If you read our previous newsletter you saw the story of why we would not be entering a Kryderacing owned vehicle in the 2000 Rolex 24 at Daytona. We didnít. But we were there and the following story was one we never would have imagined at the time of that previous newsletter.
"24 DAYS OF DAYTONA"
Thatís right. "Days", not "Hours". Day One was January 14th, Twenty-four days later the Rolex 24 at Daytona ended on February 6th. During that time period Kryderacing was involved in the preparation of one SportsRacer and the running of a second, separate SportsRacer during the week of Grand Amís inaugural race. A large number of people were involved and the final result of the effort may lead to future programs with some of these individuals involved.
But first, a little background leading up to the "24 Days". Kryderacing has a long history of competition in this annual event. We knew last year that our trusty old Nissan 240SX probably would not be competitive. Several months effort to assemble a Grand Am Camaro program ended mid-December when it became obvious we did not have time to properly prepare the car. The holidays came and went with no changes. A couple of our volunteer crew members were making their own plans to spectate. Reed left on January 7th for a month-long stock car commitment in California. He asked Sandi for a Daytona entry list, hoping to find a team with which to drive.
On January 14th everything changed. We received a phone call asking if we could go over to Toledo, pick up a Chevy/Kudzu from Tom Volk Racing, return it to our shop and install an engine which would be shipped to us by another route. We would then deliver the car to Savanna, Georgia for a test on the Monday before the 24-hour race. Agreements were quickly reached and Matt and Donny headed to Toledo.
It was apparent from first sight of the car that much more work than engine installation would be required before it would ever run. The car wasnít wrecked, or even in bad condition. It just needed the hundreds of small (and a few big) things done to it to make it raceable. The transaxle was not assembled. Essential parts (such as the distributor) were missing. The front suspension bolts were all loose. The EFI programming was unknown and the computer boxes and plugs were not compatible. Brake rotors needed replaced. The fuel tank needed inspection (slightly out-of-date) per the new GARRA rules. There were a couple of missing pieces which needed to be acquired in order to be legal per the rules. The list seemed to grow longer with each day the crew worked on the car.
As far as installation of the engine was concerned, it was apparent early that the supplied engine would not fit into the Kudzu without numerous modifications. The engine was originally intended to be installed into a Courage SportsRacer and everything from plumbing to mounts to wiring was not compatible. The original estimate for the engine installation was three days. After almost two weeks of work with up to six people working long hours on the car it was finally time to install the engine. We then discovered it didnít fit the transaxle. The fit was close and the car could probably be driven, but it wasnít right and damage to the drivetrain would soon occur. There was no longer enough time left to correct this latest problem. It was now Sunday, January 30th.
Sandi called Mike Jacobs, the car owner, and gave him the bad news. The test had previously been cancelled. This development was also a major disappointment to the Kryderacing team. We had reached an agreement to supply crew at both the test and the race. Now, not only did we not succeed in prepping the car (it was a great effort, but we always believe in targeting results, not effort), but we would be missing out on working with a top category car at the race. Mike, however, was not about to give up. He told Sandi he was going to look for another engine. Sandi told Mike it was a long-shot but if he found one Kryderacing would try to install it.
The very next day Mike called and informed Sandi he had bought another complete car and it would be delivered to the track on Wednesday. He still needed the Kryderacing crew. Packing spare parts would not be necessary since very little was exchangeable between the two cars. Only a few tools would be required because the new car came with some equipment and Jacobs Motorsports other car (Porsche EVO) would be coming with its own crew and plenty of tools. Sandi and Matt packed clothes and a few items, obtained a rental car, and departed for Florida Tuesday morning. Tim Walton and Bob Haines also started out for Daytona in Timís truck. Reed would be flying in from California on Thursday night.
The car was the 1997 Kudzu originally run at LeMans. It had a Chevrolet V8 built by Ryan Falconer. The best thing about the car was that everything worked. It wasnít up-to-date per the latest rules. It also needed a lot of last minute routine preparation. But it ran. Rance Norris delivered the car and was familiar with it. He stayed and helped the team up until the race started. His assistance and hard work had a lot to do with the car making the race. The crew worked all day Wednesday and finally made it to tech (15 minutes to spare) mid-day Thursday. We were on track early in the first practice session.
