The BGKP Saab 900 had awakened and was ready to tackle the 3.15 mile Grand Full Course at NCM Motorsports Park for the Champcar 8+7 Enduro. The NCM Grand Full Course boasts two high-speed straights with a number of technical features; many of which pay tribute to La Sarthe in Le Mans, France. For anyone thinking of visiting, it’s challenging, fast, and oh so fun.
The first item on our list was tech inspection on Friday morning, and we were already off on the wrong foot. We created the firewall for the fuel cell such that the filler neck was left exposed; This would allow us to easily fuel the car. Champcar, however, requires the fuel cell and all components (filler neck, vent line, etc) to be completely enclosed from the driver compartment, a requirement we clearly violated. This meant we had to lower our filler neck, move the vent line, extend the firewall about a foot and create a hinged flap to access the filler neck below. We made a quick run to Home Depot to get a roll of aluminum sheet and some rivets. It didn’t look great, but a few hours later everything was closed off and we were back through tech with much better results.
The remaining daylight hours were used to make sure everything was prim and proper for Saturday morning. Parker also wired and plumbed our new “cool seat” system for the heat we had to endure that weekend.
We were all up bright and early Saturday morning, due to both excitement and the one hour time difference. It was cool and breezy with slight overcast, but no rain in the forecast; a PERFECT day for racing! The fuel was topped off, the cool system was loaded up with ice, our data acquisition (a tablet and GPS) was in standby, and the GoPro was rolling. It was time to grid.
The running order was Me, Parker, Hassan, Steve, Parker. We were all a little on edge making our debut on a new (to us) track. Though once you hit that first apex, the worry melts away and your focus is 110% on your race. I started in 38th position and managed to wrestle through traffic and bring the car to mid-pack, concluding my stint in 25th. Upon pitting, we discovered the oil cooler had started to separate from its mount. Most likely due to the rough curbing in some areas of the track. It was a 15-minute fix and Parker was off, but unfortunately not before falling to 33rd.
Parker and Hassan ran back-to-back two hour stints, each gaining about 7 positions. Steve was buckled into the car and ready to leave, but not before we were alerted by officials that we only had one functioning brake light. The lights magically came back to life after disassembling and reassembling the fixture, but not before losing a half hour. Steve held 27th position for his hour long stint, and Parker took the checkered in 25th.
The immediate focus after the race was food and water, but then it was time to tackle the day’s to-do list. Parker replaced our temporary oil cooler mount fix with a more secure solution, I rotated the tires and checked over the car, while Hassan diagnosed our brake light issue. The issue was due to improper bulbs that would vibrate themselves just enough to lose connection. We topped off the car with fuel and called it a day.
The weather forecast was grim for Sunday and unfortunate for us, the weatherman was right with his predictions as a torrential downpour tore through Bowling Green at 6 AM. Luckily he was only half right, as the clouds dispersed and left behind a beautiful summer day.
Hassan took the green flag in P18 for Sunday’s hour Champcar race, and after two hours managed to bring BGKP up to 8th, our best position in any event so far. Steve followed, greatly improving his times from Saturday as he got more comfortable with both the track and the car.
We wanted to make it past halfway before refueling, so we sent Parker out in 21st with what fuel was left. About 40 minutes later Parker radioed he was coming in because the car was studdering; not even 2 minutes later he was out of gas about 1500′ from pit row. We ran out and pushed him the remainder of the way. Let’s just say we were glad to have one of the first pit boxes that hot Sunday afternoon.
Our fueling mishap had cost us 8 spots before I hopped in the car for the next two hours. There was a red flag about 15 minutes into my stint. As I sat there in full race gear as the in-cabin temps climbed, I realized just how thankful I was for our new cool seat and camelbak hydration system. The track was green twenty minutes later, and I spent the remainder of my stint fighting back from 26th to 19th before handing the reigns back to Hassan to finish off the day.
We gave Hassan the signal to take-off, but the starter was not engaging. We hurried out to give him a push as he pop-started the car and continued down pit lane. At this point, the radios were dead, so we had no communication with Hassan as we started to tear down the pit and load up the truck. The truck was almost packed when we saw our 900 being transported to the paddock via rollback. It goes without saying that we were all concerned, but from afar, Hassan appeared uninjured and the car had little noticeable damage.
Hassan began explaining the scenario…He slowed down coming into turn 18, and as he turned in, all of the lug bolts snapped. The rotor slammed down onto the inside of the rim as he safely got off course. There was obvious damage to the rotor and interior of the wheel, and we later discovered the impact sheared two of the studs for the downpipe as well.
And that brings us to today. We decided to scrap the 10+ hour journey to VIR’s 24-hour Champcar race in early August and focus on getting both Saab’s ready to race at Gingerman Raceway August 25th. The black car needs a few minor repairs, tweaks, and maintenance, but it should be a quick turnaround. The white car, however, has just a cage and a seat. It requires full safety prep and some mechanical maintenance before it is even close to being ready for Gingerman.
Can we make it? Stay tuned to find out.