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FFR Great Lakes and Midwest Meet At Road America

Elkhart Lake, WI - FFR made its annual trip on Aug. 8th to the beautiful Road America race facility. This year was a cross-over event for both the Great Lakes and Midwest Regions. This event pitted Great Lakes drivers Gary McDaniel, Greg Wellinghoff Jr., and Brian Sanders against the Midwest’s sole driver Lyle Riggen, and everyone knew they were in for a challenge as this is Lyle’s track. This was the first visit to Road America for both Gary and Greg.

The weekend started on Friday for Brian and Gary with a test and tune day. During the first session, Gary played follow the leader with Brian to learn which way the track turns. In the second session, Brian found his groove and ran times comparable to last year. Everything was looking great, then came session 3. In this session Brian started to notice a vibration in the upper rpm range. Initially this was written off as a tire vibration but late in the session it was noticed that the car started to lay down on power between 4300 and 4500 but would pick back up after the latter. This problem continued into the final session of the day.

At this point, Gary has had 2-hours of track time and put it to good use as he had plans to run the 3-hour enduro that evening. Here are the highlights of the enduro, full report can be read in another article on this site. The race was gridded by first come, first served and Gary was the first. As Gary led the pack to the green, the skies began to look ominous. And just 10 laps into the race, the skies opened up. Gary pulled into the paddock and Brian and crew chief Richard Oben set to putting on rain tires. Gary rejoined the race under double yellows. The storm was severe but relatively short lived. On lap 28 Gary pitted for fuel. For this routine pit stop Richard and Brian were joined by Gary’s wife Sally to complete the pit stop. The original plan was for Gary to make a quick stop late in the race for a splash and go but as time approached Richard and Brian started crunching numbers. At the time Gary was in the lead overall, so the call was made to leave Gary out. “It was time to be heroes or zeros,” said Oben. The strategy paid off as Gary crossed the finish line 2:24 ahead of the second place car. Congratulations to Gary on his first Enduro victory.

Saturday morning brought beautiful weather with it. The four FFR’s hit the track for a morning warm-up. This session was the first time Greg’s newly built car has seen race duty. I’m happy to say it ran well and no issues arose. I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen a race car not have some type of problem in its first time out. Brian still had the power/vibration problem and it was decided to look at fuel delivery and have the tire re-balanced. This was to be taken care of after Qualifying, so Richard ran to the parts store for a new fuel filter.

In qualifying, Brian only got to turn one hot lap. On the second lap, exiting the carrousel, the harmonic balancer on the front of the engine exploded. This created quite a wild ride as the rear of the car snapped from under him sending him off track and heading for the wall. Somehow he was able to gather the car up, pull back on track and make a safe exit to an unused chicane. what was left of the HB was found wedged under the car. Back in the paddock as the car was looked over, it was noticed that the snout of the crank was pointing straight up at a 45 degree angle to normal. We knew it was over. Final qualifying results were Lyle, Brian, Gary, and Greg.

Once again, I was lifted by fellow drivers as Lyle offered me an engine, Joe Gilmartin (future FFR racer) offered me 2 engines and Greg Wellinghoff offered me a 4th. I took Greg up on his offer as he only lives 40 minutes from me. So this week was spent putting a new engine in the old #49. We’ll be ready for Mid-Ohio next week Thanks to Greg and his father. Side note: inspection of the broke engine turned up a crank in three pieces, numerous rods bent, cylinder skirts broke, and the #2 main cap and saddle completely missing.

Saturday’s race was free from any additional drama as Lyle pulled away from Gary, who pulled away from Greg. They ran that order from start to finish.

On Sunday, qualifying and race were a repeat of Saturday with Lyle in first, Gary second and Greg third. In the morning practice, Lyle set a new FFR track record of 2:41.456 and then set a new NASA record during the race with a 2:42.258. Congratulations to Lyle on an excellent weekend.

The next race is Aug.16-17 at Mid-Ohio with the largest great Lakes field to date with 7 cars.

Cya at the track!

Brian Sanders

Great Lakes and Midwest FFR Series Director

Page last updated: 08/08/2008

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