The following article is a detailed account of RB Motorsports preparation, trials and tribulations, and of course our final success. The 4 cylinder turbocharged Merkur has a new record, of 204.952 MPH with a one way fastest mile of 208. 389 MPH. This has put me into the 200 MPH club which is my very last objective with this car.
Before going into the details of the year, I would like once
again to thank all those who are closely associated with us. Sponsors,
crew, family, friends, and all well wishers.
Thank you all for your financial, emotional and physical assistance. You have all contributed greatly to my success and I could never have done it without you.
Photos courtesy of Neil Swanson
After retiring the 1987 Land Speed Racing Merkur XR4Ti in 1996, and then reactivating it in 1997 when Garrett Turbochargers began supporting me with the latest technology available, and fighting both health and timing constraints to finally get to the salt in late September. We were totally washed out by torrential rain that canceled the meet.
I wanted to continue my quest for a record in excess of 200 MPH, but finances were about impossible. I had pledged when I started on this car, that I would never go into debt to be a racer, and I remain dedicated to that.
To provide impetus to racing this year, in early spring of
98, Chicago Rawhide, a maker of engine radial lip seals, asked
for a proposal, and
provided direct support, Fel-Pro and BF Goodrich also provided support and without the participation of these organizations, as well as the continuing support of Garrett, Watson Engineering, Reider Racing/Precision Gear, Centerforce, Autolite, and Bosch, this year would not have been possible. CR though began the commitment for this year, and I will be ever thankful for their consideration. Chicago Rawhide, with their entry into motorsports with parent company SKF have a new found interest (Winston Cup, Jeff Burton, #99) and I am happy to be part of that companies legacy..........OK commercial over, now on to the story...............
For the 1998 racing season, the major changes in store for the XR4 was wiring, and engine control systems. We had arrived at the end of usefulness of the EEC IV units, and prepared to install an Accel DFI computer that one of my friends provided along with the base calibration that they had run on a very highly boosted 4 cylinder engine similar to mine.
We also had changes to the vehicle systems because I wanted every safety system to function just like production. Mr. John Paluch, an engineer with Cadillac Motor Car Co, and Mr Brian Chomicz, an engineer with Borg Warner were responsible for the vehicle systems, while my good friend Mr Brian Jones of Roush Technologies and I handled the DFI installation, and all the changes that it required.
IN OTHER WORDS WE COMPLETELY REWIRED THE WHOLE CAR.
With the basic wiring done, Brian Jones and my long time calibration engineer, Mr Kevin Flannery, who is currently with Visteon, began looking at the calibration and fuel requirements. Last year, in preparation for increased power levels, I had installed a very high flow Bosch fuel pump (230 LPH @ 10 Bar) I have had a constant fear that we had been running out of fuel during previous runs. Having nowhere to test this beast for sustained high speed, I decided that we would use a dyno jet for developing the basic calibration and called Paul of Pauls High Performance in Jackson Mich. We set up a test session for early July.
Meanwhile I began fabrication of an air/liquid charge air cooler,
to be packaged downstream of the existing air/air unit. Previously
a liquid cooler was used, but it was nothing more than a water
jacket wrapped around the 3" diameter tube and was not very
I (now blessed once again with Garrett/Allied Signal help) had a real air/liquid core that would prove to work quite well. Provided with some basic flow data, I designed the tanks, mounting, and inlet/outlet systems. After making Styrofoam patterns of the tanks and tubes, I commissioned Steve Smith and Rich Lanier of Watson Engineering to do the fabrication and finish work. It turned out very nicely, and boy did it work...but more on that later.
With the new computer system, new secondary charge air cooler and the huge Garrett Turbocharger we upgraded to last year, we were off to Pauls Chassis Dyno in Jackson Michigan..
Our first test session, to arrive at a basic calibration was
all smiles, until we ran out of fuel pump at just a little more
than 400 HP at the rear wheels. (Evidence of this is that the
fuel pressure does not follow boost pressure when at full boost
So I put my head together with all the advisors including the fuel pump people at Robert Bosch. We agreed that 2 of the same pumps plumbed in parallel would provide more than 700 PPH of fuel flow.
However, the whole fuel system needed to be changed to accommodate this type of flow. I had a -8 (1/2")fuel supply and -6 (3/8") return, fabricated from 304 SS tubing. This is really not large enough for sustained power levels above 500 HP, so, I spent a week, (I still have a day job), about 800 bucks, and a lot of midnight oil replumbing from the ATL fuel cell internal Bosch pumps, with -8 stainless steel tubing, thru the tank cover and the body into a check valve each to a Y block with 2, -8 inlets and -12 (3/4") outlet. Forward from this Y block was plumbed with
-12 Aeroquip braided stainless hose, to a point just forward of the firewall by the left motor mount. At this point I reduced to -10 Aeroquip for delivery to the fuel rail. I then utilized the existing -8 SS tube for the return line. Before installation, I assembled the entire delivery system and pressure tested with 120 psig shop air. With no leaks the system was assembled with new 100 PPH injectors and with base fuel pressure set at 70 psi, we were off to Pauls again.
By the way. when I went in to pay the bill after the first
test session, Paul and his wife Rhonda, sat down at their conference
table, looked me in the eye, smiled, and quietly said they would
like to sponsor us. You could have knocked me over with a straw.
What wonderful people. They ended up providing a lot of dyno time
and we are not finished yet. Paul and his experience with the
dyno jet and engine performance turned out to be one VERY Valuable
I will never never never go racing again without spending some time with Paul on his dyno. So as to not misunderstand though, a chassis dyno is not the answer to everything. but with experience, education, smart crewmembers, and a little luck, you learn things you could never learn at the track, and as I have always said....
LIKE BOOST, IF A LITTLE DATA IS GOOD, AND MORE IS BETTER, THEN TOO MUCH MUST BE JUST RIGHT.
That day of testing we had really good news and some bad news.
