Team Tiger Racing News
By Barry K. Schonberger
TEAM TIGERS 2002 SEASON
When the 2001 season ended, Tom and I both knew that to be competitive in 2003 we had our work cut out for us over the winter. After two seasons of going from a 650 cfm carb to a 390cfm carb and then a 15/16 restrictor plate, we were not as competitive as we wanted to be.
Top priority was to build new engines. With the SCCA Competition Board ruling that our 4 bolt main FORD Motorsport blocks were now illegal, we needed to find a 2 bolt main block that would handle our abuse. The problem in the past was that eventually the webbing in the stock small blocks would crack, resulting in the loss of the block, crank, and most of the rods. In responding to the Comp. Boards ruling in 2001, we had requested that they approve the new Motorsport M-6010-A50 block and the new Sportsman M-6010-B50 block. The B block has many of the characteristics of the old HiPo and Mexico blocks. We were successful in getting those approved, and, for the first time in our 20 plus years of racing, gained some product support from FORD Motorsports SVO. With the assistance of Pauls Automotive Engineering and Ellison Engines, we built two new engines using the B50 block, GT-40 heads, light weight crank, rods, pistons, and lifter components, long rod technology, and current restrictor plate cam profiles. Edgar Aleman, an engine builder at ROUSH Racing and a Tiger and Shelby owner, took the time to have breakfast with Tom and me to share some ideas. In our old engines, the light weight approach would have been a little risky. With the restrictor plate we have been limited in both HP and RPM, so the lighter components can live in this new environment. In addition to engines, Tom relocated the fuel cell and dry sump tank to get a better balance to the car. He also continued to lighten the original tub chassis by replacing some additional floor areas with aluminum. He still retains the fire wall, rocker panels, and rear frame rails. Very much the ship in a bottle approach. The result was a lighter car, right at the 2280 lb. limit with driver. There has not been an increase in weight assigned by the Comp. Board as stated by the SPEED announcers. One of the contributing factors to the weight loss was the 20 lb lighter two bolt main block vs. the four bolt main.
My efforts would require a bit more work. Since the car was completed in 1988, I had never stripped the entire tube chassis down, removing all of the interior panels. I probably had 20-30 extra pounds of paint and chassis repairs over the 14 years. I had the tube chassis sandblasted in preparation for repairs and modifications and, eventually, powder coating. My list of upgrades included a new negative cambered rear housing, allowing me to finally make the transition from bias-ply tires to radials. In all three of my appearances at the Valvoline Runoffs I have been the only car in GT2 still running the bias-plys. A cockpit adjustable rear sway bar. Brake improvement from Wilwood to Brembo front and Alcon rear. Replace the steel floor with a removable aluminum one. A new power rack and pinion allowing for a new engine, location and a lower center of gravity. Bud Bohrer was kind enough to run my current front suspension on his computer program and we found that the basic component layout is sound. With all these changes and a new engine I was hoping for a late May or June start to the 2002 season. That did not happen. Delays in parts and fabrication had me realizing in June that this season was not going to happen. Working now towards a start in March of 2003.
Toms improvements and season went much better. An early spring start at Road Atlanta had him starting the year off with a win. He repeated again with a win at Gingerman in southwest Michigan. His first race of the season at Nelson Ledges gave him a first in class and a first overall in the race group. Mid Ohio in June gave him another first in class and first overall in a very competitive field after a race long dual with Reids Toyota. At Gratten he qualified on the pole, set fastest race lap but came in second to Finch in the 944. Two more first in class at IRP in July and Nelson Ledges. That is six wins so far in the 2002 season. One last race at Gratten in the second week in August didnt turn out as expected. In another competitive field Tom sat on the pole in GT2. Leading the race, a mechanical problem sent him off track into a runoff area. Almost immediately a GT3 car got punted off course in the same spot and hit the Tiger hard on the right side and front, resulting in major damage. Timing is everything, and four weeks before the Valvoline Runoffs is not the time to have to do major repairs. Tom and Bill Braucksick stripped the car down to its bare tub the first of the week and had it in Kevin Dorans shop on the flat plate ready for repairs. Luckily Kevin was in town with his Doran Enterprises Grand Am team and had time to repair the frame, right suspension mounts, and build a new spindle. Tom got in contact with Lee Grimes at KONI and had a new custom valved coil over built. We had just pulled some new front body work out of the molds to be used at the Runoffs, so the timing was right. The Tigers list serve came through with a tail light. After a number of late nights the car was ready for Toms 23rd Valvoline Runoffs.
