Archive for May, 2009

Got my SCCA Regional Club Racing License!

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

This Sunday’s SCCA MARRS race was a culmination of a number of year’s worth of effort.  Back in May of 2006 up in Seattle, WA, I began my journey towards obtaining my SCCA Club Racing license.  My job change and move across the country to the Washington DC area caused me to be sidelined for all of 2007 and most of 2008 aside from some PDX and HPDE type of events.  (Photo below of MARRS 4 race weekend).
Ted Cahall races in MARRS 4

While my job did anything but become more mundane in 2009, I was determined to maintain that delicate “work / race balance” all the HR types talk about for living a healthy life.  I really had no idea what I was in store for as I prepared for the 2009 racing season.  I had planned on racing my 2001 Z06 Corvette and took pains to install racing seats, add in tow hooks, fire extinguishers, and safety harnesses, etc.  Unfortunately I was mistaken on the requirements and did not know that the T1 class for my Z06 required a full roll cage to be welded into my car!  Heck – I even needed a full roll cage to attend the SCCA Driving School – the more you know – the more you realize just what you don’t know

After attending day 1 and day 2 of my SCCA Drivers School in a “Spec Miata” that I rented, I attended the SCCA PDX and SCCA Club Trials in a “Spec Miata” as well.  It was at this point that I finally realized it would be best for me to have Meathead Racing help me as my “Spec Miata” pit crew and support team for the 2009 SCCA Club Racing season.  I bought a 1999 Spec Miata from Bad Al Bell and I was literally “off to the races”.

Sunday was my second official SCCA MARRS race and fulfilled my requirements for my regional license.  I did qualification laps and the qualification race on Saturday to grid myself for the race on Sunday.   On Sunday, I started in 31st position and finished the race in 24th.  So I moved up and had an incredible amount of fun doing it.  My fastest lap got faster in each of the three qualification and race events during the weekend.  The key is to be safe, improve each week, and try not to fly off the track or bend any metal on either mine or the other driver’s cars.  All was accomplished successfully.

Ted Cahall

Rolling Thunder!

Monday, May 25th, 2009

On Sunday I joined up with a couple of co-workers and their friends and family and rode down to DC as part of Rolling Thunder to celebrate Memorial Day and our nation’s fallen soldiers.  It was especially meaningful to me this year after my trip aboard the USS Truman. The complete photo and video album of my trip to Rolling Thunder is here.

Each year Rolling Thunder gets larger with some estimates of approximately 500,000 bikes participating.  Below is a photo of just some of the motorcycles that staged outside of Patriot Harley-Davidson in Fairfax, VA.
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As you can see, we are lined up four wide for miles.  They blocked off all traffic on Route 66 as we trimmed down to two across.   We road with a police escort right into DC.

Once we were in DC, we parked our bikes and looked at the Korean and WWII War Memorials.  From there, we waited and watched the beginning of the procession of the official Rolling Thunder.  Below is a video of the beginning of the event.

DC Rolling Thunder Opening Procession

After watching thousands of bikes go by, we decided to head home and beat the traffic.  It was a great ride, a great day, and a great way to say, “thank you”, to all that have fallen in the line of service to this great country.

Ted Cahall

World Class Driving Tour

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

On Thursday I drove down to Richmond, VA and participated in the World Class Driving Tour. We had a chance to drive five different exotic sports cars through the country side of Virginia. Of course, no speed laws broken by any of the participants, especially me. Cough…  Below is the group shot from our outing (more photos of my group here).  I am the second person from the left.  You can click through the photo to see a few mote shots that I saved on Webshots.  I will upload more when they send me the rest.
Ted Cahall with the World Class Driving group on May 21st 2009

We started the day at 7:00AM by signing our lives away.  It would have been unpleasant to have wrecked one of these as I think I promised the future lives of all my relatives for many centuries to come as collateral.

Then we were  out to the cars for the group photo and then the road.  Each driver took a turn in each of the five cars.  We had eight drivers and only five cars, so each driver had three legs as either an exotic car passenger or in one of the lead or chase vehicles.  This was the only let down of the whole morning.  I am not sure I would have registered had I known that.  OK – I probably would have – it was a total gas.