The second session was qualifying and Steve Lynn did the driving. He was quick enough to easily make the show, but there was a problem (from our viewpoint) with GARRA timing and scoring. It was reported Steve missed the chicane and not only was that particular lap not allowed, but all others were dropped. Steve claims he never missed the chicane. There were conflicting corner worker reports. In the final analysis we were told to try again on Friday.
Reed arrived Thursday evening during night practice. Everything was going according to plans until late in the session when a "miss" problem with the engine started slowing the car. It was felt the cause was fuel related, but no exact cause could be located. We were concerned because the next time on the track would be our Friday qualifying session. The car would never be fast enough if the "miss" continued. Everyone did their best and we all prayed a lot that evening. We were there when the garage opened on Friday and checked out a few additional ideas we had had while lying in our beds. When Steve headed out to qualify the "miss" was gone, but we were not sure we had found the cause. We hadnít. During the session the problem returned. Fortunately it wasnít too bad for the first few laps and Steve did run a lap which, while slower than Thursday, was quick enough to get the car into the race. We were one of approximately a hundred cars vying for eighty starting position.
We had one practice session left and a few new ideas to try to solve the "miss problem. None of them worked and once again everyone left the track worried about the next day - Race Day. Matt and Rance spent a lot of time huddled trying to solve the problem. Two major hurdles needed to be addressed if the "miss" was being caused by what were becoming the prime suspects. The pumps in the fuel cells were not easily accessible. And we didnít have any spare pumps or correct filters.
When we arrived at the track on Saturday morning the Porsche EVO was setting next to the Kudzu in the garage area. We had expected it to have been loaded into its trailer (it failed to qualify due to mechanical problems of its own). I donít know who had the idea first, but all of a sudden someone realized we had a convenient source of spare parts, especially Bosch fuel pumps and filters. The Porsche crew wasnít around to stop us. It took some doing, but the Kudzu soon had two complete fuel systems. If a component of the original system was the problem, we could switch to a back-up. We were ready to race.
No we werenít. When we filled the fuel cell we discovered a large leak around the fuel cell cover plate. It was the same plate we had repeatedly removed while working on the "miss". Removing it again and making repairs took a lot of time and the car was finally lowered to the ground only a few minutes prior to the start of the race. We were already relegated to the back of the grid due to our tardiness. There was another last minute panic when the car refused to roll. It was quickly fixed and Steve left the garage area just as the green flag waved. We ended up losing only part of a lap. Not too big a setback for the start of a 24- hour race.
Now would be a good time to mention the crew. Everyone did a terrific job. Kryderacing personnel included Reed and Sandi, Matt Miller, Rod and Mary Whelan, Tim Walton, Jeanette Whitehead, and Bob Haines. Past crewmembers Ron Nahr and Jeff Johnson returned. Rance Norris had to leave early, but his contribution was enormous. Tony Kinser, Brice Lynn, John Snowdon, David Snowdon, Tom Hanson, Scott Ahlgrim, and several others also contributed. "JJ" and Ed were big helps (especially Ed during the transaxle rebuild). Paul and Karl Hacker also supplied their services and several of their crew members for the refueling chores. Brad Grissom expertly handled the Pirelli tires for the team from start to finish. We also appreciated the help Motec gave us. It was typical Daytona in that a lot of people are necessary for a successful program. Reed wrote something years ago after attending his first 24-hours of Daytona. "This race belongs to the crews. All the drivers can do is screw it up." It is still true.
Speaking of the drivers. We really had a talented group. Car owner Mike Jacobs was joined by Steve Lynn, Steve Ahlgrim, Ray Snowdon, Richard Geck, and Frank DelVecchio.
Back to the race. The car ran flawlessly for the first few hours. No "miss" from the engine and the only complaint from the first two drivers was a loose handling condition on right-hand turns (we discovered a slow leak in the RR tire when we changed it). But the lack of preparation would lead to problems. First to appear was a slow loss of coolant (loose connection) and then a shift linkage u-joint failed (old part). The major setback was worn and broken parts within the transaxle. The transaxle took a long time to rebuild. Please do not think poorly of the preparation of the car. Keep in mind that on the Monday prior to the race this car was sitting quietly in the back of a Florida race shop. All things considered, it was in reasonable good shape and everyone did as much preparation as possible in the few days leading up to the race.