On the first pull, the engine really made power and almost jumped off the rolls. Paul had big grin on his face, because it felt so good, but he felt it go a little lean at 5000 RPM so he shut down quickly. The boost was accidentally set at 90" Hg absolute (30 PSI gage). We are at 600 feet alt. This Special Garrett turbocharger has a compressor more than 3 times the size of a production unit and is capable of flowing God awful amounts of air.. We did not pay attention to the power on that pull, because so much was unexpected.
The great news that day is that we saw 600 HP at 6500 RPM and
with 518 Lbs Ft of torque at 5500 RPM at the rear wheels. The
bad news however, is that at those power levels, we were running
out of fuel pump again.
More great news though, at that power level, the air temperature in the intake manifold plenum was 60 degrees Fahrenheit, with an ambient temp of 80 degrees F. The compound charge air cooling worked better than I had hoped.
With the information we had from previous coast down testing, I believe this power is equal to about 650 HP at the flywheel.
I'm happy......I wonder just how fast the XR4 will go with that power.....oh that's what dreams are made of, and dreams are what make us race.
So we were once again back to my shop in Dearborn to do something
about fuel flow. Not having enough time to change the design intent
of the system, crewmember Gordon Payne and I added another pump
to the two existing inside the fuel cell.
All three pumps plumbed, in parallel and individually wired in heavier gage wire just to make sure there would be no voltage drop. The pumps though are wired directly to one of the batteries no more than 24 inches away, through a high current solenoid, with control wired through a production Ford inertia switch that will shut it all off in case of an unwanted incident.
While Gordon and I were doing that, Julie Campbell and Lou Caira attended to the many detail items like installing new "bigger, heavier" batteries, tool and equipment organization, finishing construction of a "war wagon" ala Winston Cup, Indy car guys. This is an easy way to get hard to handle pit equipment from the trailer to where it needs to be.
We were out of time. No more testing at Pauls. He was prepared
to do anything we required, but I had no time left. My plans were
to leave on 8 August so Glenys and I could play for a couple of
days on the way out west, but after testing on 04 August at Pauls
I was up to my elbows in fuel system on that Saturday.
I did however end up with enough fuel flow to supply more than 900 HP, and in fact I had obtained a set of Bosch 160 PPH injectors and had them installed with base pressure set at 3 bar (42 PSI) .
That's right 160 pounds per hour. EACH. These units were reportedly left over from the Buick Indy car days when flowing methanol they needed two times the volume for equal HP to gasoline, but the benefits such as much cooler exhaust gas temperature on a turbocharged engine are quite a benefit. While I talk about 1700 to 1850 EGT, the comparable Methanol engine runs at 1200 to 1400.
These injectors set at 3 bar base pressure will flow the same as 100 PPH injectors with 70 PSI base pressure, and will be less taxing on the fuel delivery system.
This set up ends up providing good flow and control at the high end, but at low engine speed the calibration is very very rich, so rich in fact that the car is almost undriveable below 3000 RPM....more on this later. Needless to say, we think we have plenty of fuel, and good control with a good base calibration to begin running with. There are still some variables, like a flaky Crankshaft Position VRS sensor mounted to the distributor, but Kevin, Gordon, and Brian have pledged to work on that problem during the remaining week when I am traveling. (The crew flies to SLC)
Glenys and I finally left Dearborn at 3:00 PM on Tuesday. Tech inspection is on the salt all day Friday. I am not quite sure how, but we arrived at Wendover by Thursday evening. I almost killed us both going thru Iowa Tuesday night, but we finally stopped late Tuesday and Wed night for a little sleep. It was a hard drive, but I didn't have to work on the silly race car for a couple of days.
We arrived in Wendover Thursday evening and finally had a complete nights sleep. Friday morning, we felt much refreshed, and with a leisurely trip from town out to the salt around 1000 AM we looked for a good spot to pit.
Having been so busy for the months before leaving, I had no idea of how many of my racing friends, from would be there so we drove through the pits first just to look see. It was obvious to us then that they started letting people out earlier than Ten, but we did find a nice spot right next to the motorhome guys that were racing a motor home mostly stock, hoping to go over 100 MPH......(They did it)
Friday the crew began arriving. I had almost everything ready,
and surprisingly organized by the time they hit the salt. Kevin
had with him a NOS PINTO Duraspark II distributor that everyone
agreed would fix the VRS problem. I quickly modified the wiring
and installed it set at 15 degrees BTDC initial timing. We were
starting with a very conservative 27 degrees, knowing that an
additional 3 or 4 could be used to cool the engine a bit. (and
of course make a little more power)
Brian had also shipped a highly reworked EEC IV distributor that contained a Military Spec VRS sensor and a modified wheel. He accomplished this just hours before flying off to Ireland with his intended bride.
WHAT A GUY. Without his help this year I would not have made it. Does that sound familiar? I keep saying that about almost everyone that is involved with this whole deal.
Unfortunately, the employees at the StateLine Hotel/Casino put this shipment on the shelf and in spite of 2 other packages delivered to RB Motorsports, and my daily questioning, they finally found this special package on Wednesday. By then we were tickled with the performance of the Pinto part.....and didn't really need it. How good it is to have more than one source. This simple statement will mean much more to me later as you shall see.
NOW, everything was fine with my world.
I should have known this was the calm before the storm.
We flew through technical inspection which gets better each
year. The SCTA/BNI officials are getting to know me, the car,
and most of the crew. I think they are even beginning to like
us. (I know they like the car).
I spent most of that day seeing some of my west coast friends, visiting and catching up with the crew, and getting all of the detail things done.
Boy we were finally ready.
It was necessary that the first pass on Saturday be an experiment.
We had no time at home to verify that the third fuel pump really
did cure the fuel supply problem, so we had to plumb a fuel pressure
gage that I could see while driving during a pass.
This was done and secured outside the car, and I could adjust boost and watch to make sure that fuel pressure did in fact follow. I did that and by the end of the third mile I found that it worked perfectly.......................all the way to 85" of boost.
