Maximum Distress, Part 4

Here we are, four weeks into a planned two week operation, and still plenty of work yet to come. I think I can safely say that “maximum distress” now relates more to Fripp’s sense of the term (Murphy’s Law) than my own distress at seeing my car in parts on the floor of the garage. It could be that I’m just becoming used to it in that state, or it could be that we’re finally making some progress at putting the thing back together.

Today we actually accomplished a few things. The transmission is married to the motor, the starter and master cylinder are installed, and although the car is still on jack stands, the motor and trans are supported by (half) the motor mounts instead of floor jacks.

Engine and transmission, not supported by jacks

It took a bit of jockeying to get the transmission attached to the motor. We had one floor jack supporting the motor and used two smaller ones to levitate the transmission into place. This was a bit of a challenge, given the cramped quarters. But when we finally managed to apply the correct roll, yaw, and pitch and got things lined up there was much rejoicing!

Michael announced that we’d just completed the hardest part of the operation. Then we went to work on installing the starter. We used various English swear words (English, not American) on the previous step but now upped our game. A quick search of the internet got us the proper Japanese swear words and we were able to compose an incantation that did the trick on the starter.

Both Michael and Daniel think we can get the rest of the work done in one more day, but I’ll believe it when I see it. We still have a fair amount of work to do, and what makes them think we’ll be any more efficient at reassembly next weekend than we’ve been the last two? We still need to replace the passenger side motor mount and install the trans studs for the fore and aft motor mounts. And we need to borrow the use of a press to remove and replace two ball joints before we can reassemble the suspension. When that’s all done, we can replace the wheel studs.

I’m happy that positive things are happening, however slowly. Distress is being replaced by anticipation.

Maximum Distress, Part 3

Just a quick update to the clutch job. We spent about four hours but made very little progress. We officially began putting things back together today, which is a milestone. The clutch assembly went into the car, and we replaced the driver’s side motor mount (three down, one to go).

The stumbling block today was mating the transmission to the engine. Because the car is so low to the ground, there’s no room to manoeuver. If we put the transmission on a jack, it’s too tall to get under the frame. If we try to put the tranny on a jack while it’s under the car, we can’t get enough leverage to lift it up. And it’s all too low to the ground for somebody to put his body under the thing to lift it up. We will reconvene next week for another go, adding another jack to the mix.

New clutch, installed.

At one point today, I expressed my amusement that even the internals of my car are green and yellow. The axles are green, and the new clutch is yellow.

Maximum Distress, Part 2

Things did not go as planned last weekend with the clutch replacement. By now, we had hoped to be able to take the driveshafts to a shop to have them reconditioned and to take the flywheel to a machine shop to have it resurfaced. Neither of these things has happened. We were unable to disconnect the driver’s side driveshaft from the transmission, which was proving much more difficult than expected. Getting to the flywheel would be easier; we just ran out of steam.

Yesterday Michael and I tried to pry the driveshaft out of the transmission without success. Last weekend we tried to do this when the transmission was still on the car using a slide hammer but had no luck. Doing this with the transmission off the car adds somewhat to the degree of difficulty because it’s hard to keep it from moving.

So our first task today was to remove the clutch assembly from the car. The friction disk looks okay. Compared to the new part, the old one appears to have about half its life left. The flywheel also looks to be in good shape. In fact, it’s good enough that we don’t see the need to have it machined. Both these observations fit with my self-assessment that I’m kind to the equipment.

Friction disk

The pressure plate is another matter. The plate itself is okay. It’s just that it was tearing itself apart in an apparent effort to divorce itself from its neighbors.

One bolt hole was completely off, two more were seriously cracked

I will probably never know exactly what happened as a result of the spin. Perhaps this part was already failing. I do know that I didn’t have any abnormal noises before the spin, but did hear something I didn’t like when driving the car around the paddock afterwards. The noise was gone by the time I got on the highway. I’m pretty sure that noise was the debris inside the bell housing.

Inside of the bell housing scored by debris

The diaphragm spring has also seen better days. Looks like the throwout bearing was grinding it away. The throwout bearing is why we embarked on this repair. It’s visually intact but when you spin it, it makes an obvious noise. I hate to think of how this would have turned out if that little sucker wasn’t crying out to be replaced.

Diaphragm spring wear

We finally did manage to get the driveshaft out of the transmission. We oriented it so the bell housing was on the floor (well, on boards actually) with the driveshaft pointing up. Both Michael and I had to stand on it to keep it from moving while Daniel went at it with a big pry bar. Our first few attempts fell short, but we finally overcame friction and got it removed. High fives all around and break out the beer.

