Technical Matters

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Campbell Racing – Race Report 2017 

Campbell Racing at the 2017 SCCA Runoffs

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Once more the racing season is drawing to a close and it is time for the SCCA’s National Championship event:  The Runoffs.  For the last few years it has been moving to a different venue each year and this one is being held at the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway – the “Brickyard”.  And what a place it is!  Every bit as fascinating as the Daytona Speedway event in 2015.

And, of course, everyone wants to race at Indy; (helped by the fact that it is in the middle of the country instead of the far reaches of Florida.  So there are over 1000 entries – 1014 last I saw. I think the previous record entry was around 750.  In the two classes we run, there are 88 Spec Miatas (Charlie’s car, and 46 F Production entrants (my car).  Again, more than we have ever seen.  Which presents a problem for the organizers:  the club rules state that there is a limit of 25 cars per mile of race course.  Here, that works out to be 72.  So, for the SM drivers, the plan is that the top 60 fastest qualifiers will move on to the championship race.  The remaining 28 or so will participate in a “last chance qualifying race” on Thursday with the top 12 finishers moving on fill the grid for the championship race on Friday.  This should be very interesting.

Because of the anticipated crowd, we decided to get to the track early in order to minimize the stress of getting set up in what is a very tightly packed paddock.  I left home on Tuesday and spent the night at Charlies’ place.  We left there early Wednesday morning and arrived in Indianapolis midafternoon.  By about 7 pm we were situated in our spot for the next 10 days, the trailers and motorhome were parked, the canopy was up and the cars and equipment set up.  The whole undertaking went very smoothly.  The only issue was that it was 90 degrees out and it has continued to be that hot and is forecast to be all this coming week.  It is very uncomfortable.  Charlie has been using his cool suit under his fire suit even on the short test sessions – something he has never done before.

We have a great spot, right behind the pit lane grandstands, on pavement, on a corner lot.  You can look out the window of my motorhome and see the famous IMS Pagoda.

Thursday and Friday we just took it easy; learned the layout of the facility, got all the tech inspection paperwork taken care of, and renewed a lot of acquaintances with people we know from all around the country but only see once a year.  Charlie also spent quite a bit of time going around the track to watch some of the ongoing test sessions in order to learn the track as best he could before actually getting into his race car.

On Saturday we tested the SM car.  There were three sessions which gave Charlie a total of a little over an hour of track time to learn the track and find out how his car was handling.  He made a few changes to the suspension and tire pressures and saw a little improvement but was running mid pack in the 40 or so cars in the test sessions.  He was on a set of well used tires and we believe that a new set of tires will help him move up when qualifying starts on Monday.

We are testing with the F Prod car tomorrow, Sunday.  We spent part of the day today getting it ready.  There are only two sessions for the Sunday test day and we have several things we want to test, as well as getting Charlie some more track time.  This is not a particularly difficult track to learn but certainly the more laps logged before qualifying starts the bigger our advantage over those cars that didn’t do the testing.  We are also planning to put both cars on the dynamometer at the end of the day Sunday.  Our engine builder if here and will fine tune the engines to ensure they are operating at their peak capability.

So we are very busy getting everything ready for the start of qualifying on Monday.  You will recall that the format for the event is that there is one qualifying session for each class on Monday through Thursday.  The best lap time from the combined four sessions sets the grid for the championship race next weekend.  There are 24 races, 8 each day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  The order of the races changes each year and, unfortunately for us, this year the SM race will be on Friday at 11:45 and the FP race is also on Friday, at 2:35.  We’ll, of course, have the cars ready, the challenge is to recycle the driver between those times.  But he has done it before (at one event the two races were run back to back).  So this won’t be a serious problem.

I’ll keep you all informed of our progress as the week unfolds.  These events never go as planned.

Tom and Charlis

Campbell Racing at the 2017 SCCA Runoffs

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Report 2

This report will be short – mostly because it is 11pm and we just finished working on one of the cars.  I’ll get to that in a bit.  It’s been a long, hot day and it is time for bed.

Actually, the day went well.  This was the second of our test days.  We ran Charlie’s SM car yesterday, and today it was my F Prod car.  We were scheduled to have only two sessions but they were both long (25 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon).  Unfortunately, the morning session was a big disappointment.  Charlie did the out lap, one timed lap and then the session was ended when two cars crashed and it took the rest of the allotted time to clean up the mess and restore the track.  However, I did get some very valuable engineering data on that one lap and, although the lap time was quite slow, Charlie was the third quickest car behind two faster classed cars.

The afternoon session went much smoother.  There were about 55 cars on track and they all played nicely with each other.  Charlie continued to be quick, ending the session 5th overall and well ahead of the other cars in F Production.  It was extremely hot, over 90, and while we were pleased with the time, it was about 3 seconds a lap slower than a couple of our competitors were turning on Wednesday morning when it was much cooler.  All things considered, a very encouraging start to the week.

There was, however, one significant problem:  the transmission was coming out of third gear under braking.  This had been a problem with this transmission on occasion in the past but it was more frequent today and getting worse.  And the track has a lot of third gear turns so it was certainly slowing Charlie down as well as distracting him.  It really needed to be fixed.

The guy who builds our transmissions had arrived at the track this morning so we pulled the transmission and turned it over to him.  He, and we, thought it was a quick and easy fix although it required taking the transmission apart to get to the part that needed to be modified.  But it has been done and we finished reinstalling it at about 10:30.   Ready for another day.

Tomorrow starts official qualifying.  The SM is scheduled for about 11:45.   As I mentioned last night, there are 88 SMs so they have been split into two groups.  Tomorrow’s grid is based on points in the National Tour events over the summer.  Charlie is starting 34th of the 44 cars in the first group.  The FP car is scheduled to qualify at about 2:30.   We will start 8th on the grid of 46 cars.  This track is about 2.5 miles long so 45 cars soon will be spread out and it won’t be overly crowded.  Since all the cars on track will be in the same class, they will all be going about the same speed so it isn’t too hard to get some clean laps.  The goal is to be in the top half of the SM cars, remaining the first group for following days; and to be near the top of the FP grid each day.

I’ll let you know how the first qualifying day went tomorrow evening.

Tom and Charlie

Campbell Racing at the 2017 SCCA Runoffs

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Report 3

The first of the four qualifying days is over.  I suppose the best way to put it is that we didn’t quite meet our expectations but probably because the expectations were a little too high.  As I mentioned in an earlier report the SM entry is so large that they won’t all fit on the track at the same time.  For qualifying the 88 cars were divided into two groups and Charlie started in the first group which was generally contained the fastest cars.  He finished 36th.  However, there were 12 cars in the second group with faster qualifying times.  So tomorrow he moves back to the second group where he will start 5th.  It is a little crazy to understand.  The important thing is that he is overall the 48th fastest qualifier and based on that will be a guaranteed started for the championship race next Friday.  You may recall that the top 60 cars will advance and the remainder will have a consolation race to decide the final 12 starters for the big race.  We really want to avoid that scenario.

FP qualifying went ok but not as good as we had hoped.  But as I said, perhaps our hopes were a bit ambitious.  Charlie ended up in 6th place but isn’t satisfied.  We should be able to do better.  Three of the cars ahead of us were expected but the other two were surprises.  On the other hand, there are two past national champions behind us that I thought might be ahead.  Although the field large (41 cars were on track) it is also quite strong at the front end.  The 4th through 10th places are separated by less than a second.  So, all things considered, we are probably where we belong today.  This evening I made some significant set up changes to the car; going back to the set up we have been using all year long.  Perhaps I went a little too far with some changes trying to make something extra happen.  We’ll get back to what Charlie is used to and I think it may work out better.

Another 90-degree day and one more tomorrow.  The current forecast calls for rain on Wednesday and then is turns a bit cooler for the rest of the week. It will be greatly appreciated by everyone.

Until tomorrow evening,

Tom and Charlie

Campbell Racing at the 2017 SCCA Runoffs

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Report 5 – Wednesday Qualifying

This was the third of four qualifying sessions and things are not getting any better.  Well, that’s not exactly the case.  The weather has gotten much better – only about 80 today and our lap times have improved for both the SM and FP cars.  However, in both classes most everyone else’s time also improved and at the end of the day both cars were further back in the grid than at the start of the day.

The SM car took a big hit, moving from just above the 60 car cut line to about 10 places below the line.  This means that the next step towards getting into the championship race is to finish in the top 12 of the “last chance race” tomorrow afternoon.  It will be difficult. Charlie spent some time after this morning’s qualifying session working on the alignment and weight distribution.

