P4-2021-01 – Fastest Shark on Earth
It was an unusual summer for those of us tracking our Porsches in HPDE and other events. The dreaded Covid-19 pandemic disrupted virtually everything that was scheduled for the 2020 season. Our world was turned upside down and nothing at all was for certain. Kudos go out to the many devoted club volunteers who developed policy and logistical workarounds to facilitate our club activities. They were able to abide by CDC and state guidelines and still allow us to enjoy our track days and other events while mitigating our personal health risk. Overall, it was a good summer season considering the constraints.
The pinnacle of my 2020 season began with a phone call I received at the end of August. I was contacted by Carl Fausett from 928 Motorsports asking if I would like to crew for his latest 928 project. Me, being a Porsche and more specifically a 928 cheerleader, immediately replied YES, of course! I said “let me know what, where and when, I’ll be there”.
For over 18 years Carl Fausett has been developing the MEG, the nickname for his supercharged and highly modified 1100+HP 1978 Porsche 928. Many of the performance components Carl developed over the years for the MEG were subsequently purchased for fitment to 928s by owners and racers alike. Carl built a business on it; 928 Motorsports. In fact, many of the components Carl developed and built are fitted on my own 928 track car-8 plate LSD, 3 piece front crossmember, adjustable front & rear stabilizer, short shifter, solid engine mounts, solid mount steering rack, etc.
Carl and the MEG already hold the 928 speed record at Bonneville (216 MPH) and also hold the record for the best 928 time at Pikes Peak. Carl thrives on pushing the limits of his 928 and he was convinced there was more left in the MEG and it hadn’t finished squeezing out its maximum top speed yet!
|The MEG as setup for Bonneville||The MEG as setup for Pikes Peak|
What is interesting to note here is that Carl felt he could have gone much faster at Bonneville. This is why he kept returning there, only to be disappointed to weather and salt conditions. Carl was convinced that the MEG was not HP limited, what he felt he experienced at high speed was the rear tires tractive effort breaking loose (wheel slip) causing both an instability at high speed and limiting transfer of all that horsepower to the salt. On his high speed record runs at Bonneville, the salt was somewhat saturated and what would be best described as slightly “mushy”. Contributing further to the problem was that Carl was running on the narrow high speed tires required at Bonneville. So, this brings us to Carl’s new challenge.
The What? Carl’s mission was to set a world speed record for a 928 on a hard surface closed course. His goal was to achieve a top speed of 230 MPH+. Extensive engineering calculations were undertaken and supported a strong probability of success.
The Where? There are only a few locations in the US that offer a hard surfaced closed course large enough and with a straight long enough to achieve a 230 MPH+ goal. Carl honed-in on a location that had the potential to meet the requirements, the Transportation Research Facility (TRC) in East Liberty Ohio with a 7.5 mile closed course oval track.
The When? The TRC track was booked for two private and exclusive one hour sessions on Monday Oct 5, 2020. Rain or shine, the 7.5 mile was booked and paid for.
The Event? My experience begins with a pleasant Sunday afternoon drive in the Panamera Mansory from my home located north of Detroit to Bellefontaine OH, a 3-1/2 hour stint mostly on I-75. Bellefontaine was our meeting point and hotel location for the night, as other team members were arriving from Wisconsin and Illinois. Having arrived a half hour early, I thought I would scout out the TRC Transportation Research Center in East Liberty. What struck me immediately on the short trip to the track was the plethora of rolling hills. How could they ever find a flat surface large enough to support a 7.5 mile oval track in this part of the country? However, a couple of miles before arriving at the TRC facility the hills suddenly disappeared and I was back on the mid-west flatland. Security at the TRC gate was welcoming, but understandably tight. In speaking with the security guard he informed me that the hills just to the west of the TRC track were part of the Bellefontaine moraine and home to the highest point in Ohio.
