My first SCCA race weekend at the newly renamed WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Sad to see Mazda go after so many great years but I am very thankful that WeatherTech stepped up, helping to keep this great race track open.
Thursday - Test Day
Thursday was an overcast morning. On the drive down to the track there were a few spots of rain on the windshield. Luckily no wet weather and we are able to have cool temperatures for a productive test day.
Prior to arriving at the track I had done my homework; reviewing my data against some of the faster guys, video review, simulator training and a focused plan for areas to improve.
Sadly shortly after my wife and I returned from our trip to Australia my Nanna took a turn for the worse. She passed away a few short weeks after we left. I was very sad to hear the news but it made the time we got to spend with her even more special. She will be missed. In a small tribute to her, I made some decals so should could ride with me.
The morning sessions were cool and over cast allowing for great speed. The preparation had worked and I was able to get a faster lap time in just my first 2 sessions with a 1:41:845.
In a later session I was pushing a little too hard in Turn 5 and got to full throttle too early, resulting in a spin and short trip into the Laguna Seca sand. I came in to check over the car and make sure I hadn't damaged anything. Car was good but the lower front chassis members were buried in sand.
Thanks to #71 Jerry Aplass who had a small shop vac I was able to clean out all the sand and get the car ready for the next session. Fellow racers helping each other really makes our class great.
Also that afternoon between sessions I got the car registered and signed off for the weekend ahead of time. Thanks to the volunteers that came in early for the weekend.
After the end of the test day. I felt good with a new personal best time and some great speed on track. Unfortunately, I had worn the rear tires out completely. So swapped in a fresher set. I worked through my checklist and had a good feeling about the car.
Arriving early Friday morning for the practice session I was greeted by a sunny track with a clear sky. Normally it is foggy in the morning, making the track damp and greasy. The early sun shine made for a great practice session.
The practice was fun with lots of cars out on track. I was able to set a best time of 1:41.713. An improvement over yesterday but not by much, there was still more work to do.
A fellow competitor lost a fuel hose during the session and was spraying fuel all over the track in front of me. When I came in the front of my car and helmet was filthy.
Turns out the mount for the fuel filter had come loose and the hose dragged along the ground until it opened up. I had some extra hose thanks to our partners at Redhorse Performance, so I gave some to Hank and he was able to get his car ready for the next session.
I was seeing a lot of tire wear on the inside rears and fronts compared to the outside. Before the weekend I had spent some time redoing the car set up to add more camber (or vertical lean of the tires) both front and rear. Based on the test day it was too much camber. Since I had time before the afternoon qualifying session I decided to adjust the set up some more.
I removed 0.4 degrees camber from the rears and 0.6 degrees from the front. I was also having trouble getting the car to turn in during the slower corners of 2, 3 and 11. So was hoping these changes would improve the cars handling, grip and overall tire life.
When adjusting the camber on these cars, you often have to re-check and adjust the toe or static yaw angle the tires point. A quick check with the alignment bars and a few toe link adjustments and the car set up was complete.
I went over my checklist, fueled the car and reviewed my data. There were a few corners where I was over slowing the car and loosing time. I wrote down 3 specific areas to work on for the qualifying session.
A large field of cars showed up for the qualifying so it was going to be important to find space and run with some fast cars to get a good time.
Heading out on track I was with a group of fast cars, a good position to get some fast laps. Then disaster struck I noticed my alternator light came on and the water temperature was rising.
I realized I had lost the alternator belt that also drives the water pump. Turning off the motor, I coasted and pulled over in a safe place out of the way on the front straight. Scared I overheated the motor I waited for the session to end. The session was black flagged and I got a tow into the paddock.
Some quick help from Ric at CSR Performance and I was able to get the car running before the end of the qualifying session. With limited track time I was only able to get a lap of 1:41.648 which qualified me 19th out of 28 cars. We checked the data on the motor and it indeed got hot but was running strong for the qualifying session. I checked over a few items to see if there were any leaks or obvious signs of damage.
That evening I went over the checklist and inspected the car in greater detail. The setup changes had appeared to work and the tires seemed to have more even wear.
Arriving at the track very early Saturday morning I checked over the car my biggest concern from the day before was that I hurt the motor. I had lost a little bit of sleep thinking about it. First thing, I checked the water for oil and also to see the level hadn't changed overnight indicating a leak.
Next up was to run a cold Compression Test on the motor and we got good numbers, 195psi across all four cylinders. It looked like there were no obvious leaks and the engine didn't appear to be down on power so hopefully I got lucky and the motor was ok.
As I prepared the car that morning for the upcoming race, friends and family started to arrive. It is always great to have people supporting me at the track.
Jenna and Matt enjoyed sitting in the racecar and seeing the view from the cockpit for themselves.