The FP car also improved a bit but lost one place on the grid, back to 9th place.  To give you an idea of how much improvement it happening, our time today would have been fast enough for 2nd place on Monday.  So we are making small gains while others are making significant improvement.  The car seems to have the power; it showed in on the dyno Sunday afternoon and our top speed is around 4th highest of all, within a mile an hour of the best.   Top speed here, at the end of the front straight, is a bit over 125 mph.  The transmission is still coming out of 3rd gear under braking and the steering effort has increased to the point it was getting difficult to drive. This evening the crew spend a lot of time trouble shooting the steering system and, we believe, finally found the problem – a bad lower ball joint on the left side; so perhaps this problem is in the past.  We also removed the transmission, for the second time this week, and in the morning our transmission builder will be pulling the special gear sets we installed for this track and putting them into the spare transmission which doesn’t seem to have the problem which we believe is in the shifting mechanism.  The spare gave us great service for most of the summer so all we need is just one more race.  We’ll know tomorrow.

Charlie is also getting some coaching from some of the professional drivers that Mazda brings in to support their club racers.  Perhaps it will all come together tomorrow?

Until tomorrow,

Tom and Charlie

Campbell Racing at the 2017 SCCA Runoffs

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Report 6 – Thursday Qualifying

Qualifying is finally over – it has been a long week!  And we had a really good day.

As I wrote yesterday, Charlie had fallen out of the top 60 in the SM car and would have to race his way into the big race.  The “Last Chance” race was at the end of the day today.  He started 4th of 28 cars.  He was in the lead at the end of the first lap and led all the way to the next to the last lap when he got a little wide after hitting a curb more aggressively than he should have and the two cars behind him went by.  But on the last lap he was able to get back around one of those cars and had a half car overlap on the leader at the finish line.  He was very pleased with the car; the work he did yesterday on the set up paid off.  He turned in a best lap about a half second faster than his best all week.  So he finished second and still hasn’t stopped smiling.  He’ll start 62nd if 72 cars in the championship race tomorrow.  I’m taking bets on how many places he can advance – my money is on 15.

Earlier in the afternoon was the F Prod final qualifying.  He started in ninth place and immediately reported that the transmission and the steering problems we had been fighting all week were finally gone.  By the end of the session he had turned in the 5th fastest lap, about a full second better than in earlier sessions.  More impressive was that he was setting the highest top speed on the front straight of the entire group.  His best speed before today, by my data, was about 124 mph.  Today we turned 132 mph on two different laps.  No one else was close.

The only bad news was that during the SM race he did miss a shift and damaged the transmission; it won’t go into 2nd gear.  So we did our third transmission change of the week this evening.  We are getting rather good (well-practiced) at this task.  Three transmission changes in one event is a record.

So the whole team is upbeat tonight and looking forward to the races tomorrow.  The SM race is scheduled to start at 11:45 and the FP race at 2:35. Tune in to see some great racing, not only our races but all 28 races occurring over the next three days.

Tom and Charlie

Campbell Racing at the 2017 SCCA Runoffs

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Report 7 – Race Day

What a day!  I hope many of you were able to watch some of the racing from the Runoffs.  It is great stuff and always is, year after year.  Although both of our races are now done, there are two full days of championship races remaining so plenty to see if you are so inclined.

The SM race started at 11:40 this morning.  You’ll recall that Charlie was starting 62nd in a field of 72.  The “Spec” Miatas are so closely matched that anywhere in the field there is likely to be someone to race with.  You can have barrels of fun no matter where you are.  Of course it is a little more “fun” to be racing for the win than for 50th place.

The race got off to a clean and fast start.  In fact, it ran the full race distance, 45 miles, without a single full-course yellow.  I wouldn’t have bet on that.  As I expected, Charlie started well and immediately began moving forward.  By the end of the 3rd lap he had gained 10 positions.  From then one it was a little more difficult but he was picking them off one or two at a time until, by the end of the race, 19 laps, he was in 43rd position.  He had gained 19 places.  And he had a great time doing it. This is the kind of close, wheel to wheel racing Charlie loves.  And, he said with a big smile on his face at the end, there wasn’t a mark on the car.  He can load it on the trailer and be ready for the next event, wherever that may be.

Then there was the FP race in the afternoon.  Charlie has just two hours between the end of the SM race and the start of the FP race.  Time for a light lunch, drinking plenty of fluids and a bit of a rest.  And, of course, the telling of a few post-race stories.   Then it was on to the grid.  He started 6th in a very strong field.  Miatas were in positions 1, 2, 5 and 6 with two rather old but beautiful MG Midgets in 3 and 4.  It could truly be anyone’s race.  Charlie made an outstanding start, anticipating the green just perfectly and went from sixth to side by side with the leader going into the first turn.  And then he made a pass for the lead going through the turn that was just amazing.  But it couldn’t last and he was third at the end of the first lap.  For the next four laps the lead cars were passing each other all over the track.  Third, fifth, back to third – it was difficult to keep track of; especially from my limited view in the pit lane.  I can’t wait to see the video.

And then, as he started the fifth lap he radioed that “something is wrong”.  And then,” the brakes weren’t working well” and the car wouldn’t steer properly.  He slowed and drove it back to the pits.  At first, with the car sitting still, there was nothing visible but the left front was definitely very hot and smoking a little.  I thought, perhaps, he had overheated the brakes and that they would cool if he went back out and did an easy lap.  But as he returned to the track it became obvious that the problem was terminal and he went around slowly, returning to the pit lane and retired the car.  Back at the trailer we jacked the car up and quickly discovered that the problem with a failed left front wheel bearing.  A simple problem which, had it occurred any time earlier in the week, would have been fixed in 15 minutes.  As the crew chief and chief mechanic I feel bad that I didn’t anticipate this.  Sometimes you just can’t predict these failures.  The race went on without us, of course, and even with two full course yellow periods, the pole sitter led every lap and won his first championship.  Although he is from Kansas, he has been a good friend of ours for many years and Charlie and I are both happy for him.  Perhaps next time will be our turn.

So, the long week at Indy is completed.  It was full of trials and tribulations.  We have had easier Runoffs events in the past and certainly some with much better outcomes.  But this isn’t the first time we failed to finish.  Both cars are coming home healthy and accompanied by a long list of work to be done over the winter so that they will be even better next year.  In spite of the disappointments and the hard work, we just spend a week surrounded but many good friends from all over the country sharing our passion for race cars and all that goes with them.  And it all occurred at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway!

Thanks for all your interest in what we do.  We get a lot of enjoyment out of it and like to share it with our friends when we can.

Tom and Charlie

New Jersey Motorsports Park

July 22 – 23, 2017

This was the last weekend of the regular season, our sixth Majors series race.  The results were mixed and, once again, quite frustrating.  We did the test day on Friday.  Charlie took his SM car out for the first session and all was well.  Took  my FP car out for the second session and the engine shutoff issue that started at the last race at Watkins Glen was, unfortunately, still there in spite of all we did to find and fix it  between races.  It happened three times in a 20 minute period on track so it seemed to be getting worse.  It is so hard to find electrical gremlins.  We went through everything again but didn’t find anything new.  Then, while reviewing the data acquisition results for the run I noticed a small abnormality in the trace for the ignition timing.  A bad ignition timing sensor might explain the indication and the engine cut out.  We replaced the sensor and the problem didn’t recur for the rest of the weekend and the data trace also cleared up.  Charlie purposely drove over the biggest curbs he could find to try to cause the problem and wasn’t able to so I think we really fixed it this time.

Also, this weekend I was trying a major change in the suspension on the FP car; significantly softer springs front and rear.  So we used the test sessions to dial in the handling balance and by the end of the day had the car within half a second of the lap record.  The weather all weekend long was exceedingly hot, in the mid  90’s and very humid, so getting that kind of speed was encouraging.

On a two day event there is a qualifying session on Saturday morning and then a race in the afternoon and another second, longer race on Sunday.  Both cars qualified well.  The FP car was on the pole and Charlie had the SM car in 6th place, less than a second from the pole, his best starting position all year.

The FP race was first and went well.  We won by a good margin and the car was handling well.  I’m in a bit of a quandary about the new suspension set-up.  The car was as fast as it has ever been (the old lap record was ours from last year) but not noticeably faster than with the old set-up.  If the weather was slowing things up a bit this could be a better set-up; but if the weather wasn’t really playing a role in things then perhaps the car could have been faster on the old set-up.  There is never enough clear data!

Then there was the SM race later in the afternoon.  The car started to overheat on its way on to the track from the grid.  Charlie did the pace lap and pulled in and back to the trailer where he discovered that the water pump belt had broken.  No clue why.  So didn’t even get to take the green flag.

