Yesterday was part of the regular Austin tradition of Blues on the Green; although this year the definition of “blues” has been tortured pretty heavily, Marcia Ball brings it back to its roots. As usual it was a gathering of friends old and new, and a good time was had by all. I was lucky enough to be able to comingle my groups of friends, as well as display part of my talents — building shit.
I made this flag pole out of the old 10x20 tent I took to races years ago, and the beauty of it is that it’s pretty easy to carry and completely modular. Next time it will be at least one more section high, which is roughly 4.5 feet… and should be the tallest (or near tallest) flag there. If you see it, come on by and say hi! There’s tons of pics of it online (look in this Flickr for more pics of it!):
Shakey Graves drum & tamborine
So my buddy Matt A. Foster has a residency at Beale Street Tavern, just below the Parish on 6th street. Matt’s a Tennessee banjo and guitar picker who can write a mean song as well. I shot some video of a couple of his originals and a few covers which are up on my YouTube Channel, and took some pics. He’ll be playing there again next Sunday, July 29th if you’re in the area and want to check him out; you should also keep an eye on his reverbnation page:
A tale of one of my forays into managing a team and crew without any resources, money, or cooperation… and the adventures and successes the crew and I found despite not being given adequate resources or preparation!
We were supposed to leave at 5am today, but due to an airsoft BB to the eye two days prior the driver ended up going to an emergency care facility because of increased pain. No damage, just trash which needed to be flushed out, but 3 hours spent in the ER waiting. We end up leaving town around 3-4PM, crashing in North Texas south of Dumas.
After eating a hearty breakfast in downtown Dumas, we visit one of our crewmembers grandparents house which turns out to be quite interesting as grandpa is a craftsman of many things, including gunstocks, knives, and various leather products. We finish our visit with a Coke and a Snickers and finish our day at the RV park which will be our HQ for the next week in Green Mountain Falls, CO.
We spend the day getting the car âreadyâ for the event, starting with technical inspection which will be on Monday. Our to-do list is long, and we discover today the car we purchased a month ago (and spent a month getting ready) that was âready to goâ is missing a sub belt. Half-ass fix includes a stop at the local speed shop for some Simpson belts which we discover are 6â short of the shoulder bars welded almost in the trunk (damn Europeans) and therefore will do us no good. Onto plan-bâ¦
Also, drive up the mountain for the first time in the recce car with the crew onboard. The 2 of us that are Motorsports inclined take notes which turn out to be surprisingly accurate considering what I know about stage notes consists of various languages in WRC footage, and the other crewmember co-drove at Paris last year which uses route books (whatever that meansâ¦ I wasnât kidding when I said I know incredibly little about rally).
Inspection day. We finish up the necessary things to get our sticker and myself and the crew take the car over so we can get registered. Inspection goes smoothly, and we get our sticker. Thereâs a video on YouTube that includes a picture of the driver of #725 standing next to the car in lineâ¦ itâs actually the crew chief. ;)
With sticker in hand we finish getting the car ready, which includes getting tires mounted on our only set of rims for the week and doing suspension setup in the wavy, decomposed granite RV space. No wonder toe was about an inch too much. Driver goes to sleep early after reviewing notes with codriver, and the crew goes to bed late around midnight.
We get up at 3am to load the truck and head up the mountain for our first practice day. At this point its important to mention the car has been driven for probably 5 minutes since purchase a month prior, with only about 2 minutes of practice after nearly completely redoing the car. First session out, we keep popping ECU fuses. This problem is fixed by putting in a 20A fuse and covering up the new bare-ended wire found in the cockpit. Weâve also got an overheating problemâ¦ and a backwards running fan. Second run to the top reveals the car is overboosting â about 13psi, to be exact. The crew for the previous owner recalls the Stack info and boost is cranked down. Overheating is reduced, but still a problem.
After practice the team heads back to camp for some much needed rest, then off to Denver to pick up and drop off some needed parts, pick up our âexpertâ âcrew chiefâ, and make a run to the dyno. Trip to the dyno ends up being nearly completely useless, as we adjust fuel pressure manually and ignore the Autronic ECU thanks to our high-rev tuna. We also learn that chances are high we have stretched head studs and/or a blown headgasket from the overboosting, and purchase replacements of each. Our expert crew chief says heâs going to change head studs tonight and weâll have the headgasket in case we need it. Get back to Colo Springs around 9 and part of the crew and the expert crew chief stay up âworkingâ on the car until 2, at which point they attempt to load the car on the trailer by revving it to 5k and killing it, getting the front wheels on the trailer and giving up. Net car change: installed new sub belt on naviâs side, reinstalled foot plate, made half-ass intake separator which was not installed.
