Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Road Atlanta 8hr Enduro - the 2nd 1/2.

After nearly 2 hrs in the car in 70 degree temps I was pretty tired and warm.  No power steering or abs on a track like Road Atlanta with the elevation changes in a seat that is made to accept a wide range of drivers - all adds up to being sore!  I grabbed some fluids and some granola bars and checked out the standings and the rest of the team.  The other 2 cars (red #00 and white #88) had been running w/o issue for awhile now.

I touched base with Andrew from Drive-Gear as by this time I was really curious if I was going to get another stint or not.  He said I was up again in the #87 after the fuel load which would be around 2:30-2:45.  I was excited and headed for more fluids and went to rest a bit.  The other teams cars were pitting, swapping out drivers and heading back out w/o issues.  Of the 3 cars; the blue #87 I was in was by far doing the best.  Other than the electrical issues that I diagnosed that caused a few unplanned pitstops, the car had no offs and no lost laps.  We were hanging around the top 5 in class and just needed to keep banging out laps.

As planned, the blue #87 came in for fuel and I hopped back in again.  Nothing had changed with the car and the brakes and steering all felt just as good as before.  I was skeptical about the brakes but they were always there throughout the entire day - however the RA1's were def a lot more slide happy in this 2nd session and perhaps the track temps had a hand in that as it'd been mostly sunny and right at 70 degrees all day.  I changed up some shiftpoints and tried a few different lines and just had a lot of fun banging out laps.  The radio setup sorta worked for me to receive this time with the electrical issues fixed.
Not knowing the time but knowing I did not have enough fuel to end the race, I heard what I thought were instruction to bring the car in the next lap.  Turns out; they were meant for another car as we all shared the same team frequency.  There was about 45 min left in the race and I quickly decided to split it with another driver (Andrew said he wanted to give another guy a bit more seattime).  They dumped in the needed fuel and I went back out for some more laps.  I decided to push for some hot laps and my very last lap was a 1:49.1 which included a pretty major drift through T1 and I decided to bring it in - which ended my stint just after 4:30pm.  I hopped out, shedded the race suit and my shirt - I was pretty exhausted and def hot and thirsty.  I quickly checked our standings and we were holding in 4th a few laps off the podium as the team started to pack up the pitbox as everyone had enough fuel to end on.

In the end our blue #87 finished 4th in class - just a few laps off the podium in E3.  Of the 8hrs, I figured I had driven at least 3.5 of them and was pretty happy with that as I love seattime and Road Atlanta is so much fun!  As crazy as the first hour was and not knowing if I'd even have a car to drive, I was pretty damn happy with the Drive-Gear crew afterwards!  Our car did the entire 8hr on the same set of Toyo RA1's.
Saturday I'd still be in the white #88 for the sprint race!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Road Atlanta 8hr Enduro - the first 1/2.

Altogether, DriveGear would be supporting 3 team cars in the 8hr Enduro - all SpecE30's.  A red, blue and white one.

I would be in the red #89, along with Johnathan and James.  With James having raced at Road Atlanta in an e30 before - and having been there last weekend - myself and Johnathan both took a spin during the 45min practice session that started at 8am.  I took about 5 laps which were my first ever in an BMW SpecE30.  The car basically felt like I was told, like a Miata but more powerful and much softer suspension wise.  Brakes felt good and the car was mostly neutral; shading to understeer.
Nobody was too keen on starting the race, so we volunteered James as he has the most experience on both the track and with an e30. 

The race started at 9am.  I'd be stint #2.  We were figuring 1:30 - 1:45min stints for a full fuel load.  The fun for the DriveGear team started right away partially because of a very wet track to start the day.  The white #88 went off in T1 and needed help to get out that brought a double-yellow.  It would then have some overheating issues that were assumed to be related to pulling the engine recently.  It came in a few times and a hose was swapped and sent back out.
The red #89 had a worse fate; getting caught in the middle of a 3-car stackup on the backstraight that sent it into the wall and would end it's weekend altogether.  With 1 car overheating and another OUT in the first hour of an 8hr race, I wasn't sure what was going to shake out!  The team got to work on a new plan - they were pulling out a 4th car, a red 00 out of the trailer to sub in for the wrecked red #89.  I was told I would be swapped into the blue #87 instead and it would be in within an hour as it just had it's first pitstop - along with a complaint of a 'missing' issue.  Wow... what a crazy opening opening hour!

In hour #2, the white #88 came in again for overheating.  While still trying to figure out the overheating, it was discovered to be leaking oil and was pulled behind the wall.  Apparently the early 'off' did more damage than initially thought.  It cracked the oilpan and pulled off some of the belts - thus causing the overheating!  About this time the red #00 was on it's way replacing the wrecked red #89 and the team got to work fixing up the white #88.  I was gladly surprised at how calm the entire DriveGear remained throughout all this.  They calmly went to work on each of the cars that had issues and got ALL of them fixed up.  Likewise I was calmly informed I would be swapping to the blue #87 since the red #89 was out - prior to that I really had no idea what would come of the race for me!

Around 11am the blue #87 came in and my first stint was about to begin.  There was some reports from the first driver of a 'sputtering' or 'missing' issue that I was instructed to help diagnose.  We were hoping he was just confused by the rev limiter, but I would find out.  Turns out, it wasn't the rev limiter.  I spliced together some video from the first stint showing how we treated, diagnosed and eventually fixed the issue.  Check it out: 

The issue.... Basically whenever the car turned left (really only 3 times per lap) it would lose power.  As the course is mainly right-handers, I could drive around it and being < halfway through an 8hr Enduro I knew that was our best plan.  After about 45min-1hr into my stint I had a lot of traffic backed up behind me going into the mainly left-hander (T5) and felt the car was close to causing a stack-up, so that's the first time I came in and really where the video starts.
Long story short, we figured it out and the car was a hell of a lot more fun to drive afterwards and I worked in learning the track and the e30 and dropping my laptimes.
Towards the end of my stint I noticed the white #88 back out and played some cat-and-mouse with it and another yellow e30.  So much better with a car running at 100%.  Around 1pm I completed full fuel load stint (stint #1) and pulled the car into the pits - with the race scheduled to end at 5pm.  I pushed for a few hotlaps at the end and managed a 1:49.5. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dec 5th - Trip to Road Atlanta

Off to Road Atlanta!  The plan was to make the trip there on Thursday, run the 8hr NASA Enduro on Friday, Sprint races on Saturday and then head homeward - grabbing a hotel wherever to split up the drive and get home earlish on Sunday.  The early weather report called for rain Friday & Saturday in Atlanta; and later winter storm 'Cleon' threatened the drive down and 'Deon' the trip back!  With no traffic or weather issues, I was expecting the trip to take 9 hrs max + the 1 hr timezone change.  Alas; both caused issues and we didn't pull into the hotel until 12midnight. 

  After doing a bit or work in the morning, I drove approx 2 hrs and 100 miles to meet my Dad who was once again accompanying me to Atlanta.  This first pic was after that short drive at approx 11am and as you can see there was already some ice/sleet to deal with.  Only the beginning!