On Sunday, another day of extreme heat, the FP car took off and led the field for the first half of the race.  He even got to within 3 tenths of a second of the lap record while the tires were still cool.  But just after the half way mark the engine quit.  It wasn’t the electronic problem this time.  It just “blow’d up” as the stock car guys say.  By this time we were all just worn out, physically, mentally and emotionally.  Charlie decided to skip the last SM race, it was quite a bit later in the day, and get on the road home before the traffic got too bad.

So, looking back on the season, we certainly had our problems but did win the Conference Championship in F Production and Charlie was 7th out of 102 drivers in the SM car.  For the conference championship we get to count our best 8 races so the FP car ended the season with 6 wins and 2 second place finishes.  We also set a new track record at Pocono.  So it was a good year, we just had to work hard to achieve those results.

Next up is the National Championship race, the “Runoffs”, which this year is at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  As you might imagine, because of the destination, this is going to be a big deal event.  Registration for the Runoffs opened last Wednesday morning.  As of today there are 899 entries including 42 FP cars and 92 SM cars.  The event is the week of September 25 through October 1.  We both have a lot of work to do to get the cars ready but several weeks to do it all.  In my case, you may recall, I had already prepared the new motor I was planning to use at the Runoffs (the one we went to Kansas in March to pick up) and it is sitting in a big plastic bag under the work bench ready to be installed.

Tom and Charlie

Campbell Racing – Race Report 2017
Watkins Glen

Last report I said: “One of these times I’m going to be able to say simply we went, we won, and we came home. But, again, not this time. Although in the end it was a great weekend.” I’m going to start this report with the same opening. Although this was an easy weekend it ended with a very disappointing finish.

This was a “Super Tour” weekend which means that there were more entrants, about 320, and a longer event, 4 days instead of the usual 3. As is our usual practice we entered the test day on the day before the event actually started. In this case that was Thursday. It was a beautiful day and trouble free. Did all 4 sessions with the FP car; two to shakedown, do some tire testing, and get the driver some early seat time. The only surprise was picking up a long screw on one of the tires during the second session. This was a used but good set of tires that I was planning to use this set for qualifying on Friday; but you can’t repair one of these nor effectively add a different tire to fill out the set. So a trip to the Hoosier truck brought back a new set. The two afternoon sessions were used to scuff in the new tires: the new set plus another new set I had brought with me and a third set of tires for Charlie’s car. Putting a short heat cycle on new tires greatly enhances both their performance and longevity.

On Friday there was a practice session scheduled in the morning and the first qualifying session in the afternoon. The morning was cool, windy and threatening rain so we didn’t take the FP car out (had plenty of practice on Thursday). Charlie did the practice session for his SM car and all was well. In the afternoon it started a light rain just as Charlie went to the grid for the SM qualifying. He made a quick return trip to the garage where we put on the rain tires and he made it back before the group went on track. Some of the cars went out on rain tires, some on dry ones. It turned out that some of the dry tired cars were able to put down a couple quick laps before the rain totally wet the track and the cars on the rain tires were then quicker but slower than those first couple laps. Charlie finished 10th on the grid, and was pleased with the way the car was performing. And there was another qualifying session on Saturday morning. The qualifying for the FP car was definitely on a wet track and we decided to not even bother going out. We expected a dry track for Saturday’s qualifying session so it was unlikely that the times for Friday would be used so why risk the car. And there were several cars that were wrecked during the wet qualifying sessions, including one of the leading cars in the FP class. So we finished the day early, put everything away and went into town for a nice dinner.

Saturday’s weather was good as expected, cloudy and warm but with threatened showers late in the day. SM qualifying in the morning went well. Everyone improved their times from Friday afternoon but Charlie ended still in 10th place. However, his times were very good and consistent. He was pleased. FP qualifying later in the morning also went well. Charlie put down a really good time early in the session and was actually fastest of all the cars, including the two really fast BMWs we usually start behind. One of them turned a lap just .004 seconds slower that Charlie later in the session but then Charlie took another 3 tenths of a second off and solidified his first overall Pole position. We have had many class poles but rarely the fastest in the multi-class group. The car was performing well and so was the driver. Charlie just loves this track!

The first SM race went well, early in the afternoon. Starting 1oth Charlie stayed with the lead pack of cars and was having a good time drafting down the long Watkins Glen straights. It was the usual close, hard racing that always happens in the SM class. By the end he had worked through to an 8th place finish and was very pleased with how it ended.

The FP race turned out to be a bit frustrating. Although starting on the pole, the next three cars behind were E Production class BMWs which had much more power and would pull past Charlie before the first turn. By the end of the first lap Charlie was in 4th but the BMW ahead of him was holding him up. Charlie could catch him under braking and could corner faster but couldn’t stay close enough on the straights to get past him. This went on for three long laps before Charlie found a way around but so did the second F Prod, also a Miata, and the Charlie, unfortunately, found himself in second place. The two were nose to tail for the rest of the race. The official press release on the race told it this way:

F Production featured a nose-to-tail battle between polesitter Charlie Campbell and Mason Workman, Workman moved his No. 52 Hoosier Tire/Planet Miata/Mazdaspeed Mazda Miata to the lead on lap four, but Campbell’s Miata was never far behind. A brief late-race caution set up a two-lap run to the finish, and the duo ran side-by-side for much of it, each taking turns at the front. Campbell made an outside pass for the lead in Turn One and took the white flag up front. But Workman responded, taking the lead for good in the Boot on the final lap.

It really was a great race, even if we didn’t win. But Charlie was frustrated by being held up by the BMW and felt that he might have been able to stay with the faster pair of BMWs and opened up enough of a gap during those first three laps to hold up for the rest of the race. We’ll never know.

Sunday was another beautiful day although there was a short rain shower just before the FP race which had us concerned but didn’t last long enough to affect us.

The SM race was similar to the Saturday race. Adding the fast laps during the Saturday race to make up the Sunday grid moved Charlie back to 11th. But, again, he was able to run with the lead packs and was turning laps just as quick as most of the front runners. In fact he turned more than one lap below his previous personal best at this track. By the last lap he was up to 8th place and chasing down the 7th place car. He caught it and tried an inside pass on the next to last turn but it ended in contact and both spun. Charlie recovered to cross the line in 10th but the other driver had to settle for 13th. Charlie felt really bad about it (although it was really just “one of those racin’ deals). After the race he apologized to the other driver and asked the Stewards to put him back to the finishing position behind the other driver. All that said, he drove a really great race and the SM car is working better than it has in a long time.

Then we finish the weekend with the Production car race. The two fast BMWs turned faster laps in the Saturday race and should have started 1st and 2nd but both found problems with their cars and chose to not race on Sunday. So Charlie would, again, start on the overall pole. He got an outstanding start and was able to clear the remaining, troublesome BMW at the first turn, as did the other FP Miata which won on Saturday. As the first lap ended Charlie came out of the last turn and went down the front straight with about a 2 second lead on everyone else. The next lap the margin grew and Charlie turned not only our fastest lap of the weekend but the quickest that car has even done on this track. I had made some major suspension alignment changes after Saturday’s race and the car was really hooked up. He was only 2 tenths of a second off the track record. This was a 15 lap race (50 miles) and he was checking them off consistently a second or more faster than on Saturday and opening the gap on the second place car by about a second each lap.

Then, with three laps to go (and a gap of over 10 seconds) he reports on the radio that the engine just stopped running and he had pulled over. Then he reported that it had restarted and he was back under way. Unfortunately he lost about 30 seconds and was now in 4th place in FP. The car was just as fast as it had been and he was catching the leaders but there just wasn’t enough time remaining to get back in the lead. Two laps later he reported it shut off again at the same place on track but he immediately restarted it and carried on. On the last lap the third place car spun and Charlie was able to get past so that we ended up on the podium in third place. Very disappointing after the way the car and driver were performing right up to the last three laps. But, as the saying goes,” that’s racin’”.

Now I have the challenge of finding the problem. It was occurring when he was crossing the especially aggressive rumble strips on the curb at the exit of the bus stop series of turns. Apparently the violent shaking of the car was causing some sort of interruption in an electrical circuit. Hopefully my new data system will help diagnose the location of the problem. It was certainly the central theme of the thinking all the way home. And I have three weeks before the next race which is at New Jersey Motorsports Park the weekend of July 22.

And, by the way, we clinched the Northeast Conference Championship. So it was a pretty good event.

Tom and Charlie

The war wagon as it gets ready to roll to watkins Glen. Glad I don’t have to drive that rig.

Two engine teardown at Tom Campbell’s garage.

