2011 Spectre 3:41 Challenge
Date: June 17-19, 2011
Location: Virginia City, NV @ Hwy. 341 (5.2 mile truck loop) just outside of Virigina City
My friend up in here in Gillette, WY recently traded in his e46 M3 (with suspension and brake mods, very capable track car) and his 2008 335xi Convertible with Vishnu tune for a 2012 Nissan GT-R. Knowing that he was going to be getting into a badass track car (in stock form), he decided that he wanted to find an event that would really let the new car strut its stuff. He subsequently entered into the Spectre 3:41 Challenge and told me about it and explained how awesome the event would be and how unique and special it is.
After doing some light reading about the event at www.spectre341challenge.com , I decided that this would indeed be a pretty cool event for the V to take part in.
Fast forward about 3 months and there I was feverishly working every night after work to get my car into “competition shape”. I had ordered some Team Dynamics wheels (came with great center caps, btw) in matte black. I also ordered some red reflective pinstripe tape (actually for motorcycle wheels) off of Ebay and applied that to the wheels (very easy, it was only about 5 minutes per wheel with the applicator that came with the tape, and it turned out great). I thought it would be cool to carry the same red/black look over from the street/show trim of my V. I also searched out and found a great deal on some used Toyo R888 275/35/18 tires. These were used race tires, so they had their tread shaved from 6/32nds to 4/32nds and had been used in one sprint race. They didn’t have a ton of tread, but looked like they were in great shape. I figured I would be able to get maybe 4-5 track days out of them. I got the tires mounted and balanced at the local Bit O tire shop. That was it for the wheel/tire setup.
Next, I set my mind to accomplish some routine maintenance items. I changed the oil, oil filter, diff fluid, and cleaned and re-oiled the K&N air filter. I replaced the fluids as follows:
Oil = Royal Purple 5W-30
Diff Gear Oil = Amsoil 75W-90
Oil Filter = K&N (I only use it because it is one of the only filters that has a nut welded to the bottom so it makes it super easy to remove the old filter)
I checked the clutch fluid reservoir – good. I checked the power steering fluid reservoir – was OK, a little low, but not enough to worry about. Coolant and brake fluid were also good.
Next, I checked all the brake lines and suspension components to make sure everything was nice and tight. All good. I had been noticing some fluid leaking from my front passenger side FG2 shock over the previous few months, but it had seemed to subside lately and I did not notice any negative handling characteristics or disturbing noises from the shock, so I decided to just go with it.
Last, I set the ride height such that the car was as low as it could go in order to not allow any rubbing of the 275 width r-compound tires. Finally, after lying on my back under the damn car all week, I was finally ready to do some testing of the new wheel/tire combo and just see how the car felt. It didn’t take me long to find out that the setup was … AWESOME! Everything felt perfect. The V was ready to rock. I really liked the added grip of the wide front tires (these were the widest tires I had ever run on my V since getting it). The 275s seemed to really make the most difference in braking distance rather than cornering ability or lateral g-loads.
June 16, 2011: I wake up early and do some last minute checking of the car. I make sure I have all my spare fluids and tools loaded. The four race tires are wrapped up in tire totes and loaded into the back seat with pillows on each side so the tires don’t rub on the inside door panels. Everything is packed and I am “chomping at the bit” to get this road trip started.
The fiancé arrives at my house (she had to drive from Sturgis, SD where she had been working that morning) a little late at 2:00 PM and we get on the road by 2:30 PM. We wanted to leave earlier since we had a total of about 14.5 hours of driving ahead of us (about 1250 miles) to get from Gillette, WY to Virginia City, NV.
We drive through the east central part of Wyoming and jump onto Interstate 80 at Rock Springs, WY. In total we drive from 2:30 PM until 1:30 AM (we also gained an hour crossing from the Mountain Time Zone into the Pacific Time Zone), 10 hours. We had gone through no less than 3 thunderstorms, and lots of wind to get to Elko, NV. I was averaging about 22 mpg with a headwind most of the way down I-80. The most expensive gas we bought (as we would realize later) was in Rock Springs, WY @ a Shell Station. It was $4.15/gallon. Pretty outrageous.
