Wedge Racing in 2010
(Bullet's second full season)
Homestead - January (DOUBLE) - skipped (as usual).
Sebring - January (DOUBLE) - skipped. (as usual)
With the great performance of Bullet during the 09 Runoffs, we are expecting good things this year. Over the winter, I redesigned the steering extensions I made last year to be more durable. If I failed to mention it, I found my extensions slightly LOOSE when we got back home from Wisconsin. That contributed to sloppiness in the steering that I should not have had.
Road - March
Great weather again at Roebling and a few more cars this year - 7 preregistered and all actually showed up. Mike Leonard dropped a valve in the first practice and, with no spare, dropped the count to 6. Ray Phillips came down from Virginia and made his presence known. He took the pole comfortably in the qualifier while Donnie and I both had a 'little excitement'. Near the beginning of the session, Donnie had a good draft run on Ray but, between Ray's 'juke' and Donnie's 'jive', Donnie ended up climbing over the top of Ray's rear tire and tagged the concrete pit straight wall. I came onto the straight just after it happened and all I noticed was a 'concrete haze' - I could see Donnie well up in front of me going slow - I figured he had just run down near the wall and stirred up the 'clag'. As I caught him, he tucked in behind me and we ran about 2 laps together. His car seemed fine to me as he blew by me on the next lap. A couple laps later, my engine made a 'big bang' and sounded TERRIBLE. I shut it off and coasted in through the "back door" at turn 4, making it to within a few feet of our paddock spot before I had to get out and PUSH. I figured we would be in for an engine change (an EXPENSIVE one), but set about checking the 'easy' things first, just to see if I could get an idea of what had happened. I thought a broken rocker arm MIGHT cause it so ... first get the valve covers off. Took the 1/2 side off and found nothing amiss. Turned the engine over an observed what appeared to be proper operation of the valve train. That's relatively good news, as it tells me that the crankshaft and cam gear are both OK. Went over to the other side and removed the 3/4 valve cover and found the #4 exhaust rocker arm hanging freely. Closer inspection showed the rocker itself to be just fine ... but the pushrod was in 2 pieces up inside the pushrod tube. Grabbed my forceps and extracted 2 nearly equal pieces with a CLEAN break near the middle. GREAT NEWS!! Now, all I had to do was sort through my stash of spare pushrods and match one to the correct link. A small task, and in about 30 minutes, the engine was running again and sounding great. (whew). Charlie Rogers, beside us, had more engine woes as well, but was unable to 'find' anything on his - it just didn't seem to be running right for him. Donnie's car was leaking trans fluid, but was otherwise fully functional except for some minor body damage from contact with Ray's tire. He worked on the leak and all seemed fine.
The weather was cool, but sunny and we expected some really good laptimes. The car seemed to run pretty good and the engine was pulling well, but we weren't quite as fast as I expected. Maybe had something to do with the old tires (left over from the Runoffs) that I was running. We qualified 3rd (Donnie was second), but we were acceptably close and not concerned about being left in the dust come race time. We retired to the concession stand for a complimentary "meal" that was much easier to fix than cooking back at the RV :).
I decided to run the best remaining set of Runoffs takeoffs rather than drop a bunch of $$ on new tires. The track being relatively cool, shouldn't wear the tires as much as if it were much hotter and it seemed to me that I should have no tire issues during the race. We were the LAST race group this time, so I got to watch several of the races to pass the time. Finally, it was our turn.
We had a mixed group of FF, F5 and FV
- the Vees were grouped at the back and were BY FAR the largest class in the
group ... as a matter of fact, there were TWICE as many Vees as both of the
other classes put together :) ! At the start, I got a great run from my
3rd place to take the (Vee) lead into Turn 1. I put a great lap together
and glanced in my mirrors coming onto the front straight ... HEY, maybe I might
just break away and leave Donnie and Ray to fight for 2nd place. Well...
it didn't quite work out that way as they both blew past me like I was hauling
an anchor and solidly beat me into T1. Well... I didn't expect it to be
easy. The 3 of us quickly pulled away from the rest of the field, but
there was never much more than a car length between us. Each took a turn
(or 2 or 3) leading with the lead changing sometimes more than once in a lap.
I finally decided to settle into 3rd to conserve my tires. I had noticed
when I got to the grid that Donnie was on his second set of
sticker tires for the weekend and I though Ray did too, but he says it was just
a new left rear due to a puncture. Regardless, it was a bit late for me to reconsider
tires at that time. Donnie and Ray swapped the lead several more times
while I watched - trying to make sure that, should they get 'into' each other, I
would be ready to avoid them. Linda counted down the laps and I waited.
Linda gives me the count - "Starting leaders lap 23" as I came onto the front
straight. THAT's the lap. I figured my best chance would be to lead
out of the last turn and hope I could hold them off to the finish line. I
managed to get past both of them and lead into T1 ... just about the time that
Linda said "leader's lap twenty TWO"! Oops ... guess I misunderstood what
she said the first time. Well... you can guess what happened the next lap
--- I was dropkicked back to 3rd into T1 and had to replan my stategy for the
finish line. Not much to plan, really - just try to set up the best T5 and
6 that I could and draft by both of them at the line. I figured I had
about 1 chance in hades of making it, but might as well try. We came out,
Donnie was leading, Ray was drafting him and I was drafting both. My best
hope was that Ray would pull out early, and give me a 'double wide' draft ...
but he didn't - Ray was closing, I was closing and we were coming to the line...
Ray pulled out, I stayed behind him till the last second and then I pulled out,
we were coming to the line, the distance was getting smaller, I was
closing like gangbusters ... then then THE LINE!
We were 3 abreast with about 6 - 8 inches from 1st to 3rd. HOWEVER, the order did NOT change <sigh>. Donnie was first, Ray was second and I was third. Quite a thrilling race and one of the best I had been in for a LONG TIME. No contact between any of the cars.
Now to get ready for Atlanta.
