The STREETS OF WILLOW Adventure

The STREETS OF WILLOW Adventure

Over the past 6 months you have watched me build this car into the daily driving, track capable, budget car that you see here today. The point of this build was to have an all around car that I could thrash on with out fear of financial consequences if I were to wreck it. This once daily driver, slowly turned track car was built from spare parts I had lying around as “cheaply” as possible, and as “stock” as possible so that it can maintain its reliability, and drivability. You see I already have a pretty built EG with a k20 that I take to local track events. Due mainly to its 5.1 final drive the practicality of driving it to events in southern California is out the window for fear of having to maintain such high RPM’s while driving it at highway speeds. Without the proper tools necessary to tow the EG plus it having NT-01 tires that I wouldn’t want to prematurely wear down just from driving 600 miles on the freeway, and a 3 inch straight pipe that would give any CHP officer a hard on for pulling me over. This is how my four door came to be.

Introducing the 4 door daily driving, 200 TW tire, quiet exhaust, full interior, road tripping, track car. The thought process behind this build was to create a car that was capable of driving to any state, to do any track event. Since the three things you need to be a better track driver are seat time, seat time, and also more seat time. Thats exactly what I wanted to do with this car. Hassle free, low key, and an easily replaceable parts. Regardless of what car you have, as long as you’re on the track you’re going to be improving as a driver, and having tons of fun along the way. Having a SOHC engine in your car means that you really aren’t going to go fast enough to overcook the brakes, and you’re not producing enough power with the engine to really push the limits of the cars cooling ability. This in turn translates into countless laps of hassle free track driving.

If you read last weeks blog post about “track day” prep, what it means to me, and what   my prep consisted of. You will know that I was pretty nervous that my car was going to run into issues. If you didn’t read it you can click the link below.

>>>>>>>>>>>>http://functiontheory.com/2019/07/basic-track-day-prep/<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Yes maybe I’m a little paranoid, and maybe I did too much prep. For me though, doing all of that gives me peace of mind and allows me to focus on my laps rather than worry about pushing the mechanical limits of my car. In my mind I know that I pampered the hell out of it, and that in return it will be good to me.

Both Patrick and I were heading out on completely un tested cars. He had done a lot of work to his car since the last track day when his engine blew, and my car had never been on a track. Naturally I was bit worried since we had a 250 mile trip down to the track, and a 250 mile trip back. The event was a twilight event which started at 4pm on Saturday afternoon, and the drive time for us to get there was about 3.5 hours. I wanted to leave a little bit early so had the opportunity to take pictures during the trip, and if there was going to be any issue we ran across we would have some time to get it fixed. I met Patrick at his house at 9am on Saturday morning, he was just finishing loading up his car. I took a few pictures of what our cars looked like before we headed out.

_DSC2441_DSC2446_DSC2449

Our buddy Scott was going to ride along with Patrick, so we drove to his work to pick him up.

_DSC2462_DSC2460

While waiting for Scott I took the opportunity to show how much stuff I had loaded in my car, and how low it made the rear of my car sit.

_DSC2454

Definitely a reverse rake going on. But believe it or not the Tein FlexZ coilovers handled the extra weight no problem at all and we’re still extremely comfortable.

_DSC2452

The front seat had:

  • My backpack with some food, clothing, and battery charging equipment (headphones, phone, and power block.)
  • A camera bag with all the camera stuff, and a tripod.

The back seat had:

  • My huge pelican cooler, full of water, ice, and energy drinks.
  • A full size jack.
  • My water sprayer with 5 gallons of water.
  • Two helmets (I had Patrick’s, and Scott’s since there wasn’t room in the S2000)

_DSC2451

The trunk had:

  • A full size spare tire.
  • My helmet.
  • A tool box packed with a crap ton of tools.
  • A crate with all fluids, two things of coolant, three things of oil, one thing of brake fluid, two things of MTF, two jack stands, a wheel chalk, and misc extra parts.
  • Bike pump (to air up my tires if needed)

