Remember the red Saab 900 that you may have seen rallying through my backyard? Believe it or not, that was once my daily duty/track day car. Here’s the story that marked the beginning of it’s decline.
It was the last track day weekend of 2017 at Gingerman Raceway in South Haven, Michigan, and after the death of the Civic as well as the not-so-great first race with BGKP’s new Saab 900 (don’t worry, you’ll hear about this soon enough), I was more anxious for a solid weekend than a kid on his way to Disneyland.
I decided to head out Friday night to setup my paddock, tent, and just enjoy some of the great skyscapes Gingerman has to offer. Tony was coming Saturday morning with his 1987 SCCA ITB-class Corolla to join me for the weekend.
I was up bright and early, ready to tackle the day. I spent my morning setting up my GoPro, QStarz 10hz GPs, and HPTuner’s TrackAddict lap timer in preparation to record and analyze my runs throughout the weekend. I used the time I had left over to check everything (for the third time) such as tire pressures, fluid levels, and lug torques.
The morning grew on, the driver’s meeting passed, and it was time for my first run. I went out, and without hesitation, started running at full bore. I was revving to redline, throwing the car around, and slamming gears. I should mention my third gear synchro was in pretty bad shape by now, so in hindsight, speed-shifting probably wasn’t the best idea.
It was about the middle of my run during a 2-3 shift that I lost the ability to shift entirely. My shifter went limp, and I was stuck in third gear. Thankfully, the car was still driveable, so I hadn’t grenaded the transmission. I nursed the car back to the paddock to diagnose the issue. I hopped the bolt connecting the linkage to the shifter rod had gotten loose and disconnected. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.
The plastic shift linkage split in half, disconnecting the shifter rod from the transmission. Thankfully, there were some holes in the linkage that made for a quick zip tie fix. It wasn’t the most robust solution but it lasted the entirety of the weekend as well as the 2 hour drive home.
The downside to this fix was that it left a lot of slop in the shifter, so making any gear changes at speed was troublesome, wasting far more time than it gained.
It wasn’t all bad though. Most pros recommend single speed karts as the best way to enhance your driving skills. Well, I essentially had that, just in a bigger, more powerful form. Losing the ability to shift made me focus that much more on brake points, turn-ins, smoothness, and my overall drive line. My best lap of the morning was 2:07.610, whereas my best lap by Sunday afternoon was a 2:01.125, which you can watch in the video below.
The weather began to turn, and most people packed up, so Sunday afternoon became open track for everyone. I took a few more laps, but after about 8 or 9 sessions over the course of the weekend, I was content and began to pack up. Of course, not without snagging one more picture.
Regardless of the outcome, I had a blast hanging out at the track that weekend. Sure, it wasn’t the flawless weekend I had hoped for, but things happen. Do what you can with the resources you have. Do what’s best for you at any given time, even if its not ideal. Don’t tread on the little things. All things you have to hold dear, especially when you’re racing sub-$1k cars. And lastly, embrace the ‘RUN WHAT YOU BRUNG, SON’ mantra.