Archive for the The Car! The Car! Category

Who’s On First for 2010?

Posted in Me, Pat's Races, The Car! The Car! on December 16, 2009 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

News from your personal corner of the world has been quiet these days. That’s OK – you deserve a break after the year you’ve had! Actually I have a feeling you’re not exactly on “break” either, to tell the truth. I suspect you may still be over in Stuttgart for the Night of Champions which will close the big week of festivities at the new Porsche Museum this week. Busy busy boy!

Even so, the first news from Porsche AG is out!

STUTTGART, Germany – December 11 — Porsche will remain loyal to its successful customer teams and drivers in major international GT series around the world for 2010, including those in the North America.

In the American Le Mans Series, factory drivers Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) and Patrick Long (USA) will defend their championship drivers title with Flying Lizard Motorsports in the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, the most successful GT vehicle worldwide in the 2009 season.

So there we have it. Of course, this is the Porsche factory view. I’m delighted to know you’ll continue your successful team with Jorg for Flying Lizard. But I also know you are involved with several other organizations, teams, cars and series. Will you drive with IMSA Matmut at the 24 Heures du Mans again this season, or with another of your teams? I wonder if you’ll continue in the NASCAR Camping World Series for 2010? I loved seeing you bang it up with the NASCAR folks, holding your own and giving ’em pure unadulterated Pat Long HELL.

Things are quiet with me and my car just now. She’s been parked since we got back from Road Atlanta, and I’ve only been out to be sure she still starts up a couple of times during our recent cold snap. I think we may take her on the short romp to a family party this weekend. Must be sure she gets out & gets her legs stretched occasionally.

I’m going to be ordering up the free Hawk brake pads I won for my front axle, and I am pretty sure I have a back-up set of OEM stock pads for the rear. Once I have that together, I’ll get with JB and we will do pads all around, and a flush and bleed of my brake system.

Of course, I need to get a good look at my tires – but God help me (literally) if I need new ones anytime soon. Let’s just say that the employment fairies are not yet smiling kindly on my husband, and it’s going to be a home-made kind of Christmas for us this year. I can’t even THINK about new tires right now, and am kind of glad that I didn’t drive hard enough this year to need to replace them to start next season, embarrassing as that kind of is. Silver lining and all.

We’re really enjoying the season with what we do have. I have Griswold-ified the front of our house with colored lights, and decked out the inside with all kinds of tchochkies. After a weekend blitz of baking, I will hope to delight family and friends with gifts of my special home-made Christmas candy which we fondly refer to as Christmas Crack. My mother refuses to utter the phrase “Christmas Crack,” but is demanding her plate ASAP, “extra large, please, I love that stuff!” she says. Crack indeed! Hee!

I love making the stuff, putting it into holiday packages, and delivering it to friends and family. I’ve got my local repair shop on the list, and if I can work out the logistics, I’ll be sure to drop some by my new friends at Franz Blam Racing. Their redesigned website looks sharp!

Work is nuts one day, less nuts the next, but overall pretty stressful just now. Boy could I use some good hard fast….driving! What did you think I was going to say?? Hee!

On that note, I’m outta here for now.

Happy warm fuzzies to you wherever you are,


I Love My Car

Posted in The Car! The Car!, Worker Fun on December 9, 2009 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

I probably shouldn’t be so attached to my car, but man, I love my car. She was great fun over the weekend and I really enjoyed having her off for a nice road trip.

It was very very cold over the weekend, but at least we didn’t get rained on. You know how much fun Road Atlanta is in the rain! I had all my layers on, and was just fine. We ran both sides of the track, with the racers paddocked and gridded on the “pro” side (infield) and the HPDE folks on the outer paddock and grid. I liked my assignment at grid-in on the DE side, close to the tower and to my car. I ended up being the runner to get the grid sheets from the tower to the DE grid for time trials, so I got to get out and about, and walk the entire length of the grid multiple times – best way to stay warm! Perfect!

One of my favorite cars had its passenger seat in – a 1966 Mustang. LOVE that car. LOVE. The driver is a really great guy. I went to the guy in charge of signing up for charity laps, and I got myself signed right up! Sadly, I couldn’t get in until Sunday afternoon, and I was not at my best. Worn out, and just after lunch. Add a face full of fumes, and I lasted four laps! But oh, they were four laps of heaven. We were alternately chased by and then chasing a GT40. Yow – music to my ears, both of them!