No higher, because that's all I could get at this altitude.
At Bonneville we are at 4300 feet, and the barometer is at 24" to 25"Hg, so the 90" we saw at near sea level becomes something around 85" Hg (30psi). I cut the run short and turned off in the fourth mile. It was senseless to go any further because we had to remove the cowl panel to plumb in the fuel pressure gage and the car is not legal for Production class this way. A full qualifying pass was not possible. I was trying to be patient, knowing that ultimately we were to be blindingly fast or just blow the bottom end out of the 2 bolt main bearing SVO cylinder block.
Thats right. Two 12 mm studs hold each billet SAE 4340 steel main cap in place while making all that 650 HP....The question is when will the fasteners fail. They are very special, SPS studs, but there is a limit.
BUT NOW WE WERE DEFINITELY READY, AND I WAS PUMPED
I HAD MORE HORSEPOWER THAN I EVER DREAMED OF, AND CONFIDENCE THAT MECHANICALLY EVERYTHING WAS SET TO GO FASTER THAN EVER BEFORE.
On Sunday morning 16 August, we arrived on the salt near 8:00 AM, and were in line quickly to attempt another run, but I found the driveability from a standing start was terrible. I actually stalled the car 3 times, and It barely started each time because it was so rich at the bottom end. I finally got away under power, but had so much trouble it was severely loaded up and I aborted the pass at the 3 mile.....170something MPH, not very respectable. We returned to the pits and Kevin made some quick minor revisions to the calibration and we got in line again to attempt another pass.
When you race at Bonneville you get used to long waits, especially the first three days, but this year is was rather refreshing in that the "long course" lines were rather short, and the wait was only 1 to 2 hours depending on the time of day. Early morning is usually pretty busy, but in the evening the serious "Big Guns" come out for the good air and hopefully better traction because of the cooler temperatures and the water table is lower which makes the course dryer and a little better traction. This year though traction was really good, and with my increased ballast 865# total) I didn't have a problem with tire spin...... YET.
We were back in line, waited just a short time. Typically when we are about 6 cars from the front, I get into the van and change into Pyrotech PBI underwear, PBI fire suit, socks shoes, but I wait for the last minute to put the "Top Fuel" over boots, balaclava, gloves and helmet on and secure into the drivers seat.
In getting ready for this pass, the car was all warmed up by
crew member Jeff Hudson with the rest of preparation handled by
John Hudson, and Bill Campbell all from "south" Jersey,
with Kevin, and Julie Campbell, fellow engineers at Ford assisting.
There is not a lot to do, but everything is absolutely essential
for safety I have a check list, similar to preflight check lists
for aircraft, and I even use "REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT"
warning ribbons on all critical systems. (Parachute, Fire bottles,
fuel tank vent, water tank vents.)
Turning on water pumps checking spray nozzles, etc etc..... is a last minute thing that I must be involved in so it is done after I am strapped in.
With the car all warmed up before being strapped I do a quick walk around and saw a small water leak on the right side (passenger) of the engine bay. Some of the crew thought it was simply the spray nozzles leaking, but I knew it was from somewhere else. After close inspection, I found the leak originating from the water pump flange.
I utilize a remote water pump similar to the Cosworth pump used by Roush Racing in the past, but not able to afford the old Cosworth V8 Indy car pump, I found an alternate in the 2.5L 4 cylinder Taurus pump. A friend of mine, Dave Lirette (another Ford engineer) was then responsible for design and release of this pump. He showed me the flow curves and I was quickly convinced that this remote mounted pump was a likely candidate. Later tests showed that it flows a lot of water at high pressures with low horsepower requirements, and does not cavitate at 10,000 rpm pump speed with the hose sizes I was planning on running.
I immediately acquired two of these pumps (they are also low cost) and began designing and building the FEAD (Front End Accessory Drive) system. The FEAD system is unique, and one of my design errors came back to bite me. The bloody pump was leaking. As I said earlier, it leaked at the flange and I knew it was either a gasket failure or something worse so we got out of line and dejectedly towed back to the pits to get to the bottom of this. I found that the flange where the pump bolts up to the bracket, had cracked in half and was leaking. I think the belt loads and shaking forces of the engine caused an overloaded condition and the weakest point failed. The aluminum casting is the weakest item in this FEAD system.
I surprised every one with the fact that I had a spare pump, and in less than 2 hours we were back in line with everything ready to go.
Jeff warmed up the car again, (we know the drill well) and
we got ready. Everything was perfect. They strapped me in, pulled
all the checks and I attempted to start the car for the final
warming as the official starter does the final harness tightness
and makes sure all is ready.....
The engine would NOT START. I think I ran durability on the starter motor that time, but nothing I could do would cause it to run. The calibration is SO RICH that at Idle it just blew the flame out once temperatures were stabilized at 180 to 190 water and 150 oil. I think this was the most embarrassing time of my life. BUT, in retrospect, there are quite a number of Bonneville guys that have done that. I'm guessing that perhaps that was the last initiation element. (I should be so lucky)
Kevin and Jeff worked all morning and part of the afternoon
on the calibration, and finally arrived at a point where they
said "Its as good as its gonna get", now you have to
relearn how to drive the car. I did not like that, but had to
We agreed that we would not prewarm the engine by starting and running. With fresh plugs every pass we thought that there would not be a starting problem on the line. Replacing plugs on each pass is normal as I do see some erosion on the electrode after 1 pass, and once they are out it is too easy. While I am not an expert at plug reading, they can tell you a lot about the condition of your engine. Particularly a highly boosted application where detonation will cause aluminum deposits on the insulation.
We went thru the drill again, and with me cinched into the
pilots chair it fired fine. The course starter gave me the OK
to begin, and per my agreement with the calibrators, I slowly
brought engine speed up to 3000 stable, and then slowly engaged
the clutch, while slowly applying just a little more throttle.