We still need to use a press to get the driveshafts disassembled to the point where we can take them to get reconditioned. Michael has that lined up for later in the week. We’re finally nearly almost close to half way done.

Maximum Distress, Part 1

I’m a big King Crimson fan. On one of their live albums they have a track called “The Law of Maximum Distress”. I learned this week that that is Robert Fripp’s name for Murphy’s Law. I don’t want to exaggerate. It’s not like Murphy’s Law is a constant companion for me. But Murphy does show up fairly regularly. By titling this post “Maximum Distress” I’m not suggesting that everything is going wrong.

Distress is defined as “anxiety, sorrow, or pain” or “to give simulated marks of age or wear.” In psychology it is “unpleasant feelings or emotions that impact your level of functioning.”

So why am I talking about Murphy’s Law and anxiety or marks of age or wear? Well, this weekend we embarked on a program of winter maintenance for the Elise. Perhaps “embarked on” isn’t exactly true. She’s been parked for a few months now. When last we discussed the car, we had replaced two of the motor mounts. Timing is everything: when test driving the car, we couldn’t help but notice that the clutch’s throwout bearing was making noise. If we’d have noticed this before our work we’d have combined the jobs and saved some effort.

In any event, it’s time to do some major work on the car. It’s not just replacing the clutch. In addition, we’ll take the passenger side driveshaft to a local specialty shop for refurbishment (the CV joint boot is weeping), we’ll replace the two remaining motor mounts, and we’ll replace all the wheel studs. For good measure, when we reassemble the rear suspension we’ll take the preventive action of replacing the hub carrier bolts.

The reader may recall that the motor mount broke when I spun the car at my last track day. I was running on slicks and made a slight error that resulted in the most violent spin I’ve ever encountered. Actually, it’s the only time I’ve spun the car except when I had a mechanical failure. That’s happened twice, both times a sheared hub carrier bolt.

I don’t know one way or another whether this spin caused any of the other damage we’re addressing, or whether it’s just wear and tear. I’d say “normal wear and tear”, but because I’ve done on the order of forty track days (and the previous owner did quite a bit of autocross) I don’t think it falls under the “normal” category. And although I’ve only run slicks a few times, running on slicks radically increases the forces on the car.

And so it begins…

The original plan was to take a day one weekend to dismantle the car to get to the clutch. One day the next weekend we’d replace the clutch and put everything back together. In between, we’d take the driveshaft in for servicing. (We could do that work ourselves, but parts alone from Lotus cost more than having somebody else do it.) Some online research led us to a nice writeup with plenty of photos. This guy indicates the clutch job will take twelve hours for first-timers.

Now, of course, anybody who knows me knows that I’m not doing this myself, no matter how good the instructions are. I’m software, not hardware. I will mostly stand around trying not to get in the way while Michael and his friends do all the work. I’ll run to the store if we find we need something, and I’ll supply the pizza and beer.

Suspension disassembled

So when we got started yesterday, we planned to have everything taken apart by the end of the day. It was Michael and Daniel doing the work, and our good friend Murphy showing up a few times to lend a hand. At the end of the day we were still quite a way away from our goal. This is where Maximum Distress comes in for me. I’ve watched everything get taken apart. Car parts are everywhere. We’ve used every known size of wrench and socket known to man, even had to go out and buy one we didn’t already have. It would be a slight exaggeration to say it looks like a bomb went off in the garage.

Motor dropped

We worked seven hours yesterday, and Daniel came over again today and we spent another five. The fellow who wrote up our instructions said the whole job would take twelve; we’ve got twelve hours into it and we’re not quite at the halfway point.

Transmission

I have every faith that Michel and Daniel can put it all together. There really isn’t any doubt in my mind. But it’s all too much for my pea brain. Given an infinite amount of time and a patient mentor and I could probably do it. I’d undoubtedly have a few extra parts left over, and I’d have had to do many of the tasks two or three times because I put something together upside down or backwards. It would by my hell, my Maximum Distress.

Finally, the clutch!

I’ve now adjusted my expectations. I’m thinking it’ll be two more weekends before we’re done. We managed to leave enough room for Genae to park her car, so at least she’s not relegated to the driveway. But the bad news is that Michael put a bit too much effort into this given his recent back surgery. He’s now in a solely supervisory role.

More distress soon!

Motor Mounts

On my last visit to the track I ran on slicks. I was able to navigate turn 7 at between ten and fifteen miles an hour faster than on the street tires. Unfortunately, late in the day I apexed a bit early and had the choice of going off the track or lifting off the throttle. I chose the latter and for the first time in thirty-five or so track days spun the car. It was a particularly violent spin that dislodged the battery (again!) and broke a motor mount. A couple of weeks ago, the new set of motor mounts arrived.

