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:. Racing .:. 2010 Great Salt Race

Humble Pie

It's always great to be the big fish in a small pond...until you head over to a bigger pond and see just how big the big fish are!

Eager to run again after a six-week layoff, we made the (very easy) tow out to Miller Motorsports Park for the "Great Salt Race" R/R/N/N weekend.

In short, Miller is awesome. Go. The facility is beautiful, and despite the mid-August date, the weather was outstanding - mid/high 80's the whole weekend, no wind at all. The facility is of course super-modern and very comfortable.

The schedule for this weekend had us running the "East Course" at Miller, which is the tighter, more technical half. On the West course was a motorcycle club, making for a very busy paddock - the whole place just felt alive with activity the whole weekend, as there was also a kart race going on on the north side of the facility as well.

From watching on TV, the track appears flat and relatively uninteresting, but from up close on track, every corner has some amount of camber change, radius change, or even a bit of elevation change to add some flavor. Some have curbs you can hit really hard, some have some pretty fearsome curbing you must try pretty hard to avoid. There's at least one corner (Tooele Turn) that I never did even remotely to my satisfaction. Nice and complex, so really a fun driver's track, and very difficult to master. This is definitely a track where the driver can make a big difference.

The DSR field was two WF-1's (Chris Farrell, Sam Souval) and me, plus a gaggle of F1000's for flavor. Needless to say I was nowhere near Chris on his home track - somewhere between 2 and 4 seconds a lap slower than he was, depending on tires etc. I wasn't on pace with Sam and his WF-1 either, though Sam was sporting a nice healthy built motor that was impressively quick.

Friday we showed up to learn the track, and see how the car was going to go. Since June Sprints, a host of updates had been made to the car, including brand new valving in the Penske 2000 shocks from Chris Billings at the Shock Shop. Chris reported that all four shocks had been valved differently, and that there was different weight oil in all four when he got them! In short, they were a disaster. He sent them back after working his magic, and the car is transformed. Floats over the curbs, incredible turn-in and power-down characteristics, no more porpoising over the bumps.

Also among the changes was a Williams differential to replace the factory Torsen, and a removal of the BRD dry sump system, in the name of weight reduction.

My only excitement Friday was getting a pair of donuts on the car from an inattentive FB, who moved over straight into me near a corner entry, painting my left sidepod with his right front wheel. No real harm, just a scratch or two.

Saturday's race was good fun, though confusing. Sam Souval and I started next to eachother. I thought I might be able to sneak on his inside at the start, but of course Sam had too much experience here at Miller to allow that to happen. Chris had started from the back after having to change a blown engine, which I helped him change while he was heading back to SLC to get his spare motor. He passed me on about lap 4 or thereabouts. Sheesh.

About midrace, a pair of F1000's passed me in the midst of a big battle. I thought initially that I must have been sleeping, with nobody around to run with, but the data shows that I was running more-or-less the same pace, so they must have been really thrashing it trying to get by eachother. It took me the rest of the race to catch them up, nearly passing David Palmer in his Stohr at the flag - coming just about 5' short at the checkers. From the video, it's certainly true that I missed some opportunities to pass him on the last lap that a better or more experienced driver would have been able to take. The end result was 2nd in DSR and 3rd overall, behind Chris and David in the FB. Sammy had a confusing race, coming through the pits in response to a sound-board, and ending up third.

My analysis from watching the FB's and Chris in the DSR is that I still seem to be down on straightaway speed to all the DSR/FB's out there, despite having taken about 40# out of the car. All of my passes are either on the brakes or have to be of the "timed slingshot" variety that relies on cornerspeed, since all the motorcycle-engine cars are at least even or better in a straight line. Hmm.

My big oopsie for the weekend was a pass under yellow into T1. In my defense (hah), the yellow had been kept out when there was no longer anything to worry about, so I guess it had sorta been disregarded in my head, and I'd finally chased down the first of those FB's. Not my proudest moment. I received a talking-to by the stewards, deservedly so. However, since Sam had been DQ'd due to sound, confusingly, my finishing position ended up unchanged.

After the race, I took a look at my Goodyears, which were pretty well 100% toast. Right rear had no wear markers left on the inner 3 bars, and the LF was missing the inner two as well. Chris let me borrow a set of new Hoosiers he had in the trailer, and we spent the next few hours re-aligning/weighting the car to work with the Hoosiers.

As compared to the Goodyears, the Hoosiers (R35) definitely don't come up as fast - the first 1-2 laps are more sketchy than on the Goodyears. The Hoosier combo has relatively less front-end grip than does the 20x9.5/22x10 Goodyear combo, which in my case was a benefit, since I've been continuously softening the back of the car and adding rear wing in the hunt for rear-end grip since the 20x9.5's went on . Ultimately, the more stable car was quite a bit faster for the driver - I cut about 1.5 seconds off of my previous best in Sunday's qualifying.

Sunday's race was also exciting, with me starting 4th behind an FA, Chris, and JR Osborne in a Stohr F1000. Russ Werner, 5th on the grid in his Phoenix got an, uh, "unusually good start", and was inside me by the time the green flew. He came into T1 a bit too hot, had some understeer and pushed me out into the gravel on the exit of T1, some of which was my decision just to make sure we didn't tangle. I kept my foot mostly in it, and only dropped two spots. I spent the next few laps chasing down the F1000's, passed them both, and then put my head down, trying to see if I could catch JRO, but he slowed early on with some sort of problem.

About half race, somebody spun into the gravel at T1, just after Sam had passed me from his start at the back, causing a full-course yellow, so we gathered up for a restart. On the restart, an optimistic FE centerpunched Sam in his DSR, who collected another formula car of some kind as he spun, and I snuck through the gap. I made up enough time that Sam couldn't catch me back up by the finish, though he made it to within about 100 yards. Chris won the race after the leading FA tangled with a backmarker and broke his RR toe link on the last lap. I ended up 3rd OA again, behind Chris and the FA, and 2nd in DSR.

Other misc from the weekend, I ran the car wet-sumped for the first time in about a year. Oil pressures remained high and stable, though oil temperature was approximately 30-40* higher for the same ambient temperature. Earlier in the year at PPIR, in 95* temps, the dry sump kept oil T to about 245 or so, and this weekend I was flirting with 270 for most of the race both days. (measured in main crank gallery). So, be it known that the dry sump absolutely does help with oil cooling. My hope is that the WF-1 bodywork and its more effective cooling will make that a nonissue.

As mentioned, the new shock setup from the Shock Shop was absolutely stellar, and the VoltPhreaks battery is a total nonissue (plenty of juice!), easy weight reduction there.

Next up, new bodywork and another 40# or so out of the car, so I'm hoping to really take a chunk out of the ol' track record at HPR in a few weeks over labor day. 'tis always fun!
YouTube: Saturday Race Highlights

YouTube: Sunday Race Highlights

YouTube: Sunday Best Qualy Lap

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