So, we made a huge number of changes to the car this year, some of which I haven’t mentioned on the blog until now. Our essential goal in 2013 was to try and reduce the massive drag on the car. At the 2012 Runoffs, I had a top speed of approximately 137mph, down in Canada Corner at Road America, compared to the 147+ that the best cars had. We were approximately 3 seconds off the pace. The same delta was true at the season opener in Texas, where we had the same ~136-7mph speed limit, compared to other cars in the mid-140 range. So, finding and eliminating drag was one of the biggest goals for the year.
At this year’s Runoffs, The car’s top speed was in that needed high 140 range, with the car touching 147-148 as we got the car dialed in. Had the week gone better, we would have continued to dial out rear wing due to the extensive rear grip, and found even more rear grip. Broken endplates and everything else made that a lower priority.
In short, we fixed the drag problem, and the car is now at least somewhat competitive in terms of straight line speed. Next will be to try and gain some corner speed to try and keep up with the pace-setting Citation and JDR cars.
So, some of the changes have been obvious, some of them not-so-obvious.
BRD Rear Diffuser
I want to mention what I think was the biggest change first. Jesse Brittsan made me a copy of his rear diffuser, which we installed on the car for Runoffs. The rear of the car was SO PLANTED that we continually had to keep reducing rear wing throughout the whole week, as well as raising the rear of the car. The amount of extra rear downforce is something we haven’t had all year, and even better, the car’s top speed was excellent – high 140’s, and within shouting distance of the smaller cars. In short, finally something that you could fight a little bit with, rather than being tens of miles-per-hour down.This seems to have been the largest single contributor to the car’s increase in top-speed, as even at the race before, at Miller Motorsports Park, Jose and I in our Stohrs were still stuck around the 137mph speed limit that the factory diffuser apparently had on our cars. Flow-Viz on the factory diffuser showed huge amounts of air rolling around the top of the diffuser and infiltrating in the holes for the lower wishbone, resulting in huge separation on the inside of the diffuser. Whatever the interaction, it seemed to create tremendous drag, and it’s nice to have off the car.I’m really looking forward at continuing forward with the BRD diffuser, and the level of grip it appears to give the car. Gathering some more data at High Plains Raceway, where we have lots of comparative data, will be really interesting as the 2014 season starts.As with Jesse’s excellent Dry Sump systems, contact Brittsan Racing Development for more info.
Front Anti-Roll Bar
Halfway through the season, Dave from FRM developed a front anti-roll bar for the car. This not only allowed us to lower the front spring rates, but lessened the roll of the front of the car. By making the bar adjustable, it provided some in-race adjustment, which was very useful at the very hot Miller Motorsports Park race, where the front tires really suffered from the big heat and long, high-speed turns.These ARB kits are available from Dave at Front Range Motorsports, if you would like one for your Stohr.
Zebulon Motorsports Front and Rear Wing
I’ve been lucky enough to spend most of 2013 working with a pair of bright young engineers who make up Zebulon Motorsports. One of our first studies was to examine the wings on the Stohr, as our first attempt at finding and reducing the drag on the car. The result was a slight reshuffling of the rear wing configuration, which is now the Stohr factory setup – a large single beam wing, with a dual-element upper. The Stohr elements for the rear tested quite favorably in CFD. Zebulon drew me a nice swan-neck mount for the Stohr factory beam wing, which maximizes rear wing performance over the traditional bottom-mount. style.
These are available for purchase if you’d like one for your car, and Stohr has the shape for the top-side Swan-neck wing brackets – you can see the final version of the swan-neck mount in the diffuser shots above.At the front, CFD showed significant problems with the factory front “flat bottom” wing, so Zebulon designed an outstanding front wing, with an innovative endplate treatment that makes outstanding downforce. The wing was CFD optimized for a low drag coefficient over a wide range of downforce settings, while minimizing downstream flow disruption.The rear wing changes, combined with a new front wing, netted a 20% increase in downforce on the car as measured by the shock pots, and a few MPH of top speed at High Plains Raceway. At high downforce tracks like Sonoma, this enabled me to outpace the other Stohrs with room to spare.I highly suggest Zebulon’s replacement front wing package, which is also available for sale.