  We departed the homestead at 12noon with some light sleet falling.  My initial guess at the radar was if we could make it past Mt Vernon by 2pm we might eek out.  If only it would have been that simple!  About 1 hr into the trip on I-57 South the sleet was starting to collect.  The sleet was falling steadily and we delayed a food stop in hopes we'd drive out of it.  At 1:30pm we finally stopped for lunch and the parking lots were ice coated and insanely slick (see pic). 
  After lunch, the 335i struggled to make it out of the parking lot via a small hill and had it even tougher climbing the overpass with the T/C off and me playing around.  The OEM 'sport' package runflat summer tires didn't help much either.  After getting back on the interstate, things were a little sketchy in the Left lane with a lot less passing but the right lane was clear. 
  Onto I-24 East into KY and TN.  The weather moved from sleet into rain as the darkness came and we arrived in Nashville around 5:30pm.  Lots of rain; and stop-n-go traffic with multiple accidents per the GPS.  We lost a lot of time and traffic was thick until about an hour outside of Nashville too as the rain switched to a mist and the temps still hovered around 35 degrees.  A stop by food about 7pm led to the final stretch with no more rain!
  Prior to Chattanooga we head up and over the mountains and the 6% downhill grades.  Much different in the 335i vs towing a trailer on the last trip!  Here's where to found crazy thick fog and 45mph speeds.  Once we crested and started heading down the temps climbed like crazy - minutes later it was 71 degrees!  Next up was Chattanooga and a quiet sleepy drive into Atlanta.  The city was pretty dead as we headed around the bypasses and the last 45min to Oakwood, GA where our hotel was.  Arrival was about midnight local; which meant it was every bit of 11hrs.  Call at the track was 6:30am in the morning!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Prepping for trip - NASA @ Road Atlanta

As 2014 schedules are being leaked and I debate renting vs buying for 2014 - the Road Atlanta weekend is quickly approaching!

Plans are to make the 9 hour drive Thursday afternoon, with my Old Man riding shotgun with me.  He actually came in my only other trip to Road ATL in March/2012 when I towed down the Evo and enjoyed it.  This weekend should be much more interesting as instead of running Time Trials, I'll be taking part in the NASA 8hr Enduro on Friday and Sprint races on Saturday.  I already see 17 cars registered in the se30 class for Saturday and 56 total in our racegroup.  Should be a terrific race and hopefully I'll have the car figured out after my time in it Friday during the Enduro to place towards the front!

As for the 8hr Enduro, final driver lineups for our team are set.  Drivegear put the team together, which includes 2 other races I have not yet met.  We'll plan on splitting the 5 stints between the 3 of us with a 45min practice session also on the schedule.  I believe a Drivegear team finished 2nd or 3rd in last year's Enduro so I'm expecting their cars to be well prepped and for us to be in the running in the E3 class.

I'm very interested in piloting what will be 2 different se30's (Spec BMW E30 models) this weekend.  I've already had some local some rental and purchase options for se30's in 2014 and a lot of that will depend on what I think of the models while at Road ATL. 
I leave you with one of my favorite pics of the #929Evo - from Road Atlanta!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

'Santa's Toy Run' - Road Atlanta with NASA SE region

Next up; back to Road Atlanta!  This NASA-SE event kicks off Friday with an 8hr Enduro and then a normal Saturday with Sprint Races and finally Sunday with some end of the year fun specifically catered to the SE region.
I will be driving both Friday and Saturday.  Friday I'll be sharing the red #89 se30 (Spec BMW e30) from DriveGear Racing with 2 other gentleman.  On Saturday I'll be in another se30 from Drivegear; the white #88. 
After having a friend recommend DriveGear and their se30 rentals, I have been communicating with Andrew off and on most of the year.  And when my November Chumpcar race at AMP fell through, I quickly scoured my resources for a final big event and having loved Road Atlanta when I visited it in March/2012 I have been itching to go back.  More info to come...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

DirtFish Rally School - Boneyard!

After a few rounds on the Slalom course - sharing the 4 cars and 4 instructors between the 8 of us students, we moved onto the next course.  This was is nicknamed the 'Boneyard' and would be much longer with higher speeds and varying types of corners.  I was def looking forward to this, as this is one of the courses that Top Gear utilized when they visited - that episode airing just a few weeks prior to my trip!

The video below is my first round of runs through the Boneyard.  Some turns good, but the double-apex ones not so good on exit as I kept trying to drive the car like a Tarmac course and it just would not turn as the grip level is non-existent!
My most common flaw was not turning the wheel enough to get the car to fully rotate.  But unlike most of the others, I never spun the car completely around or anything crazy.  I was cool enough to knock over a few cones with the rear of the car (since it wouldn't rotate fast enough).  That was fun!  Also pretty cool as the instructor is yelling - "...just go, keep going!"

It was a heck of a lot of fun, and something completely different.  I was picking it up fast, but I had a long long way to go if I ever really wanted to Rally.  A 1/2 day school by no means was going to make me an expert; I was just here to have fun!  And the views around the Washington state countryside were spectacular - check out the vid!

Monday, October 28, 2013

DirtFish Rally School - Part 1

While I have been mulling over a few different Driving School options such as Skip Barber or Bob Bondurant, I thought about some different options.  Perhaps something like a Rally school, offroad racing or Baja experience.
Well, as luck would have it we were planning a weekend getaway to Seattle where one of the best Rally Schools - Dirtfish - calls home.  Even more coincidental, about 1 week before we were leaving, the show Top Gear aired an episode where they visited Dirtfish as well!  Crazy.  Watching it got me totally stoked for the 1/2 day school I had planned. 

The 1/2 day experience fit into our schedule pretty well and I showed up a bit before 8am on Saturday Sept 21st less than an hour from the Seattle airport.  I would have loved to do the 2-day or 3-day of course, but there's only so much time on a 'vacation' to enjoy some racing! 

I got signed in and once the other attendees showed up - 8 in all - we headed into the classroom section for some quick overviews.  There's a few cars inside you can check out and the hallways are lined with driver's suits which is pretty cool.
The classroom instruction was pretty high-level and short really.  They explained the basics and I was the only one of the group that had ANY driving experience.  The problem being that off-road Rally is much different than tarmac racing so I was prepared to do learn! 

We divided up into 2 groups of 4 and hopped into the 4 Subaru STi's that we would rotate between.  First up was a rocked skidpad where the instructor drove around 1st explaining that the steering wheel is really just a 'suggestion' and we'd be turning the car with the pedals with the concepts of weight transfer.  While this wasn't new to me, it was pretty freakin wild how things worked!  A round with the instructor was followed by 2 rounds with us behind the wheel!
Next up was a short slalom course where again the instructor ran 1 round and then we were up.  Below is a vid of my first runs in the car on the slalom course:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

1st place! NASA Midwest @ Autobahn 4.5 hr Enduro - "Into The Night"

Waiting for my final stint I was chugging water and heading to the bathroom.  The advice I got from a friend in regards to my first ever time racing in the dark was to be careful not to fixate on brake lights in front of you; and also not to look directly into the rearview mirror as you could get instantly blinded with all the hi-tech LED lights others were running.  Great...  Oh and trust your knowledge of the turns!

At about 8:10pm with 50min remaining David radioed that he was coming in next lap.  Everyone started setting up for what would be our 4th pitstop and 4th driverchange.  I would be going in; along with the final 10 gallons of fuel for the last 45min.  Once again, the pitstop was extremely flawless and everyone was moving even quicker.  Being my 2nd stint of the race, I was quickly buckled in and waiting on fuel.  Davids only advice to me was:  "look for those reflective apex cones; they are your only hope!". 
After the all-clear, I headed out of the pits with about a 2-lap lead over 2nd place in class.  With the car all warmed up obviously everything was sticking well and I headed past the first set of turns away from the lighted pitlane into turns 2/3.  What did I find - DARKNESS!  And lots of it for the next 3 miles basically.  Wow, words can't really explain it as there was just no light out there besides our OEM headlights that focus straight forward.  Looking L and R for the reflective apex cones (the ones that remained that is) was difficult at the least and you really had to trust your knowledge of the track and assume everything was all clear.  The corner workers had a tiny light to let you know it was manned; and we were told a larger flashing light to indicate a yellow. 
After about 2 laps I realized that car was very 'hooked up'; better than before as the track wasn't as hot since the sun went down.  It felt really good, but the fact I opted to go without the coolsuit was not a good call as the Mustang did not have much natural airflow in the car.  I had one of the overall leaders - an older Daytona Prototype - come up on me down the lighted pitstraight so it was an easy pass to let happen.  I then tried to stick with him to get the aid of his better lights but watching the taillights did indeed lead me into an offline approach and danger really quick, just as my friend had noted.  A few laps later I caught up to a Miata and set him up for a pass down the lit straight too.  Then I had to deal with about 1/2 a lap of mirrors with insanely bright lights and I just tried to hit my marks and put some distance on him.  Other than that, there was NO traffic out on the 3.56 mile course that I had to deal with.  Even though it was dark, I was running about the same laptimes (2:53-2:54's) as I did in the daylight.  The car felt good, and I felt more comfortable with the car and the North course portion which I had not ran since 2008.

