Season Start Tranny Trauma Calgary May 5, 2001
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The CDRAs race season officially began with the Test and Tune on May 5…well it did for me anyway. I know Secret Street has been going for a couple weeks, Media Night was a few days before the May 5 T&T, and CDRA meetings have been running continuously since last year! I say it’s “official” because of course, the first points race of the season was the next day, on May 6.
I knew my weekend was going to be bad when I discovered that my running shoe was split right across the bottom of my sole. (That’s the sole of the shoe, not my SOUL-SOUL!). I had gone for the 2 pairs for $9.99 at Zellers, so I could buy an extra liter of racing oil, and that’s the thanks I get! Having lost sleep and not eaten properly for two weeks preceding the event, I figured I was pretty well ready for the T&T. The previous week of chasing a miss (not the good kind, as in 18 year old “miss”, but the bad kind, as in “damn engine miss”) and leaking transmission problems were now behind me. Yeah, May 5 was the significant other’s birthday, but she understood my passion for what I do, misplaced though it may be. To show her I DID appreciate her support, I took my truck and trailer, with car on it, to Safeway to get her some flowers (her favourite), chocolates (my favourite), the obligatory birthday card, and a cake.
The weather on Friday, for those who were not there, was miserable. It started off T-shirt warmth in the morning, turned to rain-coat-wet in the early afternoon and was parka-weather by late afternoon when T&T was to begin. Despite the track being dried by the gale force wind, the evening was cancelled. Those jet-cars would have warmed the place up, why didn’t Race City just let ‘em cruise around the pits for a while? I did get the car tech’ed. I was anxious to get a clean check because I added a bunch of stuff to the car. I took stuff out too, like a big square-foot notch out of the inner fender of the car for a small nitrous-enrichment fuel tank. Well, I didn’t pass, and since this was the first time I was rejected by tech, I was hurt, to say the least. Not as hurt as when I was rejected by those girls when I was 17, but hurt none-the-less. The problem? My emergency shut-off switch at the back of the car didn’t work. When Barry switched it off, the car kept running. When I hit the panic button inside the car, same thing! Arrrrgggghhh! I knew the reason: the alternator I had just installed was wired on the wrong side of the cut-off switch, so it was keeping the car running even though the battery was disconnected! Oh well, at least I knew the alternator worked. I disconnected the unit to solve that problem.
So I got to go home early to photograph the girl-friend blowing out candles on the cake I bought her, and sharing her chocolates with me. Sunday was cool and a little breezy but thank God (that’s God Speed, the speed God) it was warm enough to shed the parka and just wear coveralls. The program began shortly after 9 AM, and I made my first pass at about 9:45 or so. With that great tail-wind, I had a real good shake-down run. I had been unsure of my new, just-balanced slicks, my tranny, or if the engine would just sputter all the way down the track. None of those things happened and the run put a smile on my face. We’s goin’ to party! Not for long.
On the second pass, I used the tranny-brake for the launch. This “fun-button” worked great last year, but today it caused a high-pressure in the tranny which responded like YOU would if someone punched you in the belly. It puked. Yeah, oil by the liter spewing out the dip-stick, all over my new wires, new NOS solenoids, clean engine and very hot headers. One witness said that my car wasn’t visible at the end of the track because of the smoke. I was oblivious to this of course, because drag-racing is about looking FORWARD, not BACKWARD. I did feel a tranny-twinge when the tranny slipped in high gear, for about ½ second, then the run was over. I got onto the return road, driving along my merry-way when I was surrounded, then cut-off by the safety crew! Ooh wee! Just like NYPD Blue! Informed of the spectacle I just created, I responded by saying I didn’t think it was too much of a problem, and when I popped the hood, there was the dip-stick, out of it’s tube by 16”. The holes in the hood I have for cooling, served as conduits for the tranny oil to my windshield. Yeah, it was a mess! My crew and I fixed that problem, but in testing the car for other possible leaks, I ran it when the battery charger was sitting on the trunk. Now race cars rumble a lot, unlike my brother’s Jag, and this caused the charger to fall, break and never work again. So I had to go to Defcon 3 with my charging system and use booster cables and truck to get the electrons back in the battery.
To be on the safe side, and not suffer the ire of fellow racers by putting oil on the track, I decided not to use the tranny brake for the rest of the day. I had wired the dipstick down to prevent it’s popping up again, but I figured I had bigger problems and didn’t want to chance it. In the first elimination round, I did TOO good. Yeah, I broke out. I paid my blood-money for the consolation round and got to run again and promptly red-lit against my buddy Steve in his Mustang. I told him later how he psych’ed me out by delaying his staging while I was feathering the throttle and foot brake. Or maybe I just phyche’ed MYSELF out! I do that a lot. My own worst enemy is myself. In the first consolation round it was good to see all the heavy-hitters (the pros) there along with me. Wow! Were there ever a lot! Thanks guys, I didn’t feel so bad after watching all you guys lining up! Mike Ferstl, CDRA president did commentary again and as usual, did an excellent job. It’s too bad he can’t run his car too, because he’s a strong competitor; you know, the kind a Ford guy like me likes to beat… The Jet Cars always put on a good show, as do the Funny Cars. The stands were full, something we all like to see because of the importance to the track and consequently the sport of drag-racing. Race City had everything under control and the show went very smoothly. Despite the hardships (the weather, no girls wanting my autograph, etc), it was a pretty good time.