Stories From Laguna Seca - Reports from the GGLC Track Day March 4, 2002

What follows are the stories of Tom Carney and Scott Hogben before, during and after the GGLC Track Day at Laguna Seca.

Tomís Laguna Seca Track Day

I was asked to explain what I meant when I said I made it to the event despite the drama.

Ah the drama ... I gave up about 3 times and was about to call John Zender and tell him to send in one of the replacements. There were plenty of people wanting to play, but there was limited space, so John had to bump people giving GGLC members priority. I luckily changed my mind 3 times and pressed on regardless.

It started the week before, I went for a test drive to make sure everything was OK, which it was, until it ran long enough to suddenly start to miss at above 4000 RPM. I pulled over, shut it down and checked it. All looked OK except for a heavy smell of gas. Started it up and drove off, it ran fine till it got good and warm again. Not on the temp gauge, that never got above 90C. I pulled the fuel line off the carb and check the flow ... it was pitiful so I disassembled the fuel pump and found a little debris but nothing spectacular. I had another pump that had no rust on the diaphragm so I installed it, and checked it ... nothing, not even pitiful.

Panic was setting in, should I call John? Nah, so off to Kragen for an electric pump and pressure regulator. I have AN fittings on the tank and carb so I had to get matching fittings for rubber fuel hose. I thought rubber hose would be quicker than the racer braided lines I had. I thought Orchard Supply Hardware would have the size flare fitting I needed. Wrong, the only place I could think of to find AN fittings on a Friday afternoon was Gotelli's Speed Shop.

Saturday I got it running and still had the same miss at 4000. Should I call John now? It seemed to be less severe, so maybe it's not fuel maybe plugs not firing when hot. Another trip to Kragen... "Sorry those are special order". So back out to the car to try Pep Boys. Pull out of the parking lot, onto El Camino and the motor coughs a couple of times and dies ... notice no clicking from my brand new fuel pump. Now here I sit coasting into the Krause's Sofa Factory parking lot and it's Sunday afternoon... Laguna is tomorrow! Should I call John? I call Cherie, "bring my truck I've got enough tools in it to swap out the inoperative pump with the last pump Kragen has in stock." "Sorry" she says "I hate to drive your truck, I'll come and pick you up, then I'll give you a ride back to pick up the truck after you get the Lotus home". Time is running out, but that's how it came down. No sense in arguing. So, I get the cars home and still no new plugs and the miss is still there. I hop in the Honda and run to Pep Boys, figuring they must have NGK- B6ES plugs or at least comparable.

On the way I'm thinking maybe some dirt got into the diaphragm and caused the pump to jam. So maybe I should stick a filter at the inlet to the pump. Because time was short and the space limited I had figured a filter was a luxury I would live without. I pick up a filter and go to the counter for the plugs. Thirty minutes later after going through every catalog cross reference ... no plugs.

On the way home, with my new filter, I stop at my shop and pick up a piece of welding insulation that I had installed, long ago, between the carb and the headers. I took it off when I had the headers ceramic coated because they said the heat would be reduced, and besides it was looking kinda shabby. My neat bracket to hold it in place had disappeared, and I had cut a chunk off it to make a muffler for my Weed Eater. When I got home I tucked it into position and held it on with some copper wire...not a very elegant solution, but effective.

I bent a U in a piece of 3/8 copper tube and fit the fuel filter and pump with the pressure regulator all in a neat package and connected it all up. Time to check it out. Took a long ride down to Whipple on 101 came back and went up 92 to 280 and then north to home. It ran like it should and it was only 10:00 PM. What fixed it? I'll figure that out later. Oh ya, it dawned on me, I need a 90 degree piece of exhaust pipe in case I'm too loud. On one of my trips to the friendly neighborhood auto parts store I had picked up a 90 degree bend and a reducer because I wasn't sure of the size. I pull them out and found I needed to stick the two together.

Another quick trip to the shop to weld them up. Then drill and tap for some screws to hold it on to my tail pipe. Anyway... I get home at 11:00 PM and I still need to pack the car with all the tools I could possibly need, my helmet and a chair for Cherie. No sweat, I set the alarm for 5:00 AM, who says you need plenty of rest to be sharp on the racetrack, besides I've been practicing on my Playstation.

