Fire in the Pits
Another title could be "Fire IS the Pits", or "How fast can Bobby run?"
Sunday was Race #3 in the bi-monthly CDRA drag-series, where we race for points. (I'm 5th out of 35, by the way, in the Super-Pro class). Like the last two races, it was cold and windy with high humidity. A lousy day. My car has problems starting because of the "start-retard" I installed to take the load off the battery and prevent backfires when starting. The retard takes all the advanced timing out and when it's cold, it's worse because there is no choke. I was cranking the engine, then I flooded it, so I removed the air cleaner element to give it more air and maybe manually choke it. When I took the air cleaner element off I noticed the metal part was quite hot, VERY unusual for a car that hadn't started yet, and with an 8 deg Celsius temperature outside. Figuring that I had had a fire in the carburetor and air-cleaner, I instructed my crew (Ryan) to smother any flames that may appear in the carburetor in case of a back-fire. This happened to me a few times while I was testing the car in my garage. No big deal.
I gave Ryan a rag about a foot square. I fired the engine, and could see what was happening from the cockpit through the 1 inch space between my hood and dash, and I saw Ryan trying to beat back the flames. I killed the ignition and jumped out to see Ryan throwing the small rag on a fire about 3 times the size! The entire back end of my engine was on fire! I tried the rag too - yeah - WAY too small! By then people started running to the car, and I quickly realized the fire was out of control. I sprinted to my truck in about 3 steps (it's about 20 feet away...) thinking quickly: "Where the hell is my fire-extinguisher -front or back?" I chose the front, opened the door, grabbed the extinguisher, and in the 3 steps I took to get back to the car, I ripped the pin out and threw it over my shoulder. Still on the run I got to the engine, pulled the trigger and in 1 sec the fire was out. The carb was wide open, but luckily I didn't get any dry powder inside the engine. The fuel pump was STILL on! It was pumping fuel out the secondary float bowl adjustment screw. I hand tightened it to stop the flow, then killed the power to the pump. (I have a panic switch in the car for just such an eventuality...in the panic, I forgot to use it.)
Amidst the dozen racers and 2 track officials that showed up for the barbecue, I surveyed the damage. Luckily only the plastic wire covering for my nitrous solenoids melted and the solenoids and other metal parts in the area were scorched and are now black. No damage to the wires. I fired the car and she purred like a...(mountain lion) kitty. The excitement didn't end there. I used nitrous for the first time, in second and third gear and cut 0.3 seconds from my elapsed time. When times are measured in hundredths of a second (I lost last time by .045 seconds), 0.300 seconds is a phenomenal decrease! I dialed in at 11.00 for the elimination round where I decided to add nitrous to all three gears. Yehaw! I pulled the wheels off the ground and did the quarter mile in 10.75 seconds at 128 mph! Not bad for a car that weighs 3200 lbs. and has a little 351 cubic inch engine in it! Unfortunately this was 0.3 better than my dial-in, so I "broke out" and lost that race. It's really the pits when you lose by going to fast! I never know if I should be happy or not.
The race was delayed twice due to rain. I bought back into the consolation round and won, and was only 2 runs away from the big money when they cancelled. They did pay the 5 of us who were left in consolation $20.00 each to soothe our sorrows. Next race is Father's Day Funny Cars. It's also a Battle of Alberta race (with Medicine Hat) and I'll be using the nitrous again, so come out and watch! Thanks to my sponsors Spartan Controls Ltd and Nucleus Internet (Internet on Nitrous -blazing fast!).
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