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Emerald Empire Sports Car Club
P.O. Box 1204 Eugene, Oregon 97440
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Featured Article
It's All Downhill From Here
By Keith Olsen

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Snell M and SA helmets of these years
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** Only 2015, 2010 and 2005 **
**** Snell 2005 will be legal until 2021 ****


It's All Downhill From Here
By Keith Olsen

This year EESCC participated in the first annual Eugene Coffin Races. This is a Halloween themed soap box derby that was held on Lawrence Street, starting at the stop sign at the Skinner's Butte Columns parking lot and ended at the stop sign at 3rd Avenue. This is a pretty steep section of road about 2 blocks long. It was pretty fast, but more on that later.

This event was first discovered by a couple of our club leaders in an event posting on Facebook. After it was discussed at a club meeting it was decided we would put together a team and build a car.
I was the spearhead of the effort and got to work right away. We had about 2 months to build and decorate our car.  There were very few rules in the race's inaugural year. The main rules were that the car must have a coffin inspired theme and have working steering and brakes. To simplify the engineering I thought it would be easier to start with a chassis that already had functioning steering and brakes. Using social networking I was able to get a shifter kart donated by former club member Tyler Shepperd. He had raced karts for several years and had a slightly damaged cart that, he said, could no longer be a competitive race kart. And just like that we were off to a great start.

To reduce the rolling resistance of our kart we removed the front brakes and used bicycle wheels instead of the kart wheels. I made adapters to connect the bicycle wheels to the gokart axles. The wheels had to be solidly connected to the rear axle where the brake rotor was. My design had a couple flaws and at first the wheel would continue to spin when the brake was applied. This meant we actually had no brakes. I'm very glad that we tested our kart on a small closed road in Springfield before the event. After a couple failed attempts and a few modifications I was sure it was fixed.

On the day of the event we had a test run. The race course was about 12mph faster than our original test hill and the test seemed to go well. The kart seemed a little sketchy in the brake zone, but I had never used the brakes at that speed. The steering was just what you'd expect from a kart designed to do 100mph +. The club brought our radar gun and recorded the speed of each competitor on the test runs. The pre-fab karts, which were available for purchase through the Parks and Recreation Dept, that we opted not to use, were running between 19 and 24mph, while the home built karts were 29-32mph. During the test runs our kart registered the fastest trap speed, of 32mph. Who knew that starting with an actual race car was a good starting point for a gravity racer? These speeds may not seem like much, but many of the karts were a bit unstable, and throughout the event there were plenty of white knuckle runs and a handful of crashes.

On our first competitive run, as I was being pushed up to the starting line, Bert noticed the left rear wheel was very loose. This meant I had only one wheel braking and that wheel could potentially fall off completely! No wonder the brake zone seemed so sketchy. Fortunately, one of the people at the top of the hill had a large Crescent wrench as part of his Mad Max themed costume. Hope Mueller was able to track him down and bring the important tool back to the kart in time. Bert quickly tightened the nut as much as he could, but with no way to get to the bolt head inside the hub he could only get it so tight.

Bert says: “I got it as tight as I could, you should be okay. How do you feel Keith?”
Me: no answer.
Bert: “I need you to tell me if you're okay with it, Keith. It's up to you.”

After a few seconds I said, “Yeah, I'm okay.” But I'll tell you, I was a bit freaked out. I had already seen a couple crashes and they both ended up upside down.  If I backed out I would forfeit the race and we would be eliminated. I knew we were one of the fastest karts and I was already having fantasies of taking first place. I gathered my courage and decided, I was in it to the end.

That run ended just fine and we continued running until we got eliminated later in the rounds. I didn't use the brakes much at the end of the run. I just carried more speed through the return path to get back to the assigned pit spot and did this for each of the remaining runs (after we re-torqued the bolt as much as possible, of course). The Tactics Board Sports team was the team that eliminated us and they ended up winning the whole event with a car that used skateboard trucks and wheels in the rear and a bicycle front wheel. This car faced some scrutiny because there was a rule that said, No skateboard wheels, but I'm sure this was a safety rule and not a rule that was put in place to eliminate some sort of performance advantage. I believe we were probably 2nd or 3rd fastest car on the hill though and I have an idea to solve the brake issue for future races, as everybody involved had a lot of fun at this event, and we intend to do it again. Just a few changes and we could be the team to beat.

Many of our club members dedicated time to building and decorating our car and many came out to watch the event. We all wore matching costumes and got our club involved in an outside community event. I think this will help our public image and will hopefully improve our ability to get pavement in the future. I thank everybody that was involved in making this happen and really look forward to participating in this event in the future. Next time we will choose a different driver. Want it to be you? Keep an eye out for this event next year.

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