What I Did For My Summer Vacation - the One Lap of America, Part 2

By: Jeff Littrell

If you?ll recall from the last issue, Jeff and Kevin had just completed their first day of the Car and Driver One Lap of America, lying on the ground in a truck stop in the middle of the night, trying to dial some push out of the car and questioning the rationale that led to cars as a hobby.

Day 2

Today we have what promises to be the fastest event of the week ? the high-banked oval of the Michigan International Super Speedway. And it?s raining. The layout for our event includes half the oval track, then a drop into the infield road course at the end of the front straight. The staff makes a point to warn us of the eight inch deep puddle on the apex of one of the infield turns. It is 6:00 AM and we rush to pour in the race gas provided to us by another RX7netter who met us at the track and then we hurry to unload the jack, jack stands, fuel can, clothes bags, laptops, cameras, spares, gear, maps, etc. and cover it all with a blue tarp. By the end of the week we learn what the experienced "lap dogs", as they are called, already know: pack light. We have to pack and unpack the entire car at least four times per day and, while we get really good at it, it is still a pain in the butt.

I?m more than a little intimidated by the idea of unleashing this ill-handling monster on a wet super speedway but it turns out to be really fun. Really fun! The wet ground turns the understeer into power-on oversteer and the slow infield section is a blast to throttle steer through with the back end hanging out. The 18 degree banking on the oval keeps the car stuck and I?m able to look down and see 170 mph before braking for the turn-in to the road course (which one Corvette just plain missed and ended up blowing through the cones). The high G forces cause the boost gauge to come loose on the dash halfway through the first lap but I?m able to ignore it and we finish 6th! No time to celebrate, we have to pack everything back up and drive 266 miles to Putnam Park, Indiana.

Again, we are fortunate to have some fellow RX7net enthusiasts meet us at the track with fuel but we?re running late so there is no time to chat (we spent time in route epoxying the boost gauge back on and fixing a loose headlight cover). Hurry up to grid and try to be a quick study. The car still has severe understeer and I push too hard through the last turn on lap one, causing me to lift and spin the car about 320 degrees but I stay on the track. I gather it up as fast as I can and go on to finish 15th. This puts us in 12th overall, just shy of our top 10 goal. Not bad, all things considered. Pack up the car, talk with some folks, wonder out loud how to cure the suspension woes, and hit the road for a 328 mile jaunt to Road America.

We make a couple cellular phone calls enroute and determine that we?ll try bumping the tire pressures up from 37psi to about 41psi. So far we?ve averaged about 3 to 4 hours sleep but tonight we get to stay at a hotel. At least that?s the plan. In reality we waste about two hours searching in vain for race gas and then get lost in the heavy fog trying to find Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. At least we didn?t hit a deer ? one of the other competitors did.

Day 3

Come 6:00 AM the fog at Road America is still so thick that the event has to be canceled, which is a shame because it looks like a great course and its 4 mile length would have favored our high horsepower car. Instead, we hit the road, again, for Blackhawk Farms where we?ll run two events.

Amazingly, we get to Blackhawk with enough time for me to walk the course before we start. It is small and tight but I think I have it memorized. The increased tire pressures work wonders and the first lap goes pretty well as I almost catch up to the Corvette ahead of me. There is a kink near the last turn that I think I can take much faster so on the second lap I keep the pedal down. Whoops! Now there isn?t enough ti