Erica works with Mark Daffin of MD Photostudios on a photo shoot for an upcoming promo card.[imagebrowser id=14]
Photo Credit: Mark Daffin, MD Photostudios
Erica works with Mark Daffin of MD Photostudios on a photo shoot for an upcoming promo card.[imagebrowser id=14]
Photo Credit: Mark Daffin, MD Photostudios
Racecars & Tuning. Its like any new relationship…
You’ve got to learn the little things about her (or him, but in this case as in most autos, “it” will be a she for simplicity sake). What she likes, what she needs, and the way she wants to be treated is reflective on the way she will treat you in turn. And as is true in too often the case, she mainly will only let you know what she doesn’t like, leaving you guessing as to what the heck she really wants (don’t even start guys… you all do it too).
The good news is that upon closer examination, the valvetrain problem in Valdosta was NOT a lifter issue as originally thought. I guess this pessimistic racer always comes to expect the worst in any situation, because as Murphy’s Law suggests, anything that can break, will indeed break and will destroy about a half dozen other things on its way out. So, thankfully, the valvetrain noise turned out to be merely a loose rocker whose polylock had wiggled its way free. No damage, no broken parts, no problems. ::knocking on wood:: Dan worked extra specially hard to make sure that my intake gasket leak, my dragging engine diaper, and my loose rocker situation was fixed, and I was ready for the weekend to test at Phenix City and prepare for Orlando with John Gullett & Ray Sanchez, who would be testing with me.
Good ole Murphy came knocking and of course rained on our parade. Literally. The stormclouds dropped what seemed like several inches of rain over the south, unrelenting for 24 hours straight. When the rain ceased on Sunday morning, the track was a marshland, with pools all across the track surface. After scrambling to find an open track that would be convenient for John’s trek back to FL and Ray’s flight to Canada departing that evening from ATL, we came back empty handed. Nothing worked for the other guys, who all had to head home without getting anything accomplished.
While making those phone calls, we discovered that Montgomery Motorsports Park had a bracket race, and while it was impossible & impractical for Ray or John to attend, the 90 mile drive was worthwhile for me to try and sort the car for Orlando. So Dan & I loaded up for Montgomery, after George Howard agreed to work me into the program for some test passes. What we did not know was that no cars had been run on that track for 3 months, and combined with the rains from the previous day, the track conditions were not exactly optimal. George’s crew were working very hard to prepare the track and get it to come around, and George was very genuine in his concern for mine and all other racer’s safety. Despite the conditions, which did improve as the day progressed, the passes were an excellent learning experience for driving in those type of situations. The first pass of the day, despite having drastically turned down the power on the car, she still managed to severely overpower the track, and got loose enough to have quickly caught my “full and undivided attention” (otherwise known as “pucker factor”). We then tried several other methods of controlling the acceleration, trying to slow the building of boost, timing, etc. but still encountered problems just past the 60′. Adding to the struggles of a new driver, having a new car with an untested combination makes it particularly daunting a task to get this thing down the track. Dan is forced to try and decipher what little information I can provide from my unfamiliar observations and couple this with the complicated graph readings off the ignition. After some calculations, he determined that it had too much rear gear (which we knew would not be able to carry through the 1/4 to begin with) and that it was exasterbating the violent launches.
So, a taller, less aggressive gear has been ordered and will be installed this week. This however, sealed my fate for yet again missing another Orlando event, which I endearingly consider my “home” and one of the few opportunities I have to see my family. That is the most disappointing aspect of the entire situation, any other event would easily be a perfectly rational decision NOT to attend without a well tested and performing car. Instead, I resigned to stick closer to home and race in the Dixie Pro Mod event (1/8th mile) in Macon this coming weekend, gain some more seat time and sort the new & improved gearing.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
You think I’d have more to say about my first few outings in the T-bird. Well, I do actually, its just I’ve been swamped with a grueling schedule, and haven’t had a chance to sit and reflect. What better time to do so than after midnight on an exhausting race weekend. (I know, I make no sense)[cue drumroll] So, finally, after a year and a half out of the seat, the Horsepower & Heels Thunderbird & I took our maiden launch on February 5th at Phenix Motorsports Park in Phenix City, AL. The objective of the test session was to make some incremental passes and to get me familiar with the car. No biggie, right? Well for some, that would have been no big deal, but for me, anxiety grew everyday that I hadn’t been in a racecar, so I was some nervous about jumping into the seat of a much faster car after so long. Everyone kept telling me “Its like riding a bicycle, Erica. You don’t forget.” Yea… a LOUD, powerful, complicated bicycle.
