Hair of the Dawg, Laguna Seca 2024

Hair of the Dawg, Laguna Seca 2024

Written by Anthony Casson

Date: January 13-14th 2024

The first race of the season at Laguna Seca for Lucky Dog Racing League (LDRL) is generally a highlight for anyone. It’s certainly one we at Arcflash would love to win, and we had our shot this year as one of the 45 teams selected in the lottery. The car looked strong, but gremlins of the past along with several new challenges left us packing the trailer early with two DNF’s in hand.

There are constraints and challenges with operating a racing program in Central Oregon during the winter, particularly the weather. Extremely cold winter weather with snow and ice are a regular occurrence–a cost we accept of enjoying life in beautiful places amongst mountains. Logistically, it can make travel to events like at Laguna more involved, but more importantly it makes local testing opportunities unviable. Having come off a disappointing event at Thunderhill in November due to more supplier mechanical issues, fixing the car and verifying the capabilities of the many systems would have been ideal. Instead, we did what we could to get the car ready and went into the Hair of the Dawg races in January a little blind, a little uncertain.

Two predominant questions we had were would the motor continue having oil consumption problems, and would our freshly modified exhaust meet the notoriously low sound requirements during the race? We came to realize there was apparently a third topic we should have had on our mind: the reliability of our drive shaft (again).

Load-in went smoothly on Friday, with a quick tech inspection pass and getting our hot pit and paddock areas ready for two days of racing. Unlike at other events, there is no practice available on Friday–the only time to get a real sense of the car’s behavior and its systems would be a 40-minute practice and qualifying session Saturday morning. There was no race at Laguna in 2023, and two of our three drivers drove the track in 2022. Fortunately everyone else was in the same situation entering the newly resurfaced track and mixed weather conditions projected throughout the weekend.

Saturday morning started organized and calm. Arcflash owner and driver Josh Murray got in some shakedown laps, followed by Dave Baker taking the majority of the practice session, and then with Josh back in the seat to qualify and start the first race. Greg Guise would go in fresh for his stint later.

We qualified deep in the top of three classes, Class A, and fortunately we were looking all right for sound requirements. The car sounded a little loud but there were so far no concerns from officials. With the car packaged the way it is, including the modified exhaust, getting caught out for sound issues would have meant we were done with no realistic way to make substantial changes to get back on track; this was a good start given all the work that went into preparing the car, especially the herculean build and tuning effort by Josh alone.

The 7-hour race started well enough. It was obvious the field was competitive and even more obvious some competitors could more easily hover around the Super Dog minimum lap time. The closer and more consistently drivers approach that minimum time the further down the road they will be compared to the competition. Stepping below that time means a penalty, and every subsequent infringement leads to larger and larger penalties, even disqualification.

Our car can do the maximum single driver stint length, 2 hours, which for a 7-hour race presented plenty of flexibility strategically. We were able to capitalize on some on-track action and brought Josh in early and gave us a slight advantage later on track. PIt time was slow due to a breather cap on a fuel jug being left on, reducing the advantage. Dave started the second stint and found a groove but unfortunately got penalized while going around a safety vehicle and had to come in for a drive through the pit lane and a 2-minute hold. We were ready to capitalize on yet another on-track event and bring Dave in early to try and gain back some time. We had been as far down as almost 3 laps to the leaders but were able to claw back half of that deficit due to pit timing and Greg putting in some fantastic lap times in the third stint.

Officials had noted some smoke coming from the exhaust and possibly the cabin. Others also noted that we had some substantial flames from the exhaust, which we noticed later had even burned part of the rear-left fender as it traveled in and up the wheel well. It was clear from having to feed more oil into the car each pit stop, like we did at Thunderhill, that something was still amiss. And there were more reports from officials that sparks were seen around the rear-left wheel as well–things were getting concerning.

Transmission fluid had started seeping into the cabin, and there was additional smoke. Greg had set a time under Super Dog, also resulting in needing to complete a drive-through penalty, but we had already brought the car in to inspect the situation. We couldn’t continue racing long but wanted to complete the penalty so as to not incur one early in the race the following day, assuming we could even get going. Dave got in and did the drive-through, then lapped around and back into the pits for us to end our day two hours shy of the finish. It was a rough day, and the work was just getting started.

It is difficult to describe the work involved that evening, mostly by Josh with a few helping hands finding tools or parts or food or all of the above. Thanks to a ton of hard work and wonderful help from fellow teams that evening, we did manage to button up the car for the second race day–the car was on the jacks at 4 PM and was finished at 11:30 PM. But what exactly happened? Super question!

First, the rear-left wheel bearing was loose on the hub; we had to replace the bearing and the hub itself. The bearings had already been changed prior to the race, so it was an unfortunate surprise for this to happen. Second, and even more frustrating, was the slip yoke plug on our second carbon driveshaft left the chat. Resulting in transmission fluid coating every inch of the bottom of the car and into the cabin. We measured the amount of fluid not in teaspoons but in ladles. Identical to the failure that DNF’d us at Pacific in 23’..


In our last report following the 1000 Miles of Thunderhill in 2023 we had some guesses as to what happened to force our DNF that race. We had lost drive, and we figured it was an issue with the clutch and possibly oil contamination from the valve cover gasket/catch can.  Alas, it was not; the Tilton clutch was fine. What was problematic was a failed carbon drive shaft at one end. The shaft itself broke its glue lamination at the yoke lug, spun and grabbed. Shattering the tube. At the time, this had been the second drive shaft issue of the 23’. Now three. Failures of a carbon driveshaft assembly does not make a happy team. We will be making changes in the near future, if that was not obvious.

Josh had been able to fab up and weld a new cap to the slip yoke, thanks to tools and materials from more paddock friends, and it was workable for the second day. Unfortunately disappointment would soon follow the rebuild celebration.

Greg started day two, but only after we had been late to the pit lane to be released into the field parade. It was a rough start from deep down the field instead of third place where we should have been. The race started in wet conditions, and we lost plenty of time to our competitors. Then an hour and a half into the race Greg was shown the “meatball” flag, indicating a mechanical problem we had to address. We had received a sound violation having reached over 2 decibels higher than the 92 decibel limit. Lacking the ability to add more mullfers to our already triple mufflered exhaust, that was the end for us. We packed up early, took in the track sights from the top of the Corkscrew, and headed back north.

With LDRL running at Sonoma in June instead of February this year, our next event isn’t planned until April. We will be taking the time to reconfigure the current #541 E36 package and try to dial in everything from motor and drivetrain reliability to general serviceability, hopefully with some on-track testing to validate the work.

Thank you again to everyone who put in work to get us on track competing, including the whole extended Arcflash team, along with the great humans we get to compete with at the event. The community is awesome, and we look forward to seeing everyone next time!

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