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!

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