This has become commonplace on all of the Stohrs now, but one of the biggest bodywork problems exposed by our CFD study were the large “flip ups”
just inboard of the rear tires. in CFD, not only did these make substantial drag, but these contributed lift as well. We ran a 3-part test with stock bodywork, modified bodywork where the flip-ups had been extended out to the tires, and then a third test with the flip-ups removed.Predictably, the factory configuration was worst. Moving the kickups out to actually
shroud the tires did pick up 1-2mph, and removing them entirely also picked up the same 1-2mph. As such, you’ve now seen that most Stohrs have removed those flip-ups. Owing to this
change, Stohr has now developed a new sidepod shape that tucks in tightly to the rear spar, that streamlines the rear of the car substantially. This should be even better
than the raw cut edge that the car has now, once they make it available to more than just the factory car.
Rear Tire Fairings
Copying a bit from the Citation guys, we made some rear tire kickups out of some foam from Home Depot, and a bit of gaffer’s tape. These seemed to net
about a 1-2 mph gain on the data at High Plains Raceway, when coupled with the front wheel spats. As with many of the other modifications we did this year, Stohr has taken
our idea and will be making production rear tire fairings you can get for your Stohr. Or, you can get the originals from Mike Devins at Hurley Racing Products, since he’s about the nicest guy in the business.
Taking a page from the Formula Atlantics, we developed some simple front wheel spats that cover off the front wheel space. With brake cooling requirements so low on our F1000’s, covering the wheel reduces drag and lift. Fitting the fronts along with the rear tire fairings made a measureable increase in top speed, as well as a definite change in seat-of-the-pants feel in the car.Copies of these are available from Dave at Front Range Motorsports.
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.
Much to report from the race car side of things. Many projects and changes. The biggest is the replacement of the factory aluminum spar with one built out of chromoly, built by Jesse Brittsan of BRD. This new spar aims to be stiffer than the aluminum one that it replaces, is lighter, and also makes room for an oil tank for the BRD dry sump system.
In initial testing, the spar did not result in any additional stiffness, disappointingly. We added some additional X-bracing at the front, and will add the engine-bay bracing to see if that gets the stiffness measurements to improve over the factory spar. Interestingly, it only reduced in stiffness slighltly when not attached to the floor, unlike the factory spar, which is almost 300% weaker without the diffuser attached.
On the upside, it is 9-10# lighter than the factory spar, which offsets the weight of the dry sump system almost completely. As well, initial indications are that I will be able to remove one of the two oil coolers in the Stohr, thus saving about 6-7# of cooler-and-oil weight, as well as the extra lines. Another plus is that it makes it a much faster job to get the differential in and out.
I finally decided to try moving back to a bump shifter, like I had on the DSR, after a couple of particularly difficult weekends shifting. With the Stohr paddles,
at the end of a long race, or when the gearbox is a bit balky, the effort to shift starts to get very high with the paddles, since only your forearm strength is available
to pull the paddle. This was beginning to cause me issues with work (typing), so it was time to go with the paddles.
A local welder friend helped me weld in the spud on the chassis for the shifter pivot, and Stohr did an awesome hurry-up job of duplicating Jose Gerardo’s bump shifter, left
over from JR Osborne using it. The shifter installed without too much trouble, and feels great, all I did was bend it slightly with a torch to get the offset
where I wanted from the steering wheel. Shift feel is fantastic – it makes shifting the car very enjoyable. Highly recommended if
if you’re having second thoughts about the cable actuated Stohr paddles.
I may have mentioned it elsewhere earlier, but at HPR earlier in the year, and to some degree at Laguna Seca, I had an odd issue where I would lose the clutch pedal after just a few turns, and have to re-bleed.
Replacing masters, slaves, etc, nothing fixed the problem. Gary Slahor reported a similar issue Here on ApexSpeed. Long story short, I replaced the Wilwood master cylinder with a
Tilton one, and the problem is solved. Live and learn.
As mentioned above, Part of the new spar install was making way for an oil tank, which is now integrated into the new spar. A clever O-ringed tube provides feed from the tank into the engine, meaning there are only two external oil lines – the scavenge, and the return from the coolers to the tank. Very nifty.
Initial readings show the promised 25-30* temperature drop, and pressure is as good as ever – in the 50* neighborhood.
We did an initial shakedown at High Plains Raceway, and experienced no issues. However, at Sonoma, we had significant scavenge issues, resulting in pressure dips, high oil temps, and blowing oil out of the engine breather. Initial culprit is apparently the Peterson filter I placed on the scavenge outlet, which folks are telling me is a big no-no. We will reconfigure with no filter on the scavenge, and see what develops from there.