Road Atlanta (#1) - March
The weather started off GREAT - Friday test day was great ( I did NOT test, but I was there at the track) and Saturday was equally great. Another 'big' field - 9 Vees registered. The first session was a qualifier, but I decided to conserve my resources and go out on the worst tires I had in the trailer (Runoffs leftovers) anyway - I figured, so what ... what if I only qualified 3rd or 4th? It really wouldn't matter in the race and $$$ is $$$. I had watched FV newcomer Doug Voss (down from Kentucky) testing on Friday and he had looked really good. It was only his 2nd trip to Atlanta and he was very consistent in the mid to low 1:46's with even a couple of high 1:45's during the one session I watched fully. He could be a contender :-).. My goal was to equal or better his time (hopefully BETTER it) and be consistent. We had FC and S2 grouped with us this event, in addition to the usual FF/F5/FV classes, so the on track sessions would require a bit more 'mirror driving' than Roebling. We were second group out and the temp was 51 - not really cold and the track seemed good! I took a couple of laps to get my tires up to temp, then set about business. My first 'real' lap was a 46 flat ... I thought, hmmm... guess I need to work harder. Next lap was a low 45 - OK that's getting better, but I want more ... then a 44.5. OK ... NOW were getting somewhere ... next a 43.9. OK ... I wonder how long these tires are going to last? The track feels great and the engine sounds crisp and nice... Keep working ... another 43 ... then another 45 ... oops... FOCUS! .. back to a mid 43 ... then a 43.2 ... then a 43 flat (WOW - never done that before .... EVER)... then a FORTY TWO POINT EIGHT!! 3 tenths under the lap record !! Again WOW - what was going on?? Keep at it - next lap ANOTHER 42! ... how fast can I go ?? Where's the limit?? Well... I found it. At 10A, I got in a little early and clipped the apex really hard - almost lost the car - got into a slide, but controlled it and did a minor 'tank slapper' .. I thought ... GEE - let's get OFF this track with the car in one piece! I ended up with the pole by well over a second! Next car back was Donnie. This could be a really good weekend :-).
The temp was up to mid 70's for our afternoon qualifier - I put on some other Runoffs leftovers (my stock getting a bit low by now). I didn't expect to be as fast - the track (probably) wouldn't be as good, but I needed to compare a new exhaust collector from Roxanne's Headers to the one I ran in the first session. JR was trying something new and he wanted a comparison under the most similar conditions I could arrange. As expected, the session was a little slower - the track felt a good bit greasier, but the majority difference from my viewpoint was traffic. In the first session, I had spent most of my time alone - the faster cars caught me at the right time and I didn't have to devote much mirror time to the cause. A bit different this time as it seemed nearly EVERY time I came to a turn in point, someone was bearing down on me rapidly - takes some of my concentration away from driving and puts it to 'watching' - but we survived it all. My laps were not nearly as consistent, but I still managed to grab a low 43 - some 1.5 seconds faster than the next car in class (again, Donnie).
I'd been hearing about coming weather issues, so took my laptop to the media center for some internet access to check out the morning forecast. It was 'iffy'. A big rain front was headed our way with predicted arrival time around 9 - 11 AM ... our race expected to start around 9:15 or so. Let's hope for a dry race! I had gotten a new set of Goodyears mounted and hoped to have occasion to use them.
Morning warmup- DRY (so far) I was in the first group out - just to scrub in my new tires - about 3 laps is all I needed. On the second lap, I noticed a sprinkle or 3 on my shield.... On the 3rd lap, I noticed some RAIN on my shield. Uh oh.... I came on in and we double checked my rain tires - ready to go. Another warmup group and the rain kinda just waited... a very light drizzle. Then a ProIT qualifier ... just before that session started, the rain increased and actually became a light RAIN instead of drizzle. We got out the rains and I studied the situation. It didn't get any worse and I agonized between full rains that were brand new and my aging intermediate tires. It slacked up a bit and I decided to go with the intermediates. We got them on and waited. I went to mount my new camera on the car and COULDN'T FIND IT #%!~! I looked... Linda looked... I looked... I KNEW where I had put it just before the warmup... but ... it just wasn't there. We looked every where else too, to no avail. Oh well - no video for the race. I got in the car and went to the grid - the skies looked "ok" and it was just more than a light mist .. There WAS some water on the track, but the rain had slacked off. It was going to be OK :-). We started the pace lap and all seemed well... then we got to the back straight and .... uh ...ohhh... RAIN ! It had turned into a light but steady RAIN ... I might be in trouble. Coming under the bridge ... GREEN FLAG - I got a great start - seemed all the cars in front of me just PARKED as I weaved my way through to about 3rd or 4th overall. The car was sticking just fine and I was moving forward. Through that lap - I picked off another car - then we got T7 - the first 2 cars both spun- then the 3rd place car - I DODGED Jim Belay's spinning FC and charged down the back straight - only 1 car left in front of me... then 2 (other classes) blew back by me. HEAVY braking for T10A - bad news ... front tires locked up - no steering .. get OFF the brakes... get OFF the brakes... *JUST* got off in time to turn in - I adjust my brake bias all the way to the rear - not enough. OK through 10B and then 12 and the front straight... Linda says I have 10 seconds over 2nd place FV. Just be careful!! T1 - good... T2, then T3 ... WHAT HAPPENED!! Front tires locked again - can't steer - straight off into the mud - I spin and come up onto the motorcycle chicane. The car spins around back forward and I catch a break - Donnie goes by on his full rains. I get going again ... more careful now. It's not TOO bad, but I can't BRAKE hardly at all. Back into 10A/B again - I get through A, but spin AGAIN coming onto the ripple strips exiting 10B - AGAIN, I get lucky and catch the car going forward - Doug Voss gets by. CONCENTRATE - THINK - what can I do (short of going and changing tires <G>)? S M O O T H SMOOTH - easy transitions! WATCH for T3. Got there and practically parked .. and STILL slid all the way across the track. Where's some grip?? There isn't any. I start the left to T4 - the car just slides towards the outside of the turn .. and finally catches just before the grass. Whew! MAN is this tough. Donnie is disappearing fast, but I'm not losing much ground to Doug. Back straight - I power by Doug and make plans for 10A again ... use as much engine braking as you CAN! Downshift early ... VERY light on the brake pedal ... VERY light. And that's pretty much the way it stayed. On pins and needles through every turn. I almost spun 10 times per lap - but didn't. I ALMOST ran off under the start stand just past T12 - THAT would have been really ugly!! I lost it and saved it over and over. The rain slacked off a bit and suddenly I could drive again - I closed several seconds on Donnie. If I could just get TWO laps of little or no rain... but no - Linda says "it's raining again on the front straight" - CRAP.. I loose all I gained. 2 laps later, Linda says "3rd place is 3 seconds back" - I search my mirrors - yep - I see him - Doug again. CONCENTRATE! Coming out of 10B, Doug is right on my tail ... Linda points that out as I go down the front straight <G>. CONCENTRATE - only 2 laps to go - forget Donnie! Rain slacks up - I leave Doug and get some breathing room.. rain comes back on the back straight ... Doug closes up again. ONE MORE LAP - his best shot will be at 10A where I have the most trouble braking - gotta get a good T7 and do a really good job coming into 10A. I get both done and manage to cross the line with a bit over a car length over Doug! 2nd place. Not bad considering how diabolical the car was ... NOTE TO SELF - *THROW THESE INTERMEDIATE TIRES AWAY!!!* They are at least 6 years old and hard as bricks. I would have been better off on my new set of slicks!