I was lucky enough to sit out the first segment – as that was driving through town in a very slow, deliberate manner.  No fun sitting in a high performance car in traffic!  My first segment was in the Audi R8.  It is a fantastic car that handles superbly.  It clearly can be a daily driver (and Ash Patel at Yahoo uses it as one).  My only complaint was that it was somewhat under powered for an exotic car.  I was also at the very end of the pack – so lagging back to rev the engine was somewhat more difficult.  Still great car and I was very impressed.

My next segment was in the Callaway C16 Corvette.  It is supercharged and was by far the very fastest car of the day.  It has an automatic transmission as well as paddle shifters.  The automatic was so well tuned there was no need for the paddles.  I did a hole-shot out of the parking lot and was shocked by the power.  It got a bit squirrely even with the traction control on.  Yeah – that’s what I’m talking about!  I was second in the conga line behind the Lambo and I lagged back quite a few times.  The car was like a rocket ship when I would nail it and downshift two gears.  The whine of the supercharger was outrageous and the power literally pinned you to your seat.  I have owned some fast supercharged cars – but this was the best.  Callaway got this one right.  I noticed that there was blue smoke pouring out of the back of the car when I would pound on it.  I figured I would point that out when we stopped next (I really did not need to since I was coating the 3 cars behind me).  It turned out that the blue smoke was a harmless leak from the supercharger cooler that only occurred under very high load (ie. me).  I must have done 5 or 6 power runs after lagging back and flooring it.  That ride alone would have been worth every penny – but it gets better.  We got to a straight, well paved, wide-open section of two lane highway following a slower car.  The lead car passed and and the Lambo followed, I lagged a bit so I could wail on the C16 and then hit it.  We blew past the car and began to climb into the back seat of the Lambo.  I am sure we went a tad over 55…

Eventually we pulled over and switched again.  I got the Lamborghini this time.  I figured there was no way I was going to enjoy that after the C16.  While the Lambo does have 10 cylinders, it is not supercharged, etc.  Well, I was wrong!  The thing was amazing.  I was behind the pace car (driven by Roland who is an experienced pro racer that could have made a tricycle go fast).  I let Roland get a good pace ahead of me and pounded out the Lamborghini.  It was almost as impressive as the C16 – but it is all wheel drive and really was incredible in the curves and corners.  I pulled a number of power downshifts in this car too and was rteally torn as to which car I now liked best.  Either way, there is no loser out of these two.

When my turn was next, I got to drive the Ford GT.  This is a true supercar and was the only car with a real stick-shift and clutch.  One of the instructors always road in the GT.  No problem. :)   This was a great car and extremely fast.  It is also supercharged – but for some reason the power was very linear and smooth.  It did not really let lose and snap my neck back as I had done in the C16 and Lambo.  It might have been due to the instructor sitting next to me – but he never made a peep each time I lagged back and then hit it as hard as I could.  No question a fantastic car – but it did not rank with the C16 or Lambo.  It might be due to the manual transmission.  The automatics they are making in these new exotics are really phenomenal.

When we were well on our way back to the hotel, it was time for my final drive.  I was in the Alfa-Romeo 8C.  It had the nicest sound to it – but unfortunately resembled more of the Audi R8’s power band than the other power beasts.  Unlike the Audi’s fine transmission, the 8C would bog under full power shifting.  It was also grumble backfiring on downshifts or when I let off the gas.  All of this – and it was the most expensive of all of the cars at about $300k!  They are only letting 75-80 of them into the US – so it is a rare collector’s car.  It is a good thing – because even at about $200 this would not see any sales volume when compared to a Lambo, Ferrari, or other car in that range.  It was definitely my least favorite of the five cars.  So I was glad it was the one that I had to waste part of my turn in city traffic as we parked back at the hotel.  I guess it has some appeal and some woman actually called out to us (another driver was my passenger) to let us know she liked our car…  So Italian sound appeal counts for something.