After the traffic; trying to settle into a more relaxed groove, I instantly ran wide in T2.  Wow that was quick and dark!  I tried the same groove approach I use for longer Endurance races on the next lap and the same exact thing happened - I missed my turn-in badly and nearly ran wide!  Being my 2nd stint, dark, having driven 3+ hrs to the track, no other traffic to work with; whatever... it was difficult to concentrate in the pitch dark.  So I instead decided to start turning hotlaps.  With my mind focused on improving every laptime I started stomping out 2:50-2:51 laptimes.  After about 10 of these  I started really looking for the white flag - and was beginning to think about the fuel situation.  Having not been passed by any in-class car I was assuming we had the win but still focused on getting the car back safely and enjoying it! 
After a 2:50.3 I got a hesitation on very next lap on the front straight!  I know knew I could now complete 1.5 laps after the initial hesitation (David did earlier) so I decided to conserve some fuel circle with short shifts and hope for the white flag.  And I got it; with a slower 2:55 laptime!  I had no idea if I could make another lap but I was committed.  I just hoped I would not run out of gas and get rear-ended somewhere!  I coasted as much as I could and don't think I ever touched the brake pedal the last lap.  Once to the N course (the last 1/3 of the lap) it was struggling to pick up throttle at all.  Once I got to the final turn before pit-in it was barely sputtering and I was down to 20-30mph of momentum.  I coasted into pit lane where the lights started and I knew I would be ok, the car then died completely as I rolled into a pit stall only 6 short of ours!  I flashed my lights, shut off the car and waited for the team to reach me.  We exchanged a few quick high-fives and they pushed me back into the pits.
Joe quickly handed me out beers (Stella Artois) and we quickly headed up for awards.  As suspected we finished 1st in class E0 and 5th overall.  Turns out the Miata I passed in my final stint was for position!  83 totals laps complete; nearly 300 miles.  We finished 1 lap ahead of 6th overall; 21 laps ahead of our nearest in-class competitor - which apparently came into the pits with a cracked brake caliper soon after I left for the last stint!

Packed with adrenaline the team stood around and talked for nearly an hour after the awards.  Everyone was shocked at the laptimes I was putting down in the dark.  Maybe I found a calling?  Since everyone else seems to hate the extra challenges of night racing!  I downed a gatorade and headed home.  Pulling into the garage around 1am - my day consisted of 6.5 hrs in the 335i to/from the track and two 50 minutes stints in the racecar for a total of 8+ hrs driving!  Thanks to everyone for their help.   
New firsts1st place in an Endurance Race (after piling up 2 seconds), my 1st time ever racing in the dark, my 1st time ever with 2+ stints in the same day!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

NASA Midwest @ Autobahn 4.5 hr Enduro - "Into The Night" (Stints 4-5 overall)

Having handed the car over to Joe for the 3rd overall stint it was about 6pm at this point, right about the time you need your headlights.  And boy did some of the field have some crazy LED light bars and sideways 'Apex' lights.  We... had 100% OEM brights on the Mustang.
Joe's stint quickly ran into the night with the last 1/2 being completely pitch dark.  Since my stint was over I took in some water and took stock of the situation and the competition.  There were about 6 cars in our class to start the race and 2 had immediate trouble and another had fallen back.  It was really between us and 2 other AI (high hp and higher prepped) mustangs with us holding onto a 2-3 lap lead at this point which Joe stomping out 2:51's and then 2:54's in the darkness.

Next up was David again - the owner - for his 2nd stint.  We were already running calcs to figure out how long David would need to run before we had enough fuel to finish with the following stint (me).  This was partly strategy and partly because David simply did NOT light driving at night; much less racing.  We figured he needed 30+ minutes based on our earlier stints assuming they checkered the race at 9:25pm to allow for a cooldown to clear the track at 9:30pm.
Joe brought the car back in terrific shape right about the 50min mark.  Our crew (including me) went to work; this being our 3rd pit stop and all things were moving very well.  We took another look at the Front Left tire and it was decided to go ahead and change it - once the fueling was complete, since we had a couple lap lead we didn't want to take any chances.  I grabbed the jack, jackstand and wrench - cleaned the windshield while waiting on fuel to finish - and then set about swapping out the tire.  I got some help from the fuel guys since they were done and everything went pretty smooth overall.

David headed out and struggled initially to find a pace in the pitch dark - pretty much just like he thought.  Having the radios working helped though and he soon radioed that he was coming in!  I was like 'Already'?  Then he mentioned he'd hit an animal - like a fox - and we just needed to check out the car.  Well, the bumper had shifted a bit, but it looked fine.  He wanted to stay in (there was 1 hr of race left; more than a fuel load) so he headed back out and started lowering lap times like a pro.  The crazy mishap def helped him out!

Still with our ~3 lap lead Dave was finishing up and I would be the closer....

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

NASA Midwest @ Autobahn 4.5 hr Enduro - "Into The Night" - My Stint (#2 overall)!

After the 1st of many pitstops, I was leaving for my stint (#2 overall) around 5:55pm and the car was literally 1st in class; I think 5th overall.  Our fuel window was a few laps after the other in-class Mustangs and some of the GTS cars were having issues so we were in luck.  Suddenly running for fun and experience turned into 'we might have a podium chance'!
The car was pretty nice to drive really.  It was just before dusk, with only a few cars running lights and after the first few laps the sun was no longer blinding me - although my tinted visor came in handy; it completely blacked out the gauges so I had a difficult time figuring out the best shiftpoints at first. I was utilizing a borrowed cool-suit for the first time ever and very much enjoying that.  Being that we were utilizing the entire 3.56 mile course, there wasn't a lot of traffic but just enough to keep you occupied. 

Overall, after about 3 laps I settled into a pretty mellow pace, I think around 2:50 - as to protect all the gear.  My theory was if I was going to drive a full fuel load; why not try to stretch out the mileage a bit longer!  I was short-shifting and being easy on corner-entry for the first 1/2 of my stint as we discussed front tire wear being a potential issue over the 4.5 hrs of the race.  About midway through my stint we reached the overall 1.5hr mark which brought out a checkered flag (for those that optioned for the 1.5hr portion and not the full 4.5hr portion).  This cleared out a fair number of cars and the remainder of the my stint was even clearer.
After that I started picking it up; dropping a few tenths with each lap and running some 2:49's until the car hesitated under throttle - the sign my fuel stint was over!  I had ran for about 55min altogether and it wasn't even dark yet!

