Category Archives: Runoffs

Runoffs Run

Another racing season is in the bag, and in retrospect, what a season it has been!

The final event was SCCA National Championship Runoffs, where I had a tremendous, wonderful, and eventful weekend, which you can Read about in the racing log.

Among the happenings at Elkhart Lake was Dick Colburn bestowing upon me the honor of DSR Sportsman of the Year, which I will do me level best to uphold and deserve. Thank you Colburn, you are certainly the gentleman and sportsman that earned you the award in 2010.

Runoffs Weights

Once again, the weights from Runoffs are in, as most folks have shared their weight across the scales. Again, it’s a bit discouraging how far we have to go:

  • Jake Latham: 1033, -180# driver = 853# car
  • Henry Botkin: 1002 – 165# driver = 837# car
  • Lee Alexander: 986 -180# driver = 806# car
  • Tom Bootz: 984# – 175# driver = 809# car
  • Lawrence Loshak: 975 – 170# driver = 805# car
  • Garrett Kletjian: 94x# – 165# driver = ~780# car
  • Chris Farrell: 94x# – 160# driver = ~790# car

And one can assume that all the cars under Critter’s tutelage were well under 800# after his standard diet, and with Greg Bell especially being a small guy,
I’d expect he was the lightest car in the field this year, probably in the low 900’s. Let’s not forget that before spinning out of the race, he passed both Lee and Lawrence
during the mid-race battle…

Parts Review

So, after many new bits between Miller and now, time for a bit of review on what has worked. In summary: all of it!

  • Battery: The new Ballistic Battery performed flawlessly all weekend. Not sure what the fate of the VoltPhreaks will be for now.
  • Header: The new Stohr header also had zero issues all week.
  • Uprights: The OEM Stohr uprights also solved the knockback issue, and the brakes were excellent all week, with no vibration, fade, or knockback. Now working with Billy at Luxon
    on identifying the source of knockback on those uprights. Current leading suspicion is perhaps a low quality wheel bearing?

September Swan Song

Here in the Rocky Mountains, there is a particular time each year – early September, most years – where the summer heat suddenly breaks, breathes its last, and fall arrives quietly
but unequivocally. It is felt before it is seen; long before the leaves start to yellow and fall, a chill arrives in the air. The chill brings a thrill to one’s senses after the wan, pallid days of late summer, but that excitement is tempered by the foreknowledge that soon will follow the dark, melancholy days of winter.

Each year, that time closely corresponds with the autumn swan song of our SCCA racing reason – the Runoffs. Into our trailers we pile our cars, tools, clothing, and belongings. Like Okies from the dust bowl, we set out from familiar homesteads to parts unknown, looking not for work in the fields, but the visceral thrill of driving a race car on the limit against the best of the best.

It’s for this race that just an extra bit of care is taken to prepare the car – is every nut and bolt really checked? Is the oil level perfect? How about the brakes? Rotors? Blinker fluid? All must be in readiness for the Big Show.

So it was that we set out from Northern Colorado, Pace trailer in tow, race car nestled inside, shielded from the season’s first morning dew, which streamed down the side of the truck as we turned north and gathered speed. Up and across the rolling, windswept plains of Wyoming we traveled, continuing to the flat, fertile Nebraska fields, and from there, into Iowa, where a viscous fog hung low enough to hide the tops of the wind turbines, their disembodied blades sweeping eerily down out of the gloom like a deity’s giant finger. From Iowa, we turn north to Wisconsin, where cornfields are gradually replaced with farms of indiscernible types, each with the iconic red-barn-with-white-doors and adjacent silo nestled amidst the crops.

And so we continue, until somewhere north of Milwaukee, off a small side road in the Kettle Moraine forest, and just over a gentle hill that curves to the left, we rearch our destination, the Mecca to which we are all coming. But carry not the analogy too far, for this Mecca is not a large black holy cube in the Middle East, but a curiously shaped ribbon of black asphalt in the Middle West, and those of us that gather are not pilgrims, but competitors. Our plan and purpose is not to supplicate or humble ourselves, but conversely, to climb up onto a podium, stand proudly thereupon, pump a triumphant fist, grin a silly grin for our family and friends, and know that on this day, you were among the best to ever ply their hand at driving a race car.

But as we all know, having arrived in Elkhart Lake, your journey has just begun.

