The following is Reedís summary of the 2000 Michelin One Lap of America TM presented by Car and Driver Magazine. This was Reedís fifth event and Johnís Benderís first. Reed had done his four previous events with Russ Wilson in a 1991 ZR-1 Corvette.
Thursday, May 4, 2000
One-Lap of America team members John Bender and I traveled to South Haven, Michigan. John lives in Milford, Michigan. I traveled from Canal Fulton, Ohio. John and I met several years ago at a TrackTime event. Since then Kryderacing has done several modifications to Johnís 1990 ZR-1 Corvette. Amongst our contributions were improved cooling system, coil-over suspension, and a special Baer brake conversion. The car also has a 500 HP Lingenfelter prepped engine.
Friday, May 5, 2000
TrackTime Performance Driving Schools put on a 1-day school at Gingerman Raceway for 1-Lap drivers. John is a student with his 1990 ZR-1 Corvette and Iím instructing. Not only does the instructing get me some free practice, it also allows me to see several different approaches from his students. We also completed the registration process a day early.
Saturday, May 6, 2000
A very long day at the track. Registration had been done Friday, but the application of decals takes hours (if you have never entered a 1-Lap, you have no idea how much work goes into this activity). Bob Reid takes care of the ZR-1 for John and he has done an excellent job of prepping the car. A lot of time is spent sorting items to be packed. At the end of the day all of the 114 contestants participate in a one lap qualifying run. The purpose is to determine groupings of cars in order to minimize passing. We had been "seeded" 17th quickest in the preliminary assignments. I qualified the ZR-118th quickest during this run. We knew the competition was going to be tough, but 18th was slower than expected. I went to bed frustrated because I couldnít think of any particular reason for his slow laps. Earlier in the evening all the One-Lappers enjoyed a party while the event was discussed by Brock Yates.
One of the other activities every competitor participated in on this day was checking out the competition. Amongst our competitors we spotted several Vipers each reported to have well over 600 HP, a 1850 pound Lister with a 500-600 HP Corvette engine, a Toyota Supra supposedly detuned from 900 to 680 HP, a RennTech V-12 Mercedes Benz with over $200,000 invested, twin turbo C5 Corvettes from both the Mallett and Lingenfelter shops, and a lot of other exotic machinery. In case you havenít guessed by now, the majority of One Lap of America cars are extensively modified from their original configurations.
Sunday, May 7, 2000
The first day of actual competition. The first event was a four-lapper at Gingerman Raceway. For the uninitiated, One-Lap events consist of a single recognizance lap followed by a standing start and several timed laps. In this case, our total time for the four laps was compared to the 113 other competitors. Everyone gets only one attempt and there are no second runs, make-up runs, etc. Points are awarded 565 for first, 560 for second, 555 for third, and so on. We finished fifth and left Gingerman with 545 points. Quite a change from our qualifying run the day before. We still have not figured out the discrepancy.
After leaving Gingerman we traveled across Michigan to Michigan Speedway. Because of our fifth place finish at Gingerman we were elevated to the second run group of four cars. The track was damp for the first couple of groups and it made for some exciting slides. We finished eighth, packed up, and started the long drive to Road Atlanta. Part of the One-Lap challenge is human endurance. From now through the end of the week we averaged about four hours of sleep per day. One day we had no sleep at all. The most we ever enjoyed was six hours. On the positive side, we probably did better than many of the other entrants.
Monday, May 8, 2000
Two three-lap events were scheduled for Road Atlanta. I have lots of laps on this track but none since the revisions by Don Panoz. It is still a fantastic layout, and changes to the physical plant were impressive. We finished seventh in the morning event. During the second event we experienced a slight problem. When I shifted to second shortly after the start, the car refused to enthusiastically respond. Instead it very slowly accelerated. My first thought was that I had somehow shifted from First to Sixth. It didnít make sense, but that was what it felt like. After frantically trying other gears, with no luck, I started looking at the dash for indications of engine problems. There were none. Partway through turn one, I coasted the car for a second before letting the clutch out and applying power while in third gear. The car lunged forward with its full complement of horsepower. The rest of the three laps were filled with good and bad responses to the throttle. We finished, but it was not a fast run. Most of the competitors improved their times by two to four seconds from the morning run. We slowed by more than six seconds and finished seventeenth.
We left the track and headed for a checkpoint at the Carolina Rod Shop (a really great place to visit). John drove while I studied the shop manuals for clues to the erratic lack of engine power. Nothing fit the description of what was happening. We called Lingenfelter Performance Engines and explained the situation to Tim. He put us on hold while he started talking with other people at the shop. After several minutes of our listening to music on the phone he returned with a suggestion we check the air intake for possible collapsing. As we drove on we thought about his idea. The weather had been hot, thus increasing the likelihood of the rubber intake collapsing. We also summarized this type of problem would create exactly the type of symptoms we were experiencing. As soon as we pulled into the Carolina Rod Shop we popped the hood and discovered the air intake had indeed come loose from the air filter housing. The next questions were whether the intake had been properly fastened, and, if it had been, would it come off again? We would find out the next day at Sebring.
Tuesday, May 9, 2000
Two three-lap events were held on the short course at Sebring. We finished fifth in the morning and sixth in the afternoon. During the hotter afternoon run, the air intake did slide off the air cleaner housing again. But we knew immediately what was wrong and by opening the throttle at a slower rate we could keep it from collapsing. After leaving Sebring we cleaned the car and then stopped by the Race Rock Cafe in Orlando for a brief visit. Itís a really neat place with lots of racing stuff. Someday weíll return for a longer visit.