We Left Scott’s work around 9:45am with our sights set on Willow Springs International Raceway. It was already approaching 100 degrees as we drove out of Vegas, and by the time we made it to Baker it was already 104 degrees. Both of our cars we performing flawlessly, and showed no signs of any issues. Patrick even drove all the way there with his A/C on. for me however, I lack basic creature comforts. I drove with all four windows down, and my headphones in, melting all the way as the sun beat directly in the drivers side of the car. There was no way to hide from the suns intense rays. Don’t pity me though, I choose to not have A/C in my car as I feel it taxes the motor too much, and I literally feel bad for the car. The car and I are one, if its hot then so am I. Other than the excruciating heat, the drive wasn’t bad at all. Before I knew it we were entering Barstow about to jump on the 58 freeway heading towards Mojave.

_DSC2467_DSC2472_DSC2474

I managed to snap a couple pic’s when we switched on to the 58 freeway since there were a lot less cars than on the 15 freeway.  * side note, its quite challenging to look thru the camera, manually focus, and not drive off the road.

The first stop of the day was a rest stop in Boron California, Patrick had to take a piss and he couldn’t wait for 30 more mins until we got to Rosamond California. This was okay by me since my race seat wasn’t that comfortable after 200 miles of sitting in it, and it was nice to get out and stretch my legs.

_DSC2478_DSC2482_DSC2485

Bathroom, stretching, refill the hydro flask, then head back on to the 58 freeway. We were only on this for another 10 mins or so until we got off on the 58 business route, then on to the 14 which took us all the way to Rosamond. Once in Rosamond we got gas, Sunblock, and Taco Bell. The temp was 102 degrees, and at this point I’m thinking that its going to be actually pretty hot for the first few sessions until the sun sets. Im feeling pretty bad for my poor car now, I’m imagining taking it to its limits out on track while its 100+ degrees. I weep for the soul of my car, and can’t believe what I’m about to ask it to do. Little does the car know how hot it really is going to be.

We pulled into the gas station first to fill up. WSIR (willow springs international raceway) is only a few miles down the road, this fill up was going to easily last us the whole day at the track.

_DSC2489

I didn’t realize that there was a dust devil developing just across the street until I was uploading the pictures to the computer. At first Patrick and Scott seem concerned then quickly loose intrest.

_DSC2490_DSC2491

My car managed to get 35.7 MPG from Vegas to this gas station! Im pretty happy about that. All four windows down, 100+ degree weather, a Del Sol SI trans. and easily 200 extra pounds of weight.

_DSC2492_DSC2495

Patrick was already filled up and ready to go, but because I had to take pictures I was the one holding us up.

_DSC2498

Im sure Scott’s thinking… “how many more pictures does this guy need?” the answer is A LOT! But doesn’t Patricks car just look so good in the picture above? He’s also a little wighted down from all the stuff he had loaded in his car too. This is why he’s a little lower in the rear.

After the Gas station we drove over to the Albertsons (across the parking lot) so Patrick and Scott could get some sun block, I opted for no sun block so I could keep my healthy bronze glow. After leaving Albertsons, we then drove to Taco Bell (also across the parking lot.) I wanted to make sure we could sit inside somewhere that had A/C for a while so I could cool all the way down. Once at Taco Bell Nate and his fiancé Jess met up with us.

When Nate arrived we sat for little longer at Taco Bell while I tried to get as much cold air as possible. (I wasn’t blessed like Patrick, Scott, Nate, or Jess that all had A/C in their cars.) We headed down the road a few miles to Willow Springs International Raceway. I felt like someone visiting the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, Roman Colosseum, Sydney opera house, Christ the Redeemer, The Staue of Liberty, or any other wonder of the world. This was it man, WILLOW SPRINGS INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY. Easily a bucket list destination for me. Yes, this was my first time that I have ever been there and It was better than I could have ever imagined. To see the actual steepness of Horse Thief Mile was mind blowing, all the videos I have watched of guys drifting it, and the Hot Version Videos with Keiichi Tsuchiya tearing it up Touge style do no justice to how insanely steep it actually is. As we drove further in heading towards The Streets, we passed garages, RV camping, and Driving schools, it became even more apparent to me why this place is actually a historical land mark in California. Just the nostalgia of being in the same place that so many other greats had been before, how many secret car testings, how many movies stars trained to do stunts, how many professional drivers cut their teeth on these very tracks was an exciting moment.

