GTV6 Page: Racing & Time Trials

Race School - Streets of Willow Springs - May 2000

The above photo was snapped on Sunday afternoon and is an indication of the level of interest by the Milano arm of the Alfa Transaxle contingent! It is great to see such enthusiasm from our new generation of Alfa drivers in Southern California. Pictured Left to right: Jorge's Verde, Giovanni's Verde, my GTV6, Nizam's 75 and April's Verde. There were also many GTV6's in attendance including that of Vangelis Kokkevis.

The weather was reasonable - especially since we had been expecting extremely hot conditions - Willow Springs is in the Mojave Desert, north of Los Angeles so it can get extremely unpleasant in mid summer! (ask me how I know! ;-)

This weekend was my first experience of actual wheel-to-wheel racing (in the past, I have only participated in Time Trials - though I have found that there is usually a lot of unsanctioned (covert ;-) racing that goes on during time trials, especially during the practice sessions. See Nizam's description of the weekend for details of this.

The move to the racing class required a little more car preparation. This included adding a catch-tank

catch tank

to the radiator header bottle overflow (pictured), installing safety wire on the oil drain plug and purchasing a nomex (fireproof ... fire resistant) suit. Of course, the car had been previously fitted with a rollbar, 5 point harness, fire extinguisher, racing seat etc.




Since I do not (yet) have a full roll-cage (only a roll bar) in the GTV6, I decided to buy a set of arm restraints instead of the usual window net. The purpose of both of these devices is to prevent the arms from ending up outside the car when/if the car rolls (I imagine it would really hurt a lot if this were to happen!)
One other item I bought, an absolute necessity for anyone who wears a helmet on the track is a neck collar. Many of the injuries you see on track can be prevented by wearing a neck collar so invest the $30!

Saturday morning consisted of the usual panic to get everything ready for the drivers meeting at 8:30am. This preparation included removing everything from the interior, installing the (Carbon/kevlar) racing brake pads and installing the track wheels & tyres. I should mention that my tyre setup is still a bit odd as I have Yokohama AO32R's on the back and a set of old BFG Comp TA R1's on the front (both 205 50Zr15 on Campagnolo wheels).

Since I was in the race group, we were first on the track at 9:00am or so. I was able to size up the competition which consisted of some fairly impressive machinery! A Dodge Viper, highly modified 300+ Hp Turbo Toyota Celica (complete with racing slicks), a Porsche 914-6, a VR6 Golf, Race prepared Mazda RX-7, a beautiful Alfa Duetto (rumored to have a 180Hp engine!), a 105 GTV (also quite powerful) and my GTV6 (the brightest car in the pack ;-)
Since the Streets of Willow Springs is a very tight track, only 2nd and 3rd gears are used,
I realised immediately that I would have gearbox syncro problems. I have a (tired) stock 1981 gearbox in the car still and I suspect the syncro's are original! I learned to double de-clutch that weekend - and things improved throughout the weekend. I also lamented the lack of a limited slip differential as I could feel (and hear) the inside (light) wheel spinning during hard acceleration through the tight corners. I also found that the Alfa generally handled better than most of the cars - and the tighter track meant that my horsepower disadvantage was not such a big problem as it would be on, for example, the big track at Willow Springs.

We started out with the usual reconnaissance laps, but overtaking/racing started immediately which was quite nice! The extremely tight track is a real test of the brakes and the tyres of a car and I experienced failure of both these during the weekend. The brakes would begin to fade severely after about 5 hot laps. I surmised that the cause of this was the rear brakes getting too hot, since the fronts seemed to work perfectly and I had better pads installed up front. For the next event, I will concentrate on getting the brakes up to scratch, including installation of the SZ Zagato ventilated disks, cooling scoops & ducts (for all 4 disks and calipers) and a brake proportioning valve so I can set up the front to rear bias (the backs are working too hard). I think the tyres suffered the most damage during the skid pan sessions - to the point that I needed to purchase a (used) set of replacement BFG's for the front in order to participate in the graduation race on Sunday afternoon.

The weekend consisted of alternating hours spent in the classroom, on the skidpan and on the track. The track sessions were the best by far (of course) as we were able to practice race-craft including driving (at high speed) two abreast around the track. We also did many laps driving "off the racing line" in order to feel what it was like to drive in odd places during passing maneuvers (or whilst defending a position). The best part were the practice starts of course - and we each got a chance to be the "polesitter" - the car at the front of the pack. The procedure is to line up on the grid in two columns with the "polesitter" on the inside. The parade lap follows and then the cars form up again into their designated two column wide format as the starting line is approached. The car on pole determines the pace and when the flagman waves the green flag, the race is on and is basically a full throttle drag race to the 1st corner - which was often negotiated 3 cars abreast!

The graduation race was, as previously mentioned, the last event on Sunday afternoon. The course had been adjusted to lengthen the front straight by including the skid-pan as turn 1. We also ran the course anti-clockwise so had no time to learn the track in advance.

I was assigned position number two, outside line, at the front of the pack alongside the Mazda RX7. Our instructor based the grid assignment on the relative horsepower of the cars (least powerful car at the front) - though I later found that the Mazda had a significant advantage being both lighter and more powerful than my GTV6! I felt that my car handled better though (it is an Alfa after all!) The start of the race was exhilarating to say the least! The Mazda pulled away and was able to retain 1st position through the first lap, but I was close behind. As the race progressed, I found that the Mazda pulled away on the straight (which was about 110 mph in 4th gear), but I always caught up through the 1st corner (the skid pan) by taking a much tighter line. On about the 4th lap, the Mazda started making errors on the tight right hander after the exit from the skid pan corner - and I was actually able to overtake for the lead of the race following a mistake which slowed the Mazda down exiting this corner!

I must admit to feeling the "red-mist" of being in the lead - though I tried to calm down and drive smoothly. I could see the faster cars gaining slowly as the race progressed - and felt my brakes failing as I pushed harder to try and keep the gap constant. Rear brake pads worn down to the metal ...I had to resort to pumping the brakes to slow sufficiently for the corners - which is not a confidence-inspiring feeling! Eventually, the Toyota Celica driver caught up and overtook - I did try a few (Damon Hill style) blocking maneuvers
(just for fun ;-). I had to retire during the next lap and exited to the pits.

So that is a synopsis of my first experience racing! I'd like to encourage all of you So. Cal. transaxle Alfa guys to join me in the race group!

I imagine that a GTV6 (or Milano) modified with a Supercharger and appropriate brakes and tyres would make a formidable contender!
Sponsorship would be welcome by the way if you happen to represent the Supercharger arm of Vortech Inc! ;-)
Vortech Superchargers

Eaton Superchargers

Cheers, Michael