The ABCS regular monthly meeting was held on Thursday, July 13 at Rush Street Grill and was attended by 28 members. We were in for a treat this month as Mitch Byerley brought an XK8 convertible compliments of Ailey's Jaguar in order to demonstrate it's extensive electrical development.
The meeting began with Ben Bailey covering driving opportunities for the club and David Valentine encouraging all club members to participate in the auto related activities for Kingsport's Fun Fest - a road rally and a car show.
In other club business, name tags were covered again with a special tag for our ever diligent waiter- Chris. Members are reminded to wear their tags at all club events or suffer a terribly miserable fine of $1 upon their second offense of going unnamed. (Also, there is the slightest possibility that folks won't recognize you if you don't. Although on second thought, this might be a good thing - especially around election time!)
During the meal, Mitch covered some of the finer points of the new Jaguar's electric systems. To any one raised on Lucas electrics, the idea of a Jaguar with 16 different computers and 34 computer busses (junctions of computer wiring that allow for the transfer of information from one system to another) seems like a complete nightmare.
According to Mitch, this system is actually quite beneficial and lessens the overall electrics required in the car. For instance, in the past to have a fuel injection temperature sensor and temperature gauge you had two different sensors, two different systems and three different wires. Now, this system is reduced to one sensor, one wire, the computer connection and the gauge. The electronic system also reduces the need for multiple solenoids and relays in systems like the window lifts.
On the negative side, the systems are so integrated that some odd quirks appear. Sure, the car lists for $74,500, but if it didn't have some electrical oddities how could it be British? For instance, if the CD player is not working, the car cannot start. This doesn't apply to the tape player or radio..just the CD player. I guess CD's have taken ove rthe car industry as well as the music industry. Maybe I should finally get rid of those eight track tapes I have.
The computer meets OBD III specs and it completely programmable from a new computer tool - the PTU - Portable Testing Unit. It is an advanced laptop computer that costs $22,000 and replaces the older PDU - Portable Diagnostic Unit. The PTU and its related systems are completely digital and can control and reprogram the car.
Following dinner, the club adjourned to the parking lot for a demonstration of the PTU and car. Mitch demonstrated that the PTU could diagnose the car by simply connecting it the car and turning the ignition on. Every system in the car can be checked at this stage and individual systems can be activated to see if they are operating properly.
Once the Jaguar is started, the system can monitor every system on the car and individual specs can be adjusted. Mitch even pointed out that the cars top speed of 155 is NHTSA mandated, but it can be removed at the computer level. No need to a new PROM chip, just a friendly technician and you're autobahn bound.
Next month's meeting will be at Rush Street Grill on August 10 at 7 PM. David Gage, of the new Thatched Roof Garage, is expected to bring the program on Land Rovers.
On the road again..and again..and again... Joe Bowman
I consider traveling with myself to be a bit of an adventure..less generous folks refer to it as a pain.
I have devoted more and more time to racing which means less and less to my Jaguar, but life is full of choices. Last month, I was at VIR twice - once for driving school and once for a race. In addition, I have joined the local (Knoxville based East Tennessee) SCCA and tried my hand at autocrossing. For those interested in autocrossing on a regular basis, you can contact them online at www.etrscca.org.
I have missed the few opportunities to race here in the Tri-Cities which included the Fun Fest Rally, a Porsche Club autocross and a joint SCCA-BMW Club autocross at the Bristol Dragway. The first was not for lack of wanting..it was for the need to work so I could justify traveling to VIR again this month.
Missing the autocross opportunities was purely a personal decision - based mainly upon the fact that I quickly discovered that I am no good at autocrossing. In road racing, the boundaries are very distinct - on the pavement is good, in the grass is bad - in autocrossing, there seems to be just a large sea of cones out there. Is this a right turn or a left turn.. kinda hard to tell at 40 MPH when all you see is cones. So I have decided that I shall cut my autocross career short at one race and stick to road racing.
The Knoxville region of the SCCA does have one interesting opportunity though - the annual Dogwood Rally held each spring in conjunction with the Dogwood Arts Festival. This is the only SCCA Solo Road Race in America. A one and a half mile course is laid out in downtown Knoxville (it is actually a permanent course including cross-overs compliments of the TN DOT) and cars are ran through it one at a time.
Speeds often exceed 70 MPH. In order to qualify for this event, you must have four high speed events in the past two years. I have already applied for a spot next year and provided my VIR cmembership and race school certificate as proof of my credentials. Due to insurance regulations, the East Tennessee Region of the SCCA is not allowed to promote this event to the public for spectators so I will keep you posted and hope that some folks can come down and see how I do ( a much quicker trip than VIR).
And as for VIR, I have just returned from another trip there for a club event. Unfortunately, it wasn't such a pleasant trip over there. Not that the racing wasn't good, but the trip left much to be desired. You see, I started the trip by leaving my car numbers at home..fortunately, I got only two miles or so before realizing that I had left them. So I returned home and left my racing companion - Ed Esser of Johnson City -to proceed without me. Ed is a little less aggressive than I when it comes to driving on the street; however, he more than makes up for it on the track. I figured if he continued at his usual 65 MPH pace, I'd catch him soon enough at my 80 MPH rate.
Returning home proved to be more than beneficial as when I walked in the door to go and get my numbers off the refrigerator, I noticed my helmet bag still sitting on the couch. Now that would have been real pleasant - driving 250 miles to race and then arriving without my santioned helmet. Ugh, I hate travel!
