A few months ago the guys at Global Time Attack announced that there would be another time attack event at Road Atlanta this spring. I’ve always wanted to rip Road Atlanta and it has been one of my favourite tracks since playing it in video games as a kid. It seemed like a good goal to shoot for. So since the middle of winter we have been prepping Kels for her road to Atlanta ever since. Here’s the story.
The first thing you need to know about Kels if you don’t already, is that she is designed to be built in a similar fashion to an ALMS (now Tudor) GT car. That means no front wings, no laggy turbos and no outrageous bodywork. The “rules” I apply the car to are basically the GT1 rules that the Aston’s and Corvette’s were able to do 1:13s with at Mosport. I figure with enough of my own development I should one day be able to crack into the 1:19’s at Mosport with a similar rule-set – flat bottom, fairly simple diffuser and not much exterior body aero. Those engines ran restricted which is a compliment to how much power they were able to make with the engines, in my case my restrictor is my pocket book and free time.
Currently the car has the pace of a Silver class Porsche GT3 Cup car, so we are still far away from our long term goal of a 1:19. This winter the work to get ready for Atlanta really didn’t do much in terms of outright speed, but it was all required work for engine longevity. There was also a lot of clean-up of things that I had hacked together in the last year or two in a reckless pursuit of speed.
The first step was to build airboxes for the Jenvey ITBs. They were currently running open and unfiltered. With the hood closed the engine would lose as much as 25whp from the hood shrouding airflow. Towards the end of last year we helped that some by cutting away a massive amount of the hood to no longer shroud the intake, but the losses were still noticeable. Kevin Stittle from C3 (Custom Carbon Composites) helped me lay up these airboxes in the fall and we have since added a number of additional layers of carbon as I under-estimated the violence of the pulses produced when the intake valves slam shut and a rapidly moving column of air is forced to immediately stop. That was quite the lesson in fluid dynamics/bomb making.
The next step was to address the oiling system. Oil pressure was low throughout 2013 and with an engine now capable of 9000rpm I wasn’t comfortable with the factory oiling system. At PRI I met with Bill Dailey, the man who makes the best dry sump systems in the world, and purchased a pan and pump for the engine. I also was able to find some good deals on BMRS fittings and line and a Peterson dry sump tank on eBay (Don’t tell that to Bill, he won’t be impressed that I am using old lines). It was a lot of work to get the system setup but we had it done at the end of March and headed to the dyno.
The results were not good. The car made similar power as it had with the airboxes on a previous dyno test, around 400whp, but the engine quickly started losing power pull after pull and we suspected the bottom end was tightening up. One more pull revealed the truth – rod knock became evident and we had spun a bearing. Now before you go and point at Dailey’s dry sump you should know that in 2013 the engine had only 50-55psi oil pressure at 9000rpm, at over 300F oil temps. The bearings were already quite damaged, and when we were messing with oil pressure on the dry sump we lowered it too far into the engine – not realizing at the time that we had a restriction in the oil cooler. The oil pressure we were measuring was before that cooler, and so we were seeing high oil pressure before the cooler but the actual pressure into the engine was far lower.
At this point I was almost fully booked for April on the dyno, and I had an engine to build with little time to spare before the first test session was scheduled. Thankfully, the guys at JWT saved my life as they have been known to do, and overnight shipped me a crank, rod, bearings and the required bolts and gaskets and with help from some good friends we had the engine back together in record time. Gord Bush clearanced the heads for larger intake cams and Beatty and Woods balanced the crank for me and honed out the new rod. We assembled the engine and removed the restrictive oil cooler in the radiator and placed a large Setrab core on the scavenge pump out line, along with a monstrous 15″ fan. Would it be enough? Most likely not.