In the continuing effort of getting the aero package refactored to reduce the substantial drag we have on the car, we re-did the rear wing mount, in addition to having a different wing package at the rear of the car. Following the lead of the LMP boys, Ryan designed a swan-neck style mount, similar to what the car originally came with from Stohr, to work with the new wings. As you can see from the oil traces on the underside, there’s no sign of the flow separation due to the (not present) lower wing mounts, so that much seems to be working well.
From the “Small Details that matter” department: Go get some non-slip tape from your favorite auto-parts store. I found a roll of adhesive tape at an Autozone, in with all the rest of
their adhesives and tapes. Cut it into small squares and place on your pedals. Next time it rains, or you have racing boots wet from the gras in your paddock spot or whatever,
you’ll be happy you did
They say “You can’t go back,” and by and large, “they” are right. I visited my boyhood home a few years ago, and it was a run-down and overgrown shell of the place in my memories.
Still, that reality doesn’t stop many of us from trying to drag the past up from the depths.
Such was the case for me and my family as we continued west on highway 80 outside of Salt Lake City – dutiful nod to Tooele as we went by – and into the stark salt flats of western Utah.
For each one of us, it was our first time west of Utah on I-80 in years. For me, it was the highway that brought me to Colorado to begin my college adventure. For Mom and Dad, it carried them east into retirement to their new home in Pagosa Springs after leaving their home and business of 20 years in Napa.
Our nostalgia trip continued at a low level as we motored steadily across Nevada – small memories of many a family road trip from Napa to Pagosa cropping up as we drove onward. In Battle Mountain, Dad recalled a biblical lightning storm we drove through one night on our way out. In another, Mom pointed out where they’d unloaded and watered the horses when they made their final move to Pagosa. In Elko, I recalled my unscheduled stop with the Nevada State Patrol as an 18-year old, who explained to my friend that 105mph was not an acceptable speed to be traveling, no matter how deserted the highway may seem.
And so on.
What really left all three of us struggling to remain dry-eyed was hitting the Calfornia border near Donner Pass, catching a whiff of the Sierra mountain air, and recalling all the family ski trips. Helping the sense that we’d stepped back 20 years in time was a steady diet of 90’s country music coming from Sirius – Garth Brooks, Reba McIntrye, ah, how far you’ve come. As we continued towards Fairfield and our turn south to 680 for Monterey, the feeling that we were traveling not so much westward, but back in time, grew stronger for all three of us.
We got to within about half a mile of the turn-off to Napa, but instead, southward we went to Monterey. Enough nostalgia…let’s build some new memories, eh?
One reaches Laguna Seca by skirting the east bay area after turning south from I-80. A few bone-jarring hours on California’s crumbling highways brings you south of San Jose, into the Monterey area.
April is an almost idea time to be in Northern California – and it’s almost one of the best places to be anywhere. The rain and gloom of January and February have given way, and the heat and brown dryness of July and August have not yet taken hold. The lush grass on the hills rolls and waves in the wind, and the low smooth shapes look like big green gumdrops put down by a giant’s hand. The hills are dotted with oak trees that beg you to hop a fence, pull off your socks, and go ponder life from the crook of a branch for a while.
Around the bottom of one such green-gumpdrop is the entrance to the Laguna Seca recreational area. A small sign marks your turn, and you then proceed STRAIGHT UP to the top of the cliff that they have built the race track on. A sign on the way out tells you that you are going down a 16% grade, and it feels every bit of it! A healthy dose of throttle is required to pull your rig up to the top of the hill that affords entrance to the track.
Laguna doesn’t have the same immediately intimidating presence that Road America and Circuit of the Americas do. Part of it is that you come down into the paddock from up high, rather than from the lowest point. Plus, there’s no looming presence above you, such as the climb to T14 at Road America, or the monstrous T1 climb in Texas. Rather, you pass over the track as it heads innocently up a hill, and you can see it sidle back into view around another as you descend into the paddock. It’s only as you hit the track that you realize what a roller coaster you’ve signed up for.
We arrived a bit early and queued up in a line outside the paddock for a while. John LaBrie met me, Lucian, and a few of the others, and the weekend bench racing began in earnest. John gave us our assigned garage spots, as he had bought out the row so that all the competitors could have garages at a reduced rate. This made for a lot of fun and information exchange in the garages, as nearly all the F1000 competitors were within a few garage spots of eachother.
