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CAM does PINKS!
On September 16th one of my more insane customers Jeff Gilbert called me and said "I want to race on the show Pinks, will you sponsor the car and get it ready for the race?" I said "Sure" when I probably should have said "Jeff, you're insane, you could lose your car!"
So, after an interview with the producer at MIR, Jeff said he wanted to race a well matched import, and there was one interested who wanted to beat a domestic. So, we had a race, Jeff had to show them his title and sign a lot of stuff. We had great plans for the race to make great TV, we took a battery powered sawzall, and were going to chop the big ricer wing off the car if it had one. (damnit, it didn't!)
The car performed well that day at MIR, Jeff won the EFI Nationals 10.50 class, but the trans was pretty beat, so he ripped it out and talked to ATI who agreed to sponsor him and fix up the trans/converter and give him a new shifter, woo woo!! First week was parts ordering week: alky injection kit, look into front mount intercoolers, ABS removal kit, upgrade to Acceleronics 95# injectors and a much more aggressive custom camshaft. We also got the hood and front and rear fascias painted to match the car again. Hell, we've got a whole week to do it all.
We had a week to do all this work because we needed track time with the car as well as tuning time. With having that much stuff off the car we decided it was time to attack the wiring on the car as well. Anyone who's seen it knows that was the second most insane thing done, after agreeing to be on the show in the first place, and took about 3 days full days! JeffG knew where everything was, but we didn't so we needed to square it away to understand it, which meant JeffG didn't understand it anymore, well, it was insane, but it worked out ok in the end.
We enlisted RJ Hryengdhdfwich, I can't spell it, of the Tidewater Area to be the team's fabricator. He came down and we had decided that the best course was to remove the crappy intercooler completely. RJ fabbed up a piping setup of solid pipe from the filter to the blower and the blower direct to the throttle body, and he made brackets to help prevent it from popping off under boost. Awesome stuff!!
Two weeks before the race we find out that our competition has blown up his motor on the dyno and we need to slow the car down. Damn, we're been out street raced before we even get there! These guys are good street racers, they'll make you believe they are the underdogs at everything. They definitely convinced Pinks. So we start tuning the car to run slower, but give us some ways to add power back in quickly should we get behind in the race count.
Well, of course we ran into some adversity and our plan of going to the track Oct 7-8 with the car was blown out of the water. Discovering a collasped lifter and adjustable timing gear that's come out of adjustment ruins your whole day. But we got it together and the dynoed well on October 12th, we had 5 days to go!
JeffG assembled a "north" team of MA people and friends from work that included JodyC and AlainC, and Justin - JeffG's long time sidekick and all around good guy. I brought up Dave and Andrew from the shop (Rob is still at the World Bracket Finals racing his car) and customers/friends from the area. Plus we had RJ and Chris Daniels from the Tidewater area. Paul and Krys Efantis who own MSP and are both Xbox championship winning NOPI drivers were on our team as Import Experts, counterintelligence and Junk Talkers. It was an awesome team.
We went to the track Saturday before Pinks (1/8th mile) the car did ok, but nothing too great. We slowed it down like Pinks wanted, mostly using no bottle and timing retard and richening up the fuel. We knew then that if his was what he claimed we'd need the bottle to win, but we were too scared to spray it before we went up there! With all the wiring stuff we'd changed, would it work?
As the date approached, Jeff and I both started to get cold feet. We could lose the car! It was looking nice with the new paint, let me tell ya! But Sunday before was spent doing a couple dyno pulls, checking the plugs, going over the car some and adding stickers.
Monday we didn't do anything to the car at all but check the pinion angle and load it into Alain's enclosed trailer. No final thrash required!
And Tuesday am at o'dark thirty we headed from Damascus to MIR and realized our traffic avoidance plan was good enough to allow us to have a nice breakfast at Bob Evans.....
So, we get to the track and they make us pit on the other side of the concession stand from our competition. We did our last minute prep, while Paul and Krys went down to talk to the other team. Since no one knew they were on our team down there, they were very forthcoming with information. Heh heh.