Sunday: Warmup

Sunday held absolutely nothing for us. We arrived to our grid spot, hemmed, hawed, figured, gesticulated, and finally pulled in exactly the same direction we’d planned all along, hoping we’d be able to leave on Saturday afternoon in case our paddock neighbor arrived. Amusingly, he never did. We put up the canopy in time to avoid a light drizzle, which scuttled the second practice session for the wings-and-things guys, and after the usual round of hellos to the usual suspects , we gathered a group of willings and ables for dinner. This time it was a fun jaunt down to “The Depot” at Giancarlo DiCoopola’s recommendation, though it turned out to be a newly reconfigured German schnitzel haus instead of a steakhouse, as we had been led to believe. George, Chris, Coop, Anna and I stayed despite this , and raised ein steins in toast of, we fervently hoped, a successful week to come.

Monday – Déjà vu

Heads remained high as Monday dawned, cool, though slightly moist. We spent the day collectively hoping that the track would dry for our late afternoon session which, thankfully, it did. I more or less completed my tours of the grid, including heading down to the north 40 where Dick Colburn was paddocked, and spent some time swapping stories about Fort Collins with him.

Time to run. We headed out from the grid into the late afternoon sun, which greeted us head on from low over the T6 bridge, and again as we hurried down to Turn 8. Best of all, back at sea level, feeling the car come to life with horsepower and downforce is marvelous fun. George’s new engine was feeling clean and strong, and I immediately started to refamiliarize myself with the details, keeping the revs down a bit on the shifts. Part way through the session I drove by Chris on the way down to Canada corner, seeing a few wisps of smoke trailing behind. I offered a sympathetic wave as I went by, feeling a lot of empathy for his continuing run of scarcely believable bad luck that began at the June Sprints a few months back.

A few laps later I came up behind Dave Knaack, and spent a few laps getting by cleanly, not wanting to do much racing in Q1. Eventually I was able to draft by on the front straight and carried on, slightly miffed at Dave ignoring the blue flags.

Clear of Dave, I put my head down to run a few hard laps, saw a 2:04.7 on the dash and came in, thinking that was a pretty stout lap to start with.

Session complete, we came in and did the usual checks. Nothing big needed doing, so we buttoned up, and I went down to Chris’s to see what happened. He was already at work changing his engine, so I dove in to lend a hand, and we finished up about 10:00. Victor took pity on us and brought some extra pizza, and we collapsed in Chris’s motor home and shared Tecate and stories.

Tuesday: All Systems Normal

Tuesday we went early morning, somewhat odd after our late afternoon Monday run. We dutifully got up, warmed everything up, and headed out. The session was relatively uneventful, and I came in after a few laps, having seen another 2:04.7 on my dash, about which I was again, quite happy. Reviewing the video, I could tell it was a pretty sloppy lap, complete with a lurid slide on the exit of T6, so I thought there might be more time out there still. I found myself just a tenth ahead of Garret Kletjian, and quite happy to be there.

Oddly, post session, tech called all of us in CSR and DSR in for a chat. It would seem, that after 10-odd years of competing, they decided the Stohr firewall was not in compliance, and required that we all make some closeoff panels of various shapes/sizes to get rid of the resulting spaces. This was naturally met with skepticism and resistance, and plenty of grumbling and hostility. Amusingly, Lawrence raised the point “C’mon…how many of us have been on fire in a Stohr,” to which nearly all of us raised our hands, after which he argued, “See? None of us have ever been hurt – it’s fine!”. Tech was unmoved, and despite the unrest among the peasantry (i.e. us), we collectively resisted the urge to get our pitchforks and torches and tear down the tech shed, but instead meekly returned to build our new firewalls.

We checked over the car and all looked good, though we added ~3 pounds of fuel pressure to get the O2’s right exactly in the 13.0 range as prescribed by Dr. George. We spent the next few hours making the templates and aluminum closeoff panels as dictated by the tech folks, using some borrowed metal from Colburn – who had the popular alternate idea of using metal from the tech shed itself! — and high-tech template cardboard courtesy of Dave Knaack’s crew that were only too happy to empty another 12-pack.

After this, with naught to do but stand around and bother Critter, Garrett and Marsha, I proceeded to do exactly that, wandering over to their tent and proceeding to make jokes and ruffle the fur of their dog Bo. After some time I ran out of material and/or welcome, so I returned to our RV, whereupon we got ready to meet Pepper Bowe and his buddies at O’Malley’s Irish Pizza. This place is an Irish restaurant, which serves Italian food followed by post-dinner Chinese fortune cookies, and has a section of Mexican food on the menu. Truly a dining establishment in search of an identity!

Wednesday – Monkey See, Monkey Do!

