So it’s only something like two months later as I write this, but it still seems worthwhile to recount some of the details from my MAM trip this August!
This was the first real race weekend after installing a new eBay engine into the Stohr, following July’s engine expiration at the July N/N. The only test days on this were some laps run with Paul Leonard out at HPR, which showed promising improvements to what had previously been really bad oil pressure dips.
The trip out was discouragingly eventful, mirroring more than a little bit the Clockwork article I wrote for our local region newsletter. Not cool! A flat trailer tire on the way provided a bit of excitement for us, but other than that, things weren’t so bad.
On the way, I received an e-mail from a fellow by the name of John Hardy, who was interested in coming up to chat a bit about the car. I was thinking “who does this guy think I am??”, turns out, he’s a pilot with easy access to short-term flights! John turned out to be one heckuva nice guy, and it added a great dimension to the weekend to have him around the paddock. Can’t wait to see you in DSR John!
We arrived late afternoon on Thursday, planning on getting a nice paddock spot early, as we’d been warned by Deane Todd. We set up near the northwest corner of the paved paddock area, which looks like it’s been through some sort of Allied carpetbombing…really, really bad. The one key, we were told, is to not park where there’s grass, since that’s where the puddles are when it rains. Turns out that was useful advice!
The plan had originally been to paddock with Deane Todd (LeGrande DSR) and John Stecher (Stohr F1000), but Deane elected to paddock further to the east. John arrived late Friday with the Shagvan, and we set up paddock together. Great fun to BS with not only a fellow racer, but computer nerd, so we had all sorts of crud to talk about. Later, Dad and John Hardy started sharing aviation stories, so everybody had somebody to reminisce with.
I ran a full practice day on Friday. My primary goal was to try and familiarize myself with the track, secondarily to make sure the car was going to keep its oil both cool and pressurized. Fortunately, it did both of those. When I checked laptimes in Colorado before leaving, it looked like the DSR record might be open for the taking, so that was my second goal of the weekend – to see if I could add my name to that list.
I ran the day on a set of R250 Goodyears that I’d had on the car whilst lapping with Paul the week before, so I knew there’d be a bit more time in the car once I put some 160’s on for Saturday and Sunday. Observations of the track itself: Turns 1-4 are great fun, and are a good challenge. The rest of the track is pretty straightforward – a few 180’s, one left, one right, then two chicanes, and back onto the straight you go. So, the track isn’t terribly technical, but it’s still up to the driver to be on the limit of the tires all the time. The other major observation is that it is B-U-M-P-Y! Holy cow. I was getting rattled around the inside of the cockpit like you wouldn’t believe – the video (Sat Qualy, Sun Race, at right) gives some indication of just how bumpy it is, especially in the T1 braking zone, but in lots of spots for most of the track. Noteworthy too is the fact that there is a large crown and seam in the middle of the track, over which the car wants to dart just a bit when you cross it.
As for the car: Holy Cow! Coming from 5000′ elevation to maybe 1000′ or so, the first time I went WOT on the throttle, I thought the world had ended! Picking up an additional 20% horsepower was quite an experience! Writing this after the fact, I know that a week later at HPR, it took me quite a bit to get used to the reduced power again, I kept thinking perhaps something had gone awry with the eBay engine. But no, great power, and the additional downforce/grip from the thicker air was great too. With 15/48 gearing, I was just about out of revs at an indicated 138mph at the end of the front straight at MAM. What fun!
Friday ended with no major dramas, other than that I could hear the car bottoming a bit on the bumps. Initial inspection showed that it didn’t seem to be bottoming too badly, which turned out to be incorrect.
Saturday’s regional was a bit of a mixed-weather affair. Practice/qualifying was mostly dry, though towards the end it began to drizzle just a bit. The first time I’ve experiencd rain in the Stohr. Boy was it miserable in the wet. Maybe something to do with the track or my driving, but yeeee-iiikes. Also true was that for our practice/qualy, as with every other session we had that weekend, the track was a disaster from the SM field running before us – huge clumps and swaths of mud everywhere from cars cutting apexes and spinning off track.
The track was drying for our qualy session, and I ran my best lap of the weekend at a 1:29.4, on the 160’s when they were at their freshest. I was really happy, since that meant only one good lap during the race would net me the DSR lap record of 1:30.4. Stecher in his F1000 was learning the track, finally having broken through his “I only get two laps when I come here” barrier. He uncorked a lap good enough for second place, so we would start beside eachother 1-2, which was exactly what we were hoping for. Based on some rough lap analysis, we figured we’d be really close on laptimes, and able to have some fun racing eachother. So far, so good!
I came in a bit early to save the tires, after having set a good lap, and checked over the car, everything looked good for the race. Finally, a weekend where everything’s going like it ought to!
