First Runs on the Salt
It’s upon us and Speedweek 2013 started in style with the Speed Demon making a 430mph pass as second car on the long course on the first morning of the meeting!
The entire Speed Scotland crew AND The Flower (Intact) managed to be on the Salt by late Thursday which must be some sort of record after our previous adventures with missed connections/ delays at the Panama Canal and parts that hadn’t arrived so we cleared technical inspection lunchtime Friday and set to work to ensure all the damage done by the long voyage had been corrected ready to run Saturday. This is mostly an issue of corrosion: despite our best efforts to soak the car in oil wrap it tightly, it still suffers from Salt in all the wiring/cabling and joints during its long voyage from Scotland to Long Beach in California. In particular the parachute systems must all be checked and lubricated as they suffer and much of the wiring and terminal blocks must be cleaned up or replaced.
During this process our Chief Mechanic, Robbie Gilmour, suffered what looked like a horrific injury as he was seen staggering away from the engine crane with claret pouring down his face from his skull. It wasn’t until we realised that he wasn’t howling in pain and that actually he’d been hosed down in gear oil by the engine crane rather than cracked his skull open that the blind panic ended and the rolling about laughing started. Apart from a slightly “minerally” residual smell Robbie was unharmed.
Come Saturday morning and that incredible pass by Speed Demon we finalised our work for 11am after tracking down a couple of air leaks, caused, you guessed it, by corrosion. But sadly the wind had already got up, and as it’s simply not safe to run our car in anything bigger than a 10mph crosswind we had to sit tight. Eventually the Long Course was shut down entirely as it became clear that the wind was gusting too strong for anything to run so after a frustrating afternoon we called it a night and headed back to camp leaving the Flower ready to shakedown at dawn.
Sunday morning and we were on the Salt by 6am, literally first light, and having overcome some final programming issues with the new boost management system (regular readers will recall last year’s boost gauge met a sad death in a fire) we were down ready to run by 9am.
This is the point where all the hopes of the crew at their highest, we look and hope for a clean first pass. Climbing back into the car for the first time in 51 weeks comes as a shock as it always seems to have shrunk even if I swear to the team that I’ve not gained any weight in the past 12 months! It really is tough to remember what a horrific environment it is in the car with the cramped confines, heat and lack of visibility. Up at the line and there is a small hold to clear the course after a previous spinning car and we are warned that there are some nasty bumps in the first half mile of track. The Flower came off the front off the push truck beautifully though and immediately hit a hole and lost all power. An emergency cut-out had turned off having not quite locked out with some (you guessed it) corrosion, but its swiftly rectified and we’re back in the line. Sadly now this has grown to a 2 hour wait to run and the Sun is at its peak as we head out to run. With 144 degrees on the temperature gauge in the direct sunlight it’s a good 20 degrees hotter still in the car but this time we pull away well and run right out to the redline in 1st gear to test our new boost system. As expected there are some small issues and the wastegate kicks in a little early and so I park the car for the crew to give a full spanner check ahead of a serious pass later today. However, once again the wind gets up and it’s clear we’d be unlikely to be allowed to run even if we joined the line so we pack up for the night, aiming to be back at dawn to run fast when it’s still and the air is cold. Given the heat soaked into the crew, driver and car by 3pm this is a sensible call by team Chief Derek Palmer as we’ll all be better equipped to take on the Great White Dyno early tomorrow.
Sunday afternoon and wind stops play at Bonneville
So although we didn’t cover large distances today, it was pretty satisfying. The new steering and boost systems seem to have massively improved the car at this stage, even if we expect more learning with the latter as the week goes on. And I am also feeling much more comfortable in the car which bodes well for the speeds ahead.
Thanks as ever to EFG for their support without which we simply wouldn’t be back on the Salt.
We ride at dawn!
Your “slighty frazzled correspondent”