An hour later we were on I-95 headed north towards Jacksonville when disaster stuck. Fortunately, a miracle quickly followed. Without warning the large racing style oil cooler "burst". John shut off the engine and we coasted to a stop on a convenient off-ramp. Unfortunately, this was probably the only exit on I-95 without any services. We were stuck and a heavy rainstorm was rapidly approaching. Our One-Lap of America looked as if it was coming to a abrupt end.
But then we looked in the rearview mirror and found the #27 Honda S2000 (Steve and Scott Ahlgrim), the #15 BMW (Roy Hopkins and Nancy Becker), and the #39 Porsche (Jack Ireton-Hewitt, Robert Blakemore, and Mark Grzella) had followed us off the expressway. We normally donít travel in groups on One-Lap. It was just plain old good luck they were behind us at this point in time. With their help we pushed the car to a deserted gas station, I went to work analyzing the situation, Jack left and returned shortly with the needed oil, Roy supplied a crescent wrench big enough to fit one of the fittings, and everyone else helped in numerous small ways. After determining the problem was the oil cooler; we bypassed it, added oil, started the engine and checked oil pressure, cleaned up the area, jumped in our separate vehicles and left. We beat the heavy rain by seconds. Fifteen minutes after facing defeat we were back on the road thanks to fellow One-Lappers.
But the problem was only partially
solved. We were now running without an oil cooler. That was not a major
problem driving down the highway, but it could be during the hard runs
on the race tracks. We made a detour that night to Mooresville, North Carolina.
John is part owner of the Jeff Green and Jason Keller NASCAR Busch Grand
National teams. He called ahead and they left the shop gate open for us.
We arrived at 2 a.m. and proceeded to look for ways to repair or replace
the oil cooler. Finally we accepted the fact nothing could be done. We
took showers at 5:30 a.m and headed for Virginia International Raceway,
site of the next two events. We did accomplish two things while at the
shop. We cleaned the car (especially the oil soaked engine compartment)
and improved the fastening of the air intake.
Wednesday, May 10, 2000
What a beautiful place. VIR had been dormant for over 25 years. It now looks like a totally new facility. We had never been to this race track before and our results showed it. A 12th place on the shorter course in the morning was followed by a 13th on the long course after lunch. If learning a new track wasnít enough, the weather was hot and we were watching our oil temperature. It did get very hot, but not hot enough to trigger the computer into protecting the engine by cutting off most of the power. This high oil temperature behavior became standard for all the remaining events. The air intake also stayed fastened throughout the remaining events. It wasnít a great day with respect to finishing positions, but we were still in the running (seventh overall). We left VIR and headed for Lime Rock Park. During the trip the outside temperature dropped from 90 at VIR to about 50 degrees when we stopped at our motel in Sharon, Connecticut at around 2 a.m.
Thursday, May 11, 2000
We were very competitive at Lime Rock during the damp morning run, finishing sixth. We must have become overconfident because we dropped to ninth in the afternoon run. We did manage to move into sixth overall following these two events. The next stop was the Cannonball Pub in Wyoming, New York. This is Brock Yates establishment and is loaded with memorabilia. It would be a really neat place to visit for a few drinks and dinner. While we stayed for a little while, and enjoyed a beer, both John and I had an overwhelming desire to get some sleep. We left early and managed to arrive at our lodging around midnight. We would be back on the road by 6 a.m.
Friday, May 12, 2000
Next up was my home track of Nelson Ledges. The home field advantage didnít seem to amount to much as my morning time was eighth best. The second run was memorable because of a spin by the then fourth place overall Toyota Supra. After he spun at the end of the first lap, I passed him under acceleration as we drag raced past the starters tower. One-Lap cars are usually spaced about ten seconds apart and passes are rare. For the next two laps I felt like I was in a race because everytime I glanced in his rearview mirror there was the Supra. However, the Supra never got close enough to actually challenge. Several cars swapped finishing positions from their morning runs and we once again finished eighth.
That night John and I traveled to Greencastle, Indiana for a checkpoint and then back to South Haven, Michigan for a little sleep before the final events at Gingerman Raceway. We were solidly in sixth place. Separated from fourth by approximately 100 points and leading seventh by close to 300 points we did not expect to change position unless something drastic occurred.
Saturday, May 13, 2000
Early in the day we discovered a third event was being added to the Gingerman program. This had been somewhat expected since an event had been dropped when we started competition a week earlier at Gingerman. What was unexpected, and unwanted, was the procedure for conducting the event. After completing the afternoon event we were to proceed immediately to the start/finish line for a one lap event (Event #3 for the day). Our oil temperature had been borderline since the loss of the oil cooler and we had been lucky so far. This extra event allowed virtually no cool-down time and the computer power shut-off was considered highly probable. I even hinted to Brock it was okay with our team if the event was dropped. It wasnít dropped, but once again a miracle occurred. By driving a very slow cool-down lap after event #2 (and prior to the one-lap run) we were able to cool the oil enough to complete the run. But that was only part of the miracle.
The big surprise came that night when we discovered we had moved to Fifth Place Overall in the final standings. It seems the third place Viper had a minor spin in the one lap event. He recovered and continued. During a typical three lap run this might have dropped him to about 25th place in the individual event. But since it was only one lap, he did not have enough time to regain positions from a lot of the slower cars. He finished 91st and dropped to sixth in the final overall standings. That evening, John and I enjoyed the banquet immensely.
Sunday, May 14, 2000
I really enjoyed sleeping late before heading for home.
A final thought:
The One Lap of America tests both machines and men (and women). It brings out the best people have to offer while also accenting weaknesses of people and machines. No one leaves the event quite the same as when they started. We seemed to have so much good luck this year, you might believe someone was watching over us. Even our disasters seemed to have a silver lining. Thanks to everyone who helped.