In the fall, the leaves turn red and fall off of the trees. We can see them waft to and fro on their trip from heaven to earth as we go streaking down the straightaways at Road America.
So it was with wings this year. Wednesday we made our only real setup change of the whole week, and that was to pull the top element off of the bi-plane Stohr wing. Wayne of Stohr Cars had brought a new wing for Chris to try, which was essentially a slightly longer chord flap, and in response, the rest of us tree-swinging met-too-ers were pulling our top flap and seeing if it in fact helped us, too. I pulled the element off, added two holes of flap, and went out. The car definitely picked up grip overall, but also an understeer bias, so I came in after just a few laps, and we lowered the flap 1 hole, exactly to the middle of its adjustment. Perfect. However, on my out lap, they black-flagged us all for David Watson in the carousel, who had experienced a blowout and spun. He and his car escaped harm, fortunately.
They brought us all in, and I found myself in the hot pits behind Lawrence and Garrett. As we were released, Lawrence checked out, but I attached myself to Garrett’s rear wing, hoping that’d be a good shot for a tow. We passed two cars on the run down to 5, and two more down into Canada corner (eek!), and then did one doozy of a hotlap together, him gapping me on the straights, and me pulling up again in the corners. Net result, I lowered my best to
a 2:03.7, and he to a 2:03.8. Tremendous!

Everything looking great on data and video, I headed into Milwaukee to pick up Amy, her welcome hug another high point of my weekend.

Thursday – Better today than tomorrow!

With Amy to show around, we hopped on the golf cart and we zoomed around the track, obeying the unwritten rule that you must go everywhere in a golf cart at full throttle at all times, even garnering the odd bonus point by doing sliding stops with the parking brake. Eventually we found our way to the T5 stands where we ran into Kelly from Hypercoil, and chatted for a bit.

Up until then, Thursday went about the way we thought. Having set what I thought was about as good a time as I could do, my plan was merely to bed in my new brake pads, scrub the new R25’s, and come in after a few laps, so I’d have one good set of tires to use depending on what the weather did, and all would be good. That all lasted until I found myself right behind Lee Alexander for the outlaps, and found that we were doing very similar times for the first lap or two. I thought to myself “Hey, I bet I can catch a tow from him even moreso than Garrett! Thus began an incredibly fun lap and a half, as I chased Lee around as closely as I could. I noticed that he pulled away from me on the straights just as Garrett could, especially through the Carousel, where I noticed the R25’s had added a bit of push to the car. But, I closed up very well in the corners – I even saw a blue flag or two from the corners, which was worth a chuckle, especially in retrospect given that he set the fastest lap ever by a club racer!

However, disaster. Coming down into T5 after setting a 2:03.1 (In my head: Let’s do a 2!!!), somewhere after getting sixth gear, the engine started making horrible noises, the #3 rod shredding its way through the front and rear cases. Game over.

I rolled to a stop and hopped out as quickly as possible, and seeing a bit of smoke rising from the bodywork, pulled the fire handle and set about removing the rear bodywork with my emergency bodywork tool, which is always taped to the cockpit sides. (You DO have one of those, RIGHT?)

I watched from inside T5 with the workers – after giving them prodigious thanks – and watched the guys go around. I will say, nothing engenders confidence in our hardy cornerworkers like seeing them at work up close and personal. Driver-wise, Chris was braking later than everybody into 5, and looked very smooth on the way out. Garrett looked to be fighting his car pretty valiantly, but lost the handle a few laps in and spun into the runoff area. Greg’s car looked slow up the hill, and subsequent tests down at the dyno did prove that his engine was soft. Lawrence quit circulating after a while, and Brian Lindstrand continued to struggle with shifting, so I could see that it was certainly a mixed bag for those of us in DSR.

For me, it meant a long few days ahead of us, especially since we didn’t have a spare motor. We got the car back to pits and pulled the motor, discovering a few problems along the way. During the tow in, we’d hooked a power cord, and pulled the access panel off the bottom of the floor, ripping the holes out. The left-hand engine mount cracked when we removed it, and since I’d pulled the fire bottle, I now needed to find a new one so that I could go race. At least we wouldn’t be bored on Friday!

That evening was the long-awaited Sports Racer/F1000 party, where forum smack-talk had it that a very special nail was waiting for me from Dave Knaack and his crew. Fortunately, I had come prepared with a very special hammer, in the form of an approximately 25 year old 5-pound sledgehammer. It turned out to be an apt tool, as the attentive and vocal Hammerschlagen fans were treated to an eight inch long engine valve from who-knows-what being judiciously pounded down by yours truly doing his very best John Henry impression.

The other major happenstance, about which I find myself again amazed, was Dick Colburn, the 2010 DSR Sportsman of the Year, awarding me with the 2011 Sportsman of the Year award. I’m very grateful for that honor, especially for a trophy that has such a long history in DSR. I’ll do my best to properly uphold the mantle.

