Photography & Motorsports
Into the 7's for the first time!
Wow! What a rejuvenating feeling to run well and run a 7-second 1/4 mile E.T.
This car is just over a year old and a list of goals has been taped in the trailer, one of which was to run in the 7's. I can't begin to tell you what feeling and an accomplishment this is and what this achievement means to my team and my fans.
Prior to this event, I literally blew up 4 engines (including the new engine that blew up in the pits at Moroso 3 weeks prior) plus my new intake manifold. I have to be honest and admit I was very close to packing it up for a while because I didn't know the cause (still don't) of the misfire that destroyed all these parts. I was out of parts and was tired of building engines only to break them on the first pass of a test session or on the dyno. I listened to a lot of advise, I read a lot and concluded that it was an ignition "issue" and the ONLY way I could solve the problem was to start over. I rewired the ECU, ran new ground/earth wire to all the electronic components, used twisted/shielded wire from the DIS2 Plus-HO's to the ignition coils and added ferrite noise suppressors around each end of the C.A.S. harness. Then I built a 5th engine out of junk parts and went and tested at the 1/8th mile. I tested the 2-step out a few times and made two good passes without a problem and felt like the "misfire" was in remission. Using my last brand spanking new parts, I built another new engine. I installed it in the car on Wednesday night, ran a gallon of fuel through it and loaded it up for the trip to Virginia.
With both cars loaded up Thursday night in Dan's 40' Featherlite trailer, we stayed ahead of the rain the entire trip and woke up Saturday morning to a dark and miserable day. Dan and I spent the day in the trailer "catching up" on things we weren't able to get done before we left. We would learn from the NHRA officials that we would get just one round of qualifying prior to eliminations.
Sunday morning was picture perfect and a great day of racing was scheduled and the track officials did a fantastic job preparing the track at a truly great facility. I was nervous because I really did not know what to expect from the car plus we were in borrowed SFI 3-2A/15 driving suites (New rule for 2006) which were bulky and hot. It would also turn out to be a very busy day with short turn-around time between rounds because of the new schedule.
My qualifying attempt was and felt as it usually did. Strong during the burn-out, a respectable 1.152-60' and then fell off after the 1/8th. To save the engine, I eased out of the gas so that we could review the data logs. An 8.742 at 122.06 mph was all. Both the Microtech and Edelbrock logs provided us with good information and thanks to my good friend Jesus "Kilo" Padilla who mentored me and my thoughts of making several changes at once, we only made a fuel map correction and I had just enough time to adjust the clutch before we were called for the first round of eliminations.
1st Round of eliminations! I remember thinking to myself, take it easy and concentrate on my own race and not worry about the guy next to me, I must think safety first, get the car down the track on a good pass and remember the "big picture" points. With lane choice, I elected the left lane although I had not made a pass down it. Burn-out, stage and round one was in the bag. It felt better and the time slip showed it was. A 1.186-60' was not good but the ET of 8.210 at 161.48 mph was my personal best. Prior to this, my best pass was 8.56 at 159.95 mph. With yet another good data log, Kilo mentored me yet again to make only one change with the fuel map. I also wanted to raise the boost but left it set at 33 psi. In addition to that we noted I was shifting at 8000 rpm and made a shit light change to 9000 rpm. Although I still had too much clutch, I did not have enough time to make any adjustments so we left it alone.
We learned that we were up against Paul Efantis in his very quick Toyota in the semi final round. I honestly did not know what to expect so I thought my only chance to get to the final was with reaction time or for Paul to make a mistake. Neither of those happened!
When I did my burn-out, I felt the car had power like it has never had before and in 4th gear I did my longest burn-out past the staging tree. Ha! did I have a chance at Paul? I remember thinking while I was backing up to stage. Knowing I can make 30 psi on the 2-step, I had to stage properly. I waited for Paul to get up to the line then I brought the RPM up to 4000. Paul lit the top bulb and I went in and lit both bulbs. I could not believe I had just made a huge mistake so I had to be conservative and not red-light.
My reaction time sucked. A 0.446 to Paul's 0.163 but I pushed that pedal as hard as I could because the car felt like it never has. Straight as an arrow right down the middle of the right lane right on the Toyota's left quarter panel. I pulled my parachute and once again I experienced something new. Boom and hit the brakes. I knew it was faster than before but I had no idea just how much.
I pulled up in front of Paul, got out of the car and went over to congratulate him. He then walked off toward the TV interview area and his crew handed him his time slip as they went and picked up his car. He looked at it as he walked off then yelled out at me, "holly s__t, you just ran a 7, your first 7. A 7.86" He ran over and bear hugged me and we proceeded to jump up and down like we had both just won. Then he went and did his interview. That will be a moment that will be etched in my memory forever. WOW, what a wonderful feeling.
To top it off, Dan comes driving buy while I was packing the parachute waiting on a tow after he won the Sport Rear Wheel Drive class. Dan's first "Wally" with his '93 RX-7. Our trip together was awesome.
Honestly, my accomplishment just melted away the pain and frustration from the past few weeks and I want to thank each and every person who came over to me after the event for their support and kind words and for buying tee shirts. And to the many friends and fans who either called or sent me emails, Thank you too.
Having had time to review that final set of data logs, I will make only minor changes to the tune, go through the engine to check everything and adjust the clutch settings. We are going to race as hard from this point forward.
I am excited and optimistic about our chances at Englishtown, one of my favorite tracks plus I will have my brother Graham Scheepers and cousin Rodney Wight from my "home" in South Africa (whom I have not seen in 7 years) here. For the fans, this next event should be good as I know there will be several fast cars including all of the ones who were in Virginia. I plan to continue with this streak and hopefully, we will see you in the winners circle in E-Town.
To my sponsors: Mazda, Mazdaspeed, NGK Spark Plugs, Mickey Thompson, Idemitsu, K&N, Microtech EFI, Innovate Motorsports, Edelbrock, Garrett, Precision Turbo & Engine, RX7.COM, Decals Plus, Kilo Racing and Tito Chassis Shop. This team is extremely grateful for your support.
Finally, I owe a great deal for this recent success to Jesus "Kilo" Padilla for his uncanny ability to listen and instinctively know how, and by how much to tune a rotary and to Tito for building a chassis that is safe and will go straight down the track just like he says it will. You guys are the best.
Look out, this yellow RX-8 will be slipping by you and in your face. We are Coming!
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