So there we were, late Sunday afternoon, slowly breaking down and packing up as the last DE sessions went out. For HPDE1 at 4:35, there was ONE car on the grid. I was on the radio all, “I think I’m going to take my car out on track in this DE1 session…” The response was “You need an instructor – good luck with that.” There happened to be an instructor standing not six feet away. listening to the whole thing. He said he’d go with me. “Got that covered, and grid-in is covered…” To my suprise, they said, “OK go for it!”

I had five minutes to track prep my car which had been sitting dead cold all day long. Of course I was up for it -Road Atlanta!!!! I would get out late in the session but even if I got ONE lap I was thrilled to do it! I went to start my car up and…..DEAD BATTERY. Yep. Left the defroster on and didn’t turn the key all the way off and several hours of that drained the battery so completely that it wouldn’t jump start. So I spent that last few minutes of DE1 pulling power off a kind friend’s battery to charge mine enough to get a start. Oh well – next time! I do like that they let workers get out on track when it can be arranged – I’ll be sure to keep that in mind in the future.

For my lunch break on Sunday, I ran over to the pro-side to check out my friend’s new race car. He had stopped at my spot on grid in his breathtaking midnight blue Cayman S, and I asked if he’d traded his 2000 996 for the Cayman. Silly me! This is his DD – his race car was in the paddock. This is the guy who crashed his “brand new” car late last season at Road Atlanta in the rain. By “brand new” I mean “recently completely refurbished and souped up.” He got lots of the guts out of the wrecked car, and got a new tub & chassis, and went to work. Or rather, his builder-buddy went to work.

The outcome is stunning. His car sounds like a ferocious howling beast on the track – awesome! He says he still has the passenger seat, and he’ll be sure to bring it in the trailer next season. This is the guy who gave me the nearly life-altering (in a good way) ride at Road Atlanta last year, and I’ve enjoyed keeping up with him and his progress. He’s left Georgia for Michigan, but this club is his home, and RA his home track. It was super fantastic to see him!

Of course, the very best part of the whole weekend came on Monday. I finished taking care of business with my mom by noon, and then it was off to Tucker to take my car to…Franz Blam Racing! I was due for an oil change, so I thought this would provide a good opportunity to have them meet my car. Lucky for me, they had time when I got there (Thomas had warned them I might be by Monday afternoon). I also had my new wireset in the car, and they made time to put that in for me as well. Finally, all the messing with my battery on Sunday had resulted in a couple of blown fuses which left my stereo inoperable. They tracked those down and replaced them for me. So when I left there late that afternoon, I was good to go!

I had no clue what all had to be undone and moved around to properly install my spark plug wires. It almost looked like it’d be as easy to drop the engine. Very tight in there. Of course, Franz knew his way around everything in there like the back of his hand, and he showed the tech how to twist things this way and that to use bendy tools and snake things around to get everything well-seated in there. Franz himself chased my electrical demons from the battery connections to the front of the car where the fuses are. I confess, it was pretty awesome to see THE FRANZ BLAM shoulder-deep in my engine bay.

The work took a few hours, and I brought what I needed to entertain myself – my laptop with broadband card, and a new book to read. There’s a nice seating area with a table and chairs and I was completely comfortable. But I ended up chatting with Connie (office manager) and Melvin (service manager?) off and on for much of that time. I made a few trips into the shop to watch the guys work, and to snap photos of all the pretty Porsches in there.

The drive home was great – it was a crisp, clear afternoon, and once I got past the Atlanta rush-hour log-jams, I was driving into a lovely sunset all the way. It was just dark when I got home, and I was tickled to see that my husband had begun stringing Christmas lights around the porch. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Turns out the Flying Lizards were at the 24 Hours of Thunder Hill over the weekend, I believe supporting the Team Mercer Motorsports bunch who came out victorious! I notice that Johannes van Overbeek was one of their drivers, and now I know what Thomas Blam was doing in California. Franz was so proud to tell me when I got to the shop on Monday. He has been pretty quiet around me – very kind and sweet, but kind of quiet. I had paid up and left the shop on Monday, and was standing in front of my car, going through the contents of my purse which I had dumped out on the hood (DON’T ASK). I didn’t realize he’d come out the front door, and I turned around to see him coming toward me, arms outstretched for a hug. What a sweetie!

