Well, this was supposed to be a farewell to the 2018 driving season for me, but I didn’t get to do much driving. Back in September, I took my Evo down to Canton, CT to a shop called RRT Motorsports for some mods and maintenance. Several Albany-area Evo owners recommended the place, and the owner, a young guy by the name of Raif, was friendly and seemed pretty knowledgeable. I had a pretty extensive/expensive list of things I needed done, including:
– transmission rebuild w/ beefed-up syncros
– new clutch and throwout bearing installation
– GSC S2 cams installation and tune
Raif suggested carbon syncros for the transmission rebuild, and putting a new water pump and timing belt on the car while he was in there; it was a good idea and I agreed. Well, the car came back and seemed pretty strong: the tranny was now shifting relatively smooth, the clutch was solid, and the new cams and tune seemed to be rock-solid. Time to take it to the track and check it out. Prior to the track event, I started to throw codes related to the front O2 sensor, and Raif and I decided it was likely the sensor had failed. $340 for a new sensor, and I had my friend Adam install it, along with some new front brake rotors and pads.
Friday was a test day at Palmer, and since we were running the track in a clockwise direction for the first time, I decided it would be a good way to learn the track so to better instruct my student I was assigned Saturday and Sunday. The car was strong in the cold, sunny weather, and I felt really good about the outcome of the RRT work. But when I got into the pits, I noticed what appeared to be smoke coming off the right front of the car. Figuring it may be a stuck brake piston or piece of race rubber stuck to a hot rotor, I got out to see what was up. I was greeted by a growing puddle of green coolant from under the nose of the car. I checked the dash and sure enough the temp gauge was pegged. I had apparently overheated during the session and was dumping coolant – that would explain why the car got a bit greasy in left turns towards the end of the session.
I traded some emails at the track Friday with Raif, and noted the O2 sensor code was back despite the new O2 sensor. He took a look in the old tune and found that the 02 codes were all disabled previously, so I really didn’t need a new 02 sensor. That annoyed me – wish he had did his homework prior to all that.
After some troubleshooting with my buddy Phil S – a former Evo owner – we confirmed the water pump wasn’t leaking, and the thermostat was functioning. I bought a new radiator cap to confirm it wasn’t a pressurization issue, and went back out in the afternoon session. The car ran well for about 10 minutes before I noticed the temp gauge start to climb once again, and all suspicions pointed to it being a leaky head gasket. I had noticed that Raif was a drag racer at heart – his Evo is a 1300HP 1/4 mile beast – and didn’t seem to know too much about track driving or road racing. He told me he had turned up the boost when he tuned it, and it picked up 30HP over the last tune I had at STM (part of the back story). The added boost and dyno numbers were a sure sign I’d gone out of the safety zone of a stock block according to Phil, and I’m guessing he’s probably right. How to prove that it was that and not just a naturally failing head gasket on a 15 year old car with 88K miles of hard motorsports usage is the real challenge.
So, I turned to the local Albany Evo crowd to see if they had any good suggestions. They suggested taking it to STM for expert diagnosis. My issue was STM had told me earlier this summer they were no longer performing mechanical work due to the loss of a mechanic, but the suggester told me they had just brought a friend’s Evo back from STM 3 weeks ago. I made a call and was told they were indeed taking in limited work, so I have an appointment to tow the Evo out to Spencerport on 10/29 and hopefully get it all straightened out without too much more $$$ flying out of my pockets.