The race start was a really fun one. John and I came up to the green side-by-side, and both got outstanding jumps at the green. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I watched him slooooowly walk away from me, perhaps due to a combination of lighter weight, and having 1 more tooth on his rear sprocket. Bastard! I followed him into T1, and spent the next few laps trying to find a way by. After a few laps, he went a bit wide into T3, found some understeer, and I snuck down underneath and by. Absolutely glued to my rear end was a fellow in an FE, who snuck by John as he again couldn’t get the car turned in T5. The next several laps remaind this way with me 1st, FE 2nd, John 3rd, and a light drizzle picked up. Whereas I had made a small gap after passing John, the rain affected John and I quite badly, and didn’t seem to have nearly the effect on the FE. We dropped from :30-:31 range into the :34 range he was doing, and the 3 of us closed up as it rained, but always I was able to out-horsepower
the FE down the straightaway.
About half-distance in, John’s front wing came loose, explaining the understeer issues, and he rocketed off the outside of T9, and continued into the pits, retiring early. After that, the drizzle finally left for good, and I was able to put some good distance on the FE that had been valiantly hounding me. The only issue of the race was that the bottoming I’d heard on Friday turned into the small “closeoff panel” on the underside of the 1st-gen splitter being ground away, and it finally came loose near the end of the race. Lesson learned. Other than that, I cruised to the finish and took the win, and set a new DSR track record! Mission accomplished for me, what a great first day!
With the help of the Johns, and my dutiful parents/crew, We quickly riveted on the spare “closeout panel” on the underside of the splitter, put it back on the car, gave it a quick checkover, and we were ready for Sunday. I raised the car about 3/8″ up front to prevent repeating the previous day’s rubbing, and called it good. Oil pressure data showed the usual dips from earlier in the year, but as with the previous week at HPR, only into the 30’s, versus the 10’s and teens with the previous lines/cooler/pump setup.
Finally this is starting to feel more like a race weekend ought to feel!
Lots of it.
Saturday night, the rain began. When we came back to the track on Sunday morning, paddock was a sodden mess, with some people returning to find a foot of water in their paddock spots. Everywhere, people were scrambling to try and move their things, dry out their cars, and generally frantically moving about to try and do what they could. Once again, this hearkened back to the Clockwork article, which the weekend was starting to follow a little bit too closely for comfort!
Stecher and I were in pretty good shape, me having secured our high-ground spot on Thursday. Our cars were slightly damp, but remained in good shape under his awning. Boy did that make the weekend nicer!
Sunday continued off-and-on with periods of rain, and being one of the last groups, we kept checking the weather hoping that the last bit of weather would pass us so we could have a dry race.
John had exacted some repairs to his front wing, and was looking in pretty good shape. We’d done a bit of chatting and realized that perhaps some of his understeer issues might relate to the setup of the rear of his car, where he was using the lower of two available motion ratios on the Stohr bellcranks. We’ll know for sure next year. For my part, I was feeling good. The car’s 1000/1250 setup was working pretty well, as the car felt neutral though controllable.
Sunday qualifying was brief for me. The track was dry, though dirty. I ran enough laps to get another :30 lap in, figured that’d be good enough for pole, and came in. Stecher verified that his wing repairs were going to hold. He ended up qualifying fourth, with the fast FE from Saturday next to me, and an FC just nipping him for third. The race start was a fun one. At the green, I left the FE quickly, making a gap for John to sneak through, and we went into T1 first and second. However, John went off track going into T5, and most of the field streamed by as he struggled to get back on the track. That was essentially the end of the race for me, as I quickly gapped the FE on a dry track, and cruised around to win DSR. About halfway through the list, Matt Miller came by in his Panoz MZR and just about pulled my nosecone off as he rocketed by on the straightaway. I hung with him through T1/2/3 complex, and was even a bit quicker there, but he left me for dead after T3, and he quickly disappeared in the distance. We chatted briefly in impound after the race – nice guy. Nice to meet you, Matt.
So, my first national race was a bit of a boring one, but a win nonetheless. I hummed music to myself the rest of the race and ran a nice 32.5-33.5 pace the rest of the race, and finished
about 6 seconds clear of John in 3rd, who set and reset his own new FB record. Deane slowed and retired very early on, and had left by the time the race was over, so I didn’t get a chance to talk to him on the way out. I did notice that towards the end of the race, the car went off towards understeer quite badly, a trend that has continued for the next few races, meaning that likely I still have some setup issues to sort through. From the start, the car hadn’t been as good as Saturday, perhaps owing to the tires being one race older,
and also perhaps the reduced rake/raised front height in an effort to keep the car off the ground. post-race inspection showed that the LF tire was well and truly toast, having not even the wear indicators left to show how much rubber was left. Got my money’s worth out of those babies!
I did manage to record Sunday’s entire race, but it’s not much fun to watch, aside from a few lapped cars here and there. You can see just how fast tht Panoz is as it goes by as well.
So, finally a successful, mostly clockwork weekend. About the only oddity was that the chain started to loosen up during the last race, which unfortunately, was a harbinger of things to come…
VIDEO: Saturday Qualifying ( 59MB )
VIDEO: Sunday Race Qualifying ( 233MB )
John Stecher’s In-Car, Saturday Race