Thankfully, there was only some minor trim damage in my 2 spins. Next up - do some work at home to make some MONEY, then minor repairs to get ready for VIR in a month. The car is GOOD! A shame about the rain because we would surely have been in the hunt for a new lap record had the track been dry. Thanks again to Rollin as Butler Engines take 1st, 2nd and 4th - Goodyear also takes 1st, 2nd and 4th
VIR (Virginia International Raceway)- April - A DOUBLE race
A brief side note - SCCA queried the licensed drivers last year as to whether or not we (SCCA) should allow 15 year olds to have racing licenses. I was 'on the fence' at the time - 15 years young just seemed TOO young to me. I have to say now, having seen one, that there ARE some young people out there at that age that do have, and exhibit, adequate maturity on the track - *FAR* outstripping some of their older counterparts. I met Sean Rayhall, the first proposed 15 year old SCCA licensee, 2 weeks ago at the SCCA 25th SRF Anniversary event. I watched him on track and I talked to him in the pits. I was quite impressed. Not only did he sit on the pole in both races (not SCCA) of a double event weekend ... in front of some pretty serious (and quite a bit older) competition, he simply RAN AWAY with the race both days - unfortunately, mechanical problems dropped him to 4th on day 1 and out completely on day 2. But he seemed to handle the situation well enough. I saw him again this past weekend at VIR. He missed Friday qualifying for both races of the double and was left with only 15 minutes of Q time the morning of each race - a 3rd of the track time of the other members of his class and group. Again, he took the pole for both races AND ran away with the races, this time completing and winning. Obviously, at least THIS 15 year old is ready to race.
Now..on to MY racing :-). The weather was great all weekend - beautiful skies almost 100% of the time with never a threat of rain. A tad warm on Friday, but quite comfortable all weekend. Our tow up was uneventful. Crew chief Jerry made the effor to travel all the way from Ohio to help us out for the weekend. It was good to see him again. We had 8 cars in class and almost 30 in the group - Vee being the slowest, of course. I qualified on old tires and held my 'freshly scrubbed' ones from Atlanta in reserve for the race. Q1 for Saturday worked out pretty well and we took the pole with Ed Womer and Donnie behind me. In the second session for Sunday's race, Donnie nabbed the pole followed by me (still on those old tires), then Ed with Doug Voss in 4th. I was quite pleased with the car and continue to be amazed at how well the Goodyear Tires work with almost no rubber left! Ray Phillips, 2nd placer at Roebling, had car troubles in both sessions and ended up with no decent times for either. It was quite breezy both Sat and Sun - the wind was moving us around on the back straight more than just a little bit. It certainly made it more interesting - quite a bit more impact when I was alone as several cars in a row could ride it out better, thankfully.
Saturday morning we "re" qualified and I put on a new set of tires so I could scrub them in and let them 'age' a bit before using them in a race. On new tires, I just took a few laps at about 90%, so didn't get any really fast times - however, we were still the fastest car and remained on the pole. We raced first group after lunch and I secured permission from our group Steward to space the vees back from the rest of the group as well as to allow all F5's to start in front of us (one guy had car woes and ended up gridded last behind the Vees). I set up what seemed a good spacing on the pace lap and we came onto the front straight. As we rounded the last turn, I suddenly remembered that the inside, where I was, was the WRONG place to be - the outside car can see the green flag about 50 feet sooner than the inside car due to the slope of the track at that point. Sure enough, the green waved and Ed took off while I still couldn't see the start stand. His stomping the throttle was a pretty good indicator for me, but it put me 3rd as we approached T1. The spacing worked out really well and we had a clear T1 when we arrived. Ed had the lead - Donnie 2nd and me 3rd. On the back straight Doug Voss drafted by me, dropping me to 4th. I took 3rd back coming out of T2. In the next few laps, ED and I each had a turn at the point and the lead pack had become just 4 with Donnie and Doug sitting and watching behind us. Donnie took back 2nd a lap or 2 before the (all alone) lead FF caught and passed us. The next lap, things started to get interesting. Packs of 2 or 3 FF/F5 caught and weaved their way through the 4 of us - causing significant grief on more than one occasion. About the last FF that came through caught Doug JUST at the wrong spot, but forced his way through anyway - Doug ending up on the short end, got shuffled out of our draft and couldn't make it up. He gradually fell back and got caught up in another race with Ray Phillips and Dale Rader. Just 3 left at the front now. NOW, we merely had to worry about who/what might catch us on the last lap. Fortunately for all, we were clear. On the *NEXT to last* lap, Donnie took the lead as another Ford came through. The FF split me off coming down through HogPen - I had only this ONE lap to catch Donnie. I made up the lost ground by Oak Tree. Coming down the back straight on the last lap, it was Donnie, me then Ed. I decided to take the lead, set up and passed Donnie, but Ed had other ideas as he got by both of us just before the sweeper at the end of the straight. Going into HogPen, we were nose to tail. I knew I had to hit that last turn JUST RIGHT to have any chance of passing Ed before the line. I DID get it about as perfect as I have - I closed rapidly - Ed was hugging the inside line as I stayed in the draft to the LAST instant, then popped out to pass on the outside. I figured that Ed would drift toward me a bit - which he did, but he had to keep protecting the inside against Donnie too as we hurtled toward the finish line. Inch by inch.. then we were THERE - and I had him!! The first win in 2010 for Bullet. Ed second, Donnie 3rd. Victory stand celebration and pictures all around :-).
