With no room to carry the track wheels and tires, a custom trailer was fabbed. Paul assures us it's a proven 100-plus-mph device. Bruce says puffs of smoke come off the tires when they occasionally touch the ground during such antics.
We also ran the OTC in 2002 using our 2-ton, air-conditioned track project car, but the only time we saw Paul's car was on the grid. Most of the time he was eight seconds a lap faster and simply motored into the distance. So, beating us in the American GT class was like fishing with hand grenades, but Paul also was third of all Touring cars and 10th overall off everything there, which included hot stuff in the Unlimited (trailered) division. At such a competitive event, Paul came away from the OTC pleased with his car and the growth he made as a driver.
In fact, the OTC was when Paul decided he was ready for wheel-to-wheel racing. In early 2003 the car once again went under the wrench at Griggs for transformation into an American Iron Extreme car. A full cage was built, the racing fuel cell was put in place, a new Gold Track diff was installed, a Tilton pedal assembly with manual brakes and remote reservoirs replaced the Hydroboost, Sierra racing brakes went on, the interior came out, a Kirkey seat and a racing harness were carefully fitted, and the engine came out in the never-ending power search.
This time, prepped Trick Flow R-heads and new pistons went on, to arrive at more than 13:1 compression. A larger Comp cam and another valvetrain freshen-up were employed. The same, low, 5,800-rpm powerband resulted, and the electronic chip from Griggs Racing stayed with a 6,000-rpm rev limiter. The chassis dyno showed 460 lb-ft and 413 hp at the rear tires, with 380 lb-ft on tap at 2,000 rpm. It was a "big and flat powerband," Paul says. "It goes up, flat, then tails off. It's a square-wave powerband."
The same T56 gearbox remained, but all bearings, spindles, and hubs were renewed. Hoosier tires went on, and when weighed, approximately 450 pounds of street stuff had been removed. This included all insulation, along with unnecessary brackets, supports, and other metal parts.
Now the No. 49 car, it hit the AIX scene for the first time at Sears Point in June 2003. Paul finished Third-behind Bruce Griggs and Ross Murray. Probably due to the heavy Windsor, Paul was once again seeking better chassis balance. By season's end, the solution was 315 front tires. This meant seriously bending the front fenders, some spacers and 10.5-inch-wide front wheels, but the new front grip "was like, WOW!" Paul says. "What a transformation. It was like the car came together. Everything was now there. If you wanted push, it would push; throttle oversteer, you just step on the gas. It was really balanced."
By the end of the season, Paul was finally a bonafide race driver, with a Third-Place NASA AIX championship trophy to prove it. Now he was looking for a new driving challenge. That turned out to be SCCA ITE racing, but just as the '04 season began, Paul was tagged by a Miata he was passing at the start-finish straight at Laguna Seca. The Mustang turned into the wall at 130 mph, and when no one was expecting it, Paul's racing exploits, and his car, were dashed. Luckily, Paul was wearing a HANS device which was credited with saving his mobility, if not his life. As it was, his left leg was gashed by the dead pedal, and he received extensive, deep bruising, some cuts, and a concussion. But he walked out of the wreckage.
The damage to the metal was huge. The block was cracked in two places, the T56 and driveshaft were bent, and gears in the differential were squashed. The chassis and cage, while damaged, did their protective jobs, and will likely see the track again.
But not too soon, as the damage to Paul's racing budget was at least as extensive. So, we'll close what we're sure is just the first act in this street-to-race story. But you know there's more to come.