WDMS - Chapter 234 - December 2014

WRL AT TWS

BIC RIDES AGAIN!!!

The World Racing League (WRL, and online at www.RaceWRL.com) was wrapping up the inaugural season and I'd already competed in three of their events with a best finish being 2nd place and liked it a lot. It is a pure racing series, no shenanigans and the main racing rule is that each driver must leave passing room. Some series are okay with blocks and chops, but not this one. While I'd had some minor issues with the previous races, the basic premise was a good one and since their final race for the year was in my backyard it seemed a good place to race. 

Several months prior I pinged Ron and Cody and gave them first shot at driving. Since it was two individual races, a 9 hour on Saturday and a 7 hour on Sunday, we could do it pretty easily with three drivers and that is the way it ended up since both were 100% on board from the very first email. When I registered for the race, oddly enough #713 was already taken but #13 was not. Wh00p. So we'd be in GP3 and we'd be car #13. I had high hopes.  

Bic was pretty much ready to go. After the last race at ECR several years ago, I'd swapped in a stock '89 5.0 TBI motor and wiring harness. I'd had to change the fuel pump to an electric low pressure for the tbi system, but that was about it. It fired up and ran fine and seemed mostly healthy. It did fall on it's face in the upper rpm range, but being TBI, that's pretty well normal. What it DID have was a ton of low-end torque and throttle response and that would be most welcome. WRL uses three classes (GP1, GP2 and GP3) based on power to weight and Bic was close to GP3 the way it sat. We'd need to add 60 pounds or so to make GP3 and that seemed a lot easier than taking out 400 pounds to make GP2. Short of cutting off major components, we'd never make GP2 at our current power level, so I bolted in some circle-track steel bars and called it good. The front bearings looked great (put in new in '07 for our first race!) and I put on new brake pads on all four corners (scuffed the rotors) and changed the oil. Since WRL allows OE parts, parts-store cheapie front struts were added since the ones we ran at ECR had long since been dead. Externally since ECR the car had gotten a hardtop roof riveted on and a basic white paint job on the sides with orange around the bottom to help with spotting the car in a crowd. A rear hatch had been added along with the small lip spoiler and a lexan extension.

  

Above: Steel bars getting us up to minimum weight, and the scales at tech inspection. Heh. 

Technical inspection was Friday and I wanted to get there early in case there were any issues so I'd have time to fix them. Since our family was in St Martin the four days previous and we landed back Thursday late afternoon, the car was mostly done and was loaded prior to the trip. Thankfully, tech went very easy and the inspectors were nice and pleasant. The look-over was thorough but they liked the prep work and approved the car with zero issues. Seat was mounted nicely, belts were good, net was secure, the kill switch was wired correctly, etc. After the safety inspection came weigh in and classing and everything was fine there too. There were a few raised eyebrows when the weights were on the screen as Bic was about as square as you could hope to have. Instantly a classing guy was under the car looking for weight jackers and was incredibly surprised when he found none. I just smiled and said I was lucky....they signed me off and he said "yes....yes you are". I left with a handful of stickers to install and a short punchlist of things needing to be done (transponder and radio wiring) so I loaded the car back up and brought it home as it would be easier there. 

Above: Ron in the hotpits grid, Saturday's long 9 hour race about to start

While at the track I talked to Ben in the #38 that I'd driven twice and found out he was a little short on crew/drivers and so we planned to pit together to help each other. We were both in GP3 and although we both want to win on track I knew I could count on him (and vice versa) to help us out should we need it. He's got a pretty quick and sorted car for GP3 so he'd be a good benchmark as well. 

Saturday morning dawned and I was already at the track with the car in our garage spot (potential for rain) and thankful that Frank Fertitta made the trip over to help out. He brought his gear so he could go over the wall for fueling but also is a fast driver if we needed a fourth (or Ben needed one!) and always a help to have around. Ron made it in early as well, but I got a call from Cody saying he was delayed at least a few hours. No biggie, I'd slot Ron to start the race and then we'd see what happened. The last hour prior to putting the car on grid was to re-check everything, set air pressures, top the cell completely off and get Ron comfy in the car. After a final radio check, we headed to the driver's meeting and then to grid.  