Thanks to David Houle, Beth Jacobs, Guy Demers and myself for tearing down two donor motors to salvage parts and pieces. Thanks for the opportunity Tom. We did this just prior to Tom getting ready to race at Watkins Glen, Good luck Tom!

 

 

Campbell Racing – Race Report 2017

Pocono Raceway 

One of these times I’m going to be able to say simply we went, we won, and we came home.  But, again, not this time.  Although in the end it was a great weekend.

The test day on Friday went well.  An electrical issue finally diagnosed as a bad battery, kept Charlie’s SM out of the first session.  But he was out for the second session and all was well.  He took the FP car out for the last session and it, too, was running well (as in: below the existing lap record).  Charlie hadn’t raced on the track configuration that would be used for this event so this was valuable track familiarization time.  And, because there is only a single qualifying session on these two day weekends, the test day is where we can dial in the proper tire pressures to get the best performance.

On Saturday morning the SM qualifying also went well as he qualified 8th in a strong field of about 25 cars.  No problems to work on.  The FP qualifying also went well until the end.  Charlie qualified a full three seconds below the track record, the car was handling very well and none of the other FP cars were close.  He would start third behind the two EP BMWs which is a common lineup at many events.  However, near the end of the session the transmission started refusing to go into 4th gear.  You’ll recall that we broke the race transmission two weeks ago at Pitt and this was the replacement.

Back in the garage, after checking all the easy, obvious causes to no avail, it was decided to make a transmission change, rather than risk continued problems, perhaps doing more serious damage to the race transmission.  So we put the standby stock transmission back in between qualifying and the afternoon race.

The SM race went well, starting 8th and finishing 7th.  Good hard racing and no drama this time.  The SM car is working well.

The FP race was a challenge.  Unlike at Pitt, two weeks ago, the gear ratios in the stock transmission just didn’t work well at this track.  Charlie’s best laps were over two seconds slower than in qualifying and he had to work the engine much harder than we like to get that.  The second place FP car was able to get around him in traffic early in the race and the two of them went nose to tail for the bulk of the race.  Charlie was able to close through the infield sections of the track but the other car was able to pull ahead a bit on the two long straights.  It was pretty much a stand-off.  Charlie’s strategy was to stay right on his bumper in the challenging parts of the circuit and pressure him into making a mistake.  And that was what happened.  Two laps from the end the other driver tried a slightly different line through the turn coming back onto the front straight and spun his car allowing Charlie to get by.  Unfortunately, he also stalled the engine and before he could get restarted Charlie had opened a very large gap and the race was over.  So we did pick up the win but with the stock transmission the car was not performing to its potential.  Even so, Charlie did set a new track record by about a second.

Saturday evening, after a break to join everyone for the usual dinner party, we prepared the two cars for the Sunday races and then decided to take the race trans apart to see if the problem was something we could fix at the track.  After getting it opened up we spend about a half hour on the phone with the trans builder but could find nothing wrong.  So we put it all back together and decided to put it back in the car.  It represented too much of a performance potential to not give it a try.  We had an extra crewman with us and were able to make the transmission change in a record hour and a quarter.

On Sunday morning Charlie took the FP car out for hardship practice and it seemed to be working well.  It was right back down to qualifying speed after only two laps.  And he discovered what was probably the root cause of the issue.  Somehow the gate that prevented the shifter from getting into the reverse gear was slightly off and instead of trying to get into 4th gear is appears that it was really trying to get into reverse.  The driver would just have to be a little careful until I could get this fixed.  So the car was confidently back to full potential

First up was the SM race.  Based on his improved lap time during Saturday’s race Charlie would start 5th.  The first five cars broke away from the pack and had a sizeable lead throughout the race.  At about three quarters distance, however, he lost the draft and fell back just a little and was unable to catch back up to the pack, even though he was turning the same lap times.  One of the lead pack cars spun near the end of the race and fell back leaving Charlie in 4th place at the finish.  He best SM finish of the year!

Later in the afternoon the FP race got off to a great start.  As expected Charlie and the two BMWs broke away from the rest of the field and continued to open the gap.  Charlie stayed right with the pair of “faster” cars all the way to the end.  On the last lap one of the BMWs broke a rear axle shaft and spun so Charlie finished second overall and first in class, by about 45 seconds over the second place FP car.  And he took over 2 seconds off the lap record he set on Saturday.  The car and driver performed flawlessly.

The next race is at Watkins Glen and will be a really big event.  It is 4 weeks away so we’ll have a little time off from all this madness.  Also, I don’t have to do another engine or transmission change between events, although as usual there is a long work list of things to do on the car (and trailer and motorhome).  Some are just regular maintenance tasks but I have a few ideas to try to make the car a little faster.

Tom and Charlie

Pittsburgh International Race Complex (Pitt Race) 

Another race weekend, another story to be told.  Another difficult event but with a happy ending.

Test day on Friday went well; two sessions with the Spec Miata and two with the F Prod car.   A new radiator solved the SM overheating problem and the motor that was cooked at Summit Point two weeks ago turned out to be no worse for the experience.  There was an electrical problem but it was quickly traced to a bad alternator which was changed.  The FP sessions were used for a quick shakedown and to scrub in a new set of tires for the races on Saturday and Sunday.  Even so, the lap times were very good and after a few laps on the new tires the car was actually a couple tenths of a second below the track record.

On Friday the FP car was first up (and first race group in the rotation for the weekend).  It went well and Charlie qualified on the class pole about a half second below the track record and third overall behind two faster GTL cars.  He had a tough time getting a clean lap and felt there was more time to be gained.  SM was next – literally.  It was second in the rotation and so Charlie would be going back to back in the two cars all weekend.  Again, all went well, the SM qualified 8th out of 24, by far the best qualifying position of the year.

The first race Saturday afternoon got off to a great start.  Charlie fell in behind the two leading GTL cars and the three of them opened up a big gap on the rest of the field.  The lead car just left everyone behind and Charlie was able to get ahead of the second place car and had a nice lead in second overall (first in class) until about half distance when disaster struck.  He slowed coming down the front straight reporting on the radio that he had lost 4th gear, and then, as usually happens, that the whole transmission had failed.  He pulled over at the end of the straight and our race was done.  A big disappointment, but tempered by the fact that before the end he had set a new track record by over two seconds!  (Helped by the fact that they had repaved about half of the track since last year)

Charlie jumped into the SM car for the second race and, again, got off to a good start.  At about half distance an overly aggressive driver hit him and got him sideways, inflicting some minor body damage.  He recovered and finished mid pack.  But the lap times were good and he had a good time in the SM for a change.

Meanwhile, I got started on preparing the FP car for a transmission change.  Charlie carries a spare transmission that will fit in both cars.  It isn’t as well suited to the FP car as the full race gear box that is usually in there but will serve if necessary.  We have done this before (those race transmissions can be fragile) and have not lost much speed.  Also, the steering rack seemed to be tightening up again as it had at Summit Point so I decided to change that out as well.

All the work was done about 8pm (with a break for dinner) and we put the car down off the jack stands to adjust the front suspension alignment only to discover that the spare transmission was locked up and car wouldn’t move.  Something was wrong internally and we weren’t about to fix it at the track.  It was now about 9:30 so we pulled out Plan B.  Charlie jumped in his truck and headed home to pick up another spare he had there.  He lives about three hours away but was able to arrange with his son to meet him half way which helped save a lot of time.  Meanwhile I put the FP car back on the jack stands and proceeded to remove the failed transmission.  It is a lot of work but nothing very hard and, as you guessed, we have done this several times in the past so we know just what has to be done and what tools to have before rolling under the car.  I finished about 11:00 and Charlie got back to the track about 11:30 and we called it a night at that point.  Did I mention that it started raining about 10:30 – just to keep things interesting.

On Sunday morning we got started early to put the second spare transmission in the car.  We skipped the Sunday morning qualifying session, confident that the lap times from Saturday which carried forward to Sunday’s race, wouldn’t be beat.    The feature race for the FP car was scheduled to start at 11:25, so we would have to go to the grid without a shakedown.   We finished the installation, and completed the suspension realignment and then did a few laps around the paddock roads to make sure everything was working well.  We then did the usual pre-race preparations with probably a half hour to relax before the race.

It turned out that our best lap during the race on Saturday moved us up to starting on the front row for the Sunday race and the race started just as the one on the previous day.  The lead GTL jumped out to a sizeable lead and Charlie, in second place, likewise, had a big lead on the rest of the field.  At the end of the first lap he reported that the gearing in the stock transmission really didn’t suit the course and he had to take the engine to about 8200 rpm at some places.  But by the end of the race over half of the laps were within a second of the lap record time set on Saturday.  He closest competitor had fallen back at the start but closed the gap to about 4 seconds by half way.  For the rest of the race we watched the two of them as the gap would close by a second or two and then grow again.  They were turning about the same lap times and a big variable became getting through the lapped traffic.  At the end, Charlie came in with another win; one we worked very hard for.

