Looking back at this once in a lifetime 3000 mile cross country experience, it may have been the initial glamour of NYC that eventually caught up to the #18 team keeping them from a podium finish.
We pulled onto the wide open Avenue of the Americas in NYC with all 5 lanes completely traffic free due to the Sunday start. What better way to salute the fans lining the streets below flashing billboards and massive skyscrapers than to do a number of burn outs on our way to Central Park and Tavern on the Green.
Caught up in the moment, neither Fluge nor Lowblad remembered to turn off the traction control of the Ultimate Bad Boy as it made for bigger burn outs.
Arriving at the Tavern on the Green, the clutch was smoking and backing into our spot, we found reverse was non-existent.
Thankfully our factory Saleen pit crew were on hand and did a quick examination, turned off the traction control and cooled down the clutch/transmission assembly which brought back reverse.
After the cool down, all gears were back, but we did notice the Bad Boy much harder to shift.
Things were fine flying through New Jersey on our way to the Catskills until we caught up to a Ford GT and other Cannonballers and this early in the race who could blame us from testing one another’s driving skills and horsepower, This high speed run was tough on the recently red hot, glowing and smoking clutch as we would have to downshift through traffic from 5th to 2nd and back up through the gears to play with our friends in Turnpike traffic. This constant back and forth through the gears, redline to redline was so hard on our gas mileage (108 miles on the first tank); we reasoned it was also very difficult on the clutch and transmission.
When we finally arrived at the Westin in Indianapolis after a long 900 plus mile night run, we were over 3 hours ahead of schedule building time in our bank for future slower sections. As the Fluge was checking in Lowblad was turning the car around behind the hotel in preparation for heading to the actual checkpoint at the Memorial Monument Circle in downtown Indy only to find no reverse again. As both UPS and Fed Ex drivers were giving the evil eye to this Black Bad Boy Saleen that was blocking the entire delivery lane Lowblad was frantically trying to get the car in reverse to complete the turn around. Finally the only way to find reverse was to turn off the car, jam it in gear and start it in reverse and let the clutch out. I’m sure the delivery guys were OK with the tire smoke in their faces as long as they were back on the road.
But this was only the first leg and troubles are brewing!
It seems that if we can just cruise at 120 plus, we have no problems with the clutch/tranny as we just stay in high gear. When we go fast and hard dicing it up with competitors or slow and easy in traffic the clutch gets hot.
We had both those extremes on the Indy to Tulsa Leg. When Lowblad was flying into St. Louis, the radar detector immediately screeched its K Band warning with enough time for Lowblad’s fast reflexes to bring it down to the speed limit. As soon as that threat was gone and the pedal was back to the metal, we were hit with a laser. Our blockers worked great and we got it down in speed again. After passing the trooper we were ready to get it on again only to immediately here the X Band warning chirp and I look in my mirror and we have an unmarked car on our tail. For the entire trip through the St. Louis metro area our radar/laser detector never stopped. I wonder how much radiation we picked up in that 15 minute period. Trouble was, having to drive that slow and in a high lugging gear to keep away from the power when being followed, I’m sure was tough on the our weak link clutch/transmission.
Tulsa to Denver started out great, we woke to the clutch/transmission actually feeling fine, so the Fluge put the hammer down and did the 1st gas run averaging over 120. After the quick (or not so quick) pit stop for a new phone (remember the champagne bucket incident) Lowblad took his turn behind the wheel only to find the supercharger intercooler temperature light pegged at 200 in the red. Calling our pit crew traveling over an hour and a half behind us, we made the decision to put the car on cruise at 75 and limp in to Denver where they could look at it.
That night during the wonderful dinner (Every Hotel, Dinner and Party was incredible) Ryan from Saleen came up and said good news/bad news. We’ve fixed the supercharger intercooler but you’ve have NO CLUTCH left.
Knowing that there was little if any clutch left, we decided, WHY not “use it till we lose it.