WDMS Chapter 156

SCCA SNOWBIRD DOUBLE REGIONAL MSR-H

January 2010

 

This all started out innocent enough. Mike was taking the Slug (red vette) to the SCCA double regional at MSR-H and we talked about me co-driving one day. I really wanted the GT1 points and it would give us both a chance to be in the same car on the same weekend and we can pull data with my DL1 and get incar vid. I'm looking at getting some software that puts the data on the screen so you can see both the data and the in-car video. I'll do this for Scratcher also, but this would be a good test. THE PLAN was for Mike to qualy and race on Saturday and then if all went well, I'd qualy and race on Sunday. 

Mike and I with our weapon for the weekend: The Slug

Mother Nature was having NONE of it. Rain that was supposed to wrap up Friday lingered till Saturday morning and it was a mushy track that we were looking at as group 1 (we were group 2) went to grid. We put on the only 'rain' tires we had, and those were some victoracers that had basically full tread. From 2004. Two-Thousand-and-FOUR. Ug. So they were about as soft as a marble floor, with just a hint of a tread pattern. The good news was it hadn't rained yet this morning and the hope was a dry track for the actual race (Mike had some nice fresh Hoosiers in the trailer, ready to go). 

So Mike goes out and splashes about. He is in SP and there is two other cars in SP (both corvettes) and a viper comp coupe in Gt1. The Viper was on fresh hoosier radial wets. I longed for those tires. Seriously. The white corvette was on firehawk street tires with very good tread and the other red vette (a gorgeous 66 convertible purpose built car) was on hoosier bias slicks. Brave man. With dampness everywhere, we don't put the DL1 in the car and don't elect to capture this session on video. Mike goes out and splashes around, keeps it out of the mud (which was a challenge) and wraps up a clean qualy session. We go back to the paddock and check the car over. The tires were scuffed pretty clean and everything looked just fine. Mike reported there was 'not much grip out there' and he simply pushed it where he felt he could. After looking the car over, getting it up in the air and taking off the tires (and praying for it to keep drying out so we could throw on the hoosier drys) we eased on down to race control and picked up a grid sheet. The white vette clocked a 2.42, the viper had a 2.44, Mike had a 2.46 and the convertible put down a 3.06. In the middle of them was an awd Evo with a 2.50. I thought the awd boost buggy would be way ahead of these guys in the wet, but oh well. We putted around and watched a bit as the sky kept getting lighter. Finally it was time for the group 1 race and then there would be an hour break for lunch and then the race for Group 2 (Mike's group). Mike was trying to relax a bit as he didn't sleep well the night before and really wasn't feeling that great. Right as the group 1 guys were heading to grid, in the span of about 3 minutes the sky went three shades darker of grey, the wind shifted and it began to rain. The dampness that was mostly almost kinda going away came back completely and in five minutes it was obvious it wasn't going to stop anytime soon, and even if it did stop right now, it'd still be a damp race for Mike. I could literally see Mike's mood drop a few points realizing he'd be running another damp session. Seizing the moment, I offered up the idea that I'd do the race today and then Mike could have the dry day tomorrow (all weather predictions had this stuff gone by 3pm today). It took Mike all of a few seconds to agree that this was really a good idea.

We scrambled to get my gear teched, the entry changed (from Mike's SP to my GT1) and approval from the chief steward to do the swap. We then put the car back on the old kumhos and put it on the ground. I got my gear ready and changed into my suit and with lunchtime rapidly running out of minutes, climbed into the car.

And then it dawned on me: I've not driven this car in about 5 years. It had a much less powerful motor then. It had a different transmission, shifter, springs, shocks, chassis setup....and a host of other changes. Heck, even the dash layout was now different and I had no idea what switches did what. I had no idea what the shifter pattern even was! I was due on grid in 3 minutes. Great. It was still drizzling rain. Super.

Above is the Grid for my Saturday race. They put me in Mike's qualy spot, but I had to start last since I took Mike's spot and the rule is a driver must qualify himself. So Mike's time got thrown out and I brought up the back of the pack. This was actually fine with me since I could lay back a bit and feel out the car on our one-whole-outlap before the green flag dropped and it was time to start passing folks.

