April 17, 2009FIRST FIRE
START UP TODAY...
Out in the shop the (distilled) water and the (50 weight synthetic racing) oil have both gone into the engine and final preparations (to first start up) are going on. Every electrical connection is being checked, double checked, and then checked again ... there's a certain (good) tension in the air. The Banks design and build crew are all top pros, seasoned troops; they've got all the right tools, parts, information, data, everything. But there's still an air of, let's call it anticipation, out there.
Earlier today, while one of the maintenance guys stood by with a fire extinguisher, the master electrical switch was thrown and everyone in on the build, from engine guys to electricians to fabricator were all over this newest Sidewinder feeling wires, crawling under, over, and around the Sidewinder watching for any sort of problem.
All the switches worked, the water pump and the cooling fan both spun on command and all was right with the world ... high fives, fist bumps, and even one low five (for the guy who was stationed under the racecar watching for trouble) were passed around.
On a project this complicated there are a number of natural milestones. Getting the raw chassis out of the box (with the whole office staff out on the street watching), putting the race engine into the chassis and tightening it down, not just for fit of for press photos, or a show, but for good, seeing electricity course through the machine's one mile of wiring for the first time (with no sparks, or smoke, just a nice, comforting "in-spec" reading on a meter).
We know that its going to work, we've tested every component, every combination, every variable both in real life (on the record-setting Banks S-10 pickup truck that's already become something of an icon in the diesel drag racing world) and in the "lab" (computer simulations seven ways from Sunday). We know exactly how it should run, sound, feel ... everything.
And yet, the first time firing up a new engine in a new chassis is a time of controlled nervousness that has everyone in the ACE shop's attention.
There's no countdown, just the single warning: "Clear!" Click, whir, thrum.
And the sound? Mellow, self-contained, confident About as un-shrill as a racing engine can be. No the engineers didn't wing this thing up to the near six thousand R's that it'll twist on the dragstrip in tests in a day or two, but the sound that we all like was there. Strong, authoritative ... to repeat ...confident.
And today, firing the engine up after almost two solid weeks of tedious wiring and plumbing, should have been just another day at the office for everyone associated with the project, but it's really different. A milestone, a marker, a memory-maker.
One of the many memorable points along the road in bringing a fire-breathing diesel drag racer to life at Banks.