WDMS - Chapter 220 - April 2014

NASA AT TWS

CLOCKWISE (errrr.....backwards)

 

This event was in our backyard and with TWS amidst rumors of closing in the future (6 months to 2 years seems to be the rumor sweet-spot) I'll take pretty much every chance I can get to make more laps. Scratcher is pretty 'up there' on my ranking of fun cars to drive and besides, there are TTU (time trial) and SU (road race) season points to be had.

For this event I was making one HUGE change. I'd ordered in a scrub set of Hoosiers. They were the new carcass design but the old compound. I'd been chatting with some of the folks who did the GT1/Trans-Am testing (and the Hoosier guy in charge of it all) and it sounded pretty intriguing. Everyone seemed to acknowledge that the R75 Hoosier was slower than the Goodyears at this point, but the new R75A tire goes into production in May and will be mandatory in the SCCA Pro "Trans-Am" series. The new R75A will be the new carcass and the new compound and 'the buzz' on the tire sounds pretty good.  Also, we had enough folks pre-registered in SU and in TTU that the Hoosier contingency (must have 5 in class) could kick in and, for Scratcher, $1750 worth of new tires is nothing to sneeze at. It is no surprise to any of my regular readers that we run a very budget-conscious operation and assuming I could pull off some wins and get some tires, it would result in the FIRST time Scratcher would be on stickers. I don't want to count chickens, but the prospect of that had me excited.

Being close-by had another home-court advantage. I got to get in early and drop my trailer along with Matt and Misty who also brought out Martin's car. We declared our own little paddock spot and made it big enough to fit in the Fair's as well as a few TT'ers as well. It was right across from grid so life would be pretty easy. It worked out great!

Saturday arrived a bit chilly, but was forecasted to be cloudy and mild and that's exactly what happened. We never had to put the canopy up and it was nice all day. For the TT warm-up, I went out and made a few laps to bed in a fresh set of front pads and rotors and then a lap to cool them and then one semi-fast lap and came in. The very next session was Blitz group (SU runs in Blitz along with a few other classes) qualifying and I wanted to be near the front of that. I didn't need to be on pole or anything, just within striking distance. So after TT, I bled the Hoosiers down to my 'guess' pressures (full testing on Hoosiers is needed to optimize alignment and pressures, but that wasn't happening this weekend) and then went back to grid. Qualifying is first-come-first-serve and I was near the back so I simply went out and tried to put in a smooth lap. I had my aim SOLO going and I told myself if I saw a low 1:47 or a 1:46 then I'd call that good and come in. Much to my surprise I saw a 1:45.0 after a decent lap that even had some traffic. I cooled the car off and came in very early and got the car turned around for the first timed TT session (the warm-up just sets the starting order). (FYI: that 1:45.0 was the fastest recorded lap of the whole weekend for all cars in all sessions....wh00p!)

With my race-monitor app I was able to see that my 1:45.0 lap was pretty stout. The next closest time was Troy (a road race "rookie" according to NASA) with a 1:46.3 and the closest SU competitor ran a 1:48.5. Now, perhaps they were mired in traffic worse than I was, but I felt pretty good. If the Hoosiers didn't get greasy or anything, I was thinking I was about where I needed to be. In all, there were 7 SU cars and the second place car was a Radical sports racer. I was wondering if the Radical was sandbagging as I was pretty sure he could outrun me in a straight fight. Perhaps he was caught in traffic?

The Radical on the left and Troy's pro-built C6.R on the right. Both can be brutally fast! 

We also had a handful of GTA style circle-track cars that run here. They look like a ton of fun to drive with lots of power and low to the ground!

Out little paddock area was hopping with 4 cars in Blitz (my car, Matt's mustang, Misty's camaro and Martin's M3), along with Fair's mustang in TT, Norm's BRZ in TT, Faust's M3 in hpde and then Toth instructing and taking ResQ out for some TT laps if we needed another TTU competitor to win tires. With that many cars there was ALWAYS something going on and always plenty of helping hands should they be needed.

The first timed time-trial session was before lunch and I went out and made a few laps and came in. I threw down a 1:46.7 which was good enough to best the other 9 (NINE!) TTU cars that got times that day. I got nipped by a TT1 car at some point in the day for fastest overall TT time by 0.3 but I'm fine with that. My goal was maximum TTU points and to win a pair of tires from Hoosier...mission accomplished.

