Due to unforeseen circumstances, we left for the track about 9 hours late. We were supposed to leave Davis at 9 am but David was delayed and he didn’t arrive with the truck until almost 6 pm. We quickly loaded up and then headed for Esparto where the Yaris was vacationing under the care of Mike “Tinyvette” Meier. We made it to the track just about 8 pm when the tech inspection was supposed to be closing, but there were 10 cars still in line, so no problem. Everything checked out fine for us, but my old Miata was getting some extra scrutiny.
Before the Yaris, I was on a team that raced a Miata. It participated in Lemons, Lucky Dog, ChumpCar, a bunch of HPDEs and even an SCCA race school. It went through half a dozen Lemons themes, hosted an all women’s racing team, and was rented out to a friend’s team while their car was getting fixed. During its tenure with us, it grabbed 3rd place in B class in Lucky Dog (Laguna Seca) and 3rd place overall in ChumpCar (Thunderhill). Eventually I started to spend a lot more time with the Yaris and the Miata sat in my driveway for a year with a bad engine. And then we got a JDM engine and it sat for another year doing nothing. I was going to sell it and then instead I donated it to Deaf Power Racing, a new team whose mission is to get more deaf people into motorsports.
Under DPR care, #581 has had a whole host of problems. They inherited an incomplete build and a partial Lemons theme. In their first outing, a few weeks ago, the engine bent a valve. So they went into the Thunderhill race needing to install a new engine, which they did the day before. Their reward for all their hard work was LDRL officials giving them a hard time for the cage. Not only was the cage built by Evil Genius Racing (owner John Pagel is head of Lemons tech), it also had previously passed inspection by NASA, SCCA, Lemons, ChumpCar, and even Lucky Dog themselves! Anyway, their cage issues got resolved but that was just the start of their problems.
When the green flag was thrown on Saturday, they didn’t make it through the first stint before they came in with a broken diff hanger. That never failed on us, but I guess they fail eventually. The next calamity was that the axle wasn’t replaced correctly, so the diff oil leaked out and the diff over heated. So after working for several days straight they had a pile of broken bits to show for it.
I run guest drivers on my race team all the time. There are lots of people who pay money to enter a race only to find that the car they were supposed to drive has died for one reason or another. Being the sap that I am, I like to give such unfortunate people a chance to walk on the mild side. I’ve met some really nice people doing this, and that’s probably what reinforces the practice. DPR had 3 arrive-n-drives and no car. So we cut our stints down and made room for them. I would have made room for the owners too, but they thought it would be best to prioritize their paying customers.
It turns out that one of the drivers, Taylor, had a rather unexpected connection to me. Not only does he know Ben Dawson, a dear friend and former teammate of mine back at the start of my racing adventures, he had also driven on his racing team. That meant Taylor had actually driven the second car I had given away: my 1986 BMW 325e. That now lives in North Carolina with Winsome Racing. Now if you’re counting cars, you might think that Miata #581 was car #1, but actually that was #3. The first racecar we gave away was our 1988 MR2. Don’t get excited, I don’t have any immediate plans of making the Yaris #4.
Guest driver #2 turned out to be a really important person to meet. Ryan is a former StopTech employee. Not only could I share with him my love for the StopTech 309 compound, he also told me what was wrong with my brakes. The Yaris doesn’t use stock calipers because the pad choices were so limited. It was either EBC Red or Hawk HPS, neither of which was very good. So I upgraded to a larger caliper from a Corolla. You have to use a different rotor, but otherwise they bolt right up. StopTech 309s are made in Corolla sizes, which is why I made the swap in the first place. Here’s the problem: the Corolla piston is probably a little bigger. That means it takes more pedal travel to operate the brake and it results in a softer pedal feel. And here I thought I could never remove the last bit of air. Ryan said he would give me a professional brake analysis if I sent him my part numbers and corner weights. How cool is that?
Lucky Dog Racing League is changing. While some change is inevitable, the direction the league is going is away from me. It’s probably better for the health of the series to embrace fast, expensive cars, but it’s leaving budget, grassroots racing behind. Sure there are a few teams showing up with single axle trailers, but there are more with stackers. And while there’s nothing in the rules preventing someone showing up in a 1980s econobox, there’s also apparently nothing stopping people from bringing cars that compete in NASA E0. The speed difference isn’t safe or fun. Next year they will have a B-Spec class. On the one hand, that’s a nice concession for newer cars like mine that are currently illegal because they are too new. On the other hand, B-Specs are rare, and I’d probably be the only one in class. Participation trophies don’t motivate me. I want to dice with cars of similar speed. The growing speed differential between my Yaris and the top cars is making racing less enjoyable for members of my team. As a result, the Yaris is leaning towards more Lemons and less Lucky Dog in the future (I think).
I drove a half dozen laps at the start of the race on Sunday before the double yellows came out. I got to dice with a few Miatas during that time. Thanks, that was fun!