NJMP Lightning 2008

Posted: 14th July 2008 by Joseph in NJMP Lightning
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It has been a solid 9 months since the car’s debut event at LRP where we suffered from a bad suspension setup, a weird engine cut and just an overall unknown of the car’s ability. So coming into this event, we made sure we tackled everything we could to get it right this time around… not to mention a complete new look for the car  With the addition of a new Walbro 255 fuel pump, the MSD coilpack conversion, a fuel surge tank (thank Mike and the guys at Tyrol Sport), better, more balanced suspension setup (again, thanks to Tyrolsport for the corner balance), some aero grip and some good mechanical grip via Toyo RA-1 225/45/15’s, the car was dead-on… at least in our humble opinion 🙂

We rolled out of Brooklyn Friday night in style this time around with a pimped out, wood grained interior, VCR equipped, complete with overhead mood lighting, 1995 Chevy Tahoe Mark III and a 20ft enclosed, dual axle trailer compliments of marked001’s dad and felt like we were the sh!t. Needless to say, we aren’t real race car drivers so this was a treat for us.

Once at the track, our eyes were wide open trying to soak up as much as we could – this was the most crowded EMRA event we have ever attended and rightfully so, it was a new track to everyone and all wanted a piece. After unpacking, which by the way was a total breeze since we had so much room in the trailer and it sat so low to the ground, we attended the driver’s meeting and sent our car through tech inspection. To be honest, we were both a bit worried they would find something on our car that they didn’t like which would be a nice kick in the balls to start the day. Fortunately, I think the tech guys were just so overwhelmed with the amount of stickers on the car and probably couldn’t focus on the actual technical inspection that we got through with no problems.

Before we knew it, the time had come for the White group (my group) to get out on the track. Needless to say, with a new track, a newly formatted car and 9 months of down time, the term butterflies in my stomach crossed my mind – but there was an overwhelming excitement and with no hesitation, I jumped in the car, buckled up and to the false grid I went. Before I knew it I was on track and completely clueless – haha.

In a sentence; all the hype leading up to the new NJMP Lightening circuit did not disappoint. Being one of the three tracks that we might be able to do a time trial on this year, it sure was worth the wait. Not a super complex layout, maybe 50% technical leaving the other 50% for mashing the pedal on the right to the floor, the track is well prepared (it is after all new), track surface was smooth, plenty of grip and wide enough throughout for plenty of passing. The straight was ample long for our car and its gearing, pushing us to about 120mph before one of the two heavy breaking zones on the track and although that felt fast, we suffered a few seconds of time compared to the big boys who could drop 3-4 seconds off their times doing 130-140mph by the end of the straight.

I’ll admit I was having a tough time with the technical portion of the track during the first session… I just could not find the line and had no one in front of me to follow. This, however, was overshadowed by a strange, billowing smoke that kept pouring into the cabin of the car mid way through the session and of course ended my session early. There were three possible causes of this smoke, two of which were bad, the other, tires rubbing wasn’t too big of an issue. Regardless, I pulled back into the pits and inspected the fuel surge tank first thinking maybe a fuel line had ruptured… thankfully it was all intact. Took a peek under the car to look at the under-tray I had created for the car and found that the exhaust was so hot it actually destroyed the under-tray and it needed to come off. Fortunately, the under-tray was made to come off and was a separate piece from the rear diffuser so after jacking one side of the car up, it was quickly removed and problem solved. Sadly my session had ended so I had missed out on 10 minutes of learning the technical portion of the track.

Next up was marked001 in the Red group. I can’t speak for him, but I’m sure after hearing me yell “I’m on fire” over the radio, his confidence level wasn’t through the roof 😉 But being the man that he is, he buckled up anyway and headed out for a flawless session of driving the wrong line (like me) through the technical portion and mashing the pedal to the floor on the faster portions. I’m sure it felt good to get out there and get back in the car even if his times, like mine, left for much improvement. Without incident, marked001 completed his session and brought out baby back all in one piece with no smoke, engine cut or spins to speak of.

The 2nd and 3rd sessions were more of the same. With a few air pressure tweaks here and there, learning the line, improving our speed through the technical portion and mashing the pedal on the right to the floor as much as humanly possible, we were getting faster and faster dropping as much as 10 seconds off our time from the first session. And unlike LRP’s event, the engine, the suspension, the aero and the mechanical grip and our driving was a huge improvement. We were pumped, yet cautiously optimistic with our achievement and only had ourselves to blame if the times we produced weren’t up to par.

The 4th session left a lot to be desired since EMRA had somehow gotten behind schedule and were forced to shorted the 4th session down from 20 minutes to a whopping 10 minutes. By the 4th session, however, we were all excited we had finally learned the line and it was only a matter of how hard we wanted to push our baby. You guys have to remember, although we built this car as a dedicated track car, we still aren’t ready to throw caution to the wind and go balls out, so we just amuse ourselves with the idea that “smoother is better” 😉

I won’t go into the details of what a mess the time-trial configuration was, but we did get out there and we did put down our fastest laps of the day. Times have yet to be posted, but we know by watching our in car vid that our times were def. our personal best.

All-in-all, it was a hugely successful day for us. Aside from the melting under-tray during my first session, we encountered not one single issue. We had plenty of time to sit under the awning and enjoy the smell and sounds of time trial’rs, enduro races, sprint races, and just a lot of really cool cars (ours of course was the coolest of them all).

We have plenty of in-car vid which I will work on in the days to come, but for now, enjoy the photos.

A special thanks Olaf at Atomic Motorsports for his setup tips and just general overall encouragement. Again to Mike and the guys at TyrolSport for taking care of us on Friday afternoon. To Allen at Herbys53.com. And of course to all the help here on Vortex, you guys make our lives a lot easier since we just can’t do it all ourselves.
my time trial vid – green flag drops just after the bridge turn headed to the big right hand sweeper, so ignore my pour line in the first half lap. I’ll post more vids as I get them done – we weren’t able to record marked001’s time trial laps, but we have plenty of other footage.

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