We've had a cover over the car in the trailer, we want to be as dramatic as possible, and they have covered their car as well. We've heard they have a pro driver ready to suit up, maybe that was true, maybe it wasn't, but when they saw Krys, winner of the Outlaw Series in NOPI, in the driver's seat while we were pushing the car to the line, they changed their minds.
So we go to the Pinks area for the initial introductions and race parameters. This season it's always full quarter mile, and best of five races, but Jon (the competition) wanted up front to say that owner's drive their own cars. We quickly agree, so either our intelligence is wrong, or they were really scared of Krys driving the car. Either way, with that decided it was time to inspect the other teams car. Paul warned me that import guys do a lot of yelling when they're not racing. I should have been prepared, but I wasn't.
They go to our car, and us to theirs and all I can hear at loud volume "NO WAY THAT BOTTLE STAYS IN" "THIS CAR HAS SLICKS" "IT'S NOT A FAIR RACE" "SLICKS SLICKS" "TAKE OUT THE SOLENOIDS TOO" "AND THE LINES TOO" "WE WANT TWENTY CARS"
In their car, we saw a stock ECU, no Turbosmart boost controller (but they had the sticker, weird) pretty much no interior at all, just an all business turbo Civic, probably capable of 30-35# of boost. When they said "stock block" it doesn't mean stock internals. Jeff's car has a stock block, my TA has a stock block.
And into the Pinks circle we convene again, to discuss the first race. They want no bottle and 20 cars, I offer 5 cars and the bottle, I back off to no bottle head up when Rich says "you have the faster car, you need to be reasonable" We finally decide after a lot of yelling and screaming to no bottle and 2 cars. Their whole team presided over the removal of the bottle and wanted the lines removed from the intake piping and solenoids removed. I agreed only to cutting the electrical connections to the solenoids.
There's two technical advisers, one assigned to each team, they are responsible for determining if there's cheating going on and helping to answer questions. We had Charles, who was really nice. (So was Nate, we talked to him too.) He took me aside at this point and said "look if there's another bottle in the car at all, tell me now, that's going to break a lot of glass if you guys spray it" I tell the truth, we don't.
First Race: (man that's a lot of build up for the first race) nice and easy, Jeff launches well off the bottle and Jon isn't shifting hard and Chris Daniels says he doesn't even hear the turbo! So they are sandbagging. Well, we were a little bit too, but we knew they'd up the boost and come after us in the second race. And it's back to negotiations!
After much yelling again, we settle on only 8 and half cars (I held pat at 5 forever, then 6 and they dug in at 10 so we settled on 8.5) And we're back to racing!
Second Race: Hey, a repeat of the first, launch it easy, and go down the track straight. Win by like 5 cars. Jeff's totally calm and cool, and driving GREAT. The crew is awesome, everyone has a job, and while we sometimes kinda tripped over each other, it was still a well oiled machine, we got things done efficiently and quickly and well.
Going into the third negotiation, I had heard from our spotters that the turbo car still wasn't making that good turbo noise, he was still sandbagging. I also knew that the show wasn't going to let it end in only 3 races. They never said "we're going to draw things out" or anything like that, the way it's set up Rich is leaning one way or another after each race, and that's ok, if you know how to get him lean your way. The other team had that figured out, lose and make it look like we're waaaay faster.
And the third negotiation we should have just said "decide on something, we'll be getting the car cooled off" because they came to the negotiation trying to say we cut the line to their boost controller! Now, I'm saying "don't be questioning our integrity" and trying to not get stuck with a half track race, and trying to point out that when they fix that line that they'll have a lot more boost and be faster. No one was listening. I asked for them to lock their boost controller so they can't just change the boost every run. And I tape it up, but that's not going to really stop them, and it didn't. Plus they put the slicks on the car. They were worried about breaking something before, but this was do or die, and we wanted them to break it, so we didn't deny them the slicks. They asked for THIRTY cars and settled on TWENTY cars. I said "I'd be embarrassed to ask for that many cars" And guess what?
