Oct 27, 2015 update to the KBS Eclectus project car

Our Formula 500 Goes to SCCA Solo Nationals

Photo by Perry Benett.
It may be a small car, but our Formula 500 delivers big fun.

When viewed purely objectively, the ROI proposition for Solo Nationals does not look good. For us folks from Florida, it’s a 1400-plus-mile tow each way in exchange for about 6 minutes of racing. But to put it in those terms is to ignore the true nature and spirit of this gathering, which is essentially a summer camp for gearheads. The term “community” is one you hear frequently around this event, and in 2015 I got to experience firsthand that this isn’t just lip service.

My 1994 KBS Formula 500 had been rock-solid reliable all year–until the final two local events before Nationals. That’s when the car started spitting off the drive chain for no apparent reason. The engine also started running a bit sketchy on longer courses. The tow out to Lincoln was a long one as I noodled possible quick fixes.

My hastily built chain tensioner seemed to do the job on the practice course, but the engine was still not at 100 percent.

Ken Trier, his dad, Art, and Stephen Martin are my regular Central Florida competition, and they were the first ones digging into my car looking for issues. Glenn Barnhouse–a guy I’d never met face to face until he showed up with a set of fresh spark plugs–also provided some input, and the rest of the class made a point to let me know what pieces and parts they had available onsite.

The next morning, I walked the course while Art Trier went through my fuel system looking for issues. I’m not sure how many major championships you can attend where you can leave your car alone with your competition and trust them to improve it, but I’m glad I get to go to one every year.

My first runs on the East Course proved that my competitors were men of both great honor and great talent, as the car ran as well as it had at any time during my brief ownership.

On day two I got the chance to reload my karma account, as the F Modified car of Mark Yakich and Keith Beumer had expired overnight. The failure was not catastrophic; they suspected a stator, a pocket-change item to fix. Unfortunately, no amount of money could make one appear in Lincoln in time for competition.

As mine was one of only a couple of F Mod cars with no co-driver, I took on Yakich for day two. He had a bit of trouble getting used to my car. The ghetto chain tensioner finally gave up the ghost on his first run, and my Gimli-esqe inseam meant that his legs were folded in odd ways to properly work the pedals. But he got to finish his Nationals, and I got to be an integral part of a great group of guys in a great and competitive class.

F Modified was voted “most annoying class at Nationals” by an overwhelming margin during the Tacos and Talent gathering Monday evening, and while the buzzing two-strokes and stiff, nearly suspensionless chassis may not have crowd appeal, the appeal of the community is unparalleled.

The results show I finished in 14th place out of 22 cars. I flirted with the back part of the trophy group on a few runs but ultimately couldn’t keep up. Still, I’m probably as proud of this finish as I am of any at Nationals–including the ones where I took home trophies.

For one thing, the level of competition in F Mod is intense. The lack of respect for the class means that the drivers don’t get the recognition they deserve, but there is some amazing talent in these cars. For me to be able to compete on even footing with these guys after so little time in the car was pretty satisfying. Even more so, for me to be able to be a part of the special community that makes Solo Nats such a unique event is a reward that can’t be summed up in wood, plastic and fake gold.

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Comments

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Schump
Schump New Reader
11/1/15 10:10 a.m.

How the hell is that roll bar legal with that helmet and your melon? Looks like the roll bar does about as much good as the short roll hoops in the old Cobras do. When I tracked my '73 914 2.0 as a poor college kid, I still had to have a 2" clearance between the top of my brain bucket and a 2x4 that spanned my integral targa roll bar and the windshield frame. I'm a big galloot (6' 4.5" tall, 205 lb) so I had to take the seat cushion out of my 914's factory fiberglass seat to clear the Polishing Club of America's 2" clearance rule.

For those who don't know and own a 914, the passenger seat cradles a keg perfectly with the seat cushion removed! You can also fit 5 cases in the rear trunk, but only do this when it's 11:55pm in Blacksburg and you don't have time to fill out the "we need ANOTHER keg" paperwork legally.

Harvey
Harvey Dork
11/1/15 4:28 p.m.

Solo doesn't have any rollbar requirements.

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
11/1/15 8:57 p.m.
Harvey wrote: Solo doesn't have any rollbar requirements.

Well, it has some, but the reality is they're loosely enforced since no one really abuses them.. Front hoop is supposed to be above the top of the steering wheel. I moved my wheel WAY up when I converted it to a "sit up" car, so I added an additional hoop on top of the main front hoop. Your head is also supposed to pass a "broomstick test" by fitting under a straight line between the main hoop and the front hoop. I can pass that test in tech. On course I tend to strap myself in a bit more forward. Just sort of works out that way.

Tom1200
Tom1200 Reader
11/2/15 10:23 p.m.

JG, was F-mod voted most annoying class becuase other competitors are:

A. Jealous their cars don't exude the sweet smell of Castrol R in the morning.

B. Mad F-Mod cars and full season cost less than they spent on wheels.

C. Distraught they were beat by a car that uses a fan belt for a transmission.

D. Baffled that a car cornering on the bump stops handles better.

E. To embarrassed to admit they want one.

F. Devastated becuase they know they are having way less fun.

Tom

Schump
Schump New Reader
11/3/15 1:34 a.m.

My old Formula SAE racing teammate/mentor had a F440 that he raced at Slummit Pond, our home track, when he first went from tracking his MitsuE36 M3i/Eagle Talon TSI and taking it and his clapped out F440 auto crossing and went SCCA racing. Late 1990s, I'd say 1997. The Rotax F500 motor had come out but he and Greg Kirby who helped him with his car didn't want to spend the 2 or 3GS for an extra few hp and 60cc's. Fastest time at Summit Point was a 1:22.8. His 1987 Reynard FC went 1:15 I think. Then I got a job at Hot Shoe Racing at Bridgehampton in the summer of 1999 (RIP Bridgehampton, why didn't I get a chance to take my 914 2.0 there???). After I talked to Vic a few times and told him how much Rolf Stutz and Scott and my boss Dennis Macchio were spending on their Van Diemens, he did a double take, and bought a Formula Monster. So pissed he never made vinyl coffee cups and snack plates for the coffee table rear wing! Oh well, his control arms on that brick E36 M3house were $250, and in 1999 our Limey A arms were $375+ and as strong as overlooked angel hair.

BTW, my 914, complete with engine serial #GA 3141 ran the best of a 1:47.60 at Summit Point on Bridgestone RE-71s. (Keep in mind, I was a poor college kid and could never afford an extra set of rims and a set of the hottest at the time BFG R1s.) That and backing out the hp remaining, I had 81 hp left of the factory 91. (This was easily calculated from my 2,030lb with a full tank of gas at Watkins Glen and the 17.7@ 77mph at Capital Raceway in MD 1 Friday night. GOD I miss that car!)

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
11/3/15 9:03 a.m.
Tom1200 wrote: JG, was F-mod voted most annoying class becuase other competitors are: A. Jealous their cars don't exude the sweet smell of Castrol R in the morning. B. Mad F-Mod cars and full season cost less than they spent on wheels. C. Distraught they were beat by a car that uses a fan belt for a transmission. D. Baffled that a car cornering on the bump stops handles better. E. To embarrassed to admit they want one. F. Devastated becuase they know they are having way less fun. Tom

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