to Team RAFT's One Lap of America website
Written by Jerry M Onks
First day of One Lap of America is here and it is a wet skid pad test at the Tire Rack in South Bend, Indiana. The Tire Rack has a 200’ asphalt skid pad with one degree of banking complete with sprinkler system You go out, run two timed laps in one direction, turn around, run two laps in the other direction and they compute your g-force.
I ran the first event and we pulled 0.825g, good enough for 20th place, we found out later in the day. We packed up the car and small car trailer for the first time and headed to Indianapolis Raceway Park. Dan had tested here one week before and knew the track. We had decided ahead of time to split up the tracks according to locale and if we had run them before. So Dan took the northern tracks and I the easterly and southern ones. I started the OLOA (One Lap of America) with the wet skid pad and Dan would end it with the dry skidpad. It was also decided that I would run the ½ mile oval in Lancaster, NY. Upon arrival at IRP we started a ritual that we would soon become familiar with, Unpack the car, check the tire air pressures, dump the oil catch can, fill up with race fuel, and check and/or adjust the shocks.
IRP would consist of 2 timed events of three laps each and being the first track event would also determine the run order for the remainder of the OLOA. We started IRP according to our assigned number which was 24. Each track event consists of a review lap and then you are waved off from a standing start to run three laps. The total time of three laps is used to score your time. Dan started his run and I could tell immediately something was wrong. His next lap down the straight confirmed it, the clutch was slipping and he was bouncing off the rev limiter. Even with a slipping clutch he still got a 3rd place finish. When he came into the pits and opened up the hood, we had oil all over the right side engine bay also. The catch can was filling up and oil was spilling out the filter. I guessed the can didn’t have enough volume so I removed it and diverted the line to two Mobil One oil bottles, one on either side of the radiator shroud. Holes in the caps provided venting. This system worked thru the entire OLOA and we would drain them before each event and add fresh oil back to the motor. Dan adjusted the clutch master cylinder to perhaps provide more clutch grip and in the second event he eased off the start line and the clutch held up better. He won the event! We decided to go back to McClusky Chevrolet in Cincinnati on our way to Beaver Run, Pa and change the clutch that night. It wasn’t like we didn’t prepare. The year before I put a Exide Hyper Single clutch in the car and had slipping during drag starts at the Toledo ProSolo. It had never slipped during a road race nor had it slipped during testing. Dan had concerns about the clutch especially since we had a drag race on the schedule. So Spec clutch provided us with a Stage 3 Hybrid which we installed along with a McCloud adjustable clutch master cylinder. Other replacements and or upgrades included the new Calloway C5 intake, Stainless Works 1 7/8” long tube headers with complete 3” exhaust system, New
VB&P bushings throughout , new ZO6 torque tube, driveshaft, DJ drive line supports, Dan replaced multiple gears in the transmission supplied by Rockland Gear, new rear bearings and new left rear half shaft. We put in a new Sparco steering wheel and Hardbar
and an adjustable drivers seat frame. We also installed a DrawTite receiver hitch to tow the small support trailer.
Back to the clutch, no sooner had we gotten to
McClusky Chevrolet that Rodney and Rick Sizemore called and said their transmission had locked up on their supercharged 2001 ZO6 one mile from the dealership! Dan’s fellow Corvette techs were on the way to the dealership to help us and one of them (Dale) arranged to have Sizemore’s car hauled to the shop. Larry and another tech showed up and between the four of us we had both cars up on lifts, one receiving a new tranny and ours a new clutch. Dan had a new Hyper Single Excide so we decided to put it on along with a new stock Master Cylinder and Throwout bearing. Both cars had to be realigned since the rear subframes are
dropped. So when that was done we took off for Beaver Run, Pa at 3:00am. Dan was driving the next day so I would be driving thru the night an morning so he would get some sleep. We would continue like this for the duration, the driver of the next event would rest and/or sleep as much as possible. We had to be ready to run at Beavers Run at 8:00am so we were haulin’. Most of the time we cruised at 80-90 mph and though pulling the trailer averaged 25 mpg. We were behind Rodney and Rick at the Ohio/Pennsylvania
state line when a trooper put the instant on radar on us. We pulled into a service area and the Trooper pulled right behind Rodney and Rick. Rick got a ticket for 87 mph in a 65 mph zone. The Trooper never approached us at the fuel pump.
