I raced!

Wow, I didn’t realize how long it had been since I posted. When I last wrote the car was almost finished, and right after that posting I mounted the sway bars, replaced the wear parts on the shifter (huge improvement!) and mounted the grill. Also had the car aligned and corner balanced, and found it needed 160 lbs. of ballast to make weight for its class, and that was done,m too. Took it to Shenandoah Circuit for a day, and to the July PCA event at Summit Point, making small adjustments to the sway bars, but all in all it was driving well. So I felt it was ready to race (perhaps it was, but perhaps I wasn’t quite ready as I didn’t really know the car…).

Went down to VIR with NASA in late June – temps >100 degrees all three days (thank goodness for the Cool Shirt) and while I passed the comp school on Friday, I did horribly in the races Saturday and Sunday, with several offs each day including a spin in turn 1 of my first lap in my first race (granted, I had taken the advice of the comp school to try to take the turn on the outside, and since we were preceded by a HPDE session, it was all marbles out there and I just had no traction). I finished both races (well, came in healthy a lap early in the first race), but I was slow, inconsistent, and basically not doing well. Most (but not all) of the Spec E30s finished ahead of me, but by the Sunday race I could hold my own in the turns with the mid-pack SE30s (forget my fellow GTS-2 cars) and pass them on the straights. Also, my GHL muffler made it through only part of the weekend before generating large holes.

I had the muffler “repaired” and headed to Porschefest at Summit Point. Wow, the car did really well. On RA-1s I ran lap times consistently in the 1:28s and even got below 1:28 on one lap. The muffler repair lasted about one session, but my son and I drove the car that way for the entire weekend with the hole getting bigger and bigger (finally about 2 x 3″!).

We had it fixed once again prior to the DE at VIR, where my son and I watched the hole re-appear and grow to about 4″ x 6″! We still had fun there and the car drove well. I got much more comfortable going up the climbing esses at greater speed, although my lap times on RA-1s stayed similar to those (where I didn’t go off) during the NASA race weekend: 1:22s. The change was that I was much more consistent, and able to maintain consistent lap times without going off the track.

After that event I gave up on the GHL system and ordered headers (old-style, 1-5/8″) and had 2 Flowmaster mufflers hooked to them just prior to the PCA race at Summit Point. Interestingly, although the weather was perfect at Summit Point, and the track was fast (once it dried off), the best I was able to do on RA-1s was 1:30 lap times – not sure why I lost 2 seconds with the exhaust being the only change since the Porschefest.

Anyway, I had another horrible day through the 3 practices on Friday, with 1 off per session (one resulting in a cracked fiberglass rear bumper), and was really at a loss. I sat down with Bob Mulligan, Co-Chief Instructor for PCA Potomac region, and we had a great talk from which I came away understanding I should just drive for myself, feel the car, and not worry about the car in front of me, the car behind me, or my lap times. So I went out for the 4th session on Friday, the practice starts and “fun race,” and did very nicely, passing several cars including one in my own class!

Saturday we had a practice session and 2 sprint races, and I put on used Hoosiers before the practice session. Although I’d never driven on Hoosiers, I felt comfortable enough with them by the end of the practice session that I left them on the car for the sprint races, and indeed my times dropped to the 1:28s, and even a few laps in the 1:27s (and one lap in the high 1:26s!). I had a great time in the races, and had only one episode where I braked either too little or too late and took turn 1 very wide (and slow), being passed by several cars (see video–Sunday’s sprint race).

I had signed up for the enduro with co-driver Mike Levitas, but he had to leave on Saturday leaving me looking for another co-driver. Unfortunately, Frank Vento had some car damage in the Sunday morning sprint race, so he became available to co-drive with me for the enduro at the last minute. I drove the first 52 minutes, and came in for my pit stop, which due to the need to change the seat, belts, etc. for Frank took about 7 minutes, but we weren’t in contention for anything anyway, so no loss. I stayed in the pits with my “pit crew” (Tim Kuester) for 3-4 laps, and then went to watch the rest of the race from the Carousel. We saw Frank come around once then…nothing. Had he wrecked? Blown the engine? Come in? We drove back into the paddock, and there was my car in it’s usual parking spot–I’ve never been so happy to see the car in one piece! It turned out that while we could get the seat forward enough for Frank, it had been mounted so low that he had trouble seeing out of the front of the car (and Frank isn’t particularly short). So he came in, and not seeing us in the pits, came out to the paddock. Since the car had left the pits, they would not allow us to finish the race, but I got my 52 minutes in and had a great time.

So after a tough first weekend at VIR with NASA, and a not-particularly-promising set of practice sessions for the PCA race, it turned out that I had a great time, didn’t do too badly, and made it through 6 races intact. I’m looking forward to next season…

Here’s a link to my Club Race video: PCA Potomac Club Race 2010 – 3rd Sprint Race

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