(Oh, you were wondering why my car numbers are on the refrigerator weren't you? Well, I use twelve inch white magnetic ovals with six inch black numbers for the doors and a twelve inch number in a 20 inch white circle for the hood. Also, I use a standard license plate with my car number for the rear. When you drive a 1500 cc car among Vipers, Porsches and Corvettes, it is pretty important to let cars coming up behind you know who you are. But, to store these magnetic numbers so that they won't wrinkle, you need a flat metal surface and the refrigerator does just fine.)
Anyway, on the road again..trying to play catch up in more than one way. And what do I net for this effort? Do I ever catch Ed? Or do I drive the entire 250 miles alone? No and No.
Never caught Ed (actually passed him while he was getting gas as I didn't need to refuel and arrived before him) but got caught by the local law enforcement. Yes, I got a speeding ticket in Virginia - where else? -on my way to race .
It was a rather funny exchange really. He knew I was speeding and I knew I was speeding so there wasn't much to say. He took one look at my striped down Accent and wondered what I was doing. The officer stood there and thought for nearly a minute trying to put it all together and finally he seized on what appeared to be a reasonable explanation to himself.
"Where are you headed - do you do much camping," he asked.
"No, I just got all this gear in my car because I like carrying stuff around," I thought - but did not say. The truth was really too much so my reply was "Yes, I'm going to Danville to camp."
"Well, what is happening in Danville that you are in such a hurry to get to?" At this point, the irony of it really sets in for me and I say, "I'd rather not say."
And so, of course, he has to ask again.
And I hear myself saying - while realizing the absurdity of it - "Well, I am on my way to race." Cha-ching! I hear the great cash register of the state opening to relieve me of some money for my sins. Not quiet bright to get a ticket for going 83 in a 65 when the next day you'll be doing 95 as much as you can with folks cheering you on instead of fining you $84. Oh well, the cost of doing business I suppose.
A rather uneventful evening except for some good broiled seafood at a placed called Libby Hill - if you ever travel with me - around town or around the world - I am all about eating.
The next day includes four 30 minute sessions for me. In the first one, I take a instructor with me who has helped out on that course before. I was hoping to show him how I improved. What I ended up showing him was how I could spend my time trying to get out of everyone's way instead of driving my own line.
I spent the first session entering each passing straight erratically because I was trying too hard to get left and let faster cars by. My passenger was kind enough to point out that when I wasn't concerned with them, I was driving a good line. I let numerous cars around me in the straights to only run up on them in the corners.
Perhaps I was a bit embarrassed racing a Hyundai among cars costing five to ten times as much. I didn't want to suffer the ridicule of racing a slow car and holding up traffic at the same time. It was a very false fear compounded by my memories of film from the 1955 Lemans race. You know the one - where the Mercedes Benz 300 SL Gullwing hit the MG and then mowed down 20 spectators. I felt a lot like that MG every time a Corvette or NSX would bear down upon me.
Fortunately, despite my erratic driving, I managed to keep my head - both literally and figuratively unlike the luckless TD driver on that fateful day long ago. When I end the session, I spend a few minutes asking myself why I am here in the first place. This is really the first time that doubt has entered into my racing program.
I look around me and see Porsches, Acura's, BMWs, Mustangs and even the occasional British car (there was the ever present 1963 TR3A racer, a Cobra - it ran once and retired due to overheating - and a race prepped mid 1960's MG B which acquitted itself well in the high speed group) and wonder what I am doing here. Then I realize that they are paying the same amount of money to gain access to the course as I am and that many of the cars that I was so concerned with letting around me in the straights as a courtesy, I would catch back up to in the corners. So, on my second and third outings, I just settled down into driving my own line, driving it well, and if they could get around - so be it. If they couldn't, they would just have to wait till the next straight or lap. In many cases, I kept a Corvette or an NXS off my tail in the corners only to get blown off in the straights. Oh well, I could always use more power.
In my fourth trip around the 1.6 mile, 9 turn south course, I had another instructor. Unfortunately, my good (or bad - I'm not sure which) reputation proceeds me and when the club has someone qualified to instruct, they hand them off to me as a test case. I'm not sure if this is because they think that if they can teach me something, they can teach anyone something - or I they feel that anyone who can survive riding with me, can survive anything. So I spent my last session with a new instructor. I actually had more time on this track than he did.
But he did have a few things to teach me about technique and when I applied them, I got faster still. I was able to place distance on the NSX during the corners. The difference was simply in the driving - the NSX driver would lay on the power in the straights, but he was untalented in or afraid of the corners and I would gain on him there. This experience taught me two important things - every instructor has his own ideas (I have had three different instructors for this very course and each had their own way of driving it) and every car's performance on the track is based a lot on the driver.
This weekend, in one day, I put 85 miles on my car on the track. I pushed the car hard enough to get an amazing 13 miles per gallon (down from an average of 31 to 33 on the street), learned that I feel confident in my ability there, and come to appreciate my car. (It didn't hurt that I let some other racers drive my car and they all commented on its low speed corner pulling ability).
So I returned home at the mild and socially acceptable speed of 65 MPH more firmly entrenched in my desire to pursue the oxymoron of Hyundai racing. I would like to get better and eventually race my Jaguar in the highest speed group - but I have a long way to go in both experience, confidence and budget.