Below: Three snaps of TT action. LOTS of car variety and speed differential and some really quick drivers!!

Starting on pole for the first Blitz race was fun and with it being Troy's "first" race, we chatted beforehand. This guy has thousands upon thousands of circle track race laps and has won tons of NASA and NARRA events, but he still proudly displayed that "R" on his car for "rookie". Everytime I saw that, I smiled. So Troy and I talked, I told him I expected us to scoot away a bit and then I'd back down and pace to win. I told him if he wanted to scoot ahead, I'd let him by, but my plan was to go quick enough to win SU and not much faster to save the car and tires. He agreed.

First Race with Troy beside me and Misty's camaro starting the group on the second row.

So the green drops, I holeshot Troy and get to the first corner with a dozen yard lead. He's got about a few dozen yards on P3 and we shoot around the course. We keep pulling away from the pack lap after lap and after a handful of laps with him about 2 seconds behind me, I blink my reverse lights and drop off line and he scoots on by and I slot in behind him, smiling knowing that the only car with an "R" on it is now leading overall! Now, Scratcher does not have the best rearward visibility and Troy and I both backed off to run nice easy laps and I was using all the track to keep my speed up and as I was checking mirrors on the exit of 5 (headed towards 4....we're running clockwise), I kissed the rumble strips on exit and right where they stop there is a hole. A perfect hole to be filled by dirt to keep it even with the track...but we were sans dirt, so it is a nice hole. BAM. The left front took the hit and I felt out the car into 4, then 3, then 2 and as I leaned on it exiting 1 onto the front straight where in a few seconds I'd reach terminal velocity with a loaded up left front  I really wondered if I hurt the tire or not. I didn't quite run the car as hard down the straight and I braked a bit easier but all seemed fine. No additional vibration and the car acted just find for the next few laps.

A quick spin in the opening laps by the 88....he completed the spin and continued on! Great action snap caught by Anna! (this is one in a series showing the spin)

Then, with 2 laps to go as I was just cruising with Troy and headed into the slowest corner on the track the left front died a loud and shaky death. Race win = POOF, gone. I tried to ease it around but just past turn 6 it went from feeling bad to feeling REAL bad and I pulled way way off line and shut it down. Thankfully lunch was next and the wrecker crew, seeing there was no way to get this on a roll-back, ferried me to my pit, and Anna and I came out with a tire, jack and wrench. In a few minutes I was driving the car back to the paddock, having finished 6th out of 9 in SU. So the silver lining was that I still finished the race (must do half the winners number of laps to be classified as a finisher and get points) and the rim was not damaged.  A (very) small consolation was that my best laptime was faster than the Radical. I was fairly certain he'd pushed as hard as he could during the race and I was cautiously optimistic I could run with him. Troy won the race and so he'd start the next race on pole with the Radical starting next to him.

Above and below: With one lap to go, I lose a race win due to a puncture.... <sigh> Still snagged good points, but it aint the same!  

  

This is a SAD lapchart, but at least I still pulled in good points and the car was not hurt!

I skipped the afternoon's TT sessions feeling pretty sure none of the other TTU cars could go as fast as I did. There was a whole gaggle of TT1 cars (including THREE red z6 z06s!) that were flying, but nothing that concerned me. In fact, the TT entry list was HUGE with 43 (!!!) cars getting times on Saturday!

ResQ making her tarmac debut....sadly as a field filler. However, she'll be back and with the level of preparation needed to do much, much better. Stay tuned!

Car #11, a red c6z06 in TT1 (OVRSTR4LIFE!)

Car #421, a red c6z06 in TT1

aaaaaaaaaaaaand car #207, a red c6z06 in TT1. Clearly these were on sale somewhere and I missed it....

Not a c6z06, but a damn fast red car!!! Fair pounding out laps in the Vorshlag TT3 Mustang.

The afternoon Blitz race would be gridded by finishing position, so I'd start at the back for Race2. No stranger to doing this, I just hoped that the cars in front of me had an idea that I was back there and I'd be headed forward as quickly as I could when the green dropped. I needed the points!