Enough drama? How about on track, some more coughs and a strong gas smell. Opening the boot at the turn five marshal's area to find gas everywhere and the carb fitting showing about 5 of 7 threads. How could I have missed that? It stayed tight for the test drive, the trip down to Monterey and I don't know how many laps then ... big drama! Would have been cute with real flames in the rear. Not like John's paint in the front.

Did I have a great time? Was it all worth it? Oh, man was it ever!

Would you believe even the trip home was interesting. I was tagging along with the 340R that I had admired all day. I wonder what our fellow motorists were thinking when they saw our two cars. Anyway about half way I notice my Europa sounded a little noisier than usual. Checked it out, but couldn't see anything so I figured a baffle or two had come loose in the brand new muffler I had put on a couple of weeks ago. Home safe in the garage I look under the muffler with a flash light and discover my rubber mount is totally melted and the wires to the back-up light switch are showing signs of major heat stress. I pulled it and found a crack all the way across and a hole the size of my fist with the piece laying under it. Something else to worry about. Next weekend...


Scottís Laguna Seca Track day

By Scott Hogben

I was hoping to report this month on the completion of several mods to the Europa and tell you how much they improved the handling and stopping power of the car. But there were so many non-Lotus related things that got in the way of progress during the month of February, that I bagged the brake project part way through. In addition, there were so many things that went dreadfully wrong while trying to accomplish as much as I could, that Iíll have to split the report into two parts and youíll have to wait until next month to find out about the whole brake modification story. Meanwhile, Iíll tell you about the small catastrophes that plagued my suspension work.

As you may recall, Iíve been complaining that the Europa has been understeering badly at the track and itís been aggravating not being able to put the power down coming out of the turns. At Thunder hill last September, a pyrometer showed a significant difference in temperature across the tire and I had uneven tire wear to prove that the suspension needed a little tweaking. Considering the severity of the wear and the temperature difference, I felt adjustable upper wishbones would be the way to go since I could dial in as much camber as I needed, and I could compensate for any differences in the chassis on each side of the car. But since I chose to start off my pre-track day modifications with my rear disk conversion, I left the suspension work for last because I thought it would be the easiest and most straightforward of the modifications. I mean, they just ďbolt right onĒ, donít they?

These days I try to think of everything required to complete a job BEFORE I start it. In this case, I knew I didnít want to be borrowing tools to set the camber and I didnít want to have to take the car down to an alignment shop either. So I did an internet search and found a company in Petaluma that had the best prices on Longacre caster/camber gauges and so I ordered one. This was the Tuesday before the track day so I thought I had prepared myself well enough for the suspension work I was to be doing during the coming weekend.

The weekend came quickly enough and I planned everything out as far as when I would start pulling things apart and by what time I should have certain things done. As part of the brake upgrade, I had bought EBC Green Stuff Kevlar brake pads. Even though that was supposed to be part of the disk conversion, I though that was something I could do quickly and so I started on that first.

After jacking up the car and pulling the wheels off, I read the box because I was curious as to how the manufacturer recommended bedding in the brakes. I was shocked to read that if I was using old rotors and was not going to turn them before installing the new pads, I could expect to have to wait 300-500 miles before they were properly bedded in. Since Laguna was only 100 miles away, I started to worry. They recommended turning the rotors, or replacing them. Since virtually nothing else had been going right I decided the wiser thing to do was to replace the rotors. So instead of tearing into the suspension when I wanted to, I was out picking up new rotors. And since it was still up in the air as to whether my brother would take the Europa and I would take my Porsche to the track, I had to make Parts Heaven in Hayward an additional stop for some high-tech ATE brake fluid. As you can imagine, most of Saturday was spent running around getting necessary parts. Oh, and I had to pick up my friendís camber gauge as well since mine didnít show up in time, even after requesting 3-day priority mail!

The rotor replacement actually started after dinner on Saturday night and since I found it necessary to repack the wheel bearings at the same time, the job finally finished up early Sunday morning. At this point I was pretty tired from all of the running around but I dug right in to the suspension. I did the driverís side first and things just werenít going together correctly. The arms seemed like they were at funny angles and things that were supposed to be parallel to each other, like the mounting faces at the ball joint ends of the wishbones, were NOT parallel.