Third Race: Jon left early! We win, if we want to win that way. We decide to let the early leave alone if we get some leeway in the next negotiation. So, we lost! Imagine that. Blew off a hose right after Jeff shifted to second. Lost by 20+ cars. We had a pre-negotiation where I asked for 15 minutes, and we got it.
RJ's going to town on the blower tube, we're checking over the rest of the car, everything is looking ok, car's HOT, the trans hasn't been liking how we've been sitting on the transbrake so long, intake it hot, coolant is hot, only thing that's cool is JeffG. He was all worried that'd be a wreck, but he was awesome.
Now we go back into negotiations, and now the lead is only going to be 12 carlengths. They finally notice the alky injection. Took them long enough, it's not like we tried to hide it. They want that pulled off too, and I agreed to remove it if they took out their intercooler. I'm surprised they didn't ask us to cut off the blower belt. They are either really scared or this is how import racers do things. I think maybe if everything goes well, we can win this thing right here, in 4 races. I think Jeff does too.
Fourth Race: Man, 12 cars seems like a lot more than the 8.5 cars did. The burnout isn't smokey, and I ask Jeff to go back to the water and try again. We get a better burnout, and I wasn't worried yet, but Jeff was. Jeff launches well, then falls off, then picks up again, something is wrong. We lose by 6 cars.
Jeff gets back around, lets us know that we have zero second gear. ATI had warned us that second is the weak link in this trans, and we got a good trans, just the way the starts were done having to sit on the transbrake forever and no real cooling off time between runs meant we should have used a monstrous cooler on the trans. That car isn't going to on Pinks again, so it'll be ok.
So I ask for 30 minutes to see what we can do with the car, and it's granted, and walking back to the car I ask Jody to put the bottle back in the car. I know with no second gear, that's our only shot. The other team goes NUTS at this point, saying they didn't agree to it. They're not working on their car, just surrounding ours and yelling. Oh well. We've given in every negotiation, we're getting some leeway this time.
Final Negotiation: I'm asking for bottle and heads up, since we have no second gear. I give an impassioned speech about how we haven't been able to run the car we brought all day, and that street cars with as much power as both of us have are going to have issues, and how they need to run the car we brought here to run, that car had nitrous.
Well, the other side doesn't want us to have the bottle, or if we have the bottle they want like 30 cars, and we hold pat at zero cars and the bottle, our car has no second gear! I have to give up 2 cars to get a race. We finally agree to this final showdown......
Fifth Race: Jeff looked awesome launching on the spray. And the burnout looked great going from first to third! It was tight to the end with no second gear, but we prevailed in a very close race. We win by about 3 carlengths!
We win!!! Much high fiveing ensues!! When Jeff comes around and is awarded the keys we all ask him to take it down the track! They had been saying that the car won't shift into third, had a blown head gasket, was leaking oil, etc. Jeff barked that sucker in all 4 gears, and came up to me and said "dude, we're lucky to have won, that car is FAST"
What an adrenaline rush! Three and half hours of taping from rolling the car off the trailer to final race, and I didn't notice that the crowd went from a few folks to pretty full stands. Took a while to come down from that one.
After the race we loaded up the car, put our stickers on it, signed the front bumper as a souvenir, and uh, hell if I even remember. We took it to MSP to dyno it the next day, after Paul did a little tuning on it it made 520 whp. Not bad.
We thought we were going to be racing some ricer with a big wing on the back, who said he could run 10.50's but really was in the 13's. We thought wrong on that one. This was a fast car we were matched up against for sure. Just not fast enough for us full bore. Jon was a good guy and his crew were screamers, or typical import racers I guess.
It was an amazing experience. Only thing I can compare it to is open road racing. We're talking about building a shop car, a total pile, seeing if we can't get some good sponsorship to make it cheap, and then do it again with Jeff driving. I'll speak for Jeff on this one, we won't be risking his TA again!
Fun stuff though..... -jeff
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