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RedLine TimeAttack 2010: Time Trials And Tribulations

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On: Thu, Aug 19, 2010 at 4:45PM | By: John Welch


RedLine TimeAttack 2010: Time Trials And Tribulations

Racing is as much a game of managing attrition as it is who travels the furthest, in the fastest time. The RedLine Time Attack Series displays this edict with force; featured in this article are two cars that should not have been running on Sunday morning, August 15th. Both cars were on track and one of them came away with several trophies. Mind you, the autos in question started life as production cars, designed to haul humans around in relative comfort at less than insane speeds. Neither has stuck to their intended nature, rather both vehicles are now fire-breathing, asphalt-shredding Time Attack warriors. Wow, too much? Perhaps, but I do love my toothy, pompous adjectives.

Neither of these beast is a purpose-built race car. Neither features any sort of modular design, no quick release hard points on either chassis. Both are very badass, and both took a hell of a beating before Sunday's full-on Time Attack. First up we shine the spot-light on Jay Stoops and his stoopifying (uhg, kill me) Nissan 370 Z. Prepared by Forged Performance, this is the first truly built 370 I've had the pleasure of laying eyes on. A well thought out race car, this Nissan has several interesting bits hidden under its bonnet. It is also serviced by an incredibly resilient crew, as evidenced by the tale of woe and suspension obliterating hardship you will soon read.

The other vehicle in this write-up suffered from arguably worse mechanical malfeasance. The Turn-In Concepts Subaru WRX Sti, driven by Tony Weisenhahn, had no business operating under its own power Sunday morning. The black carbon scar blanketing the Subies' hood vents told me everything I needed to know: catastrophic engine failure of one kind or another. Just how catastrophic, I was soon to find out.
 

Jay Stoops is a big dude, blonde, and a hell of a good sport. He traveled from Georgia to Florida with competition on his mind, and a vicious off-track excursion wasn't going to rain on his parade. Stoops arrived in Sebring Thursday, ran practice on Friday, and woke up Saturday ready for a full day of fine tuning his chosen steed, a brilliant white 2010 370Z, heavily modified, of course.

Jay played down just how modified the car really is. "A stock 370 wouldn't last two laps around Sebring," said Stoops, while sitting outside his car hauler on Sunday. "We added a pair of turbos and a few simple suspension pieces, but for the most part our modifications are focused on keeping this car cool."

When asked if Florida’s heat and humidity is any worse on the car than Georgia’s slightly milder climate Stoops replied, "Not really. If you don't take the proper precautions this car will overheat on any track. The VQ engine is known for its stout bottom end, but also known for its tendency to hold heat and blow radiator hoses at random." In the name of keeping the thermostat attached to the motor, Stoops and Forged Performance have added several upgrades. The car is equipped with a dry sump oil system holding 14 quarts of liquefied dinosaurs, and huge coolers for every potentially fragile mechanical assembly on the chassis. Transmission, engine, rear-end, supplemented with oversized intercoolers for the dual turbo setup. As you can see in the image gallery, those intercoolers are fed by large cut-outs in the 370's factory front fascia. You got me; I dig alliterations nearly as much as I dig overwrought adjectives.

Stoops was out turning laps when we arrived Sunday, but a lesser team would already be half way back to Atlanta. During Saturday's practice Stoops was turning a hot-lap when an untested suspension piece failed, right at the mouth of Sebring's turn seven chicane. This is a bad place to lose all front grip, Stoops had already begun to apply the brakes, but only just. His estimated speed was right at 120 mph when the Nissan swapped ends and backed itself into the nasty chicane's steel barriers. Anyone viewing the action from the Chateau Élan would have been mesmerized. Front suspension completely destroyed, the Zed car was towed back to the paddock, where Stoops and company had to figure out a solution, fast. Taking the business end of the Sebring P.A. in his massive paw, Stoops made a last minute plea to the masses gathered at Sebring International Raceway.

"A thousand dollars to the person who can bring me the better part of a new 370Z front suspension! On top of the cost of the parts!" A bold statement, but Jay was absolutely dead serious. An Infiniti dealer from Tampa was able to answer the call, delivering an assortment of 370Z and G37 parts to Stoops a few minutes before mid-night. Thus the thrash began. Stoops is perhaps a bit coy about just how modified his car is. Though cleverly hidden, expensive shock reservoirs are visible under the Zed's hood. This was not a simple shock swap job. It was a serious engineering project.

The team came through. Jay was aboard his Z and turning hot-laps by 9 am Sunday morning. Though oil leaks put an early end to his day, the accomplishments of his team cannot go unheralded. This car was done, totally without a front suspension Saturday night, yet on Sunday it was tearing around Sebring with only a few crumpled fenders as evidence to the debacle that had taken place the day before. The first Peugeot to drop out of this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours wasn't even touched by its crew after breaking a hard point. Impressive.

Turn-In Concepts is another Time Attack team who would shame the French factory team. Hailing from Ohio, this team did Jay Stoops one better, they completely destroyed a fully-built EJ25 and then resurrected the stricken Subaru in a mere eight hours. I mean destroyed; Tony Weisenhahn split the flat-fours' crank Friday evening, dropping bearings and setting fires throughout the STi's cramped engine bay. This is about as catastrophic as catastrophic gets. This particular WRX was dead as a door nail, but Turn-In Concepts was not throwing in the towel just yet.

Tearing the front end off of the stricken Subaru right in their pit stall, the team set about replacing the crank, crank pin, bearings, and all other ancillaries that were damaged by the exploding rotating assembly and subsequent fire. Looking at the supplied image it is plain to see fire consumed the EJ's bottom end in a fasion similar to Rush Limbaugh consuming Oxies. Very quickly, and with much violence.

I ventured into the Turn-In pits mere minutes after the last head bolt was fastened, and I was amazed by the cleanliness of the team's pit stall. They had just finished completely rebuilding a fairly complicated motor and the only evidence was a small blanket in the corner—the final resting place for a set of charred bearings. No enormous oil-slick, no unkempt assortment of dirty tools. Just a Subaru, its front fascia, two crew members, and Tony Wisenhahn, suited up and ready to tackle one of the most difficult road courses in the world. I was still unaware that I was allowed to strut around the pits as if I owned the place, but the Turn-In crew set me straight. Noticing that I was trying to shoot their car through a chain-link fence like some kind of uninitiated Dolt, they motioned for me to join them on the business end of pit road. I watched as the final preparations were made for the morning practice, not able to comprehend just how much work had to have gone into getting this car track ready.

Turn-In Concepts did an excellent job of rebuilding their fallen STi; Tony Wisenhahn was able to take not only the Super Modified AWD class trophy, but he also captured the over-all win in the incredibly exciting Super Session; a multi-class race featuring Time Attack cars battling fender-to-fender, at the same time. Tony nearly lapped the field on the way to victory; not bad for a driver whose car was in pieces a few hours earlier. The Turn-In Concepts crew members who were responsible for this feat include Tony Wisenhahn, naturally, along with Tony Barber, Ben, Drew, Abby, Clint, and Sharon. These guys would be right at home in the paddock of any ALMS or Grand Am race; they are a testament to the never-say-die spirit that motor racing has earned and is famous for.


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