This worked well. It is a little of a balancing act, but it worked. (now I know why the big guns on the salt push off and when I do this again, I shall do the same.)
With the clutch engaged and the engine stable, I then could floor it and have some fun.....WHAT FUN.
I normally start a pass with just 15 pounds of boost, measured
in the intake manifold plenum.
I measure boost as intake manifold pressure absolute, in inches of mercury (Hg). At Bonneville 15 pounds is equal to 55" Hg Abs 25 + (15 X2) = 55". The boost control knob is at a location just to the right of the shifter and is identified by a $ sign.
I attempted to turn up the boost while in 3rd gear, but found that it caused total wheel spin and complete lack of control, just like on snow or slush, so I turned it back down to somewhere around 15 to 20 psig, and shifted into 4th (final) early in the second mile. Tire spin caused this to be a little further in the mile than normal but I was pretty happy with it. (normally I shift into 4th before the end of mile 1.
Once in 4th and hooked up, I started cranking in the boost and it felt great. Tire spin was a problem but not unmanageable. I got up to 85" Hg Abs (30 PSIG) and in the 3rd mile it was flying, and moving all over the place. This was more power than I had ever experienced and I knew it would be faster than I had ever been before, but toward the end of the third mile it lost boost to 50" Hg and lost a bunch of power. Something was terribly wrong. There was nothing obviously wrong with the engine. All temps, pressures and operation was normal, there was just less power. I aborted the pass and turned off. I still had not used the parachute. The brakes while stock, are able to slow me down OK. It took 1.5 miles before I felt at a comfortable speed to turn off.
Back at the pits we found that the 3" dia aluminum tube
from the turbocharger compressor discharge to the intercooler
connection, thru the fender apron had come loose, bent the retaining
brackets, and leaked air. No wonder it lost power. We checked
out everything, straightened the tube, it was no longer round,
and wondered about the forces we were working with while at 30
pounds for an extended period of time. These forces were showing
me failure modes I had not correctly anticipated.
As you would guess this was rather quickly corrected, including making the tube perfectly round again. Bill Campbell, being a street rodder, had picked up a video tape on metal forming put out by one of the big name rod shops and was in fact studying it and practicing, so we had it back together and the car ready again.
I have to admit, Bill actually looked like he knew what he was doing, and the tube looked perfect when he was finished.
Once again in line, and in short order we were ready to go.
The same drill & the same preparation.
I got underway the same and went to Wide Open Throttle. Once again there was LOTS of power there, spinning tires and kicking up salt. I shifted to second gear and NOTHING HAPPENED!
No power to the rear wheels. Tried 3rd......nothing,,,,,,,4th.......nothing....I knew that the clutch, trans or rear end had failed.
The engine was running fine, but we had no power to the wheels.
What a sinking feeling.
I coasted off the course, not much more than 100 yards from the starting line When I got out of the car and the tow vehicle was there we experienced the most god awful clutch smell that I have ever. My wonderful, special, fuchi-manouli* Centerforce carbon fiber clutch was burned to a crisp.
We towed back to the pits once again, (its about 3 miles) and begin removing the trans. Gordon Payne, another Ford engineer friend just jumped in and started removing parts. (It was still hot) We had to make sure of the failure, and assess the damage before night fall. (they make us leave the salt when it is dark)(no one other than security is allowed on the salt at nighttime). Well, Gordy and I got the tranny and clutch out and verified that the disc was fried (both sides) and pressure plate was scrap, but the flywheel looked OK after we carefully sanded off the carbon.
We knew it needed to be surfaced but I knew we needed to see someone because I DID NOT HAVE A SPARE WITH ME. At this point you kind reader need to understand that I am probably the most anal person around and carry spare parts I am normally in the habit of carrying spare everything, Including parts that I probably never use in a hundred years, rear end, transmission, electrical parts that almost never fail, but my spare Centerforce disc and plate was in Presoctt being renewed. Wouldn't you know it. The one part that I do not have in the trailer is the one that fails. You see, they did not know I was going to be at the salt this year. I surprised more than myself.....by being here.
I called my young friend K C Legitt who manages the development side of Centerforce/Midway Industries at his home on my cell phone and cried in my beer. For real... it was the first one of the day.....
Meanwhile another old salt buddy Monte Widdison, the starting line official for the Utah Salt Flat Racers Association, stopped by and saw the pile of smoldering carbon fiber and announced that he had an acquaintance that owned a clutch shop in SLC. He agreed to call the guy in the morning and see if he could help.
We went into Wendover that night with our tails between our
legs. Weary and beat up, but K. C. had indicated he would get
to work early and start a new disc and plate. He said the 4 puck
carbon material was not really that good for 650 HP and there
was a new friction material that would do the job. (The maximum
size we are able to use on my configuration is a 9" diameter
clutch disc, which is not ideal for the clutch guys to work with.)
He also wanted to use a solid hub. We have moved into the power
levels where everything else has to get serious as well.
I guess we learned that with the fuel system, but sometimes it takes several lessons.... It was simple to make a new unit and ship to Wendover next day air......or so we thought. Boy did we sleep soundly that night. As a mater of fact, we do sleep really well after such long hard days on the salt. We certainly are not getting any younger.
Tuesday morning once again began with a clear sky promising
another perfect day for Land Speed Racing, but we would not turn
a wheel. Oh Well that's racin.
