US drift driver Kelsey Rowlings has had a very busy few months and she took the time out of her hectic schedule to update us on what she has been up to.
In May, after revealing the new livery on her “Demo” car, Kelsey was off to Hyperfest at the Virginia International Raceway.
It was an awesome three days of drifting in mostly good weather. Although the car had a couple of glitches, there was plenty of opportunity to get out on track.
Immediately following Hyperfest, the new look for the competition car was revealed and readied to compete in the first round of Formula Drift PROSPEC held at Orlando Speed World May 18 – 20.
Her first event in Orlando started a little bit rocky, when she had some issues with the car breaking up during practice. After checking data logs, spark plugs, and going through everything Kelsey and her team couldn’t figure out why the car seemed to be struggling.
After only three practice laps, she decided to sit out until qualifying to avoid damaging the engine with an unknown problem. Kelsey managed to drive the car through the break-ups and qualify 23rd.
The theory was that the car was for some reason running a bit too rich, so after changing some things in her Link ECU, Kelsey was hopeful that the car would run well in Top 32 competition. Unfortunately, just as top 32 competition got started, so did the rain. This meant very unpredictable track conditions, but that may have been slightly in her favour since she wasn’t sure if the car would be 100 percent. The wet track meant less grip and less load on the engine, so although it meant for more difficult driving, it may have been the best-case scenario.
Facing Ben Hobson in her battle, Kelsey chased in the first run. The rain made it difficult to keep up with Ben, who appeared to have his setup very dialled in. Hobson put down a great lead run and unfortunately, at the very end of the track, Kelsey’s car had its break ups, causing her to almost straighten and when she tried to adjust to it and get in the gas, almost over rotated past the finish line.
Fortunately, the car worked well for Kelsey during her lead run, and she was able to put down one of the best lead runs of the entire top 32 field. Unfortunately, due to the mistakes in her follow run, she was knocked out of the competition.
You can see more on this event here…
Before heading to Englishtown Raceway Park in New Jersey for round 2, Kelsey and the team decided to take a trip down to Five Bar Motorsports in Fort Myers, Florida to put the car on the dyno and see if they could figure out why the car’s engine is wanting to break up. They thought that maybe the tune was going rich, causing spark to be blown out. After several pulls on the dyno and adjustments to the tune, they just could not get the car to replicate the breaking up issues they experienced in Orlando, so decided to pack it up and head to Jersey.
As soon as practice began, they quickly realised that the breaking up was still occurring, but it was so intermittent and there was nothing obvious showing on the data logs. Therefore, Kelsey decided to continue practicing in preparation for qualifying that evening. The only other issue appeared to be a blown fuse that caused one of the radiator fans to cut out and temps to get a little hot, but after replacing the fuse they were right back at it.
Kelsey had a great showing in qualifying and was relieved that the car was co-operating this round. She scored a 77, putting her in 11th place and secured a spot in the top 32 with a very solid position.
Heading into Friday practice, new engine issues began to appear. The car started to overheat very badly after one lap, which she thought would just be another fan fuse, however both fans were on. The team’s attention was then directed to the water pump, as the belt appeared to be slipping on the pulley. They attempted to put the belt back on, but it slipped yet again. Upon inspecting the pulley, the team decided there might be some play in the pulley, causing the belt to slip and indicating a possible water pump failure, which would explain the overheating. Kelsey ended practice early and went to work with the team to replace the water pump before her top 32 battle. Fortunately, her battle was to be the last in the schedule, so the team had plenty of time.
Because of her higher qualifying position, Kelsey led in her first top 32 battle against Hooman Rahimi. She executed a solid lead run, but as she was returning to the start line for her chases run, she quickly realized the car was overheating again. After just one lap, the car had reached 248 degrees. Kelsey quickly called her 5-minute competition timeout and returned to the pits for the team to address the issue. They thought there could have been an air bubble remaining in the system after replacing the water pump and attempted to cool the car down and add some water to the system.
They managed to cool it enough to head back to the start line for the chase run. Rahimi’s car had a lot more horsepower and was able to create some distance on the run-up, but she quickly caught up through the transition heading into the second outer zone.
Rahimi’s lead run then got extremely sloppy when he started dropping a tire off the track and into the dirt. His car was wavering, but Kelsey managed to stay on course, drifting next to him as he made his way back on track. Transitioning into the third and final outer zone, it seemed as if he was trying to use his higher power to create distance, but in doing so, he missed the beginning of the third outer zone, then went wide towards the end. She skilfully managed to adjust to his line and stay up close.
In the end, the judges decided that Kelsey’s lead run was much better than Rahimi’s, and although he had a closer chase, they decided Rahimi’s run was so inconsistent and unpredictable that it was not very easy for me to follow. Therefore, Kelsey was awarded the win and moved onto the top 16. As exciting as that was, the car was still overheating, and she needed to be towed back to the pits.
Kelsey and the team decided that the only thing they could do was to re-bleed the cooling system in case there was any air trapped. Thankfully, the team was not back out on track until the following day, so were able to rest before another day’s competition.
Saturday morning arrived, and Kelsey was one of the first cars in line for the top 16 warm up. In her first lap, her concerns grew as the car started breaking up again. She decided to try a few more laps to see if she could replicate the issue and get more data. After the second lap, the break ups seemed to clear, but the coolant temperature once again reached 248 degrees. At this point, her team decided that there was a much larger issue happening and was only getting worse. The cooling system was becoming pressurised, and they determined that there was a head gasket problem, and the heads were lifting, causing the break ups, and overheating.
The team decided to sit out of the remainder of practice and let the car cool down completely. They then towed the car over to the burnout box in preparation for their top 16 battle. The strategy was to keep the car as cool as possible to make it two laps without overheating, and just hope for the best. Since Kelsey had already used a competition timeout, she would not be able to cool the car between runs.
She was up against Austin Matta and would chase first. Taking off down the straight, Kelsey stayed with him and was lined up perfectly through the transition and heading into the second outside zone. Her placement of the car was perfect, and she knew she could keep the car on Matta’s door throughout the second outer zone… but then the car started to choke and break up terribly. She did everything she could to just keep drifting through the course, but the engine was having none of it. Having given it her all throughout the course, she knew that her chase run would be considered a zero due to the straightening.
Heading into my lead run, Kelsey knew she would have to try to put the best lead run down possible, knowing that the engine may not work correctly. Strangely, most of the break ups seemed to clear up when there was more heat in the engine, and she managed to put down a strong lead run. As soon as she crossed the finish line, she shut the car down at 228 degrees. The strategy worked to keep the car cooler, but the team still needed to determine the cause of the break ups.
Matta was awarded the win, because she couldn’t keep the car going in her chase run, and although the entire weekend was a struggle, Kelsey and the team were relieved to have diagnosed the cooling issue. They could then set to work repairing the problem
Kelsey and the entire team truly appreciate everyone’s ongoing support and they look forward to what the rest of the season brings.