As soon as we got there, we unloaded our stuff and marked our pit area.

_DSC2505

_DSC2511

It doesn’t look like it… but trust me both our cars were packed to capacity. Immediately after unloading, since it was my first time ever being here I had to be a fanboi and take the quintessential “The Streets” wall picture before it got to busy.

_DSC2512_DSC2520_DSC2524

This was as iconic as it gets For someone that only vicariously lives this moment through social media, videos, or pictures in magazines. This was quite a moment, and As nerdy as I felt doing this, I was now able to check this off the list. Its kinda like going to the Leaning Tower of Pisa and taking a picture of you “holding it up” its dorky for people that have been there before, but it’s a must do for every first timer. I drove off back to our pit area hoping not too many people saw my taking pictures of my basic ass looking civic against such an iconic wall.

The time was nearing 3:30 and we needed to head over to registration to get all signed in. We walked over to the brick building that was for sure going to be my salvation from this horrible heat… I was instantly let down as we walked in to the sauna like room, filled with the stench of ego, testosterone, and B.O. As we waited in line to check in, the sweat just began to flow from every pore of my body, I would have been better off being outside. They gave us the usual track instructions, what the flags mean, and how to behave. Once we were done getting talked to like a bunch of trouble making kindergarteners we walked back to our pit. With Patrick and I being in different groups, he got to head out before I did. This was fine with me though because I haven’t been here before and it gave me the ability to learn the basic layout of the track. The most obvious thing was how much elevation change this track had. We have nothing like this out in Las Vegas, everything is for the most part is pretty flat. I was starting to get nervous of the lack of power my car has and its ability to tackle the elevation changes of the track.

_DSC2527_DSC2530

5:00pm, 105 degrees, with the sun directly shining down on me. I headed out for my first ever drive on “The Streets” of willow. The first two laps consisted of me getting oriented and comfortable with the tracks layout. Surprisingly there wasn’t too much traffic in my run group and I was able to run pretty much un impeded for the whole session. The session was over, I came off track and headed up towards Horse Thief Mile just to cool my car down. I rolled back into our pit and popped my hood, I began to spray water on my radiator with my sprayer and waited until my fan would kick on. This was my normal procedure when I track my EG. Spray the radiator, allow the fan to completely cycle on then off this ensuring the thermostat opens and the coolant fully flows throughout the whole engine, then I turn the car off. This time though despite the 105 degree heat my fan wasn’t turning on! I started to get nervous, as a few minutes turned to ten without the fan coming on. OH GREAT! I’m thinking, man my thermostat is stuck, or my fan switch went bad. After it being on for another five minutes (about a total of 15 minutes of idling with the hood open after I came off track) I felt the radiator hoses and there didn’t seem to be any excess pressure, and the lower one was actually bearable to touch. I decided to shut off the car since there weren’t any apparent issues, and ran over to see what my first ever fastest lap was. I reached the club house and saw the posted time, 1:39.040. I didn’t know what to think… was this good? was this bad? when I got back to our pit I told Patrick and he said “that was pretty good for it being my first time.” Was it really though? his first session out he managed a 1:33.xxx. Yes I was in a SOHC but I still needed to get that time lower. We discussed what lines I should be taking, and I was explaining that I was in third gear through a few areas and I could feel the car was really struggling to accelerate. He told me told me “to throw it in second then if I felt it struggling”. But I was reluctant, I was scared that something would break on the car and I would be stuck there. In the back of my mind I knew I had to be at work the next day so I needed to make sure I could still drive my car home.