After taking my friends for a tour around the paddock and pointing out some great viewing locations, I headed back to get suited up. It was time to get the car over to grid.
Race 7 turned out to be a race to forget. On the start I got backed up losing positions. The group of cars on the left were stuck behind due to a car in front missing a shift. Consequently, several competitors gained positions on the right side of the field.
A competitor spun in Turn 3 and I was able to avoid it, gaining back 2 positions. I got a great run out of Turn 6 and was able to gain another spot going up the hill.
I spent a few laps chasing down the field and racing behind the #36 red/yellow car of Randy McAyeal. Then I got a good run out Turn 4 and made the pass into Turn 5.
Unfortunately I miss judged my turn in for Turn 6. I put a wheel off on the outside and Spun! I got going again but had dropped down to 24th. On the next lap I moved up to 23rd and then the double yellows came out. We had a couple of laps behind the safety car.
On the restart I got over eager and went inside on Turn 3. The car in front turned down to take the apex without realizing I was there and I spun trying to avoid the contact.
I was at that back, dropping to 29th place. With only 2 laps left to go I worked my way back up to the field and ended up 27th overall and 23rd in class.
After the race it was great to catch up with friends and family. Disappointed with my performance but friends and family had a great time watching the action. The car hadn't sustained any damage and was in good condition for qualifying.
In the next session I qualified 19th with a best lap of 1:42.423 slower than my earlier times in the previous race and qualifying.
I spent time that afternoon doing a quick check over the car. The car was in good shop and didn't need any other maintenance this time. This meant I was able to spend more time with my wife, friends and family.
As the morning arrived I uncovered the car. Got my data and cameras set up. One last minute check and setting of the tire pressures. I got suited up and headed over to grid to get the race started.
Beginning in 19th position, I made up 2 positions on the start and then there was an incident in Turn 3 and several cars, including myself, had to take evasive action, going left into the sand. By the time I rejoined the track I had dropped to 24th, losing 5 positions.
I put the throttle down and got to work. Making up 2 positions in Turn 5 as I caught up to the rest of the field. Then the double yellow flags came out at the top of the corkscrew.
There were 3 laps under the safety car before the restart. I got a decent restart but only gained 1 position moving up to 21st.
A competitor spun ahead in Turn 2 and I gained 3 more positions as I focused and powered through the turn. By the end of the lap I had made up positions and was now in 17th position.
On the next lap a car went off on the exit of Turn 10 and I was now up 16th position. I was fast on the back section of the track and on the next two laps I passed a car going into Turn 11. On the next lap the #5 blue car of Nei Ng had an issue in Turn 6 and pulled off course. For the next 3 laps I chased down the #66 of Brandon Lewis and we had some great racing as he would pull away in some turns and then I would catch in others.
Heading down into Turn 2 the #09 of Robert Sachs went flying by under braking and collected Brandon in the middle of the turn. The unfortunate incident ended Brandon's race and moved me up to 11th place.
I spent the next few laps putting in fast times and chasing down #71 Jerry Aplass. I caught up and we had a fantastic race going side by side in multiple corners.
On the penultiate lap I got a great run coming out of Turn 6 and went inside going into the corkscrew. I was in 10th place as we crossed the start line and got the 1 to go signal.
Jerry had a better run down the front straight and passed me going into Turn 2. I had another good run in Turn 6 but this time I couldn't get the pass done at the corkscrew. I finished in 11th position. It was great racing with Brandon and Jerry and one of my most fun races this season.
With a race like that, I was all smiles pulling into my paddock space.
Checking the car over after the race, I found a bad right rear wheel bearing. It was time for a change out. With limited time we just swapped out the upright. I then had to recheck the suspension alignment and make a few small changes to get everything ready for the afternoon feature race.
Spec Racer Ford Festival Race
The starting grid for the Spec Racer Festival race was determined by the fastest lap of the qualifying and races. Unfortunately some racers had dropped out for the race, putting me up into 8th place on start.
I lost out on the start and dropped back to 9th on the opening few turns. I got good run out of the corkscrew and I was back into 8th place coming out of Turn 9. I moved up to 7th place at the end of the second lap.
There was lots of great racing and back and forth part way through the race. I moved up to 6th then as high as 5th before finishing strong in 7th place.
While packing the car up and loading it into the trailer we got a visit by a young racing fan. He liked the cars and was so excited to be at the track, so I offered to let him sit in the car. Hopefully we have a new Spec Racer Ford driver to compete with in the future.
Thank you to all our sponsors and partners that enable us to compete. Support those companies that support motorsports and racing. Special thanks to Ric from CSR Performance for helping me with the car when I threw a belt during qualifying. Big thank you to all the friends and family that came out to visit and cheer us on. As always thanks to the SCCA workers and volunteers, we couldn't do it without you.