L/R - Ed Womer, Stevan Davis, Donnie Isley
Photo by F and S Enterprises
Sunday dawned a good bit cooler - down into the 30's overnight, but warming up pretty fast. Donnie, Ed and Doug skipped the morning session, but I like to get a 'warmup' whenever possible before the race. Gives me a chance to warm up the oil - shake the car a bit and double check everything before the real racing starts - I only turned 3 laps at reasonable speed - I was on my race tires and didn't want to waste any of their life ... no matter how good they are <g>. The car didn't seem to handle quite as well as Saturday - I asked around and no one else seemed to think the track was worse - but the posted times seemed slower, so I felt it was OK.
Race time - Donnie had the pole and we tried to space ourselves again. The pace car I think was going a bit faster and the slower F5's were lollygagging about, making it almost impossible to figure out where we needed to be. It seemed we were too far back as we started down the hill, so Donnie picked up the pace. However, when we came onto the straight, we spotted the full pack almost parked just ahead - I guess the group pole car ... or maybe the pace car - slowed the pack at the last second. We were too close, but before we could do anything, the green flag waved and we were racing. As could be expected, we caught EVERYONE in T1. Some went inside, some outside - I think I went both places at one time or another. Although we were "all over them", we all managed to get through it without any serious contact. I just tried to think small and make sure that none of the Vees got by me .. more or less successfully. I passed Donnie for the lead on the next lap with Ed in 3rd and Doug RIGHT on his tail. Ed took the lead going down the back straight and I decided to ride behind him for the moment. We had already broken out the lead pack of 4. Somewhere along here, Donnie fell off the pace and disappeared (motor problems I found out later). We did about 3 laps with Ed and I swapping the lead before Doug decided to get into the mix at the front. The lead FF caught us and passed. More of the faster classes caught and passed us with no significant problems. Somewhere along in here, I started thinking about where I wanted to be on the LAST lap. I only had 1 passing (other class) car catch me "wrong", but I saw it coming and just backed off a bit and gave him room. It took me 2 laps to make up what I lost, but I made it (setting fast lap in the process) and it was a 3 car race again. I figured I had NO chance to pass 2 cars on the front straight at the line - Doug was leading, but Ed was passing - I went with Ed, putting Doug back to 3rd. Coming onto the back straight for the last time we were clear of lapping traffic again and it was just us 3. I messed up at Oak Tree a little and ended up a little further back than I wanted. I intended to pass Ed and lead into Hogpen. However, Ed was 'crafty' as well as being somewhat ahead - Doug 'threatened', but wasn't quite in a position to make a move on me as I was drafting Ed. Into the last sequence, I remembered yesterday .. and I knew Ed would too. I had already considered what *I* would do were I leading and assumed that Ed would try the same ploy. It was MY job to make sure that I didn't run into him and that it affected him at least as much as it did me. I'm not sure exactly how much I had to DO with what happened, but ... Ed suddenly slowed - I was far enough back (intentionally) so that I did not have to SLAM on brakes - I reacted just about the right amount and then was back on the gas following Ed down the hill. Linda says the biggest danger to me was getting hit from behind as Doug was NOT expecting it - but he reacted just in time to avoid punting me off the track (thanks, Doug <G>). Ed was going as hard as he could and so was I - here we were again - same scenario - Ed leading and me drafting, but this time I got to the finish line almost a full car length ahead of him! Another 2010 win for Bullet and Wedge Racing. Thanks as always to Rollin at ButlerEngines, JR at Roxannes Headers and Pat, Tony, Eric and the gang at Goodyear - Goodyear was 1,2,3 on Saturday and 1,2 on Sunday.
L/R - Ed Womer, Stevan Davis, Doug Voss
Photo by F and S Enterprises
The tow back home was boring but satisfying. The next scheduled race is Road Atlanta in about a month - I'll be changing engines for that race. Hope the next one is a good as this one.
For those of you who are SO insane that you want to see more details, I have posted my incar video of the first race on Vimeo.
Daytona - May - The Daytona National Race IS NO MORE. The Central Florida Region has decided to make it a regional only race. A disappointment as we generally enjoyed that weekend.
Summit Point - ?? - yet another national event cancelled!
Road Atlanta (#2) - June - The JUNE race is in MAY this year <G>
Former racer (not Vees) Jim Paschall is interested in getting back in (maybe even in a VEE!) when finances permit and has volunteered to help us out by crewing at several events this year - Thanks Jim - all help is appreciated :-).
We had 5 vees registered and it looked to be a good event. Unfortunately, Donnie broke a crank (or at least FOUND it) on his first lap off the grid, so one car out immediately. MY car was thankfully almost trouble free for the weekend. I installed my second engine for this race, to give the first one a rest (been in the car since Runoffs last year). The carb was acting up a bit and I made several changes between each session - including the morning warmup on Sunday. With the problem still evident, I elected to change the carb for the race. The fresh carb was perfect, so will have to check over the defective one to see if I can figure it out.
The weather on Friday was off and on rain. I wasn't testing so it didn't affect me, but it aggravated several who WERE or WANTED TO test. Saturday's weather was comfortable and partly cloudy - with an occasional threat of rain, but none of significance came down. One interesting thing did happen. We were sharing the track this weekend with a Time Trials (TT) event to bolster entries for the region. That brought another 50 or 60 cars to the track in 3 groups of 15 minute sessions each. ONE of those TT classes is F6 (F600 - an F5 chassis with a 4 cylinder motorcycle engine possibly to end up as an alternative to the snowmobile 2 cycle engines in F500, maybe just a new class altogether.). Clint McMahan brought his F6 car to test and I dropped by to give it a look. While there, he asked me if I'd like to take it out for a session. Well... you know me... I LOVE to drive most anything any time the opportunity presents itself. I went and got steward approval and then to registration to log the appropriate info and then got 'fitted' for the car. Fortunately, Clint and I are close in size so it didn't take much. After my qualifier (I got the pole, by the way <G>), there was just one 15 min TT session before I went out in the F6. It was going to be ... interesting for sure. The MC engine would turn up to around 14 THOUSAND RPM and sounded much like an F1 car going by. The DSR and FB motors have similar rev ranges and it's now difficult to tell which class is going by (FB, DSR, or F6) without looking at the track. Clint and Dan (his Dad - a driver as well) also have paddle shift fabricated for it, but unfortunately, the foot box could not be expanded to add the clutch pedal where the normal F5 only has 2 pedals. Regardless, there are now THREE pedals in that foot box and it's pretty tight down there - not quite enough room for my feet PLUS the pedals ... but just for this session I figured I could get by.