I brought the car into the pits and the team went to work on the 2nd pitstop as I helped our 3rd and final driver - Joe - get buckled in.  Note; I turned over the car 1st in class!  Once again; a flawless stop by the team of volunteers including 10 gallons of fuel and we were off once again.  Joe's stint would climb into the dark of night and the team was already trying to figure out the updated pit/driver strategy being our 50-55min fuel window we had been running; versus the 75min hopeful window we had initially.  Being we were still leading our class, the decision to stick with safe 10gal fuel loads had already been made.  The reason being if we spilled ANY fuel, we incurred an additional penalty of a pitstop and a 5min hold penalty - essentially costing 3-4 laps.

David (the owner; driver #1) thanked me immediately after I got out of the car for a terrific consistent pace and keeping the driving clean.  I told him - that's what I do!  He then said - count on another stint later tonight!  More to come...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

NASA Midwest @ Autobahn 4.5 hr Enduro - "Into The Night" - Start!

This would be a fuel-mileage race, without question. We had six cars start the E0 class, us, three American Iron-prepped S197 Mustangs, and two E46 BMW M3s. We were the entry with the lowest horsepower, so our strategy was to run full fuel-load stints, hoping for around 75 minutes each, plus a quick splash-and-go towards the end. We assumed that the night-time stints would be at a slower pace, with no lights at all (save pit lane) on the 3.56-mile 21-turn course, and based strictly on the horsepower and weight of the AI cars, we believed that we could run one less fuel stop than they did, worth around eight minutes, or two and a half to three laps. The question was whether their pace could put us more than three laps down. The BMWs were the wildcards, with unknown fuel consumption characteristics, unknown fuel-tank (or cell) capacity, and had the potential to simply bury us with those hyper-efficient I-6 engines. All we could do was run the best race we could, and let the chips fall.

John, our crew chief, had an excellent strategy lined up for us. Dave (the owner) would take the first stint, to establish pace, and (hopefully) get us in a solid position on track for the first fuel stop and driver change. Then I would take over, running us through dusk and into the dark. Our last driver - Joe - who has a good amount of time in the car, would handle the anchor leg, and take it to the checker, if the car survived. As they say, plans NEVER survive contact with the enemy, and this was no different! After I came in from practice, Dave hopped in the car and got all belted in, while John handled the data and video setup for the stint. After a quick check of tire pressures and lug torque, the field was off for the formation lap and the race start.

Based on a random pit-stall layout, we wound up starting roughly P9 (out of 22 starters), right behind a Daytona Prototype, and right ahead of one of the AI Mustangs, an E0 BMW M3, then another AI Mustang.  What we wanted was to get up to pace as quickly as possible, find some spacing, and then just dial into a solid, consistent lap time that didn’t overly punish the tires and brakes, and make maximum use of the fuel onboard. That went out the window as well!

Right around 5pm, the green flag flew, and Dave dropped the hammer!  The race would run until 9:30pm!  I believe our fastest lap of the entire race was lap #5 while he was battling for early position. 
For another forty-five minutes, Dave just kept knocking off the laps, in the high mostly in the 2:48 range, flying by the Miatas, and getting run over by the DP and the Sports Racer, then 20 laps after the green flew, the car started to hiccough on left-hand corner-exits, and he knew the fuel load was about gone, so (as planned; since radio's weren't working) he signaled the crew by dropping the clutch and blipping the throttle three times on the pit straight.  We knew we had about 4min including the roll through the pits to be ready.  I was already suited up; just had to put on my helmet!  The sucky part; this was NOWHERE NEAR the 75-minute hoped-for fuel window; hell, it was less than an hour! We were uncertain exactly how much fuel the car would take after a fuel run, so we were planning on a 14 gallon stop, and praying not to over-fill and spill, and take a 5-minute penalty plus a second trip through the pits. Dave rolled into pit lane at a sedate 25mph and my stint was next!  More to come...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Racing this Friday - NASA @ Autobahn 4.5 hr Enduro!

It's hard to believe I haven't been racing since June!  There have been several opportunities out there but either pricing or scheduling have been the hiccups.  But this race has been on my radar for awhile and I've got a seat! 

The race is a 4.5hr NASA Enduro on the FULL course at Autobahn Country Club outside Chicago, IL.  It is scheduled to run from 5pm - 9:30pm and with sunset around 7:10pm, we'll definitely have some dark racing!  I actually had a line on about 3-4 different rides for this one, and was trying to work stints in multiple cars at one point! 
The car is my friend Dave's and the pics are below.  The Mustang was tested at the same exact track on Monday on old tires and came through just find in multiple 30min stints so we're feeling confident.  Starts are about 310whp @ 3300 lbs and the class will be E0.

We are planning on a 3-driver strategy and I believe I'm tagged for the middle stint which should start in the sunlight and end in the dark!   
Stint #2:  est 6:30 - 8pm but could change.  This will be my first ever time running in the dark, and first time since 2008 running the FULL course at Autobahn!  Dave has solicited some pitlane help for fuel stops and we've got multiple guys working on strategy.  We'd love to win, but the car will not be maxxed out for the E0 class - however with a good pit strategy and good racing, everyone has a chance!  We are working on multiple fuel mileage and tire wear strategies; plus some radio mis-match issues!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Spectating weekend! Road America Aug 8-11. Friday...

After CTSCC qualifying we walked through the pits.  We also later caught Rolex GT & DP qualifying.  Rounding out the rest of the afternoon was ALMS practice.  We also spent some time watching cars go through tech, and a few drivers get their gear teched just like the much much lower weekend racing we do!  I would estimate we covered 5-8 miles criss-crossing around Road America. 
Races scheduled to start Sat morning!!!!!!

Here's a few additional shots of cars from Friday going through tech and a wreck of a very expensive ALMS LMP car:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Spectating weekend! Road America Aug 8-11

Could not pass up this opportunity to visit Road America as a spectator.  A combined weekend of the newly formed GRAND-AM / ALMS Series takes over Road America's 4-mile circuit.  Not being much of an ALMS (American Le Mans Series) fan, I was much more interested in the Grand Am and Continental Tire Sport Car Challenge (CTSCC) races. 
We showed up early Friday morning for CTSCC qualifyin g.  First up was the ST class and directly after was the bigger bore GS class.  Some pics of those specific car classes are below.  Tons more pics and short vids coming.  It was a super cool weekend and we had full access everywhere around Road America including the pics.  So cool!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

#929Evo Projects - Pics and Press

Recently, I took some time putting together a group of pictures sort of detailing the 6+ years I had with the #929Evo.  As I purchased the car brand new, it went through quite a transformation to a weekend track car, to adding sponsors, to eventually being trailored and at the end being completely gutted and caged.  Below are the pics that work down from top-left.  It's a 16x20 framed photo.

Project #2 was an effort to capture a magazine article for the #929Evo from mid-2012.  Many thanks to Evolution Magazine.  This was a long work in progress from the time the written interviews were taken until publishing over in Europe, then eventually I received a copy.  I eventually tracked down a few additional copies and was able to cut everything out and fancy it up with some additional pictures to round out the mount. 
Evolution Magazine article:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

July --> Races planned = 0

Ah, the Midwest in July.  It's definitely not the funnest time to get into a hot racecar and I have no plans to do so in 2013.  Given I am renting this year and I can pick and choose; I pretty much planned to opt-out of the dreadful summer months.

When it's 90-105 degrees with a heat index ranging from 95-115, and you're in out in the sun all day, on even hotter blacktop, in a 2 or 3-layer fire suit, driving a car with insanely hot operating temps, and many times running the vent or heater toward warm to help out the engine... etc...  It sucks.  And that's the good scenario when you're not laying underneath the car sweating and trying to hastily fix something!
Oh, there's people with crew members, in-car helmet blowers, fancy cool suits with icewater circulating through them and rigs with A/C to cooldown between sessions - but I've never been that special!

