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:. Racing .:. May Daze R/R

Results: My Laps
Worth the Wait

This race weekend was very special for all of us in Colorado - SCCA's first race on our brand new track - High Plains Raceway. 2.5 miles of smooth asphalt laid across the hills on the eastern plains of Colorado. It's the final product of years of planning and hard work by Colorado motorsports clubs, and we finally have our track. It's absolutely awesome to drive - fast bits, slow bits, technical bits, and just all kinds of fun.

So, honoring Bill Maisey's narrative style, Here's how my weekend went:

Friday morning, Angela and I piled up in the Canyonero with the Stohr in tow, and headed down to the track for Friday practice day. After acquiring the car last August, and racing it once in Pueblo with some new-car-problems, I was nervous about racing a car that hadn't seen anything beyond a kart track in 7 months, and had basically been completely disassembled over the winter. An abortive attempt at running some laps a month ago at HPR resulted in a blown engine halfway into the first lap, so this weekend really was a total unknown for me for reliability, speed, balance, whatever.

After the early rise to get to the track early as possible, all the morning sessions were rained out, with very few people venturing out in the morning. We sat in the truck trying to keep warm and sharing snacks with the dogs. By mid day, it had cleared up, so I was able to get 3 sessions out in the car. First session I ran a few installation laps to basically see where the track goes, see how the new engine felt, and see what was loose or falling off. The track was chaos, with everything from Spec Miatas to DSR's out there careening around. Mostly folks were pretty well behaved, although a SM turned in on me and forced me to run over an apex cone to keep from getting clobbered. My mistake for thinking he'd seen me, I guess. Black, low car on a cloudy day - understandable.

I came back in, ran wrenches over everything I could think to check, and went out again to try and learn the lines a bit. Found a leaky right-rear caliper after session two, and fixed that up. Got out for the last session, and finally set a good single-lap time of 1:49. With the cold, the car was pretty loose, so I maxed the rear wing to give me some stability, which helped. The new bead seat was a complete success - very comfortable and supportive. Only change I made was to move the pedals a bit more closely to me, as I was having to stretch quite a bit for WOT.

As far as the engine side of things, when the engine 'sploded in April (see above), Rilltech built me another just like it, and we added a power commander. Wow, what a difference! Gain on the dyno was about 15hp, but they must have been some large ponies he added. The engine is a stock '07 GSX-R with some reliability upgrades (valvesprings, oil pump, flappy door oil pan, tensioner), and a "thinner head gasket".

Most of the usual bike-motor'd crew was there, meaning a herd of Radicals - Paul (Prosport DSR), Joe (SR-4 CSR), Rob (1400 PR6), Evan (1400 PR6), and Mark Baer with my old 1300 Prosport doing the school. Grant's Stohr was AWOL as his wife was getting her license in the school with his ITE MINI, and Pat's Stohr hasn't yet recovered from his fire at PPIR. Also in attendance were a few Pro Mazdas, some DP-01's, an Atlantic, and Stu/Chris Waterman in their new Speads F1000. Ian McLeod was briefly around with his new FB, but packed up and left before I got a chance to go over and say hello.

The only remaining issue for me on Friday was that the radios were acting up - could only receive on one radio, the other wouldn't transmit (or the other wouldn't receive) intermittently. Not a biggie for the moment, and I'll get that debugged. Dinner at the Country Burger in Byers, and we retired to the Byers Budget Inn, which is the worst hotel I've ever set foot in. Will need a different solution for next time. Angela's usually a trooper for almost anything, but she drew the line at that place. Will be mooching RV beds for the rest of the season, I think.

Saturday was cold and windy all day. With the Time Trials, Driver's School, and PDX, it made for an incredibly long day in the cold. They combined our practice and qualifying into a single 25-min session. I went out, got the tires warm in a few laps, and did a few hard laps once I had some reasonably clear track. Qualy time was a 1:47.3, which I thought would be good enough for pole, but a quick fellow named Dwight Rider (Knight Rider's cousin, evidently) in an FC pipped me by a tenth. Woops. Rob was a few seconds back in the PR6, and the rest of the field another few seconds behind him.