We arrived at Beaver Run at 7:30 in the morning to be informed that the 1st event would not start until 9:00 am, so we had plenty of time to
prepare. It was cold….in the forties and the wind was blowing at 10 –20 mph gusts, what a beautiful spring day! First event starts and we now run in IRP 1st event finish order, we 1st group out, 3rd in line. Dan wins the event! The clutch was working properly and the pedal feel was good.
Because the next event started after lunch, I used the spare time to take a nap and take a shower at the track. I felt almost human again! Second event starts and Dan is running well. We find out later that he won this event as well! Bad Luck finds it’s way back to Rodney as he races down the backstretch in a cloud of smoke and goes into a spin. The ZO6 is
flat bedded off to the pits and oil is spilling everywhere, a piece of the block is laying on the subframe. The supercharged ZO6 is done.
We load up the car and trailer and take off for Lancaster , N.Y., a 214 mile drive. The ½ mile oval event is scheduled to start at 7pm so we should have plenty of time to get there and maybe have time for a nap. As we find our way into Lancaster, we see we have 2 hours until the start so we decide to wash the car. That done, we proceed to the site and promptly get lost even though we have a
GPS (obviously giving us screwed up directions) loaned to us by Brian and Tara Johns who by the way took the time to enter the addresses of each track and Motel. We finally stop and ask directions and arrive at the track at 6:30 pm. Much to our dismay, One Lappers are already running the track! Damn, this means I won’t be able to walk the track before I run it. I climb up into the grandstands to watch some cars run but I can’t see the other side of the track, which is a
drag strip, due to a concrete wall. Damn, why can’t they keep to the printed schedule?
I had called Paul Lesinski with Automotive Solutions LLC earlier in the day to confer on car setup for the ½ mile oval. He made recommendations on the shock settings and tire pressures, even consulting with a friend who runs Circle tracks. Dan got the car ready while I put on my driving suit. We were required to wear SFI rated driving suit, helmet and gloves at every event. Out on the track I went, you get 1 recon lap, in this case ¾ lap, then stop and go. I found the track was very slippery on the dragstip side and I lost a lot of time there. Sprinkling rain didn’t help either. We pulled a top 10 finish coming in at 9th.
We load up the car and trailer and start the 431 mile drive to Loudon, NH. It’s 8 pm and we leave with fellow corvette drivers Jeremy Hersburg and Eric Hulshart. Dan starts driving so I can nap, then I’ll take over so he can sleep. He will do the driving
Monday at New Hampshire International Speedway.
Thank God for radar detectors! The New York Cops were out in Spades and I had to jab the brakes hard many times. The Route we took to Loudontok us through the mountains and man what a drive! We hauled ass thru those hills and mountains, quaint small towns and Robert Frost type settings. I wished it was daylight So I could see more of the countryside. They had warned us at the drivers meeting about being observant for animals, domestic and wild, as previous One Lappers had torn up there cars with such contact. I saw several Moose crossing signs but never saw any. On into the night somewhere in NH, I see blue lights behind us. Jeremy and I are communicating with 2 way radios and he tells us he is being pulled over and to go on. It was a local cop who stopped Jeremy who asks what he’s doing and where he’s going and lets him go! Jeremy calls on the radio for directions and is back with us in just a few minutes.
On down the highway, the two red Acura NSX’s pass us like we’re standing still! Both are supercharged 600 HP Cars and one of them was later found to have a support van, complete with mechanic and spare parts, and was let off with a warning to lose the van or be disqualified rather than an out and out dismissal. We speed up since they are running point and close to Loudon we see multiple cars with blue lights ablaze on the right side of the road. I thought the NSX’s had been caught but turns out a Cavalier had been stopped. This entry was being fielded by several guys form Switzerland who run the OLOA every year. They didn’t have a US license, only European, and since the cops could not figure out what to do with them, they were released with no citation.
We arrive at the Red Roof Inn at 2:30am and hit the hay. Four hours sleep and up and at ‘em. We get to NHIS at 8:00am and Dan hits the track on our borrowed fold up bicycle, I start the car prep. Dennis and Gary Hoffman of Hardbar show up to help us with running the track since this is their home track. They supplied us with Drivers side seat tracks and also Hardbar Harness Bars in our ZO6’s. They also have developed wings for World Challenge Corvettes. Dennis and Gary confer with Dan on the
subtleties of the track. He goes out 1st event and runs 2nd! Awesome since this is Davia’s home track( last year’s winner and current leader). An Hour or Two down Time and we’re ready for the second event. Dan goes out and kicks ass with a 1st place! An awesome picture is taken at this track that shows the car with the R front wheel off the ground on street
tires! These Michelin Pilot Sport PS2”s are incredible.
