The bright orange and green 1999 Mazda Miata is quick in the turns, has the power to run with the competitionand continues to get faster each lap. The story of how Andy Felker and Rob Ebersol got to this point is not as simple. Tuesday night,...
The bright orange and green 1999 Mazda Miata is quick in the turns, has the power to run with the competitionand continues to get faster each lap. The story of how Andy Felker and Rob Ebersol got to this point is not as simple.
Tuesday night, March 14: After a thorough inspection by Sunbelt Performance Engines, the head arrived at R-Speed in Marietta, Georgia around 8:30 pm. With the technical assistance of Hector Mandulay and Joe Alfonso at R-Speed, the head was installed on the fresh motor and everything was buttoned up in the engine compartment. After cranking the motor to check for pressure, the new oil pump was discovered to be faulty.
Once again, the team pulled the motor out of the car and installed a new oil pump on the motor. After working 17 hours straight through the night, the new motor was in the car and running. The trailer was loaded up and the team headed out for Sebring.
The team arrived at the track at 12:30 Thursday morning. After a few hours sleep, we went through registration and set up our gear in the paddock area. The car went through tech and ended up being 2281 lbs., without fluids, which is 4 pounds under the 2285 lb. limit. Twenty pounds of additional ballast was added to compensate for the weight of fuel in the tank. The car was taken to Gene's Brake and Alignment shop in Sebring to check actual alignment settings. Final adjustments were made and the car was ready for the first on-track session.
Excitement was mounting as the opportunity to experience the new motor neared. But as luck would have it, 15 minutes prior to the start of the session, the heavens opened up. Rob got in the car first and headed out on the track in a down pour with near-zero visibility and all the traction of a frozen pond. The deluge continued as competitors floated through turns in desperation to keep control over their machinery. After 20 minutes, a driver change was made and Andy took the wheel. The rain started to lighten up, but it didn't seem to help as most of the track was still under water. Toward the end of the session, a portion of the back straight was dry enough to assess the power on the car. It was good!
The next on-track session was qualifying at 11:00 on Friday. The weather was sunny and nearly perfect for racing. Rob took the wheel and turned a 2:43 lap time which is the team's record lap time at Sebring. With a little more seat time and the newly found power this number would surely drop.
On Saturday, the Hoosier Tire Pit Crew Challenge took place. The RoadsterRage crew had started practicing for the event weeks in advance and was good and ready. After a couple of practice runs, we lined up for the Pit Stop Challenge only to find out that the rules had been changed to allow two air guns to be used. This threw a kink in our strategy as we had been practicing using a single impact wrench. Therefore we ended up shy of the championship round. Regardless of the results, the team's participation provided excellent exposure for the team and sponsors.
Sunday morning brought overcast skys and slightly cooler weather. Andy took the car out for the warm-up session and reported that everything was running great. The car was making power and seemed to be sticking to the concrete adequately.
Finally, it was time for the race. Rob started things out in dry, but threatening weather. He got an excellent jump on the field when the green flag finally dropped and moved up multiple positions right from the start. His driving was impressive and he was able to challenge many of the much faster cars (including the Porsches, Firebirds and Mustangs) through the tight corners of the Sebring course. There were no major incidences other than the normal bumping and scraping that is expected during such an event. After about an hour and 15 minutes, it began to rain lightly. The team decided to stay on dry tires in hopes that the rain would blow over, which proved a good strategy. Andy took over driving at the half way point, just as the drizzle was stopping. Andy reported the track as still very slick as there was a minor off-track excursion while the tires came back up to racing temperatures. His times then mimiced Rob's times from the first half. The car continued to run fine, but high oil temperatures were a concern as they seem to sap the engines power and lengthen lap times. The car continued to run great and in the end the RoadsterRage timing crew had us in 6th place. Unfortunately, the official timing and scoring people have us listed as 9th in the Provisional Results. This has been addressed and we are awaiting the final word from the Motorola Cup officials. Regardless of the outcome from the officials, we did come out ahead of several faster cars in the class including the a Hyundai Factory car. This alone was a huge victory and proves that endurance racing takes more than a quick lap, but longevity and a crew that's up to the job.