Our race was very late afternoon - around 7:00 or later if I recall correctly. We started with just a few drops of rain coming down, and all of us on slicks. They gave us two pace laps with surface flags out, and BOY was it slippery. About 40* ambient temperature, water on the track - WOW. Several folks came into the pits after the pace lap, choosing to fight another day. Dwight Rider on pole in the quick FC took driver's right for the start, meaning I was on the inside for T1, but the outside for T2. I took a gentle start, making sure that I wouldn't slide wide and collect anybody. I let Dwight lead for T1 and T2, then drove by on the straight and led briefly. Chris Waterman came up on Lap 2 or 3 and passed me in the Speads FB, and he and I chased eachother for a while. Chris being the experienced kart racer and the advantage of teenage invincibility, I thought I'd let him set the pace and find any slippy spots. I found the Stohr to be a bit of a handful in slow corners in the wet, but otherwise quite manageable. By contrast, in both the wet and dry, the Speads is very, very quick through slow corners. After about 5 laps or so, Dwight caught up to us in the FC and did one of his demon late brakes on me in T2, and I let him by. he caught up to Chris in the FB a few feet later, and they held eachother up a bit, so I took the opportunity to slip by on the straightaway. By then, the rain had abated, and with tires up to temp and the track drying, I started to increase the pace a bit. I ran several quick laps to build a gap on Dwight in the FC, then backed off a bit after he disappeared from my mirrors.

Unfortunately, about lap 10, my soft-brake-pedal problem from last year returned, and I began having to double- and triple-pump the brake pedal after most corners. I saw Dwight reappear in my mirror, although he outbraked himself in the T8 hairpin, and disappeared for a few more laps. He reappeared in my mirrors the last few corners of the last lap, but I held him off and took the checker. Race win, and a by-default DSR lap record and track record, with a 1:47.xx.

Everybody else ran clean behind, with no incidents or problems. Great showing of control from our group - not a single issue. Chris's fade was attributed to downshifting problems in the Speads that would plague him all weekend, and I was very worried about my persistent brake issues.

Saturday evening's grub was pretty standard BBQ fare. Some raucous award-giving to some of the folks that helped make HPR happen, but folks cleared out pretty quickly to escape the cold.

Sunday was, in many ways, the opposite of Saturday.

It dawned cloudy, but warmer, and without the persistent wind from Saturday. Overnight rain and clounds cleared somewhat by the end of the day, and became quite pleasant. We arrived early at the track to try and sort out what was going on with the Stohr's brakes. As before, the pedal returned to its customary hard state after the race problems. I checked front/rear brake pressures from the datalogs, and all appeared to be consistent front/rear ratio on pressure, so I didn't think a hydraulic problem was at hand. Maybe I'm wrong there - any opinions welcome on how perhaps to fix this! I checked the rotors, and they were not "floating" as they're supposed to. It appears as though the rotors were machined too tightly for the bobbins, and the bobbins were bound in the rotor. I drilled out the holes for the bobbins ever-so-slightly, so that with all fasteners properly torqued, the rotors could now "float" as designed. This fixed a slight vibration under braking, but unfortunately, my brakes still went away on Lap 10 of Sundays' race as well.

Also odd was oil pressure data on the datalogger. It showed consistent dips into the 25-30psi range whenever I snap the throttle shut to get on the brakes. No dips ever under load, or cornering, but consistently under the brakes and closed throttle. I added another 1/2 quart oil to see if maybe it was "sloshing" forward, but it made no noticable change I could find. For sure I'll be installing that Accusump now. Sure, the dip isn't under any load on the motor/bearings, since it's always 0 throttle, but still, I'd rather not see any dips when the engine is above 8000 RPM. Oil and water temps were fine all weekend, under 200, and about 210, respectively.

