Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Autobahn 3.5hr Enduro - Saturday June 7th

 While at another event at The Autobahn Country Club, we seen a flier for a new 3-race Enduro series this year at Autobahn.  Race #1 was a 3.5hr event to be held on Sat June 7th.  With some (a lot) of planning, our same group that won the 4.5 hr NASA Autobahn Full Track Enduro was signed up!  That meant I'd be back in the #50 Mustang!

Last fall in the 4.5 hr, Dave (owner), Joe and I ended up running 5 total stints of about 50 min each for that race which ended in pitch darkness with me taking the checker in our E0 class.  This would be 3.5hrs and we eventually learned it would be the 2.1 mile South Track running from 4:30pm - 8pm.  Joe couldn't make it, and nobody else that Dave trusts could either, so this would be a 2-man event. 

About a week prior to the event we learned that Dave and our crew chief would be helping instruct an event on the North track all day.  So I immediately was thrust into the starter's role - no worries.  I'd also have the car at my disposal during the daytime to practice as I wanted and would need to qualify and do the final prep on the car.  Seemed simple!

I buzzed up to Autobahn about 8am Sat morning with a new personal best time of 2hr; 7mins - it's about 175 miles.  After being reminded of the battery cut-off safety feature Dave had installed, I got the car started and later went out for the 11:50 practice session.  The car felt fine, reminding me of the limited visibility it has!  The large hood scoop and big A-pillar do hamper things but it's doable. 
1pm was the driver's meeting and by then most of the crew (Ken & Heather) were there; with Dave escaping their instructing gig long enough to catch most of the meeting.  Nothing too crazy rulewise came up in the meeting.  Afterwards we prepped for the final 1:40 practice as we had plans to run the full 25min stint at race pace to gauge fuel consumption.  I think I got 9 laps in around a 1:39-1:41 pace on the Toyo RR's.  At that pace, there were several highly prepped Miata's that were going to be difficult to lap with.  While we were a few seconds faster than the Miata's, their cornering speeds are faster so passing would need to be respectful.

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We let the car cool down and then started prepping the radios etc for Qualifying which we thought was at 3:30pm.  We later learned it was from 3:15-3:25pm instead and we only had 1 tire swapped!  We also couldn't find a tire gun, so the 3 of us had to change everything with a rachet wrench which is painful and painfully slow!  We got things wrapped up with just enough time for me to get exactly 1 hotlap in!  Babying the brand new Hoosier R6 tires that def weren't up to temp, I think I had a 1:39x and was around 10th out of 15 cars perhaps.
We then had 1 hr to setup our pitstall and final prepwork.  The original plan was for me to start and run a full fuel load which we thought would be 1:10-1:15.  That would set us up for a 3-stop race; possibly a 2-stop if things were stretched perfectly throughout.

The race started with me behind the wheel - without too much drama.  Once the Hoosier R6's came up to temp, the car felt so much better than the old RR's we were practicing on.  I settled into pace - ahead of the Miata's at around 1:38 as planned, occasionally running a harder 1:37 by varying gear selection but always taking it slow through T1/2 complex to preserve the LF tire we were concerned about.  There was a double-yellow about 1 hr into my stint and as soon as that cleared up the car coughed for fuel.  I had been motioning into the pits during the yellow (that things were ok), but I noticed everyone thought I was motioning I was coming in for fuel, so it all worked out!  lol.
I loosened the belts as I made it into our pitstall when John (crew-chief) asked me how I was feeling.  I said 'Great'.  He asked if I wanted to double-stint and explained we were in 2nd in class and the 2-stop 3-stint strategy was lined up perfectly with my initial 1:20 stint.  I said 'sure'; and had John buckle me back in. Dave yelled out that I'd unofficially broken the NASA PTB track record... lol - I was well aware of that actually!

After waiting on fuel, I was off for another 1+ hrs!  The sun had started to go behind the clouds and twilight was approaching so the track was cooling.  The car stuck a bit better and I settled into a more aggressive pace.  My best lap being a 1:36.x while still protecting the tires a bit.  The stint was long and I was definitely getting a sore neck, hip (from heel/toe) and right-hand from the shifter.  I think there were about 13-14 shifts per lap!
Once the fuel load was done, I brought the car in and I surprised the crew as it must've been an official smoke-break!  People suited up, fueled the car and Dave hopped in to bring it to the checker with us firmly holding 2nd.  Twilight was upon us and Dave ended up with some light rain during a lot of his ~50min stint.  In the end, he kept it clean (Mustangs + Rain = No Grip!).  And 2nd place was ours!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

NASA @ HPT - 6/1 Racing??

(pic above;  Our pit area.  Included are the #7 and #18 Miata's I drove.  The #54 
was contending for the overall win before an engine failure; although they still won E1.)

After the previous night's Enduro awards at 9pm, we (some more than others) had a few beverages at the track before calling it a night.  Arriving around 7:30am I was eager to find out the status of the #7 and if I'd be racing on Sunday as it was a double race day!  With Quals at 8:40, there was < 1 hr remaining before I'd start missing track time. 

The first update I received on Sunday was that the spare transmission that they were trying to put in the car was having issues.  Either it wasn't healthy itself, or perhaps it was also stuck in a specific shift 'gate' instead of being in neutral.  After about an hour of mulling around while trying to call around for extra parts or help, Cris and I headed over to tell the guys to 'throw in the towel'. 

So there would be no Sunday race; 2 races down the drain.  I said my goodbye's and left the track around 9:45am.  I did the math and I could almost make the start of the Cardinals game in STL at 1:15pm if I really hurried.  I was close, but had to stop for food and ended up meeting a friend at his place to watch some of the 0-8 loss on tv.  Glad we didn't sit in the 94 degree temps for that!

