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!

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