So as most of you know, Jon and I ran down to Miami Homestead Speedway last week so I could compete in the Formula Drift Pro-2 event driving the Chelsea DeNofa Motorsports BMW. It was the first event for the new Pro-2 category and the first time any Formula D cars had been on that track. The Homestead Speedway provided us a great venue to both work out of and compete and all-in-all, I’m very glad we went down.
The team had some trouble getting their new Garrett turbo’s delivered on time so when the car rolled off the trailer at Miami, it wasn’t running. Right away the team’s regular mechanic Andrew Grafton and my mechanic Jon from Carolina Speedworks got to work sorting things out. While they were getting the car up in the air inside the Homestead Speedway’s garages (Godsend… Thanks to FD’s Andy Luk & the tracks Jay Donnay for allowing us to use them) I was off “scrounging” a Garrett turbo. Luckily for me our friend Bryan from Bridges-Achilles Racing had a brand-new one in his spares kit that he loaned to me until ours arrived the next day.
As luck would have it, as soon as we got the car buttoned-up and got ready for our practice session, the tropical-rains came. Normally this would be no big deal but in a car without a sunroof and with no side-windows, this was truly going to be a “wet session” for me…
Now for anyone who’s ever drifted in the rain can tell you, a turbo car in the wet is normally a real hand-full. For me though, things seemed to be under control. That is until the rain stopped and the track started to dry out. You see, the track has a super-long straight-ish section between our Turns-1 and 2 and you had to keep you foot to the floor to maintain yaw-angle and remain “in drift”. It takes a ton of power to do this and the more the track dried out, the grippier it got and the more my BMW wanted to straighten-out. I knew we were down on power but I didn’t know why. As it turned out, the turbo charge-pipe had fallen off so the engine was not receiving any boost. Which meant our 475hp engine was making about 190…. Not good!
Once we found the problem, Grafton jumped under the car and burnt his hands getting the pipe back on the turbo. Because of its location, this took some time and right after Practice was our Qualifying session. Luckily we were able to use our one and only “5-minute mechanical” that FD gives you to fix anything on your car once they call you up to the Grid. Problem Fixed… right?
Yeah, not so much. The charge pipe did stay attached to the turbo but unbeknownst to us, the Wastegate was now stuck open so any boost that the turbo would make, would be redirected out through the gate and not into the engine… Again, 190hp….
As the saying goes, sometimes “you just have to make the best of it”. On my first lap, I think I drove nearly all the way between turns-1 & 2 without drifting one bit, it was terrible. Naturally the Judges had no choice but to give me a Zero. After all, it’s not their fault my car had no power… So with Chelsea on the radio encouraging me along on my second pass, I used every single trick/idea/prayer/ounce of skill I had just to keep the car in some state of drift. If I told you it was an ugly lap, I’d be sooo understating how messy it was but thanks to a little bit of wet pavement that I found, bouncing-off all of the apex curbs and clutch-kicking like a “newbie” drifting a stock A86, I somehow managed to slide the car just enough to qualify 12th out of the 20-some odd cars that were there. A miracle if you ask me… Once Qualifying ended and we got the car back in the garage, we figured out that the gate was stuck so Jon and Grafton headed back under the car to sort it out.
The following day we were given 1-more hour-long practice session right before we would go into our Top-16 Competition. By qualifying 12th, I was to go up against Dan Savage who I’ve probably had more competition-battles against than any other driver. He’s a good driver with a nice new car so I knew it was going to be fun.
The practice session started off well and I seemed to be getting more use to the car with every pass. The BMW’s stock engine makes all of its power up-high in the rev-range, so I was really having to be much more abusive to the car than I ever would have thought need be. As I said, the run up from turns 1 to 2 was so long, I had to really get the rear wheel-speed up high just so they wouldn’t re-grip and straighten the car out. This really is a high horsepower/torque track and our BMW was right on the limit of being able to do it. With every lap I was getting closer and closer to connecting the first two corners. I think we had made about 6-passes when I lined up next to my friend Andy Hately and his BMW. The lights turned green and we took off side-by-side. Just as I was approaching the top of first gear and reaching for the shift-lever, the car just stopped pulling and I heard a real load buzzing noise… This couldn’t be good…
As I limped the car back to the pits we all were speculating what the problem could possible be. The guys jacked the car back up in the air to check the turbo and found that it had eaten something hard, broken all of the blades of the Compressor and bent it’s shaft. It was done… Once we knew what the problem was, we hurried back to the garage to put yet another new Garrett turbo on it but there simply wasn’t enough time to make the change considering where it was located. We even got help from Marshal that leads Denofa’s other team. Despite him getting a huge-blister on his hand from removing the hot water lines, we just couldn’t get the new unit into the car quick enough to make the grid. I told the officials that we had to forfeit our runs and our FD-Miami weekend was over…
So as they say, onward & upward, we capped off our weekend by watching a great Formula Drift competition, had dinner with some friends in downtown Miami and even managed to go for a swim at the beach before heading back home to NC.
With Miami in the books, the Pro-2 teams will bypass the Wall, NJ round that is Pro-1 only then we will pick back up in Seattle, WA on July 17-19, followed by Ft. Worth, TX on Sept. 11-13 with the season finally at Irwindale Speedway on October 9-11. With more parts that hopefully will be on their way soon, we’ll have a Mustang ready for battle and I’m super-excited to be able to debut our new Dale Averille designed graphics scheme very soon as well.
Please continue to keep-up with me here at dvanz.com and on both the Facebook page and Instagram. The Mustang is coming along really well and it’s going to be amazing with all of the updates we’ve done to it…
Talk to you again soon,