We did not hurry out that morning because there was nothing much to do until we had parts. A call came in from Montys friend, Van Garner at 10:00 He said "where are you guys, I have a disc and plate all made up for you." (Monte knew the exact configuration I needed) Everything happened just as Monte had predicted. Van is the owner of the company and likes helping out racers in need. Since we needed to surface the flywheel anyway, Gordy and I were off to SLC to Exchange Parts Company. We arrived and were surprised by a building about 1/2 the size of a football field, clean and well lighted and it appeared wonderfully organized. There were clutches of configurations and parts the likes of which Gordy and I had not seen up till then, and we have seen a lot of automotive and heavy truck stuff. At any rate, Van had a disc and pressure plate made up, with a friction material he said would work better than the carbon fiber, and the price was very fair. He had indicated that it has Iron particles randomly dispersed in the metallic matrix, and it is capable of holding more power than plain carbon fiber. While we were in Vans shop, K. C. called me on my portable phone and let me know that shipping was a problem. Fed Ex would guarantee delivery by 4 PM the next day in Wendover. (too late). We could not pick up at Fed Ex at the Airport as they do not have a facility on site. So they shipped to the Centerforce distributor in SLC and it was to be there at 0730 for Gordy and Julie to pick up, while I reinstalled the flywheel and cleaned up and got everything organized.
So we, perhaps would end up with 2 units. I purchased the 2nd
unit from Van, knowing what "a bird in the hand" is
worth, and he even said I could return if for credit. I will highly
recommend this shop... they certainly did me right, and treated
Gordon and I very well.
So, we had a spare, and if Fed Ex fell on their face, we could still go on racing. The whole crew just knew that we would now start realizing the capability of the car.
Gordy and Julie left Wendover about 0430 and got back late Wednesday morning with clutch disc, pressure plate, and a new release bearing. Both clutch discs look similar, and I decided that since I have some very strong ties and loyalty to Bill Hayes and KC, at Centerforce, we would use that unit. Centerforce hardware always performed as KC and Bill had predicted and with their track record I could not gamble. Bill was the only guy that could make the car hook up back in 1990 when all we were doing was wasting clutch discs when pulling 5th gear at the drag strip. A T5 Liberty, pro shifted in all 5 speeds, and 5.88:1 Gears, made for a lot of power at the top end and really good launch. Needless to say we have a very good relationship. But back to Bonneville. Thats what this is really all about.
In early afternoon we were in line and once again got under
way a little more easily. The Centerforce clutch held well and
again at 85" of boost, I continued trying to crank more on
the boost control knob, but there was nothing more there. That's
as much as this combination of engine/turbo will put out.
While I was slippin and sliding thru the 3rd mile enjoying a (650 HP in a short wheelbase car) wild ride, once again the boost went away. Finally back in the pits again we decided that this was certainly not a good week so far, and on top of that, the Jersey guys and Gordy had to leave Thursday late morning and we hadn't accomplished anything yet other than breaking a lot of parts..
Of all the years I have been doing this I have not had parts failures like this, but then again, I never made this much power. I think now I am finally becoming a REAL racer. I guess I just had it too easy in early years.
Once again the problem was that the tubes were displaced, but this time it was a little different. The lower tube that goes thru the fender apron was tweaked and brackets bent and the fender apron was slightly bent. These forces are unreal. We fixed it again but this time Gordy used a motorcycle tie down ratchet strap to prevent the tubes from moving apart.
We should all change our names to McGyver. We even used 200 MPH tape this time.........
On toward evening now we were back in line, after getting more
fuel (it takes 2.5 gallons to make a full pass) we had only a
short wait and we were off again, For the first time in 2 years
everything went as planned, except the car was not going as fast
as I know it would with all the data I was seeing. 85" boost,
1820 degrees f EGT measured at the inlet to the turbocharger,
water, oil, and everything correct. Additionally the car even
when settled down at speed, was wandering, (drifting) all over
the place. Not fishtailing and threatening to spin, but just drifting
about like it has a mind of its own. (or maybe I should I say
her own). This phenomenon is indicative of wheel spin at high
speed. This pass though just seemed to be a slow. When I got stopped
at the 7 mile mark, the safety vehicle met me with water and the
speeds they hear on the radio. I had gone 198 MPH...with an exit
speed of 201......boy that was disappointing, but we l noticed
a head wind coming directly down the course, so Chris measured
it and sure enough it was 15+ mph..........
So lets see 198 + 15 mph..............well that might make me rather happy...it calculates to about 213 MPH. However with unpredictable wheel spin and quite unpredictable wind, you get what you get. That is one of the reasons that making records at really high speeds is so hard to do on the salt flats. As you go faster traction becomes as big a variable as Horsepower and/or Aerodynamics. Now just think if there were a MAGIC tire that would make this stuff like driving on concrete.....OH BOY....
After that pass, knowing the car would go faster without a stiff head wind, we tried to get back in line right away for the early morning passes but the officials were packing up in preparation of shutting the course down. Back to the pits.....go to the hotel.... no time even to check the car out. But boy were we encouraged. Things seemed to be going better.
Thursday began as most days on the salt flats, bright and sunny,
hot, and oh by the way I had not mentioned that the temperatures
during the hottest part of the day have been in excess of 100
degrees F. I have never seen it this hot and a lot of the guys
that have been coming here forever cannot remember a time any
But that's what good charge air cooling is all about, and as I reported earlier, the two stage cooling system works very well indeed. I have no data at high vehicle speed, but based on what we saw on the chassis dyno, I'm sure it is significantly below ambient. Perhaps even more efficient than at dyno testing because of the high speed air flow through the atmosphere side of the air/air unit which is mounted in front of the radiator. With all the water we spray thru 7 nozzles, there is no evidence of water in the engine bay after a pass. It is all turning to gas releasing all those btu's. Boy physics sometime is wonderful, especially when it is working FOR you.
Additionally, my air breathing system with an old Turbo Coupe charge air cooler immersed in the ice water tank that supplies the secondary air/water system also works. I breathe cooled air, and while it is not cold like charge air, anything cooler than ambient is good. This is fresh air from outside the car, as the rules require and then cooled and pumped into my helmet via a Parker Pumper. It does make it a little more tolerable sitting in the hot car in the boiling sun.