Back on the dyno, suddenly the engine had way less oil pressure than it did before at the same pump setup, indicating that we did indeed remove a restriction from the system. Leaving the oil pressure at 80psi for safety, I spent a good deal of time tuning the engine and testing a number of different trumpet configurations with the new, stiffer airboxes. We then pumped out the VP MS109 and put in some heavily oxygenated Shelbourne 110 octane fuel and picked up another 10whp. The final numbers through the airboxes sit at 408whp, despite the fact that the larger cams actually lost a little bit of power. It looks like we are either going to have to switch back to the smaller cam, or do some more exhaust/header development to get the cam working. We suspected this to be an issue as the header was originally designed for the engine when it revved out only to 7400rpm and made 300whp. We now have 1600 more rpm and 33% more power! Unfortunately, I’ve not yet had time to modify the headers and test different collectors, but the guys at Jim Wolf and I suspect there is more power hiding in the headers.
There was a good deal of work left to do on the chassis to prepare the car for it’s first test at Cayuga, including finishing some Carbon doors (again thanks to Kevin at C3), rebuilding the front brakes (thanks to Zeckhausen racing for over-nighting me pistons and seals), fitting the hood around the airboxes, installing new wheel bearings and rod ends (thanks to Jesse and Usic at Total Motor Werkes for helping with the pressing), installing our new ultra-lightweight anti-gravity battery that we picked up from Chris at Touge Tuning as well as a long list of miscellaneous items.
It was then time to load up the new Featherlite trailer with our Pit Box from PitBoxes.com, the rest of the track-side gear and Kels. We headed out to Cayuga for a shakedown to put the engine through her paces. The motor worked great and sounded even better. It really felt strong and the data indicated the car has more straight line speed than it did last year. Unfortunately the gearbox is still shifting quite slowly, and despite talks with Tilton about the issue I am not sure whether we have a clutch problem or a gearbox problem. The tires never got up to temp at Cayuga with the short runs we did and the cold weather, but that was OK as it was just an engine test session, of which Kels passed with flying colors.
Next test was Mosport. I wanted to test the car at high speed to ensure the setup was close and safe for Atlanta, which is very similar to Mosport in terms of corner types and speeds. We arrived at the track and stringed up the car, unfortunately without scales (eek!). Long story short, the car was horrible and was trying to kill me all day. It was raining all day and I really only did one semi-real lap in the dry and it was quite slow. Here’s a quick video of the car trying to put itself into the wall:
As you can see, scary car. That was almost the end of the road to Atlanta right there. Thankfully we got out alive and the car mechanically ran flawlessly. The setup was horrible and I would later track it to the front Hotchkis bar binding on the chassis only when turning one way, along with tires that had totally died sitting in the cold over the winter. My bad! Thankfully while leaving Mosport I picked up some sticker S8 Michelin’s that would do me much better in Atlanta.
With a couple days left before we had to pack up and head out, we went over the car mechanically and I swapped out the front springs, front bar, and corner balanced the car (thanks to Charles Spivak and the guys at Marc Andre’s CTCC team for letting me borrow their scales). I 3D printed some new parts for a battery bracket and throttle cable bracket and we were ready to go!
The new Featherlite trailer is fantastic and with the PitBoxes.com pit box I am for the first time very proud of our trackside setup. Up until this year I have always spent all of my money on the car… and our at track presence suffered immensely. We now have two 10×20 black tents to match the black trailer, black pit-box and a ton more equipment thanks to a trailer that can hold more than just a car. It was awesome.
So we packed up, Nicole, Apex, Fizzer, Jesse and Pete and we were on our way! We had some great tail-wind almost the entire way down and stopped at some classy American fine food stops and before we knew it we were in Lexington with the first leg of our journey over. There was some drama at the border with Fizzer offering vauge and suspicious answers to his intentions in America, but after some training Fizzer has now learned how to properly communicate with Border officials. The drive on Day 2 was easy, melting some snow tires and rolling into Atlanta with a couple hours to spare before sunset.
We checked out the track, the FD cars and got our windsheild banner and door cards and sent Fizzer to pickup some clear so that we could clear the carbon driver’s door. Checked over the car to make sure no gremlins popped up in transit and put the car away for the night. We were ready to party! And by ready to party I mean tired and wanting our beds.
Part 2 coming up.. as soon as I have time to write about it! I’ll just leave this here for now. And end by saying thank you to all of the guys that came and helped put in the hours to get the car together.. the engine rebuilt.. the new systems built and implemented, and the carbon parts done on time! I would have never been able to do it without the help of these guys.