All in all, it was still a fun weekend.  Crazy warm; over 90 all weekend and the entire HPT parking lot is blacktop!  It really sucks the #7 had transmission issues, and I think it was a problem waiting to happen inside the gearbox.  If it were still healthy, it would have been very challenging to run 2 fuelstints in 2 different cars in the 2.5hr Enduro with the heat!  Fortunately I had the #18 lined up and really enjoyed the alternate track config - and of course the win!
I'll leave you with a pic of our winning E3 car; the #18 with the sweet trophy carefully placed on the hood:

Thursday, June 19, 2014

NASA @ HPT - 5/31 Enduro!

After a dissapointing early retirement from the Sprint race earlier in the day (completing 12 of 17 laps), we were prepping for the evening's 2.5 hr Enduro.  The original plan was for me to start the #18 E3 Miata of Andrews, and about 10min later hop into the #7 E3 Miata of Bryan's to finish - running approximately 1:10 in each car.

However, the #18 was wounded from the earlier race and we didn't know if it would be fixed in time. As time ticked away on fixing the #7, my co-driver Cris and I started eliminating prep items like changing tires.  About 30min before the Enduro we realized the car wouldn't be ready.  Sad....

We still had to prep our pitbox in the hotpits as the team overall would be refueling 3 cars (instead of the original 4) and needed all the safety equipment.  And I would still be starting the #18, and I was helping Andrew swap out tires on it < 30mins before the race!  We got everything ready, my water bottle in and by way of our pitbox I was on pole for the start of the race.  A 10min pre-race pop-up shower added some interesting slickness to the track but by the time we rolled on for the pacelap it was sunny again (just a little slick I assumed).

I followed out the pacecar and as I prepared for a R turn, I quickly realized they changed the configuration of the track!  Instead of running the same 2.2 mile config, we'd be running a shorter 1.8 mile config.  What it essentially did was make the course have even more higher-speed turns.  For the Miata's that meant the top of 3rd or possibly 4th - and basically a ton of strain on the driver as you are constantly turning left!
As the green fell, the faster cars quickly worked around me and I tried to settle in and learn the grip of the track as well as the new config which had created 3 different turns to learn.

Another Miata was quickly into the wall in T11 and there was a long yellow through the back few turns, but it really didn't affect much of the racing.  Once that was cleared however, I realized that turn was very slick!  I caught the rear a few times there and eventually ended up with a 360 spin - no harm no foul - but a little scary even in a slow speed corner.  I worked on my laptimes and settled into a 1:18-1:20 laptime if I recall.  The only issue I had was with the clutch sticking a little and eventually I figured out if I shifted slower I could work around the issue.  Part of my stint is below:

  My 1:10 stint was about 30% into a setting sun and just plain hot!  Miata's are small inside and there's not much airflow.  I was thankful for my water bottle!  I eventually got the signal to pit - and I was exhausted already.  Our pitstop was clean; I think timed at around 51 seconds including driver change and fuel!  The owner, Andrew, was in for the finish.  I got word later that we were in 2nd place.  Andrew's stint went clean and he brought it to the finish at dusk with us assuming we claimed 2nd in E3.  A few mins later at the awards ceremony they called a different team name for 2nd - turns out Andrew made the pass for 1st place in the closing laps and we took first in E3 by only 5 seconds!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

NASA @ HPT - 5/31 Sprint Races!

I took off for Kansas around 2:45pm Friday afternoon.  The majority of the trip is W through Missouri via a 4-lane divided highway with a 65mph limit - and this featured about 4 different pop-up showers, several of them with heave downpour!  All-in-all I made the 371 mile trip is just over 5 hours.  I headed straight to a local Restuarant/Brewery that I'd visited before for drinks and some very tasty dry-rubbed ribs!

Saturday I arrived at the track and found the #7 red/white Miata there needing some final prep before the 8:40am warmups.  I also found the #18 white Miata right next to it that I'd be co-driving later that night on the 2.5 hr Enduro!  Yes; this was going to be a busy day as I'd be running the sprint race, and co-driving both cars in the evening Enduro - 2 cars in the same 2.5hr race with a 10min rest between!

Warmups went fine on the 2.2 mile config, the first time I'd driven it.  My lap of 1:41.9 was actually the best in our class; kinda shocking me.  Alltogether, this was only my 3rd time to HPT but I'd never driving anything besides the 2.5 mile 'Grand Course', so this was neat.  The car seemed to rotate a bit better in the slower turns than before and I'd be sharing the car and my feedback with Cris throughout the day as we both worked to help eachother out (he was running in the different TTE Time Trials group). 

The 10:20am Quals went pretty well for me I thought.  The car felt good, but the laptime didn't improve as much as I had thought.  My best was a 1:40.849 placing me in 3rd; with 2-3-4 separated by just .045!  Shortly after, Cris put down a better laptime in his 11pm session and as such we talked through some lines and track positioning as he is much more familiar with the track. 

The 35min sprint race was scheduled for 2:40pm and by then it was crazy hot.  On the start I had trouble shifting from 2-3 which is a real issue with this car as the 3rd gear synchro is going.  That shuffled me back a few spots right off the back.  The front 3 pulled away with the front 2 checking out completely.  I duked it out with a Fiero several laps for 4th.  I finally got around him and had set off to chase the leaders when a Porsche spun on the backstraight in front of me and I had to check way up - which caused me to lose about 4 spots.  Now I had to battle to get all of those positions back over the next several laps.  I did, but as soon as I got back into 4th the car became difficult to shift into any gear.  It eventually locked itself into 3rd and I pulled off after 12 laps (race went 17 laps total) with a mechanical DNF.

