This recap is from the August 9 – 10, 2014 ChumpCar 24 hour race in the #301 River City Racing Nissan 240SX.
The week before the race, many of us were up to 2-3am in the morning each night while going about our normal 9-5 jobs during the week trying to finish the car. A special thanks to Joey for all the effort put in to get us on track!On Thursday night, we stopped working to take the car around the block around 2am. Around 3am the car was loaded on the trailer and the gear was mostly packed. We met at 7am Friday and left with the car and two trailers around 8am after finishing our packing. We arrived at VIR, went through registration and unloaded in the paddock around noon. We went through a pre-race checklist developed for team Biohazard and were able to get the car ready enough for us to feel comfortable for some test laps. Morgan took the car out and soon found high air fuel ratios and saw our temperature quickly rise.
Upon inspection, the engine was clattering heavily and after removing the cam cover to inspect the valvetrain, a bad cam chain tensioner was found. The closest replacement part was 1.5 hours away and David drove to Greensboro and back to retrieve the required part. The part was installed the same night and validated as functioning but our practice time plus engine and clutch break-in time was lost. New air ducting was installed to improve cooling across our tiny oem radiator. As most of the team was new to ChumpCar, most members had to to through gear check-in. Some of the team had never put in hot laps at any racetrack, let alone the very technical and challenging VIR Grand course!
On Saturday morning, the team met around 8am and began to prepare for the event. It was raining heavily and ours was one of the later cars to enter the track. This was good however, as the pace could be kept low to work with a completely new car with many new parts that had never been run before. While the team did think about defogging, thanks to teams Racing Strong Motorsports & Biohazard, a squeegee was the only solution that could be arranged in time for the race start.
The first session in any ChumpCar race is filled with incidents and the consistent rain and green track made this start especially attrition filled. James started the race and took it easy to keep everything together and to debug the car in the mess of the first session. After running for a few, laps it became evident that the fog could not be cleaned fast enough for safely racing at speed! The rear brakes were also found to be FAR to aggressive, leading to lockup in nearly every braking event. A pit stop was taken to install ducting to bring airflow to the rear of the windshield and replace the rear pads. The team did an amazing job and had the pads replaced in just minutes!
The fog solution was completely resolved, unfortunately now, water entered the ducting to the window and on the straightaways, the water spray onto the window leading to visibility problems. Another pitstop later and holes were punched to drain the ducting and a cover was made. The cover later had to be modified to increase airflow but our fogging solution was now resolved and the car was handling well.
Drew was next in the car and did an amazing job. This was Drew’s first time in a racecar on a race course and this was in the rain with a new car in wheel to wheel racing! Drew immediately showed good pace and kept the car together. Each pit stop was slow, around 12 minutes, compared to the 5 minute stops of well practiced teams. This was our first race and modifications were being done each pit stop to improve the car and check on basics like oil level, pad wear, tire pressure, tire temperature, etc.
Kevin was next in the car and was also able to show immediate pace. Kevin is an accomplished autocrosser and this showed through at his first wheel to wheel racing event on a full road course! The course began to dry and Kevin’s times dropped with the conditions. Our clutch began showing slippage through Kevin’s session.
Alex was next in the car and also showed immediate pace. As the course continued to dry out, Alex picked up the pace and continued to set times we weren’t sure the car was capable of. The clutch condition worsened through this session and we found that the closest replacement clutch was hours away. Another cooperative team, #777 Wood is Wonderful, from the Lake Gaston area was able to provide a spare clutch. The team decided to employ a comically unique approach Morgan found. The solution was to mix Coke & flour and put this directly onto the clutch! We joked that if this solution worked, we would have to publish it and tell it to everyone.
David went in at the next pit stop and while the clutch felt better initially, it did continue to slip. David quickly found the pace and with the continually improving conditions, set our fastest time of the day! Another car gave David a bump but only smeared some rubber on our drivers side door, allowing the car to continue. Conditions began to worsen once again as our wet weekend started to get dark, requiring our driving lights be installed at the next pit stop.
Morgan was next in the car and quickly found our lighting solution to be inadequate. Fortunately, Morgan’s skill as a driver enabled him to set excellent times through the difficult and dark conditions which were difficult to see through.
At the end of Morgan’s session, we were happy to have achieved the lofty goal of getting every member of the team a full stint in this wheel to wheel endurance racing series. Luckily, all team members but Morgan were able to drive a full two hours to learn the course before the dark conditions, so we were able to work around our lighting problems.
Through the remainder of the event, the brakes warped heavily due to lack of cooling but later improved. The clutch worsened dramatically to a point of functioning like a CVT and only holding about ¼ throttle on the straights only to come back to full function by the end of the race. Whether by good fortune or a functional coke & flour solution, we will never know.
The car overheated and was brought in by Alex before any serious damage was done! Another bullet dodged by driver awareness from our amazing group. The problem was found, resolved as rapidly as possible and Alex was sent back out on track to complete his session. The remaining sessions saw improving conditions and corresponding lap times where a new fastest time was set by David in the morning and then Morgan during the last session with a forming dry line.
The team managed to get the car put together just in time for the event. The team sailed through technical inspection. The drivers demonstrated excellence across the board in pace, driving in inclement conditions, and especially keeping the driving clean and safe to keep the car in one piece. We received excellent support from friends and family, including Gretchen without whom we would not have had our defogging solution or clutch solution.
Congratulations to everyone involved with River City Racing! The team exceeded every possible expectation and surprised veteran teams across the board by finishing 38th of nearly 100 cars in difficult conditions with no incidents!