  

Above: Fertitta watching over Bic...his help was invaluable to such a successful weekend - And our pits watching Ron make laps after a quick splash

WRL solves qualifying by having the race start by class. GP1 cars are gridded first, then the GP2 cars right behind them and then the GP3 cars. If there are any unlimiteds (there weren't) they'd go in the front. We knew there would be two warm-up laps and then, assuming the field was tight, the green would fly and we'd hope to still be running 9 hours later, preferably near the front. With FIFTY-SIX cars taking the green, this would be interesting to say the least. 

Ron did the warm-up laps and the green flew and off we went. Turn one was a huge mess and Ron wisely kept Bic's nose out of it and at the end of the first lap we were solidly in 51st place (heh). The field strung out just a bit and I was on the radio telling Ron to turn up the wick and not let the GP3 leaders get too far away. With nearly every lap Ron was improving both his lap times and our position. In successive laps we were 50th, 49th, 48th, 48th, 43rd, 42nd, 39th and by lap 11 we were 36th! When we pulled Ron in for a top-off of fuel on lap 34 he had worked us up to 29th! Ron went back out and pounded out laps again until lap 67 when he came in and handed the car over to Cody. Ron pulled into the hot pits in 30th, with his best lap time being a 2:13.7 on lap 53.

We lost time in the pits with Cody because for some reason the substrap on the harness did not fit. This was odd because the last folks to drive the car were the three of us, but we lost about a minute while I adjusted the strap and then we got it secure and he went out, joining the race with us in 32nd place. Cody also does not have radio hookups in his helmet, but brought earbuds so at least he could hear us and we could talk to him and ask yes or no questions and he'd point up or down as he passed by to give us an answer. It was not optimal, but we made it work. 


Above: Cody up to speed on the front straight

While Cody started out in 32nd overall on lap 68, we were in 4th in GP3. Ben had started the race in their Toyota and was winning our class with two others between us and him. Cody needed to pedal fast if we were going to sneak onto the podium. Cody put in an easy few laps and then his times started to drop nicely. He finally pulled in for fuel on lap 100, in 31st overall and still 4th in class. At about that same time Ben stopped and handed the car over to their second driver who didn't quite have Ben's pace and they slipped into 2nd place. Cody kept hammering out laps and put in his fastest lap of a 2:13.2 on lap 130. We were still in 4th place in GP3, but the gaps from 2nd to us in 4th had tightened up. When Cody wrapped up his stint on lap 134, the GP3 winner was in 14th, while Ben's team was in 24th, the third place team was 25th and we were 26th. TIGHT! The other GP3 cars were a good ways back and we were totally focused on getting at least one more position in the last 40% of the race remaining. 

Above: Cody taking an inside line through some traffic in T1

Cody came out and I slid in. I joined the race on lap 135 and within a few laps passed Ben's car to put us briefly into 3rd. I say briefly because I was blackflagged for a loose exhaust. Our exhaust has never given us issues over the past several races, but we lost about 17 minutes as Frank and the team got it re-secured and I went back out having dropped to 4th in GP3 and 31st. By my fuel stop on lap 164, I'd picked up a few spots to 29th overall and still sat in 4th for GP3. The back half of my stint saw another three minute stop to re-wire the exhaust, but I was working the car as hard as I dared. During my last period from lap 168-181 I had gotten a few laps under 2:10 and got a golden lap on lap 177 where I got a good front-straight tow and threw down our fastest lap at a 2:06.7. 

Above: DOH!, Below: Bic splitting an RX7 and a Miata down the front straight

At the end of lap 181 I brought the car in for Ron to finish it up. I pitted from 27th overall and 4th in class with Ben's team only a handful of laps in front of us in 24th and 2nd place in GP3 in 23rd. Still close going into the last hour and a half. We crossed our fingers. It was a quick stop and Ron was back out, but we'd dropped down to 32nd getting back up to speed. We were in the middle of the mid-pack GP2 cars and it was crowded with lots of teams on the same lap. On lap 196 for Ben's car they came in for a stop and realized the driver getting out of the car didn't notice the car was running hot and they were out with motor problems. It spun over a few times in the pits and then before they could do further diagnostics it simply locked up. Sad for them as we had been helping each other on pit stops and such, but it happens. Ron soldiered on and assuming he kept it clean we should catch and pass Ben's team on laps before we run out of time on the 9-hour race clock. We radio'd Ron to push hard and keep it clean and that a podium was in reach. 

