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Well...the Henderson Speed Weeks came to an end with a snap and a whimper instead of a thunderous roar. Last week was the official Henderson Speed Weeks that started out with Wes buying his first car with his own hard earned money. The little Neon (street) was sending every signal it possibly could that, yes. it was a hundred dollar car, and yes I certainly over paid. That it was terribly abused and neglected in it's previous life and even with the steps we took with it, it was not going to deliver the Autocross championship that Wes and I was looking to get out of it AND be a daily driver. After the alternator failure, then the brake failure, then the alternator/ECM/regulation failure...Wes decided that he wants something more reliable. So after a few weeks of false hopes he located a car that he decided he wanted...a Ford Contour SE. So we drove into the Bronx and picked it up on Monday after doing the dance of deception with the insurance company and brought it home. That's when we discovered that we couldn't get gas into the car due to a huge hole in the tank filler neck! The seller neglected to mention this prior to sale. Caveat Emptor. A search of local Ford dealerships yielded asking prices of $400 dollars and a week shipping time. No joy there. But the owner of the shop where I get some things done, Gary at 'God's Way', located 3 Contours in a junk yard on the island and got one good pipe out of it.

So Wes and I left for Pocono and a two day advanced racing school 0:dark:30 Thursday morning and Eve dropped off the Ford at the shop. Wes had a great two days, blowing perfectly through the advanced course and setting the bar for the other students, and went on to win the doubleheader races on Friday, qualifying on the pole
and going flag to flag.

We hit the road for home with the plan to get home early enough to pick up the Contour, pack the tools and hit the road for the Performance Driver Experience at Lime Rock on Saturday. The torrential rains made the trip home way long and we got here just before Gary locked the door. But all was fine in Fordville and the car came home happy.

Overslept by a hour the next morning and pulled out closer to six than five. It rained all the way up to the Connecticut boarder. At this time I guess I should mention that I, for reasons that will only be known to me, decided that I would drive the Neon up to Lime Rock, instead of the Durango, with the intent that Wes and I would play together on track in the time trials. The re-evaluation of that idea started when we were 3/4 of
the way there and the Neon died. No electric. Coast over to the side of the road, Wes zaps me with the booster cables, the car fires up just fine. Off we go. When we get there the weather is off and on and the track is going from wet to drying to dry to "SURF'S UP!!" in literally minutes. We're late and have missed driver's meeting and the organizers are making noises like they don't want to let us play...but, because of my past involvement with the club, decide to only give us a hard time. I send Wes out in the first session with an instructor (just to placate the officials) and decide to leave the Neon in the paddock. Wes' session is uneventful and slow. The instructor didn't understand why he even went along and he bumps Wes up into the advanced group. I ask if I can just tack on at the back of the advanced group and the officials, reluctantly
agree. Wes motions me over the pit wall and I climb behind the wheel of the Contour.

First blush...this is one torquey lil car! I ease out onto the straight and kick it into the first series of corners. The suspension holds but I can tell Wes hasn't set the tire pressures. We howl around the corner and shoot up the back straight. The tires are not fully up to temperature yet and we hunt for traction as we slide up the hill. Snatch third real quick and find the apex at West Bend, then hard on the gas and snatch 4th down
the hill onto the front straight. Okay let's take it for a ride. Hard braking at the end of the front straight into Big Bend, snap down into 3rd, and the dang thing takes a set and HOLDS IT! We sail around out to the wide drift point and right back down to the apex at 3 then into the braking zone for the left hander. Motor pulls real strong all the way through and we carry enough speed down No Name straight that I have to catch 4th gear. Not confident in my ability just yet I go down a gear quickly to third, pull that all the way through West Bend and snatch 4th just under the bridge before sailing down the hill. On the straight we fly past a BMW M3 Coupe that we caught and I look at Wes. His look back said, "Oh yeah...I own a hotrod."

Repeat the lap catching a new Mini entering West Bend and after dispatching him we enter the front straight. Into the braking zone and at the 4 marker...I've got great brakes. At the 3 marker...I've got alright the 2 marker I've got no brakes...I'VE GOT NO BRAKES!!! A quick correction, a slight left flick and we bail from the circuit proper and sail down the escape road. I get it all whoa'd down and make the flip at the end and wait to re-enter. The smoke exploding off the wheels left no doubt in my mind that those brakes were on fire. I get moving again as quickly as I can, pointing traffic around us and blew cooler, damp air over the cooked calipers. I'll be danged if the brakes didn't come back up and I had a pedal before the straight! But I pulled into the pits to see what we would have to repair to get Wes out. Answer...nothing. The fluid was black, the pads were cooked but it stopped fine. So out went Wes. And he had a ball. And I must did I. That car made me feel like a kid again. God! How I miss my Shelby.