Friday – Better today than tomorrow! (Part “Deux”)

As it turns out, there was one other major happenstance at the party, which was me finding some sort of bug on some of the food. About 2:00 AM I woke up with horrible stomach pain, which was the opening salvo in about 24 hours of discomfort and woe, which scarcely need be repeated or emphasized to somebody who’s also had food poisoning.

This need to remain, ah, shall we say, “attentive to my distance from the facilities,” left me in position of being unable to complete swapping an engine (which we didn’t have) into the car, or repairing the various small maladies that the car had suffered during the tow in. In my stead, Mom and Dad ran around constantly during the day with George, who was able to get Colburn’s proffered engine ready for installation in my car. It seemed a very poetic symmetry that last year’s sportsman of the year was able to help the newly assigned bearer of the same title with such a generous gesture. And, in yet another display of friendship and sportsmanship, Critter and his mechanic Scott helped sink the engine in the car under the sage tutelage of my old man.

Saturday: Last Men Standing

Saturday, much like Monday, we spent most of the day with our eyes skyward, checking the heavens like so many frightened field mice, hoping against hope that the weather would hold and that we  would get a good, clean, and above all, dry race. I set about my usual habit of making sure the car was good to go, finishing up a last few details of the engine installation, and then resumed my standard program of zooming around paddock at WOT in the golf cart to pester my friends, this policy serving the double purpose of keeping my mind of the lingering nausea from Friday’s food poisoning episode. Before we knew it, it was time for the race, and so, nervous-pre-race pee completed, I hopped in the car and we headed to grid. The only real decision to make was “which tires”, and since the weather was cool-ish and cloudy-ish, we opted for the R25’s to prevent the opening slow laps from 2010 as the R35’s came up to temperature.

The race start certainly counts as one of my worst. Outside second row, and at the Green, I got a good jump along with everybody else, but damn if they just didn’t all just start driving away down the straightaway, despite my foot being buried well and truly into the floorboards. Lawrence appeared on my right side before even T1, and Bootz jumped ahead of both Tom and Lee almost as early. Let it be said that Lawrence and Bootz are packing some serious horsepower!

The four began to pull away immediately, and being caught somewhat on the outside from Lawrence making his way through, I could do nothing but watch helplessly as Henry Botkin came through, followed by Greg Bell and Michael Crowe. We went three wide down into T3, and again I came out the loser on the outside. On the run down to 5, I again found everybody disappearing in the distance. All that hard work, and I’m 4th to 8th in 2 corners. Great.

So, based on how quickly folks departed from me down the straight, and my shift points moving fairly far down the track from where they’d been, it would appear that Colburn’s motor was not as strong as the one that came out of the car, but it did have the very key feature of lasting the whole race, aside from the fact that Colburn was so WILDLY generous as to allow me to use it in the first place! And, as it turns out, that was indeed a very, very important feature.

I was able to catch back up to the second pack halfway through the first lap, and drafted up next to Crowe in Canada corner, but we thumped slightly midway through as I don’t think Michael expected to find me at the apex of the corner. I backed off just in case, this being Lap 1 after all. I followed Crowe and Henry through lap 2. Crowe snuck by Henry into T8 with an excellent late brake, and in turn, I drafted right up behind him down to Canada corner, and snuck inside T14 as we went onto the straight. I immediately went defensive, knowing Henry would have the power to get by me, but waited late enough on the brakes that I was able to stay ahead on the inside of turn 1. I set my sights on trying to run down Michael Crowe, who had gapped us a bit in the half lap that we spent dithering on our positions.

After running some fairly ragged early laps, my nausea eventually subsided and I began to see his car closer and closer as the laps went on, catching up especially in the 5-6-7-8 complex. Before long we passed Chris Farrell motoring off the end of T5 with a problem. A few laps later, we passed Greg Bell who had spun into the sand at Canada Corner. Dad radioed word that Lawrence had pulled into the pits, putting Michael and I third and fourth around lap 7 or 8.

Eventually I was close enough to start catching a bit of a tow from Michael, and on around lap 7 or 8, went by on the start/finish straight, again going very defensive. However,
as I looked back between T1 and T3, the orange car was not in my mirrors, and indeed, did not appear again. Low oil or low oil pressure led to an engine failure for Michael, and he
parked on the inside of T3.

I continued to race as quickly as I could for the remainder of the race, until the finish of lap 11, where I had a hee-yooooge slide coming through T14, which was the first,
clamorous announcement from my R25’s that they were starting to get very tired indeed of this treatment, thank you very much, and were going to start getting greasy. After that, I
took things slightly easy, listened to Dad relaying my gap back to Henry in 4th, and brought it home to the checkered flag, and my first Runoffs podium.