June 17, 2011: We woke up fairly early because we knew we still had about 4.5 hours of travel ahead of us. It is a beautiful ,bright, sunny day, not a cloud in the sky. We were stoked. We had never been where we were driving to, so it was an adventure for both me and my fiancé, Jenna. We left Elko, NV at 7:00 AM and made it to the outskirts of Fernley, NV by 11:30 AM, we had another 45 minutes to go before we got to our destination. We received a call from the Spectre people while we were in Fernley filling up with gas. It was getting dangerously close to the MANDATORY drivers meeting and we still had not checked in at the registration booth. I assured them that we were close and we would be there in time.
Pix taken from inside the car looking at some of the great NV mountains along I-80 between Elko, NV and Fernley, NV.
We rolled into Virginia City @ about 12:10 PM and had to ask a nice local trooper how to get to the Hotel (Silverland Inn & Suites). He showed us and we arrived at 12:15 PM and promptly got to the registration area and let the Spectre crew know that we made it. We were the last entrant to arrive.
We attented the driver’s meeting and jumped on a huge RV that was owned by Spectre to do a drive through of the “course” so that Amir (owner of Spectre) could point out the especially dangerous areas, potential areas of low grip on the road surface, and the spots that drivers have died in the previous years (the most recent death was just the year prior). It was pretty sobering and it was at this point that I was starting to really get a little mind-@#$%ed. My fiancé was freaking out and telling me that this was a huge mistake and she was pretty sure we were going to die sometime in the near future from an unscheduled flight off of Hwy. 341. I told her to calm down and relax. I have had my car for 6.5 years, have had it at a few track days, and knew its limits and more importantly – my limits. I’m no professional driver, and I really haven’t had a ton of track time either, so I was being realistic with what I could expect to accomplish. That being said, I did think, even at that point, that my moderately modified 2004 Cadillac CTS-V (and I) would have what it takes to actually beat the challenge. Boy was a wrong. I basically brought a knife to a gunfight, but more on that later.
The rest of the day Friday was spent running around like chickens with our heads cut off trying to get the car tech inspected and tracking down a jack so I could put my track wheels/tires on. After packing up everything that I could think of for my car, I forgot a jack…that was really stupid, but I knew that I could borrow one from somebody.
Something to note: I got the V weighed during tech, and with 7/8 tank of gas, my V only weighed 3840 lbs. That doesn’t seem that light, but if you do the math this is what you realize:
7/8 tank of gas = 16.2 gallons x 6.15 lbs/gallon (weight of gasoline) = 100 lbs
3840 lbs – 100 lbs = 3740 lbs (this includes the 2.5 lb fire extinguisher we were required to have and its mounting bracket) and I still had the CCW 19” street wheels/tires on. It would be a little lighter with the TD race wheels/tires installed – maybe 2-3 lbs per corner is my guess.
3740 lbs is approximately 110 lbs lighter than the official curb weight listed by Cadillac. Now, I’m not sure how much gasoline the curb weight takes into account, but even if it is say, 3 gallons, then that would put my car at 3758 lbs (92 lbs lighter than stock curb weight). It should be known that I have never tried to cut weight in the car, but all of the weight savings have been from the roadcourse-inspired mods that I have done over the years.
Myself, my friend Justin from Gillette, and my fiancé got the V completely ready and setup in race trim and finally relaxed a little in the evening and took the time to get some really cool pix of all the other cars and see what we were going to be running with (note: I did not say against, because nobody was competing with the other entrants, we were all trying to run the best times that we could run based on what our cars and ourselves could do, but it is still fun to judge how you did to comparable other cars). Something really cool that struck me as my fiancé and I walked through the paddock. I didn’t love every car there (some were my cup of tea, and others were not), but if I did own any of those particular cars, I would have modded them the same exact way as each of their owners did. All of the cars were hardcore roadcourse cars, I loved the wide r-comp tires, little aero enhancements, and loud exhausts. I particularly loved Lou Gigliotti’s Corvette ZR1, and Aaron Pfadt’s Camaro SS (with an LS7 swap).
Pix from the paddock.
Below: Cadillac CTS-V Wagon…so badass!
Below: Pfadt's fast Camaro SS with LS7 swap.
Below: This was the 600 HP Camaro SS that I refer to later in the write-up.
Below: A bunch more sick cars. Notice the absolutely stunning Aston Martin Vantage - my favorite car at the event.