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Watkins Glen 2006 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Peter   
Monday, 04 February 2008
Another awesome event at Watkins Glen International Raceway!

While not as strongly represented by the Merkur community this year at it has in the past, Watkins Glen ’06 was still full of adventure, speed, and fun.

The event was held at Watkins Glen International Raceway in Watkins Glen, NY on June 5th and 6th, immediately follows the Carlisle All Ford Nationals. It was organized by Phoenix CMR, a mostly Ford/SVT group. They only two members of the Merkur community that attended were Peter Denbigh and Jeremy Kemp, both in Merkur XR4Ti’s. Also joining us was Chad Dalton with his American Iron prepped 2000 Mustang GT.


Below is my journal of the event. In most cases, “we” refers to me and my friend Chad:

Sunday evening we made the construction filled trip from Carlisle to WGI. It wasn't bad at all and took us just over 4 hours while towing and stopping for gas once. We got checked in to the Seneca Lodge, got our cars tech'd and went to the room to watch some track videos.

Monday morning we were out the door by 6:00, went to the little breakfast joint to fuel up for the day, got to the track and unloaded. Both Chad and I were solo in Group 2.

Right before our session, TWO cars dumped oil on the track and ended up covering at least 60% of the track with oil. When our group went out we were skating on kitty litter for most of the track.

My second group 2 session was a blast. Managed to top the uphill esses at 110mph and ended the back straight at 120ish MPH. I knew I could do better though. The biggest thing I noticed and enjoyed was the 40 minute session time. That's a lot of track time! It really gave me time to identify a problem, work out a solution, and practice the solution to commit it to habit.

Life was good for Saturday. I had two more sessions and the car ran flawlessly. I think the same can be said for Chad (White_2kgt).

That evening Chad and I bled our brakes after a good day of heating them up. Then, we went to the WGI banquet and headed back to the room to watch the in-car videos from the day. The first thing I noticed was that I was not being aggressive enough, and I just wasn't pushing as hard as I needed to. I also found a few turns that were pretty rough in hindsight, so I had my task list for Tuesday.

Tuesday morning was the same morning routine. Check over car, check pads, check lugs, check fluids, and give it a good shake down. My first session on Sunday I had an instructor join me. He was very helpful in many areas of the track. He has a 400hp 2.3 SVO at home, so we could relate well.

Session two on Sunday was my best session in my history of driving. The first 10 minutes were accompanied by my instructor. I dropped him off at puts and then waited for Chad in his awesome AI Mustang to come around turn 11. When I saw him fly by, I took off like a banshee out of pit row and merged out just in front of him for the uphill esses. Chad is a good driver in a great car, so it was fun to have him pushing me. We passed every car in our group at least once, and some we passed twice in the remaining 30 minutes. Thanks to the corner workers, their good communication, and their proactive use of the blue flag we would come out of the esses and fly by anywhere from 1 to 3 cars on the back straight. (FYI, the blue flag is a signal to other cars that a faster vehicle is approaching rapidly and will need by, to be aware and give the point now).

There were areas that the XR excelled, and there were areas that the Mustang did better, but all in all we were really having fun. I managed to take the uphill esses full throttle in 4th gear, exiting and just over 120mph resulting in a max speed at the end of the back straight of just over 130 - at 7200rpm in 4th gear (5th is useless at this time). My poor Fuzion street tires were screaming for mercy and toward the end of the session were so greasy that I was drifting most of the turns.

We had an unbelievably good time that session. So much fun, in fact, that both Chad and I got Black Flagged on our last lap. They told us we were scaring the corner workers because we were getting so close, and that we were "racing, not playing lead-follow." They had a smile on their face when they told us this however, so they knew we were just having fun. Regardless, it's a war story that we'll tell for years.

Chad and I opted out of our last session of the day. We were exhausted, the cars were in one piece, and we just didn't want to push our luck. Plus, with a seven hour drive ahead of us, we decided the extra 1.5 hour head start was a good choice. We loaded up and headed home.

The XR is back in the garage, still dirty from the fun. It's getting a Mocal Oil cooler this weekend.. It also gets a good going over before our next event at Summit Point, WV (Near Winchester, VA) on July 8th and 9th.

I really missed all the XR's there. Jeremy Kemp had his XR and after a looooong Monday night was able to participate both days - but I'll let him fill the group in on his adventure. We did a good job at representing the XR world though. Several folks came up wondering "what in the heck that thing is."

Phoenix CMR did a fine job balancing the drivers need for speed and the track's rules and regulations. I really hope more can make it next year. It was a great event, with great memories, and no casualties of either driver or car.



Following is Jeremy Kemp’s recollection of his sleep deprived two days, as stated on the MerkurClub Forum:

“Well I’m finally getting back on the forum after a fun but not stress-free Carlisle and Watkins Glen weekend and a busy couple weeks at work.
I first have to thank Pete and Chad for their help and advice at the glen. I had a blast running my car around the track and learning so much about real driving. It was my first track experience but I can tell you that it definitely will not be my last.

The first day at the glen was really spent getting used to the track and hitting the marks as far as entry, apex and exit points of the corners. The car was also not behaving properly. It was pushing coolant out the expansion tank into the overflow bottle. That night I drove 2 hours home to Rochester to sort out the problems. I proceeded to work on getting the head off the car to repair what I had assumed to be just a bad head gasket. When I got the head off I saw that it was bad but not the source of my coolant issues. I had been blowing combustion between cyl 2 and 3, but not to the water jacket. When I tore off the intake manifold the cause was very visible. The intake manifold gasket had been leaking between cyl 2-3 into the water passage in the lower intake.

At 8AM I washed my hands and rolled the car out of the garage to make the 2 hour trek back to the glen to finish up the last day. I missed the first track session in the morning but the car was running great and I was hitting all my marks. As Pete mentioned he and Chad headed out before the last track session of the day. I opted to stay and have a bit more fun, or so I thought. On my second lap of the session the lower rad hose separated and dumped all my coolant. The temp gauge did not respond quick enough and the car over heated badly. I coasted into pit road and got a tow to the garage. I repaired the rad hose but something else was wrong. I was again blowing combustion gas into the water jacket but this time more violently. My instructor was kind enough to take his mustang off the trailer and give me and the car a lift closer to Rochester. My friend met us in Canandaigua and we towed the car the rest of the way on a dolly to my house.
This past week I tore her apart again and this time replaced the head gasket which looked like a piece of charcoal between cyl 3 and the water jacket. There was a bit of minor cyl wall scuffing but nothing too major. I decided to throw it back together and hope for the best. It is running now and all appears to be well. This winter I’ll tear it down and do the rebuild with the new slugs and crower rods I have waiting in the garage.

Thanks again to Pete and especially Chad who let me borrow a helmet for the 2 days.

What a blast!!!”




Last Updated ( Monday, 04 February 2008 )
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