I’d like to thank the Academy…

Similarly to the Sprints, the post-race experience was somewhat surreal. I’ll always remember getting to climb up on that podium and look out at everybody, so many of them friends, and a good deal of them directly responsible for helping me get there in the first place. I said so in the interview, but none of us get to the podium or even the Runoffs by ourselves, and for that, I have to thank Mom, Dad, and all of you in DSR that have helped me do a lot with a little: George for the engines, Wayne for the car, Chris Farrell for help of all kinds, Dick Colburn for one very particular, special engine, Critter and Marsha for all their selfless help, and along the way, everybody else that I’ve pestered with e-mails and phone calls over the years. I’m deeply grateful for all of you and your help. Thank you all.

Looking Forward

So, thusly with a bang, rather than a soft whimper, ends the swan song of summer, and ends the 2011 racing season for the family Latham. Now begins the silly season, where it’s time to
evaluate what’s next, and how to try to top what is in many respects nearly the most superlative season we could ever have.

See you all next year on track, and until then, see you on the slopes. Let the bench racing begin!

Q1-Q3 Highlights

Q4 Fast Lap – 2:03.1

SpeedCastTV.Com Coverage

And Now, For the Big Finale!

In-Car DSR Race

SpeedcastTV Race Coverage

Four competitors focused grimly on the target, eyes narrowed with concentration, brows shiny with beads of sweat despite the raw autumn air. Hands flexed over grips, nerves alight and sinews tensed along the length of their bodies, concentration focused to an infintesimal laser’s point, waiting for the hammer to fall.


Because, of course, ’tis not the start of the 2010 DSR Runoffs championship I describe, but a hearty round of Hammerschlagen between Lawrence Loshak, Chris Farrell, Dave Knaack, and myself. But, of course, I’m getting ahead of myself, yes?

The picture of four guys standing around a stump, beers in hand, competing to see who can most quickly drive a nail into said stump with the wrong end of a claw hammer does indeed illustrate what seems to be the very dual nature of this year’s Runoffs: Intense competition that brings so many of us to the sport, and with the occasional acrimony that breeds,
but at the same time, an everpresent friendly undertone of cameraderie of a shared passion that brings us together every September.

My thread to the story that is the 2010 Runoffs goes something like this:

Wagons East

Our trip started somewhat inauspiciously, discovering the night before we were to leave that we had a flat LR outer tire on Dad’s new disel dually. Heading off to I-80 on Saturday morning, signs continued to look poor, as at our first stop, my side trailer door came off in my hand as I opened it to inspect the car. We made a hasty repair, banging the door back into its frame, and strapping it in place from the inside. Shades of our trip to MAM, with two flat trailer tires began echoing through my head, and I figured we must be haunted by the ghost of Bob Stream. This notion became stronger when we arrived at Road America with a flat right-rear trailer tire. Woe is he who manages to be haunted by the irascible spirit of a yet-living Colorado Region corner worker!

We were well and truly welcomed into the silliness of “That’s Runoffs!” with a phone call from Critter asking if we had a spare ’08 stock engine. Yep, Sure do. So, as I rolled up, Critter
appeared with Victor, and we unloaded the engine in haste. They were off, back up to Critter’s tent, to install that engine in Bob Wheless’ car, whose engine had packed it in.

Rumors of insane-o speed were there to greet us as well, with stories of Garrett in the :02 range in Thursday’s testing, as well as word of Scully, Lawrence, and Jason Barfield doing the same. With nothing much to do until Monday, I wandered around to figure out where everybody was pitted, saying hello to Chris, Garrett, Jason, Doc, Tom, Brian, Mat, Dave, and anybody else I could find with “DSR” on the side of their car.

Some other minor issues were reported – Chris with a broken TPS wire causing some weird issues, and Doc having to swap a motor from a failed push-loc (don’t use these!) oil fitting. Also present were some failed headers, both Ti and Stainless, causing some head-scratching around the paddock.

Other talking points were wondering if anybody had brought a turbo (Yes, Bootz had his), and that Hoosier had slightly shorted their R35 order, leaving many without the generally preferred R35 compound tire, including Jason Barfield completely bereft of the several sets he thought would be waiting for him. As it turned out, that was more or less OK for the very cool race, but a hot race day could have made that a different matter altogether.

Finally, what was to become a big question mark for the whole weekend was the weather Not a single day went by without lots of upturned faces looking at the sky, wondering if the forecasted chance of rain would become reality or not. At least for us in DSR, we were blessed with completely dry running each session.

