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Pobst Position: Huh? What’d you say?
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Huh? What'd you say?

After pontificating on seeing recently, I am now motivated to preach on hearing, or "Sorry, what did you say?" I had mine checked a few years ago, and found two obvious things: One, I had a sizeable lump of ear wax virtually filling my left ear (eeeuuuwww), and Two, significant loud noise damage in the other. Gee, I wonder why? Good news/bad news. Our ears are damaged by surprisingly low levels of noise. Lawn mowers, airplane cabins, hammers on nails. In our race car world, noise is omnipresent. Heck, it's one of my favorite parts! I have always loved the variety of exhaust notes on an SCCA club racing weekend. I recall a clever wit that once defined a race car as an efficient machine for converting money into noise.

Most of my hearing damage was in just the left side. As I thought back, I remembered my early days of endurance racing. We used a CB radio (ha!), and I had an earphone only on the right. I still remember the unmuffled RX-7 slowly pulling by on my left at Watkins Glen, yeow, that hurt. Rotaries are fantastic racing engines, compact, long lasting, utterly reliable and high revving. And incredibly loud. That engineering marvel, the rotor, fires three times per revolution (it's only once every other time on your common four stroke) and there are two of them. Three, in the case of the SpeedSource RX-8 I drove at the Rolex 24. What a wonderful, searing, otherworldly wail. Three rotors, three firings per revolution, that's nine explosions for just one time around, and we ran that thing 9000 rpm. Times nine, that's 81,000 assaults on the ears per minute, not counting the echo off the Daytona wall, all the way around the banking, for six hours plus! Even with a helmet (not much help, folks), the best earplugs, and a sizzling hot, sizeable, sophisticated muffler, my ears rang for two solid days afterward, and have not been quite the same since. I have not been tested since, but I have a ballpark idea from the frequency of my 'Huh?s and What's?s"

My KPAX Volvo has another wondrous piece of engineering magic, the turbo. Mounted directly to the exhaust manifold, it not only pumps up that little 2.5liter Volvo five, it does a very nice job of absorbing that sound energy and converting it into boost and horsepower. The note is a muted burble under a mean whoosh like a jet on takeoff. However, it is still next to impossible to hear next to a Corvette on the pit straight. But the world is slowly coming around to quieter race engines. New Porsche racers come with mufflers, what a relief that has been. The original 911 GT3R had two short megaphones that drilled driver, crew, and fan for hours. I remember feeling ear pain as I drove. We've tested those Porsche race silencers, and they do not hurt the power. As you can infer, I am a big fan of noise control. As homes infringe on the older race tracks all 'round the continent, sound levels are monitored ever more closely. Don't complain, friends, count your blessings. It's good for you and your family, too. I know it is not as macho cool, but neither is a hearing aid, or saying "Huh?" when your lover whispers in your ear. I was so pleased when I saw my hero and new teammate Andy Pilgrim wearing earplugs in the paddock, and/or plugging his ears when the crew put the air wrench on a wheel. A prime example of experience and wisdom. Take care of your ears, SCCA'ers, especially your kids'. The pros do.
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