The new parts

I was surprised to see that the inserts are black. They’re supposed to be red. The reds measure a 60 A on the durometer scale. (Hopefully I’m using the term correctly.) The blacks are 75 A, which is harder. I called the vendor and asked about it and was told that Innovative is no longer selling the 60 A for use in the Elise. I’m not sure I’m buying that. It could be that they just shipped the wrong ones. But there’s quite a bit of discussion on the web about which ones to use, so I decided I’ll install these. In theory, I could buy red inserts and replace them.

Today it’s time to install them.

Saturday, November 3

There are four mounts in the car: fore, aft, driver side, and passenger side. In addition to the various discussions I found on the web concerning the hardness, there is also quite a few opinions as to whether to replace all the mounts or not. It is not uncommon for people to just replace the fore and aft mounts, leaving left and right as stock. The original plan was to do them all, but if we run out of time I’m happy just to do the fore and aft.

The idea was that Michael and I would do it. He has a sore back, though, so he invited one of his friends to help. But Michael quickly found out that he was able to do some of the work after all, so I ended up watching and fetching tools as required. There really isn’t room under there for three people.

The guys at work

I’m sure this operation is a lot easier if the car is on a lift, but we don’t have a lift so we just put the back of the car on the ramps. It’s a little cramped, but workable. We did the rear first. It came off pretty easily

The old aft mount

The stock mounts aren’t solid and the new ones are. When we first inspected the mounts, that wasn’t clear to me. The only one we got a good look at was the rear one. I was thinking it was broken worse than it actually is. But it’s pretty broken. It’s not exactly X-shaped, but close enough. The photo doesn’t show it very well but three of the four legs of the X are cracked all the way through.

Forward mounts, new and old

The front mount was a bit tougher to replace. The bushing is pretty stout and we had to persuade it a bit to get it into place. Then there was much finagling required to get the holes to line up for the bolts.

While they were working under the car, I decided to finally “upgrade” the camera mount on the nose of the car. I didn’t give much thought to where the camera should be mounted back when I originally installed it. There are two problems with it. First, I have to take the tow ring off the car to run the camera. That’s not ideal if I have a problem on track and need to get towed. Second, because it’s sideways I need to use two little arms, one of which is essentially a 90 degree elbow. It’s not an elbow, but serves the same purpose. And because of the two arms the camera is farther from the mount itself and more subject to vibration.

Old camera mount (above, horizontal), new camera mount (below, vertical)

With the camera mount in the new location, the camera won’t move around so much and it’ll be even closer to the ground, making it look like I’m going faster! Sadly, the picture shows how beat up the front of the car has gotten. Michael and I have talked about what it will take to effect some fiberglass repairs, so I’m thinking the current beat-up state of the nose is only temporary. (The picture also shows both mounts. The old one is no longer there.)

We finished the job in about three hours. That’s just the fore and aft mounts. We haven’t put the undertray back on the car but I did take her out for a spin around the block. It’s going to take a while to get used to it. There’s a lot more vibration in the cabin. Before the test drive I was joking that it’ll be like a bunch of buzzing hornets. It’s worse than that. She really vibrates quite harshly now. I don’t think it’s enough to loosen the fillings in my teeth, but it’s quite different. On the other hand, there’s a noticeable difference in the feel when shifting gears. I never got past third and literally only went around the block, but I think it’s much improved.

In addition to only doing half the mounts, we haven’t done the trans studs yet. We probably are going about this the hard way, but so it goes. Oh, and it sounds like there’s an issue with the clutch. Michael thinks it’s the throw out bearing. Neither of us heard this noise at the track after the spin, and I haven’t driven the car since getting it home. When it rains, it pours.

Hoosier Saga

No, this is not the story of how Indiana was settled.

Several months ago I found a set of “gently used” Hoosier A7 slicks for sale on Lotus Talk. The seller was in Fountain Hills, Arizona, which added a bit to the degree of difficulty in obtaining them, but only a bit. Michael was in school in Phoenix so he could fetch them for me if I managed to strike a deal. We knew we’d be bringing a load of his stuff back to Denver at the end of the summer anyway, so why not add a set of tires to the mix?

I contacted the seller, who wanted two hundred dollars. I told him they weren’t worth that much to me and asked if he’d take forty. After a long pause he countered with sixty and we had a deal. Michael went to his house to collect them, and when Michael graduated I went down to Phoenix and helped him move his stuff home, along with my set of slicks.