 Btw; never been worse than the July weekend in 2009 I spent at VIR for the UTCC where I was getting dizzy in the TT grid (not even 100% full firesafety setup).

I did try a little to find a seat in the 4.5 hr NASA MW Enduro at Autobahn mid-month that goes into the night.  I did not try real hard though, as we had some tentative plans throughout July.  I had another 2 'feeler' offers that timing simply did not line up for.  All-in-all this looks to be an 'off' month.

Friday, June 21, 2013

24hrs of Lemons @ Autobahn - June 8-9 (part 2)

After my stint on Saturday, the car's owner took over.  He had a good run, but unfortunately had to come in about 20min before the end of Day 1 for a splash of fuel.  We later learned that during the 1st stint the car was starting to sputter as well so we were pushing it to the max and if we didn't get in a full tank and run the 'normal' length session...
After Day #1, the car was in the usual shape for a $500 car that had ran 9 consecutive hrs!  No major changes or fixes were needed as the #86 Volvo proves to be pretty damn reliable.  We'd pop in some newer rear rotors and rotate the tires and stuff it completely freaking full of gas (my job) and it'd be ready for Day #2.  The plan for Sunday was for the 2 co-owners to split the day as I was only a last minute fill-in for Day #1 to help out with the long stints.  So, with nothing left to do I headed the 2.5hrs homeward and wished everything good luck.

Day #2 - Sunday - would be 5.5 hrs to complete the 14.5 hr Enduro event.  I heard the team had some last minute issues prior to the start and I later received this text:  "Here's our custom fix for the problematic alternator bolt breaking issue. This happened Sunday morning about 15 minutes before going out on track. It held up all day no problems."  (see pic)

Once again the car performed well and the team ran cleanly.  But 2 Camaro's were clearly dominating this track, along with a Lexus (that later blew up), the top 3 were V8's and were stretching their leads. 

By the end of the event, we finished 6th out of 82 cars.  A hell of a lot of fun.  Thanks again to the team for the invite!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

24hrs of Lemons @ Autobahn - June 8-9

With a sudden change in plans a few days prior to the event, I was able to run again with Team Little Lebowski Urban Achievers.  This time the race codenamed 'Doing Time in Joliet' would be 14.5 hrs across 2 days at the Autobahn Country Club; running the 2.1 mile South Course.

Including us, there were 82 cars registered and many were familiar from the April event at Gingerman where our team managed to finished 2nd!  With my change in plans, our team would have the same driver lineup for Saturday with me filling the middle stint.  We'd also be running on the new Dunlop Direzza ZII tires (vs the usual Z1's) and managed to eek out a bit more camber to help keep up the corner speed... as the '86 Volvo definitely isn't very fast on the straights!

Eric started us out in 35th place and methodically worked up into the top 20 halfway through his stint even though we were about 7 seconds off the pace of the top guys as usual.  A very very minor bump with a Mustang brought out a black flag and dropped us a few more laps off the leaders.  The rest of his stint was great as usual and I was up next.  Compared to Gingerman - I drove a hell of a lot harder.  I drove it about 8.5/10 at Gingerman whereas here I pushed it at 9/10's and more the entire time. I knew the car could handle it after the previous event and I was much more aggressive with an event under my belt and feeling confident that the other cars had some decent awareness to run 2-3 even 4 wide throughout the track.  It was fun.  I was mixed up in some other cars spins, but always felt comfortable with the car control (reduced speed on street tires and low HP helps).  I didn't feel like being tentative so if I had the momentum and the room, I stuck the car in there pretty much anywhere on track.  Note that I wasn't using the NASA rule of front tire to door to 'own' the corner - I was using a safer rule of my car 'past' theirs so I KNEW they'd see m. 

In the first hour of my stint I did get bumped on the inside of a turn by a Miata which shoved me way offline.  They didn't call it in though, so no harm no foul I suppose.  About an hour later I got a point-by from an e30 for the outside of T13.  I setup to go around him and midturn he either changed his mind or forgot and came over into my section of track so I had to get to the brakes and ended up locking up a tire and dropped the outside tires off the track while avoiding.  I was black-flagged (for going 2 off) and had to come in and explain the situation.  Once I said I'd been in the car "about 2 hours or so" the judges suggested I get out and end my stint.  It was unfortunate and I still had time to go, but you have to obey and respect whatever judgement is deemed so I radioed in and the team hustled to get ready for the fuel refill and driver change about 25min ahead of schedule.

Friday, June 7, 2013

24 Hours of Lemons @ Autobahn!

Due to some changes in schedules (namely the STL vs CIN baseball game Sunday was rescheduled) this weekend opened up and I was able to accept an invitation to race in the 24 Hours of Lemons @ Autobahn!  Code named 'Doing Time in Joliet'.

 Above is a pic from the last race at Gingerman in April where we finished 2nd!  A mere 3 laps off the winner after 438 laps.  This weekend's race is a total of 14.5 hrs over 2 days.  Wish us luck!  See an official writeup from the Lemon's group below.

Official Lemon's Writeup

Thursday, May 30, 2013

CMC Mustang - NASA MW/GL Quals/Race @ Putnam Park 5.19.2012

After the difficulties with the water temps on Saturday, I was not sure how Sunday would unfold.  And I would know right away with warmups at 9:30am.  The outcome; water temp issues persisted still.  I left the car in the owner's hands again with Qualifying coming up around 11am.  At this point I was pretty much leaning towards heading home and not wasting my entire day once again.
After a chat with the owner prior to Quals, he explained an updated repair plan.  The new plan was to swap out the water pump with a new model - thinking that Ford made 2 models and it could be broken or possibly even the wrong one.  So that change along with another full system flush.  A repair like that would fit between Quals and the 3pm race - but not before.  So I was instructed to top the car off with water and just run 1-2 laps to get a Qualifying spot while the owner ran quickly for parts.

I went out late for Qualifying and fired 1 hot lap as best I could.  I ran a new weekend best of 1:23.1 w/o the tires being fully up to temp and navigating a bit of traffic front & rear (see vid).  It felt a bit better actually but I just simply needed more seattime in the car and with all the issues I was not getting many laps.  My time placed me in 7th today however, about 1 second out of 4th, with only 8 cars making it out as there was some attrition.  Below is a pic of the in-class cars (me in the #20) of CMC - Camaro-Mustang Challenge.

After Quals, the car went under the knife again and I relaxed with the wife and chatted up some friends around the paddock.  The car returned later and was deemed ready for action with about an hour to spare.  We packed up most of our gear for a quick post-race getaway and I got suited up for the race.  I hopped in the car to start it about 10min before the race and it would not crank over.  The owner immediately hopped under it as we jacked it up and with some quick 'massaging' to the starter it cranked over.  We all hopped in our cars and headed for grid with a few mins to spare.  Crazy crazy quick fix!