 

Above: Pit stop action with me (Costas) helping Ben's team (Ben driving) and then Cody putting fuel in Bic 

And that's exactly what happened. When darkness was getting awfully close, Ron went under the checkered flag completing our 203rd lap and finishing 3rd in GP3 and 31st overall. The second place car put in 215 laps and finished 22nd overall while the GP1 winner did 229 laps and finished 14th overall. Ron drove to impound, our weight was checked and we cleared impound with a nice podium finish. At the pointy end of GP1, the winner and 2nd place car both put in 249 laps! 

Back in our garage spot we swarmed on the car to change the oil, get the exhaust completely secure for day 2 and rotate tires and give the car a thorough look-over. It had not used ANY oil or fluids (except fuel) and the brakes and tires looked great (brakes looked brand new....heck yeah!!). We borrowed a welder and welded a j-hook to the exhaust and bolted it though the floor. It could still move a bit, but it didn't appear it could come loose at all...and if it DID come loose, we'd likely have much larger problems! On the way home we grabbed pizza rolls and feasted before turning in early after a very tiring day. 

 

Above and below: Saturday night work...we got a LOT done in a short time. It helps when the promise of food awaits!!

 

Sunday arrived early and we were at the track ready to go for day 2. We heard that the GP3 winner was a GP2 car that had added a TON of weight to make GP3 but had crossed the weight limit for the cage. WRL officials told them to pull the weight and run the correct class and we saw that as a good omen.  

Sunday morning, Fertitta, Ron, Cody and me about to start the 7 hour race

The car was put on grid and we talked about lineups and decided Cody should start the race. He borrowed my helmet so we'd have radio communications and the original plan was to double stint him on fuel and then put Ron in the car for two stints and then I'd finish up. Everything happened the same as Saturday but the start was waived off due to the GP1 cars being a mess. Finally, on the third lap they got the green and we were off. Cody had us 2nd in GP3 right away and the leader (#75 Mustang) was only a dozen seconds up on us. From starting 36th and 38th, Cody and the 75 climbed the chart and were 28th and 29th on lap 13 when Cody passed for the GP3 lead. Cody kept slowly pulling away from them, sometimes having equal lap times, other times Cody would have a 2-3 second advantage. The two cars were very evenly matched, but Cody had a noticeable advantage working traffic. We were now leading GP3, the big question was if we could keep it!

Above: Cody (white suit, mine is black) puts a GP2 car down on the front straight. 

Cody stopped for fuel on lap 31 in 21st (1st in GP3) and rejoined the race in 24th, on the same lap as the Mustang. We wondered briefly if they had substantially better fuel endurance than we did, but the next lap they were suiting up and prepping (they were only two pits down from us) and they came in on lap 33, rejoining in 30th place (still 2nd in GP3) with Cody already back in 24th and climbing. On lap 43 we had our single unscheduled stop for the race when Cody radio'd in that the car was not turning right very well. His lap times were still strong so I was not sure what was really going on. Next lap he said he was coming in so we simply waited. Sure enough, the left front was almost flat. Fertitta and I quickly swapped the tire for our old backup tire (smaller and older, but it's what we had) and he was back out, dropping from 24th to 27th, but still leading GP3. 

Above: Note the driver's side wing end on the GP1 corvette. Oops. 

Ironically, I'd ordered in two new tires to have as spares but with the vacation and other prep I'd not had time to mount them. Before Cody had left pit road I called MFW and thankfully he was at his shop. I told him I was on my way and as I arrived 11 minutes later he was ready. We mounted two tires in less than 3 minutes and I was headed back to the track. THANK YOU MFW!!!! I'd been watching Cody's lap times on race-monitor and he was doing great with only a slight time loss due to the old tire. He was still in first and knocking down great laps. Back at the track Frank, Ron and I tried to strategize. We were doing great and slowly extending our lead and I had an idea. For the time being, I kept it quiet. 