The SM race was next, but after the lunch break, so Charlie had an hour or so to recover.  Unfortunately, this race didn’t end as well.  A little short of half distance something in the rear of the car started to fail, perhaps a wheel bearing or something in the differential.  He knew it wasn’t going to last to the end of the race and so brought it in and parked it.

So we headed home tired but pleased with the FP win to show for all the hard work.  Charli now has a comfortable lead in the Northeast Conference points championship.

On to Pocono in two weeks; although, as before, we have only 10 days to turn the cars around before loading up and leaving for the track.  My transmission builder promised me a new transmission by the end of this week so I have another major work list to accomplish.

Tom and Charlie

Summit Point, West Virginia 

This was the second of seven events in the Northeast Conference SCCA Majors Series.  You will recall that we had two 2nd place finishes in F Production at VIR two weeks ago.  Now we also have two 1st place finishes as well.  It’s early in the season but being the points leader is a good place to start the season.

We got to the track Thursday afternoon to set up for the test day on Friday.  The race event itself was a two day affair.  There was a qualifying session each morning, followed by a race in the afternoon.  The test day went well.  Charlie did three of the four sessions with the Spec Miata.  It had a new motor (remember the last one was overheated at VIR) and needed a careful break-in.  There was a Race Shop located at the track so he was also able to put the SM on a dyno to do a little fine tuning after the break-in was completed.

We knew the F Prod car was handling well so it didn’t really need any actual testing.  I did, however, put in a different motor so Charlie took the FP car out for one of the test sessions to ensure it was running well and not leaking anything:  all was good.  The VIR motor (the one we drove to Kansas to pick-up and have the engine builder tune) was working so well at VIR that I decided to save it for the Runoffs in September.  So I put in the motor that was used at last year’s Runoffs in Mid-Ohio.  It really was just about as good and will provide good service for the rest of the summer before the Runoffs.

Saturday qualifying was a challenge.  It was cool and damp and raining in the early morning.  The FP car was first and, while we went out on slick tires, I did make a few changes to accommodate what was going to be a damp track.  Everyone was a bit slow, we were about 5 seconds a lap slower than we had been in that one test session on Friday.  Charlie came in early when it started sprinkling a little but 0ne of the other FP cars stayed out until the very end and with a drying track was able to take the class pole position by a fraction of a second.  We would start fourth, behind the two fastest E Production BMWs and the other FP Miata.

The SM qualifying session went well but it seemed that the new motor just wasn’t putting out the power that it should.  Charlie would spend all weekend in mid-pack.  But in SM there is always someone to race with, no matter where you are in the field and Charlie does like the close racing.

The FP race went as we expected.  Charlie moved in behind the two BMWs and the three of them just moved away from the rest of the field.  It was a clean race, green flag all the way, and at the end Charlie had about a 15 second lead on his closest FP competitor.

The SM race was also a good clean race and Charlie finished a position or two ahead of where he started.  However, at the end, as he slowed, the car started to overheat and run poorly.  Seemed like the same problem as two weeks ago at VIR.

On Sunday we decided to skip the morning qualifying session.  The times from Saturday carried over and our fastest lap time from the race appeared to be enough for the class pole position without putting additional stress on the machinery and to save a heat cycle on the tires, which were getting near their end of useful life.  This turned out to be as we hoped but the same guy who beat us to the pole on Saturday came within a couple tenths of a second of doing it again.

Charlie took the SM out for Sunday qualifying to see if it was going to continue to run hot.  It seemed ok, although he didn’t run long or especially hard.  Qualifying about where he was on Saturday.

The FP race was the first after lunch.  The weather was very hot (high 80’s) and very humid, as it had been all weekend.  And a strange one it was.  On the pace lap one of the cars back in the pack had some sort of failure and stopped on track and couldn’t move.  As a result, the first 4 laps were behind the pace car.  Since this race had a time limit on it, it became a race to the clock rather than the full distance as planned.  Once the race started Charlie, behind the lead BMW (the second BMW didn’t show up) and the lead GTL car moved away from the pack just like on Saturday and all was quiet for a while.  But then one of the other FP cars started closing from further back.  We were rather surprised he hadn’t been doing better before; we knew he had a fast car in the past.  He caught Charlie at about half way and the two of them had a good race going for a few laps.  Then, in one lap there were two or three incidents.  The result was 4 or 5 cars off track in various unsafe positions, one of them on fire.  The Safety Car came out and paced the field around until the time limit was reached.  Just to keep it interesting, the FP car behind Charlie missed the full course caution flags when they came out and when the leaders (including Charlie) slowed, he passed everyone to put himself in the overall lead of the race.  This was, of course, reported to the Stewards of the event and after reviewing the situation they penalized him by setting him back to fourth in FP.

The SM race was later in the afternoon.  Charlie went out and raced in about the same place he had been all weekend.  Actually, he had moved up a couple more positions but at some point was forced off course into the grass.  He drove back on and continued.  However, shortly thereafter the car started to overheat again and he had to bring it into the pits and retire at about half distance.  After the car had cooled down and we had loaded it into the trailer, he noticed that the radiator was full of grass, picked up from his off-course excursion.  This explains the sudden overheating and our conjecture is that the air side of the radiator is probably badly restricted from the past and may explain the VIR overheating as well.

So, a weekend of mixed results.  Two wins for the FP car.  But a couple things aren’t quite right and need attention before the next race.  For one thing, I really think this motor isn’t putting out the power it did in the past.  I had an 8 hour drive home to think about it and may have figured it out.  I’ll let you know.

 

The SM car overheated again.  Since it was two different motors, both freshly rebuilt, it appears that the root cause may be in the cooling system and a plugged radiator may be the problem.

Next up, Pittsburgh International Race Complex.  I’ll leave in only 9 days so I need to get to work.

Tom and Charlie.

1st Race of the 2017 Season results in a second place finish. Great finish albeit slightly costly.

Campbell Racing – Race Report 2017
Virginia International Raceway (VIR)

The first event of the 2017 SCCA Majors Championship, for the Northeast Conference, was this weekend at VIR. As in the past, it was a combined event with the Southeast Conference, for whom it was the last event of their season (they started in January and don’t race in the hot summer months). There were over 350 entries from all over the country.

We arrived at the track on Wednesday evening to get set up and be ready for the test day on Thursday with the F Production car. Charlie’s Spec Miata was pretty much in the condition it came off the track last fall but my car had under gone major work over the winter and needed a shakedown of the winter maintenance period and a test of the changes that had been made. The session went well, nothing fell off or leaked out – mission accomplished

The second session’s objective was to start building speed, assess the handling and make sure we had the right gears and suspension settings. We saw some good speeds starting to develop but we weren’t expecting much for the first day, and besides we were running a set of old tires that had seen duty at the Runoffs last September. The handling was ok for the old tires and the new engine was working fine – until the last lap, Charlie brought the car down the hill onto the front straight and then the engine quit running. He tells me on the radio that he thinks we had another failure, just like the two last year. So I went back to the trailer to wait for them to tow the car back. It took a while. Turns out that Charlie pulled the car off track at the end of the front straight and into the grass. The hot exhaust set the dry grass afire under the car. Before they were able to get the fire out and the car moved off the hot spot, considerable damage was done. As the saying goes: if it isn’t one thing it is another.

In addition to discoloring the brand new paint on the two new front fenders, and turning all the white paint under the front half of the car to the color and texture of a burnt marshmallow, the fire damaged quite a bit of wiring. After a close inspection, the wire connecting the ignition sensor (crank trigger) to the electronic control unit was burned through, as were the cables to the oil pressure gage and the oxygen sensor. Several other wires were damaged but we were able to satisfactorily repair them for now with tape. I cut out the bad section of the ignition wire and spliced in a repair along with remaking a new connector. This got the car running again and the lost gages would have to wait. We missed the 3rd test session but were able to make it to the 4th session at the end of the day. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you, the engine quit because it ran out of fuel! The crew chief (that would be me) knew it was low on fuel after the first session but thought there would be enough. And I forgot to tell Charlie.

But the last session went well and we were already turning some competitive lap times. Thursday evening was spent on the usual between session inspections, a thorough nut and bolt check of everything, and repairing the damaged oil pressure cable. The oxygen sensor cable is too damaged and too complex to repair, and isn’t necessary to continue. More for the growing list of work to be done before the next event.