Eventually we were let in, and we unpacked. It was dark by the time we were done, and as I made my way from the trailer back towards the garage, a car rolled up, the window rolled down, and Luci’s Romanian accented English emanated from within:
“Get in the car.”
Not much arguing with that, is there?
I got in the car, and off we went to dinner. Tomorrow: Racing!
Practice & Qualifying
Another thing that “they” say is “boy, the video doesn’t do the elevation change justice”, and boy is that true here.
The straight at Laguna is not only not a straight, but it actually has a big crest that makes your approach to the Andretti hairpin pretty blind. The hairpin is not flat either, but comes
sharply off of the hill onto the flat of the valley floor. You shoot through the flat turns 3 and 4 before slingshotting up through the heavily cambered turn 5, then to the flat-and-blind T6.
Upward and upward you go after 6, wishing for another 50 horsepower as the car struggles to climb the grade. Brake when you see nothing but sky as you come up to the corkscrew, look for the tree with the orange marker on it, and turn left into thin air, and hope the track is where you left it. Gather up the pieces of the car at the bottom of the drop and look up – and I do mean UP – at Turn 9 as it approaches you (not the other way around it seems!). Gather your bravery and keep it planted through 9, feeling the car bump and skitter as it compresses into the fast, cambered hill.
Grab a gear and swing left for T10, again riding the curb heavily and slinging out the other side. T11 is surprisingly low grip, so it’s a bit of an early brake, put the left tire just shy of the
red curbing, and feed in the throttle for another trip down the front “straight.”
Another ride on the roller coaster please!
All that we had just a few minutes to learn in practice, and not too much longer to figure it out in our qualifying session. I managed to improve and get a relatively clean lap in the 26’s,
which was good enough to put me in second overall in our group, first in FB, and starting on outside pole. Not too shabby for my first few laps at the track!
Saturday – Race 1
Saturday’s race was for us, just a qualifier. Fastest laps in the race would set the grid for the two Sunday races, which are the ones that counted for points. Still, it would mean
valuable time to continue learning my way around the track.
Oh, and it’s awful fun to race instead of qualify, yeah?
While wandering back to my garage at one point, Kevin Mitz stopped by, sporting a conspiratorial look astride his pit bike.
“C’mere. Let me tell you something,” he said.
“When that green flag drops and you get down to the hairpin, I bet you can ride right around the outside of that Mazda and come out ahead on the way to turn 3. Just think about it.”
And with that, a wink and a twist of the throttle, he was off in a cloud of smoke, to parts unknown.
Out we went for the race. At the start, we lined up as usual, two-by-two. We approached the flag, and I started to fall behind just a bit. I burped the throttle to catch up, and the Mazda thought
we were starting the race, so he took off. I realized what had happened and hit the gas too, just behind.
Incidentally, at some point I’m sure a green flag waved, but I’m starting to realize that the green flag is mostly a formality that seems to be pretty much ignored. Yet another lesson learned.
Down to the Andretti Hairpin we went, the Pro Mazda and I very close together. Sure enough, the Mazda dove to the inside to try and protect his line. I braked late, and no doubt under the watchful eye and small smile of Mr. Mitz, around the outside I went, emerging from T2 in the lead, and off into the distance I went, making a mental note to thank Kevin next time I saw him zooming around the paddock.
Being as this was our qualifying race, it meant it was time to put some laps in, so while we had some clear track, I tried to put in the quickest laps I could, and as a few high 25’s on the dash by lap 3 and 4. I figured that would be good enough to be in the hunt, and right about then, I started getting into the lapped FM traffic.
The rest of the race was reasonably uneventful. The Pro Mazda caught up with me in traffic at one point, since I wasn’t pushing the issue at all. However, he broke a pushrod at the exit of the corkscrew shortly after, and pulled off, trailing behind him the hot smell of scorched jabrock. The two of us had checked out pretty substantially from the rest of the field, so under the checkered flag I went, happy to have run a good first race.
Sunday – Race 1
The grid for our first points race was a close one at the front, so close in fact, that Larry and I posted the exact same quickest time, down to the thousandth of a second. His second quickest lap on Saturday was faster than mine, so he would sit on pole, with me on the outside.
