Race Diary

10-25-02

Friday:

This weekend, I'm running the 240SX in a double regional at Buttonwillow. It's Cal Club's last points-counting event of the season, so a strong turnout is expected. Another reason that people are expecting the event to be well-subscribed (as they say) is that we're running the track backward for the first time in awhile. Most of the guys who are familiar with the configuration say it pretty much sucks, but everybody's so tired of running Buttonwillow in the normal clockwise direction that we're all eager to try something different.

Michael Jordan and I have a sweetheart deal with Nissan Motorsports. All the folks there are great to us. (Take a bow, Laurel, Colleen, Steve and Ryan.) Motorsports supremo Ron Stukenberg kindly allows us to park our car and trailer in his lot. Best of all, patron saint Sly Alviar does the mechanical laying on of hands in between visits for major surgery at the Watanabe Brothers shop. The only downside of the arrangement is that the only time we can work on the car is during normal business hours. So I decided to devote Friday not only to picking the car up but prepping it for the races — a task I wasn't looking forward to, since the car had been ridden hard and put up wet after the enduro two months ago.

One great thing about working in the Nissan Motorsports shop is the hydraulic lift, which sure beats putting the car on jackstands and creeping around underneath it. First off, we threw the car on the lift and checked the seamy underside. We didn't find any leaks, which was a bit of a mixed blessing, since the car managed to puke out all the power steering fluid during the enduro and we weren't sure how or why. (I picked up a few containers of power steering fluid just to be safe.) The exhaust had developed several small holes, but it didn't require immediate attention. We pulled on suspension members and nut-and-bolted the big kahunas. The only oddity we came across were the loose locknuts for the tie-rods (though when we checked the toe-in, it was perfect).

The front brakes looked marginal, so I replaced them with the set of Hawk blues that supposedly had been bedded during the practice session before the enduro. (To be honest, they looked brand new to me, so I planned to bed them again.) The rear pads looked fine, and they hardly do any work anyway, so I let them be. Then we bled the brakes and topped off the brake fluid and the oil — nothing but Mobil 1 for us — as well as the power steering fluid. Actually, I didn't top off the power steering fluid; I filled it from scratch. (It was bone-dry.) I would have preferred figuring out where the fluid had gone. But time was a'wasting, and as Sly pointed out, unless a hose broke, it would be hard to lose all the fluid in a single 30-minute session.

Last but not least, I cleaned the car, which was filthy beyond belief, with the remains of several hundred bugs embedded on the pockmarked nose. For the really tough stuff, I resorted to brake cleaner. I don't know what's in it, but that's some really nasty shit. Otherwise, I followed Sly's recommendation and went for a spiffy Meguiar's product, which worked just as well as advertised. After a half hour, the car again looked relatively presentable. During the off-season, though, it's going to require a thorough steam cleaning. Some spiffy graphics would be nice, too.

For this occasion, I'd lined up a supercharged Nissan Frontier crew cab pickup truck as a tow vehicle, thanks to my pal Sergio Delgadillo. The truck turned out to be screaming yellow, which encouraged me to watch my speed. One of several forecasts I saw said there was a slight chance of showers. I briefly considered grabbing our set of rain tires, which are mounted on stock (read: heavy-ass) rims. But they weren't immediately accessible, and part of me thought that if I brought the rain tires, it was bound to rain. Conversely, if I DIDN'T bring the rains, I figured it would stay dry. Of course, this theory had been proven conclusively wrong earlier this year, when I was forced to race in the rain on slicks, which was about as much fun as being whacked on the fingers with a wooden ruler. But I digress.

I loaded the car on the trailer, drove up to Burbank, did some work, made a bunch of calls, closed up shop for the weekend, scarfed down dinner, loaded up my gear and set out for Buttonwillow. Traffic was pretty bad, then it rained going over the Grapevine. Still, I made it to the track by 9:30. It took exactly 16 minutes to dump the trailer, unload the car, and lay out my gear. In fact, everything went so smoothly that I'm convinced that I must've forgotten something. I'll find out tomorrow, probably when I sitting on pre-grid, belted into my car. Yeah, that's probably when the thunderstorms will hit.

—Preston Lerner


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