The race was another standing start, and again I was not the best out of the gate.  I think I made 2-3 laps keeping an eye on the water temps and they were unfortunately shooting up quickly once again.  Coming out of T8 it felt like something burst and the car slid sideways briefly as I decided to exit immediately.  Turns out the radiator hose came off.   Total laps for the day:  9.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

CMC Mustang - NASA MW/GL race @ Putnam Park 5.18.2013

I got to Putnam Park about 8am on Saturday.  Just in time to find the car I'd be driving and meet the owner prior to the 8:15am required drivers meeting. This would be my first time ever in a Mustang; and first time in class CMC (Camaro Mustang Challenge).  The specs are 264whp @ 3205 lbs.
We went over the car briefly, as it recently had the shortblock replaced.  The plan was to keep an eye on the temps (of course) and basically just give it hell.
First up at 9:30am were warmups; which would determine the grid for Qualifying as the event was pretty full as usual.  I ran some laps getting used to the Toyo RA1's and shiftpoints as well as the clutch and steering.  The car was fairly well balanced and I was pleased to have power steering for once!  The water temps did start to rise and eventually the car started squirting what looked like oil from under the hood.  As it had started to rain during the session and Putnam is horribly slick in the rain, the session emptied out about halfway through as I ran a best of 1:27.8.  Back in the pits I figured out quickly it was the radiator overflow tank as the car simply ran hot and the water was very rusty and/or dirty.  We also discovered the car did not like to start once it was hot (more later).
After talking with the owner, the fix was to run the fan immediately on HI on track.  Qualifying went ok; after being stuck behing a FFR for a few laps I finally got 2 open laps and put down a 1:25.7 which was 2 seconds faster than my practice time and slotted into 3rd of 10 in class for the race.  However the car overheated again after pulling off the track.  I also got stuck behind another car leaving the track and the idle got low and it died - and unfortunately would not restart since it was hot.  I sat and waited and eventually had a friend come and help pushstart the car and I put it in the tech line as I didn't want to get DQ'd and lose my gridspot.  I was not called into tech but the car died again and we left it to cool down.
With the race not for 3+ hours, there was some new fixes planned.  After eating I found the owner replaced the radiator cap and thermostat I believe along with more water.
The race... it would be a 3-wave start.  Our class - CMC - would be the 3rd wave and would be a standing start which is normal for the class; but my first ever!  I was 3rd and did ok (didn't kill it or light up the tires too much) but I was late based on my video I've watched as I waited for the flag to drop rather than going on first movement.  Newbie...  I fell to 4th going into T1 as I was more watching my mirrors for the rest of the pack rather than going aggressively into T1 and taking 3rd back as I had the inside line.  No matter; I was in 4th and held that for several laps - best of 1:23.5 - best I could manage as the tires started to degrade and the temps started to rise once again.  I was quickly forced to back down the pace in hopes to help out the water temps but eventually I retired after 11 laps into the 35min race.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Race Weekend - Putnam Park with NASA!

Leaving in a few hours for Putnam Park raceway just outside Indy.  Racing a '95 Mustang in class CMC at the NASA MW/GL crossover event.  I'm sure it'll have an awesome turnout after looking at the entry lists.  Forecast looks good, which a change of rain Saturday:

  • Sat:  79 degrees - 30% chance of rain
  • Sun:  85 degrees and sunny
I also heard from the car owner this week (it'd been about 10 days since we'd talked).  The car apparently had some issues at it's first event last month.  So it's got a new (used) shortblock in it for the race weekend.  Everything checked out on the install, so he said the only thing to do is "drive the hell out of it"!  So that's my plan.  Hopefully the install was a good one!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

4/21/2013 - 24 hours of Lemons @ Gingerman Day 2 (wrap-up)

Day #1 ended with us still holding 2nd place overall, thanks to our solid pit strategy and consistent driving for everyone on the team.  After 9 hours of racing on Day #1, Day #2 would be about 5.5 hrs long to finish out the Enduro weekend.  The top 10 would be gridded 1-10 with everyone else lining up at random.  See pic (left) for the top 4 as we rolled out Sunday.

Although we were sitting 2nd in class and overall, we could tell at this point the only real chance we had at winning was if the top car either broke or made some mistakes.  They - along with the rest of the top 5 - were clearly faster than us on a clear lap.  Pit strategy, good driving and good traffic management can only go so far when the other teams run 5+ seconds a lap quicker with open track!  And sure enough, the top place team - a BMW e30 named BuckSnort - turned a blazing 1:39.5 lap early in the morning.  The 4th place car - a Lexus V8 named Don't Mess with Lexus - turned a 1:40.3.  In contrast, our fastest lap of the entire was a 1:46.5 turned at the end of the race running basically on fumes!  As a further comparison, in 2009 in NASA TTB trim (~310whp, 245 Hoosiers) I turned a 1:30x in the #929Evo on a single hotlap which is a record that still stands today!

The day rolled by with the top 10 staying largely in tact.  There was a few cars trading a few spots around pitstops and some broken cars getting back, etc.  The #3 car - a white Neon - unfortunately had issues and had to retire.  Team Bucksnort quickly put us a lap down in the morning and we lost another lap later in the day - the Lexus was much faster than us but either their driving skills or their fuel-thirsty V8 kept them just far enough back.
After 15.5 hrs and 441 total laps; we'd hold on for 2nd place overall, 3 laps behind Bucksnort.  6 laps behind us in 3rd was the Lexus.  4th place was another 14 laps back (26 laps behind us), but 4th-9th were only separated by 6 laps!  I can also say we truely had a $500 car... where some of the competitors seemed to have very nice setups.  In the end we got nothing for 2nd place sadly.  However, we did something!  We were awarded the Organizer's Choice Trophy; which goes to the team that, in the eyes of the Chief Perp, really gets the point of the 24 Hours Of LeMons. aka: Doing is the right way.
A few more pics and a short vid are below.  Overall I had a lot of fun in my first ever Lemons race.  I thought the skill level was very good considering there were 67 entries; much much better than my experience with Chumpcar Midwest Championships last year where the drivers were very sketchy.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Next race scheduled! NASA @ Putnam

I have secured a car for the NASA Midwest & Great Lakes Crossover event at Putnam next weekend.  I'll be racing the #20 1994 Ford Mustang in class CMC; Camaro Mustang Challenge.  The car is classed at ~265hp @ 3200lbs running on a spec Toyo tire.  Should be a lot of fun!  It's also an American V8, so the power band should be strong - I just hope I can get it to take turns!  In comparison with my Evo which ran a stickier Hoosier tire, it makes about 100whp less with similar weight.

Altogether there are 10 entries in the class I'll be running in; which is a crazy high amount for a regional event!  There should be some great in-class racing which is always a treat.  I'll be racing in the same rungroup (Thunder) as I've ran a few times in the past which is about 1/2 full of America V8's and the faster ST cars which are power/weight only with unrestricted aero and unrestricted tires.

Putnam is a fun track and imo, favors mometum cars moreso than outright HP.  It's also pretty tight everywhere, with nothing overly wide except for the main straight.  Should be fun; more details to come!

Friday, May 3, 2013

4/20/2013 - 24 hours of Lemons @ Gingerman Day 1 (Part 2)

To the right is a nice pic of the car.  As I mentioned, these are $500 cars with some homemade parts and then street tires and full safety equipment (cage, harnesses, seat, etc).  They can be pretty interesting; I'll share some more pics in the next post. 

Onto Part 2 of my 3-hr stint on Saturday which is spliced up below.  I highlighted about a 20min span of working through traffic to give everyone an idea of how things work over that type of timespan (vid is only 7min).  I didn't really realize it until that evening, but I was pretty much following the white Focus through traffic.  He noticed as we talked later that night and we both agreed we ended up working pretty well in some lead-follow succession.

My stint ended after about 3 hrs and being my water bottle fell out of it's holder about 45min in; I was more than thirsty!  Overall beginning with the the first hour or so my hands and feet were pretty cold as it was cloudy and in the 40's.  Never having driven the car before I settled in especially through hour #2 (vid below) and made sure to stay clean while I clicked off the laps.  Eventually my stint was complete and I brought the car in for a fuel stop and driver change - still in 2nd place!  We were about the slowest car in the top 12 or so with regards to top laptimes, but good driving and strategy were keeping us in the running.