Obviously I was bummed.  This meant the dual-car Enduro wasn't going to happen later that day either.  However, the owner had access to a used gearbox on site and set about finding some workers to swap them out.  We quickly got word that they belived they could do the swap and have the car ready just before the 6:15pm start of the Enduro - barely 3 hrs away.  As such, we planned accordingly to prep the #7 as soon as it would be available.  The plan was for me to finish the race in the #7.

Likewise, I helped the owner of the the #18 Miata out with prepwork for the Enduro as I would be starting his car and finishing the #18.  Yep; 2 cars in the same 2.5hr race!  Bold, but I really wanted to try it. Stay tuned....

Monday, May 26, 2014

NASA Midwest Region @ Autobahn - 4/27/14

Sunday brought another day of great racing; with a similar schedule.  Practice yielded a 1:40.6; which was 4th of the PTE class but I knew their was more time in the car and wasn't worried.  2 hours later in qualifying I pushed hard and my best lap of 1:38.512 would put me on pole!  The top was damn tight; with 2nd being .08 behind me and the top four separated by just .355!
Today's race would be a rolling start.  And Jason and I would again be on the front row; with him qualifying P2.  We discussed a strategy of slow into T1 and me guarding the inside of the track; with him holding close to me so nobody could squeeze through.  We wanted to keep everyone else behind, and let us duke out P1.
The strategy worked pretty damn well actually.  With the drop of the green, the Miatas (pretty much everybody but me is in a PTE Miata) got a bit of a jump thx to their bigger motors, but I was able to make that up braking late into T1 thanks to my lower weight.  T1 and T2 went just as planned - and I was full out through T3 and was able to pull a bit of a gap.  T4 we were still 2-wide and with T5 Jason getting picked a little and I was able to pull a bit of a gap that I exercised by using all of T6 and checked out in the lead!  T6 is where both the videos below end - with both a forward-facing and rearward-facing camera.  Pretty neat stuff; there's a lot going on in those 40 or so seconds!
By the end of lap #1, I had about a 4-6 car lead with everyone still duking it out for position behind me.  I decided to take care of the tires a bit, as yesterday things got really greasy.  I think this strategy call was the incorrect call, as it let the competition stay close.  A few laps in, I took a bad line into T6 and pretty much lost all of my lead.  I was now forced into some defensive driving lines and into similar issues as Saturday where I'm at a bit of a disadvantage in traffic with the lower torque motor.  In the end there was some terrific driving in class, specially with the top 4 of us.  I had a terrific weekend and had a lot of fun.  It's great to hop in a car you've never seen or driven before and immediately be competitive.  Not only that; I put the car on the front-row of qualifying each day and run under the old track record!  Huge thanks to Sam and Myers Motorsports for the car prep.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

NASA Midwest Region @ Autobahn - 4/26/14

The wife and I got up early Saturday morning (4:40am) to make the drive to Autobahn for the 8am driver's meeting.  I arrived in time to greet Sam of Myers Motorsports and get a look at the 1991 Honda CRX SI I would be driving this weekend.  The car looked clean and, well, small! 
I had a short discussion with Sam about the car and all the specifics relating to shift points, types of brakes and how I could expect the car to handle.  As well as a bit of advice on FWD, as I had never raced a FWD platform yet! 

8:50am Practice was up first and I'd have a 1-way radio in my ear with Sam helping spot and call out times  on the other end of the mic.  It was of immediate help as there was a car off on lap 1 and Sam called it to me before I seen it!  I took it easy for about 2-3 laps as the temps were in the 40's and the tires needed temp.  I started dropping about 2 seconds a lap and ended with a 1:41.3 I believe and Sam seemed pretty satisfied with that.  After I heard the other PTE cars were in the 1:40-1:41 range I felt pretty damn good.  To be nearly at-speed after 15min in a car I'd never even seen before was pretty sweet.  The only issue happened when I flipped on the fan in the pits and it grounded itself out and created some pretty hanous smelling smoke.
10:30am Qualifying was up next.  Sam had fixed the wiring issue; no real setup changes as I really liked the balance of the car.  I hit it pretty hard right away and seen a 1:39.8 pop-up.  I pushed hard 1 more lap (Sam radio'd the white flag was out) and the in-car timer said I had a absolute flyer going; .4 better... until I hosed up a turn and dropped 2 tires off.  Lap ruined!  However my time would hold for P2 out of 7 in class; which meant the front row!

1:25pm was the Lightning race.  36 cars in total; starting in 3 waves.  My class (PTE) would be the 3rd and final wave, consisting of 9 cars; 7 in my PTE class and 2 Honda Challenge cars.  I had only been in 1 standing start before, and they are difficult especially in a car you've never tried to 'launch' before!  I got a decent launch, but we were quickly 4-wide into turn 1, and I was dodging a spinning car by T3 in route to one hell of a race.  Video is below; I'll let it speak for itself.

After falling back to 5th at the start I worked my way back to 2nd before I spun.  My best lap was a 1:39.154 which broke the track record!  That is until a fellow competitor put down a 1:39.135 about 6 laps later stealing away the PTE track record!
I have to give a huge thanks to Sam & Myers Motorsports for providing a front-row capable car!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

24 Hrs of Lemons @ Gingerman - April 19-20

After a weekend off, I headed up to SW Michigan for a 24 Hours of Lemons event at Gingerman Raceway.  This would be a repeat event/team/weekend for me from 2013 and I was looking forward to it.  In 2013, I joined the #86 Little Lebowski Urban Achievers and ran the 2-day 15hr event and ended up with a 2nd place finish.  Needless to say; the team was expecting another good showing.