Everything was finally ready, and we got in line again. About that time the timing lights on the short course were hit by lightening at the 2 mile and 3 mile marks. They were not quickly repairable and SCTA/BNI decided that they would run the long course for all cars left. we only had two days left and there were probably only about 80 to 100 cars left. This made the wait extremely long, and a lot of confusion in line. I think it is one of the longest waits I have ever had on the salt.
At a few minutes before 2 PM I was finally flagged off. Since
I had finally learned or should I say re learned how to drive
the car, getting off the line was uneventful except that once
everything is engaged , and up on the pipe that there is so much
power that the rear tires spin and kick up salt like crazy. Its
not necessarily how I want to take off on the salt but I had no
choice. Some people say though that this place is just a 5 mile
drag race. I am beginning to believe it. Power through the gears
was really good and I shifted at 7000 rpm as the shift light comes
on. Remember, pilots are just yaw inducers (according to Kevin)
and everything has to be simple. (the light comes on and you shift.)
Just as in the previous attempts, in third and finally in 4th gear I increased boost gradually to 85". Well the car was even more unstable than before, and was fishtailing in the second mile to a point that it went completely sideways and I had to lift totally out of the throttle or the car would have spun out. I was able to straighten out, and I got it back up on the pipe, with reduced boost, as quickly as possible, but momentum was hurt pretty badly. The good thing though is once boost was increased, I felt the car now accelerating like never before. (all that torque) I did not have time to look much at gages after seeing boost and EGT stabilize, I concentrated on keeping the car straight and not "over reacting" to the car moving about.
Looking at the horizon helps, and I kept reminding myself to look up.
The car slips a little so "look up, dummy"....
I really could not tell you I knew how fast the car was going but with one eye on the tachometer and the other keeping on course, I think there is lots of wheel spin, but the car is still going really really fast......and in the 5th mile the needle crossed 6700 rpm. I knew I was finally flying.
I was finally happy. A complete pass, and a really good one. I knew then that I had qualified for the record return run.
For the first time of the week I pulled the parachute.
Boy was I happy. I had not calculated vehicle speed with the new BFGoodrich, tires but I knew the speed was 2 oh something.
The average mile speeds for this pass were:
2 1/4 mile 181.836 (really slow)
3 mile 190.745 (really slow)
4 mile 205.597 almost 15 mph faster
5 mile 208.389
Exit speed (last 132 feet) 207.985 slowing
This is absolutely the fastest that any production 4 cyl sedan
has ever gone.
I had of course qualified to make a return run by breaking the old record of 199.03 MPH by a bunch. SCTA/BNI requires that you tow back to the impound area at the pits within 30 minutes. Since we are now at the 7 mile mark down course, we tow all the way back to the starting line and all the way to the impound. We of course made it with time to spare. I have no idea of what occurred on the drive back (I was so excited). We were now down to a crew of 4. Glenys, me, Kevin and Julie. We were learning how to do things with fewer people, but boy did I miss the guys. These friends have been with me every step of the way, and they were missing the biggest event of my racing career. I was so pleased with finally putting it all together, but at the same time I felt like crying......well maybe we will again be together for such a life event in the future. We got to impound and it seemed like things had changed a little. The people that were left in impound greeted me with a new found attitude. Not just respect, because I have never been treated otherwise on the salt, but maybe with a new found acceptance. I was finally a real land speed racer. Not just barely breaking a record or just barely going 200 (200.310) but blowing that sucker away. Maybe I have become one of those big guns.....NAAAAAA you can't do that with just half a motor.
And when you look at the acceleration in the 3 mile, now that's horsepower, and like everyone said "but it's just a little tiny 4 cylinder". A couple of the "big" roadster guys were comparing the short wheelbase XR4 to a 32 Ford roadster. While more streamlined, the lack of stability can in some ways be attributed to the short wheelbase.
We spent some time talking to fellow racers for a while and then got to work making the car ready for the return run. I had finally settled down enough to be trusted to work on the car. This year like many in the past, the return runs are performed the next morning, and in the same direction as the qualifying run. As many of you know, the deterioration of the salt flats is a real thing and the course will not support runs in opposite directions. As a sidebar, the salt reclamation project did begin in the fall of 1997, and it appears to have helped.
It is hard to quantify the exact amount of improvement, but general consensus is that the quality of the salt had improved this year. The direction of return runs at Bonneville is unimportant because the wind fluctuates drastically from hour to hour and from mile to mile. Additionally, there is no change in elevation so a 2 way pass is sort of redundant.
We did have a problem though. After the 208 pass Ed and Chris
Shearer, in the safety vehicle reported serious oil smoke thru
the 5 mile. I thought though that Nothing was wrong, except of
course the mysterious slowing in the 5th. (perhaps related). But
all instrument readings, and performance, were normal and after
cooled off, the car started and ran normally.
We began our routine between round maintenance. Change and read spark plugs. (Gapped at .030"). Change oil, 8 quarts of 15w50 Mobil 1, and check and change the Canton oil filter. This is easily done by removing 4 cap screws that are readily accessible. The reason for oil change is to evaluate engine condition, looking for debris from bearings or other abnormal contamination. The oil was clean. The filter had no metal particles at all. I am still worried about engine durability at this level of power. Everything looked wonderful. BUT, the air oil separator that is part of the crank case evacuation system contained 1.5 quarts of oil from the sump. My oiling system is a large wet sump with internal baffles, with plumbing (-16 Aeroquip) to a single stage Aviaid oil pump. This is a set up similar to that used by most of the 2.3L desert racers. It is reliable and flows a lot of oil at high pressure. As I have said before, oiling requirements are significantly higher because of oil squirters cooling the underside of the pistons. (2 per bore).