Here it is the end of September, and finally time to put the rubber to the road, so to speak. I’ve been thinking about the difference between the Hoosiers and the Dunlops for quite a while now. The anticipation was exquisite. How much faster can I go over the course of a lap? Specifically, I wondered if I could average two miles per hour over the whole lap. If I exited turn 3 two miles an hour faster, could I carry that two miles per hour down the length of the highway straight? How much faster could I go in the sweeping uphill right handers of turns 7 and 11? I was pretty sure I could take turn 3 flat. I was pretty sure I could take 7 in fourth gear instead of third. Certainly I could average two miles per hour better. Then I did the math. Two miles per hour works out to about four seconds per lap. Two miles per hour doesn’t sound like much, but four seconds per lap sounds huge.

Sunday, September 23

The thing about track wheels and tires for an Elise that is driven to the track rather than trailered is that a support vehicle is necessary. My last set of track tires were street legal – I could mount them on the car at home and drive to and from the track – but slicks definitely are not. I sure wouldn’t want to get stuck in even the lightest rain in slicks. Also, I’d basically use the tires up completely driving them the 140 miles or so for the round trip. So I can’t run the slicks unless somebody goes with me. Michael kindly volunteered, even with the proviso that there’d be at least one session where I wouldn’t want a passenger so I could try to set a fast lap. (I figure the weight of a passenger costs me something like two seconds per lap.)

This was an Emich sponsored event and they offer full day, morning only, and afternoon only sessions. I signed up for only the afternoon session, with (I thought) the drivers meeting starting at noon. They’d break us into two groups, fast and slow, and we’d get four half-hour runs. My experience with these things is that most of the full day runners give up by mid-afternoon and that I’d have the most traffic in the first run and least in the last one.

Michael and I met up with Scott at the park and ride and we caravanned to Byers where we filled up with fuel. Michael and I abandoned Scott at the gas station so we could get a head start on setting up our stuff. We brought not only my track wheels but some chairs and a “gazebo”. That’s what it says on the box, but I’d call it more like a canopy. It provides shade, anyway, if the wind doesn’t carry it off. This was a risk, as we didn’t have any bungees to allow us to use the street wheels as ballast. We weren’t expecting wind, but you never know.

Turns out I was wrong on the meeting time, which was actually 12:30. That’s not a bad thing, as we didn’t have to hurry with anything. We got the canopy deployed and I went to work swapping the wheels. Here I will interject that I was poking around the internet the night before trying to decide how often I need to replace the wheel studs. So I use the breaker bar to get the lug nuts started all the way around, then start at the left front wheel with the impact wrench. Wouldn’t you know, the very first lug comes off bringing the stud with it.

I showed it to Michael and said, “Well, I’m done for the day!” I was pretty crestfallen. I lost a stud several years ago at an Eiskhana event and tried to drive it home slowly. Before I got home another stud failed. I ended up getting towed that time.

Luckily, Mark happened to be there. I met Mark through Dennis. Dennis owned the car I drove in the ChumpCar race at Road America a few years back. Dennis ran his car in three different race series so he had to have a pretty long list of drivers available. Mark was one of those drivers. He was here today running his Miata.

Mark says, “I’ve got some blue Loctite.” So we put that sucker back in and had an hour or so to cure before I took it out. I was still pretty concerned during my first session, paying close attention for any unusual vibrations. But all is well, and at the end of the day when we swapped back to the street wheels the stud stayed in place. In any event, even though I don’t have an answer to “how often do I need to replace the studs” I do know that I’ll be replacing them in the next few weeks.

I went out for the first session without Michael in the passenger seat. I was a bit uncertain how the slicks would work. They’re autocross tires, designed to heat up very quickly. So they’re not necessarily suited to running a half-hour track session. I’ve been told they’ll get greasy pretty quickly. One experienced racer told me I might only get one good lap on them. And, as I said, I was concerned about the stud.

But the biggest problem in that first session was the traffic. It was a bit like rush hour. Scott wanted to follow me around for the first lap, so I took it pretty easy. By the end of our out lap we were catching up to people. Going in to turn 4 I was seventh in line. The fast group is open passing, meaning we didn’t need the slower car to point us by. And everybody in front of me had a horsepower advantage. Nobody was pointing anybody by, but nobody was able to execute a pass. I got by two BMW’s and next time into turn 4 I was still seventh in line. At the end of the lap two cars went into the pits and on the pit straight I passed two more and got another in turn 1. It was the fourth lap before I got a clean run. That lap ended up being the day’s best. It was the only lap of the session where I had no traffic.