At any rate, finishing up my fixes to the car, I was a bit late for the practice session, and only got in 3 laps, with a best of 1:47.x. Good start, and the warmer track had more grip. I was still using my same set of Goodyear 160's from Friday. Wear was almost imperceptible, but the car had picked up a bit of understeer. If that change was due to weather/temp/track condition, or the age of tires, I'm not sure. They have 8 heat cycles on them now, in addition to whatever they had before they got to me (used). I chose to leave the rear wing pegged to give myself the rear-end stability to try and start pushing more in the higher-speed turn 4, to see if there was more laptime there. No doubt I'll cut that back down at future events.

Qualifying also, was brief. With the newly graduated students added to our run group, it was a busy track. I managed to get two clean laps, one a low 46, and then a 45.2, which was to be my best all weekend. I called that good enough and came in to try and save my tires if they needed saving. I found out not long before our race that I'd blown a 107dB on sound. Dammit. I put a lame-o turn-down on my exhaust and added some packing/scrubble to the muffler to see if maybe that would help. Turns out the sound person wasn't even out there for our race. As a side note, my exhaust is odd among Stohrs, it runs out the right side of the car, but turns forward and runs until just behind the oil cooler before turning right again and exiting out around the middle of the wheelbase. Not sure why it's done that way, but I'll probably refactor the exhaust system to quiet it down, and reduce its length, and hopefully weight. Sunday I blew 104 once, but was otherwise OK, evidently. Guess the James Bond tire-cutter-special turndown did its job. *shrug*

By the end of qualifying I had a reasonable handle on the track, so here's how a lap goes for me in the Stohr at HPR. Doubtless we'll all figure it out better, especially as more reference points get made - right now, knowing where the track ends can be a bit tough! Naturally, my in-car video will be my harshest judge - there are several feet of track I didn't seem to make much use of in the video, and a few early apexes here and there...for shame. Critique and instruction welcome.

You come up the start-finish straight, exiting out of the Prarie Corkscrew in third gear. You get 4th at about start-finish line, and 5th briefly if you get a good run out. Stomp the brakes around the 2 marker, down 2 gears, and throw it at the apex for T1. T1 is slightly off camber, so the car tends to drift outwards past the apex. Hold your arc and move back to the left side of the track for the 180* carousel, downshifting to 2nd. Upshift back to 3rd on the exit, and short-shift into 4th for T3, a fast right-hander. (otherwise, I'd hit revlimiter at the apex) I never quite got it flat-out, but lifted slightly on entry to tuck the nose. We'll be flat there with more practice, and better drivers than me, or cars set up better than mine. Up to 6th down the long back straight, which is slightly downhill until just before the turn markers. Brake somewhere between the 2 and 3 markers, down two gears, and turn-in quickly for Turn 4. One of the fastest corners on the track, somewhere around 105mph apex speed. Have to slightly compromise this corner to be able to get whoa'd down for T5, "Niagra", which turns left and falls sharply downhill. Car understeers a bit as the road falls away, but then the camber picks up to help you out. Don't think I ever got this one right. Rocket downhill to the decreasing radius Danny's Lesson, which is also tough to get right, and is for some reason devoid of brake markers. Most of us kept braking too early, then felt like we were rolling through it. I know I kept turning in too soon a lot of the weekend. Come out of T6/Danny's Lesson in 1st gear. Up to 4th for T7, which is a flat-out, climbing right-hand sweeper that leads into the tightest corner on the track, the T8 hairpin. Brake around the 2 marker, down to 1st, and catch a slightly late apex to get on the gas early. Flat-out Up through the gears again as you wind down To Hell on a Bobsled. Touch the brakes slightly for T10 at the bottom of the hill. Run in as deep as you can for T11, which starts the "Ladder to Heaven". Realllly late apex around this long, uphill carousel, flat through 12, then brake around the 1.5 marker,down to 1st gear, for 13-14-15 complex, known as the Prarie Corkscew. This one is blind over the hill, so you just sort of pick a turn in point and chuck the car in, and adjust as you come over the hump. You shift as you turn, flat-out through the corkscrew, and exit onto the front straight.