So Blitz heads out for the afternoon race (we had two short races on Saturday with the first being for contingencies, and only one long race on Sunday) and I wait and wait as the field leaves the grid and then I motor off and leave a silent patch  of pavement behind me. I push the car hard to put heat in the Goodyears (saving the Hoosiers for tomorrow!) and thankfully lined up on the left side as we came onto the front straight banking. In a start at TWS a huge portion of the group goes low to take the shortest distance to the first turn, while I wanted up high to let Scratcher stretch her legs.

The green flies and I drop the hammer, ripping through second, third and then into fourth as I pass the bulk of the field prior to getting into the esses. Over the next handful of laps I close to within 100 yard of Troy and the Radical as they carve through the first of the lapped cars. They both leapfrog a spec-boxster and as I come up on him I completely fill his mirrors on the left-handed 9 and he swings wide left for the right-hander 8. Surely he is watching his mirrors and surely he knows that with the leaders passing him a few corners ago there are more cars coming and surely he left that door wide open for me. Well, stop calling me Shirley because he slammed that door when I was coming up next to him with a decent speed advantage. Dammit. So I go off to the right and run through a bit of dirt, bottom out the back of the car and then complete the pass.

The video camera is on top of the car and the replay looks so...benign. It simply looks like he came down and I ran around him in the grass and continued on. In the car it was completely opposite. As I put two in the grass, grass and dirt filled the car and my vision was GONE. I kept momentum as the car began to slide left in the dirt and I countersteered based on the feeling in my butt and then I could feel I was on pavement but still could not see for a few more seconds. As it all cleared, I was about where I should be and I dropped the hammer and continued my chase. I could hear something dragging in the back and I told myself that if this next lap was not the white flag (and final) lap then I'd come in. The white flag was displayed, I took an easy lap watching my mirrors to stay in front of the other SU cars and brought the car home in 2nd in class and third overall. "Rookie" Troy won another one and the Radical picked up the SU win again.

Lapchart. I started last, but had got past quite a few cars prior to hitting the start line, so I technically began the first complete lap in 13th (from 27th). Troy got it done again!

Back in the paddock, the small aluminum rear support for the lower rear bumper was torn off the car and Scratcher's tail was sagging and in need of a tummy tuck. Temporary repairs would need to be made for tomorrow and I told myself that I'd skip the SU race, knock out a TT session in the morning and call it a day. I had a flight out at 6pm on Sunday anyway and this would allow me to get home sooner and have a more relaxed day.

The rest of the car looked fine and it ran good. I was happy with the second place points, but bummed the car was a little hurt. Two new Hoosiers were mine and perhaps I could do it again tomorrow. We cleaned up the car a bit, winched it into the trailer and called it a day to head home, grab a shower and relax for the night, thankfully in our own bed! 

Anna and I are there really early on Sunday and take the time to clean up the car pretty good and I fabricate some mounts for the rear lower tail to hold it in the correct position. It actually turned out really nice and I was happy with it. On day 2 there is no TT warmup and so the first session counts and I went out on the Hoosiers and ran a session-fastest 1:46.3 in short order. I saw a low 46 on the SOLO and I came in, but was happy to see I'd taken the top spot overall as well.  

 

Scratcher gets a fanny-lift with some big zip-ties and ABS backing plates. Worked like a champ!

Above and below: Some TT action on track! #555 is Norm, one of our paddock guys who cleaned up both days!

Scratcher felt REAL good and afterwards one of the guys that helps wrangle the TT group (which is at least 1 order of magnitude more difficult than herding 74 cats) asked if I was going out again and if I was if could he ride. I skipped Blitz qualifying since I was not doing the race and we then went out in the second TT session and played for a handful of laps. I'm not sure what he normally drives, but he seemed to have a pretty good time and enjoyed the ride quite a bit. 

******4 minute quick vid of a few TT laps = https://vimeo.com/94730329

With our day "done" there was nothing left to do but put the car in the trailer and take the rest of the day off. But....she was running so well. And...there were more SU points to be had. I mean, at least I could start the race and see how it went, right? Heck, do half the distance and pick up the points, right?

With Blitz only getting one race, it was supposed to be a 45 minute race but it was shortened to 35 minutes. My thought was that I could AT LEAST catch the SU leader in that many laps and see what happened. Anna, always the competitive one, was pushing for me to do the race and since we were already there, the car was feeling good and the day was nice out (overcast and breezy) we figured we'd give this plan a shot.

