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I Can’t Believe They Did That!

IT’S SEPTEMBER, so it’s time for a new “I can’t believe they did that” rant. I’ll tackle my main nemesis: electronics. Some brilliant engineer, in an unnamed European country, decided that pulling out a dipstick to check the oil should be obsolete. Instead let’s put an expensive oil-level sensor, out of reach, in the engine and send the data to the computer. The computer can analyze the oil level over the next 25 minutes and then, if you’re lucky, it might share that information with you on the electronic display. Generally five minutes after the next run group has started.

It’s no mystery to anyone who has followed me around the track for a couple of laps that for the past year I’ve had air-oil separation problems. I could have spent almost three grand on a motorsport AOS but I’m not wired that way. Second, my block pressure is higher than the AOS was engineered for because of my turbo installation. Even though I’ve finally got it sorted by designing my own, I don’t yet have a base line for the engine’s normal oil consumption. I won’t drive the car unless I know how much oil is in it.

As a track-only car, there is nowhere to test it and it just sits neglected until its once-a-month outing. So in the extreme heat of our July event I was really looking forward to finally stretching its legs, without rust proofing everyone behind me. Then the oil display failed. To add insult to injury it wouldn’t say that it wasn’t working until it wasted another 25 minutes for a useless countdown. At the end of the countdown it said that the sensor wasn’t working. We pulled the intake and turbo hoses to see if my power washing had knocked the connector off. Everything was intact so the car went back on the trailer.

Back at home on Monday I asked Mr. Google how much the part costs before I started the tear-down and found a thread from an owner who had multiple sensor failures due to a weak battery. With nothing to lose I ran a cord out and put the trickle charger on it while I was at work. Twelve hours later I turned the key and the display told me that my engine was full of oil and there is nothing wrong with the sensors. Now that may sound like a cheap repair, but between the event fees and a couple of tanks of diesel fuel, it still cost me $500 to stand around in the heat for three days. Now I’m considering a trip to an unnamed European country so I can punch an engineer in the face.

Our home track CTMP, which will always be Mosport to me, had the opportunity to lay down some fresh asphalt not too long ago. We’ve since had two events on the mostly-new surface and the feedback has been generally positive. There are still a couple of bump issues here and there, but what road course is perfectly smooth? If Sebring was our home track we would all need chiropractors after a season. There are a couple of things I’d like to point out regarding the new surface which you may want to keep in the back of your minds.

Corner two has always been a challenge due to the double apex and the slight off-camber nature of the turn. The new surface has a great deal more grip that the previous polished surface and the transitions from new asphalt to old (originally concrete) have been eliminated. You would think that with elevated grip levels that everyone would be quicker and safer. What we are seeing is a larger number of run-offs at the bottom of the hill. Just because you can go faster down the hill doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. So please remember that no matter how good that grip feels, there is still a left turn at the bottom. You wouldn’t be that brave if it was still grass down there.

The other thing I’d like to remind you of is that the increased wet and dry grip will gradually go away. One of the reasons the old asphalt was so treacherous was the surface being polished over decades. While asphalt technology has advanced, the rubber and oil dropped on the surface and the constant scrubbing on line will smooth it out pretty quickly. That will leave us with less grip on line but a more consistent surface overall. A few drivers who stayed out in the rain at the last event told me that the wet line wasn’t needed. There was just as much grip on the dry line as there was on the outside. Please keep in mind that those conditions won’t last and the first five minutes of any rain will bring the oil and rubber to the surface. Don’t be a hero and pay the price. Every time it rains slow right down and explore the grip levels before you push at all. Safety should always be your first priority.

As I write this article all of Ontario has moved to stage three of the province’s COVID-19 health plan. As a result, and provided there have been no major outbreaks since, we are allowing a limited number of guests at our solo-lapping events. Common sense should prevail by limiting your invitations to close family members and perhaps a mechanic or two. We ask that the participant and the guest arrive together. Both must have submitted the PCA COVID-19 waiver and the participant must take responsibility for the respectful conduct of their guest. If the guest plans to eat with us we will need to know in advance and collect the $20 per day to cover that cost. At this time the snack bar is remaining closed to walk-up traffic.

We need your support if we are going to make it through the 2020 season unscathed, so please sign up and support your track program.

Cheers! </>

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