And then there is the other bad news. Because the F Prod car was not available for the 3rd session Charlie got permission to switch the test day entry over to his car and took it out on track. Before the session was over, however, he was back at the trailer with a severely over-heating car. Diagnosis: a blown head gasket. This was beyond our repair capability at the track so he had no option but to withdraw the car from the event.

The first session on Friday morning was practice, then the first of two qualifying sessions in the afternoon. The second qualifying session was Saturday morning. The practice went well; our times were near the front of the group. The afternoon qualifying session was interesting. I decided to break-in a new set of tires. So the first four laps were relatively slow to bring the temperature up gradually. Then there was time for about 5 actual qualifying laps. The first fast lap turned out to be the best and Charlie went from 17th on the list to first overall. At the end of the session we were sitting in pit lane checking tire pressures when the car that had been running second turned a lap that was .006 sec faster than ours. We were now second. Not bad, but not the pole position.

It is interesting to note that this was the Fiat 124 that was so very fast at the Daytona Runoffs. This time, however, the guy driving it is a highly talented professional driver (Trans Am).

This brings us to the second qualifying session on Saturday morning. The Fiat didn’t participate so our goal was to find the .006 sec needed to get the pole position back. However, surprise, surprise, the car that had been third, another Miata, jumped to the front of the grid, beating us and the Fiat by a little over a tenth of a second. This car came all the way here from Indianapolis where it is a school project for the Motorsports Engineering program at Indiana State University. It seems like they have half the Indy car community in Indianapolis helping them. I wish I had their resources. And they even have a professional driver – his real job is as a driver coach for some of the Indy Car drivers.

So the race Saturday afternoon promised to be a really good one. Charlie started third behind the new Miata and the Fiat. He didn’t get a good start, partly because the Miata jumped the start by quite a bit, and went into the first turn fourth or fifth. But by the end of the first lap was third and the first three cars set out to growing gap to the rest of the field. A couple laps later he moved up to second, and the Fiat started to fade. The two Miatas ran nose to tail for the middle half of the race. Charlie actually got around him at one point but was repassed before the end of the lap. Then, four laps to go, a small error under braking resulted in a spin. It was a quick one but resulted in an 8 second gap to the leader which couldn’t be closed in the time remaining. So we settled for second place. We may well have ended up there anyway but it was certainly going to be an entertaining last few laps.

The car ran flawlessly and needed only the usual between session maintenance to get ready for the feature race on Sunday. But, after thinking about it overnight, I decided to change the differential in order to get a more aggressive gear ratio. We had to try something.

Based on the fastest lap times turned in the race on Saturday, we were second on the grid for the Sunday race. The other Miata jumped the start again but Charlie was right behind him and the two of them set out, nose to tail just as they did on Saturday. They steadily pulled away from the rest of the field. It was a joy to watch. At about 2/3 distance, however, Charlie made another slight error under braking and had another quick spin. It put him about 6 seconds behind, still in second place. He was able to close the gap to 1.5 seconds near the end of the race but another slight error and he fell back a little more and settled for another second place. This is his first event since last September so he is a little rusty. We also talked with our brake system sponsor/engineer and he suggested we may have one of the rear brake calipers hanging up a little. Add this to the growing maintenance list.

All things considered, we’re off to a great start. The car is very fast, the new motor appears, indeed, to be the best we have ever had. It is so good that I’m going to take it out before the next event and save it for the Runoffs at Indianapolis this coming September. I’ll use the “spare” motor which was new for last year’s Runoffs and I thought it was the best I ever had.

And we made some great new friends – the guys from Indianapolis. In fact one of the students is currently doing an internship at the race shop where my son Jeff is working.

So on to the next event – Summit Point, West Virginia in two weeks. So much to do and so little time.
Tom and Charlie

 

Here are pictures of the victors and there cars from the Mid-Ohio Runoffs.

Congratulations Team Campbell!

Don’t forget to read the journal below the pics for some insights into the world of racing Miatas.

tcratrest tcratrest2 tcrgroup tcrgroup2 tcrpodium

An update on Tom Campbell’s adventures in racing. September 19-22, 2016.

Here we are at the Runoffs again – this year in Ohio. Attached is the first report covering the first couple days here leading up the start of qualifying tomorrow, Monday, morning. For those of you inclined to follow our exploits in real time, you can log into SCCA.com and find the links to the live timing for each session. The SM car will be on track at 10:40 each day, Monday through Thursday, and the FP car will be at 11:30 Monday, Wed, and Thursday and 11:05 on Tuesday. When we get a little closer to the races I’ll find the link to the on-line broadcasts. The SM race is on Saturday at 11:00 and the FP race is on Sunday at 11:15. I’ll try to keep you up to date on a daily basis throughout the week. Tom

Campbell Racing at the 2016 Runoffs – Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
It’s that time of year again – we are at the SCCA’s National Championship Runoffs (The Runoffs), this year at the Mid-Oho Sports Car Course in Lexington Ohio.
We had a very difficult year getting here. Both Charlie’s Spec Miata (SM) and my F Production class (FP) Miata were in wrecks (Charlie’s car was more seriously damaged) and the FP car starts this event on the third engine for the year. But we did manage to meet the qualifications to participate in the Runoffs and the Charlie actually won the Northeast Conference Championship in F Production at the last event of the year but we had to borrow a car to do it because my car was without an engine at the time.
But we are here with the attitude that all of the bad things have already happened and this will be a trouble free event – I can’t believe I just said that!
I arrived at the track Thursday evening and Charlie followed on Friday afternoon. His business and his Mayor responsibilities delayed his departure on Thursday. I bet most of you didn’t know that Charlie is the Mayor of Corry, Pa., our home town.
Friday afternoon and evening were for set up in the paddock. Locating the trailers and motorhomes and erecting the canopy, getting the cars unloaded and staging the equipment we were going to use. We have a decent location although it is on the grass. But we are right next to some of our best racing buddies.
Saturday was test and practice day for the SM and dyno day for the FP car. Both went well, although Charlie did skip one session later in the afternoon because of some light rain. I was pleased with the results of the dyno session. My engine builder is located in Topeka, Kansas and it is our custom to have him fine tune the engines at the Runoffs. As usual, he was able to get a few more horsepower from the motor although it took us about an hour on the dyno. It looked like this was going to be a pretty good motor. Sunday was to be the opposite plan of the day. The FP car was on track testing the SM car was going on the dyno. The testing went very well, learned some good information about tire pressures and the car felt really good. Our brake supplier/sponsor (Carbotech) was here and gave us a new set of brake pads to put on the car with a new compound material. That, too, worked well and they will stay on the car for the rest of the event. I later found out that we were the third fastest car on track for the afternoon session out of about 40 cars of the mixed class group that we usually run with all year long. We also had the fastest trap speed in the morning session. Charlie was very happy with the way the car was handling, especially in the afternoon on a set of new tires.
The dyno testing on Saturday was done with the exhaust system that I developed for Daytona last year and I thought would be good here as well. I did, however, have another new system I put together with a much different muffler and wanted to see how it compared on the dyno. I actually put it on the car Saturday night and the testing on Sunday was done with the newer system. After the afternoon track session we were able to get some time on the dyno and found that the new system made a 14
horsepower improvement – that’s huge on an engine that puts out about 165 horsepower. Needless to say, the new system stays on the car for the event.
And we are not done yet fans – the dyno results on the new motor in the SM showed that it, too, was putting out better power that Charlie had ever seen. This, too, was backed up by some great lap times during the on track time on Saturday. So we are confident that this is not just a biased output from this particular dyno.
So, here we are, ready to start qualifying Monday morning. The cars are both in good condition, the driver is warmed up and ready to go. He knows this track well and we did well here at the race in June.
Our friends Jack and Pete are arriving on Monday to add some manpower to the crew and my son Jeff arrives Tuesday to bring some professional race car expertise the mix. Later in the week Charlie’s son and daughter may join as well to cheer us on.
I’ll let you know how the first qualifying sessions go tomorrow night.
Tom and Charlie

Campbell Racing at the 2016 Runoffs  –  Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

Chapter 2:

 

As first qualifying days go this has to be one of the better ones we have encountered – although there’s good news and bad news.

The bad news:  The Spec Miata was firs on track.  The session started well and on the second lap Charlie’s time was solid mid-pack and expected to improve.  The car didn’t finish the third lap.  The electrical gremlins attacked and it just stopped running.  It did a similar thing on Sunday during the dyno testing and we had thought (hoped) it had been fixed.  By the end of the session he was 40th out of 45 cars although only 3 seconds behind the fastest qualifier.  Very disappointing but not the end of the world.  Worked on it all afternoon and evening and again think (hope) it is fixed.  Is seems to be associated with the cam timing sensor and its wire harness. Tomorrow will tell.

The good news:  The F Prod car exceeded our expectations.  Charlie was gridded 4th to start the session (based on his national points standing) and was able to take off and put in a couple really fast laps before catching the back of the pack (strung out coming off the grid) and having to deal with traffic.  By the end of the session his fastest lap was good enough for the pole position – by three tenths of a second over the next car and only half a second away from the track record.  We are sure the car has more in it but just couldn’t get through the traffic cleanly.  There are thirty one F Production cars here – the best from all over the country.  So we are very pleased with day one of qualifying and believe tomorrow can be better.  Spent the rest of the day going through the car – everything looks good.  Will start tomorrow’s session on a new set of tires.  This will scrub them in and then they will be set aside as the race day tires.  The tires we used today will go back in service for the qualifying sessions on Wed. and Thurs.

Weather was outstanding and is forecast to remain so for the rest of the week– sunny and low 80’s.  Hope it is as nice where you are.

Short report – but that’s the way it is when things are going well.

Tom and Charlie

Campbell Racing at the 2016 Runoffs  –  Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

Chapter 3:  Qualifying Day 2

 

Today was the second of 4 qualifying days.  Unfortunately, each session is only 15 minutes so there isn’t much time to really work on anything during the available on track time.    The problems with the SM seem to have gone away.  Charlie changed every engine management sensor on the car and did an inch by inch inspection of all the associated wires.  The car ran well and for the entire session so we can only hope that the gremlins have gone to bother someone else for the rest of the week.

He did get a little more speed out of the car and moved up a few spots on the grid but it looks like he’ll be a mid-pack car.  He was looking at the car’s log book and discovered that this is the car’s 10th year as a race car.  More amazing is that the odometer says that it has logged over 30,000 miles of competition in that time.   I’m sure it is getting very tired in ways we can’t see.

Today was particularly hard on the driver because the SM and FP qualifying sessions were back to back.  Charlie had to jump out of the SM in pit lane at the end of that session and rush to the grid to jump into the FP car for the next session.  There was a small unanticipated break because they had to do some tire wall repair before the FP session could start.  But he’s young and fit and we have seen this kind of schedule before so we deal with it.

The FP qualifying went ok but, again, traffic issues made it difficult to get a fast lap and it also appear that the track is getting slower as more and more fluids are put down with almost 600 cars on it each day.  In our session alone today one car blew a motor and put down an entire sump of oil on half the front straight and through the first turn.  The session was then stopped a few minutes early to support the cleanup.  Today’s time was disappointing but the top three positions remain unchanged based on the times posted on Monday.  We are still on the pole with two more qualifying sessions to go.

I’m often asked what other cars are in the F Production class – is it all Miatas?  The Miatas are a little less than half of the field at this event.  It is the car to build if someone is preparing a new car for the class.  But there is plenty of variety.  Out of 35 cars the breakdown is as follows:  15 Miatas; 5 Honda/Accura; 5 MGs(Midget or MGB); 3 Lotus: and one each of:  Spitfire, Lancia, Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen, Volvo P1800, Opel GT, and a Fiat 124.  Quite a mixture and many of these have been race cars for a long time.  But the top three on the grid right now are all Miatas.

And now for the commercial message:  One of the reasons to race a Mazda is that the company is such a big supporter of its team members.  They provide tech support, many competition only parts; great discounts and delivery service on all parts, and a very generous contingency fund throughout the year.  And here, at the Runoffs, they pay for our paddock spaces; give us tow money to offset the cost of getting here, have a well-stocked parts truck in the paddock, with daily shipments from their warehouse; give us free T-shirts and hats, and even have a free Mazda Appreciation Banquet for all the Mazda competitors at the local country club.  They are a great company to be associated with.

So, tomorrow is qualifying three.  Charlie will try to move the SM up further on the grid and to get a bit more speed out of the FP car.  We have a couple changes we are going to try.

I’ll let you know how we make out tomorrow evening.

 

Tom and Charlie

Campbell Racing at the 2016 Runoffs  –  Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

Chapter 4:  Qualifying Day 3

 

Day three of qualifying went well – both cars improved in their best times; but then so did most all the other drivers in both classes.  Charlie lowered his best lap in the SM car by almost 6 tenths of a second and moved up from 33rd to 30th on the grid out of 46.  The amazing thing is that he is only 1.6 seconds off the pole position and a difference of only 2 seconds separates the top 34 cars.  The car ran flawlessly and we’ll declare that the previous electrical problem is corrected (for the time being anyway).

The FP car improved on our prior best time by a little more than 4 tenths of a second.  Unfortunately the number two driver improved even more and we are now in second place on the grid by 3 tenths of a second.  The track was much better today than it was yesterday and almost everyone improved on their previous best times.  Less than a second separates the top five cars with one more qualifying session to go on Thursday.

We did make some suspension alignment changes this morning and it seemed to help.  This afternoon we put the car on the scales and made another small adjustment that should address the remaining handling issue.  Additionally, this we got the new data acquisition system fully operational yesterday and were able to get some valuable engine management data for the entire session today.  It showed that the engine was running quite lean from where we believed it was.  Part of the problem may be that on Tuesday I removed the alternator in order to gain the 3 or 4 horsepower loss that it puts on the engine.  The trade-off is that the engine management system now runs on battery voltage of 12v instead of alternator voltage of 14v.  It appears from the data analysis that this may be a small problem.  Tomorrow the alternator goes back on and we’ll see.  I’m really going to enjoy working with all this new data.  And, as intended, it should help to avoid blowing up engines every couple of races.

This evening was the annual Mazda banquet.  Our entire crew (Tom, Charlie, Pete, Jack) joined several hundred other Mazda competitors at a very nice dinner and program of appreciation hosted by the Mazda USA Director of Motorsports.  Quite a party which we enjoy and look forward to each year.

So, one more qualifying session on Thursday.  Perhaps we can get the pole position back.  We are certainly going to try.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Tom and Charlie

Campbell Racing at the 2016 Runoffs  –  Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

Chapter 5:  Qualifying Day 4 – the Last Chance

 

Qualifying is finally over – it was a long four days.  Neither car went faster, both set their best time on Wednesday.  The SM car was about a tenth of a second slower than yesterday and near the end of the session Charlie had a small metal to metal with another car and has a little left front fender damage to pound out tomorrow.  As I said before, the SM grid is extremely close packed – Charlie is only 1.6 seconds a lap slower than the pole sitter and will start in 31st place.  There will be close racing throughout the field on Saturday.  The SM race is always one of the highlights of an SCCA race weekend.

After such a great start on Monday and Tuesday, today’s F Production qualifying was a big let down.  We were a little over two tenths of a second slower than Wednesday’s time but several others were faster than they had been.  At the end of qualifying we will start the race in 6th place.  Three of the cars ahead of us are no surprise, they had been close behind anyway.  We were all the top starters at Daytona last year.  But to everyone’s amazement, two Lotus Sevens came out of nowhere to qualify first and second.  In fact, the new pole sitter hadn’t been able to finish a single lap in the three previous qualifying sessions.

The FP car ran well but I think we just asked this set of tires for one too many sessions.  This was the fourth heat cycle and they have been used hard.  The set of tires for the race were scrubbed in on Tuesday and then set aside so they should be in peak condition.  Charlie reported that the car had developed a bad oversteer, especially in the right hand turns.  I suspect that most of this was because of the tires but there are a couple of small adjustments that I’ll make to help improve this.  At this track the right hand turns are much more important than the fewer left turns so I can bias it a bit in that direction.

My oldest son, Jeff, joined us today.  As many of you know, Jeff is a professional race car technician and will be a big help is deciding the best adjustments to make and to getting them done precisely right.

With the alternator back in place after the failed experiment of yesterday the engine was again running at its proper tune.  It is amazing how big an impact 2 volts made.  The engineer in me has fallen in love with the new data acquisition system.  At the end of each session I can download a big list of engine and chassis parameters and see exactly how everything (including the driver!) is performing.  If I had this capability at the beginning of the year I am confident that we would not have ruined two motors.  And we may well have ruined this one too if I hadn’t seen the impact of removing the alternator.

So, tomorrow, Friday, is an off day for us.  We’ll get a chance to relax a bit and watch some outstanding racing.  The whole team is going out to breakfast in the morning instead of eating in our motorhomes and rushing out to work on the cars.  There is a little preparation left to do on the cars before their races but plenty of time to get it done without a rush.

