED in oil. It was a mess! My apologies to the Moroso track officials for making such a mess which took them quiet some time to clean up.
Thanks to Tito of Tito Chassis Shop (the guy built this car) for helping me remove the damaged engine and install the spare. The turbocharger turbine wheel was destroyed so something had broke inside the engine! Tito was there to assist me and set up the chassis for the bad track and we ended up working late on Friday night and then completed the engine swap on Saturday morning. A brief synopsis of the engine failure data log showed it had detonated and in this case, the only reason was it was way to lean at +50 psi of boost.
Have you ever seen a hole blown right through the face of a rotor? Stay tuned!
With the spare engine installed which was assembled with stock seals and shaft and knowing the limits of the stock parts, we turned down the boost and from the recommendation from Russ Turner, I added 10% more fuel and prepared for the first round of qualifying.
I was in the first pair to attempt to go down the track in the Modified class. In the left lane and as I engaged 4th gear, the car got VERY loose and drifted toward the wall. I got out of the throttle and coasted the rest of the way. That was a scary 10.67 @ 94 mph ride! With a short data log of being "in the gas" for just 4 seconds, we had enough data to show we needed to change the shock settings and leave the 4-link as it was for the second round. I did not want to change the tune of the engine so I elected to leave it alone.
Rain would prevent anyone from making another pass on Saturday and it was announced that a second round of qualifying would take place at 9am on Sunday morning. It was raining again on Sunday morning so we had to wait until around 11am to make what would be our second and final qualifying attempt.
First in line in Modified to go down the track again and in the left lane, this pass was more like it although the tune was off. It was rich and "missing" but it felt strong so I just rode it out. The shock and tire pressure changes Tito made were good as the car did not move around as it had done previously. With a 8.298 @ 163.39 mph pass, we were in the field. There were 13 cars qualifying for the 8 spots.
Rain again delayed the racing and finally at around 4:30 pm, the first round of eliminations would get underway.
The NHRA officials made a mistake by permitting the #9 qualifier as an alternate to move into the #5 spot without moving the #6, 7 & 8 to move up one position as written in the rule book. What a crazy decision!
For me, it would be short and sweet. Paired up against Paul Efantis, the #1 qualifier with a fantastic 7.500 @ 183.71 mph and my 8.298 @ 163.39, all I could do was run my own race.
Well, I don't know what I was thinking or doing. I definitely must have had a brain f--t or something. After my short burnout I must have left the car in 3rd gear, staged it in 3rd gear and started in 3rd gear. As you can imagine, it just burned up the clutch. That pass was done and Paul was long gone.
Not realizing that it was in 3rd gear, thinking that I was 1st gear, I couldn't figure out why 1st was "taking so long", why the clutch was slipping so much yet it seemed as though I was going "fast" speed wise in 1st. Only after analyzing the data did I realize what I had done. The 6532 RPM driveshaft told the tale which clearly indicated it was 100% Driver error.
That said, I hope I NEVER make that mistake again and although it ended up being a frustrating week end, it was exciting to finally get to watch some of the other elimination rounds. Especially in the very class I compete in as I witnessed Jorge Lazcano click off an amazing 7.440 @ 182.44 mph in his 13B powered '85 RX-7 and then Paul Efantis run an amazing 7.372 @ 184.16 The crowd went wild. It was so exciting and I cant wait to see the outcome of this final round which will be held during the second round of qualifying at the September 30th Englishtown event. I personally congratulate these two guys. Well done!
I wouldn't miss this SHOWDOWN for nothing. It's going to be one hell of a race! The price of admission on Saturday will be well worth it. Trust me on this one as I know the Puerto Rico vs. US rivalry will be the buzz.
OK, have you ever seen a rotary engine ROTOR with a hole blow through the face?
From talking to a lot of people, this is very rare but I managed to do it.
Besides the turbine wheel of the turbocharger and this rear rotor hole and one corner seal broken (there is no sign of detonation on the other two faces) this was the only internal damage that incurred. Amazingly, the 2mm Atkins apex seals survived and did not break. One of the other crazy things that happened was the oil pan blew up (as much as it could) with the +50 psi of boost pressure traveling through the hole in the rotor and pressurizing the oil sump. This explains why there hardly any oil left in the pan and why there was so much oil under the car on the track.
So, to all the rotary gear heads that are out there (and I know there are thousands all around the world) trying to push this small engine's performance to way beyond what anyone could ever imagine it could, I caution you to learn from the mistake I made.
Never use a rotor that has previously been subjected to detonation and/or has a "dent" in it in a high performance race engine.
This rotor had a small dent in it in the exact location where the hole is after testing in the 1/8th mile several times running 50 psi of boost. I believe that if I had been testing on a 1/4 mile track, I would have learned that it was too lean under heavy load with this much boost. I reused the rotor as I did not yet have my 3mm rotors cut prior to assembling the engine in preparation for the Moroso race nor did I have a 2mm spare that was balanced or matched the front rotor and I certainly never-ever thought that this could or would occur.
That said, the car will be ready for the Englishtown event September 30 - October 1 with a strong engine, a brand new GForce GF-2000 transmission and a couple of small modifications. I fully expect to be running mid 7's in Englishtown and can't wait to compete with what has turned out to be a world call field of competitors in the Modified division of our Sport Compact series.
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