Monday, April 29, 2013

4/20/2013 - 24 hours of Lemons @ Gingerman Day 1 (Part 1)

A very cold, overcast and early morning found us in search of the Tech people as we needed to get both our individual gear and the car teched for the race.  This was done relatively simply and we continued to prep the car - swapped tires, set pressures, checked oil, installed the radio, cameras, etc.  As with any raceday this went down to the wire and our 1st driver (Eric) just barely made it to grid and on track for the start of the 2-day 14.5 hour endurance race.

The start of the race - with 66 cars - was fairly well organized and due to an unlucky starting flag we were pretty deep in the pack.  We started clicking off the laps over the next several hours, working with the fast and slow lap traffic and keeping an eye out for the yellows.  The car was running well, so our battery install the night before seems to have been the only issue; whew!  We stabilized around 16th for awhile after a long double-yellow that included a few cars getting towed in (hey; these $500 cars break!).  There's also many that spin or fly widely off-track through awesome bits of standing water (see pic)!

 About 2 hours in most of the teams that had not stopped for fuel were doing it now.  We were slowly cycling to the front and briefly held on lap 74 before we had to come in to fuel.  While nowhere near the top 3-4 cars times, our laptimes were improving as the fuel load burned down and the track emptied out a bit.  Stint #2 would be mine!

We fueled up the car and I got behind the wheel and strapped in.  Having never driven the car before, and never having driven with the Lemons organization, I wasn't 100% sure what to expect but I did get a few words of advice from the rest of the team including 'drive it like hell'.  I headed out with the main plan to NOT get into trouble, meaning no body-contact as an extended loss of laps is just not worth a position or 2 you might gain.

After Eric's solid stint, I believe I took over the car in 2nd place.  I started immediately in some heavy traffic and was pretty pleased with the level of experience everyone was showing on track with regards to traffic management and just overall skillsets.  Knowing my stint would be about double the longest I'd ever driven, I radioed in for a check on my pace then settled in and started clicking off laps.  Not having a very fast car on the straights, we had to make up our time in the turns, under braking and with good traffic management skills.  I learned to work with traffic and sometimes you follow the car and not the 'line' to get through quicker when there's a logjam of 3-10 cars altogether.  Below are some highlights from my first hour on Saturday....

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lemons @ Gingerman Setup (Friday)

After delaying our trip 1 day due to Truck problems (need a truck to pull the racecar/trailer), I got the word at 7:30am Friday that the truck would be fixed!  I left for the track around 9am Friday morning with the hopes the racecar would make it there in enough time to get in a few hours of testing.  My eta was 1:30-2pm with no traffic after adding in the time change.  The racecar was only 2 hrs distance from the track and now that the truck was fixed it should be leaving soon.

Once into Michigan around 12noon I called for an update.  I unfortunately found out the racecar wasn't loaded and moving quite yet.  Although the truck was fixed, the insane amounts of rain including nearly 7" on Wed/Thurs alone was causing some major issues getting the trailer out of the storage lot.  Think 8000lbs loaded and wet grass + mud.  This update confirmed we would miss the testday.  It also created a new problem; we needed to be teched by 5pm that evening. 
After a pitstop at a Winery/Brewery/Distillery to 'cool my jets', I pulled in to Gingerman around 3:30pm.  I staked out a spot and talked to the judges about our timeframe to make them aware.  Around 5:45pm the racecar made it to Gingerman, but tech was closed.  We would be forced to tech early Saturday and hope the judges would not be too pissed!  We also needed to diagnose an issue with the racecar; namely I was told it wouldn't run.

After borrowing a voltage meter we confirmed the battery was most likely the issue and not the alternator or worse.  Around 7-8pm (while it was snowing/sleeting lightly) we sent a teammate out for parts while we setup the generator to gets lights inside the trailer and then pulled the old battery while hiding from the wind and opening a beer finally...
About an hour later we had a new battery installed; the car started and backed out of the trailer and covered for the night.  Assuming we had the only problem fixed and pretty much froze after several hours out in the elements, we headed out for some food and planned to meet back up at 7:30am to hopefully get our individual gear teched/approved as well as the car.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Lemons @ Gingerman - Friday Update.

After all the bad news Thursday, I decided to stay home last night and wait for word from the Team Captain.  The truck made it to the dealership and would be looked at first thing Friday morning.
7:30am Friday I get a text - Truck should be fixed by 9am.  Could be packed and enroute by 10am!  Good news for the first time.

So now the task is to figure out when to leave.  Work a few hours, leave before rush hour or after?  Hell, we could still make 1/2 of the testday which runs until 5pm EST.  That damn timechange is screwing us. 

The decision has been made - LEAVE NOW!  Eta at Gingerman around 2pm.... later!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lemons @ Gingerman - April 20-21st Preview

The initial schedule for the weekend - assuming no problems - is as follows: 
Friday , 19 April 2013
9am-5pm: Gingerman test day

Saturday, 20 April 2013
9am: Mandatory drivers' meeting
10am-7:30pm: Race Session I

Sunday, 21 April 2013
10am-12pm: Gingerman Quiet Time - NO RACE MOTORS.
12:15pm-5pm: Race Session II
5:30pm: Awards

Not counting practice, the race sessions total 9.5 hrs Sat; 5 hrs Sun = 14.5 hrs Grant Total.  This is to be split up between just 3 of us!  Add to that the weather forecast which has highs in the 40/50's, but lows in the low 30's each night.  Plus we've had probably 5-8" of rain this week throughout IL; so I can only assume Michigan has about the same.
A new development as of noon today (Thursday) is that our Team Captain is a bit behind schedule.  Instead of leaving early Thursday morning, he had issues with power outages and water at this home because of all the rain.  Adding to that his truck seems to have crapped out.  Add to that the trailer is still in storage and I believe could be actually stuck somewhere.  So the weekend schedule, hell the weekend itself is in a bit of doubt at the moment!  Last I heard there was a friend helping to fetch the trailer and a hopefull borrow/rental that would allow him to leave early Friday am.  More to come... fun start!

In addition, I found an official race event preview HERE.  The Lemons organizers tweeted this and they actually reference the team I'll be running with - The Little Lebowski Urban Achievers. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

This weekend - Lemons race @ Gingerman!

Coming up in less than a week is my first ever 24hrs of LeMons race.  The series is loosely as a play off the famous French race; 24hrs of Lemans, but as a series with $500 cars across the US.
The organizing crew seems very laid back and when I first signed up they sent out some pretty funny notifications, check it out below (more details later in the week):

Ann Arbor MI -- Today Car and Driver reported that Nathan Pitcher, against the advice of mental-health professionals, will compete in the 24 Hours of LeMons -- a wheel-to-wheel car race for heaps that cost $500 or less. Pitcher's team -- the unpromisingly named "Little Lebowski Urban Achievers" -- hits your local track on 04/20/2013 to 04/21/2013, where therapists and junkyard operators are already standing by. 
One relative, on condition of anonymity, described Pitcher's family as "...saddened but unsurprised" by the news. "Unfortunately, we've come to expect such lapses in judgment," the source told C/D.
Friends, coworkes, and relatives interested in staging an intervention and/or watching Pitcher do something incredibly embarrassing can find more information at Car and Driver's LeMons minisite or LeMons' race-info page.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

NASA @ Gateway Track Record - March/2013

Just a follow-up from the NASA @ Gateway Motorsports Park (GMP) event in March.  Along with the class pole and class win, I broke the PTE track record as well which was previously 1:15.9 I believe.  My 1:14.0 was in a car brand new to me and set on lap 12 of the race.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

RaceTime! NASA @ Gateway Motorsports Park

During our 1pm race drivers meeting, they broke the news that everything Sunday would be cancelled due to the forecasted snowstorm (5-7").  They also explained it would be a 2-wave start utilizing only 1 green flag with PTE being buried in the 2nd wave behind all the Spec Miata's (SM).  Being that a SM has a throttle restrictor and my PTE Miata did not, I knew that the start would be pretty crazy going into T1.