But, as a testimony to the crew and people whom I have in my corner, I am quite proud to admit that the nerves and fear I expected to kick in as I pulled into the burnout for the first time never materialized. Not to say that I’m not overly cautious nor was I prepared for the g’s on that first launch, but at least I wasn’t shakin’ like a polaroid when I finally sat in the seat.
Many people have asked me since that weekend the big questions… What was that first hit like? Well, as much as I have stood behind these things as they leave the starting line, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what that first hit will be like. That was until I let go of that button the first time. As Rick Head said..”I would’ve paid to see your face when you let go of that button the first time.” I assured him it was Priceless.
The weather in Phenix City was cold, so track conditions were not the best due to low track temp. The plan was to start out with some 60′ hits. After the happy shock wore off from that first pass, the second and third went much more smoothly. On the second pass, I managed a 1.09 short time, shutting it off just before the 60′. The third pass I was able to take it out a little futher, but the 60′ was off, and the track conditions were falling off as well. So, we left it at that, and called it a night.
The next weekend, we found a rocker in the valvecover. I am so unaccustomed to this motor, I never heard the miss inside the car. Upon further inspection, Dan found a lifter had failed. Thinking it may have been the result of a potential overwinding in the burnout from my first pass, he replaced the lifters, pushrods, and rockers with fresh pieces to ensure the problem was fixed. Since the temperatures were below freezing last weekend, there was no testing to be had locally. Which meant my next experience would come at my first official event, the ADRL Winter Drags at SGMP in Adel (Valdosta), GA.
With a fixed motor, renewed enthusiasm & great track conditions, I was ready to try and get down broadway and get a feel for navigating the 1/8 mile. Some of my security blanket was unavailable for this weekend, as Dan was in front of me running his own Pro Mod. A few rookie mistakes in the first test passes on Friday made me shut down early (HELLO!?! You’re supposed to leave in 1st gear, not 3rd!) But by the nighttime session, I was ready to kick it on through. Much to my dismay, something went amiss again and I shut off. Back in the pits, it was evident we had some problems by the diaper dragging the ground and the oil accumulation running down the firewall. Kevin and I pulled the turbo/valvecover off to find a rocker off kilter again. The bolt still tight, it was apparent that it had another lifter failure, and with that my weekend was over.
Not exactly how I had hoped to make my Pro Mod debut, but on the bright side, I am confident that once we get these new car bugs figured out, the car will be a very fast piece. I am so tremendously grateful to all the people who have helped me get to this point, and who continue to do so: Mr. Moody, Dan, Kevin, Biscuit, Josh, Dennis, Bill, and everyone else. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the news I was hoping to hear a mere 2 weeks until Orlando, so it is highly unlikely I will make that event. (not enough time to get fixed and sort the 1/4 mile issues before then I fear) That is the downside to not having found any marketing funding, but my hope is that it will come once I get everything sorted out.
In the mean time, its back to work. If I don’t indeed make Orlando, I will be testing at home to get this thing ready to roll in Atlanta. I’ve had a ton of helpful folks depart similar BBF experiences, and have a good idea where to look from here.
I root for the ladies in our sport, and in all motorsports. I think that there is a bond of sorts that being the minority in motorsports creates as a female driver. No matter what level, many women are the subconscious victim of prejudice of gender… despite the fact that the racecar knows nothing of what sex pilots it down the track surface. We have all faced these prejudices as women trying to advance, trying to gain the same respect for our driving abilities as our male counterparts seem to earn more readily. I’m elated that Melanie Troxel took the first win of the season in Top Fuel. There have been others before her, but it reinforces Melanie’s talent and ability again to the public. She has a top-notch win-capable team, and she executed as a driver. That combination is what it takes to get the win. But it wasn’t always that way.
I was a bit saddened to read a recent interview with Troxel, where she completely downplayed her gender to the press, adding that fellow female racers “…they’re just competitors.” Now, I understand her argument. Female drivers want to be noticed for their driving talent, and not for their gender alone. I can appreciate her goals when she says: “I think we’ve all worked so hard at being accepted as racers and not (have it) based on the fact that we’re female, that we want to be taken seriously just as the other competitors out there, it kind of goes against that to then turn and make (their gender) such a big issue. It’s not a huge rivalry where we’re all out to get each other, but I don’t think we go out of our way to make any special bond.” But in reality, it simply doesn’t work that way.