Monday – Q1

Monday, DSR was one of the first groups out. I hit the grid early, extremely eager to see what my much-improved car from June Sprints would be able to do. Hiding in the back was my first ever built engine, a half-way rods-and-pistons only affair that had about 10hp over a stocker. Wow…what a 10 hp! Even just cracking the throttle on the pit-out road was quite a difference to what I’m accustomed to. The difference in low-end across the rev range is tremendous compared to the stock ’08 engine.

I told myself that I’d work up to speed slowly, making sure I didn’t make a costly mistake on the first few laps on cold tires. Starting lap 3, I began to turn up my effort a bit, but alas, as I
picked up the throttle exiting turn 3, the engine note went completely sour. I looked in the mirror, saw smoke, and shut off the motor, coasting to some corner workers on the outside of the straight. Motor done, dropped intake valve. A brief life for my first ever race engine, but hopefully it will rise again for another race next year.

Soooooooo, that meant I got to spend the day changing an engine. In a wonderful display of symmetry and sportsmanship, Bob Wheless, the erstwhile recipient of my stock engine, graciously volunteered to give me his brand-spankin-new stock motor that was making its way up from Virginia, fresh out of a motorcycle. It arrived late afternoon, and with a bit of swapping parts around, we sunk it into the car, and worked until it was too dark to see.

Very noteworthy updates around the paddock were a swoopy HRP single, low-mount rear wing on Lawrence Loshak’s car, and lots and lots of space-age looking pieces on Mike Scully’s Dauntless development car. General rumor had it that his corner speeds and downforce were quite high, but still slightly off on the top-end. Particularly interesting was the carbon side plates on the spar of Garrett Kletjian’s West, which he claimed saves 6-8 pounds or so. Very cool. At the end of Q1, there was a large debate over fire bottles in the tech shed, as there were evidently some questions about some cars rumored to be running with an empty bottle. Ultimately, nothing came of it.

Tuesday – Q2

Tuesday’s Q2 session was mid-day, and was about 20* warmer than Monday, with high humidity. That said, everybody among the front was having no issue with their cooling, despite several cars running special Runoffs-weather-only half-size oil coolers.

We finished up our engine install and brought it to life early morning, and got the car all ready to go for the afternoon. Returning to a personal note, I remain so pleased and grateful for the competitive spirit and camaraderie that seems to be the rule in this class, at least 5 different folks lent me tools or supplies so I could complete my engine change and be able to compete this weekend, even going as far as to offer spare built engines, etc. Chris, Garrett, Lawrence, Critter, Brian, thanks, guys.

I was confident that I’d be able to turn some good laps, as everybody seemed to be going very quickly, and the car was still feeling remarkably settled. I went out for the session, feeling as giddy as always, and gradually clicked my times down as I refamiliarized myself with the track, going from 13 to 11 to several 10’s, and finally a nice 2:09 at the end of the session, about which I was feeling very happy. I ran the session on R25’s, as I only had one
set of R35’s, which I intended to save for the race. These I scrubbed on Monday, thinking I’d get a good session in, but as it turns out, my brief 2-lap Q1 was all I’d get to scrub that set.

None of the front runners went any faster than before, owing likely to the warmer weather. My time put me 8th on the grid, as Dempsey and Barfield, in particular, were still having issues with their cars. One was a faulty wheel bearing, and Doc had an issue with one of his axles.

Wednesday – Q1

Q3 was really my big WAHOO! for the weekend.

Conditions for the qualy session this evening were ideal, with very cool air temp, and still a warm track from the day’s heat. Even still, it took a good 3 laps for my R25’s to really get the heat into them to the point where I could really lean on the car’s rear end. That really should have been a hint to me that I should have run those tires for the race, instead of the R35’s. Live and learn!

Henry Botkin and I went out with the goal of beating eachother, as we were only .004 apart after Q2, me juuuust barely pipping him in the standings. I was lucky enough to have clear track nearly the whole session, and was able to do an :08, then some :07’s, and finally a leave-it-all-out-there 2:06.3 on the final lap. Scared myself silly, but somehow held it together. Wahoo!

In other news, looks like Garrett had a failure on his “A+” motor, (a dropped valve like my engine) so he’ll return to the other built motor he used earlier in the week. Doc pulled off with some sort of gearbox or clutch issue, so he’ll change engines as well. Farrell said he couldn’t get any clean laps and went no faster. Lawrence evidently put in a helluva show, hanging the ass end out everywhere en route to his 2:02.9, but in the end came up just a few hundreths short, though he reported a 2:01 predicted on the dash during a lap in which he spun at T14.

Only 14 laps to go…eep!

Friday – Race

We awoke Friday to some frightening, unsettled weather. Overnight, several EZ-Ups and canopies had been destroyed by the fierce winds. 40-50mph winds whipped throughout the paddock, and in an intermediate time when we were hooking up our truck, both of our EZ-Ups went for a ride, and were destroyed. Such was a similar story throughout much of the paddock.