That best lap beat by previous best by two seconds and my best on the Dunlops by nearly five seconds. So I managed to get my two miles per hour. It was a little like driving a different car. Because of the greater cornering speed, I didn’t have to resort to my unusual line through 2, 6, and 11. I took 3 flat once or twice and was easily on cam in fourth gear through turn 7. I was six miles per hour faster in the pit straight, ten miles per hour faster through turn 4 and six miles per hour faster through turn 7. And yet I was slower on the highway straight. It was exhilarating. And I felt I could beat that time by another two seconds if I had a few clean laps.

The next two sessions I took Michael as a passenger. I’m thinking a passenger costs me about two seconds per lap. The first session with him I managed a 2:10, which isn’t much slower than that two seconds. The second session with Michael I had two laps in the 2:07’s, just a fraction slower than my best lap of that first session. If my two second guesstimate for the passenger is correct, my goal of doing a 2:05 is within reach. My lap timer confirmed that: it says my optimal lap in my first session was a 2:05.53. (That optimal lap is comprised of my best times in each of the three sectors put together as a theoretical lap.)

My last session started at 4:30. By now most people had left. I should be able to run eight or nine laps without any traffic. The tires still felt great, never felt greasy once. I was feeling good. I was psyched.

In my first timed lap (according to the data) I entered turn 7 two miles an hour faster than I had all day. Going up the hill I was in fourth gear and on cam. At the time, I’d have said I was doing it just as I’d done two dozen times already. But the data shows that I got off the throttle a little earlier than I had before. With the extra entry speed, I must have felt I was running wide at the exit, so I got off the throttle a little early.

I lost the back of the car, went into a spin, dropped the rear off the track. After 180 degrees was momentarily rolling backwards up the track before the car spun another 180 degrees. The car stalled and the oil light was illuminated for a second or two. I was going again right away. I never went more than a few inches off the track. But it was a violent spin. I’ve been sideways many times and always caught it. The only two times I spun the car before this was when I had the hub carrier bolts shear.

At the end of the lap I reported to the black flag station. Glen was already there talking to another driver. When it was my turn he asked what happened. I told him I lost it, that I spun all the way around. But I said maybe it was 180 one direction then 180 back the other way. “You don’t know how many times you spun?” I was there, I did it, but my eyewitness testimony was unreliable.

Everything felt okay, and Glen looked the car over and let me rejoin the session. On the next lap, as I was nearing turn 4 a car lost it between 4 and 5, first going off the left side, then crossing the track and going off the right side. He kicked up an enormous dust cloud and the lights in the turn 5 bunker were flashing yellow. I went pretty slow through the cloud of dust, not really sure where that car ended up.

Next time around, when I entered turn 4 I tried to downshift from fifth to fourth. But I couldn’t find fourth. I eventually got it back into fifth, but something was wrong. I continued slowly, trying to find a gear other than fifth. I eventually got one, but things were not good. I exited the track and going slowly through the paddock I heard a new noise. The noise went away when I engaged the clutch, came back when I released it.

With the car stopped I was able to select any gear. Michael jumped in and we drove slowly through the paddock. Gear selection was working again, but the noise was still there. We looked things over to the best of our ability when we remounted the street wheels. Nothing looked amiss with the suspension. Michael suggested that I’d broken a transmission mount. That would fit the symptoms. After a short discussion we decided I could drive the car home, taking it easy. So we packed everything up and hit the road.

Monday, September 24

At lunch today we put the car up on the ramps, took off the access panel under the engine and had a good look around. The rear engine mount is clearly broken, but the other three look intact. None of the bolts or studs appear to be damaged and everything else looks good.

I spent a fair amount of time looking at the video of the incident. I’m going to have to go with driver error. I shouldn’t have lifted until I had the car straightened out. For years I’ve heard that LOTUS stands for “Lift Off Throttle U Spin”, but I’ve never experienced it. That was quite the introduction.

Next on the agenda is ordering a set of motor mounts. I’m going to go with an upgrade from OEM. I’ve done a fair amount of research and will go with the Innovative mounts. I expect to feel a fair amount of additional vibration in the cabin, but these mounts will be better suited to the track and will likely improve shifter feel.

I’ll also order a new set of wheel studs.

I’ve been happy running track days on my street tires. I don’t feel the need to run on slicks all the time, and I really don’t want to spend a bunch of money on tires. The last set of track tires cost me about $800 and lasted four days. I got these Hoosiers because they were a bargain. I will continue to use these tires until they’re used up, whenever I can get somebody to cart them out to the track for me. But I know running slicks greatly increases wear and tear on the car. I do want to run better tires at the track, but ideally I could drive them to and from; ideally they’d last ten or twelve track days. I’ll keep looking.

But there’s no denying the thrill I got from these tires. Until the end there.