So Wes finishes out the day with a few more sessions (he could smell the brakes at the end of every session so he knew to take it easy) and I spent the day B/S'ing with officials and friends. At the end of the day I picked up the workers from the corner stations, said our good-byes, and we hit the road for home. We got 4 miles before the Neon dies again. No electrics. A boost this time barely got it started and I limped into town running on maybe two cylinders. I coasted into a Sears parking lot at 5:00 on a Saturday and the guy proceeded to sell us a $100 battery. Just so we could get home.

At home I figured that this was pretty much the final hurrah for the lil Neon. But for some inexplicable reason I found myself getting up at 6:30 Sunday morning and setting out for the Nassau Coliseum to run the Neon in the Autocross that Wes and I had done with the car earlier in the season. We had points and were trying for a championship. Wes had gone out Saturday night with his buds (youth is wasted on the young) and wouldn't get up Sunday morning so I was flying solo (no pun intended). At the site I stood in line, paid my entry, then went back, jacked up the car and changed 3 of the 4 wheels to the autocross wheels and tires. The 4th wheel never got changed because when I tried to remove the first lug neatly snapped the stud clean off. Done. No tech for you "Mr. I Don't Know When To Quit While I'm Ahead". So I took off all the Autocross stuff and  put the street stuff back on, reloaded the car, got my money back and left for home.

I've decided that no matter how bad the Bailey Honda is I am going to replace the Neon with it. I stripped it down today, seats, carpets, any thing cloth that held the odor and son of a gun I could actually sit in it without retching this afternoon. And then, when Wes got home, we found out that the bolt pattern was the same as the Neon! So all the autocross stuff is a bolt on! Home run.

So, with a snap of the wheel stud the Henderson Speed Weeks moaned to an end. But it may be the start of a beautiful new friendship. Stay tuned.


TCM Debuts Mopar Neon at 2008 Vanderbilt Celebration at Roosevelt Field

Team Cobra Motorsports unwrapped their Dodge Neon to public view at the 2008 Vanderbilt Cup Races Celebration held at the Roosevelt Field Mall managed by Simon Properties on a sunny Sunday along with a number of other Classic and Vintage automobiles with a racing and sporting heritage. The recreation, the fourth year running, is a celebration of the international auto race created and hosted on Long Island by William K. Vanderbilt in 1904 that ran along the road from New York City to the middle of Nassau County that later took on the name of it's founder, the Vanderbilt Parkway.

The livery of the TCM Neon is a tribute to the AAR Team cars of Dan Gurney and specifically to the Mopar that he and his team mate, the late Swede Savage, both drove during the SCCA Trans Am championship of the 1970's. Dan Gurney and his parents lived on Long Island in Port Washington before moving to the west coast and the rest as they say is history!

TCM plans to compete the car in the SCCA Northeast division Improved Touring A category sprint series races, the NARRC (North American Road Racing Championship) series, and select NESCCA (North East SCCA) Enduro Championship races at racetracks across the northeast.

Winter preparations include upgraded components to the driveline and an extensive weight reduction program to the entire interior for the upcoming season as well as changes to increase reliability for the long enduro runs.

Watch for the TCM Neon to post big numbers next season.

2nd Outing With Margay Brings No Joy

After having a troubled 1st attempt with the new Margay Brava 1 TaG last year, the team ordered all of the parts and rebuilt the chassis and electronics that was destroyed over the ridiculously bumpy surface of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in their first outing. The course was modified for 2006 and it appeared that most of the severe bumps had been avoided. The course was lengthened so the karts with bigger power could stretch their legs a bit so TCM was optimistic about a good showing.

First practice was primarily a shake down cruise just to make sure everything would stay tight and attached and try to get a read on carb settings. Also to figure out which way the course went. Just a 4 minute session and everything looked to be A-OK. Just before the start of the second session we lubed the chain. Some how the excess lube managed to run off of the built in chain guard on the engine and get into the clutch bell. The resultant chattering and vibration caused us to dnf that session as we hunted down the problem. We managed to retrue the pitted and burned clutch, clean the bell, and verify that the bearings were good to go, and scaled the kart in preparation for the next session.

The warm up laps went fine and the green flew and the Margay was running a solid 2nd when at the completion of 3 laps Wes had the chain come off exiting a fast hairpin. He coasted to a stop off the course and we took him back to the trailer to see what happened. The chain was still intact but the sprocket showed some gouging on a few teeth. We replaced the gear, checked the alignment, did tire pressures and waited for qualifying.