On my first lap, I got to the back straight and the vibration was so bad, I thought the car was going to shake apart. I felt like the tires were SQUARE! (I later found out they WERE). It was quite a handful to drive - even on that straight. I was quite timid under braking as well as the car felt like it would swap ends in a microsecond. I had some trouble figuring out the downshifts - it's a technique and needs a 'blip' to make it happen correctly - something I had difficulty with in that tight foot box. I later decided that I would have to learn to brake totally with the left foot (a la F5 style) in order to make any real gains in that department. On the second lap, I was beginning to feel a little better, but the vibration was still quite high on the straights. I was amazed at how much small imperfections in the track surface affected the F6 - things that I didn't notice at ALL in my Vee would feel like 6 foot drops onto concrete! 2nd lap - I'm finally getting to feel the car a bit more and come wailing down the front straight - ALMOST flat through 12... but not quite<G>. T1 went pretty well - I even got my downshift in there, but thought that maybe I should use TWO downs next lap. I was noticing that I was lugging the car in several turns, and felt I needed to go more gears DOWN in several places (really needed to use my left foot on the brake ...but not quite comfortable enough to add that to the mix yet). The back side went OK - still feeling the car REALLY WANTED to spin on me - very twitchy, but this time on the straight, the tires seemed to have warmed up a bit and I could actually SEE something (not much) in my mirrors. I got through 10A/B pretty well and (with an extra downshift there) climbed the hill under the bridge. The car was beginning to SOUND really good (I LIKE that F1 scream!). Down the front straight again and into T1 - got that extra downshift and it felt really good .... for a moment ... then TERRIBLE SOUNDS - sounded like the chain ratcheting around the sprocket - felt like that too. I immediately got off the gas and reached for the kill switch .. but then thought... let's see... hmmm it is still pulling.. was that my imagination? Test gas pedal ... NO! NOT my imagination. Terrible ratchet sounds again, but only under high loads. Maybe I can nurse it back to the pits. I slowly and carefully guided the ailing F6 back to the pits where we found a 'broken' drive bearing on the intermediate shaft. Thankfully, no serious damage and Clint and Dan had expected it to go sooner or later .. just my luck that *I* would be the one to take it over the top :-). I discussed the shaking and Clint couldn't understand it. After fixing the bearing HE went out for the next session and found out what I was talking about - THEN he remembered his spin in the first session ... followed by a slow return to the paddock ... those were HIS "square" tires :-). He swapped for a 'less square' set for the last session and took another second off his best time. We won't talk about MY lap times compared to his, but I was satisfied with them - I had NO intention of threatening any of Clint's times - he's way too good in that car for ME to compete with him :-). Anyway ... it was quite interesting. Hopefully, I'll have another opportunity at some point to drive one. It seems like it just might be a really good answer to the 2 cycle 'hard to find' problem currently affecting F5. The most gratifying thing was, of course, that I didn't spin or CRASH it <g>.
Back to Vee... This motor didn't feel quite as good as the old one did, but it still ran well. My times were off a little over 1/2 sec from March times - which seems pretty decent considering 25 degrees higher temps. The car felt good, but it was easy to feel the greasier track in the late afternoon (we were the last national race group). I offered Donnie my other engine so he could complete the weekend and "earn" his Runoffs invitation - but the oil plumbing on his car is quite different from mine and it would be an almost impossible swap. Donnie foraged the paddock and his cell phone seeking some way to get a finish in the race (no points needed ... just a finish). Near the end of Saturday, Jim Vaseff - another Vee competitor came to Donnie's paddock and indicated he didn't need the finish since he wasn't planning to go the Runoffs anyway and he was more interested in Regional points than National points. He then offered that he would withdraw from the event and Donnie could run his car. That was an OUTSTANDING offer from Jim and I KNOW that Donnie really appreciated it. They 'worked a deal' of some sort and it was done. Donnie had a 'ride' for his finish.
At the start of the race under VERY HOT sun (96 degrees) Charlie Rogers got a great start and led most of the way to T1 - being on the inside, he backed out a tad before I had to, and I took the lead into the turn. Michael Leonard tried an outside pass on Charlie and ran out of room - dropping off the track and losing a good bit of ground to us. Donnie was close behind Mike and had to give room to avoid potential collision. Charlie stayed with me for 2 laps before dropping off the pace slowly. I could see Mike and Donnie back there together as well for a lap or so. I gradually pulled away and ... well.. that's it from where I sat. I never saw another Vee, but it did get interesting a couple of times as I was getting lapped by the FE and FF's. Nice that I had a good lead, so whenever it looked like it might be tight at a corner, I just let off and waved them by... they seem to NEVER wait anyway - even when they really should. MUCH better to 'give it up' and save a lot of $$$ and time fixing a torn up car (not to mention missing a race finish).
Thanks again to Rollin - ButlerEngines.com for a great motor. Eric - Goodyear tires for some really fantastic rubber and JR - Roxannes Headers for a super exhaust system.
A clean run and win for Bullet - Mike was second after Charlie lost his fuel cap and ran low on gas - Donnie pulled in after he had over half the laps to preserve his finish (and Jim's car) and he ended up third anyway due to Charlie's fuel problem. Bullet now leads the division with 52 points and NO more national races in division. It seems REALLY bad that our racing is 'done' in May - I'd like to race more ... I'll be searching for a makeable out of division race, but it'll be hard to find one with Linda's limited vacation time (*I* have plenty of 'vacation' time <G>).
I hope we're a little better prepared for the Runoffs this year!
June Sprints -
June (Out of division) - ??.
Planning to go if
possible. Fuel prices and lack of vacation time for Linda have pretty
much removed this one from my calendar.
Roebling Double National - July - Another race that IS NO MORE. This event also converted to a regional only event.
Regular Season team stats -
|Roebling, Savannah, Ga||3rd||3rd||7|
|Road Atlanta, Atlanta, GA||1st||2nd||9|
|VIR, Danville, VA #1||1st||1st||12|
|VIR, Danville, VA #2||2nd||1st||12|
|Road Atlanta, Atlanta, GA||1st||1st||12|
Barber Double Regional - Labor Day Weekend - (warmup for Runoffs)
We made the trip to Barber again this year to refresh me and the car as well as semi-test (make sure they didn't fall off) some aero mods I made to the car. The weekend was pretty good - a bit warm, but we didn't have the characteristic RAIN that we have seen in past years, so we did get some good test time. Linda and I were both forgetting things all weekend, so it was a good event to get back into the swing of things. The video camera on the car acted up and we didn't get much video - I later found out (at the Runoffs) that it was just a battery problem.