My only complication was that a post-race inspection showed one of my tires was not holding air. With all the tire folks packed up and gone, our only solution was to swap out a fresh tire for the RF, and hope that the tire would get scrubbed and going in time to avoid any funky balance the first few laps.
Our race start was similar to the first, with the start of the race beginning somewhat before the actual flying of the green flag. This time, I wasn’t able to beat the pole car around T1,
and Larry and I swept through turns 3,4,5,6, up the hill and into the corkscrew.
He and I continued for several laps locked together – each of us having our relative to strengths. His car seemed excellent in the slower 2-3-4 corners, and I seemed to gain some back in the run up the hill. His new Kawasaki pulled strongly out of the slow corners, and gave him a good gap down the front straight.
Still, I stayed close, and definitely through the traffic, I managed to stay close. Late in the race, I used some traffic at the T3 to do some blocking, and briefly led, before getting blocked
just as badly on the run to T6, and Larry jumped back into the lead.
We ran like this up until the last lap, just a few car lengths apart at most. On the last lap, coming out of the corkscrew, Larry slowed slightly, having had a balky downshift.
I jumped to the inside, and we hurtled through Turn 9 – the most intimidating turn on the track – side-by-side. True to his nature, Larry raced clean and gave me room, but ultimately I
had to back out of the throttle to hold the turn, and I followed him through 10 and up to 11.
On the entrance to 11, I realized my only hope was that he had another downshift issue, so I went all the way to 1st gear instead of 2nd for the corner exit, hoping I might be able to get a
good run by. Luck was with me, and the same problem struck Larry again on the exit of 11. Only inches from his rear wing, I couldn’t dodge to the inside, so I opened the steering,
channeled a little bit of Alex Zanardi vs Brian Herta, and went across the curbing, over the astroturf, through the dirt and into the overrun concrete, full throttle the whole way.
I bounced across the rough stuff and back onto the track, and we drag raced to the finish, with me taking the checkered flag by a few feet.
My first pro race win ever…what a feeling! I yelled into my helmet and pumped my fists like any triumphant racing driver. YES!!
Sunday – Race 2
To further illustrate just how close Larry and I raced during the first points race, we were separated by just a tenth of a second on our quickest laps. He got me yet again, so for the third time, I’d be on outside pole. This time, Lucian Pancea was just behind us in third place, having gotten in a good lap during the race. Turns out with two straight rear control arms, his car was a lot faster!
My education of how race starts *really* go was completed at the beginning of the third race, with me being a bit slow on the uptake yet again. Larry and Lucian headed for the hills a bit before I did, and I could do nothing but watch as they headed down the front straight. Larry’s big Kawi gave him strong legs on the top end, and Luci’s special ‘low drag’ diffuser gave him some impressive top end speed. He waited VERY late on the brakes for lap 1, and led Larry around the Andretti hairpin, and into the lead.
The two of them raced as closely as Larry and I did in the first race, with me steadily a few tenths behind. Certainly I was making no headway, but it didn’t seem like I was losing much ground either.
I gained in my strong spots up the hill and through 9-10-11, but lost out on the straight each time as they used their advantages to pull away.
Unfortunately, the interesting race didn’t get a chance to develop much further. Shortly in, John LaBrie was the unfortunate recipient of a failed engine, and the resulting mess took many laps to clean up. On the restart, predictably enough, there was another big accident, in the form of a FM yardsale at the exit of T4, and the starter stand waved an exasperated checkered flag.
So, it was a 3rd place finish for me, having been suckered pretty badly at the start for the third straight race, but a lesson well learned.
But, two wins and a third place with a deep field of F1000’s, at one of the most intimidating tracks I’ve been to…job well done!
Best of all, I have a new flag to put on my wall…first pro racing win. What a happy milestone.
Next the guys travel to Seattle for the next round. I won’t be there to join everybody due to budgetary limits, a topic which generated much good natured ribbing in my direction. Luci threatened to bring in the Romanian Mafia (“they come in the night, nobody knows you are gone”), Dennis claimed he’d call in the Moldovan mafia (“We’ll take your stereo”), and Jose, straight from Juarez, said that La eMe would do any cleanup that the first guys left behind. Who knew I was part of such an international group of good natured mobsters?
Be that as it may, it’ll be a few months of development, and then time to come loaded for bear at Sears Point Raceway…just as long as I don’t disappear in the night and appear in Kent, Washington around the end of May.
They say you can’t go back, but going forward sure looks good – I can’t wait!