Sunday's race was a total mess. My :45 was good enough for Pole by about 2 seconds, with Rob in the PR6 pipping Dwight for second. We took the green, with both Rob and I nailing the throttle at about the same instant. We went through T1 side-by-side, and I stayed inside for T2, and kept the lead, and led the first lap. However, they threw the red at the start-finish stand, so I shut it down and pulled up to the T1 corner station.

As it turns out, Joe's SR4 had had some sort of failure on the start. He went for the brakes for T1, and had nothing. Car pitched sideways, hit the wall on the inside of T1, bounced off, went upside down through the air, hit an FE, and then they were t-boned by a Sports 2000. Joe's rollbar and helmet both had scuff marks on them. Everybody was ultimately OK, but a huge mess on the track, and the cars were looking really rough. Scary stuff. Looks like Joe's car is going to be out for quite a while. He was a bit shaken by the experience, but says he'll be back in some form or another, which is good.

After a while, they re-gridded us right there on the straight, and we headed out like nothing had happened. All-in-all, I thought it was handled pretty well by the workers and stewards. No confusion or anything that I could see from the car, and the workers kept us informed of what was going on. We've got a great group of workers in CO, from everything I can tell.

Second restart - deja vu`. Rob and I again got almost identical jumps. This time he stayed ahead of me into T2, as we were both very cautious through the now very dusty T1. I followed him around for the first lap, and got my chance braking into the entry for the Corkscrew, passed him, and headed out. Chris Waterman followed me through in the Speads, and proceeded to push me the rest of the race. Lap 5-6 or so, had double-yellow at T4. Paul and Evan had tangled on the entry to four, and taken eachother out to the exit area. Video shows a pass by Evan down the straight, but then Evan clipped the apex curbing, which turned him sideways, and Paul had nowhere to go. Racing incident, and it initially appears that both cars will be back at it before too long. Both drivers completely fine, crushboxes doing their jobs.

Around lap 10 both Chris and I ran into our own respective problems again - me with a lack of brakes, and he with an inability to downshift properly. He ended up being forced to hold off Dwight Rider in the FC, which gave me a bit of breathing room. Other than a few inelegant passes of lapped traffic, as you can see in the video (sometimes you think they see you when they don't...), it was not a terribly eventful race for me, other than the frightening condition of not knowing if you're going to have a brake pedal the next time you go for it. I got used to the double- and triple-tap, although it takes a big chunk out of my laptimes. Fast race lap of a 1:46.4, I think, so I that is now the DSR and HPR records, I believe. Curious to see what the Big Boys will run when they bring the WF-1's out for the July double national. Based on my gap to Russ Lindemann in the FM and Rider in the FC - both quick guys - I'm expecting probably 1:40 plus or minus a few seconds for DSR as the faster cars, better conditions, and better drivers have their say.

As for me, a pretty successful weekend. Primary concern is to get the bedamned brakes to work for a race distance on the car, but all-in-all, not bad. I am stunned by the additional grip the Stohr has over my old Prosport, and I certainly need to take advatange of it. I underestimated the difference in the cars. The speed is fun, although it's meant the competition between all of us in the "PSR" group isn't as close as it was, which is disappointing. Further, 3 of us CSR/DSR guys having accidents in the same weekend was sobering too.

I'm there there's more time to be found by using the extra few feet I'm giving up, and making my gas-to-brake transitions more quickly. Holding onto the steering in the longer higher-g corners had me a bit tired after the race, and up here in the thin air, we don't make nearly the downforce as at sea level. Other win for the weekend was Mark Baer getting signed off to race in my old Radical - was good to see the orange car out there and kicking.

PPIR in 3 weeks. Should be able to get a lot more sorted out between now and then - we'll see!
VIDEO: Sunday Race (246MB WMV)

VIDEO: Saturday from Paul Leonard's Car (YouTube)

VIDEO: Sunday from Paul Leonard's Car (YouTube)

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