GTC Journals

Volume II, Article 2

 

Limerock I -- April, 2003:

Where "Polar Moment" Was Given New Meaning

By Colin Mazzola (with a little help from Dina Mazzola)

 

For months I had been waiting for the first NNJR event of the season at Lime Rock.   Several of the GTC attendees were sporting something new:  I had a freshly painted, 'muscle car' purple, rebuilt 3.2 equipped,  914 (still known as "Pesky"';  but now, much to my dismay, often referred to as "Evil Barney" or the "Purple People Eater"). John Agogliati had his new PSS9 Suspension, and Charlie Boyer , after many trips to the dealer, finally had an engine that did not leak oil.  Though Nick Albrecht and Ken Purczyki did not have any new toys, they made up for it with lots of beginning of the season enthusiasm.

The night before the event, the Boyer family, Ags, Nick, Ken, and  Rob Fusi caravanned up from New Jersey to Newtown, where Dina and I live.  After everyone had unloaded for the two day stay, Dina gave everyone a quick  tour of our new house, before whipping up a  late dinner of pizza. The remainder of the evening passed  with predictions of speed and comments on the weather occupying most of the conversation

Dina, Katie and Ags prefer to hang out in the kitchen

 

Ken and Beluga get ready for a run

After the hour trek north from Newtown, we made it to track entrance.  As is typical for  the first day of a muti-day event, the line was fairly long.  I waited behind a very odd looking 914.  First of all, this 914 had its PCA Club Race insignia displayed, with its class listed as GTP-1.  Now for those of you not familiar with PCA Club Race classes, the GTP-1 class is basically reserved for fire-breathing factory race cars...part of the so called "Super Classes".  What lurked inside this little 914 to deserve such a high classification?  My visual inspection of the rear of the car revealed some very interesting facts.  First, the exhaust was on the top of the engine.  Hmmm.  Second, the clear bulge of two waste gates protruded from the bottom of the car.  Let's see, what type of Porsche engine could that be?  With the brain churning feverishly, and after a few brief Talkabout conversations with Charlie, we determined that yes, this was indeed a 914 with some variant of a 962 engine in it.  I am quite sure that Ferry would be pleased to see his least celebrated offspring so proudly powered.  Unfortunately, we never really got to see the beast in action, as the car must have experienced mechanical trouble and was whisked off by trailer, to once again become a thing of legends.

The day started off with the White run group flagging.  With my customary spot at pit out secured, and Ags in the tower, cars began to make their way onto the course.  The day was cold, and the conditions were not exactly ideal.  Charlie, Nick and Ken each took runs, shaking off  the winter cobwebs.  Rob, who was not driving at this event, was busy in the pits hooking up his custom made camera mount to Pesky.  The setup uses a small lipstick style camera mount in the front turn signal of the car (more on the video results later).  The  run groups were uneventful, and I passed the time working and chatting away with my fellow pit outters, Russ, Mary and Cynthia.  Finally, it was my turn to take a spin, hopefully not literally.

 

My first run in Pesky was scary...and not the good "wow this is fast" kind of scary.  It was the "holy crap, I hope I can make it around without crashing" kind of scary.  The problem was what we in the GTC refer to as "binary gas"; it was either completely off, or 100% on.  Now, back when I used to drive a 100 horsepower 914 (aptly named "Slow White", and now in John Flynn's stable) which also had the same issue, this was not a big deal, since in a low powered car you basically have the pedal flat on the floor 95% of the time.  But in a car with nearly three times that much power, it is a totally different experience.  At first I thought that the car was probably just cold, so I decide to take a couple of laps...I figured I could make my way around until it warmed up.  I took two laps in the car, but decided to come in when I could see a stock yellow 914 slowly reeling me in.  While I'm more than willing to admit when someone is faster than me, I had been one of the top three or four fastest in the white run group for the past year, and there was no way that  I'd suddenly become that horrid of a driver.  I also didn't want to "Turbo" the little 914 that could, so I pulled into the pits (to "Turbo":  the common act by a slower person in a faster car stomping on the pedal down the straights, then preceding to hold up the "slower" car through  a series of turns).  Fortunately, it turned out that the angle of the cable pulling on the throttle was just slightly out of whack.  After a few expert turns of the wrench by Powertech's Keith, I was back in business.

My next run was fine, with Pesky no longer being hounded by power monsters with double digit torque curves and four lug wheels.  At the end of the warm up lap, I decided to mash the gas down the straight.  I have to say, the power in the car was unreal.  I experienced things I had never even contemplated before:  getting wheel spin in 5th gear at the dip down the front straight, potentially needing to shift to 5th in no name ( my gearing is not stock, so redline in 4th is 107mph)...clearly this was going to be a learning experience.