Well I really enjoyed that car-centric weekend. Now time to focus on work things and family fun and all the rest. Hope you are happy and well, wherever you are!


Red Velvet Cake Makes You Drive Faster

Posted in Lessons, Me, The Car! The Car!, Track Days on November 29, 2009 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

I wanted so badly to write about the day last night, but I was exhausted! I got a METRIC TON of track time. Turns out, it was just what I needed!

The photo of the red velvet cake that I posted here in my last entry was also posted to my facebook page, and I got a comment back from one of my Honda friends saying simply, “I hear red velvet cake makes you drive faster!” This was the guy who’d told me about this track day, and I had plenty left, so I packed some up and brought it to the track to give him.

But first, I needed to get my plug wire situation worked out. Sadly, My Real Driving Coach did not make it out there as planned to do this before the event started. But my Honda buddies? Oh my heavens. They just jumped in there. The red velvet cake guy? He found the wire that needed replacing, and rigged up one of my new wires in place of that one. Turns out many braces and brackets have to come off the engine to replace the entire set and it’d have taken a good couple of hours. No time for that. Replacing this one clearly bad one (and rigging it into place with zip ties) fixed me right up. My Real Driving Coach showed up in time to go out with me for the first three sessions. He was not feeling well, though, and riding shotgun was not sitting well with him. He ended up leaving after about three sessions.

Again, my Honda buddies bailed me out. One of them, whom I’ve seen in the paddock at SCCA AX events, the plug wire fixing red velvet cake commenting one – turns out to be a licensed racer, and a Porsche nut. He used to race a 79 911, and has had his 86 944 since 86. Who knew? He loves my car, and insisted that he would be my instructor for the rest of the day. How completely awesome is this? Of course, it was a bit of a risk in both directions. But it turns out he is an incredible teacher.

I’m still having a hard time coming up with the words to put on the whole experience. It was mindblowingly incredibly good. Having run this track twice already this year and once last year, it turns out I actually know the line around there pretty well. I had gotten used to doing it mostly in 3rd gear. I was ready to step it up, and changing that is ultimately what was THE NEXT LEVEL for me. Learning how to use my engine’s power. Throttle steering. USING the back end’s tendency to step out to my advantage. Taking turn 1 with NO BRAKES and carrying more speed through there than I ever had, and doing it faster and faster each time. Pushing the limits until, one time, I pushed too hard and around came the back end by about 90 degrees. I reacted by doing the wrong thing, letting up too quickly, and started into a tank-slapper – and it all happened so fast – but I saved it, keeping all four wheels on the track the whole time. I still got in my share of pointing folks by!

But very best of all, I got a real feel for the WHOLE thing, a real sense of the rhythm of the whole and the balance of the car as it moves through the course and and different ways of placing the car on track and using the balance and and….

Really, can you believe it? I’m nearly speechless. My instructor insisted that I shaved 5 seconds off my time in the afternoon with two crucial changes in the last two sessions, and it really felt like I did. I know from looking at some of my onboard video that in the morning alone, I took about 4-5 seconds off my time from the first morning session to the last before lunch. So all in all, I may have cut about ten seconds off my time over the course of the day (about 1:32 to 1:22). We’re talking about a tiny road course, 1.4 miles, so the change was dramatic. Utterly thrilling. So gratifying.

Pat, I am telling you, on the drive home, I just wept. Endorphin rush and physical release and…I’m so serious – it was that completely intense on every level, and I was completely overcome, in a good way, I guess.

Sometimes it’s like this for me with something new. I trudge along with the basics, a little part clicks in here, another little part there, but overall I feel I’m progressing on a very slow incline. And just when I start to feel bogged down, BAM a big leap. It was like this for me playing the violin. And it’s been like that learning high performance driving. It’s not always so dramatic, but wow…just…WOW. I cannot wait to get out there again!

Here’s the feedback from my instructor:

You drove GREAT! Your lines were almost perfect from the start . I am guessing you cut 5 seconds off of your lap times from the beginning to the end. I must admit you surprised me most all of the day. Very good job.

Here’s a video that starts with early laps and finishes with laps from around midday:

TGPR 11-28 snipets for comparison from VroomGrrl on Vimeo.

