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!