Rob's custom designed camera mount

 

The rest of Thursday passed  in much the same manner with  me getting used to my "new" car, Ags feeling out his new suspension, Nick and Charlie gaining some respect for the Boxster, Ken continuing the learning process at his second event, and Katie trying to keep the smallest of the Boyer clan warm.

 

That night, we had our first viewing of some of the video from Rob's turn signal mounted camera system.  It was really, really good.  With the camera that far forward in the car, it's a whole different viewing experience.  You get the distinct sensation that you are on the track, much more so than from a normal interior camera mount  The one thing missing was sound.  All agreed we needed to add a microphone to enhance the experience.  The night passed with visions of horsepower and handling filling our dreams.

 

Wearing lot of layers was key on Friday!

Friday was a whole different kettle of fish.  We awoke to a light rain and temperatures in the low 40s.  Diehards,  we trekked back up to the track to see what the day would bring.  By the time we drove the 40 miles north to the track, the temperature had dropped to about 35...and the light, misty rain was still falling.  This was not exactly what you would call a "high adhesion" day.  I once again, took my place at the end of the pits, armed with the trusty orange paddle.  Since the number of attendees had dropped significantly  from the previous day, the first run group was a combined Red/Black group.  After many calls from the tower, there was exactly one car lined up in the pits.  Eventually, we got the call from the tower to let 'em out...all one of 'em.  The driver of the white 964 started out on to the cold, wet track.  About 40 yards out, the driver shifted to second and started to put some power down.  This would prove to be a very bad decision.  As the tires tried desperately to grip the slick pavement, the tail began to slide left in a slow motion power over-steer.  The driver tried to correct, but it was too late.  The car slid off the track surface and onto the wet grass.  Once on the grass, the pristine 911 began its slow slide down to the inside guard rail and made a sickening whack.  Now, as a person who has decided to repaint the wall in turn five at at Pocono, and has also been in the passenger seat for a little visit to the used tire department at Lime Rock, I can tell you it is absolutely amazing how quickly a situation can go from unremarkable to unrecoverable.  This was no exception.  After the driver limped back to the pits, a few others decided to brave the conditions and lined up in pit row.  As they left the pits, each driver was extra cautious about the conditions.  As the drivers went around for their first lap, instead of looking (and sounding) like the vaunted Red/Black run group, it looked more like a Sunday drive to pick up the milk.  The speed built slowly, with each run group probably maxing out at sixty to seventy percent of their normal speeds.

 

The rest of the morning continued to be marred by incident, with many more spins and full course black flags, and unfortunately, two more accidents.  While accidents are by no means the norm at track, they are unfortunately an occasional part of the experience.

 

By the first  flagger change, the track appeared to be drying out.  Even though several of my friends has decided not to venture out, I was determined to brave the conditions.  Once I got out on the track, I confirmed my suspicions, it was indeed beginning to dry out!  Unfortunately, it was still very, very cold.  Did I mention that my car has no windows...or heat?  Well, let me tell you, when the checkered finally came, I was quite glad I was wearing driving gloves, 'cause there was no way I was going to stick my hand out the window for the pit in signal without them.

 

Now, my new engine was running flawlessly, but Pesky was running low on her precious race fuel.  Since I figured I would soon be running the car with the open exhaust & race gas, I decided to fill 'er up at the track.  Now, having never bought race gas before, I didn't realize that there are several different grades.  There's the "cheap" 100 octane variety at only $4.50 per gallon.  For an extra fifty cents, you can get 110 octane, and the 112 octane tips the scales at a $6.00 per gallon.  So, after adding less than 8 gallons to the tank, and with my wallet $35 lighter, I coasted down to pit lane for my third run, trying in vain to burn as little fuel as possible.

The final run of the day was a combined Red/Black/White/Blue...something that those of us in the "lower" run groups relish.  It's a chance to match skills and speeds with the mighty Black and almighty Red run groups.  We lined up with Ags in front, followed by me, and then by Charlie.  We went around two laps in that order, and the second time down the front straight, I decided to let Ags get a bit of a lead.  Charlie and I had been wanting to test the power of the new Pesky.  So, I sandbagged it down the hill, then stomped on it...a classic "Turbo-ing".  As I looked in my rear view mirror, I could clearly see the Chickster fading away in the distance.  Later that evening, Charlie described the experience, saying that even though he was flooring it the whole time, he was "astonished how I walked away from him"  The rest of the run was especially fun, as I got to chase Charlie for a good 5 laps, before losing him in a traffic train.  Oh well! 

Back in the pits, we all began to break camp, loading up our four wheeled and two legged children for the trek home.  Thoughts immediately drifted to more safe, serious fun at our next event in in May at Watkins Glen and whether Charlie, Rob and I would be passing Flynn on the inside or outside as we went down the carousel (this event is with another club...one that allows open passing everywhere on the track, including in corners).

See you at the track...and look out for Pesky!!

The Chickster and Flo wait patiently for their turns on the track