I had braking problems all weekend and finally replaced both rear wheel cylinders and the last session was good. We also managed to set a new lap record during the Saturday race - generally a good thing <g>. That would be Bullet's first lap record. I was also breaking in a newly rebuilt transmission - no real problems there either, but I will need to swap back to the long box before we leave for Wisconsin.
That's about it for Barber - the Runoffs are coming up fast!
Runoffs - Road America - September -
Before leaving for the Runoffs at Road America I found some 60 or 70 things to do to the car and barely got it all done in time - but we did :-). One of the things I did was to finally get around to building a reverse lockout for Bullet. With the long shift linkage, it's a real PITA to shift from 3rd to 2nd without hitting reverse. I've been trying to get this done for some 20 years! I found some pix of a couple of other ideas - added that to my own ideas - scrounged around the shop to see what I had to work with and started at it. My first attempt was a dud and I scrapped it .. but it led me to an alternative that worked.
In the 1st pic, you can see the aluminum assembly that clamps around the nose of the shifter housing. At the back of the car, you see the vertical 'T' square tubing that protects the shifter from cars behind me. The shifter rod has a steel piece clamped to it and attached to the shift linkage traveling off forward at an angle. It's in 3rd at the moment and moves towards the 'T' for 4th. It rotates CCW about 20 degrees to select 1st and 2nd and another 20 degrees or so to select reverse. As shown, the reverse lockout is disengaged and the steel can rotate full movement CCW to select reverse. The cable control in the cockpit in the 2nd pic swings the bottom aluminum piece inline with the top piece and the steel will hit it at the 1-2 angle and keep the shifter shaft from getting to reverse. It actually works really well although I need a little longer cable housing so that the wire doesn't have to 'reach' so far outside the housing.
I studied the travel plan more extensively this year so as to NOT hit Chicago at rush hour as we did last year. We would leave Tues eve to put a couple hours on the road to get that timing. After several delays, I got in a bit of a hurry leaving...managed to FORGET to disconnect the power cord from the RV, but thankfully had connected it in such a manner that it just disconnected itself rather than ripping wires out of the garage or motorhome. I remembered it about 10 feet out of the driveway and stopped to make sure there was no damage before continuing - thankfully, all was OK. We stopped at a Walmart in Sylva, NC for the night.
The next day we got on the road about 8A and made perfect time although we did have a rather exciting moment in Louisville. I was coming around a pretty sharp curve in heavy downtown traffic, doing maybe 45. About 1/2 way around, a string of STOPPED CARS came into view about 150 feet in front of me (my rig is 65 feet long!). I was against a concrete wall on the left and had a full stream of cars on my right - no place to go - nothing to do but slam on the brakes and HOPE. That's the first time I've not had ANY options in a towing crisis. I nailed the brakes, not having time to 'modulate' or anything else. I could hear tires screaming (I'm pretty sure they were mine), and we somehow got stopped in time - without even leaving our lane, although I can't figure how that happened. It was all over in a flash (it was < 2 "Car-Lengths"!) and we found ourselves sitting stopped some 20 feet behind the car in front. I even had room to spare! However, I did notice 6 flat spots on my RV tires during the rest of the trip. I had set up the trailer brakes so that I could just NOT lock them up (they're electric), so the trailer stayed behind us as it should, thankfully. After making a quick stop a few miles down the road to check on things in the trailer, we continued on and arrived south of Chicago about 8:30P - right on time. Got through Chicago (on those PITIFUL ROADS with LOTS of TOLL BOOTHS) and stopped at the Welcome station at the Wisconsin line to spend the night. On Thurs morning, we ran into our worst traffic jam - over 10 miles long - between the IL/WI line and Milwaukee - apparently due simply to road construction. We finally got through that and made it to the track around noon. Parked the rig while we went to registration and got back to find our only real problem with the rig - it wouldn't start! After futzing around with it a few minutes, I decided it just HAD to be the fuel shutoff valve (thank you RV forums <G>) so set about FINDING it. Fortunately, it was a simple fix for the moment - the screws in the mounting bracket were loose so that it didn't have a good electrical ground - tightened them quickly - cranked up and made our way to our reserved paddock spot. I fixed it properly the next day along with a couple of other minor issues.
Test Day 1 - Friday. I had been watching the weather closely for the last week and had finally decided to go ahead and sign up for Friday test day, but hold off on Saturday test day, since the forecast still involved lots of rain. Friday went reasonably well - we had no REAL issues other than getting me familiar with the track since last year. The sessions were 30 minutes long and there were very few cars - I had quite a number of really nice, traffic free, laps - something I really needed. The last session was all open wheel mixed (meaning I was "in the way" of quite a few *VERY FAST* cars, and I elected to scrub tires rather than try to make good laps. All went well.
Test Day 2 - Sat. Woke up Saturday from a light overnight rain, and the sky's were heavily overcast and nasty looking ... however, it was NOT raining and the track was just a bit damp. We would be group 3 so it would likely be dry by my session time if it didn't rain more. I really needed the track time, so went to the 'driver lounge' where I could get some internet access and pulled up some radar maps - finally deciding that it just MIGHT be a decent day after all, I got my wallet and zoomed down to registration, barely getting signed up in time to make the first session.
In short, the day turned out quite nice for us. The first and 2nd sessions (of only 3) were mostly traffic free - I got quite a few good laps with a small draft near the end of session 2 for my fastest lap of the day ... which was also the fastest Vee time of the 5 or 6 Vees out there - I was also about 1 sec faster than last year - always a good sign :-). The last session was again used to scrub in another set of tires.
We watched things on Sunday as there were some 15 or 16 Vees testing - a tad disturbing to find that several cars clocked times that were a full second faster than my times on Sat - but they were drafting in 5 - 8 car packs, the average lap time being considerably SLOWER than my 'alonely' times. The draft is playing large! I also spent some time going over the car again and found one of my front brake shoes worn completely out again. Glad we caught that. Jerry (up from Ohio to help us for the event) and Linda helped me change the engine so I could compare the performance between the 2 that I have.
