With all the body work and paint needed from the last round there hadn’t been time to finish of the vinyl and Sponsor decals on the car. Thursday afternoon I headed up to Thunderhill Raceway to unload the car and finish any remaining work on the car before the test day.
What a difference some vinyl and our adding our partner decals makes to the look of the car. If you want to learn how to make your own vinyl decals for your street or race car check out our article here.
Friday - Test day
The morning sessions were hot and windy. The cross wind in Turn 1 made for some interesting moments and the affect of the heat and wind could clearly be seen in the data when comparing to the March event, especially the top speeds at the end of the straights and heading into the braking zones.
The morning sessions were short and continuously interrupted with black flags as cars went of course, got stranded or had incidents on track. We had stiffened up the car with a few different set-up changes heading into the weekend. With all the interruptions it was hard to tell if the setup changes had helped or hurt since we never got into a rhythm of multiple laps to evaluate. The car was responsive but not as fast overall.
The afternoon provided longer more continuous sessions. Throughout the day we made some more changes but we were also using up the last of some old tires we had left over the 2018 SCCA Runoffs. We learned from each set up change but it was hard to tell overall what had the biggest impact on lap times my driving, the setup, track conditions or degrading tires. At least one set of tires we wore down to the cords. The car was running well and we were happy. The test day notes would help us for the up-coming race weekend. We went through the checklist on the car before heading out for some dinner and a good nights rest.
Saturday - Practice
The cooler morning temperatures meant better track conditions for Saturday Practice. I decided to use test day tires again to control one of the variables and see if the change in conditions would favor the stiffer car set up from the test day. The track conditions definitely helped despite the worn out tires I was able to put in a reasonably fast time of 2:01.017.
After the practice session we swamped out the tires for a brand new set.
A tough qualifying session, I headed out on fresh tires. But left the pits at precisely the wrong time, catching traffic during the early laps. Coming into Turn 11 the car didn’t turn and I swung out wide struggling to keep the car on course. In Turn 14, I again struggled to get any grip at turn in. I wondered what was going on, thought maybe something had come loose on the car. Turn 2 in the reflecting sun I could see a line of oil on the racing line. Now knowing what to look for, I could see an oil streak around the entire track. I tried to put in a few fast laps but just couldn’t put it together. A dismal qualifying lap of 2:02.088 had left me 18th. Coming into the paddock I learned a fellow racer had lost a plug in their gearbox and subsequently their transmission fluid was cause of the slick track.
Qualifying didn’t go well and it was going to be a tough race starting from 18th position. I had a great start and made up a bunch of positions. Coming into Turn 4 multiple cars had gone off course. Trying for a fast exit, I spun in Turn 5 and had to wait for the entire field to go driving past. Back on track I was now in 30th position.
I spent the rest of the race driving hard making up positions and trying to stay out of trouble. Back up to 28th on the opening lap and then made progress throughout the race. It didn’t take me long to pass the slower Gen2 cars and then start catching up to the Gen3 field. A safety car half way through the race really helped bunching up the field.
A chaotic race, I would come around a turn and there would multiple cars battling together, gone off track or spun out in the fields of grass.
It wasn’t without incident I go hit from behind in Turn 10. The newly repainted tail is now missing a corner.
Then with one lap to go I got squeezed off track in Turn 2. I again chased down the #55 and made the pass on the final corner.
Finishing the race in 10th! Not a bad day for a Birthday race, super happy with a Top 10 finish coming back from so far behind.
With multiple contacts and a couple of off-course excursions we thought it prudent to re-string the car and check the toe alignment. Minor adjustments to front and rear toe were needed. Checking over the car that evening we noticed a cracked gear box mount that we were able to swap out, likely the result of the rear impact in Turn 10. Refueled and the evening checklist complete the car was now ready for qualifying.
Arriving early Sunday morning I decided to softened the entire car set-up changing both the shocks and anti-roll bars. The car had seemed very responsive during Saturday but I wasn’t very fast overall.
Heading out for qualifying, I felt confident and wanted to see what the set-up change would bring. It was fast! The car seemed to react slower but the times were much faster and the car seemed to have more overall grip. Whether this was a placebo, a good nights rest or confidence from my Top 10 finish in Race 5, I didn’t know. But it didn’t matter, I qualified 6th with a fastest time of 2:00.368 still almost half a second off my previous best set during Races 1 & 2 back in March.
Unfortunately when we checked over the car after qualifying we noticed a small amount of coolant around the expansion tank. We couldn’t find where it was coming from. We started up the motor and had to wait for it to get really hot ~205 F before we saw the leak from a small crack along one of the welded edges. Thanks to Flat Out Racing, I was able to borrow and spare tank and got it quickly swapped over with time to spare before Race 6.
A Fantastic Race 6 running with the fast guys up front. I got a good start up to 5th before the race was interrupted with a five lap full course caution. The entire field crawled around the track as the multiple opening lap incidents were cleared.
On the restart I pushed hard to keep up with fast running front four but I struggled with the car popping out of third gear. I had to either double shift or hold the gear lever in place and turn into corners one handed. I slowly dropped back with the #57 of Bill Booth right on my tail.
He was faster and got a great run out of Turn 9 passing me under braking into Turn 10, which dropped me to 6th. I spent the rest of the race trying to catch Bill. With one lap to go he caught traffic at just the wrong time in Turn 8, giving me a chance to get back under his tail. I finished in 6th place just 0.3 seconds behind.
After the race it was pretty obvious why the transmission was popping out of 3rd gear. With new mount in place we had torn the upper gearbox frame mount and now the lower gearbox mount had also failed.
Special thanks to everyone that came to visit, say hi, wish me a Happy Birthday and for all those fantastic Birthday messages. Thank you to all our Sponsors and Partners. Huge thanks to Ric of CSR Performance for helping me with the car on the test day so I could focus on setup changes and my driving.
Big thank you to all the SCCA Workers and Volunteers for a great event, they were very busy throughout the weekend with a large field of cars, high temperatures and so many sessions packed into two days.
The next event is Races 7 & 8 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, 1-2 June 2019.
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