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....