The car was running well as it entered the last hour of the race. The corner workers were on the radio talking about something being loose on the front of the car. Watching it go past the pits we spotted what appeared to be a tail pipe section sticking out from the bottom of the front bodywork. It wasnít from our car but it could cause problems. Reed ordered the car into the pits and Matt prepared to remove the pipe. Unfortunately, the car spun in turn one, It was missed by the first two cars to arrive on the scene. But the third timeís a charm and a Camaro plowed head-on into the Kudzu. The car did make it back to the pits under its own power but it was badly wounded. The decision was made to leave it in the pits until the checker flag waved and then start it up and cross the finish line.
The "Rolex 24 at Daytona" was over. The "24 Days of Daytona" was down to its last couple of hours. Everyone on the crew helped move the car and all the equipment from the pits to our garage. Farewells were exchanged with old friends. Addresses and phone numbers were obtained from new friends.
When it was all over we realized Kryderacing had once again finished a Daytona 24-Hour event. That makes seven of the last eight we have started. Weíre not sure what qualities have led to these results. Maybe itís persistence. Maybe it bullheadedness. Like previous races there were times during the weekend when continuing the effort appeared impossible. But there is always someone (itís never the same person) who has an idea and doesnít want to quit. Iíd like to think part of our reason for success is allowing that person to express their thoughts.
ē If you have not visited Kryderacing.com on the Web lately you may not be aware we are looking for help. The ad mentions full-time, part-time, and volunteer. Volunteers are always needed for the various race programs (things like the "24 Days of Daytona"). Any full-time employees would need to serve some time initially on a part-time basis. We do need part-time help immediately.
ē We also anticipate an employee need for the Kryderacing store at Nelson Ledges Road Course this year. In previous years Sandi has done the bulk of the work and she has been helped at motorcycle events by several volunteers who have generally manned the gas pumps in exchange for getting into the track for free. We have plans to increase our "presence" at other events and would like to find someone who lives near the facility who is available on an "as needed" basis. Call us if youíre interested and we can discuss schedules and compensation.
ē We have received the 2000 schedule of TrackTime Performance Driving School programs. There are several changes from 1999 and the addition of a new track, Virginia International Raceway. They have also added several SOLO schools. Call them at 330-793-9451 for information.
ē Kryderacing has once again agreed to supply our Kryderacing Trackside Support program at TrackTime events. We also plan several changes and improvements for the new year. One change is the addition of a service to swap tires, change brake pads, or make other minor revisions to vehicles prior to the start of the school. We had previously avoided this because we did not want to position ourselves as doing the safety preparation for a student the morning of the event. The vehicle should be inspected far enough ahead of time to allow for repairs to be made if necessary. However, there have been several occasions where a student needed street tires swapped for race tires or similar changes made with brake pads. We are going to encourage this type of service at future events.
ē There is another service Kryderacing has offered at TrackTime events for several years. We do have a program for 100% Trackside Service to an individual. Basically a customer brings their car (or we can handle that also) and Kryderacing takes care of it at the track. It costs more than waiting for a problem to occur and then bringing the vehicle to us for inspection and repair if possible. But the advantage is we are constantly inspecting the vehicle prior to its sessions on track. We have never tried to expand this program since qualified manpower is always an issue. We are investigating bringing two mechanics to several events during the coming year. If you are a TrackTime student and would be interested in this type of service please call us so we can discuss your specific needs.
ē It looks as if Reed will be returning to the 1-Lap of America this year. John Bender and Reed will be competing with Johnís Corvette ZR-1. In 1996 Reed teamed with Russ Wilson in Russís ZR-1 to finish third overall and win the award for top independent. We have heard several changes to the running of the event have occurred since then and we also know the level of competition has risen with each event. It will be interesting to return. The 1-Lap is scheduled for May 7-13.
ē There are several proposals floating around which will make this year very interesting for Kryderacing. A couple of agreements have already been reached, but I am out of space. Look on our website for announcements in the coming weeks.