Tigges Talk - Reading National - September 2017

Discussion in 'Pit Buzz' started by MaineAlkyFan, Oct 2, 2017.

  1. MaineAlkyFan

    MaineAlkyFan Active Member

    Oct 8, 2006
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    This season went too fast. It seems like only yesterday we rolled the new car out of the trailer for the win at Lebanon Valley. That race was a needed shot in the arm after our horrible 2015 season and being away from the track for 2016. If only the car went as fast as the season did. Hidden in the new car puzzle is a problem that is holding us back. With only 17 shots at the track this season we ran out of time to figure out exactly what kept us from running where we wanted to all year. We have some great ideas about what it isn't, but figuring out what it is takes laps to determine, and we are out of those for the season.

    One of the challenges of running an alcohol funny car is that the only way to analyze performance is to actually run the car on a properly prepped track. As a self-funded team that leaves us a maximum of seven regional events & six national events. Even if we had the cash & time to run all of those events, that would only give us around 40 runs. When you are chasing performance issues, only about half of those runs will give you a step forward. It can get pretty frustrating. All the bits & pieces of the car can look great on the bench or back in the shop, but the racecar is a dynamic machine, with each pass down the track a balancing act of power, controlled slippage & applied load. It isn't as simple as all the parts working correctly either, each part of the equation affects the others, so often what looks like one problem may be another.

    Even with our shortened season, learning is expensive. Between the starting line & the finish line, the car spent just under two minutes on the track this season. All things considered, that schooling cost around $275 per second. Now we get to spend the off-season wondering if the answer to our only running over 260 MPH once this season was one more pass away. It really makes you want to get back out there to find out, but we are just out of races.

    Our season ending race was at the national event in Reading, Pennsylvania. We had a short crew for this event, but everybody pulled together to get all the work done. Special thanks to Dave Rowe for helping out with the body in the pit & being an extra set of hands up at the starting line. Mark, Fred & Cora did all the pit set-up Thursday in high heat & humidity while my wife Yolana & I drove down the 500 miles from Maine. We set up our Nylon Hilton at the Maple Grove Camping Park, part of the complex and about a mile from the track itself. This was very convienent, as it gave us a weekend parking spot for the car & let my wife use her mobility scooter to get back & forth from the track.

    Once we had camp set-up we met up with the Tigges clan and were treated to a great dinner at Emily's on Route 10. Reading is normally cold, clammy, wet or all of the above. This weekend was unlike any in my recent memory, with temperatures in the upper 80's and relentless sun. The heat, combined with the short crew, made for a really exhausting weekend, one that would have been much more satisfying if we didn't get eliminated in round 1.

    We tried some different transmission ratios in the first two qualifying passes, which landed us in the bottom half of a 12 car field. We saw some very weird performance from the clutch, which continued into the third round of qualifying on Saturday. Our numbers were improving, but our speeds were still down & our performance wasn't even close to what we were expecting. This race was a little bit of a mental fog for me. With the added responsibilities of the short crew situation, I was hyper focused on what we were doing, often not realizing who was in the other lane on the track.

    The fans were great, with lots of people coming by the pit enjoying the sights & sounds. We gave out around 200 Tigges Racing Stickers & made one young boys day with an autograph, a picture with the car & a shredded blower belt. I'd like to give a special thanks to all the people that thanked me for writing these blogs. Several of you told me you enjoy them, not only for the behind the scenes look at racing but also for the technical details & pictures. I thank you for reading!

    Saturday afternoon came quickly, as did the tire smoke in the first round of eliminations which ended our season. The car pulled Fred in deep from pre-stage to stage, then lost traction almost immediately after the green light. Something is wrong in the clutch can. If only we had a few more rounds to confirm our suspicions...

    Back at the pit, it was all hands on deck to pack everything up for an early tow-out Sunday morning. This was made considerably more difficult because The RV was trapped in place with the race trailer behind it and a nitro team bus in front of it. After an hour, a perforated RV rear panel, some white duct tape, a slightly moved bus and a 4,621 point turn, the RV was free & the tow rig was hitched to the trailer. A shout out to Corey for the help calling the steering signals. We were all pretty much gassed from the long hot day. Anne gave Yolana & our stuff a ride over to the campsite. I planned on taking our electric scooter back over to camp later. After exchanging goodbys, I got on the cart and headed out across the pro pits toward the camp.

    To leave the track, you have to cross the staging lanes... I simply was not ready to end the season, so I throttled the Victory electric cart down the staging lanes, around the corner and up to the track's left lane. Here in the cool of the night, under the cover of darkness, I crept forward and nudged it in, shallow staging the powerful E/C just out of the still stickey groove to optimize rolling friction. The lights flashed and I was off, with the butt-o-meter registering a gripping .1G acceleration for about 12 inches before levelling off. No tire smoke, no shake! My 60 foot was a blistering 3.53, with the 330 flying by at 19.41. Around the 1,000 foot mark a bunch of campers on the spectator side spotted me, and I blasted across the stripe to the roar of the crowd at a winning 80.10 @ 11.59 MPH.

    It's funny how racing changes things. As a spectator, Reading was my home track, a place I saw national records set, a place I talked to heros, some still here and some now gone. Weeks of anticipation led up to the big race every year, and I wouldn't miss it for the world. As a racer, after breaking camp & packing the car Sunday morning, all I wanted to do was get on the road & head home. I had an event ticket in my pocket, but it was no longer my event, that ended with tire smoke in the right lane the day before.

    For Tigges Racing, the off season has begun. It's a disappointment, but I still wouldn't trade it in for reserved seating on the other side of the fence. We will regroup, spend more money on the car than we want to over the winter, and save up cash & vacation days for the 2018 season. Hopefully we tow down to Gainesville in March for the regional & national. It can't come soon enough.

    Limited pictures (I had work to do!) & starting line videos here:

    Pictures: Reading National 2017

    Video: Reading National Q1, Q2, E1

    Chris Saulnier - Team Tigges
    Mechanic Falls, Maine
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2017

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