I buzzed N ~300 to Gingerman early Friday morning as we planned to run the practice day to verify everything was good with the car.  I got there around noon and took the 4th 20min session.  The car felt good; I had forgotten it wallows so much side-to-side that it literally makes you nauseous (kinda seasick) until you get used to it.  Except for someone - not me - leaving the hood pins disconnected and having the hood fly up again.  Funny enough; but I heard this wasn't the first time! 

With the practice session out of the way, the car just needed a bit of prep for the 9.5 hrs of racing on Saturday, with another 5 hrs to finish off the weekend on Sunday.
So we opened a beer and started to BS!  Then along came the truck pictured on the left.  It was a vehicle actually entered in the event too!  About 7 or so guys in a beer-themed bootlegging vehicle with an actual working tapper in the tailgate!  And yes, the beer was FREE!  We had several...  Only at Lemons!

Saturday morning we finished with prep and our 1st driver (Eric) got suited up and strapped into the car.  I'd be the middle of 3 drivers; sandwiched between the 2 co-owners with all 3 of us running lonnnnnng stints!

So Eric went to start the car for the 10am start.  It cranked but wouldn't fire.  So the hood came up, then the fuse checker came out and then Eric (the team mechanic) came out of the car which is never a good sign.  It was < 10 minutes to the green flag and everyone else was lining up.  We flew through the basic checks.  Wire were tightened, fuses checked, connections were verified, etc.  Then sparkplugs were pulled and so forth. 
While there was a delayed green, it eventually flew and that pretty much meant our chance at a 1st place finish was already gone.  5 minutes into the race.  Being the #86 Volvo doesn't put up the laptimes of the frontrunners, our advantage lies in long green flag runs, clean hard driving and just churning laps while NOT spending unnecessary time in the pits.

About 1 hour into the issues, we had at least 2 other teams over helping out and making suggestions.  It was pretty damn cool of them to help out really.  All the normal suggestions were checked and rechecked - battery, ignition, spark, distributor, etc.  Although it kept cranking, nothing would get the car to fire.  Around 1pm we broke for lunch, at this point pretty much out of ideas.  Everyone was starting to hit the internet looking for part stores, used cars on Craigslist and even junkyards.  Around 2pm, I went with Trevor to a Junkyard hoping a computer unit with a similar part # would convince the car to start.  No luck.  We tried to pick up a spare ignition box from Autozone to 'direct wire' the car but nothing was in stock. 

At this point it was around 5pm and I decided to bolt.  It was 5hrs home and I'd rather be there than waiting around for the 12:15pm start on Sunday as we really didn't have any new ideas.  So in the end, we turned 0 laps.  Last I heard, the car still isn't running.  So our next team race in July is a bit up-in-the-air!

I'll leave you with a shot from my 335i Trip Computer.  Including a stop for gas, this was my trip to the track early Friday morning.  I dare ya to try and average 76.7mph for 4 hrs with a pitstop that includes piloting through tollways (I-pass) in Chicago that are 55mph limits.  Not bad eh...  Oh, and 31.2mpg!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Chumpcar 7hr @ Autobahn - Sunday 4/6/14 - Day #2

Just like the previous day, we'd be running a 7hr endurance race on Sunday.  Same team, same drivers, just a reversed driver order with me leading off this time.  I had convinced the owner to try some lower tire pressures today in hopes it would improve the handling and eliminate the push.
With another cold morning (but not as cold) starting, I suited up and hoped in the car for the initial warmup laps.  That's when one of the craziest things I've seen happen - and I got it on video!

Yes, that's a tire falling off!  Pretty crazy eh.  And they were pitted right next to us!  So it was pretty funny for our crew to tell their crew about it.  Obviously that took a bit to clean up, but eventually the green flag dropped and we were off.  The last vid below is the first 40mins of my lead stint - uncut.  With the random green I started in 26th or 29th, not really sure as I only heard it across the radio.  I pushed hard ran better laps than yesterday due to improved tire pressures and less push.  Best lap of 1:48.5 - nearly 2 seconds better than yesterday!  I and brought the car up to 11th before turning it over.  Once again, a clean session from behind the wheel, although I had to deal with some yellows and we actually brought the car in a few mins early to try and take advantage of a caution. <-- p="" video="">
Driver #2 (who spun yesterday) had instantly improved times.  I went to get some lunch since it was 11:15 or so and suddenly seen the car drive past the concession stand and through the paddock.  That wasn't a good sign!  I looked and we were down to 15, 18 and 20th pretty much immediately.  The story was another spin, stuck and had to get pulled to an access road to get out.  Ugh.

Driver #3 also improved his stint - running < 2:00 today.  He took the car in 26th and pretty much held it for most of his session.  Towards the last 15min he started picking up a few spots with the helps of some pitstops!  Dan did a terrific job imo as he had very little experience coming into the weekend.  Again a clean stint; no spins and no contact. 

Last up was the owner; taking the car from around 22nd to the checker.  I personally reset the tire pressures down a bit - but not too much.  The times were solid, again a bit better than yesterday and he worked the car up to a 19th place finish once again.  So we'd finish with a pair of 19th place finished each day - out of a 49 car field.  Top half!  w/o the spin each day we'd have been around 13-16th.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Chumpcar 7hr @ Autobahn - Sat 4/5/14 - Day #1 - part 2 of 2

As mentioned in the previous post, I would be the 4th and final team driver of the day.  I'd be driving from 2:10pm to the 4pm checkered flag.  I took the car in 26th and planned to push hard!  The car was pretty easy to drive and I quickly settled in with some 1:51-1:53 laps.  I did end up with the fastest lap of the team for the day - a 1:50.6.  The track was full but manageable and the car stayed consistent.  As I tried to pick up the speed even more, it became evident the car was setup to push (understeer) either for safety concerns or simply be accident.  It pushed badly in 2,3,4,5 and 13 where I had to back out of the gas mid-corner!  Not ideal, but at this point in the race I was trying to make up as many respectable position as possible!