Troxel, herself, has felt this. The writer points out for us that she sat on the backburner with Prudhomme for the most 2005 season, and was unsure of her career progression. She had proven her talent with a driving stint for Schumacher in 2000, yet still had not secured a full time ride, until Schumacher picked her up again at the end of 2005. “Melanie is a unique personality, a beautiful lady that’s a talented driver, and she needs to be out here racing. She’s always been a good driver and does a good job,” Schumacher said of his decision to hire Troxel. Her win this weekend, as a relatively new member of the Schumacher team, emphasizes her talent. The respect she has earned as a driver (gender aside) is undeniable. But I feel she has too quickly forgotten the struggles that she, and all other women in the sport have faced (and sometimes continue to face) in their careers. Why not support and mentor the very cause that you took part in for so many years instead of refuting it? Don’t get me wrong, I do not agree with exploiting your sex to further your career, but I also have pride in the very thing that makes us unique, and the struggles we each overcome to get there.
I hope that when I realize my dream of driving in Top Fuel, I will be able to actively champion the cause of women in motorsports. I would like nothing more than to help other women achieve their goals, as I have fought and been blessed enough to pursue over the years myself.
Erica Ortiz takes the Horsepower & Heels Thunderbird out for the first Pro Mod event of the year. Competing for the first time in the ADRL Pro Nitrous class, she is the lone turbocharged car and the only female racer at the event. A valvetrain issue keeps her sidelined during qualifying.[imagebrowser id=3]
Photos by: Sarah Spear; Jason Sharp; Roger Richards
I finally get my car running, get it out to the track, excited as all get out to test again this weekend, and hopefully be the first turbo car to try and qualify for a Dixie Pro Mod race this Sunday in Phenix City. But NOOOO. Mom Nature has other plans.
Today, the weather is beautiful. Sunny, temperatures in the mid 50’s, no wind. A little on the cool side for my FL Native heritage, but not bad testing weather at all. But NOOOOOO, that would be too much to ask for. Instead, mother nature has decided to blow in a super cold front, which is expected to drop temperatures to the low 20’s overnight and bring possibility of a snow flurry on Saturday. Yep, SNOW. It is NOT supposed to snow in GA! And because it wasn’t enough to ruin my chances for Saturday, but Sunday the temperatures don’t show signs of improvement at all either. GRRRR!
What is the forecast for Monday you say? Hmmpfff. Exactly what you would expect… Sunny & beautiful, high in the 50’s. A dollar short again….
Oh well. Next weekend is the ADRL Winter Drags in Valdosta, GA at South Georgia Motorsports Park. I’m mainly using it for some test time and to try for my license. I don’t think I stand a chance yet against those 4.07 & under n2O promods, but it’ll still be cool to be racing along side them.
Now where did I put my Parka?
Phenix City, AL–
Erica takes the Horsepower & Heels Pro 5.0 Thunderbird out for her first test session. She gets acquainted with the new big block Ford twin turbo combination, and goes through the burnout and launch procedures, netting a best of 1.09 seconds at the 60′ clocks.[imagebrowser id=1]
O.P.I, one of the hottest nail polish manufacturers around, recently launched their “Driven by Color” promotion to debut their new Ford Mustang color-matching nail line in shades such as “Revved up and Red-y”, “You make me Vroom”, and “Gone Platinum in 60 seconds”.
Embodying the very essence of “Driven by Color” , Erica displays her “You make me Vroom!” nails can stand up to the power. These shots were submitted to OPI as part of a sponsorship proposal. Fingers crossed![imagebrowser id=20]
A few of the girls from Horsepower & Heels got together to do some promo shots that will accompany several new Horsepower & Heels articles, website updates, and other normal activities. Check out some of our favorites from the shoot![imagebrowser id=15]
Photos by: Focus Firm
Its hard to remember back to the beginning, back to your very first drag racing experience. Some of us were lucky enough to call the drag strip home all our lives, having family whose involvement in racing was passed along to the next generation of racers. Others came across it on their own terms, through car clubs, magazines, or simply by accident. No matter what brought you to your first racetrack, one common result ensues for all: Its only a matter of time before you’re hooked.
