Tigges Talk - Road Trip Day 3 & 4 - September 2023

Discussion in 'Pit Buzz' started by MaineAlkyFan, Sep 23, 2023.

  1. MaineAlkyFan

    MaineAlkyFan Active Member

    Oct 8, 2006
    Likes Received:
    Tigges Talk – Road Trip Day 3 & 4 September 2023

    Wednesday night’s hotel stay gave me a wireless connection, enabling me to update the software on my phone which fixed the problem of not getting cellular data. I’m pretty happy about that as it lets me publish these road trip updates, not to mention keeping up with life outside of racing. We woke up at 6AM at the hotel and were back at the track by 7AM. They started bringing the sportsman racers over to the track pits right around 8, and we were pleased to see Larry Wiggins on the way over, who helped streamline our entry to the paved pro class pits.

    We got pulled into a great spot & got the awning and pit all set up in near record time, under brilliantly sunny skies. It was really nice to get the shade of the awning in place. Winnipeg, Ontario racer Doug Doucette was pitted to our left, with his super clean A/Fuel dragster and stunningly hand fabricated trailer & tow rig.

    To our right, DJ Cox & his family provided a great feeling of camaraderie.
    With the car up on the stands, Mark reviewed and went over the clutch service process with Rick & Mike as Keith was unable to make this event and was not in his normal position on the clutch. Around mid-day we made a few clunky trips over to the credential trailer to get our wristbands and waiver forms documented. We performed all the first day tasks to the car: mount the wheelie bar & headers, fill the fuel and oil tanks, double check all the fluid fittings and various air tank levels, get the tires to racing pressures, mount the engine diaper & lower sheet metal & get the batteries properly charged. We also did some longer interval service maintenance items, like replacing the intake burst panels & re-mounting the computer turn on switch.

    Taking a break for lunch we enjoyed grilled chicken drumsticks & potato salad (thanks Rick) and got back to work firing up the car to check everything operationally. Other than a few foggy brain moments that required a re-start of the car, we got the ignition timing confirmed, put some heat into the engine & made sure all the control systems were properly operating. We also used this time to dry practice the starting line procedures that will change with Keith’s absence. Mark will be back to starting the car, but I will remove the starter from the engine before having Rick do his normal task of disconnecting the starter cable.

    After shut-down, we did our normal post initial warm-up tasks, add more oil to the dry sump tank, refuel the car, check & adjust the hot valve lash & check the return oil screen for anything that shouldn’t be there. After the engine is torn down in the plant, we expect to find bits of cured RTV and flakes of aluminum which was there in normal amounts. Fred & Mark made tuning decisions which got implemented into the fuel system management timers & we had the car off the rear stand with the body & car cover on it for the evening.

    Evening brought us more food from Rick, grilled sausage pepper & onion sandwiches & pasta salad followed a trip up to Charlotte’s shower facility, which is an awesome perk of this track, hot showers… lots of them, like 30, for the racers to use. Weather permitting, Friday should bring us two qualifying sessions. It was an early turn-in night, we were all in the sack before midnight.

    Friday morning followed a perfect night’s sleep. The temperature was just right and the full house race-trailer motel was comfortable. The weather was good. Thursday I wore my ‘I Love Bacon’ shirt and it paid off, with a grill full of bacon, eggs & hash browns. We got the car warmed up without issue and towed up to the tower for our first round qualifying session.

    I’ve been with Team Tigges for 11 years now & have never experienced what happened on the line. The car that was happily warmed up just 45 minutes before would not fire. The engine turned over and fuel was coming out of the exhaust, but there was no spark. In drag racing there are no do-overs. You perform or don’t. The only area we excelled at in Q1 was knowing how to keep the racing schedule on track in front of a nation audience. We had our electron challenged car out of the way, clearing the next pair to run before Mick Steel’s injected nitro car made a solo pass without us beside him.

    The problem was even though the field was short with only 10 cars participating, we were not qualified and were not in the show. Back at the pit we used the process of elimination to trace the problem to a crank trigger failure, one that was just good enough to work at warm-up but had failed at the line. It was very frustrating to hear the engine fire right up when it hadn’t on the line. Mark was especially upset as he could have bypassed the crank trigger when we were up there but had mind-blanked about it. We got the problem solved and towed back to the line for Q2 under threatening skies and dropping temperatures.

    Everything worked as it should this time. All systems go and Freddie blasted off the line with a .957 60-foot time, pushing through the shake zone, well on the way to a good qualifying pass. At the shift, something in the driveline let go, and the engine free-revved into the stratosphere. The dragster guys behind us in the staging lines described it as scary. While Fred was off the throttle immediately, the inertia of the over-revving engine broke connecting rods. Behind the car, we could see a methanol fire, a rare occurrence. 2.6 seconds later Fred was at half-track going 134 MPH where the burning methanol ignited the oil from the blown rods. Claire looked away. Fred crossed the finish line at 92 MPH, driving blind in the thick smoke of engulfing fire and sideways in his own oil before crossing the centerline.

    He knew he was still moving and left his harness tight, restricting access to the rooftop escape hatch. We could see it popping open and slamming back shut as the car pointed towards the right lane wall. Fred got it turned parallel to the track but had a hard impact with the wall & disappeared from our view in a ball of black smoke. In the car, Fred got the car stopped & escaped out the hatch, thankful for the fresh air system in his helmet that surely saved his life. We sprinted to the truck a flew down the return road to the scene.

    The safety safari was on scene by the time we got there, we could see Fred standing with them unsteady on his feet. The car was a wreck. It took an interminable 10 minutes for Claire to embrace her husband as the ambulance brought him to us on the return road. Disoriented and with low oxygen levels, it was recommended that he be brought to the hospital to check for lung damage. Mark & Claire left Ollie with us & headed off to the hospital. NHRA placed the car in impound. Mark’s starting line analysis of what happened agreed with the NHRA analysis but until Fred was cleared from the hospital, we couldn’t see the car.

    The alcohol racing class is family tight. I’d like to thank all of those who reached out… Mary & DJ our right-side pit mates, Doucette racing to our left especially their driver Alan Bradshaw, Karen Stalba, Eric Belair, Melinda Green-King & her wonderful bulldog who gave me a friendly face lick, Tom Fox Jr. & many others whose names I don’t know but who’s faces are familiar. You guys mean the world to us. The NHRA safety team, technical services & Melissa Pedregon also, thank you for being both professional & efficient as well as sensitive and close for Claire. A lot of you guys & gals have walked what we went through today.

    Ollie the dog knew something was up. He let me be his trusted person and led me around the pit in search of Claire, Fred & Mark. We put away things we knew we wouldn’t use, cooked some food, ate some that fellow racers shared, kept the generators running and waited in an empty pit, with text updates from the hospital. Fred was cleared & much to Ollie’s delight, back in the pit around 9PM. We lashed the awning down. It was a windy, stormy day. I took a long late-night walk through the quiet pits.

    Chris Saulnier Team Tigges
    Mechanic Falls, Maine

Share This Page