The first 45min went by pretty normally.  The last hour was a bit more hectic; the last 15min was downright crazy (exactly why we switched me into the last stint) with a few different double-yellows because of contact and was hectic restarts where I wasn't the only one pushing hard for spots!  The first vid here is the last 45mins or so.

As I mentioned, it got more hectic.  Racing between local yellows and trying to time when a double-yellow will drop are 2 pretty difficult things to master.  Get it wrong and you can cause a wreck, injure a corner worker (very very bad), lose positions and/or incur a penalty.  Get it right and it's pretty sweet, fun, and definitely rewarding!
All in all, I pulled the car up to 20th and with a DQ in the top finishers, we ended up 19th overall out of 42 cars.  22 laps behind the leader and 7 laps out of 15th.  I figure that we lost 5-8 laps with the spin in stint #3 - which was the only spin for the team.  I am happy to say the entire team kept it clean; no car contact and no black flags!  Pretty much what I thought as we had a solid chance at 15th w/o the spin.  The 2 newbs were obviously slower, but we all expected that and by keeping it clean I thought they did a pretty solid job.  Pitstops were hastily planned, but executed pretty well with regards to fuel and driver changes.  We never checked any setup on the car at all - which I thought was a mistake.  We would eventually check the tire pressures after the race and find the fronts to be 42 and 55! 

The last vid here is the final 3 laps of the race - keep in mind that's the final 3 laps of an 8 hr race!  It should give you a good snapshot of what things are like with managing slower and faster traffic, not passing under yellows, timing passes, etc.

We'd be doing the same thing tomorrow; another 7 hours!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Chumpcar 7hr @ Autobahn - Sat 4/5/14 - Day #1 - part 1

I headed the 2.5 hrs from work to Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, IL on Friday.  We had 30mph gusts from the West combined with a 39 degree temp which made driving difficult!  The main requirement was to get my safety gear checked out and simply do a meet-n-greet with the team I'd be racing with.  I quickly found the car - a white Miata; nicknamed 'Jenny' (ala 8675309) - and some of the team.  There were apparently no plans to practice any driver changes or discuss strategy.  I was able to sit in the car and BS while freezing my arse off.  I did a lot of coaching to one of the newbs on the team; Dan.  Both explaining racing, the track, and trying to convince him not to overcomplicate things. 

The driver's meeting was 8pm the next day with racing from 9-4pm.  The owner suggested we meet at 7am, which sounded crazily early and when I arrived at 7:15am nothing had been done.  Besides the owner and myself, there were 2 other drivers - neither had driven in a Chumpcar event or any other Enduro race of anykind.  Some go-kart experience was all they had; which isn't totally uncommon for Chump or Lemons actually.  And I was also the only one that had ever driven at Autobahn before.  I figured our best chance was finishing 10-15th if all went well.

Our pitstall was mostly setup - we carried in a few remaining items and the owner was climbing in for Stint #1.  The 4 of us would be sharing the 7hr event with 1:45 stints each.  A last-minute change moved me to 4th as I would be the closer with all the 'crazies' at the end.  Sounded just find to me.
Crazily enough, when we went to start the car in pit lane the car broke!  No joke.  So thus started a weekend of push-starts!  We got it push-started and the random green flag generously put us in 7th out of the 43 car field.  About that time I realized that although we discussed the driver order, we never practiced or even talked about any time of pitstop setup, fueling, car setup, etc.  We did have a radio in the car however to hopefully call out some positions, greens/yellows and pit stops.

I made a quick walk up and down the pits to meet a few of the other teams.  Some cars I knew, some friends had new cars or teams and a few I'd talked to online and wanted to officially meet.  With that out of the way, I took over radio duties in the pits.  There were 2 early yellow's in T2 - the usual issue with 2 cars trying to occupy the same spot on track together!

The owner was picking up the track and improving his times.  Under the 2:00 mark and settling around the 1:55 area.  The front runners were in the mid-high 1:40's, so while not a frontrunner (and not expecting it) it wasn't too bad.  The car was radio'd in as 'great'. 
Driver #2 would be Dan, whom I had been further coaching.  I volunteered to fuel; with Mark manning the fire bottle.  All of which we worked out about 5min before the pitstop sadly.  The stop didn't go too bad really.  Chump requires a minimum 5:00 stop if you fuel the car and we weren't too far over that.  Since the car was deemed 'great' by the owner, there were no changes.  I suggested checking tire pressures but nobody thought it was needed. 

Stint #2 was Dan, and he took some time to get used to the car and track.  He took the car in 15th and dropped some spots on track with a slower pace.  After a lot of 2:20 laps, he dropped down to 2:06 and settled around 2:10.  I'm happy to report NO offs, spins, penalties or black flags!  I call it a success.  He brought the car in around 23rd

After manning the fire bottle on the pitstop to put Mark in the car for stint #3.  He took the car in 24th and seemed to pick up the track quickly.  We were 5 laps out of 14th and 10 laps off the lead.  Again, thinking a top 15 finish was our best bet personally.  Mark dropped a 2:03 lap about 30min in, climbing to 22nd, then spun shortly after.  He had to wait for a tow and we lost quite a bit of time.  At lap 100, we were sitting in 25th.  My stint was coming up and I would take the car to the checker.  I suggested we check tire pressures, but again, nobody seemed to care.  We'll see how much I could improve on our current position of 26th...