Holy Horsepower

It has been a busy week and I’m a little behind on getting the blog updated. So I’ll post things a bit out of sequence. I’m still putting together two or three videos of my drive home from Snowmass over Independence and Loveland passes. That work was slowed down by an evening at the Great American Beer Festival and a trip today down to Ferrari of Denver for a little car show which they called “Holy Horsepower.”

Saturday, September 22

Hours on the flyer stated 10am to 2pm, but their parking lot is small so I figured it was better to be early than late. As it was, I didn’t arrive until a few minutes after ten and by then they were pretty well full. They directed me to a nice spot that could hold two small cars. “We can probably fit another Lotus in there.” I wandered off for a bit and when I got back it wasn’t a Lotus in the spot next to me but a Tesla Roadster. Close enough!

I quickly spotted Kent’s 2017 Ford GT. It took me a while to track him down. When I did, I asked if he remembered me telling him that, even though I like all his cars, the only one I would ask to drive was his 2005 GT. I said I’d renege on that now that he has the new one. That got a smile out of him. I told him to expect an email from me.

As is usual in these things, if they were to give out an award for the dirtiest car I’d win. I haven’t had a chance to wash it since the Snowmass trip, so it’s all covered with bugs, dust, and track grime.

As expected, there was no shortage of fancy machinery. I neglected to get photos of the Morris Mini and the yellow Pantera. Actually, there were quite a few cars I didn’t get pictures of. But my photographic skills aren’t that great, so I figure I’ll go easy on everybody.

This was my best look at the Tesla and Elise side-by-side. I’d heard that they share only something like 7% of parts, and it looks like most of those are on the interior. The Tesla is several hundred pounds heavier but uses the same brakes. I was surprised by that, but it makes use of regenerative braking, so the brakes don’t need to work so hard.

I took a few shots of a pretty orange Aventador. It was one of the few cars with the engine compartment open. I was somewhat amused that they have a plaque with the engine firing order on it. I don’t recall seeing that before.

Quite a few people left by noon, but a few cars kept arriving throughout the time I was there. The one that drew the biggest crowd was a pearl white Ferrari LaFerrari Aptera 70th Anniversary car. I heard somebody say it was worth $6 million. I don’t know my Ferraris. I didn’t know it was a LaFerrari until I looked it up at home. Sure enough, it looks like that $6 million figure could be correct. Wow. Pictures don’t do the paint job justice.

When I found Ryan I told him I was interested in getting an ECU dump for my car. He said it was pretty easy and offered to do it. He brought out his scan tool and laptop and in a couple minutes I had the data. He did this last year when he rebuilt the top half of my motor, but I didn’t get a copy. I was most interested in time spent at various engine speeds. In adding these up and counting the amount of track time I have, I’m a bit surprised I’m not above 5700rpm even more than is shown. The time by car speed maps out to my expectations pretty well, so I don’t doubt the data.

RMVR Snowmass

Sunday and Monday, September 16 & 17, 2018

I had about thirteen hundred words written up about Sunday and Monday going through things in detail. Nobody really cares, though, so I’ll just cut to the chase.

I stood around on the inside of turn 13 with David and Victoria, my co-crowd-controllers. We were keeping people out of the way and our corner workers, Tom and Brian, were on the outside of turn 13 keeping the drivers out of trouble. The biggest moment of excitement for them was when one of the Formula cars spun 180 degrees very close to Brian.

I had quite a bit more interaction with spectators than I did last year. Almost without exception (almost!), they were enthusiastic about the race. Not many were race fans, but they did get a kick out of the cars. It’s quite the sensory experience. The cars are brightly colored and moving fast, they’re loud, you can smell the exhaust. When the big bore cars get on the throttle exiting the turn, particularly when they are bunched closely together, you can feel it in your chest. It is nothing at all like watching them on TV, and words completely fail to convey the experience.

Our corner workers, Tom and Brian

RMVR fed us dinner Sunday evening. We had beer and wine and the food was prepared by King Kong Emergency Response Catering Wild Fire Team. As you may divine from their name, their specialty is feeding the firefighters who fight wildfires. It’s not your basic food truck, but is prepared to traverse somewhat more difficult terrain than your typical urban landscape.

They had a variety of food available. I selected fish, corn, mashed potatoes and gravy, and a dinner roll. I was seated with my corner colleagues David and Victoria. When I got into the line for food I ran into Doug, so he joined us. He’s helping out a guy named Joe. Joe brought two cars: the number 17 Lotus 7 and the 007 Lotus Elan. He’s pretty fast. He asked where I was standing. I told him I was the guy giving all the Lotus cars the double thumbs up in turn 13 on the cool down lap. “Ah, I know where you were!”

