How To Have The Worst Race Weekend Ever

This weekend was the sixth annual running of SCCA’s Devil in the Dark at NJMP and one team had a pretty awful time.

A bit of information first... ProFormance Coaching recently obtained a new-to-them M3, which is being prepped, maintained, and crewed by CCR/Albany Autoworks. Among other things, they recently conducted an engine swap just a couple weeks ago to put a new S52 in their E36.

Enter Friday morning when the team owner arrives at the track along with one of his drivers. By 2pm, the car had still not arrived. When it finally got there, it only made sense to take the car out in the current practice session

...which went less smoothly than one would have hoped as the car returned to the pits minutes later.

The car did make it out for nine laps during quali and qualified 5th in class with a mid 1:33.


Saturday morning, this was the situation upon arrival to the track.

The night before, the transmission was pulled and replaced, and a new drive shaft was in the process of being installed as it hadn’t been functioning at 100%.

The morning warm up session came and went, and the vehicle was still being worked on. By 11:28, they were ready to get the car to grid before the 11:30 deadline. But nearly simultaneously, it was noted that:
(a) the clutch went straight to the ground, and
(b) the throw-out bearing was sitting on the garage floor

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A second transmission pull became the next order of business in order to get the car and drivers out on track as soon as possible.

About 45-50 minutes into the race, the car was finally ready to get on track, but it couldn’t possibly be that easy, right? Right. Just as everyone gathered to push the car out of the garage bay, a flatbed comes along to unload one of the Ratchet Head cars, who has just blown a hole (or two?) in their engine block and happened to be situated in the next garage bay over.

Once the RH car has been unloaded, Jerry is eager to drive, and #62 is finally given a shot on the track. In addition, and to ProFormance’s benefit, the race is and has been black-flagged for oil spilled down the track from start/finish through turn one.

Finally, it’s time. Lap 1, under yellow. Lap 2. Lap 3. Lap 4. Lap 5, fast time. Lap 6, faster time. Lap 7, even faster time...

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Checking Race Monitor about half an hour later, it has come to our attention that Jerry has only completed 11 laps, so we head over to their garage bay and find the car jacked up once again and learn that it had died once again. After some fiddling, it appears to be time for a test, so they fire the car up, but it makes a squeaky noise that is slightly concerning. 3 things come to mind: belt, alternator, engine.

In the midst of things, there is a pop in the passenger’s side near the windshield, and something shoots out of a crevice before filling the car with a smoke of some sort. The car is immediately pushed out of the garage, fire extinguisher in hand. It turns out to be that one of the battery cells has just exploded, releasing it’s lithium gas. Upon testing the voltage in the remaining cell, it reads above 17v.

While the battery is left to drain, it is decided that it’s time disassemble the front end of the car, removing the transmission for a third time, along with the engine.

The halfway point of the race comes and goes, the oil pan is removed, and some pretty large aluminum shavings are found as a result of a loose bearing in the bottom of the engine. By this point, it’s about 7:30 and finding new bearings seems unlikely. (Edit: Upon further inspection, it was found that the oil pump nut had backed off and the Al was actually coming from the top end)

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I return in another hour or so, but when I approach ProFormance’s garage bay, I notice that one of the guys is holding the clutch and realize that it’s game over. With nearly everything out of the engine bay, it was noticed that the (new) clutch was toast and likely wouldn’t have lasted for longer than another 10 laps anyway. It was ultimately decided that they should cut their losses and call it a day. I helped them move everything out of the pits and back to the garage before returning to the pits for the remaining few hours.

ProFormance is set to be back at NJMP this weekend for the AER race on Lightning and will hopefully have better luck as they compete for the Jalopnik Cup of Excellence.

Edit: AER day one went much better in the backup car, Big Red / CCR 747, and ProFormance/CCR was able to secure a Jalopnik Cup of Excellence for taking 2nd place in Sebring/“A” class. Day two came with a blown diff, but Red Reck 2.0, an e30, was there on standby. Red Reck served these guys well for the rest of the day, but the car switch meant they were too many laps down. They have totally earned their drive and hopefully have an even smoother time at Palmer next month.