Our race was at about 2:30 in the afternoon, and there was a vicious crosswind – enough that some laps I couldn’t even reach 6th gear.

For the front runners, at this point you’ve all seen the video: Chris led up to the start, with Lawrence next to him. Scully 3rd, Garrett 4th, Jason 5th, Bootz 6th, and me 7th, with Doc in 8th next to me. At the flag, the first 5 cars took off. Oddly, Tom Bootz was next to me, rather than being next to Jason where he should have been. Jason made a large move around the outside in T1, but was collected by Garrett as he spun. There was talk (and video) of fluid/fuel/fire from Lawrence’s car on the first lap, which Garrett thinks may have contributed to his spin.

So between Garrett’s spin collecting Jason, and Tom’s poor start, I was 4th by T3, and had Henry Botkin right on my tail, with Doc Dempsey right behind him. With both of those guys
running built engines, I knew I had to run as fast as I could to try and make sure they didn’t motor by on the straight. I drove very defensively into T5 and T6, hoping I could gap just a bit
into 8 and down to Canada. I drove very defensively into Canada as well, where I believe Doc must have gotten by Henry, as all of a sudden, I had clear mirrors.

For the next several laps, I ran as hard as I could, which wasn’t tremendously hard, as getting temperature into the tires was proving difficult. Ambient temperature was in the 40’s, and
the R35 compound took until about lap 4 to really get completely up to temp. Looking at the laptimes and speeds posted from other Hoosier vs Goodyear running, that seems to have been fairly consistent.

Before too long, I saw Doc looming large in my mirrors, and began edging inward going into T1, as he would pull up very close by then. Doc chose not to make the outside pass, but eventually motored by on the exit of T3. I tucked into his draft as much as possible, and then re-passed him as we broke for T5. I held the lead for another two laps, before coming up on Tom Bootz in Canada Corner. Tom had pitted to check on the motor, and was completing his race. I had to check up slightly, losing my gap to Dempsey, who then passed me easily on the hill out of T14.

As we came into T3, I saw that we were coming up to lap Downing in the red DSR. I thought I might be able to stick my nose in and use DOwning to get back by Doc. I got most of the way up to even with Doc, but perhaps not quite enough, and we touched slightly, my LF tire hitting a foot or so behind his RF, making a small mark on his floor. Doc motored away after that by about a second a lap, and I settled in to complete the last 4-5 laps of the race. My best lap of the race turned out to 2:07.3 in bizarre conditions, and my top speeds were actually quite competitive, in the 149-150mph range, versus the 151, 152, and 153 of the front-running built motor guys.

After the drama, I came home in 6th place, enough to be stuck in impound for an hour or so, getting to talk with the top 5 finishers, who were Lawrence, Chris, Scully, Barfield, Doc, and finally, li’l ol’ me.

Runoffs Car Analysis

The SCCA posted trap speeds for all classes, including DSR, which are available Here.

Top speeds for the race are interesting for all, though we have to get Garrett Kletjian’s speeds from qualifying, as he wasn’t able to complete a lap during the race. All but one of these cars is a Stohr WF-1, but there are several different aero packages. First, some weights summarized:

  • Jake Latham: ~1020 with ~180# driver = 840# car
  • Mike Scully: ~985 with ~165?# driver = 820?# car?
  • Jason Barfield: ~980 with ~220# driver = 780# car
  • Chris Farrell: ~975 with ~155# driver = 820# car
  • Garrett Kletjian: ~960 with ~170# driver = 790#
  • Lawrence Loshak: ~965 with ~155# driver = 810# car
  • Doc Dempsey: ~920 with ~120# driver = 800# car

I’ll summarize my take on the top speeds here, of the same top 7 cars, with very non-scientific outliers thrown out, based on my eyeballing:

