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!