You know it, we load the car and trailer and take off. We have 558 miles to go to Summit Point, WV and our route book shows us passing thru New York City. Not! We take a route that adds on miles but no way we’re going thru NYC. We head to Scranton, Pa then South to Summit Point. The Motel is actually in Winchester, Va., 30 minutes form the track. Six hours sleep…Wow! We’re at Summit Point early to ride the course. It’s new and very little video is available to study. I’m running this event and the next 2 tracks, VIR and Roebling Road, Dan will run the ¼ mile
drag race tonight. I’m driving 2 events here, 2 different configurations. It’s a weird track, tight, surrounded by concrete walls and elevation changes that keep you blind, unable to look ahead. Forty Six cars have crashed here since opening one year prior, Most of these in the bowl or copy of Germany’s Nueremburg Carousel which is a banked 180 degree turn composed of concrete sloped at about 25 degrees!
Since Dan likes a car that
over steers, I was a bit concerned so I had him add a bit of toe in the rear. 1st event comes and I take off- immediate clutch slip- Damn! It slips most of the way thru the event. I take a 6th. Much to my surprise, the car is a bit tight with the increased toe in, so Dan put it back where it was.
The second event after lunch included the “bowl”. You approach the bowl after a curving uphill climb under the bridge and you see the crest of the hill and nothing else at 100mph.With the suspension unsettled and/or airborne you slam down on the other side of the hill and correct for the bowl entry and brake the car. Dan said when I was in the bowl, tire smoke was pouring out on the right side of the car. The car would bottom out bowl exit due to the G force effect. Later inspection showed the tire rubbed thru the fender well into the engine bay and the right front spoiler was rubbed off. I made it thru the 3 bowl entrances unscathed other than the former and was glad it was over! Immediately after I ran, a black
Subaru STI, lightning fast, crashed. He lost control due the car being unloaded over the hill, never regained control prior to the bowl entry. The 25 degree banking of the bowl launched him into the air for 20 feet before hitting the
tire wall. He was OK but his car was done for this years OLOA. I doubt if OLOA will run the
Shenandoah circuit again! I took 5th place with a slipping clutch.
So we load up the
car and trailer and head off to Mason Dixon Dragway. This is a ¼ mile slightly downhill
drag strip where we will compete in 2 events. First, Dan will make one pass for best E.T., then bracket racing with the dial in of your choice. We made sway bar, shock, and air pressure adjustments and Dan rips off an 11.8 second run at 119mph with no clutch slippage. We later found out this was good enough for 4th place overall. The Adee Dodge truck helped us out here. Ron stalled the
sequential gearbox V-10 powered SUV at the line and had a 15 sec ET! This mistake moved us into
#3rd overall and proved to be a point lead Ron could not overcome during the remainder of the OLOA.
For the bracket racing we took a 13.0 dial in to help preserve the clutch and maybe sandbag a little. The first bracket no problem. Dan laid back then sped up and braked at the ¼ mile line and won! Second time out he was racing the Ford Cobra Supercharged LTD Trooper car from Virginia. Turned out this guy was a sand bagger too! Halfway down the track he takes off like a scalded dog, so Dan hits it too! They race to the ¼ mile mark and both hit the brakes. Both of them broke out from their dial in times but the Trooper broke out less…we’re out. No big Deal, the bracket racing is designed to not let you lose a ton of points.
Shocks are reset, Sway bar attached, car and trailer loaded and we’re off to Danville, Va. For VIR. We had to be careful driving in Virginia, no radar detectors allowed, Nitrous illegal- what a place. We actually got about 5
hours sleep at the motel once we found it, we couldn’t remember which one it was so we went to the Sleep Inn first. No reservations there, so we got directions to the Best Western, hard to find since their sign lights are totally dark.