  • Lawrence Loshak: Average Top Speed: 153.4, Avg T1-T5: 36.0, Avg T5-S/F: 1:28.3: Lawrence was running a WF-1, with the Stohr splitter, and an HRP rear wing. At 965,
    he was the second-lightest of the top running cars. Paddock talk says he was as much as 7 hp up on the nearest car (Garrett or Scully), based on his exhaustive dyno work, with a Moon’s 2008 GSX-R. First 3 lap speeds and times show that his 9″/10″ Goodyears came up very quickly, whereas looking at Chris’s speeds (and mine too), the R35 Hoosier took 3-4 laps to really come up to temp on the cold day, which made a huge difference in the initial laps.
  • Chris Farrell: Average Top Speed: 151.50, Avg T1-T5: 36.1, Avg T5-S/F: 1:28.5: Chris was running a standard WF-1, with the flap installed, and a small gurney. Chris was running a latest spec GDRE 2008 GSX-R. Speed-wise, he seemed to be among the fastest in the T8-T12 section of the track, particularly the carousel. His laptimes remained very consistent in the 2:04ish range over the course of the race, in contrast to Lawrence, who went from 3’s, to 4’s to 5’s to 6’s over the course of the race. More likely that is due to Lawrence easing off to manage the gap, however.
  • Mike Scully: Average Top Speed: 150.8, Avg T1-T5: 36.1, Avg T5-S/F: 1:28.3: Scully was running a WF-1, but with Dauntless’s aero bits – including a Dauntless splitter, floor,
    and rear wing, without the second flap installed. Scully’s top speeds are hard to average, as they steadily increased over the course of the race, from the 148-149 range, to 151’s and into the 152’s. It’s noteworthy that he spent most of the race in Chris’s draft, as they ran very closely together, especially down into the T5 speed trap area. Scully runs 2005-2006 engines, which may produce another 2-3 hp over the best 2008’s, but these data would seem to indicate that the Dauntless guys have addressed some of the previous (perceived or actual) drag deficit. His car was particularly good in the T5-T8 section, catching Chris quickly there, but he seemed to fall back in the higher speed sections, T8-T12, and T1 to T5, indicating that if he is suffering a drag penalty, the car does seem to have excellent downforce – in my view, it will be interesting to see the Dauntless car on tighter tracks throughout the 2011 season, it looks very promising.
  • Garrett Kletjian: Average Top Speed: 156.0, Avg T1-T5: 36.2, Avg T5-S/F: 1:28.7: Garrett’s car is a West WX-10, with the standard West aero package, and a Dauntless rear wing, with flap installed at minimum angle. The West is known to generally make less drag than the WF-1, but does not seem to make the same downforce. This is borne out in Garrett being the easly the fastest car, by nearly 3mph, but being slightly down in the curvier T5-S/F trap section, than the WF-1’s are. Garrett’s car no longer has the West signature dry-sump system, removed in favor of weight reduction, putting him at the second or third lightest car in the field. Garrett’s motors are GDRE engines, 2005-2006, and purportedly the best in the field behind Loshak’s. One small tidbit that escaped the notice of most was that Garrett was running F1-style wheel covers on his rear wheels for the race, in an apparent effort to reduce drag.
  • Jason Barfield: Average Top Speed: 149.9, Avg T1-T5: 36.3, Avg T5-S/F: 1:28.3: Jason spent the entire race with a muffler rattling around the sidepod of his car, causing some loss of torque and horsepower, which is borne out somewhat in his lower top speed numbers. It can be said that he was definitely driving the wheels off, as his section and laptimes were steadily in the 4’s and 5’s, like Chris and Scully ahead of him. Note Jason was running on R25 Hoosiers due to availability shortage, and his laptimes were immediately
    in the range that he would run the entire race, again, in contrast with the R35 runners. I believe Jason was running without the flap on his WF-1. Given the cold temps, the R25’s
    were probably the correct (if unwilling!) choice.
  • Doc Dempsey: Average Top Speed: 152.6, Avg T1-T5: 36.6, Avg T5-S/F: 1:30.2: Doc spent a decent portion of the race stuck behind yours truly, so his laptimes don’t bear out his speed until he gets by on lap 8, and sets sail with 5’s and 6’s. Doc was running a KWS motor, no flap, and was the lightest car in the field, and Goodyear 8’s and 10’s.
  • Jake Latham: Average Top Speed: 149.7, Avg T1-T5: 37.3, Avg T5-S/F: 1:30.5: As the only car in the top group without a built motor, I expected to be quite a bit down according to the top speed numbers, but the difference is smaller than I suspected – 2-4mph or so. I ran on Hoosier R35’s, with standard Stohr WF-1 aero, and the rear flap at the lowest
    position, with its integral gurney in place. My race pace was primarily 7’s and 8’s, around 3-4 seconds off of the pace of the lead cars. The difference appears to be relatively uniform throughout the track, as both T1-T5 and T5-S/F section times sum to about 3-4 seconds off of the lead car’s paces.

These data do back up the notion that horsepower and drag are much larger factors to top speed than is weight, (thank you Carroll Smith), though I can tell from experience, and my video, that how quickly one gets to their top speed is certainly a function of power-to-weight ratio, and that’s a big part of where the low weight comes into play. I’d pose that’s a lot of the gain made in the built engines versus not, and in the lighter versus heavier cars. Naturally the lighter cars do everything else better as well – watching Doc Dempsey’s car LEAP off of T8 into the carousel versus mine was quite an eye opener.