Q1 - Monday. We gridded by random draw and, for once, I finally had a good starting spot. My spot was 6th and I was surrounded by some pretty good cars to work with (at least none of them hated me <G>). Our session was the LAST one of the day at 5:30P and we sweated out rain as the time neared - however it went as well as I could hope for, but we only had 6 'at speed' laps and EVERY lap was extremely important. It was BLOOD AND GUTS (and a large pinch of stupidity) out there. After 3 laps, I extracted myself from the 'pack' I was with and dropped back a bit so I could get through some turns without having to slow for traffic ahead. Thankfully, it worked and my LAST lap was the fastest for me - moving me from around position 23 to 6th on the grid.
Davis leads onto the front straight during qualifying. Eventual 2010 Champion Rick Shields is the 3rd car back - 2nd red car. The black car is Gary Blanarik, the other Silver Bullet car.
Tues - day "off" - rain was forecast for the whole day, so it seemed nice that we had that day off - however, the rain again failed to materialize with only a couple of light drizzles during the day. The temp was up into the 80's and the sun peeked through on several occasions. Going over the car again, I changed more brake shoes and ALL of the wheel cylinders since I was having trouble with dragging brakes almost every session. Also, after studying my data and considering just how it "felt" out there, I decided to change back to the engine that I tested with. Both engines are "good", but it seemed that the Monday engine needed more time to seat the rings ... something that MIGHT not happen at all in time for the race.
Q2 - Wed. This session was at 10:30 AM and was forecast to be the best session ... as long as the track was DRY .. and it was. From this session on, we are gridded by qualifying position so, again I was in a good position. I tried to be SMARTER this session since I wasn't quite so desperate as many in the class. The engine pulled really well and on my second lap I moved up a spot on the grid with a good time. I was also able to put another really good lap together at the end - everything being as good as I could hope for with 5 cars to draft to the finish line coming out of the last turn. AARRRRGGGGHHH! The lead car of that group SPUN coming onto the front straight. I visually 'measured' the positions of all the cars and decided that I could JUST get by the spinning car before I had to start passing (can't pass under yellow till past the 'incident'). I had to crack the throttle just a tad as the other cars fanned out to avoid, but I got by - unfortunately loosing that wonderful draft I was hoping for. I was pressing as hard as I could on the 'go pedal' as I passed under the checker for the session. It turned out to be my best lap anyway and that great lap moved me BACK into 6th - I would have ended up somewhere around 10th otherwise.
At the end of the day, we attended the, now famous, Womer FV party/get together. Most all of the vee participants showed up and a few others as well. The food was great and a good time was held by all - Thanks to Ed and Kathy for hosting that for the last several years.
Q3 - Thurs. Another threat of rain that didn't materialize. Our session was at 2:30P and it got pretty HOT (mid 80's) although the sun was in and out. The winds were pretty high and the humidity was really high. As it turned out, no matter how hard I tried, we could get nowhere close to the Wed times - neither could anyone else and only a few spots at the back of the pack changed. We had the 4th fastest time of the session, but the highest change of position was Ed Womer jumping to 15th to drop Brian McCarthy to 16th. I found out later, that a car broke a head stud and dumped oil on the track for, pretty much the entire session. The wind continued to build throughout the day and was near gale force at the top of our hill by nightfall. I was quite surprised to see most of the awnings around the paddock still intact (most had duallies or at least golf carts and race cars holding them down). One tractor-trailer rig did have it's HUMONGOUS awning wrapped up over it's top and torn to bits, but that was the only significant damage I heard about.
Now... 2 days to watch the other classes race before we hit the track again on Sunday morn at 9:30. Some great racing - we watched SM, FF, FB/FA, F5 and a whole ton of others ... a LOT of red flags and crashes, but some GREAT racing as well.
We were the second race on Sunday morning. STU and T1 combined were the first. I walked down to the front straight to watch the start before getting into my suit. The STU pack (split start) came screaming by toward turn one with a good start (in a VERY small group of only 5-7 cars). I waited for the T1 start - friend Chris Ingle was starting at the back due to a blown motor on Monday and I wanted to see how many spots he could gain before T1. The cars were JUST out of view from where I was when the green waved - I watched and waited, but the first thing I HEARD was *CRASHING*! WOW - what a mess. Seems one of the front row cars missed a shift and got tagged from behind - spinning him broadside in front of the rest of the (once 15 or so) cars. NO ONE CAME THROUGH CLEAN!! The track was completely blocked and EVERY car that managed to come down the track at all was severely damaged. I was a ways away and it looked like someone had dropped a BOMB on the start/finish line - smoke drifting into the air and no one moving. To be brief, no drivers were hurt, but at least five cars were DONE - most, severely done. It took over 45 minutes to restart as the cars had impacted the concrete walls so hard that several WALL SECTIONS had to be replaced! WOW. At any rate, they did finally restart the races and gave them 6 laps - we ended up starting our race about 30 minutes late. Chris was fortunate to not be involved in the accident and moved up to finish 3rd at the checker.
THE RACE - Sitting on the grid, I planned my 'strategy' - after considerable thought I finally decided to just go as fast as I could and hope for a great outcome <g> (what else can you do?). I knew I needed a really good start and planned to be as "nice" as I could for the first few laps while making EVERY effort to help create a small lead pack and BE IN IT!! As we came up the hill for the start, I tried to position myself and anticipate the green and I got a PERFECT START! I started to pass Roger, but thought better of it - just don't GET passed - you don't need to pass anyone right now! Rick Shields got caught napping and he dropped in behind me - Mike had the lead, but we weren't far behind. Brandon had the inside, but backed out at the last second, which turned out to be a VERY good thing as we were then able to stay right on Mike's tail down the hill into T3. Going towards T5, we all closed on Mike, but no one passed. I had a good run myself, but stayed with the plan - no passing at the moment unless necessary or "really easy" (hasn't happened in a LONG time <G>). We all made T5 without hurting ourselves too much and got good runs into T6/7/8 and into the carousel and through the kink. Going through the Kettle Bottoms, I finally had a sec to glance in my mirrors ... and, except for Rick, it looked pretty empty. I could see 'something' back there a ways, but no idea how far back it was. Through Canada and up the hill - then onto the front straight. Roger took the lead from Mike and I relinquished 3rd to Rick. Going into T1 I glanced again behind me .. hmmm... nothing there really close - I think this is a GOOD thing!