This year I returned to my crew status for Tom at the Runoffs. Right from the start the competition was very fast. For the past three years we had been telling the Competition Board that the issue was not the speed of the Tiger but the fact that the other competitors, for a variety of reasons, were not performing to their potential. Well, they were now! On the first day of qualifying, Davis in the Toyota broke the Runoffs qualifying record by .700 of a second, 1:31.4. Back straight trap speeds were up for all the top competitors but Tom. The engine in the Tiger is what Tom calls the Mule. It had a number of races on it and Tom felt that it was not pulling the RPMs on the straights. Tuesday night we pulled the Mule out and installed a brand new, light weight component engine. With help from Toms team and garage mate Bill Braucksicks team, we had the new engine in and running in less than 4 hours. Only problem was a few of the outer head bolts were seeping water. It took us another two hours to resolve that problem. Janet saved the day by walking up to the track gate and meeting the pizza delivery guy. Best meal of the week! The engine pulled stronger on Wednesday and Tom improved from a 1:33.9 to a 1:33.6, but still 6th on the grid. During final qualifying on Thursday, with only a few gallons of gas in the cell, Tom found another .500 for a 1:33.1, but still 6th on the grid and .600 from the 5th fastest qualifier. His time was .600 off his 2001 qualifying time. The front row was at 1:31.4 and 1:31.5, both under the existing Runoffs qualifying record. Those ahead of him were in the low 1:32. range. The race was scheduled for Saturday afternoon. On Friday Tom, myself, Jerry Dinser and Steve Hoffman race checked the car with a nut and bolt, wheel bearing and valve train adjustment, and a good polish. Saturday was a beautiful day at race time. 73 degrees and 53% humidity. In fact it did not rain for any of the 2002 Valvoline Runoffs activities. We had a number of our Sunbeam supporters visit including the Jenningss boys, Jean Trace and Bob Webb. One of the highlight of the week was the chance to meet with Don Sesslar. Don as you may recall, was a featured guest at the SUNI in Lake Geneva. SCCA Presidents Cup winner, Competition Board Chair, National champion in an Alpine, and runner up to a 350 Shelby in the ex Shelby Tiger. Don had been invited to the Runoffs by the track to speak at the drivers party, hosted each year by the Mid-Ohio Race Car Course. Don had been one of a handful of drivers invited to walk the then fields of Lexington and comment on the proposed layout of the to be developed track. He shared with the group that experience and the first race at Mid-Ohio, which he won. Don joined us again on Saturday and was on the grid and in the pits with us during the race. In his late 70s, Don is racing go karts in a Columbus, OH series.
Now the race. The restrictor engine just doesnt pull like the old ones. Tom got a pretty good start passing the 5th qualifier Blakewell in the 914, but got passed by Muren in a 944. It took Tom 7 or 8 laps to get by Mike, and into 5th. By then the top four were way out front. All four ran under the existing Runoffs race lap record, if that gives you any indication as to how fast they were going. Tom pulled away from Mike Muren but he couldnt run any faster than a 1:34.7 race lap when the leaders were running 1:31.8 to 1:32.2 laps. 5th is still a medal position, but not anywhere close to what Tom is used to. Inspection of the car the next week discovered a binding right front suspension (the side repaired) that would have caused a handling problem. Even with that problem fixed the fact is that the top four cars in the class all ran faster than Tom did at any time at Mid Ohio. It was obvious to all who watched the race that the Tiger was just not competitive in its current restricted configuration. It is Toms driving skill and determination that is allowing him to run as well as he has in 2002. With the facts in hand both Tom and I requested of the Competition board an emergency adjustment for 2003. If they could do it to us mid season in 2001 they could do it now for the start of 2003. Our request was the elimination of the restrictor plate and a return to the 2000 configuration of a 390cfm carb only. As stated earlier, Toms speed that year was still slower than the top four cars in 2002. What did we get? The current issue of SportsCar lists the Tiger with a 1 1/16 restrictor. That is a 1/8 increase over the previous. We have new plates on order and hope to do some additional dyno testing at Pauls Automotive Engineering this winter.
Special thanks goes out to Pauls Automotive Engineering, Ellison Engines, FELPRO gaskets, Hank at FORD MotorSports SVO, Bryan at Hoerr Racing, Bill at Performance alignment, Tom at Smittys fiberglass, Lee at KONI, Tim at Red Line Oil, Pete at CARS, Mike at Goodyear, Keith at Patterson Fabricating, Kevin Doran and the guys at Doran Racing.
Barry Kent Schonberger Team Tiger Evansville, IN 47712 (812) 464-1862. (812) 465-7021(FAX)