Ted Cahall

Ted Cahall on board USS Truman – Part 2

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

It has taken me a while to get back to my series of three posts regarding my visit to the USS Harry S. Truman in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North Carolina.  This is the second post of the series that will cover my activities while on board.  The first post covered my trip down to Norfolk, VA and my arrested landing onto the deck of the aircraft carrier.  I have also added a Webshots album of all the photos that the Navy photographers took of my group of visitors.

We started the day on the USS Truman with the arrested landing and then disembarked from the C-2A.  The photo below is part of an album taken by a Navy photographer as I exited the plane onto the deck of the USS Truman.  Click through to see this photo and others taken by the Navy from this trip.

Ted Cahall exits the C-2A on board USS Truman

Once on board, we went up to the bridge and met Rear Admiral Mark Fox, Captain Joe Clarkson, and a number of other officers as the performed their duties.  The photo below shows Rear Admiral Mark Fox greeting our group of visitors.

Rear Admiral Mark Fox greets the visitors

From there we began our journey of hundreds of ladders.  You cannot live on a aircraft carrier and not be in shape.  The ladders will make it happen.  Plain and simple.  We went and met the Captain of the US Marine wing VMFA-312 on the ship.  There are about 20 Marine Pilots on board and approximately 275 total marine staff.  Unfortunately I did not have a pen and paper, so I do not know the name of the head of the Marines on the USS Truman.  Here is his picture.

The head of the US Marines aboard USS Truman speaks to the guests

After being briefed by the US Marines, we were off to lunch.  We waited in the officer’s mess hall lounge until they were ready.  We ate in a cafeteria style food line.  The food was actually pretty good!  We shared some nice conversation with the staff before returning to our journey through the ship.

We stopped by the room where they maintain the anchor chains.  Each link weighs over 300 lbs.  They clean and paint the links from that room.  We then headed out to the “hangar” below the flight deck.  The hangar has a series of elevators that move planes up and down between it and the deck above.  After looking through the hangar, we went and looked at some of the elevator bays and out towards the ocean.  From there we proceeded to view the fire station and some of the repair labs.  We also viewed the rescue boats they send out in case a person goes overboard.  From there it was onto the Jet engine repair labs.  The photo below is one I took of two technicians working on a GE jet engine.  Click through to see a few more jet engine photos from this album.

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After the jet engine repair, we had the highlight of the entire trip.  We went back to the deck and watched jets take off.  The jets (and some turbo props) take off by being shot off the deck by a catapult.  It is really an amazing thing to see – and I was lucky enough to also be able to photograph it with my own camera.  Below is one of my better shots of a plane just off the end of the carrier beginning flight.  Click through the photo below to see my other photos of planes taking off from that album.

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After watching all of the planes take off, we were then taken to the back of the carrier to watch some of them land.  This part is really amazing.  I got to see what I had experienced earlier that same day as part of an “arrested landing”.  It was incredible.  When the pilot puts the plane down on the ship, he/she actually takes it to “full throttle”.  This is to make sure it has full thrust in case they miss the arrestor cable.  In that case they need to take back off so they can circle around and try to land again.  Once they know they have the cable, they back off the throttle.  We were standing a bit too far forward to get good shots of a plane grabbing the cable with its tailhook.  I do have one blurry one here.  The photo below is a photo I took of one of the planes coming in for landing on the deck.

The AWACS plane coming in for an arrested landing - closer...

Note the arrestor cable in the foreground.  That is the first cable of four such cables.  The pilot is supposed to shoot for the third cable.  This was one of the AWACS planes.  They are arriving at 150 mph and will drop down to 0 mph in a matter of three seconds.  I have an honorary “Truman Tailhooker” certificate signed by Captain Clarkson that states that I have completed an arrested landing and have an “elementary understanding” of the “remarkable challenges and accomplishments of Naval Aviation”.

We then headed off to dinner and had some break time in our rooms.  After dinner we went to the outside deck off of the bridge and smoked cigars.  After that it was lights out as we had all had way too many ladders!

Ted Cahall