Crew again wakes up at 3am to head to the mountain for practice. We finish getting the car loaded, back the truck and trailer up to turn around, and discover the left front truck tire is completely flat. At this point itâs about 3:45, which is about when weâre supposed to be going through the toll booth, 15 minutes away. Driver and crew give up and go to sleep after the truck is backed up to our paddock.
Once everybody gets up, we start working on the car. Header/downpipe get wrapped with heat wrap, intake and charge pipe are wrapped in fiberglass and aluminum tape to look like breakfast tacos, and a new intake separator is fabricated. While wrapping the downpipe, I discovered it was up against a solid object so tightly I couldnât fit a piece of paper between them, must less the heat wrap. Upon closer inspection, I realize this solid object is in fact the oil pan. A little info about the car: 1999 Mitsubishi Evolution 6.5 (Tommi Makinen edition) with Evo 8 engine/turbo and anti-lag. Exhaust when anti-lag is turned on is probably in the neighborhood of 7-800 degrees. Head studs still not changed. At some point during all this, we make a trip to town to get some various spares like a water pump and thermostat, in case we need them to fix our overheating problem. While at the Mitsubishi dealership (thanks Rick and Bob!) we decide to forego the thermostat and see if that helps fix our problem. Then we head to the Hyundai dealership down the street to get an alignment and tire swap. Ed. Note: laser alignment machines are awesome.
Same routine, up at 3am to get to the mountain for qualifying. First session out, driver reports overheating is extremely reduced but still a little hot â 220-230 by the end of the section. Car handles great, even if our settings are counter what Mitsu people say. We run a 5:43.097. Change tire pressures and jack up the rear coilovers to try and reduce tire rub and head out for session 2. Almost 10 seconds faster, at 5:33.467 â and, less than a second slower than Rhys in the 2wd Time Attack class. Car feels fine, no real reason to go out again without changing things as driver reports he was pushing the car as far as he would in practice/qualifying. I advise a shock setting change, to 4 from 2. Last session, go out and run a 5:31.158. Rhys doesnât go out for 3rd session, so we end up qualifying on pole for Time Attack 4wd a second and a half ahead of Rhys Millen in Time Attack 2wd. Hey everybody, look at the band of badass 20 year olds from Texas! (we forget to mention our balding 40âs crew chief and financier)
Qualifying on pole for class means mandatory attendance at Fan Fest downtown tonight for an hour, starting at 5PM. Itâs at this point I reveal a tiny part of the behind the scenes story, and that is great turmoil and pissing and moaning, but beyond that I wonât expand because it isnât necessary. Driver and I leave early to relax and de-stress while crew brings car to Fan Fest under the thought that time apart will allow everybody to relax. By the end of the evening, we realize this had the opposite effect as the other side spent 6 hours stewing and creating stories which did not exist. Fan fest was a success, signed many autographs, set off the anti-lag next to a downtown building for 15 minutes sending children and women running and screaming. Head studs still unchanged.
Friday is supposed to be a day of rest for those with their shit together, or in our case, a day of work for things left undone. After the previous nights festivities (not talking about Fan Festâ¦) head studs get changed and run in, we groove the tires for the gravel, and enjoy a delicious dinner. Early to bed even though we get to sleep in until 5am for race day.
