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!