So we launch from grid and just on the easy lap around it was ridiculous. The rain had stopped thankfully, but it was stupidcold and with the high humidity and no sunlight there would be no 'drying' to speak of. The car would twitch sideways at different spots on the track with hardly any throttle input (we're talking 15% input here...). Now, this track has hosted the crap-can racing 24hours of LeMons THREE TIMES and I personally have seen a LOT of motors, transmissions and cooling systems blow up on this track and I don't think its been cleaned much or very well. The pavement just goes from moderate-almost-grip to zero-grip with no surface change at all. Just, ZING, and you're sideways. I was desperately trying to heat the brakes and slide the car a bit to feel where the grip limit was and every corner it seemed to change. <sarcasm> Wonderful </sarcasm>.

We come around, the green flag drops and I take the convertible on the inside and halfway to T2 the evo goes sideways. I stay close, but am honestly scared to pass him. I sneak by him on the outside of T3 as he brakes incredibly early and I'm now right behind the fishtailing white corvette. We snake through the back section and, speaking of snakes, the viper throws it off the track deep into the mud in dramatic fashion (carbon sidepanel bits flying off the car) on the exit heading for the long run to diamond head. I step beside the white vette but on the straight sections he has far more motor than I do. However, at the next long straight heading back to the carousel I stay in the juice much longer than he does and easily take him as we go into the carousel and by the time I head under the flagstand to complete my first lap I'm ahead of the other GT1 car and both SP cars quite handily. I put down another car and put my head down looking for nice smooth laps. I am trying all kinds of lines looking for the grip and I'm sure the cornerworkers were thinking that I can't run a corner the same way twice to save my life, but I did find some pretty grippy areas and I kept seeking them. By the time I get halfway around the track again, the Viper is out of the mud and circulating again. I'm thinking with his super-awesome hoosier radial wets, he'll be crawling back up to me shortly and my Gt1 lead would be in jeopardy. So I keep pushing the car pretty hard, but trying to keep just a touch in reserve...a DNF here would not be fun. The front few cars are some Miata's running new full-depth RA1s and a BMW on fresh azenis and I don't have much prayer of catching them. The car was acting fine, the brakes were great, temps were good and I was simply cooking off laps and (as usual) singing to myself. In fact, you can hear me several times on the incar video. The handwork is pretty interesting in several spots where I'm fighting to keep the pointy end forward.

Heading to front straight at the end of lap 1

Fast foward to a few laps left and a bmw driver throws his car so far off the track I didn't even see it first time by. Pace car comes out for two laps and I very much HURRY to get to the tail of the pack again since I'm the last car that has not been lapped (I wasn't even close to being lapped). I catch the pack a bit before we hit the front straight and then the green flies with one to go and ... well.... I'm just a little teeny tiny bit competitive. I see the chance to put the viper a lap down. Suddenly, rational thought enters my thick noggin. I'm sitting here with my first Gt1 win practically in my lap. I've got it no problem. Just follow these guys for one lap and it is mine. Don't risk the car, the win, and the finish trying to pass these guys who are obviously struggling in the rain. "Be smart", my rational brain is telling me. You've got the win 'in the bag'. Done-deal. Solid. Yeah, that rational thought lasted about .0072 of a second. Then, with the re-drop of the green I was passing back markers to get to the viper, clawing my way forward with whatever traction I could find with a huge sense of 'I have ONE lap to get this done folks!' urgency. Oh yes, I dropped the hammer. The Slug wanted this too. Senses fully awake, using both feet to as-smoothly-and-quickly-as-possible transition from full throttle to full brake and we go DEEP to the outside of T1 and start lining folks up. Fight fight for grip, fight to get the gas down and smooth smooth smooth to reel these folks in. Before the back section I've put a few down and the viper is in front of me. We hit the spot where he went zinging into the mud on lap1 so I know he'll be skittish so I get a good run and really bury the throttle and get alongside him. He lifts waaaaay early and I just stay in it down till diamond head and now a miata is right in front of me and the white vette is right in front of him. Say, is that some red mist here in the cabin? I lay back a bit and get a great run out of diamond head and the go wide right. The white vette steps over in front of me on the right and the miata takes the middle, I swing quickly over to the far left and pass them both at the same time (at this exact point I know Mike is up on the balcony and can see all this, and for a moment I actually wonder what he's thinking) and run the car deeeeep into the carousel giving me a +1 lap on the viper and the white vette. I take the checker and the GT1 win. Life is good.