David and Victoria ate quickly and retired to the hotel. Their spots at the table were taken by who I later learned were Steve and his wife. When I introduced myself to Joe I gave him my name and said, “I’m the green and yellow Elise.” That’s when Steve piped up and said he knew who I was. He’s in charge of arranging the volunteers for the lunch laps for the Race Against Kids Cancer. We had met briefly at last year’s event.

I didn’t take any of the cameras with me on Sunday. Corner captain Tom said, “If you’re watching the race you’re not doing your job.” But I wasn’t much busier here than on my station last year, so I was comfortable bringing all the cameras on Monday. I spent the first two laps or so of the first session for each group shooting with the SLR. I also found a variety of places to position the GoPros so that I’d get multiple angles.

Sunday’s activities were a bit shorter than Saturday’s. We had to give the streets back to the public no later than 4:00pm so the school buses could run. That was plenty of action for us. In total, we spent about sixteen hours standing on the street corner watching the cars and making sure nobody got in the way. The weather couldn’t have been much better; fine late summer days, a light breeze and no rain.

Sunday morning walking down to the meeting I spotted a place that said they served authentic Philly cheesesteaks. That sounded like a great idea for dinner, so after getting a shower I went to check it out. My first question was “What kind of bread do you use?” The answer wasn’t “Amoroso,” which, to me, means they’re not authentic. So I went searching for Plan B. There was an interesting looking Mexican place, but I didn’t want to spend that much so I found myself back to the New Belgium place where Jason and I ate Saturday night.

I did verify that David and Victoria were correct in that the Hanging Lake trail is closed. So I’m back to Plan A for the return to Denver: over Independence and Loveland passes.

I was back to the hotel and sacked out earlier than my usual bedtime.

Here’s a short video of the cars passing through turn 13.

Return to Woody Creek

Saturday, September 15

It’s time again for the RMVR race through the streets of Snowmass. It’s a big event and they need a lot of volunteers. Just like last year, they’re bribing me with free laps at Aspen Motorsports Park. (It used to be called Woody Creek and although I was never there when it operated under that name, I will continue to call it Woody Creek.) The place is privately owned and there are limited opportunities to run there, so I’ll take advantage of the opportunity. Last year’s visit was less than ideal, so I’m confident I’ll have a much better experience this time.

I was out the door by a quarter after seven, fueled up and on my way by 7:30.

The aspen are quite nice right now. Many trees still have some green leaves so unless there’s a big wind storm I should have some nice views on the way home. Why “the way home” and not “this morning?” I left the house early enough to make a stab at hiking to Hanging Lake. I’ve never been there, and next year they’re going to a permit system which will likely mean a lottery. I figure there’s a slight chance that I can get into the parking lot today, so that’s what I’m shooting for. But I will admit that the chances are not great.

I made it to the parking lot there a bit after 10:30 but the parking lot was full. Dang. Oh well. The ranger suggested I try later this afternoon, but I’ll be busy. The original plan was to go home via Independence Pass and Loveland Pass and get some GoPro footage of both of them. Instead, I think I’ll take another stab at Hanging Lake on Tuesday. If I get there early enough I should be in business. Early enough might be 8am. Which would mean being on the road by 7. Sounds doable.

Without the detour to Hanging Lake, I arrived at the track at a quarter to 11, which was way too early. But that’s okay. They were letting people in, so I had a leisurely time unpacking the car and getting everything ready.

Last year, the track day was after the RMVR race and a bunch of race cars showed up. This time it’s before the race and it’s only volunteers. At the start we had 10 cars, which we broke into two groups of five. The track is 1.1 miles long and they set up some tire barriers on the back straight to make a chicane. The track is narrow and bumpy and with the chicane isn’t well suited to passing, so we won’t be doing any. If we catch a slower car we are to go into the pit and wait for a release onto clear track.

Even with the extra time before my first session I managed to dilly dally too long. RaceChrono doesn’t have Aspen Motorsports Park in the library so I had to add it. It has been a while since I did this, and I’d forgotten exactly how to do it. So I ran the first session I ran without the lap timer.

Between sessions one and two I got the track added. It took me a while to figure it out, but that’s not because it’s hard to do but because I can sometimes be clueless. It’s actually pretty easy. At minimum, just plop a marker down at the start/finish line, rotate the arrow to match the running direction, and optionally set the width of the track.

In the second session I gave a ride to one of the paramedics. He used to work at the Lotus dealer in Denver many years ago. He has ridden in an Elise, but has never been in one on the track. He was quite impressed by the car’s ability to change direction. After a few laps I dropped him off so he could get back to his job. It wouldn’t be ideal for us if something happened where we needed the ambulance but both the paramedics were getting rides.

