In grad school, I read a lot of the typical automotive news websites to kill time. I had found a couple of articles talking about Alex Roy's attempt to set a new transcontinental record in a prepped E39 M5 as a modern throwback to the original Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash (Wired.com and Reddit AMA). Immediately, I was hooked. I read just about everything I could on the subject, including Alex's book documenting the attempt (Amazon). The book is absolutely worth the read for any person remotely interested in cars. The idea of the Cannonball Run lingered in my head for months, even if I knew that I would never be crazy enough to try to set a record in an outlaw transcontinental road race.
In the winter of 2014. I sold off the bronze RPF1 wheels and tires. I replaced them with some stock wheels and all season tires. At the time, I didn't have big race plans, yet. I didn't need a spare set of wheels with dedicated summer tires. Whoops. Lesson learned. I won't ever make that mistake again. It couldn't have come at a worse time too. Shortly after they were shipped off, I found Matt Farah's Smoking Tire article about a LEGAL race, based on Brock Yates' original idea (X5M - and OLOA). This was it. This is exactly what I was looking for. Not only did I want to do One Lap, I wanted to be able to compete. With no track experience, I knew that it was going to take some time for me to learn what the heck I was doing. I set my sights on a 2016 campaign, thinking 24 months would be enough time to prepare.
Once springtime came around, we got started. I wrangled up my father-in-law and a friend from the area to pull the wrap. It took us about 12 hours to finish. Definitely not a job to tackle on your own. My friend said that it was like peeling a sunburn, and he kinda liked it. He was right, it was strangely satisfying. In the process, he burned himself pretty badly with a heat gun. The next week, the burn provided him endless entertainment of skin to peel. Pretty gross.
On Thursday June 12th, 2014 I got home from work a little early. Ashley was working late, and I didn't have anything that needed to be done. I had heard about Thursday night Test and Tune at Kil-Kare Raceway in Xenia. The track was about 3 miles from our house, and it was unlimited passes from 5-9pm for $20. The only thing that was holding me back was fear of looking like an idiot. I'd never made a pass before, I didn't know anyone there, and I didn't have anyone to go with. I figured that the worst that would happen is that I would make an ass of myself. No one in the area knew me, so it couldn't be all bad. So I packed up my helmet, and drove over. I was met with an awesome surprise. A group of DeLoreans were passing through town and also stopped at the strip to make some passes. They were slow, but it was still awesome to see.
Because of cars breaking down, I only got to make 2 passes. They were slow, but at least I went out and gave it a try. I also met some people. They wanted to come to their local autocross and to introduce me to one of their friends who also had an Evo.
A few weeks later, I drove the 40 minutes to Wilmington Airport to do my first ever autocross. Several things went right. I did spin out and almost hit a timing box on my very first run.
I didn't break anything, I didn't make a complete ass of myself, and I didn't finish last place in my class (NASA X - A). 8th of 12 isn't exactly killing it, but it felt pretty good that day.
Based on the results of the day, I knew that I needed all of the seat time that I could get. I was running with people who had years of experience racing their car. If I wanted to have a chance in the field of great drivers at OLOA, I needed to get all of the performance I could get both out of myself, and out of the OneLapGSR.
I set out to do some research to learn more about the history of the OLOA, and what it took to build a competent entry. Importantly, I understood that Evos had quite the bad reputation at One Lap. Past teams worked hard to make as much power as possible, but it seemed to come at the expense of reliability. Cars that went to the edge to go full "racecar" seemed like they didn't fare much better than a well built road car. I was never going to have the budget to do all the work that I wanted, or even all the work that most would say is "essential" for building a fast Evo X. I had to be smart, and I had to make all of my choices with the purpose of OLOA in mind. Everything that I was going to do to in preparation, needed to be focused on making myself and the car faster, without sacrificing the reliability that was critical to finishing the grueling week of OLOA. This was the real beginning of 2 years of preparation to get to the starting line.
The first thing I had to go was get rid of the HKS Hi-Power exhaust that was on the car. All things considered, it was lighter than stock and it sounded good at low speed. Unfortunately, it was the worst thing ever at interstate speeds. Loud enough that you really couldn't listen to the radio or have a conversation with anyone in the car. I knew that Road Race Engineering did some more quiet options so I reached out to try to learn more about what they sold, and what would be the best choice for me. After spending some time on the phone with their sales guy, he mentioned an option that was a full 3" exhaust but they didn't list it on their website because it was huge, and a real pain to ship. He said that they'd fabbed it up once for another customer, older guy, that wanted the benefit of the performance, but not any of the excess noise. Based on the description, this was exactly what I was looking for. When the box arrived at my house, it was bigger than the coffee table. Install was as easy as you would expect, and I was pumped that the car was quiet when I was just cruising around.
In the next installment, I'll detail how I spent the rest of summer doing events, and getting to know people who knew way more about cars than I did. An easy way to learn a lot about something quickly, is to surround yourself with people who know a whole lot about it.