Saturday, April 5, 2014

April 5-6 - Chumpcar @ Autobahn!

No rest for the weary.  So after racing last weekend, where am I at this weekend?  The track.  Racing Chumpcar World Series at Autobahn Country Club outside Chicago, IL.  I'll be racing with 3 other guys I've never met before with a team I literally found on an internet forum with an open seat!  With me luck...

The event is a 'Double 7'; meaning 7hrs each day for a total of 14hrs around Autobahn's South Course.  I really like Autobahn for both the course & facilities, not to mention it's < 3hrs from my doorstep!  With us luck - I'll be racing in a Miata again; with the GSDSU (Go Fast Don't Screw Up) team.  You can follow along on Race Monitor and I'll post a few updates on facebook and twitter.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

NASA @ GMP - 3/30/14 (Day 2; races 2 & 3)

Day #2 was Sunday and forecasted some warmer weather as well as 2 races!  The morning started out cold and we'd discussed a setup change for the car to help it through the oval - this after the owner took it out for a session the previous day.  I'm all for changes, so I said let's give it a try!

Qualifying was up right away and the changes didn't seem to make things any worse.  However, everyone else got much quicker including 2 newbs that just finished Competition school the previous day.  I would be gridded 5th again (this should have made us realize the changes weren't good).  After the opening session with my student, the first race of the day was up.
Within a few laps, I was really starting to fight the car for grip.  The worst being in the oval where I had to back out of the throttle nearly every lap as it was literally pushing uphill.  At one point it pushed all the way through the marbles and nearly to the wall as I got it safely under control.  That was pretty much the story and I ended up 6th with a best lap of 1:14.6.  I had some good battles with another Miata though, so the race in itself was still fun and definitely challenging. 

I got with the owner and asked him to reverse the changes - and to even go the opposite direction with them!  I was anxious for race #3 and I had nothing to lose and the owner really wanted my opinion on helping to dial in the car on what were new springs and new tires for 2014.
I would be gridded in the front row for the final race around 3pm when the temps were finally much warmer.  I let the pole sitter set the pace which was insanely slow and I was in 2nd when the green finally dropped.  Unfortunately I missed 3rd gear and nearly got bumped on the start.  I lost a few positions there and had my work cut out for me.  I pushed the car hard and it eventually paid off.  Video of the entire race is below - where I ended up with a 1st Place Finish!  To add to that, I took back the track record with a best lap of 1:13.5.  Enjoy. 
So I ended up with a 2nd, 6th and 1st place finish, along with a new track record.  No rest for the weary... as I'm headed out again this weekend to Autobahn for a Chumpcar race...

Monday, March 31, 2014

NASA @ GMP - 3/29/14 (Day 1)

It was going to be a busy freaking weekend.  3 races altogether and I would be instructing.  While I have instructed before, and most often at Gateway, I had never instructed for NASA; nor while I was competing.  It simply takes a ton of time and a lot of focus away from the task at hand.

Arriving around 7am Saturday, it was cold, overcast and windy.  The car was ready and except for BFG R1 tires (instead of Hoosiers) and a different steering wheel, the setup was the same as last year.  In warmups, the car felt fine.  There were some 944's and a few e30's in our group that were piss-poor at traffic mgmt - which isn't uncommon.
Working in instructing sessions with my student in his BMW 318i, the morning went quick and qualifying was up next.  There was a 944 that had a huge spin in T1 and 2 other 944's that got crazy sideways in T6 that majorly affected several of my laps.  By that point, there wasn't a lot of people working with traffic and I wasn't in a very aggressive mode so my qual time of 1:16.4 put me in the back row of a deep 6 car PTE field.  All of us within 1.5 seconds though.

I knew I needed to be much more aggressive in the race and push hard right from the start.  That's exactly what I did.  And I started picking off spots with a late entry PTE Miata following me through traffic and causing me to watch ALL my mirrors.  In about 4 laps I had worked my way into the lead!  It was a pretty happy moment really and my racecraft wasn't this good last year.  An unfortunate accident in T7 went from a yellow to waving yellow to double-yellow with the pace car returning.  We cycled for several laps, wondering if the race would end under yellow or not.  I would have been ok - as I was in the class lead and the blue Miata was directly behind me.  Adding to that the rest of the PTE field was now that much closer to me even though we (the blue Miata and I) had put a few other out-of-class cars between us.
The pace car did pull off and we went single file to the S/F line and got a very late green.  T1 was 3-wide chaos as expected.  The outside opened up so I took it, but it closed down quickly and I had to check up.  I painfully looked left but was trapped - with the blue Miata finding an opening and passing a few rows of car.  Pretty sure he was gone for good at that point.  Now back to 2nd, I aggressively worked my way through with the 3rd place white Sentra not far behind me.  Wanting to stick cars between us, I executed a nice clean pass a few laps later in T1 and promptly shifted from 5th down to N.  As you can imagine, neutral doesn't have the same desired effect that 3rd would have.  I lost both the positions I had passed and the white Sentra made it past too to relegate me back to 3rd.  There was a little back-n-forth but getting loose in T7 on the last lap sealed my fate.  We'd later learn the blue Miata would be DQ'd for passing under yellow.  I took 2nd behind the white Sentra.  My fastest lap improved to 1:14.2 on the day - with nobody overtaking my 2013 track record of 1:14.0 quite yet.