_DSC2533

It was just about an hour and a half till my next session. I had just enough time to try and take some pictures (driving an event and trying to document it is easier said than done)

6:40pm, the weather is still a toasty 104 degrees, and I’m about to go out for my second  session ever at Streets. Armed with only the knowledge of what I know from the first session, Patrick telling me to go to second, and the desire to get faster I headed out. There still wasn’t too much traffic and I was able to get clean laps again, this time breaking later, and actually downshifting to second gear. My session was over I pulled off and headed up the road towards HTM to cool the car. Back at my pit I popped the hood, left the car running, and sprayed water on my radiator. Still the fan wouldn’t turn on, I let it sit a few more minutes while I got my self some water. Bam finally the fan kicked on, fully cycled and then turned back off. I can only assume that my car wasn’t getting dangerously hot, and that the cool down drive after my session really helped (since I don’t know if my fan was on while doing the cool down drive) I was very relived and was starting to feel confident that my car was going to be reliable. My next session was going to be at 8:20pm, and with the relief I felt that my car was working perfectly I grabbed my skateboard and headed to the club house to see what time I had just done. I think that anyone who is approaching the time sheets, naturally gets the butterflies in your stomach from the excitement and suspense you feel from either being a hero or letting yourself down. I hastily try and find my name, and see what time I did… I managed to get a 1:37.537! I was down 1.5 seconds and was feeling good. Going to second was definitely helping.  I skated back to our pit and grabbed the camera to keep the content coming.

_DSC2540

While I was grabbing the camera, Scott was standing near my car as someone approached my popped hood and peered into the engine bay. He asked Scott if this was his car, Scott replied “no”. The guy went on to comment to Scott that “this was hilarious” Im still unsure of who the guy was, or what was hilarious about my car?

_DSC2534_DSC2541_DSC2539_DSC2549_DSC2551_DSC2552_DSC2543

This was our little pit area we had set up.

_DSC2683_DSC2640

As the sun set, the golden hour hit and I was able to get some action shots of Patrick on track.

_DSC2558_DSC2562

Heres some shots of the advanced group getting ready to head out.

My group was supposed to head out at 8:20pm. It was dusk when we lined up which meant that I was going to be able to get most of the session with some daylight still. But that wasn’t the case. While we were lined up to head out, the track decided that they were going to drive around and turn on all the spot lights before the let us out. This took just the amount of time that there was daylight left. As I sat in the hot pit waiting to go out, watching the sky get darker I realized that this was going to be a whole different ball game. Patrick was lucky because his group was able to get three sessions in the day light, I however was only going to have two. That meant the first session was for learning the track, and the second session was most likely going to end up being the best time of the day for me, since it was now going to be dark on my third session. As I eagerly awaited them to get all the lights turned on and start us off I noticed that there was more people in my group than previous sessions. I could only assume this is because the sun was setting and the temps were getting lower.

It was go time, the lights were all on, and they were sending us out. This time around was a complete cluster fuck of a session. Most people were not acclimated to the lower visibility and they were dropping tires left and right, oversteering off the track and causing all kinds of traffic. The safety vehicle even had to come out and tow one person off the track. It was strange, even though the safety vehicle was on track we all continued to race around just as hard as if there wasn’t any safety vehicle on course. Despite all the traffic and confusion on the track, I still managed to get a 1:37.237 which I was extra excited about because this time it was in the dark. As the session ended I did my routine of driving up to HTM and back to cool the car down. Once back in the pit I did my usual cooling ritual, and the car continued to be trouble free.

_DSC2715_DSC2718_DSC2719_DSC2726_DSC2727

My next session started at 10:40pm and I was excited because the temperature was now a much cooler 86 degrees. I chatted with Patrick some more on what lines I should be taking though certain areas. We talked about how critical it was to execute the bowl turn correctly because this is where there was a lot of time left on the table for me. We both concluded that I was breaking much too early, and that I could go out wider to make what seemed like one turn into a double apex and I would be able to make up some time there. With 10:40 approaching fast, I was starting to realize that if I was going to get a faster time this was pretty much going to be my last chance. Even though I had one more session after that, it was a combined session that would place two groups together effectively doubling the amount of cars. getting a traffic free lap was going to be tough.

