They say, “The proof is in the pudding”. They also say, “victory is sweet”. While we didn’t “win” anything, a third-place showing in a 105 hp 26-year-old car, 300 points below the 500 maximum allowed, was a sweet, sweet victory for us. We’re really in love with our cars, and the love is spreading. We recently rented #8 (Black Betty) to an established Chumpcar team who have been campaigning a V8 Fox Chassis for a while now. After some laps around Harris Hill, they realized that the weight difference and setup of our cars made them very comparable when it came to overall lap times at Harris Hill. We had our first non-series renter. A new era for the M4C cars. We were thrilled. Our goal as we entered the weekend was to see how well the cars would do. Actually, our first goal was to pass tech. Our cars were not prepped to any one standard, so it’s always an anxious time when an official scrutineer looks over your car. We added some mandatory pieces to Black Betty, most notably a “Petty bar”, a cutoff switch, and a window net. The car passed with flying colors and came out with a whopping 200 out of 500 points. In Chump land, that means we should have our collective asses handed to us. Again, our goal, just to see how far the car could be pushed and finish two 8-hour races. This specific car had run two complete seasons without any incidents and had won the Challenge in Season 2, all at Harris Hill, the venue for this Chumpcar race. We definitely had home court advantage.
Done before we started?
Or so we thought. Friday during testing we had two failures. If you’ve read the posts here, you know we’re no strangers to failure. We could have called a few things that we’d run into over the weekend, but not a cracked header and a simultaneous alternator failure. Since our renters had been following our series and were in process of building their own cars, they actually had headers in stock (we actually didn’t for once) and we had alternators. So off the Chief and I went to fix things.
I’ve seen the Chief do a lot of amazing things. I’ll confess there might even be a one-way bromance going on here (I honestly hate that term), but I’ve never seen anyone do a surgical cut with a Sawzall, especially from underneath a car on jack stands with one person using an “Oh Jesus” bar to gain critical clearance. The challenge here was that with a correct cut, we could line up the new header and weld it so there’d be no leak. Any mistake would require a sleeve, or other correction to make the fix. Suffice it to say, “Chief No Fucking Way” pulled it off and we were done, had a beer or two and in bed by 10:30. Black Betty was ready for her maiden Chump race, we let the team know, they started their strategy for the weekend.
Saturday morning all was great at the track. There was rain on the way. Armageddon, if you listen/watch The Weather Channel, although Texas storms still don’t rate a “naming scheme” like some other parts of the country. I guess no one wants to hear about all the damage “Tommy Lee”, or “Bubba” did. Plus, if we really followed Texas rules, every other storm would have to be named “Bubba”. But I digress. Saturday morning started out nicely. The first stint looked like it would be dry, and possibly even the second stint. About an hour and a half into the first stint, we see Black Betty coming in very slowly. As she turns into the pit, we can clearly see the front driver’s side wheel wobbling excessively. To the point where we’re wondering how the driver got the car into the pit at all. At first, it looked like a rotor had failed. We’ve never had a rotor have any issues after two whole seasons, so this was a bit of a shock to us. Upon further inspection, we noticed the failing rotor had damaged the spindle. Long story short, it was a failed bearing that caused all the above, but again, the first failure we’ve ever seen of its kind. A two-hour round trip drive to the home warehouse and a quick trip to O’Reilly’s and we had parts back on the car. Stock rotors were equipped since we don’t keep spares of the Stoptech spec rotors we use (remember this was a development race for us). Black Betty was back on track in under 3 hours.
Black Betty and team finished out the rest of the wet, wet day without incident. But along the way, we realized that the team’s wet times were in the top five of all cars running. Sunday was predicted to be wet in the morning, with the weather easing out through the rest of the day. Clearly, the M4C car had an advantage in the rain. We all went home ready to repeat the day on Sunday.
Sunday, rainy Sunday
Sunday, the team jumped in and got on grid as early as possible. While Chump normally does a random start, the idea was that they would try to get a jump on other cars in the class. At this point, that was the team’s focus, to win the class. It was wet. Harris Hill has a turn, turn 8, known as the “Dam Turn” because there is a dam on the inside of the track. This small dam overflows every single time it rains, since Harris Hill essentially sits in a bowl. The overflow runs across the track and ranges from wet to several inches deep. I’ve even seen critters in there from time to time. The team ran clean and steady throughout each stint. We watched as they bounced between 5th and 6th place overall. As the day went on, the place stuck. They were running a solid race with a good chance of finishing in the top of the pack. As the rain subsided about mid-day, the track started to dry out in some places, but the Dam Turn was still throwing most competitors for a loop. A single off often resulted in a stuck car waiting for a rescue, costing several laps down with each stuck situation. By the end of the day, there would be more than 50 rescues from the track.
Since this was our first Chump race, we were a little out of our element with regards to the scoring and placement. Then I had a revelation; the EC class cars “don’t count” when it comes to overall placement and points. Black Betty wasn’t in 5th place, she was in 3rd place. We decided not to tell the drivers because they were already giddy from their potential 5th place win out of 36 cars. According to their team captain, they’d never finished in single digits before. The nerves were beginning to show, so we kept this info under our hats until we saw them start to be threatened by an upcoming local Miata.
We jumped on the radio and suggested they wanted to stay in front of the Miata. Their team captain snapped back with, “Don’t listen to them, that car isn’t in our class, repeat…” This is when we decided to tell them that they weren’t in 5th place, they currently had 3rd and were looking at a podium finish with an hour to go. That changed their tune quite a bit, and then with some racing gods luck, we had a long yellow flag and some penalties that took the Miata out of the running for 3rd. It was smooth sailing all the way to the podium and to impound. The Chump workers were just as shocked as we were.
Overall, we learned a ton, but beyond that, we proved out the platform. We know these cars will go 8 hours, and if it happens to rain, we’re a real force to be reckoned with. This means you’ll be seeing more from us and these cars in Chump and WRL, definitely. We’re currently working on how best to use up those last 300 points in Chump to make our cars competitive in the dry as well. Round 1 of R&D is done, and we’ve made good progress. We’re scrambling trying to figure out what’s next. We have all our irons in the fire, and we’ve never felt better about the cars and our series. Feel free to subscribe to keep in touch with us, we’ll make sure to announce where we’re going to be next. Most likely we’ll have at least one car at COTA in May because, well it’s COTA. The future is really looking great for the M4C cars – although we’ll probably need a new name at some point – we’re looking forward to this next chapter with renewed enthusiasm. We hope you’ll come along for the ride.