Great Salt Wounds
Like the proverbial emotionally battered lover, we returned once again to the site of our recurrent misery, Miller Motorsports Park. It’s an amazing facility, and a varied,
challenging set of circuit configurations. Yet somehow we always emerge feeling run through a wringer. But, it really loves us, right? Right?
At least the challenges show plenty of variety. This time we had no issue with freak snowstorms, inexplicable oversteer (broken tire gauge), inexplicable brake problems (faulty uprights), or any of the difficulties that we have faced and beaten before. That said, certainly there would be new challenges!
Friday: So, Uh, Where does it go again?
Despite having watched and re-watched my video from the 2010 Great Salt Race in my old Stohr DSR, finding my way back around the track took some doing. Amidst the attempt to regain my bearings, we also were running experiments on trying to contain the overheating issue that was afflicting all the Stohr F1000’s in attendance, to see what affect we could have. The first experiment, an intake splitter duct, had no measureable effect. During the second-to-last session of the day, I removed the left-hand sidepod entirely and observed water temps a full 25* cooler than before. Also immediately in effect was a substantial reduction in rear downforce, so let it be said that the bodywork definitely plays a role in getting good
airflow to the rear wing!
So, on the strength of that experiment, in a last ditch effort to keep water temps in check and keep the engine alive, we cut a hole in the top of the sidepod, just aft of the upper radiator
section, and hoped that would make a difference in staying cool on long runs for the race.
Saturday: Low Point
Those of you accustomed to reading my race writeups will know that I tend to have a quip of sorts for various parts of the weekend, but for this, there’s not much to say. Saturday saw
the beginning and near immediate end of the shortest race of my now 7 year long racing career. A combination of a good jump on the flag, a wide field, a dirty line, and some driver
brain fade saw me too late on the brakes at turn 1 and into the tires at the end of the straight. Race won in the first corner, genius. Game over, and a destroyed nose cone to
go with it, and a damaged front wing for garnish. Video is linked nearby.
Thus began the scramble to figure out if I’d be able to complete the weekend. Here came the spirit of sharing that seems to pervade the SCCA. JR Osborne loaned me a spare nosebox,
to which I attached my now damaged front wing. Richard from Rilltech donated the epoxy to repair my wing, the repairs for which were guided by Gary Hickman from Edge Engineering. To the car we bolted four used tires gifted to us by Lucian Pancea, the four on the car having been flatspotted in the shunt. Four guys pitching in to help us out – without their help, I wouldn’t have had a prayer of getting back on track, and would not have made the Runoffs this year.
As always, I’m so very grateful for the competitive and helpful spirit amongst our competitors!
Sunday: Now This is what it’s all about!
I started the morning with a tentative practice session, and found that the car now had a bit of understeer. I thought this might be attributable to the older tires, but it persisted through
qualifying as well – it would appear that our front wing repair hadn’t quite gotten the profile quite back the way it ought to be, especially as the wing now showed about a 1″ difference
in height from left to right. Hmm….something we’ll have to address later.
But now: Let’s go racing!
This race was EXACTLY what we were hoping for getting into F1000, it was a doozy. As you can see from the pictures, Lucian and I were LOCKED together the whole race!
We came around to the flag at a medium pace, and before I realized what was happening, JR pulled out to the left and jumped ahead, followed by Chris Ash in his F1000. Seeing this,
the starter waved off our start, and we went around again. Our second attempt at the start was much cleaner, and off we went! But, right as the green flew,
a huge chunk of something flew up from a car swept across the nose, crashed into my mirror, and bounced off of my face shield. What the heck? The mirror was knocked askew,
meaning I could only just barley see anything in it if I strained. This would turn out to be a crucial factor in the race.
I followed Lucian down the outside lane, having started
P6 overall and P5 in F1000. Chris Ash was incredibly late on the brakes, forcing Lucian wide to avoid being hit. I was EXTREMELY conservative on my braking point owing to my, uh,
indiscretion from the day before, and Gary Stevens came by on the inside as well. Recovering from his wide entry, Lucian got a good exit out of T1 and led me through 2, 3, and 4, and we raced around the opening lap, all of us squirming around on cold tires. Near the end of the first lap at Clubhouse corner, Chris Ash slowed suddenly (shifter problems), and we all swept around.
Crossing the line, it was JR and Larry in their own world, and Lucian and I just feet apart. I noticed that my understeer continued, but Lucian also seemed to have a very loose
car. That gave me the advantage through the high speed turns 2 and 3, and I poked my nose under him briefly in 3 after seeing the advantage, but thought better of it. I followed
Lucian again for the lap, just a few feet behind. We started lap 3, and this time I got a better exit out of the 180* turn 1. Staying almost flat-out through 3, I braked late as
Lucian swung wide to begin the turn, and snuck my nose in. We went side-by-side through the corner, and I was able to sweep ahead as we entered T4.
We continued like this for a few laps, when a I saw Sam Souval in his WF-1 in my mirrors as we came down the straight. I pointed him by and eased slightly, hoping he would go
by quickly enough not to spoil my gap to Lucian, and this seemed to work out. I followed Sammy through the first few corners, with Lucian now filling my mirrors.
Just a few laps later, Sam was in the mix again, having had contact with Gary Stevenson in his Speads DSR. Sammy continued but was going slowly as we came through turns 2 and 3. Neither Lucian nor I could figure out which direction he was going, and he nearly collected us both. I very nearly stuffed my nose into his rear wing, and Lucian locked up and went wide left on the entrance to turn 4 trying to avoid both of us. Somehow I managed to stay ahead through the mess, and off Lucian and I went again. I got a poor exit leading up to the attitudes and had to defend. A poor exit out of Tooele turn saw him right in my mirrors. I defended to push him to the inside, but knew he was going to get by.
I braked early and returned to the outside of the track and watched Lucian sail by and wide, and was able to complete an over-under pass, regaining the lead entering Windup corner just before the main straight.
We continued in this manner for the next 10 laps as the race neared its close, my understeer steadily worsening. It was particularly bad in the decreasing-radius and off-camber turn 1,
as well as the long right-hand T5 sweeper. However, my advantage through the high-speed T3 and Tooele turn allowed me to consistently stay ahead of Lucian, who would close substantially in the slower corners.
As we began the last lap, I tried for one last good go through T1, but just couldn’t make it happen. As I neared the apex, once again I had to lift and slow in order to get the
nose down to the apex. Rather than see him, due to my mirror all akimbo, I could sense Lucian off my right rear quarter. Then I could hear him – his car sneaking up along the right.
Desparate not to make another stupid mistake, AND take out the championship leader in one fell swoop, I kept my line tight just in case he was there.
I’m still not sure if he was or not, or if I could have exited the corner normally, but we’ll never know. Lucian’s better exit from T1 was enough to pull him beside me into T2. Side-by-side we went through 2 and into 3, but he swept ahead through 3, and I could not keep close through 4 and 5, as my front tires simply had nothing left. I could see his car wiggling with oversteer through 4, 5, and the rest of the lap, but I simply could not get close enough to make a move. Of course, I had to chuckle at the irony that the very man who had loaned me these tires had been led by them for nearly the whole race distance. At
just the right moment, they returned loyalty to their owner, and we crossed the line a second or so apart, P3 for Lucian, and P4 for me.