Saturday, September 1, 2012

Tough Decision

It's Saturday morning, thirty minutes into the ProSolo Finale, and I've come to the hard realization that all my work with the WRX this year has been for nothing.

At the last WDCR autocross (last one for them for the season too, due to scheduling difficulties at FedEx Field), the car threw a code for a "cooling fan rationality." I cleared it with the Cobb AP, ran the event, won my class, and finished sixth on index. The car felt great, and it was a relief to finally have the fuel system issues that were causing the random no-starts fixed.

Then I decided to drive the car around a little bit in preparation for Lincoln. I took it to work on Monday, the first day back for students, and on the way home, I smelled the nasty tang of coolant in the air while at a stoplight. While I was hoping it was the car next to me, a mile later, as I pulled into the driveway, my heart sank as I realized it was, indeed, the WRX.

The temperature gauge hadn't shifted, but the coolant reservoir was empty. I was running late to go to my hockey game (Red was playing Black for the summer league championship), so I just ditched the car and took the black Camaro to Arlington. Tuesday night being the first night of class at the community college meant I didn't have time to deal with it then either. So, it wasn't until Wednesday that I could take it up to IAG, and even then, I wanted to be home in time to get to hockey evaluations for the fall/winter league.

We checked the coolant levels in the radiator and the reservoir before leaving, and it was fine. Since it hadn't been leaking in the driveway, I thought it would be okay for the trip to Westminster. I should have known better, as twelve miles down the road, the temperature gauge started climbing, plateaued for a short time at the 3/4 mark, then began speeding towards the danger zone just as I was about to take the left exit from I95 north onto I695 west. I punched the hazards and pulled over, Pat in the black Camaro behind me.

We eventually got the car to IAG after Pat went back for the Lightning and the trailer, and, knowing how tight my schedule was since I'd planned to leave today, they graciously squeezed it into the schedule for Friday.

JJ called me yesterday with the news. The immediate and obvious problem was the upper radiator hose that failed. The less obvious and lurking issue was that a head gasket was marching towards failure. It wasn't leaking enough to manifest itself through filmy oil, white smoke in the exhaust or higher than normal engine temps. Using the leak detector, the indicator wasn't changing completely, so JJ said it wasn't critical... yet. But he also, rightly, couldn't guarantee that it wouldn't fail while in Lincoln.

If I knew how to tow, it wouldn't be an issue. Tow the car there, compete, tow home. But I've never towed before, and I know how much construction is between here and Lincoln. Even if I skipped the Pennsylvania and Ohio Turnpikes, there are areas in Illinois and Iowa that I would be extremely uncomfortable with.

So, I'm not bringing the WRX to Lincoln. All the time, all the prep, all the work I've done with the car this season, and it was for nothing.

One of my ESP competitors, Drew Little, has offered me a ride in his WRX, and I am 95% sure I am going to take him up on it. I know his car isn't as fully prepped as mine, but I don't particularly want to change classes, and I definitely don't want to run ladies class. It'll be more of a challenge to try to back up my open class trophy in his car, but maybe I'll see something with his setup that I can apply to my car too. I know he's got an opposite spring rate set up (softer up front than in the rear, which is opposite of mine), and he's also on the new BFG R-comps versus the Hoosier A6s.

I've also been offered rides in two different STU Evos, but my STU driving has left a lot to be desired this year, so I'm not sure I would want to shame myself there.

So, now I just need to decide how to get to Lincoln. If I'm driving one of the Camaros, I need to at least change the oil as they are both due. While I'd love to take the green Camaro, it needs front hubs and spark plugs, and I don't particularly feel like changing those in the driveway today.

Maybe I'll just get a rental car. That seems to be the theme of the week.

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