I had been noticing more and more oil being drained from the separator after each pass. (I drain & replace lost oil with fresh). There was nothing that could be done about this condition so we continued with the rest of the work. Draining water tanks of excess, repacking the parachute (Little red haired girls job)
BUT IT RAINED.......the storms that had been skirting us for much of the week finally hit with a vengeance. It rained a lot. Our pit was secure so we lost nothing, but the course was damaged and things were looking bleak. The rain was finished in about 1/2 hour, but the severe damage was done. We went back to work to finish everything and be ready. The parachute did not get too wet, and Glenys used baby powder to help absorb any moisture. It's funny to see a little white puff, when the chute opens. We needed fuel, and an inspector has to supervise this event The fuel cell and fuel jug are sealed when filled and the scrutineer makes sure that all seals are intact. He then reseal after I top it off, because the same inspection happens when you set a record. The inspector is not necessarily the same guy. We didn't know how much is left so it was necessary to top off. It took 4 gallons in the 8 gallon cell, which is now 7 gallons because of the 3 Bosch pumps mounted inside. The inlets of these pumps is just off the floor of the tank but you really never know where you start sucking air until it happens, so we top off regularly. We have seen 2 to 2.5 gallons used for each pass, depending on how much warm up time and what we do between passes. We do know though that we can make two back to back passes without filling.
At this point the race officials canceled the rest of the meet because of the rain and course condition. THERE WOULD BE NO RACING ON FRIDAY. Except for the return runs for records if possible. The one thing that the SCTA/BNI guys will try to never do is leave you in impound at the end of a meet. They promised us that if it was possible to safely race, we would be allowed to make our return runs. We were instructed to be ready to leave the impound area at 0700 the next morning. We were praying for no more rain, as that would have made the situation hopeless.
Friday morning Glenys and I were up at 0430 and on the road
by 0530. When we were on the two lane road that leads out to the
salt, we were treated to the most beautiful lightening show I
have ever seen. Multiple lightening strikes in the distant mountains
about every 3 seconds. But we had a fear that it was another storm
that may have dropped more water on the course and killed our
chances of making a return run. It turns out that no further damage
was done to the course.
But we still had work to do. The desert always gets pretty cool at nighttime and we wanted to prewarm the transmission and rear end, as well as get a little heat into the engine oil and block.
Not too much to affect further starting, but enough running with the rear end off the ground in gear, to warm everything up and spread the lube where it needs to be. Friction robs HP, and I needed every bit I could find. The officials indicated that the course was indeed rough, but wanted us to be the judges. They asked all 8 of us to drive the course in our civilian cars and take a look see. I did this in Kevin's Taurus and found that for my "suspended" car the course looked sort of OK. The roughness was on the left side for the first 2 miles and then on the right side for the final 3 miles. I didn't care how rough the shutdown area was, because the parachute is a great equalizer. A 12 foot cross form pulls you down in speed really quickly.
I decided to run. (like I was going to do otherwise......HA). The car was ready, I was ready, and I'll be damned if a little wetness and roughness is going to stop me from trying to bump the record to something over 200. Besides I could go as slow as 195 and still squeak into the two club. I however wanted to do something more than squeak in.
With so few cars to run, it all happened rather quickly. Each
run is only about 3 minutes once the car is under way. actually
my runs, even though they seem an eternity are actually about
2 minutes. I think we were 6th in line. With 2 cars in front of
me I fired it up to warm the engine. Things were going pretty
normal, and I held engine speed at around 3000 RPM to get heat
in quickly. The starter came to me, checked all the belts for
tightness, all safety systems were go, and he watched my power
windows go up, but the engine was not yet up to temperature. I
could not and would not make a pass on a cold engine. That is
the fastest way to fail a rod, even the Crower GN rods that I
have been using.
Because the engine was not warm enough I motioned the starter that he should let the next car go, and it seemed like hours before he was ready. My car was ready before the roadster left, and now I was afraid of overheating.
I actually turned on the cooling fan, and allowed the engine to just sit and idle. Remember if the engine stalled I was dead. It would not restart. Boy I was sorry I did not have the capability of a push start.
The roadsters pass was pretty quick, and I was finally ready. With an uneventful launch and going thru the gears, the car felt a little slower than normal. The tires did not kick up as much salt, and accelerating thru 2nd and 3rd gears seemed to be less eventful than before. I increased the boost pressure just as in the previous pass and the car was not wildly moving around.
It was not trying to go sideways there was no severe fishtailing, and when in 4th gear, and full boost (85" Hg) and 1800 degrees of exhaust temperature (normal), the car was just going fast, not scary fast like the last time, just very fast.
Acceleration thru the 3rd mile was slow and the same for the 4 and the 5th mile.
IT WAS LIKE A SUNDAY DRIVE.
I was not even sure it went more than 200 MPH. I was concentrating so much of my will to make the car to go faster, I don't even remember exactly the rpm that I went thru the 5th mile, but I thought it was fast enough for a record over 200, and it did seem to be still accelerating.
I got stopped, unbuckled and out of the car just as Ed and Chris Shearer arrived with the news that the 5th mile was at 201.516 MPH
I was to be the newest member of the 200 MPH club. Boy it sure felt good. I finally did what I said 7 years earlier I could do. I had no idea back then it would be such a long expensive road. I was certainly happy, and extremely proud of finally achieving my dreams, and doing it in a car that is considered by today's standards to be not very aerodynamic, and of course just HALF OF A MOTOR.
The crew got to me in record time too. I think they were as
excited as me.
We had again limited time to tow the car back to the impound area. Once the record is made, the vehicle and engine must be certified. On arriving in impound, an inspector greets us, and begins the process. In my case, though also waiting was Monte Wolf, the outgoing president of the 200 MPH club. We talked for a while, and he introduced me to the incoming president, but they then backed off a bit, commenting that they really must wait for official certification. The inspector meanwhile had looked at the body and chassis relative to proper classification and meeting the rules of that class. By the time I was settled down a bit, he was done with this part and ready to measure the engine. This is done by "pumping" the engine with a P & G displacement tester. I was required to remove 2 rocker arms from #1 cylinder, an easy one, and the spark plug. The Tech guy installs a fitting into the spark plug hole and connects it to a plastic tube with a cork in it. I was asked to crank the engine several revolutions. the air moving out of the cylinder causes displacement of the cork a distance that is an equal volume of the cylinder displacement. This of course multiplied by 4 gives the displacement of the engine.