Wed morning we’re at VIR, a beautiful facility that actually looks like a country club. We will run the 1.65 South Course, the 2.25 North Course, then put them together for the 3.27 mile full course. I ran 3 laps on the full course in early April. Dan started prepping the car while I rode the bike on both the North and South courses, We started the south course event at 8:30 am and as soon as I take off, yea, the clutch is slipping again, really sapping my ability to put power down. Damn! We take a 4th place. We move back to the North Course and Jack the car up to cool the clutch and hope it will be better. I also make sure I do a slow easy start to save the clutch but lose four or five seconds or more getting up to speed. The clutch seems to hold well in 3rd and 4th gears. I did fine this time and we took a 4th again even though the high HP cars are killing us on the 3000 feet straightaway. Dan said I was so deep into turn 1, he thought I would run off the track. The front ZO6 brakes at all four corners and Hawk pads were unbelievable!
We had about 2 hours downtime, so we jacked up the car to cool again, had lunch, and I took a nap. When the time came for us to line up again we coasted down to the grid and Dan and some others pushed the car out to the start line to keep things cool and hopefully help the clutch. We’re off, the full course has two long straights and the Porsche guys said they were going 170mph last year on the back straight, What an awesome track! I knew I had driven it well but we took a 5th. The Cobra GT40 stretched it’s legs on the long course. If only we had another 100hp.
So, we pack up and leave for Savannah, Ga with a mandatory stop in Piedmont,
SC at the Carolina Rod Shop. This is a checkpoint and you lose points if you don’t stop and get a sticker for your log book. We pulled into the shop parking lot while a crowd of 50 people or so were cheering. They come every year for a peak at the OLOA cars. The shop provides services if needed and offers sandwiches, drinks and fruit to competitors. Dan and I changed the front brake pads and rotors, bleed the brakes and we’re off to Savannah for Roebling Road.
Fatigue is a funny thing and it was starting to get to both of us. Dan was driving because I was racing the next day. We pulled over for fuel and they happened to have a car wash. The car was filthy so we decided to take her thru. It was a pressure wash and not a brush type so we just left the trailer attached to the car. I’m in the car and the car wash starts and coats the car with suds then eases around to the rear of the car where where it hits the trailer tongue and breaks. Ouch! We can’t move the pressure arm out of the way so we have to unlock the
trailer lock and take it off the car to get the trailer and car out. We do so and Dan hooks up the trailer and we take off covered with white suds!
Jeremy and Eric catch up to us soon after and we head south. It’s really warm now but still OK in the car even though we have no AC. I take advantage of passenger seat time and sleep as much as possible. About 11pm, Jeremy yells on the radio that we’re losing clothes or towels out of one trailer bin. We pull over and find my raincoat and two bath towels had flown out of one bin that was not latched. Dan starts to unlock that lock and can’t find his keys. He looks everywhere and can’t find them anywhere. We figure he had laid them down on the trailer at the infamous car wash and they fell off somewhere. Dan is furious, we’re both tired and hungry. I’m pissed about my raincoat, but we are getting close to our exit. The Route book says to exit earlier than the GPS so we’re confused. We got off at the next exit and saw the motel sign on the other side of the exit. Dan heads to the sign but it is getting further away. Dan is really pissed and tired, so he pulls over saying his ass is killing him and he has got to get out of this car. I get our lodging info out and call the motel and it is on this exit. Just then, Jeremy calls Dan on his cell phone and says we’re on the wrong side of the interstate. We need some rest and soon. Twenty minutes later we’re in our room asleep with heavy rain forecast for Thursday.
The forecast was right for
once unfortunately, it was raining heavily with Monsoon type rain forecast for the day. Shit. Everyone knows I hate racing in the rain. Autocrossing is bad enough but road racing is really bad and I had been off track here in the rain in 2004, you slide a very long way unless you hit something.
Anyway, we tested at Nelon Ledges in the rain and the car was really good. We made some shock and tire pressure adjustments and tried to put our gear in the
day. First round and the car was really under steering and over steering but we took a seventh. The AWD Porsche TT was killing everyone. It started raining harder so we changed the front air pressure for the second round. I was following Ron Adee in the Dakota “truck”. I came around to turn two and get a waving yellow flag. I slowed down and see that Ron is off the track and trying to come back on. Being unsure of protocol, I slow more, he slows so I speed up. I should have never slowed at all. My time was terrible due to this and the cars handling even worse. We took an 18th. Ron was 36th though and at that point we
had a third place overall tied up. We just needed to finish the One lap and not break down. Most of our gear was wet when we loaded up the car, everything fogged up and we had to wait to leave the track since the pits are in track center. I later discovered I left my rain drenched SE division champion jacket in the concession area. We have our longest drive yet of 770 miles ahead of us. We’re going back to North Ohio.