Get up the mountain during sunrise and get our paddock spot. Race day is pretty insane, people walking everywhere, constant car traffic up the mountain even though hundreds of people come in the night before and camp overnight, and all the race cars sitting around getting warmed up. First car at 9am, weâre the second run group and opted to be last car. Myself and crew hike up a couple turns into the mountain to watch, and pick a pretty good spot. A Right 5 after a short straight another Right 4+ (or 5, I donât remember). After all the other Time Attack cars come through Dave comes in making tons of noise (anti-lag on and working), clips the corner, and flings dirt and asphalt onto the track; crowd cheers wildly. We have some little FRS radios, and after watching a bunch more cars make it through including Lisa Klassenâs 2 cylinder Evo 9 (or 8, whatever it is) we hike a little further up and make radio contact with Dave, who tells us he made it in 12:54 and in second place. Second place?! Apparently the yellow WRX wagon that was 11 seconds behind us in Qualifying had an excellent run, and despite being 4 seconds behind us at 16 mile, ended up 5 seconds ahead of us at the finish. Not too surprising once we saw in-car and discovered the top gravel and car were so loose Dave didnât have enough confidence to run proper lines or push the car through turns with insane drop-offs. Even so, the crew and everybody were stoked as all get-out because we were the fastest car all week up to 16 mile on race day, and put on a damn good showing.
So I’ll admit I was a late comer to the Shakey Graves fanclub… but as anybody that’s heard his CD and seen him live will tell you, his energy live is out of this world while his album is very mellow and laid back. Now I don’t want to knock his hard work recording, it’s a fine album; it just doesn’t embody the energy and power he has live — the man is practically running the entire time and the sound is just incredible and full, and from just ONE MAN!
If you haven’t seen Shakey live you’re really missing out. The last time I saw a person/group with this much energy live was a duo of musicians named Dan and Pat and now they roll out hit records every time they sit in a studio… I’m talkin’ about The Black Keys.
I’ve got some links for you to check him out after the jump.
Another repost from a few years ago, this one the incredibly awesome Racing for our Heroes.
At the beginning of February I got a call
asking what we were doing with the Subaru (2004 STi rally car we’ve had around the shop since last year) and if we would mind terribly bringing it to an event. “I can probably even cover your expenses”. It didn’t take much convincing for me to say I was in, especially after I heard the name of the event and what it was about – Racing for our Heroes, giving hot lap rides to injured veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. The date was February 21 and 22, and we had less than 3 weeks to get ready.
The first order of business was replacing what seemed to be some disintegrated brake pads on the car after a few sessions at Harris Hill. What those molten bits turned out to be were roller bearings from the right front hub, and what we needed was everything between the lower control arm and the strut. I ordered the necessary parts from Subaru, and they arrived the day we were supposed to leave. As it turned out, though, they sent me parts for another car, and didn’t have the ones I needed. After a last ditch effort to drum up the correct parts, we relented and started preparing one of our Spec7’s that hasn’t been raced in 2 years and had tons
of untested parts on it. We eventually rolled out of the shop with a mile-long to-do list just before midnight on Wednesday the 20th.
After driving through the rain and arriving at Motorsports Ranch Houston at nearly 4am, we slept outside the gate for a few hours before the supposed 8am drivers meeting. I say supposed, because when we arrived what was touted as “up to 10 Porsche, Ferrari and Aston Martin racecars from the ALMS and IMSA series” turned into one 997 Supercup and a couple worn out BMW M3’s. Aside from, of course, our trusty Spec RX7. At about 10:30, we hit the track for a little shakedown, and around 11 the troops arrived. Because of the rainy weather, only 9 vets showed up with family, so the ridealongs were very loose, and the troops could ride with whomever they wanted whenever. I ended up only giving rides to 2 people, because quite frankly who wants to ride in funny sounding RX7 when there’s a shiny Porsche 997 Supercup there? Even the troops knew which was the faster car. The track was still wet and I only had some extremely slick, old, Toyo’s, but I think those 2 folks got the best ride all day in my car, sideways through the Bus Stop and Sugar and Spice, up against the wall. As the downpours came that afternoon, the demonstration race was cancelled.
Sunday we awoke to nice sunshine and a very dry track. After taking some crew around the track in the morning warm-up, we parked the cars on pit road and welcomed Sunday’s group of troops. This time there were 20-25 troops, so they divided everybody up into 4 groups of 4-5. On my first run with a very sweet Captain just out of surgery for breast cancer, one of the gas tank straps came loose and bounced along the track… a quick fix with a spare bolt, and tightening the other bolts (oops) and we were back on track, this time taking one of the “Samoan brothers” for a ride. During that run the car pushed horribly in right handers, so when I came in we had to put air in the RF. It was about 10 psi down, so we aired it up and I took the other “brother”, Junior, out. Handling was much better and his ride was a good bit quicker, and when I came in the first wanted to go again, and it being the end of the ridealongs with no-one else waiting for a ride with me, I took him again. It’s really something when you can make a 260 pound Samoan giggle like a school girl.