If I had qualified better - didn't get completely hosed on the 50/50 direction call on the restart - or had better luck with the gearbox --> I really think I'd have the class won much easier.  As it went starting from the rear of the field and working through slower traffic from other classes - I had a hell of a great time.  There were still a few crappy drivers with poor traffic mgmt skills; however none of them were in my PTE class I'm proud to say.  My racecraft has picked up by leaps and bounds since 1 year ago and so has the confidence.  Being my 2nd weekend in this car definitely helped, finally some familiarity!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

2014 Season Begins - NASA @ Gateway Motorsports Park

First event of 2014....
NASA Midwest & NASA Central @ Gateway Motorsports Park March 29-30th.  This is a return event from 2013 for me - in the same car!  I'll be driving the Team Cohn #7 PTE Miata once again.  Last year I put it on the pole and set the PTE track record on the way to the class win on Saturday.  On Sunday... well... the whole freakin event was cancelled!  Seriously!  Based on the weather forecast no less.  We ended up with 10"-13" (10 in STL; 13" at my house 90 miles N). 

The pic above is from 2013; with me behind the wheel of the #7 red/white PTE Miata.  I'm in the oval on the banking working the pass on the #74 SM being driven by the Race Director of all people!  Even more crazy; I nearly bought the #74 over the winter!  Small, crazy world eh.
Anyways, I'll be looking to improve on the 1:14.0 track record from last year.  Assuming the car is all good - and I have no reason to doubt Mr Cohn otherwise - I fully expect to demolish that.  I'm looking for a good 2 seconds on it.  After a season of driving some lower hp cars, including several on slicker Toyo tires, I really hope the skillset has improved.  Optimal conditions will be needed; so we'll have to wait and see.  Forecast shows a high of 59 Sat and 70 Sunday!  Crazy considering it's 32 degrees there now...  Wish us luck on a great 2014 kickoff!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

March/April Racing Itinerary

It's took some planning, but the 2014 Racing Season starts soon - and it'll be a fast and furious start.  The last weekend in March will kick things off with a NASA sprint race at Gateway in STL.  The following weekend we'll be headed N to Autobahn in Joliet for a Chumpcar 14-hr Endurance race.  A b-day weekend off featuring some Cubs/Cards tickets at Busch is next.  The very next weekend I'm headed up to Michigan for 15-hr Endurance race with Lemons.  To finish up April I'm working on a NASA sprint weekend back at Autobahn in Joliet.

Already with a deposit on a NASA sprint weekend, a Chumpcar Endurance weekend and a Lemons Endurance weekend - 2014 should prove to be pretty interesting.

1/2 of the cars I've been in before, in 2013.  I'll return to drive the Team Cohn Miata and the #86 Little Urban Underachievers Volvo 240.  Good cars, good people and good prep led to some repeat adventures - can't wait.  Chumpcar I have only had 1 ever experience with before (in late 2012) and it was not very positive at all.  I was close to a few different races in late 2012 down South and when Chumpcar release a heavy midwest schedule with about 6 races within 5.5 hrs - I hit up the forums to find some options.  Hopefully things work out with the Miata team I found and we can repeat.  The other newcomer would be for the last NASA weekend in April.  I know the team and the car, I've just never driven it yet.  Hopefully we'll seal things up and I'll be racing 5/6 consecutive weekends to kick off the 2014 season!

Friday, February 28, 2014

2014 - Season (pre)Planning...

The past 2 winters - without a racecar - have been much different.  From 2009-2012 I was eagerly awaiting new classing rulesets to decide where to position the #929Evo, what mods to do or undo, what items to refresh and what would need done by my title sponsor (ECU Tuning, etc).  I would pull together all that information and eventually build my schedule.  The biggest pain of that process was scheduling the tuning/maintenance time with my title sponsors - AMS Performance or Buschur Racing.  The sponsors were great help - no issues there - but with them being between 3.5 hrs and 8 hrs away over the years, it provided schedule concerns, time off from work, issues with the weather, etc.  Some pics from years past:

The past 2 winters - without a racecar - have been much different!  No scheduling of long-distance trips, no pre-prep on the car, no figuring out mods, no ordering mods (UPS/Fedex guy probably misses me!), no time spent freezing in the garage during these cold months, etc.
So not owning a racecar isn't all bad news.  But I was extremely meticulous with my maintenance schedule and always strived to keep my racecar legal and in full advantage of the rules.

2014 Events Schedule to come...

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

2013 Recap!

It was a very different 2013 for me.  After selling the #929Evo last fall, I had a complete of renting.  I drove a Miata, a Volvo (twice), 2 Mustangs, 3 different BMW SpecE30's and a Subaru STI rally car.  I set a track record, took 1st in a Sprint race, took 1st in an Endurance and tried some Rallying!

We started at Gateway with a NASA sprint weekend in a PTE Miata. First place and a track record.

Next up was the 1st of two 24 Hours of Lemons events.  With 65+ other cars, we turned some crazy 3-hr stints into 420+ laps over 15hrs and a solid yet disappointing 2nd place overall.

Another NASA Sprint race weekend - in a Mustang that never ran correctly followed next and definitely one of the most frustrating weekends in my race career.

A planned gap over the long hot summer months came next.  Lots of work setting up a July/August event but it all fell through.

Finally, 2 weeks before a 4.5hr Enduro at Autobahn I had lines on 3 different rides.  1 fell through, 1 was out of my pricerange and the one I went with netted me my first ever Enduro win!  In a Mustang no less...

A quick 1/2 day excursion to DirtFish outside Seattle during a weekend getaway yielded some good video and showed me the gravel stuff is crazily different than the tarmac stuff!

I had a November Chumpcar race lined up at a brand new track, but it fell through as well.  I scrambled and picked up an early December Enduro + Sprint weekend with NASA and it was pretty awesome.

