Rice Vigeant Racing Newsletter 9-28-04
What happened at SpeedWeek and The September El Mirage meet.
In mid-August, Alan and I packed up all of our new timing equipment and headed to the Bonneville Salt Flats for SpeedWeek. The Salt was hard, flat, & dry, just right for timing some fast runs. The new equipment took a little longer to setup because we weren't used to it, but by Saturday morning everything was ready. One advantage to the new equipment was that it kept better track of what was happening so that if a run was "lost" due to human error or weather problems we could hopefully recover it in the logged data. This would ordinarily only be needed in the event of lightning, or operator error. Saturday went fairly smoothly so we were less tense on Sunday.
A few runs needed recovering on Sunday for a variety of reasons and so we stayed late at the timing tower. In the middle of working on the computer I looked up and noticed that Interstate 80, which can normally be seen about a mile or two away, was gone. In fact everything across the short track was disappearing into a white wall that was rapidly approaching the tower. We got on the radio and warned everyone on the salt to immediately secure all loose objects because a wind storm was coming. Several course workers and other volunteers pulled up the track signs and other things that could be damaged and stored them in the tower. I shot some photos of that storm that are on the BNI web site here. There was wide spread, but mostly minor damage, mostly because there were still plenty of people still on the salt who could help out. Possibly the biggest issue was that every outhouse was blown over.
Monday was an almost exact copy of Sunday, with a major storm blowing in, right after the track closed. This time, the tower outhouses were tied to a trailer to keep them upright. One outhouse was blowing down the track, and was claimed to be doing 12 miles per hour.
Tuesday, the storm came in earlier, and the meet was halted early due to wind & rain.
Wednesday the storm came even earlier, this time lots of rain about 3/4 of an inch but only at the starting line.
Thursday morning, the starting line was still flooded, so the tracks were moved one mile East, which meant lots of sensors, wires, signs, cones, and everything at the starting line had to get moved. That took a couple of hours, but everyone pulled together and it got done about as fast as possible. That afternoon, the fifth storm of the week came in. This one wasn't rain or wind, but static electricity. Alan and I had been creating filters to keep lightning discharges from tripping the clocks, and they were pretty good by Thursday, but Thursday afternoon, Alan noticed on of the clock starting to act weird. Then the other clock had the same problem. Soon we noticed a loud clicking sound coming from outside. Sparks were jumping from the CB antenna to the tower, about 5/8" away. First it was about one per second, but then it got faster. Next the weather station alarms started going off. About this time we pulled all the plugs on the timing equipment, shut down all power, and got into our cars. The static clicking was up to a rapid buzzing. It turns out several people had stories of electricity to report that night. The meet was called early because of the storm. Amazingly, no one saw or heard any actual lightning from that storm.
Friday morning there was a small rain storm before the meet could get started but it cleared up and dried up and didn't affect the race at all. Over all, Friday was a relatively easy day, the meet ended early, before any more storms could show up.
Sam Wheeler in the #999 streamlined motorcycle set a new Bonneville record at 330 Mph making it the fastest bike in the world. Unfortunately the record was not done following the rules for a world record so it is only a local record.
Getting home, the rear hub of the racecar still needed machining, so I stayed late several nights to have it done before Mark took the car to the Labor Day cruise. He reported lots of interest in the car, and even admitted to doing a couple of burn outs. Shame on you mark. The new clutch and tires come out of your allowance. :-)
The September meet came up very quickly, but the car was mostly ready to go. The weather was hot and very humid. Saturday afternoon we got the car inspected and the camp set up. Around 4:00 some rain fell, but only enough to drop the temperature a little.
During the course walk at 5:30 however, much more rain fell, and the walk was stopped early. That rain only lasted for several minutes, and we all hopped that nothing more would fall and the lake would dry out. It was not to be. At about 6:30, just as we were tightening the chain, the rain started coming down HARD. We dropped what we were doing and tried to load the car into the trailer to get it off the lakebed before the lake flooded. No luck. With in minutes the lake was flooded, and everyone was trapped.
No vehicles were allowed to move lest they leave ruts in the surface. Some people were optimistic that the lake would somehow dry in time for the race, but those of use who had worked "Mud Patrol" were pretty sure it wouldn't. In most places, the lake did dry amazingly fast, but Sunday morning there were still huge puddles strewn all over the lakebed. We were free to drive now, but there was no way the meet could be held. Oh well, that's part of lakebed racing.
This past weekend we pulled the little (1300cc) motor out of the car and put our larger (1550cc) motor in. This is so we can get a tune up run at El Mirage before the World Finals at Bonneville In October. It took most of a day to make the swap, but that was mostly because of a number of minor things we did as well. By Sunday evening, we were ready to start the motor, but because it had sat in storage for so long, the starter wasn't able to crank it over well enough to start. Rather than break another starter, we hooked up the chain and introduced Mark's neighbors to the racecar by pushing it up and down the street a few times. The first pass down the street got it to cough and wheeze and run a little, but on the next push, the motor roared to life and we got some cheers from some of the spectators. We adjusted the idle, then wheeled the car into Mark's garage, and discovered it was only running on cylinders 3 & 4. We shut it off to find out what was wrong. Fortunately the problem was easy to fix, spark plug wires 1 & 2 were swapped. We added big red numbers to the plugs so it would be harder to make that mistake again, but it was too late to re push start the motor. Monday night Mark did a little more work on the motor and the starter was able to fire it right up. At this point, things look good for the El Mirage meet this weekend and World Finals that start a week after that.
Speaking of World Finals, we've got our
volunteer crew member. Mark's brother Patrick will be helping us
again this year. He's been a teem member several times in the past,
and may be bringing a large trailer for us to use while there.
Thanks to everyone that offered to help this year. You are of course
welcome to come up to see the races and hang out in our pits if you want,
we just can't pay your way. We are staying at the EconoLodge in Wendover,
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