Wes had noted that the kart wasn't coming of the corners as hard as he thought it would so we made a carb adjustment and went to watch from the troubled corner. At the start of the heat the cylinder loaded up and he bogged on the grid before readjusting for the start. The team could still see that he wasn't happy with the way the exit speed was but he did the best he could setting second fastest time before on lap 3...the chain comes off again!! Same spot. This time the sprocket and the pinion both showed some damage. But all the teeth remained and they were straight. For the final we made sure that the drive and sprocket gears were aligned, checked that there was proper chain tension, checked to see that the motor mounts were solid and secure. I made a final carb adjustment and we went to the grid.

In the warm up the Margay came alive! The exit speed was there and Wes gave a big thumbs up as he went by the pits on the formation lap. When the green came out he moved into the lead onto the long straight but left his braking a little to late and spun off. In chasing the leaders he lowered his lap time by 1 1/2 seconds and caught all except 1st and 2nd place, whom he was closing on until, on lap 3, the chain comes off again!!!

"I was confident that I could have caught 1st and 2nd in the remaining laps." said Henderson, "The kart was just a missile...better than it ever felt. But I guess not today. When we find out why it throws the chain every 3rd lap we'll really start to kick it. I'm positive."

So it's back to the shop and a complete investigation of the problem with the team's sights set on the next event in 3 weeks. We're disappointed but optimistic toward the next meeting.

Wes Henderson Completes Bertil Roos 3 Day Competition School

This summer team driver Wes Henderson successfully completed all of the requirements and received his certificate from the Bertil Roos Indy Style Racing School held at the Pocono Speedway in Pennsylvania. The course, held over 3 days, teaches the finesse of Grand Prix style racecraft that many of today's successful competition drivers use in organizations such as ChampCar, SCCA, ALMS, Grand-Am and NASCAR.

18 students were put to the test on the demanding 1.3 mile Pocono North Course and came under the intense scrutiny of the Bertil Roos instructors. Henderson showed marked improvement and continued to get faster, smoother, and more confident as the course progressed and comfortably took nearly 20 seconds off of his lap times, all the while coming to grips with his first ever experience in using a clutch and gear shift!

Says Wes, "The instructors were great, forcing me to stay within the parameters of the school and learning the right way to do things. I was continually counseled on not trying to go too fast too soon and to reduce the drama. In the end I was faster overall and ready to learn more! I wish we had the funds to just continue into the 2 Day Advanced Course but that'll have to wait until the next school."

Now Henderson is re-doing his team sponsor package and putting together a program that will give potential sponsors the best exposure in both the TaGUSA Karting championship and full sized cars.

Wes Henderson Wins Red Bull Invitational Mount Vernon Interdepartmental Grand Prix in the Streets of Mount Vernon, NY

TCM lead driver Wes Henderson made the trip to Mount Vernon, NY with the express purpose of redemption. Just 2 weeks earlier he was nipped for the final qualifying spot in the 2005 Red Bull Driver Search by just 3/1000ths of a second. The team gave him great support to let him know that while qualifying is one thing, racing is a totally different animal and the race is what it is about. With that firmly in mind Henderson went with a mission.

Originally scheduled to compete in the Red Bull Youth race, the event organizers quickly moved Henderson out of the group of similarly aged drivers and plopped him squarely in the middle of the adult racers chosen to contest the championship between the Department of Public works, the Fire Department, the Town Planning Board, and the Police Department. Negotiations were entered into to have Henderson possibly drive for the highest bidder of the departmental group. But try as hard as they could TCM couldn't convince the unknowing racers what they stood to loose. Everyone decided to hold the hands dealt to them.

In qualifying in blistering 98 degree heat Henderson saved his tires over the bumpy, tight street circuit and placed the CRG Honda PRO Kart of Island Go-Karts squarely on the front row in preparation of the 14 lap feature. This will prove to be a smart move due to later events. When the green flag flew for the start Henderson wisely surrendered the first turn to the more aggressive pole sitter then shrewdly worked the tight, twisty, early sections of the circuit and exiting the first of the 2 hairpins managed an over taking move that gave him better exit speed and the lead onto the long front straight, much to the delight of the huge crowd that had gathered around the course for the feature. Then it was a matter of settling into a rhythm and systematically picking off kart after kart to lap all except second place. With 4 laps to go there was a major incident exiting the Start/Finish chicane that caused on competitor to end up on his head but, thankfully, all were alright! On the re-start Henderson had a clear track ahead of him and again pulled away to a commanding victory of over 14 seconds to the rest of the field.

A few of the drivers took it all in good fun and actually came down to the victory celebration. But some just couldn't take the "agony of defeat" and chose to miss the festivities.

All in all, it was a self redeeming effort and a good show for all who attended.



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