Above: Bic and the GP3 Mustang battling. The PoorVette is in the background. They had fueling issues and ended up testing on Saturday and finished just off the GP1 podium on Sunday

On lap 61 we were in 24th overall (still 1st GP3), the Mustang was in 27th (and 2nd) and a fuel stop was coming up. I radio'd Cody and asked how he was doing. "I'm good". Then I sprung my idea: "I'm happy to pull you out of the car and put Ron in, but we're extending the lead right now and if you're good to do another hour and twenty minutes, we'll splash you and let you continue". About two seconds later, "I'm good with continuing". Awesome. He'd be sore later, but he's young <grin>.

   

Above: PitStop selfie when Cody was driving, Full course yellow due to a GP1 mustang burn victim...and then Todd and Denise who run WRL zipping up the hot pits

Lap 67 sees Cody make his second fuel stop and we splash him quick and send him back out, dropping from 24th to 25th, which he recovered two laps later and was in 23rd a few laps after that. The Mustang guys stopped from 27th and fell to 30th and stayed there for another dozen laps. This was looking good and Cody was running strong and working traffic very well. Clearly he had found his rhythm and his times were consistent. 

On lap 91 Cody finally brought the car in to wrap up his stint. Over half the race was done and Cody had put in a Herculean effort to keep us in first, run clean and make zero mistakes. In the stop to fuel up and slide Ron in the car we slipped from 23rd to 25th (the Mustang was still in 34th) as Frank and I also put new front tires on Bic. Ron got to work on lap 92 and was instantly up to speed. With Cody out of the car, he told us he did have one mishap in turn one where a guy just slid over into him. Sure enough, a little while later the guy sheepishly comes over and apologizes and they had a funny chat about the incident with both of them making fighter-pilot hand moves to show what happened from their respective angles. No hard feelings, it was all good, and very nice of him to come chat and apologize. 

Above: I'm in....and ready to finish this race as Frank keeps Cody covered with the fire bottle

Ron stops briefly on lap 125 for fuel. He's worked hard and climbed us up to 21st overall (!!!!) and we drop to 22nd when he rejoins and drops the hammer for another stint. He's been quiet on the radio and, like Cody, is working traffic very well with no offs, contact, black flags or issues. THIS is why I like driving with these guys. Great attitudes and great skill. We absorb problems without issues and work together for the best result. As Ron approaches the end of his second stint, it becomes apparent we'll only have time for a single stint and I think about tripling him and not even driving today, but that thought vanishes as I'd really like at least a little seat time today.

Above: I'm in the car and heading out as Cody gives a thumbs-up and Ron starts a radio check. Our stops were freaking awesome and having Fertitta help was key to that!!

So, on lap 142 Ron pulls Bic into the hot pits and slides out as Frank and Cody start fueling and I slide in. Ron has taken us to 21st place and again we are in the meat of the GP2 field (and the slow GP1 cars) and there are a lot of cars on each lap and we fall down to 24th by the time I rejoin the racing action. The car feels good, the gauges look perfect, and it is running fine. Although we are in 24th overall (first in GP3), the next few GP3 cars are in 31st, 32nd (close!), 35th, etc. We've got a nice gap, now to just wrap this up.

 

Above Left: My final fuel stop with only a handful of laps left as Ros looks on knowing we are looking good to win this thing. Right: Winner winner chicken dinner!!

My race was short and sweet. I took us from lap 143 to lap 169 with a splash of safety fuel a few laps before the end, all the while keeping the lead that Cody and Ron had built up and let me inherit. The third place car did 154 laps, the Mustang did 155 laps (wow, really close!!) and Bic completed 169 laps to take the win. I had a HUGE grin as I slid under that checker flag taking the victory for our team.

Final tally for seat time was a bit more wonky than I thought it would be....but Ron ended with 140 laps, Cody with 158 and me with 74. Double podium makes it all just fine! TEAMWORK!!

  

Above: Ros brought me cold water as I got to impound and Anna got some great snaps! 

Impound was short and there were no protests. We were allowed to start packing up and then they called all the teams back for a quick trophy presentation that was surprisingly crowded. I was happy to walk over with our team and my family as we got to chat with friends and other teams about the event and then clap to honor those who prepared well and drove well in each class. They started with Saturday trophies and it was nice to snag the 3rd place hardware, but the real joy was walking up there with the whole team and getting the big first place trophy (Ros was on my shoulders and snagged it quickly saying "I'm keeping this in MY room!"). Family. Friends. Racing. Success. A damn good weekend.