Autobahn NASA 944-Spec Race 9.10

Posted: September 15, 2010 in Racing

Last weekend I drove up from KC to Chicago to attend the Autobahn NASA race weekend.  My last race was at this same venue back in July 2010.  In that last race my oil pickup tube broke cutting oil pressure to the engine and I wound up needing a completely new engine (rod bearings gave up and crank was scored).  I had a good friend help me rebuild the engine as he has worked on Porsches for a long time (and knows the 944 very well).  We got the new engine running just last Wednesday.

I drove up with a another friend on Thursday and we stopped over night in St. Louis.  We then made it up to Autobahn by noon on Friday.  On the way we were quite intrigued by a road faring steam locomotive.  This was a properly done up old Bluebird school bus converted to look like a true locomotive including authentic sounding whistle and the drivers dressed up as engineers!

Once we made it to the track it was time to setup for the 3 hour Friday Enduro.  I co-drove with another 944-Spec driver (Car #5 – Sid Chhikara) and we came in 12th out of 34 cars and 8th out of 15 cars in our class.  A much better result than our previous 7.10 Enduro race.  This also included a part where Sid had a Spec Miata bomb him in a corner and damage his whole drivers side of the car.  That driver then talked to Sid after he got out of the car to apologize (kinda) and then left the race without filling out an report.  We are hoping for an even better result at Putnam Park in October this year.

Saturday’s race action was intense.  The remainder of a hurricane that hit Louisiana came through that morning and early afternoon.  The track was wet and I decided to go out in practice and qualifying in slick tires (as I had no wet tires).  After the 1st session I’ve never been so scared in a car in my life.  The first 2 laps were ok…a little slippery.  Then a legends car put down oil all around the track on the racing line.  As the old adage says “oil and water don’t mix”…well add in slick tires to that equation.  I’ve never spun out so many times or had the rear break loose so quickly and often (most of the time without any notice).  After this session – I though something was broken on my car or I just plain sucked as a driver.  My confidence in my driving and hobby was surely shaken.

The qualifying session went better as the track was starting to dry off as the rain subsided.  It was slick at first and I was afraid to push it as speeds started to go back up and the fast you go the less you can recover (think – car needs to stay in shape).  I pulled the car back into the pits and parked it.  Only to find 2 minutes later a large puddle that was growing under the car.

Diagnosis was above – when I updated the car to 6 blade radiator fans from the 3 blade ones it seems the fans stick out from the housing a little cutting a radiator hose.  I had a spare happily and it was a quick fix.  Top off the coolant and I was ready to go again.

The Race for Saturday I qualified 7th out of 9 cars (not great).  I got a great start and made my way up the field to 5th place and was chasing Michel Palmer in the green machine.  I got slowed up by a Spec Miata that each time I had a good chance to pass him there was a yellow, thus no passing.  Turn 8 it seemed had a car off the track but you couldn’t really see it.  That station had the flag standing and another 944-Spec car passed me under the yellow.  I then proceeded to scrap with said car for several laps until the final lap (with some off track excursions in turns 3 and turns 6).  At the end of the race I finished 3ths of a second behind him in 6th place.  It was one of the most exciting races I’ve ever had with pass / repasses / blocking and avoidance maneuvers.  I do have video but it is HD and need to figure out how to load it (my computer is too old to play it correctly).

Sunday was much better.  We decided to be goofy and took turns driving each others car during practice and warmup.  I got to drive Neal Agran’s yellow 944 (with LSD) and the Bennington Motorsports green machine (we ever so eloquently also call it the “track whore”).  Neal and Michael each drove my car.  Well during Neal’s stint my throttle cable stuck on him in turn 8 and 9.  Well it seems that with 150hp that’s not as big of a deal but he had to stick his foot under the pedal to “unstick” it.  We got back in and had to patch a kinked throttle cable…also the hinge on the pedal broke when he had to dislodge it.  We got those items fixed and back on the road.

Sunday Race – We decided to mix things up even more.  We put together a pursuit race.  The premise of such is that you figure out the average lap time for all drivers (slow and fast) and then figure out how long the race will be (40 mins) and calculate how long to hold the faster drivers from the slower drivers.  You start from pit lane and after the other groups do their flying start…you release the slowest driver up to the fastest driver in timed intervals.  Eric Kuhns and Neal had to essentially lap the first 944 Spec car.  If things go right all drivers should catch each other near the end of the race and have a photo finish.  I started 1:20 behind the first car.  I quickly caught and passed Sid, reigned in Micheal Dalton then Ben Wilson.  On the last lap the yellow car of Neal started to appear in my rear mirror.  I had the distance to hold him off but the rears locked up on me in turn 6 while trail braking putting me wide and recovering and Neal got by me in turn 8.  I tried to repass him in turn 9 and then again in turn 10 but could not get it done.  I finished eventually 3rd place 3ths of a second behind Neal.  My best lap was  1.44.9 – best ever lap at Autobahn.  I’m getting faster!

  1. Eric Kuhns says:

    Nice work – 1:44’s are very respectable in a 944 – nice!. Look forward to seeing you at Putnam!

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