TRC is a huge campus, with many manufacturers testing all types of vehicles at the facility including automobiles, motorcycles, buses, heavy trucks, off-road equipment and autonomous vehicles. You can find out more about this outstanding facility at https://www.trcpg.com. The 7.5 mile oval is just one of many tracks and testing areas on the TRC campus. Many large hangar-like buildings house OEM testing facilities and security is paramount. There was no way I was getting in to see the track before tomorrow’s scheduled session. What I did discover on my trail blazing adventure was that the Ohio Honda assembly plant is located adjacent to the TRC campus. With a feeling for the drive to TRC, it was back to the hotel to get organized and wait for the rest of the team. Lance and Carl were arriving from Wisconsin with the truck, trailer and the MEG and Austin, Carl’s son, was coming from his home in Illinois.
|The MEG hauler|
Once everyone arrived and checked into the hotel a bit of freshening up was in order, then we all piled into the Mansory and were off to Brew Bellefontaine for dinner and a planning-strategy session. Bellefontaine is a friendly and pleasant mid-west town, but inundated with Honda vehicles everywhere.
Strategy and planning session with the crew the night of arrival. Pictured (L to R) Carl Fausett – MEG owner/builder/driver, Austin Fausett – crew-photo/videographer, Lance Wiskirchen – crew/mech support, John Dorscht – crew/TAG Heur timer/mech support
Carl was scheduled to run two solo sessions on the track, one at 11:30 AM and a second at 3:00 PM. Six track spotters with radios would be placed strategically around the track as would two ambulances and firefighting equipment. Carl was entering unknown territory and the support vehicles were planned to address any emergency. Essentially there were four issues of immediate concern, the weather, fuel management, aero handling considerations and the TAG Heur precision timer setup. The weather forecast was calling for possible light rain and 50 degrees with fog in the morning with the distinct possibility of a wet track. Regarding fuel planning, the MEG consumes copious amounts of racing fuel at speed and Carl planned to stop part way through each one hour session to refuel. My primary responsibility was the TAG Heur timer. It was to be placed on the track and serve as a redundant timing system, backing up the TRC installed V-BOX data collection system. The plan was to arrive at TRC the next morning at 8:30 AM to meet up with TRC’s project managers and track coordinators, have a driver/crew meeting and get the MEG setup in the oval pit lane.
Upon arrival at the TRC facility we checked in and discovered they have a strict protocol of NO PHOTOS! Red security tape was placed over the camera lenses on each of our cell phones. Don’t even think of removing the tape as it cannot be re-applied without it being obvious it had been removed. Your phones are subject to detailed examination before leaving the campus.
We found the TRC staff to be very accommodating, demonstrating great interest and participating to make the event a success. I should point out that these guys see and work with the future every day. We brought them a Porsche built in 1978. The TRC staff took photos as we requested and at the end of the day, after much study to insure no secrets were in the background, released and authorized us to use the photos. The TRC staff was knowledgeable and also helpful in assisting with our timing equipment setup. They also briefed us on the specifics of the track-maximum known safe turn entry speeds, maximum known safe turn sustained speeds on the banking, maximum known safe turn exit speeds, track irregularities (very few), landmarks (mile markers and bridge), etc. This speed record attempt was an unusual event for TRC staff as well as for Carl and the team. We did a few laps in the TRC trucks and vans on the big oval, transitioning with speed from the flat inside slow lane #1 through to the upper high-speed lane #4 with 28-36 degree banked corners. That was interesting!
|Entry to the Oval|
|De-clipped and being prepped||Careful trailer removal-very low ground clearance
Interior with V-BOX data acquisition installed by
|The MEG ready for action|
First session. By 11 AM the fog had lifted and the track was close to completely dry. The MEG was ready, Carl was ready, the TRC V-BOX data acquisition system was installed by TRC and tested, the TAG Heur timer was placed on the track and calibrated plus the track had been driven for driver and crew familiarity and key landmarks were noted. All the items on our list were checked and we were ready for our first one hour session. The plan was for Carl to do several familiarization laps to get a feeling for the car’s handling character, while incrementally increasing the top speed on each successive lap, thereby flushing out any handling or other anomalies that the MEG might display. Many upgrades and modifications had been made on the MEG since the Bonneville high speed runs.