This past weekend, I was refreshingly reminded of what the first time at the drag races feels like. My best friend since elementary school, Heather Sinks, made the trip down to Richmond FFW from her home in D.C. to spend the weekend at the races with me. Having never been to a drag race before, Heather had no clue what to expect. While most of us experience our first race from the safety of the stands, her first experience placed her in the thick of things, along side the crew of a Pro 5.0 entry. After all my years of involvement in racing with Fun Ford Weekend, I tend to take for granted how foreign it all seemed in the beginning. Which is why Heather’s first experience brought me back to the early days and the rosy colored glasses. Here are some of the best anecdotes from Heather’s weekend:
“Why do the fast cars need training wheels?”
That’s right, training wheels. Or what us seasoned veterans refer to as Wheelie Bars. Although, quite honestly a set of training wheels for some drivers would not necessarily be a bad thing either.
“The back tires are bald. Why don’t they have any tread?”
Valid point. In daily driving, bald tires are a bad, bad thing. Which makes it all the more complicated to explain why slicks help get the car to hook and NOT spin, and why drag radials (with treads) are the hardest tire to master and not spin to smoke. On the road, bald tires will make travels a slippery experience. But not at the drag strip…
“Why do they sit there and make the cars smoke?”
Ahh, the smoke. And the people who sit there and willfully inhale it. Drag Racing is one of the few locations where second hand smoke is the most desired experience second only to the first-hand inhale of your own tire smoke. Yes, burnout smoke, which incidentally most of us probably have amassed enough rubber particles in our lungs to have our own Mickey Thompson slick bouncing around, is a drag racing anomaly that the ‘normal’ folks don’t quite understand.
“Why are the front tires so much smaller than the rear?”
Well, besides the fact that they are kinda funny looking that way, I can see why that would be a source of wonder. They tell you not to drive a spare donut tire faster than 55 mph or risk serious injury, and drag racers willfully strap two on the front of a 200 mph car? What’s up with that?
“What are those bags on the back of the car?”
Those neatly (or NOT) packed bags are parachutes.
“Parachutes? Like the ones you don’t want to use on a plane?”
Exactly. Only these help stop the car.
“Don’t they have brakes?”
Well, yes. But these help stop faster than brakes alone when cars are going faster than 150 mph.
“Why do the faster cars get pulled to the starting line, why can’t they drive up?”
That’s a good question, I mean one would think that such an expensive car should at least be able to make a trip around the block. I guess that brings the term fuel economical to the next level.
“These things cost HOW MUCH?!?!”
No explanation needed. And no, you’ll never win enough to pay for them.
“Do these run on gas like regular cars do?”
Well yes, sort of. Not exactly the regular unleaded you find at your local Exxon, and theres a whole lot more than a “tiger” in your tank. You complain that gas is too expensive at the pump these days?… try $15 a GALLON and you have to pump it out of a drum, carry it to the car and pour it in manually! That takes Self-Serve to a new level.
“What is that hissing sound and that air they spray out on the windshield?”
What, a nitrous purge? That means they need a big weight break and are about to burn up a piston trying to keep up with a turbo car. [kidding] No, seriously, its something they spray into the motor to make it go faster.
“Isn’t that cheating?”
[Wise beyond her years, isn’t she?] No, not always, but most of the ones that are, you probably aren’t going to catch. -AND- just to be sure and careful (because nowadays you can never be too sure), contrary to what you may have seen on TV or in Hollywood, its called Nitrous NOT NAAAAWWSS.
“Why do they have to wear gloves and that funky outfit?”
Unfortunately, you’d think that today’s fashion forward world would have an answer to fashionable safety wear. Really, the unglamourous truth is they don’t want to be burned, so instead they slow cook in a 5 layer driving suit and an unair-conditioned crock pot. Hello, VERSACE?!? Please make us over! And why can’t they use that Dri-fit technology for a meaningful purpose!
“What are all the fans and the leaf blower for?”
Well, to help cool the ‘crock pot’ back down.
“Are you going back up there right away?”
No, we have about 2-3 hours between rounds.
“So all this for a car that runs for 6 seconds and then gets shut off and towed back?”
[long pause] Well, yea. That’s pretty much it.
By Saturday night, Heather’s outlook had already changed towards drag racing. She started off only knowing that she drove a mustang, and nothing else. But like so many others, the smoke was addicting, and she was already hooked. A few Saturday night Pit Party beverages later, she was telling everyone she wanted to jump in there and “smoke” her own tires….