10:40pm! This is it. If it was going to happen, it would have to be now. I wanted so badly to dip into the 36’s. I headed out on track, everything was feeling good and I was able to get plenty of traffic free laps. The problem is at night its so hard to gauge how fast you’re going into turns and some of the turns don’t have light on the apex’s so you’re just going through it based on memory. Unfortunately this being my first time at the Streets of Willow my memory was a bit foggy. I found my self guessing where to turn in, or when I should actually brake. My session ended and I came in, did my normal routine, and skated up to check my time. I really felt good, I felt like I was smooth where I needed to be and that for sure I was going to be in the 36’s… I saw the paper with the times, I feverishly searched for my name. There was my name I followed the row across to where it stated your fastest time… I couldn’t believe it! I had done it! I got a 1:36.256!!!! But it was short-lived, it turns out I was reading the row right above my name. I had only done a 1:37.101. It was pretty bummed out, I really thought that one was going to be a fast one. As I skated back to my pit I was still pretty happy that I was able to get my fastest time of the day at night! which is pretty challenging considering that they only have a few lights out on track and every other part of the track is dark.

My last session was at 11:30pm and it was the dreaded combined one. It was a total shit show, there was people everywhere and there was no way I was going to be able to PB that session. I ended up just racing around with an FA5 as we traded positions for the last few laps of our session. It ended up being a really fun session because it was almost like wheel to wheel racing. His car has a K20 so he was able to pull on me in the straights, but I could make it up in the turns and catch him. I was able to accept my 1:37.101and just enjoy the rest of my night.

This was such an amazing experience, and equally as gratifying because my car didn’t break. I feel very accomplished and still feel good about my lap times. I can’t wait to head back down to The Streets and try to improve on my time. Overall I’m pleased with my cars performance and I’m very proud of it for holding its own out there.

We packed up and headed out to get some much needed food. The only thing open after midnight in the area was a Denny’s in Mojave. We headed up to Denny’s and stopped off along the way fill up with gas so we could just eat and jump on the freeway to head back home.

_DSC3042_DSC3044_DSC3046_DSC3055_DSC3051

While at the most deserted gas station in town we filled up. Lets be honest though this wasn’t Vegas everything was deserted in the town at this hour. Some tweakers rolled in and asked us for some gas money because they needed to get back to Ridgecrest, wherever the hell the is. we told them no, and off they went. Another half mile up the road was the Denny’s we ate at, it was just as deserted as the rest of the town.

_DSC3058

We ate, decompressed, and recapped the day. By the time we left Denny’s it was 1:42am. As we walked out to the parking lot the same tweakers drove up and asked us for some gas money again, obviously they hadn’t recognized us from an hour earlier. We headed on highway 58 towards Barstow, everything was going fine and I wasn’t even that tired. But by the time we hit the 15 interchange in Barstow my eyes started to get heavy, and by the time we made it to Baker I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open. As we  pulled into Vegas the sun was just starting to come up, and it was 5:15am Sunday morning when I walked in my front door. What a crazy journey, we had left just 20 hours prior on Saturday morning at 9:00am, we drove a total of 600 miles, and didn’t have one single issue. This is definitely an adventure to remember, and I know they all won’t go this smoothly. But isn’t that what makes the journey fun? the thought of the unknown and how you deal with a bad turn of events is what makes the adventure! I went to sleep for 8 hours then got up to go to work that Sunday afternoon. This is honestly the stuff I live for, trying to cram the most amount of fun in the least amount of time.

I also want to give big shout out to Jonathan Salas @defianceisgolden, who only knows me through the world of the internet. Yet took time out of his day to Email me to offer his assistance in case my car broke. He lives near the track but was unable to make the event due to previous engagements, but still willing to leave his prior engagement, and offer his whole garage to help fix any issue I might come across. I thought this was really cool that someone cared enough to actually reach out to let me know they were here to help had anything gone wrong. Thanks again Jonathan and hopefully we will cross paths at the next track event.

 

I do have over 200 pictures from the event, other cars that were there, actions shots, and some other ones of us. You can see all of them by clicking the link below to my FLICKR.

_DSC2436

 

And as promised here is the link to Patrick’s 1:31.xxx lap

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: