May 10 - South Carolina : Carolina Motorsports Park

We set our alarms for 6am. The track was 30 minutes away and we refused to skip breakfast so that meant about 3 hours of sleep. It was a quiet event, getting ready for the day. One foot in front of the other, we were out the door by 7am.

Packing up.

Packing up.

There weren't any pull-through parking spots at this motel, so I had unhooked Tom to put him in his own spot for the night. There wasn't much room to maneuver the car and trailer together, so I did everything manually, lifting and pushing the 1,200lb trailer uphill into a parking spot at 3am. I was so exhausted I got light-headed and nearly passed out.

I decided in the morning to have Dad move the car nice and close to Tom first, so I didn't have to repeat that dance/trauma at 7am. We hooked everything up, drama free, and set off in search of breakfast.

Dad drove and I found a McDonald's on the way. We started leaning towards McDonald's more and more; the time spent in each of the stores is consistent and short. The food comes out quickly and we can be on our way; other joints have a huge variation in experiences, mostly to the negative side.

This particular McDonald's was rammed full of people; the double drive-through had lines 4 cars deep.

No matter, Dad and Taylor parked Tom and the Meat Wagon off to the side while I went in to transact. As usual, the order came out hot and fast. Even the coffee was decent. Praise be.

Praise be.

Praise be.

A few minutes were wasted when Dad left the car to go inside and help me carry the order, but I had already left with the full order out a door on the other side of the restaurant. I got to the car and there was no Dad. Taylor explained the situation, so I went back inside to get Dad, but he had left out another door. Cue the circus music.

Believe it or not, we got it sorted out and hit the road for the track. The scenery was really quite nice and the sun was shining. We made it to the track in plenty of time, signed the waiver, and moseyed on in.

And mosey is indeed the word. The track grounds are all soft green grass and big leafy trees. Well, except for the the ~20 car garage that was fully occupied by the big kids. Instead of being lined up in a parking lot, competitors were parked all over the place- usually under trees on the grass! The vibe was great; we found a spot under a big tree next to our amigos, Chris and Mike Lin, who were killing it in the standings in their superbly well-prepped MR2.

Mike and Chris Lin with their MR2.

Mike and Chris Lin with their MR2.

Chris and Mike weren't particularly happy. Well, Mike was, because he's cool like that, but Chris was pretty grumpy. The MR2 was having engine performance problems; low power, especially at higher RPM. They had some ideas on what might be causing it, but were going to run the morning session and go from there.

We unpacked slowly and sociably, chatting with friends and fellow One Lappers as they strolled by. Our late night suffering all but forgotten, we all remarked that it wasn't a bad way to live, sitting in the sun at a peaceful racetrack on a sunny day.

As had been happening all week, Taylor and I hassled Dad to get out on the track and race. Dad was worried that he was too rusty and therefore a risk to the vehicle; he'd crash or hurt the car, then we'd be in a bad situation.

Well, too bad, Dad. Between Taylor, me, and fellow competitors remarking how enjoyable and safe this particular track was, he finally relented and started looking at a track map. We probably should have a had a more serious conversation about the racing duty split before the trip; not having a plan meant nobody studied any of the tracks, which made us seriously slower than we could have been. I believe the Volvo is a top 45 overall car; our driving just wasn't up to par.

Enjoying the nice day.

Enjoying the nice day.

After making an attempt to figure out which direction the track goes, Dad suited up, adjusted the seat, and headed up to the grid. Taylor and I followed him up, I snapped a few photos, then left them in line to change cameras.

Ready to go.

Ready to go.

Well he's just happy to be here!

Well he's just happy to be here!

Strategy meeting.

Strategy meeting.

When I returned to our pit area, I found Mike and Chris packing up the MR2. I asked Mike what was going on.

"Yo guys, where you going?"

"The car has no power at higher RPM. There is definitely something wrong. We're going to go to Chris's house near the next track to try to diagnose and fix whatever's going on. Don't mind Chris, he gets really grumpy when the car is not behaving."

It was clear that Chris was indeed, quite grumpy. His house is about an hour north of Thursday's track, Dominion Raceway, in Virginia. Not too far out of the way, but they had a long afternoon/night ahead of them if they hoped to make the start tomorrow. This wasn't lost on any of us, and optimism was in short supply. In fact, Mike asked if we'd be swinging by Cleveland at any point; he might need a ride to the airport.

I wished them luck as they fired up and pulled out of the track. I really hoped they'd make it back. I grabbed the video camera and made my way back to the grid.

Good luck, Chris and Mike! Hope you get it solved!

Good luck, Chris and Mike! Hope you get it solved!

Taylor was hanging out with the timing crew under an ez-up; it was getting hot, fast. Direct sunlight was pretty much already unbearable and everyone was already sunburned. I hopped in the car with Dad to get out of said sun, chat, and take a little footage. Soon enough, it was our group on track- good luck, Dad! I put together a short video around the morning session:

Click to play video!

By the time Dad came off track, Mike and Chris were gone, so Dad pulled into their premiere parking spot in the shade of a large tree; score!

Amazingly, he even admitted to having a good time! Here's the onboard from the morning session:

The track is decently tight, with only one or two tricky spots, so he just took it easy there. With the morning session handled, it was time to think about lunch, and possibly swapping out the suspected-faulty fuel pressure sensor.

Unwinding from the track session.

Unwinding from the track session.

Taylor had diagnosed our engine cutting in and out at light throttle loads (right around 80mph - the speed limit for almost our whole trip out to South Bend) during some down time on Friday, registration day. He ordered the part to fix it (a new fuel pressure sensor) and had it shipped to the hotel at Sebring. Yay for Amazon Prime! It was waiting for us at the hotel and we planned to install it at Carolina Motorsports Park.

But first, lunch!

The Volvo needed gas as well, so I volunteered to drive into town, less than 5 minutes away, get gas, and pick up lunch. Google maps revealed a Bojangles; fried chicken and biscuits! Dad and Taylor requested chicken tenders, a bold choice, and I hit the road.

There was a gas station right outside the track on the right side of the road, so I popped in to fill up first. I had the car parked and ready for fill-up when I noticed that the highest octane they had was 90. 90?! No way. We're high performance, we need the good stuff! I sealed everything back up and headed for town.

Even though the drive was short, the trees and road were really sweet. I tried to take a photo and not crash. I didn't crash, but the photo is no good; better than a good photo + crash I suppose. I guess you'll have to just take my word for it- beautiful road.

Nice road.

Nice road.

I quickly happened upon a Shell station with 93 octane. Much better. So I filled up. As I did, I saw there was a Subway next door. Maybe a reasonable sandwich would be a better choice than fried chicken and biscuits...

Volvo gettin' the good stuff.

Volvo gettin' the good stuff.

I quickly banished such nonsense, finished at the Shell station, and zipped over to Bojangles to fulfill our true lunch destiny.

I would find out later from the MR2 Lins (who are from North Carolina) that Bojangles is the business, so I'm glad we didn't skip it. I selected something like the 200 piece homestyle chicken tenders box with biscuits, mashed potatoes, fries, gravy, BBQ sauce, honey mustard, ranch and a random chicken and rice bowl that the guy in front of me in line had that looked good. Satisfied that there would be enough for 3 people, I made my way back to the track. Dad and Taylor were right where I left them. I couldn't blame them- it was insanely hot in the sun, breezy and pleasant in the shade, and peaceful and quiet while nobody was on the track. The will to nap was strong. The fried chicken and biscuit buffet didn't exactly perk us up, either. The fuel pressure sensor would have to stay in the box for another day.

Yay Bojangles!

Yay Bojangles!

Nap time.

Nap time.

Soon, the fast cars were back on track. Dad and I managed to peel ourselves out of the chairs to take a little video of them flying by. Zoom.

Dad making his way up to watch.

Dad making his way up to watch.

The car at the end there, a highly modified 1200hp Nissan GT-R, broke his rear differential. Noone knew it at this particular time, but this would be the end for this car. The car could not be repaired in time to continue.

We visited and relaxed off and on until it was Dad's turn for the afternoon session. We were so lazy, we hardly packed anything before he went out. It could wait. Right?

Visiting with friends.

Visiting with friends.

The weather was hot. Taylor attempted to cool off.

The weather was hot. Taylor attempted to cool off.

Ready for the afternoon session.

Ready for the afternoon session.

I mounted the camera on the rear bumper for no particular reason; change of scenery I guess.

Dad's lovin' the selfie.

Dad's lovin' the selfie.

Here's the video from Dad's afternoon session:

Taylor and I watched along the front straight again, in the shade. It was hot.

Dad had a good session, no incidents.

Nice work!

Nice work!

The drive for the night was our shortest one yet- about 400 miles to Virginia (6 hours or so), so nobody was too panicky about getting packed and out the door. Especially us. The track was short, so everyone was done in pretty short order. We packed and were on the road by 230pm. I drove first while Dad napped; racing in the heat, even just a few short laps, can definitely add some fatigue. Coupled with our cumulative lack of sleep, we were all pretty tired. I had 160mg of caffeine from a Monster Rehab Energy Drink, so I was good for the first leg of the journey.

Ready to roll out for the short 400 mile drive to Virginia.

Ready to roll out for the short 400 mile drive to Virginia.

We encountered some One Lappers on the freeway, but again, they were doing triple digit speeds, weaving in and out of traffic. I really wasn't interested in that, so I dropped back, hit the cruise control, and enjoyed the particularly scenic drive. Taylor made for excellent company.

We stopped for gas after 230 miles. Apparently the station we found was the only one in the area, as we watched multiple One Lappers come and go. The gas pumps were fighting us- we were all having our credit cards denied at multiple pumps. What were we going to do?! HOW CAN WE PAY WITH NO CREDIT CARDS?!?!

Oh wait, gas stations have been accepting cash for centuries. So I paid in cash and we were on our way, Dad at the wheel.

The drive was smooth and short- we pulled into the hotel at 842pm- hallelujah! In fact, everyone in the event knew the arrival time would be early, including the organizers, so the race track across the highway kept their bar and grill open late for an informal One Lap get together. 

By the time we were checked in and situated, it was well after 9pm. Dad had scored us two separate rooms, so we would each have our own bed. It came down to weighing an 8 hour sleep vs. partying late.

Repairs for some fast cars.

Repairs for some fast cars.

I was so exhausted I told Dad and Taylor that I couldn't even stay awake to get dinner, which we hadn't eaten yet. I was going straight to bed. They agreed that a good night's sleep was in order, but they popped over to the Taco Bell in the hotel parking lot first for some food.

Ready for sleep.

Ready for sleep.

Exhausted, but elated at the prospect of my first full night of sleep in over a month, I was out. It looked like rain in the morning, but we'd worry about that later...

Damen Hattori

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