Down into 5 again - we're all clean again - down to T8 and into the carousel, kink and back straight. The lead 3 are pulling me into the carousel, but I close back up at Canada. Up the hill and onto the front straight again. Roger, Rick, Mike, me ... and a gap! We have a LEAD PACK and **I'm IN IT!!** Mike takes the lead into T5 - down to T8. Mike is pressing to get away - Mike blasts into 8 to get a good run through the carousel, but NO - there's **OIL** in T8 ... LOTS of it. Mike goes wide and spins, Roger dodges, Rick clears, leaving Mike DEAD IN FRONT OF ME BROADSIDE! I'm in the 'bumpers', but manage to dodge and get by. In the carousel, Rick slows as we encounter several cars off in the gravel trap - I'm in 3rd, but I see no yellows. Rick slows more and Roger pauses, then falls in behind him. I look around and there are NO flags - we're past the incident. I'm expecting a Full Course Yellow (FCY), but it's not out yet. They're still going slow, so I pull out and go by and TAKE THE LEAD! Short lived, though - as soon as I start around, Rick realizes the same thing and passes me back as we go towards Canada. JUST as we get to Canada, the FCY flags come out. I'm in 2nd with Roger behind me and this would be great... EXCEPT that it means that the 3 car lead pack will soon become a 36 car lead pack - that really sucks!
4 laps under the FCY as time ticks down toward our 40 minute limitation. The race will probably be cut 1 or 2 laps short. I ponder all the issues as I lamely and pitifully attempt to clean the lens on my camera without ever ONCE hitting the lens - which continues to get crappier with every lap.
I try to set myself up for the restart, but do a terrible job of that as well. I'm 2nd when the green comes out, but 3rd into T1 as Roger goes by - then 4th into T5, but back to 2nd behind Roger at Canada. Then they gang up on me on the front straight and I am demoted to 6th into T1. Around to Canada once again. Linda's giving me the lap count. I'm 'on' the pack, but there's still 2 laps to go and everybody's blocking like crazy - just hold the position. Down to Canada - one more lap to go. I'm close, but no place to pass - I crack the throttle and close to the right of the track to protect the inside. I'm OK - nothing in my mirrors... then I HEAR IT. There *IS* someone on the inside - one of the Jennerjahns DIVES in - 2 wheels in the grass and then !!! holy CRAP !!! there's ANOTHER CAR behind him (Mike)- they CAN'T make this turn. Mike hits the inside curb and SPINS - RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME!! I have to lift and dodge and I loose some 10 car lengths to the leaders. Coming to the last lap - onto the front straight and up to T1. I see Nubie in my mirror now and he gets me going into T5 but screws up the turn and we're both slow. If we work together, maybe we can make it up. Closing around the carousel, kink and down to Canada for the last time - I can see all the way to Rick, now leading - we're close, but not 'passing' close. Through the Benny Michell Bend and onto the front straight - pedal CRAMMED to the floor. Rick is leading, Brandon is behind him, Roger pulls out to pass going up the hill to the checker, Brandon pulls out beside Roger - Nubie and I are just watching at this point - not close enough to do anything else. They flash toward the line - Chris Jennerjahn pops out at the last moment - I can see the FOUR CARS at the line just in front of me. Rick raises his fist in victory, but I certainly can't confirm that he won it. Those 4, then Nubie, then me - not sure how close Ron was behind me, but it's OVER. (and we're alive and in one piece! Yaay!) My fastest lap was the LAST lap (3rd fastest race lap) - that same lap Nubie set the new track record (2:41.722).
Sadly, I am JUST out of this picture right behind Nubie (the blue car)... sure looks to me like Rick is putting up his hand BEFORE they cross the line <g>.
The tower confirms that Rick won ...by 0.017 secs over Roger, then Brandon for the podium. The smallest measured FV Runoffs victory margin since they started measuring them electronically, but it took several people LOOKING at the finish to really decide who won. There was only 0.132 secs across the front 4 and only about 1.5 secs through Nubie and back to me. For those so inclined, I have posted my video of the race on Vimeo (http://vimeo.com/15366085) such as it is (I should have skipped the FCY laps, but was in a hurry to get it posted). The best part is at the front before the FCY and it's pretty much useless at the end of the race. I PROMISE to practice wiping the lens properly before I post any more videos <g>. If you're REALLY a video freak, here is another video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGo-nG7gkNQ&feature=channel) link of the second part of the race from Chis Jennerjahn (4th place). It shows the freight train blasting past me on the next to last lap, but he didn't wipe his lens either <g>. (We need to have CBS or SPEED make us some affordable cameras with those rolling plastic protectors, don't we... I wonder how F1 does it?)
Well, we made it to impound again - somewhat sadly, but still proud to be running at the front. Sadly, because we now have to sit around and WAIT for several more hours while they tear Rick's engine apart - but NICE to be CLOSE enough to (almost) touch the leader at the line. Musing back on the week ... 6th in qualifying on Monday... 6th on Wed... 6th on Thurs and, guess what? SIXTH in the race. I guess there's something to be said for consistency <grin>.
As always, I'd like to thank Eric, Mike, Jim, Steve, Norb, Frankie and all the guys at Goodyear Tires, Rollin of Butler Engines, JR of Roxannes Headers, and of course, Jerry, who took time off from his busy (retired) life to come help us again this year, not to mention my lovely wife of 35 years - Linda - for putting up with all this crap (and actually pretending to ENJOY it) for all these years (of course she did insist that I upgrade to a nice RV from the popup tents <G>), and Lee, who helped me get ready and load up and took care of our animals and home while we were traveling.
We finally got loaded up and left the track about 3 PM (eastern time) - put in about 8.5 hours before stopping for the night, then finished up on Monday and got home about 6P. The terrible roads beating the RV and trailer up during the trip ripped my trailer door rack and tool box off the walls - dumping crap everywhere, but thankfully no real damage (the tool box JUST missed the nose of the car). Every time I go on these trips, I get reminded just how GOOD our roads are compared to most other states. It beats the living daylights out of our RV, trailer and equipment while traveling - and CHICAGO is by FAR the worst place I've ever driven through. You'd think with all those blasted toll roads they would have decent roads, but no...
Yes - it's often a mess, but not THIS bad :-(.
A little rest and relaxation in store for now. I'd LIKE to go to the
Bill Scott Memorial race at Summit Point in a couple of weeks, but I doubt we'll
be up to it in time. Just too much effort goes into this event. We
need time to unwind a bit and get back to the chores that have been ignored for
the last couple of months.
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