Lap 1: Carl warms up the car, engine, brakes and the Michelin Pilot Sport PS-2 tires (yep, the same tires many of us use on our own Porsches), and then runs a foundation top speed of 130 MPH. Carl has been here many times before in the MEG. Bear in mind that one lap is 7.5 miles long. From the pit lane we only had a visual on Carl on one straightaway, however we could hear the MEG’s 1100+ supercharged horsepower thunderous roar performing flawlessly around the whole track. The RPM dropping for turn entry and then winding up again as the MEG was catapulting out of the turns to enter the two mile long straightaways.
Lap 2: The MEG was clearly fully prepped and ready to perform. Watching the MEG zoom past us on the straight it was fast, but not unusually so. One lap at TRC is equal to three or four laps on a circuit course, both Carl and the MEG were ready to perform. Top speed this time was pegged at 153 MPH. Carl was sticking to the plan, adding about 20 MPH incremental increases as he and the MEG warmed up to the quiet bucolic Ohio surroundings.
Lap 3: Unknown to us, this lap was to be the record-breaking and top speed lap of the day. Sadly, Lap 3 was also the final lap of the day.
Watching the MEG zoom past, it was evident that on this lap Carl was just being “Carl” and he was going for it, flat out. You could hear it! Screw the incremental speed increases that were planned, both Carl and the MEG were up to the task. The sound of that Porsche V-8 pounding out more than four times the horsepower of the original stock engine and running at maximum RPM for what seemed like hours was simply marvelous! We waited impatiently to spot Carl exiting that banked turn and pounding it out onto the straight. Yes, it was a remarkable audible and visual experience.
What was clear to us was that this was real speed, power and a sound like the MEG had never spooled up and released before. The TRC V-Box data acquisition system in the car recorded a top speed of 234 MPH. Carl saw 233 MPH in the car, but he was rather busy at the time. The V-Box was verified with the TAG Heur on track timer we had set up. Yes, in fact the top speed was verified by two independent systems at 234.256 and 234.434 MPH. This was well beyond the Porsche 928 world speed record and right up there with all Porsche top world speed records. Less than 15 minutes into the first solo track hour we had already exceeded the planned 230+ MPH goal.
|TRC V-Box result||TAG Heur result|
The day was already a success as the goal was achieved! Carl being elated with the performance over the three laps opted to wind the MEG down, bring it in for fuel and a thorough mechanical check. The usual check of tires (pressure, temperature, visual condition and wheel torque), aero components security (air dam and underbelly) and mechanical (engine and drivetrain) were performed. There was discussion of some tweaks we could do to further improve the top speed (tape up cooling ducts in the air dam, etc.).
Second session. As Carl passed us on Lap 2, we observed a small puff of blue smoke exiting the rear of the MEG as it whisked past us. No engine misfire or drop in engine performance was evident, nothing obvious. We would discuss this issue when Carl pitted to see if he had noticed any inconsistency.
Subsequently, our crewmember Lance noted that there was some evidence of grease deposited on the rim of the left rear wheel. Upon closer examination it was discovered that the driver’s side half shaft outer CV boot clamp had failed and that the grease contained in the boot was being released from the assembly. Could the release of grease being flung onto the exhaust been the cause of the puff of blue smoke we observed? Likely. Could we sustain further laps without incident of a half shaft failure? Unknown. Could a half shaft CV failure at 230+ mph be catastrophic? Yes. Could we repair the problem? Yes, easily if we were at home, but we were not equipped to do so at the track.
I will leave up to you, the reader, to contemplate what might have happened. Too much grease in the boot combined with the half shaft rotating RPM well beyond design limits or ? Whatever the cause the outcome was not good. After a lengthy discussion amongst the team, defaulting to the side of caution and safety we opted to call it.
Was there more top speed left in the MEG. Carl thinks so!
Will there be another opportunity to let the MEG exercise another attempt? Not likely.
After only three laps and about 15 minutes of run time, we already had the gold! 234 MPH! SUCCESS! What a day! Take that Coronavirus!!!!