Heading to the checker!!

We grab some results and I clicked off a 2.31 fastest lap to the vipers 2.37 and convertibles 2.37 and the white vettes 2.38. Mike did a great job on the radios keeping me in the loop where folks where, flag conditions and such and the car was fun to drive. I'd like to try it in the dry sometime so maybe we'll get another test day somewhere to play around a bit. We headed to Chili's for some good lunch and then came back and turned the car around for the next day. I headed to a friend's house that I've not seen in a while and Mike got some sleep. We met up the next morning at the track bright (wahoo! sunshine!!) and early.

Now, Mike and I both are just stupid happy for the win. Mike tells me he struggles with the white vette and is usually a few second behind him and never in front of him. Even though I've shown him that in the wet the Slug can win, I think Mike is doubtful in the dry. The white vette has big 17s and much more power with bigger brakes too, but the Slug is pretty darn solid and just needs to be pushed. Sunday dawns nice and bright and totally dry. On go the hoosiers and I begin to work on Mike's head pretty early. I have him doing some mental imaging and some basic mental prep. Being group 2 we qualy early so by 0830 we're sitting on grid. With the Viper on michelin slicks, the white vette on big 315 hoosiers, the convertible still on his slicks and us on 16" hoosiers, this should be interesting. I've got the camera and the DL1 both capturing as they thunder out to the track. I climb up to the balcony and can see pretty much everything. Now, for those of you that have had the unfortunate enough luck to have me ride with you at a track or be in your ear...well......you know what is coming.

Mike coming in from Qualy. Nice hoosiers!! 

Mike launched a few cars behind the white vette and they took the green and I tried to be good. I tried to just offer a few pointers at opportune moments. Tried to let him sort the car and come to grips with the car in the dry on pretty fresh tires. That lasted about .00910 second. The white vette was getting away from him and I was having none of it. We might have well as put a toggle switch on the stupid crewman's radio since my finger got tired holding that little button down. I talked him past some traffic and got him behind the vette and told him where to exploit the grip and his skill and in short order he was past the white vette and then nicely walking away from him. It was an incredible session and while he wasn't reeling in the viper, he was looking great and really pushing the car hard. I wished I'd had a watch, but to be honest I was too busy. Mike was catching cars, setting up nice passes and doing great. The session was over when another guy threw his car into the mud and got stuck and we headed to the paddock, but he got about 9 laps in, so it was a great session. We debriefed, got the car in the air and checked everything over. It was all looking good and Mike felt great about the session.

And then the qualy sheets came out and Mike felt really REALLY great about the session! The white vette puts down a 1.54 and Mike puts down a 1.51! The driver of the white vette even tells Mike that he has just gone faster than he has ever had the white vette at MSR-H and Mike is pretty darn happy (as he should be!). The viper was up at a high 1.48 with the convertible back with a 2.08. So we prepare the car, get everything ready and wait out race 1 and lunch and head to grid for race 2 which is Mike's. We're feeling pretty happy and to be honest, even if it all craps out right now, this has been a great weekend.

Mike on race grid, day two! Balcony in the background.

So....it all crapped out. Ug. Mike got a great start and held position and when he got to the tight back section he got moved a little offline into a damp spot and ZING the car slid off the track. Normally, it would not have been an issue at all, but with the recent rain, he was up to the rear axle in no time flat. He was in a safe place so they sadly left him there and he got pulled out at the end of the race and while it was a bit muddy, the car drove nicely into the trailer looking no worse for wear. It was STILL a great weekend with the Slugs' first win, Mike getting MUCH more confident behind the wheel and a good weekend with friends. We hung out a bit with the white vette and the convertible guys and they are really cool too. Great time chatting and bench racing!!

Stay tuned for some video!! I'm trying to put Mike's qualy session with the DL1 data overlay...I'll post it when I get it done!