So I guess what my buddy said is true: Red velvet cake makes you drive faster!


Now I have next weekend to look forward to: PCA party at Barber Museum Friday night, then straight from there to Atlanta in my 911 to work pit & grid for NASA at Road Atlanta (LOVE). The Sunday race is a charity run and last year they had 83 cars in a single charity race that was a total scream! Then Monday, it’s off to Franz Blam with my car to introduce them. In between, miles to travel for work and much, much to do.

Hope this finds you happy & well!

Finally living up to the name….

Fun Run

Posted in Autocross, Me, The Car! The Car! on October 18, 2009 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

It’s been a super busy time, but I’m hanging in there with the car schedule. Yesterday was my local PCA FallFest which involved a little car show, fun run, and barbecue. It was hosted by a company owned by a guy who has something to do with TRG – perhaps you know him. He was a fantastic host – his facility is gorgeous and we had a great time there. Incredible art collection, by the way.

The fun run was fun – I went in the first group which promised a “spirited” drive. Spirited it was! However, there came a time when my bladder forced me to take a detour. I lost them and picked up another group, then lost them and picked up a guy who was lost. We fired up the GPS and got back to the starting point around the same time as everyone else, no harm, no foul. Turns out we got most of the drive accomplished, and it was pretty damned fun on some twisty, hilly back roads. The guys in my group were a leetle nuts, and a bad influence! Haha!

For the last part, going back to the start point, I was behind a gorgeous red 1989 944. That thing had the most awesome growl-to-a-scream exhaust note, I told him when we got back that I didn’t care about the rest of the cars, I had as much fun as I possibly could have listening to his gorgeous exhaust the whole way! And I meant it.

Tons of photos HERE.

And a video I put together:

Next Sunday is my local SCCA chapter’s tenth points event of the season. My car feels like it is skipping again and I am not sure what I’m going to do about it. It should be OK for autocross. Then, who knows.

In the meantime, she’s enjoying her temporary garage!

Another big week ahead at work. There’s stuff I feel like I “should” have done today, but for some reason, yesterday whooped my ass, all that fun-having! I had to have some time to catch up with myself around the house. With a replay of some Monteray Historics racing on SpeedTV, I did some cooking, cleaned up, then detailed my stove and refrigerator, and now I’m doing the ever-exciting laundry! Woo! Must have clothes to wear this week, after all. Ah, the mundane things in life. ANY. WAY. Great weekend, big week ahead, I’m outta here!


Joy Ride

Posted in The Car! The Car! on October 9, 2009 by vroomgrrl

Dear Pat,

It was a gorgeous day for a joy ride today.  I headed to see my car guys at noon and rode shotgun as the head mechanic took the wheel and took my car for a look-see. He experienced the same stuttery thing, but I still hoped the answer would be, “It’s nothing! Shut up and drive!” They hooked my car up to a machine that looks like an EKG machine and it showed how the cylinders were firing. One thing led to another and a bad plug wire was declared to be the culprit. Alas, the 20-year-old style plug wire was not in stock. So I had to leave the car. I’ll get it tomorrow, just in time for the DE on Saturday. No matter how far ahead I start to do these things, it always seems to pile up to the last minute.

Of course, when I came home, I remembered I had a whole damned bag of spares that I figured probably had what we needed. These were among boxes and boxes of stuff that came with my car from the previous owner (LOVE him). I’m not sure what condition they’re in, but I’ll run them by the shop in the morning on my way to work. Actually I emailed a photo to my mechanic and he just emailed back to say it’s exactly what we’re looking for. My husband will drop me off there first thing and hopefully I’ll soon be back underway.

I had a problem with posting these photos last night. I hope I can get them to work tonight. My friend GreaseGirl took hundreds of photos at the Petit le Mans. I found these among them, and cropped them a bit to fit here. Originals can be found on her photo site HERE. I found a couple of both #44 and #45.

Sitting outside tonight with my husband, enjoying the nice evening, I found myself all full of nervous energy. I am so excited about getting to drive on Saturday! I’ve already got most of my stuff ready to go, waiting downstairs by the front door. I’ll park the 911 out front tomorrow night to get loaded up, and then I’ll have to be pulling out by 5:00 on Saturday morning. If we can believe The Weather Channel, it may well be pouring rain. I’ll be ready.

Packing up the poncho,