When I got out of the car after the second session to shut off the cameras, the new one’s battery had died. I usually get three sessions on a full charge. I thought I had full charges in all the cameras but am clearly mistaken. We were running twenty minute sessions and there was still plenty of time before I needed to be at the meeting. My goal for the day was to get three sessions, and I’d have no trouble doing that even taking a break. So I sat out a session while I charged the battery.

Third session I gave a ride to one of the other volunteers. He kept up a running commentary the whole time he was in the car but I couldn’t hear a word he said. Afterwards we chatted; he said he was saying mostly favorable things. Both passengers were impressed with the car.

Leader Board

Batteries survived the third session, where I set my best time. Under the  little canopy in the pits where they have some tables and coolers and helmets to borrow, they have a leader board posted. The important things to note about these times is that they’re run by the members of the track who have run many, many laps, and that the laps they’re running don’t include the chicane. I think my times were favorable (my best was 1:09.19), given that this was essentially my first day there and the chicane certainly slowed me down.

Racing heritage?

After everybody was off the track Jason brought out his Europa. It sat in a barn for years before he bought it and has only about thirty thousand miles on the clock. It also seems to have some racing heritage based on some stickers in the engine compartment. The way he talked about it I was expecting it to be in rougher shape. He wanted to do a size comparison against the Elise. They’re very similar sizes: measurement by eyeball says the Europa is an inch or two longer and maybe an inch lower.

Side by side

I left the track in time to get checked into the hotel before our required 5pm meeting. On the way to highway 82 I saw a bunch of McLarens heading to the track. They had a short session starting at 4. I gave a peace sign to the first group of 5 or 6 cars but only the last guy in line acknowledged me. I waved at the next group of 4 or 5 and they all waved back. Maybe McLaren owners don’t like peace signs.

I got checked in and headed to my room to drop off most of my stuff. On the stairs I met my roommate for the stay: Brian. The door lock wasn’t working and he had called the maintenance guys. They showed up just after I did. He said he’d only be using the room for the shower because he’ll be sleeping in his van. That works for me. I dumped the first pile of my stuff on the bed then parked the car. Upon my return Brian had already left and my key didn’t work, so I had to get it re-keyed.

This meeting was for both corner workers and crowd control. Last year it was two separate meetings. It sounds like they learned some lessons from last year. From my limited perspective, last year’s event went off pretty well, but there’s always room for improvement. This year it’s a two day event rather than a single day. My assigned station this year is about a hundred yards up the hill from last year. I was on a straightaway last time and this time I’m in a corner, which should be more entertaining. Last year I didn’t have much to do, as I wasn’t in a very busy spot. I’m guessing this year will be very similar.

I went back to the room and I got the laptop fired up in order to copy the videos from the cameras. But the laptop didn’t recognize the newer camera. At the same time, Windows decided it needed to update itself. The laptop is so old it doesn’t perform very well, and doesn’t like to multi task. So I didn’t expect to make much progress.

Luckily, Jason was done at the track and was free for dinner. Even though he’s not a beer drinker, he kindly agreed to meet me at the brew pub closest to my hotel. We had a nice chat and I ate too much.

Here’s a video with a few laps. They’re short laps. I don’t think the bumpiness of the track comes through on the video, but it’s pretty obvious how narrow it is. Also note that all the turns are second gear and I’m only into third gear twice each lap. Still, that fast lap works out to about 57mph average speed. Above, I mentioned that when we caught a slower car we were to pull into the pits and wait for a gap. It didn’t always work out that way – sometimes the slower car pulled over for me.

CECA CSP

Saturday, August 18

I didn’t enter today’s event but went out anyway just to hang out. We wanted a big turnout from Lotus Colorado and I’d have to say we did it. By my count we had nine cars entered, but I’ll admit that I’m not certain every Lotus there was brought by a club member. Still, I’m not sure we’ve had that many Lotus at a track day other than for LOG at PPIR.

It started to rain just before the lunch break, and by noon it was coming down quite hard. As I was improperly dressed for the weather – shorts and t-shirt and no rain gear – I figured it was a good time to make my escape. I hope the squall was short-lived and the folks who stayed managed to get additional track time.

I had a good time visiting with everybody and taking pictures. Somehow I talked Junmo into showing up with his drone. I hope he found the morning worth his time. I shot quite a few pictures, thinking I got at least one of each Lotus in attendance. I managed to miss getting one of Gordon, though. Don’t know how that happened. Sorry, Gordon.