So we filled Scratcher up with gas, cleaned up the windows, checked the tires and fluids and then sat through lunch. We were the first race after lunch and as the lunch progressed it got darker and started to drizzle. At times, it was a pretty good drizzle and it let up with about 10 minutes to go before the race and had completely stopped by the time I crossed over into grid. On the outlap, there was noticeably less grip and patches of sunshine to contend with. I again was bringing up the back of the pack and again got to line up on the left side and waited for the green.

A pair of GTA-style SU cars. Nice v8 small block sound and lots of grip!

Troy took them slow and I was appreciative. When the green hit the top of its first arc I was stepping high to pull past the bulk of the field and slotted into line before the esses as we came off the banking. I put my head down and got to work and in three laps was right behind Troy, having dispatched the Radical in a pack of three other cars down the main straight. I stuck with Troy for two laps and then he moved over on the back straight. Now, we'd been going a bit off pace but I assumed he wanted to go a bit slower since it looked like he was nursing his rear tires so I gladly passed him and promptly made our lap times another 2 seconds slower as I kept about a "front straight" gap on the nearest cars behind us. After another two laps I backed it down slower again and stepped over to see if Troy wanted back by and he simply mirrored my move so I kept on going. We worked through traffic, and he fell back a bit. I kept going a bit slower to save the tires if he decided to push me later and my plan was to be able to turn up the wick on the final lap if needed. I kept pounding out laps, backing off a bit, watching the temp gauges come down a bit and the gap to Troy, now at about 75 yards, stay constant. FINALLY the white flag flew and I knew Troy was too far back to be a threat so I simply cut a nice even lap and took the checker the next time down the front straight. I had been out of songs to sing for at least three laps and was just taking it easy and staying focused.  

Now HERE is a lapchart I can love. Started 20th, was 12th at the flagstand, in 2nd at the end of 2 and then ran P1 from lap 8-15.

******30 MINUTE VIDEO OF THE RACE = https://vimeo.com/94120203

As I came to the carousel, I had slowed on the cool down and was waiving to the corner workers ("no waive, no save!) when I saw the absolute best sight of the weekend. The corner worked was out from behind his stand, bent over pointing at me with one hand and mock-spanking himself with the other. Saying, in effect, that I spanked them. I laughed very out load and that smile stayed with me for several days.  Going from last to first...I guess I did. I'd like to give THAT corner worker a ride sometime.

So, for the race, I went from dead last to P1, won SU over 6 other cars and picked up a pair of Hoosiers! Troy came over and said what I'd suspected. His rears died about lap 5 and he was struggling to keep up. The track, after the rain, went from mediocre to really crappy as it washed the little bit of rubber off. All our times were considerably slower than earlier in the day, but Troy still pulled down a race-class victory (3 for 3 for the 'rookie' on his first race weekend!!!). He said his plan was to stay close and then fight it out on the last lap, but he didn't get the traffic breaks I did and was too far back when the white flew. We had a great visit and he could not have handled his "first race" weekend any better.

I ended up winning TTU for the day as well, out of 7 total competitors, but sadly the most tires I can win is 2 a day, but I still ended up with a new set for the weekend! Yay!!! So, for the Scratcher wrap-up, I finished the three SU races in 1st, 2nd and 6th (out of 9), and then won TTU both days. I set the SU track record on Saturday morning and also ran the fastest lap overall of the weekend. A great points haul and won four new Hoosiers as well!

Fair ended up CRUSHING his TT3 class both days, and Norm won his TTD class both days as well. Matt ended up second in ST1 in race 1, but had some motor issues that he wants to track down so he helped Misty and Martin the rest of the weekend. Misty ended up finishing both race 1 and 2 sorting out a new setup and new tires. On Sunday, Misty sat out racing to do all the TT sessions in their Subaru in preparation for the ONE LAP event that they head to next week.

While it is never fun to lose a tire, at least the Hoosier died protecting my rim! It did not even get a scratch!!

Mike's car is for sale and had a few lookers at TWS. Full writeup and details here: http://www.witchdoctormotorsports.com/ch001.htm