The 2018 Season has begun!

It’s finally here: racing season!

This past weekend, I loaded up and headed for beautiful Charlotte, North Carolina, where the season opening Match Tour was taking place at the ZMax Dragway.

This was my first out of town tow with the new-to-me tow pig, and what an event to end up with for a tow. Three hundred sixty miles through the mountains towing with a 28 year old truck with 235 horsepower.

I wish I could report a trouble free trip, but I did have several snags preparing for the event and getting to it.

The big problem of the last month: electrical gremlins. I drove the car to the car wash one day, and it died on the way back home. Turned out that a questionable ground had fried the ECM. I pulled the entire engine harness from the car, resoldered all the splices, checked every wire, removed the circuits for the fans and the now-removed electric brakes, and got a new ECM and chip.

What a mess.

Then, on the trip down, at the bottom of an exit ramp just past Knoxville, the fuel pump in the truck’s front tank decided it didn’t want to run anymore. No worries, I switched to the rear tank and finished my trip. Ironically, after sitting at the site and cooling off for two days, the front pump came back alive and ran fine until the front tank was empty. I’ll be replacing it this week.

Arrived and unloaded at the site!

But the event! ZMax is a drag strip that happens to have a HUGE parking lot. It’s a surprisingly grippy sealed asphalt lot, behind the grand stands. Thanks to the grandstand elevation, it’s probably the best site for spectators of autocross in the entire country. They can see the entire course from about forty feet above the pavement.

Grid and Paddock. There’s a 60+ second course way off to the right.

How huge was the lot? The course was 60-70 seconds long depending on the class. The design was very good. It was fairly simple, kept speeds down, was fun, and didn’t result in a lot of cone hits. Considering the event was overbooked by 25 drivers, the lack of cone hits was a Godsend.

I drove poorly. First even of the year, new front suspension setup. New engine with new power delivery. New brakes. I found myself being tentative expecting the car to push, or getting on the throttle a tad early expecting more lag, and stopping short. The brakes work so much better I found myself coasting through a lot of features because I got on the brakes way too early.

My best run was in the 68 second range. The class winners for CAM-T were in the high 62s. It’s a big gap, but it also was a big course. I think I can chip away at that with more seat time.

Things I learned, besides “drive better?” The car needs a new fuel pump. As boost climbed above 12psi, the fuel pressure leveled off and the AFR started leaning out, ending up around 11.9:1 at 15.7psi. Not enough to cause knock, but I was only at WOT for one or two seconds at a time. I’ll be replacing the pump and filter and cleaning up the grounds and pump wiring this week.

Onward to the Optima Event at NOLA motorsports park!

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