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...