During lunch the handicap for the demonstration race was set, we gridded up, and headed out single file. Set by our laptimes during the ridealongs (me at 2:01, the BMWs at 1:50s, and the Porsche at 1:43) we would run for 40 minutes, and I would get a lap on the BMWs and 7 on the Porsche. Sounded fair to me because I knew I wouldn’t be running 2:01’s in the race, and the Porsche has 4 times the power with not much more weight. We started, and the 3 of them blew by me on the first real straight and walked away. About 10 minutes in the Porsche came around to lap me, and not long after that broke a half shaft going over The Hump, and his race was done. I continued to lead (remember I have to do one lap less than the BMWs) until about 10 minutes from the end when Jeff Stone passes me. I know his tires probably wont last the race and he’s worried about the transmission, so I let him go without much of a fight. That and he has at least twice the power and Hoosiers. Then, coming up to the white flag, Sam Shalala passes me going into Sugar & Spice… and as we go through the carousel, Jeff has parked it in the grass! Shit! Back to second place on the last lap! We come around to the checkered with Sam in first, me in 2nd and Jeff Stone a close 3rd after finally getting it out of the mud and driving like hell to catch up.
The really cool part of the demo race is that the winner, and the Wounded Warriors they’re paired with, gets their names engraved on an incredibly nice bronze trophy that will be on display. We were pretty damn close, but there’s always next year!
No enduro practice/qualifying on Saturday — Qualifying Sunday morning was the first Enduro specific session before the enduro itself. VERY POOR IDEA. Luckily Antonio ended up renting Gary Pyles’ car on Saturday, which let him get a lay of the track, and my other codriver (Steven Holloway) qualified Sunday morning (hence “slow” qualifying time).
I started the car… 5 or 6 laps in, after passing two Miata’s while they were in the dirt, I heard screeching going into the esses (bus stop?) and then BAM! I start spinning. I saw the Green Miata (Mike Merritt) in my mirror just before impact. He came up after our stints were over and said the topless red ITE Miata got into him and pushed him into me. It was a haaaard hit, so I’d believe it was 5,000 pounds that hit me instead of 2500. Came into the pits afraid it got suspension, but looked like only cosmetic so I went back out. The rest of my stint was pretty uneventful, only a few cars spinning in front of me but none close enough to remember any particular story. I turned the car over to Antonio around 11:58, meaning with pit stop it was nearly a 2-hour stint. Cool! I walked up to timing, and we were about 2 laps ahead of the Matt/Tony/Bill SRX7. Even cooler! Except when we stopped, the thing was puking water, and there was a streak down the passenger fender from where it had been puking while on track. Uh-oh… it was 190 every time I looked at it on track, and I didn’t see it get hot in my peripheral vision…
About an hour and a half into his stint Antonio pits (we think for driver change)… nope, car is up to 210-230. Dump some water on the radiator, fill the car up with gas, and send Steven out for a stint. We get a thumbs up a few laps in, so we think it’s a fluke deal until Steven comes in and says it spiked up to 250 the lap before he came in. Uh-oh. We pull the car into the pits to see if we can figure something out, and while running the engine to try to circulate some cool water through it, the top radiator hose collapses. BINGO! Thermostat stuck closed. Quickly gut it, toss some more gas and Steven in the car and we head back out. About an hour into his stint I go to change my suit in case he comes in for a splash of gas, and when I return to the pit box Antonio and Steven’s fiancé say that it looks like the rear hatch is gone. 15-20 laps later, Steven pits because there’s a noise coming from the rear. I say, “the hatch disappeared a few laps ago, its probably just the struts banging around the rear” to which he replies, “Oh shit! That’s my glass all over the track?!” I didn’t look under the rear of the car, but the noise was the right rear shock bolt falling out, and when he went back out for another lap the thing handled like crap. We tried in vain to compress the shock and put another bolt in it, but with all the banging around the tube was bent so we called it quits.
Though we would’ve liked to have beaten some cars for second, it was a successful day because I got 2nd place points and Antonio and Steven completed enough laps to get credit for the race. What’s better is they both commented on how well the car handled which makes all my work the last few months on chassis and setup well worth the effort, coming from two Miata drivers.