After studying it and fiddling around with it for a while, things got a little better but I decided to go to the passengerís side and see how that went together. I quickly had the arms on and things were working much better on that side. Everything looked like it was parallel where it should be and so forth. Feeling a little better about things, I grabbed the bolts for the ball joint and started assembling the components. I slipped the outer most bolt in through the ball joint and wish bone halves and threaded the nut on. But when it came to the rear bolt, it stopped at the ball joint. I couldnít believe my eyes. A quick check confirmed that the holes in the wishbones were crooked! There was no way I was going to get the bolt through two wishbones and the ball joint, so this was obviously the last straw. I knew at that point that the best I could do was go down to Laguna with new front brakes.

I proceeded to frantically remove the adjustable wishbones and put the stock units back on. The only good news about that was that I wouldnít have to set the camber and toe. Yep, that meant I had burned up even more time going to get that camber gauge from my friend.

It took me until 10:00pm to get everything back together and the brakes bled. The brake bleeding went amazingly fast since I had picked up a pressure bleeder when I was at Parts Heaven on Saturday. That had to be the best $45 Iíve ever spent and I highly recommend one! I threw my tools in the car, along with all the necessary items like my helmet, and went for two laps around the block to make sure the brakes were okay. They felt much better than they did and I was in bed by 11:45pm.

What seemed like 10 minutes later, I woke up to the alarm at 4:30am. I drove down to John Zenderís house by roughly 5:30am and we were on the road shortly after that. But on the way down to Johnís it hit me like a ton of bricks Ė the steering wheel wasnít shaking in my hands! As you may remember from last year, that was another project I had planned for the Europa, trying to determine the source of a chronic wheel imbalance. Iím not saying all the shaking is gone, but Iíd say there is about an 80%-90% reduction. That made all the lost sleep and aggravation worth it. I couldnít believe how much effect the rotors had on the balance.

We made it to Laguna by about 7:30am and we quickly set up for registration. I was surprised/happy to see about 4 Elises come in, and even more shocked to see a 340R in my mirrors as we drove into the paddock. We had a good turnout with the usual wide variety of cars, but this time, Lotuses were in abundance. In addition to the Elises and the 340R we had Sevens, a Cortina, normally aspirated and turbo Esprits, Europas, front and rear drive Elans, and a type-14 Elite. In addition, we had a good turnout of people that we havenít seen in little while, most notably Joe Dyer, Grant Larson, Dan Wardman, Al Gelder, and Michael Sands to name a few. Good to see you guys!

With the rain weíve had lately I was a little worried that the day would be a wet one but it turned out to be one of the best weíve ever had. It was clear and the sun was warm, but we had a cool breeze off the coast to keep the cars happy. And, as usual, our events coordinator John Zender did a great job of providing maximum track time, which was greatly appreciated by all of us.

Since this was my first time around Laguna, I chose to start out slow and gradually increase my speed as the day went on. I managed to keep my nose clean while being able to comfortably push the car pretty hard by the early afternoon, and I had Dick Ryan go out with me for a few laps to see how I was doing and to give me some pointers. I had a great time and I really appreciate Dickís help! But itís obvious that I need more track time there and Iím looking forward to more track days at Laguna in the future.

In the afternoon I had an opportunity to take a ride for a few laps in a 1985 Lamborghini LP5000 Countach. Wow! What a ride that was! The noises that car made were simply operatic. The handling, acceleration, and brakes were all very impressive indeed. Itís a car that Iíve always had on my wish list and I simply must own one at some point in my life.

Shortly after that, I was thrown the keys to a very clean and original Series 1 Esprit, which is owned by new club member Mitch Renfer. A great car to drive and I was envious of the way it turned into the corners compared to my Europa. Even though I didnít explore the carís capabilities, I still had a great time driving it briskly around the track for a few laps. Thanks Mitch!

I was able to get in a few more sessions in the Europa after driving the Esprit but the end of the day came all too quickly. The track closed at 4:30 and after a short chat session afterward, I packed up my things. A few of us drove to a restaurant in Seaside for an obligatory post-track day dinner and some story telling. Nice food and great company made for a perfect end of the day.

Before I go Iíd like to thank Dick Ryan and Dave Platt for their coaching expertise. These two gentlemen provide a wealth of experience and knowledge and the pointers you receive from them will not only make you faster around the track, but they will also help make for a safer day, which is something that benefits everyone. Iíd also like to thank John Zender for once again providing another great track day, and Kevin Enderby for volunteering his help in getting us out onto the track safely each session. And for anyone else who may have helped out, I thank you as well.

For me, work continues on the Europa to get the brakes done by the next track day at Thunderhill in May. But this time, Iím not making any commitments except to say that I intend on being there. See you at the next meeting.