This method of measurement is normally done if an engine is not within 5% of the limits in displacement.. Then a tear down and direct measurement is necessary. My engine, being 156 Cu In, 2.59L fits well within the maximum limit of 3.00 Litres.
The inspector gladly certified my record and the celebration began.
Relief and happiness.
The 2 club officials returned and presented me first with the symbolic "red hat", then the latest design, a white hat that is a little more stylish, and of course a "T" shirt. There is other stuff to purchase, but it was so late in the meet, the 200 club representatives has packed up and gone home when the meet was canceled. I was the last pass of the meet and the last person to gain membership to the 200 MPH club. WHAT A DAY!
This is one day I really didn't want to end, but there was now just a hand full of people on the salt and we had to begin packing up to go home. We towed the car back to our pit, now in the middle of no where. I put one of my favorite CD's on the machine, and Wynton Marsilis began playing "The Party's Over".
Packing up was a real chore. Everything is covered with salt and cleaning is required, and everything is so anticlimactic. But it also had to be done, and correct packing for safe towing is still part of the deal.
I had carpeted the trailer last year, and we had cleaned and reused it for this year, but now it was hopeless so it was removed and deposited in the only dumpster left on the salt. Packing was accomplished in about 5 hours, interrupted once by KC, calling to see how we were doing, and another call to the rest of my family back in Dearborn. We appropriately were absolutely the last people off the salt from Speed Week 1998. I was the newest member of the TWO club, with a two way average of 204.952 MPH, (335.369 KmPH)
We parked the rig at the State Line Casino, got cleaned up and had a wonderful dinner at the fanciest restaurant in Wendover. We received a very timely call from John Hudson and Bill Campbell from somewhere on the east coast. They were on their way to a street rod meet, and just had to know the results. Boy I sure Hope they can be with me if I ever do this again.
Glenys and I started on our way the next day after cleaning
up the truck and trailer at the local car wash. (That guy got
rich during that week. Probably as good as the casinos)
We headed to Glen Rock Wyoming to visit with Glenys' mother. She ended up having a nice little barbecue party to celebrate. During this visit I was able to clean up about 80% of the salt encrusted on the race car and all the support equipment. There would still be some coming off the cars and trailer even when we got home. An uneventful remainder of the trip and we wearily arrived home.
With my red had perched proudly on my head.....
Things took more time to settle down though. When I returned
to work my management at Ford Motor Co., Powertrain Engineering
asked me to bring the car in to display for a day to acknowledge
my accomplishments and use the design, engineering, and attention
to detail as an inspiration to my fellow engineers and technicians.
I was quite warmed by this. It is the first time in 29 years that
I have been so singled out for the things that I have done. It
was quite a day.
Ford Public Affairs sent out a press release that ended up generating pictures and a few kind words in a couple of the local papers. Good Ink makes everyone happy. And when the sponsors are happy, everyone is happy....
Two weeks later, the people I work with at Roush Technologies asked me to bring the car in for a day, and of course I did so. Again it was quite a nice get together, A little barbecue and just my co workers at Building 11, a small but friendly group.
I of course thought the celebration was over, but then my extended family planned a big party, It was a lot of fun, and even had visitors from as far away as Baltimore. I am eternally grateful to my children, brothers, sister, nephews, nieces, and of course my mother and father. They certainly know how to throw a party.
So, here we are, the excitement is all calmed down, and I'm back to work, falling right into step, but .........WHAT HAPPENED TO THE POWER.
My theory was that since EGT and boost were the same as the
previous pass, and that the air oil separator is filling up, that
sump pressure is very high due to blowby. After more than I month
of being home I finally did a leakdown check.
The results #1 03%
So now we know. 2, 3, and 4 have monstrous leak past the rings into the sump. The top rings have gone away.
Now the only questions are WHY. And why only three cylinders? Why was #1 the only unaffected bore? I thought my cooling systems with the flow modifications I had made provided for better cooling to the traditionally hot rear cylinders was pretty good. Perhaps I have seen a deficiency and another failure mode not previously thought of. More work to do.......Perhaps it is just related to the fact that we are now making about 650 real horsepower, and having never been there we see some new things. I feel though that the richness at lower engine speeds was partially at the root of the problem. Bore wall washing is very likely. I have not pulled the pistons yet, but will of course do so. All injectors will be flowed to look for deviations.
For the first time in recent history, we weighed the car. Curb weight but no water ballast the car is 3665#. With full fuel, an additional 45 gallons of water and the driver, it brings the car weight to 4230 pounds. Balance front to rear and corner weights were all good. (less than 50# difference. 65% of the car weight is on the rear. (of course that's where I put all the lead ballast.)
It is now the beginning of November and I have begun the teardown. The top end of the engine has been pulled, and the car, trailer and truck are in storage for the winter. I will work on some of the small things to set it right and rebuild with the second block that has been previously prepared.
The results of the last 24 hours of Speed Week made our disastrous week a time to celebrate. What a wonderful thing winning is.
As I complete the writing of this saga, I do not know what the future holds for my racing endeavors. I have several things in the works, but so far no commitment from anyone, and while the little Merkur XR4Ti got me into the 200 MPH club, we have not yet seen the ultimate capability of this car. I now think that 212 or low 2 teens is possible if it can be made to hook up. That may be quite an order though for a small car.
Time will tell...I am quite happy with the results of the past seven years, and now understand the talent I have for engine building, and system integration for constantly improving performance. As well as the overall program management to virtually manage everything from the vehicle work, to the most minor things. I suspect that my future ventures may not include driving, and while I will miss the excitement of going for a wild ride, I do very much enjoy the satisfaction of engineering, building, and presenting my creations.
Anyone for "RENT A RIDE"
How fast do you want to go?
How much money do you have?
Who wants to race?