Overall, I seemed to gravitate towards Enduros.  If nothing else, it helped maximize my seattime and get the most out of an event or weekend.  There were some good arrive-and-drive options, some good friends with good cars and some not so great events.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Long Trip home from Road Atlanta (Dec 2013)

I wish I could say the trip home was smoother, but it was not.  The estimated 9hr trip down ended up stretching to 11hrs due to a lot of sleet in IL and tons of rain through Kentucky and Tennessee.  Although it was mid 50's on Saturday in Atlanta, I knew my watching the weather reports there would be a great chance of more snow and ice back home on Sunday.

We took off Saturday around 5pm after the conclusion of the sprint race.  The plan was to drive a couple hours and see how we felt - probably grabbing a hotel and finishing the trip early Sunday morning.  After a few hours we found a Logan's Steakhouse (a chain my Dad wanted to try) and ate.  I went ahead and pricelined a hotel in Murfreesboro TN - about 2 hours away - which we coincidentally stopped at to eat dinner on the way down.  We pulled in to the hotel around 9pm, I was beyond exhausted after driving the last 2 hours on a full stomach.

We got up with the usual 5:40am alarm, had by far the best continental b-fast of the trip (bacon, eggs, etc) and started on our way.  It was already raining and the temp was 34 degrees - no ice YET.  We had an hour or so until Nashville; so about 6-7 hrs home.  The temp hovered around freezing through TN and turned into freezing rain around KY.  Prior to that we had our biggest scare.  I had the cruise set, and was passing a semi in the left lane over an overpass when the car starting heavily fishtailing.  I counter-steered through a tank-slapper as the car's DSC figured things out and cancelled the cruise - all withing a few seconds.  Wild!  A stop for coffee/Mt Dew was in order shortly thereafter...

KY was much worse.  The temp was holding at 29 with light freezing drizzle and all the overpasses were iced.  No salt or anything had been layed and honestly there wasn't many vehicles in the road as it was 8-9am still.

Once into IL, we found the snow.  Immediately and looked like 6+ inches pretty quick.  I-24 was ok, but once we were on I-57 we started seeing multiple vehicles off the road.  Also long sections where the interstate had only 1 lane un-iced, so it was single lane traffic around 60mph for awhile.

We seen lots of people waiting for wreckers, lots of wreckers out, and came up on a cop with an SUV that must have just flipped - dude looked pretty shocked and had no coat or anything on!

My Dad had his ride meet us later on I-57 to save me some miles - and about 90min - dropping him off.  That happened about 11:30am.  It would be 2+ hours of 2-lane home from there and that was extremely low-key fortunately.  I had the NFL Network to keep me entertained and had a beer open about 5min after I got home.  All safe.  Till next time...

Friday, January 10, 2014

Road Atlanta 12/7/13 - Sprint Race!

Early Saturday morning at Road Atlanta brought lots of rain, but by the driver's meeting it had cleared and left 40 degree morning temps - pushing into 50 by midday.  As planned I would be in the Drivegear White #88 SpecE30 today.  By the time we were finished with the longest driver's meeting I've ever had (lots of confusion in the SE how to handle contact with SpecE30; lots of confusion), the car was nearly prepped and ready - sitting on the newer and slightly better Toyo RR's.  I had never driven on these before but was told they were much like the Toyo RA-1 which just a bit more grip.

Practice was up first and I would be 1 of 17 SpecE30's in the Lightning rungroup.  I mainly felt the car out - having never driven on the RR's and only my 2nd day ever in an SpecE30 and 2nd trip to Road Atlanta.  It felt much the same as the #89 and #88 from the Enduro, but a touch quieter due to new exhaust.  It made the car feel a bit slower buy pretty sure that was just in my head!  While I was just feeling things out, most of the rest were balls-out!

Next up was Qualifying.  If this was going to be like other NASA qualifying sessions, it was going to be 'ON' from the time you left the pits!  And it's always smart to try and get a good lap early in case there's issues with traffic or the track in general.  And wouldn't ya know...  on my first hotlap as I was going 2-wide through T12 (yes, the crazy downhill turn) I heard over the radio there was already a crash on track.  I passed it a few seconds later - the radio transmission definitely helping me stay to the correct side of the track (it was off-line but still).
The double-yellows were out and then the red flag!  Dead stop at the end of the front straight!  Eventually the black flag came out and qualifying was over.  I would end up in 13th out of 17 I think; everyone pretty close with the top 2 about 1.5 seconds ahead - having obviously had clear track!

The 35min sprint race was a few hours away.  I grabbed some food, organized and packed up some gear, and basically relaxed and walked around with my Dad for awhile.  The 3 Drivegear cars all lined up pretty early - the #89 and #00 having completely different drivers for the sprints as compared to yesterday's Enduro; I was the only returner.  We were told the race wouldn't be 'Green Flag' until the end of the front straight instead of the S/F so everyone would have a chance to get down the hill through T12 and not battle through it.  Which is a Terrific idea!
In my normal fashion, I didn't get the best jump as I'd never started a race in this car or series before!  I lost a few spots by the time we got into the 'esses', but was happy to be mostly single file by then as there's simply not enough room to run side-by-side w/o a bit of luck to make it through safely!  I held there for a few laps then had a bad through out of T5 and lost a few more spots.  After that I had a big gap behind me and I really started to work on my line and improving laptimes.
In the end I finished a quiet 12th out of 17 in class.  If I had been running the laptimes at the end, I would have been fighting midpack the entire race as my overall best was in the top 1/2.  My best lap was #13 of 15 in the race - 1:47.7.  I had dropped 2.2 seconds off my best lap in the Enduro - and was pretty happy with everything save for a miss that had developed the last 5 or so laps of the race at 5k rpm's in 5th - only on the backstraight (would later find out it was a crank position sensor).

It was close to 4pm EST on Saturday afternoon.  Time to start the trip home...