Dan started out driving because I would drive through the night. We were driving back through Charlotte just the way we came to Savannah yesterday. Dan called the gas station where the car wash fiasco happened and no, the keys haven’t been turned in yet. We stopped, fueled, and got some food, and I started driving. We got to Charlotte and darn, there is a wreck, we get off the interstate to attempt to circumvent it but still end up losing one and a half hours of previous time. We are really pissed to say the least. Jeremy takes the lead with his Valentine One radar detector and we start to haul. We reached the Virginia border and Jeremy says he will back off a bit but within five minutes we are cruising at 85-90mph. Before we know it, we are almost to West Virginia, all Mountain driving. We fuel up again and take off. Jeremy, did I tell you he is crazy?, increases our speed to 100mph. What a blast through West Virginia hills and mountains. Our little trailer just hung right in there. He later tells us, we averaged just under three figures through West Virginia’s 45-50 miles. We are back in Ohio and making good time. We actually make it to Kent, Ohio around one am. Dan and I hit the sack.
Friday morning arrives and we have a thirty minute drive to Nelsen Ledges. We tested here two weeks before so Dan knows the track well. It is a pretty, sunny day for the last track event. Upon arrival I start prepping the car, Herb and Judy Popp (Dan’s Parents) are there and Herb helps me with the car. It took forever to fuel the car since we had to borrow gas cans… no cars allowed near the pumps. Duh! First went time is here and Dan takes off. Nelson Ledges is an old track with varying pavement types everywhere. The grip and smoothness varies immensely. Dan approaches turn two as I watch from the bridge and spins off into the grass narrowly missing the wall. He comes back on track and continues but a bit slower than expected. I meet him in the pits and he says he has very little breaking. We look at the right front wheel and brake fluid is everywhere. We jack up the car, remove the wheel and find the SS brake line has a hole in it. It happened where the line was making contact with the lower arm. Dan doesn’t know if the line ruptured before or after he went off track and he cannot believe he continued the rest when he found he had very little breaking. He essentially was throwing the car into the turns and powering out of them, still finishing 8th.
Summit racing is a One Lap Sponsor and not far from Nelson Ledges so we sent a friend there to get a set of SS brake lines. He returns about ninety minutes later with them but they are a different type! Turns out Dan, owner and driver of the twin turbo has an extra brake line so we put it on and bleed the brakes and we are ready to go. The clutch does not seem to be slipping now (weird) and the second event is starting. Dan is flying around the course, drifting every corner and wins the event! Wow, one last drive and event and our third in class and third overall is assured. We load up and head to South Bend and The Tire Rack. We really are looking forward to a good nights sleep and a meal in a restaurant. We arrive in South Bend around five pm so we find a car wash and clean up the Black Bitch for our last event. We make sure the trailer is off the car and do this one by hand! That chore done, we have a celebration dinner with Jenny and Eric and also with the overall winner Mark Davia and Drew Wikstrem. We head back to the motel and Dan says the car is pulling to the left. We check it our and find we have a cracked wheel. What a weird thing to happen after such a long trip. We change to a new wheel and tire and decide to put the original tire on the other wheel in the morning.
Eight hours of sleep in one night is a wonderful thing! We are still tired but better than before. We arrive at the Tire Rack and tend to our tire issues after group photos are taken. We are on the front row! We find that the tire is damaged upon dismounting so we get permission to use the new tire which is granted. The dry skid pad , the last event ,is run with the leaders last, so we have a long wait. We use towels as tire blankets to heat the tires but to no avail, Dan goes out for the skid pad and the car stalls three quarters of the way around the finish lap, the car does fine the reverse lap and we pull 1.0 g even with the stall which is good for 8th place. That is it, we are done and it is hard to believe it has been one week of driving, racing, and not sleeping. We are elated with our finish, especially with the problems we have had and we are already thinking about next year! If only we had a little more horsepower…hmm.
Dan and I would like to thank all of our sponsors and friends without which this might not have happened.
Addco Sway Bar
Judy and Herb Popp
Brian and Tara Johns
Vette Brakes and Products
Complete Custom Wheel