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...

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