 

I reported that last night was the big Mazda banquet.  Tonight was the even bigger SCCA party for all the participants.  Another good meal, lots of people to see – including many from the northeast that I knew were here but hadn’t seen yet.  One of the highlights was the recognition of the Pole Position winners in each of the race classes.  Sadly, we were not among them.

So, again, qualifying is over.  And while the grid positions aren’t as good as we have hoped they might be, both cars are performing better than they have all year.  This is the Runoffs and the competition is another level more difficult that through the rest of the year.  Even though the SM is in the middle of the pack it will be extremely tight racing everywhere on the track and Charlie will really enjoy it.  The FP race will probably be won by one of the top six qualifiers and we stand a good chance of finishing on the podium once again.

Chapter 6:  The First of Three Days of Racing

Today was the first of three days of racing:  10 races today and 9 each on Saturday and Sunday.  It was an off day for Campbell Racing so we were able to relax for a change.  The team went out for a nice breakfast and watched some of the races throughout the day.

We worked on the pre-race lists for each of the cars.  Both are ready except for a quick check of the alignments and corner weights and the short lists of items to be done immediately before the races.  Again, the SM race is Saturday at 1100 and the FP race ion on Sunday at 11:15.

Also started putting things away in the trailer – by this time of the week there were tools, parts, and supplies spread all over the place.  We will try to be packed up and as ready as possible to be on the road as soon after the FP race on Sunday as possible.  Of course, we hope that we will be delayed somewhat by the need to do an engine tear-down after we win the race – it is possible!

The highlight of the day was the T4 class race.  The other participant from the Mohawk-Hudson Region, from Queensbury NY was in this race.  Jared Lendrum is attending his first Runoffs and had qualified an outstanding 5th in a 34 car field driving a Subaru BRZ.  Jared drove an excellent race and was able to finish where he started in 5th place.  Well Done!

Another party this evening – this on hosted by the Finger Lakes Region so we were with many long time friends.  Not only is there a party somewhere every night but on many nights there are more than one as various groups get together to share their experiences and spend time with old friends and make new ones.

Nothing else to report tonight – as I said earlier this was a quiet day for us.

Chapter 7:  The Second of Three Days of Racing 

There were nine more outstanding races today, some more exciting than others but all most enjoyable.  For those who aren’t familiar with the SCCA Majors race format, these races are for a distance of 50 miles in length and with a time limit of 40 minutes.  At Mid-Ohio that is 23 laps around the 2.26 mile track.

And, of course, today was the first of the two Campbell Racing races.  The Spec Miata race was at 11:00 this morning – I hope many of you were able to watch it on-line or to keep track of it on Race Monitor.  Charlie started 31st and finished 25th.  Given how evenly matched all of these cars are that is a good outcome.  There was great racing throughout the field for the entire race.  He had a lot of fun and the car will go home ready to race again, another good thing.

The F Production car remains ready to go for the Sunday race – there wasn’t really anything to be done today.  The race starts at 11:15.  A reminder: if you want to watch the on-line broadcast of the race you can get to it by going to SCCA.com and you’ll see a link to the broadcast at the top of the home page.

I do need to apologize for an error in yesterday’s report.  This was not Jared Lendrum’s first Runoffs; he also participated in the event last year at Daytona where he also did quite well.

No parties tonight – went out to dinner at a local steak house with the team.

Chapter 8:  The Finale – A great Event

By now I expect that many of your watched the race or looked up the result.  If not – we finished third in the F Production car.  And a great race it was!  30 cars took the green flag.  It was pretty clear to everyone that the podium would come from the top six. Charlie was the sixth starter.   Only 4 tenths of a second separated the qualifying time of these six and they had over a half second advantage over the next closest competitor.  I have copied the SCCA’s press release on the race below for more details.  As you will see, Charlie finished 3rd.  A very satisfying result, however, as you will see, the race ended prematurely (after 14 instead of 23 laps) because of an accident that damaged the some safety walls do badly to be repaired in the time allotted to this race.  Charlie was quite disappointed as he was confident that he had a good chance of moving up further, especially during the pending re-start.  But it wasn’t to be.   Both of the drivers involved in the accident are well.  One was transported to the hospital but I heard that he was to be released later in the afternoon.

Third place is a very good finish at the National Championship Runoffs and we are both proud of the job the whole team did.  To date Charlie has been in five Runoffs with the F Prod car and has finished:  3rd; DNF (transmission failure); 4th; 2nd; and now 3rd.  One of these years we may well win the Championship.

We didn’t get a chance to see any of the other races today.  In the morning we were busy getting the car ready for our race.  After the race Charlie went to all the victory ceremonies and press conferences and the car went to post-race technical inspection (my job).  And the rest of the team helped take down the canopy and pack everything back in the trailers for the trip home.

We drove back to Corry this evening (for those who don’t know, this is where Charlie lives and my home town as well) and I’ll return to Saratoga Springs in the morning.

Now it is time to start planning the winter overhaul and finding ways to make the car even better for next year.

Thanks again for your interest, throughout the year and during the Runoffs.  We really enjoy what we are doing and it is nice to share it with our friends.

Three days of championship races from the 53rd SCCA National Championship Runoffs presented by Garmin VIRB begin Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning in the 8 o’clock hour Eastern Time.  Each event will be broadcast live online at SCCA.com.  Additional information on the SCCA Runoffs Presented by Garmin VIRB, including an event schedule, entry list and full results, can be found at SCCA.com/Runoffs.

The Sm race in on Saturday beginning at 11:00 and the FP race is on Sunday at 11:15 (eastern time).  Hope you get a chance to tune in.

Thanks for your interest

Tom and Charlie

 

Saturday July 16, 2016

Miata Prep for Racing by Tom Campbell.

Here is our group from Coffee and Cars at the Saratoga Auto Museum. We are in Tom Campbell’s garage beginning the presentation on how to make a race car from a 1.6 liter NA.

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Tom had two fine examples of racing Miatas at his garage, one borrowed and his main campaigner is in for engine work but available for all of us to see how and what was done to the cars.

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Every aspect of the car has been modified, stripped or altered in order for transformation to take place.

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Tires, suspension, fuel cell and even a cool box for the driver are all impacted by the changes.

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Of course when racing you need new parts in order to stay fit here are some that had their fair share of hardship.

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All in all we had a great time, collected some mazda bling and shared a nice day with Tom Campbell in his garage. An honor indeed for all of us.

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Monday May 23, 2016

1.6 Liter inline 4 Miata motor teardown at Tom Campbell’s garage.

On this sunny Monday Guy Demers, Tom Barton and Rich Wolf along with myself (Bill Ratigan) had the unique pleasure of assisting Tom Campbell in the teardown of one racing motor that suffered race ending damage and a donor crate motor with low mileage yet was overheated. Between the two, one motor will evolve back into a race motor for insertion into Toms racing SCCA Miata.

Tom Campbell is a very fascinating individual who had great success, on the track and off, over the years. Tom in 2014 stepped down as SCCA Chairman of the Board of Directors, and Chair of the SCCA Pro Racing division. Tom continued on as President and CEO of SCCA Pro Racing.  Tom is racing full time now in his SCCA Miata #89. Tom is not only racing, he is winning as well.

On July 16 after “Coffee and Cars” at the Saratoga Auto Museum, Tom will do a presentation what it takes to make a racing Miata. Please join us if you can on that date.

Here is Tom starting the project.

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Rich Wolf and Tom Barton jump in. Many fasteners are part of this project.

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Guy Demers steps in on valve cover removal. Tom on flywheel, Rich on the other side.

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Here is the donor engine with the cams exposed ready for removal.

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Guy sets the donor head over to the side table. This will need to be trued and possibly line bored before reinstallation.

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Rich, Guy and Tom start in on the oil pan disassembly.

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Here is what a racing lower half looks like. Notice the polished crank lobes and the aftermarket engine builder installed oil wipers. This racing block had a crack in one cylinder and there was much damage to the pistons.

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Here is a damaged piston from the racing motor. Its day was done.

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Here is the set of pistons with very high quality connecting rods.

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Two blocks one bad and one soon to be good.

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Of course there are many pieces to be accounted for but all in all a pretty easy project with the right help and of course Tom’s knowledge.

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Here is a great article submitted by Member Jim Sweeney regarding paint care . It is very informative.

Paint Wisdom

Here is my project of installing an M3 Harddog rollbar into my 2011 PRHT.  I love it!

PRHT Hardbar install

Here is a fine step by step guide to replacing the brake pads on an NC.

NC Brake Pad Replacement

A short summary of the installation of the Cobalt fresh air intake in an NC.

Installing the Cobalt fresh air snorkel in an NC

Driving Matters