My overall starting position was something like 17th.  With Gateway there is a long Nascar front straight after the Nascar 3/4 banking that leads to the S/F line.  As with any split start, the 2nd wave was pretty much powering right out of the final turn and full throttle down the entire front straight.  This helped me clear a few of the slower SM's on the extreme inside prior to T1.  I was up to 11th overall by the 2nd lap!  I had an early battle with a SpecE30 that I eventually lost after running wide in T1 that dropped me to 12th after lap 4 with my in-class competition finally starting to fade a bit as I was picking up more speed.  Other than that E30, I started picking off cars slowly 1-by-1 and was up to 10th after lap 8 and 8th by lap 13.  About this time the race leaders were working past up so that was fun with slower traffic in front and faster traffic behind me to navigate!  All went well though.  I had a really good battle with Region's Director; Joel.  I was faster in spots but he was faster in others.  I pulled up even to him a few times, missed a shift once that dropped me back, but eventually got past him on the outside and made the pass stick on lap 19.  In all the race lasted 22 laps and I finished 1st in class and 7th overall (started 17th).  As an added bonus I broke the PTE track record with a 1:14.0 on lap 12.

Friday, March 29, 2013

NASA Central @ Gateway Motorsports Park

Being only 80 miles from my doorstep, I rolled into Gateway Friday night to get acquainted with my ride for the weekend.  The owner gave me the 5min tour of the car and I tested the seat (he's taller than me and 40lbs heavier) and gave it the all clear.  The pedals and wheel would be a stretch; but doable.

After a morning detour through East STL because of a closed onramp, I arrived just in time for the 7:30am mandatory Driver's Meeting.  Being with NASA since 2008; most of the regions run very similar setups so it was all very familiar.  Qualifying was about 1.5 hrs away; followed by practice and the 35min race about 2:30pm.

 The car was all setup and ready.  The only question was how much weight (aka ballast) we'd have to add to the car to make minimum weight and be legal.  The plan was to weight after warmups and go from there.  So after about 6-8 laps of getting to know the car and no surprises - besides it's a Miata and it was loud and slow - and rolled over the scales and we added some ballast.  A 1:17.1 was the time.  With no setup changes, Qualifying later yielded a 1:15.1 and the PTE class pole by .1 out of 3 cars!  With the current PTE track record being 1:15.9, I felt pretty good about notching that in the race; assuming I can beat out the rest of the class as well. 
Min weight was 2330; and my after-Qualifying weight was 2345.  We added about 30+ lbs of ballast to the car to make up for the fuel we'd burn during the race.  Our strategy was to fill the coolsuit cooler (not being used; only in the 40's) with as many bags of bolts that could fit and top off the car with fuel. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

March 23-24 - Gateway Motorsports Park!

My first event of 2013 is this weekend at Gateway Motorsports Park in St Louis.  Gateway was recently reopened under new management and is technically my 'home' track and closest track (although I claim Autobahn now).

This weekend is the opening event for the NASA Central Region, and is a crossover with the Mid-South region.  It will probably be my only event with the 2 regions.  We'll be racing in a PTE Miata and we've got a 3-car PTE class so it should be plenty of fun.  I'll be gunning for the class win as well as the PTE track record of 1:15.9 set last year.  I do still own the NASA Midwest regional TTB record from 2010 of 1:08.7 in the Evo.

The forecast for Saturday shows 47 as a high with a chance of rain.  However, Saturday night there's a 90% chance of rain/snow mix heading into Sunday where's there's a good chance of snow.  I've heard up to 6" an hour N of the track.  We'll see....

Friday, March 1, 2013

April Racing Itinerary

April will bring my first ever Lemons race.  The race will be held in Michigan at Gingerman Raceway over April 20-21st.  The 2-day race will include nearly 15hrs of race action split between our team of 3-4 drivers.  Our Team - Little Lebowski Urban Achievers - will be piloting a 1986 Volvo 245.

There are a few details left to sort out.  Mainly whether we will have 3 or 4 drivers for the event; and how we split up the actual stints.  I'm pretty excited for the seattime, as the car has been a solid Lemon's entry for several years and we have a good chance of running at the front of the pack if all goes well.

This date conflicts with a NASA Midwest event at Autobahn Country Club; which I have been claiming as my home track for a few years as it's about 2 hrs from me.  I do hope to make another NASA event at Autobahn later in the year, as they have dates in July and September.

Monday, February 18, 2013

March Racing Itinerary

The March Itinerary has been planned.  Along with sweet vacation planned with the wife, I'll be attending my first race of 2013 in March.  Specifically March 23-24 at Gateway Motorsports Park outside St Louis, MO with NASA Central Region in a PTE Miata.
All the legwork has been taken care of and I have heard the car is nearly prepped for 2013 racing.  The #7 PTE Miata should be great fun to drive and I have no doubt it'll be setup and ready to rock when I arrive at the track early Saturday morning.  With a ton of laps already at Gateway in the dry and wet, I will immediately focus on figuring out the car and have my eyes set on the PTE lap record among other goals over the 2-day 2-race weekend! 
I have been in 2 other Miata's before, but this should be the fastest ride for me as it will be prepped for PTE which is a higher class than the normal SM (Spec Miata).  The biggest difference being mods, while limited, are open and they are not required to run the usual 205 Toyo RA1.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

NASA Racing in 2013!

As a member since 2008, it was as easy decision to renew my NASA membership for 2013.  Already having 1 committed race with NASA for 2013 in late March, I went ahead and completed the renewal once I got the reminder notification.

I will still need to renew my NASA race license, which is a very small fee.  And if I choose to run any Time Trials with NASA, I will need to renew that license as well.  Right now though, I do not have any specific plans to run TT.  Part of me wants to give my new DD a shot - it's a 2012 BMW 335i 8sp - but I don't see that happening with regards to a TT competition.  Never say never though...

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Lining up a few 2013 Rentals!

Nearing the end of 2012 I started inquiring about rental for the 2013 season.  I've gotten a lot of information from a lot of different individuals, teams, etc with a range of price structures and cars.  Matching up the offers, inquiries, prices, cars, sanctioning bodies, travel plans and a host of other variables with my available schedule and what I would actually want to drive takes some time! 

In a nutshell, a car that is going to be more competitive (ie; with a proven race history or team prep history) is going to cost a bit more.  And of course the old adage; you gotta pay to go faster - meaning renting a 400hp Mustang is usually going to cost more than a 120hp Miata.  And higher sanctioned series like NASA or SCCA with stricter prep levels cost more than say a Lemon's or a Chumpcar seat.  In addition, splitting an Enduro seat with any group is more economical as you can split the costs multiple ways; sometimes up to 5 drivers. 

One thing I wanted to do was start early!  Winter sucks.  And I've only been on the track once since July 1st!  So I looked hard at Feb/March alternatives including return trips to VIR (once in 2009) and Road Atlanta (once in 2012).  Then a much closer opportunity opened up at Gateway that I pounced on involving a NASA prepped car by a friend of mine.  After that another early opportunity for a 2-day Lemon's race was offered.  I have never drove in Lemon's, but a friend of mine has a car that usually does very well - meaning they finish!  So there's 2 early race weekends already in the plans.  More details about each to come as things solidify.

March 23-24 - NASA Central Region - Gateway Motorsports Park in STL - PTE Miata rental
April 20-21 - 24hrs of Lemons - Gingerman Raceway in Michigan - 1986 Volvo 245