Chapter 240 - April 2015

NASA @ TWS

This event prep started a solid month before the race weekend with a very-very-very-much needed nose rebuild that included a new splitter and radiator. We had a lot of rain in the area leading up to the event but it was supposed to be dry for the two days of racing. We would contend with wet grass and perhaps some morning dampness, but the rain tires stayed home. Home being 15 minutes away, they could be grabbed just-in-case! <grin> Now, this was 'potentially' the 'final' race at TWS so TONS of folks showed and track records were hunted! I had new tires and hoped to put Scratcher in the record books a few more times. 

 

Below: the nose assembled in 2007! It had been patched at least a half-dozen times and really needed a fresh start! 

 

Below: Old radiator on the left, note the lower middle section where G-Speed's Louis sealed that tube at an event to allow me to keep racing winning! 

This would be a typical NASA weekend with R1 and R2 wheel-to-wheel races on Saturday and R3 and R4 on Sunday as well as a TT (time trial) competition both days. Only R1 and R3 would count for contingency for the racing and the usual end-of-day results for TT would decide in that category. Hopefully I could win more tires, and in since I was not chasing a championship this year, I'd simply to R1 and R3 and then TT both days. With a fresh nose and a shortened event schedule this should be a pretty easy weekend. 

Big news for the weekend was the sheer size of the Blitz group. We normally have 35-45 cars but for TWS some groups were combined and it was a good turnout and, shazam, we had SIXTY-SEVEN (67!!!) cars qualify. Sadly, by the time I came around to take the green, folks late to grid were allowed onto the track and nobody got a clean lap. I stayed out 3 laps and gave up. The traffic was intense, getting a clean lap was not going to happen and risking the car further seemed stupid. My in-car timer showed a best time of a 1:52 and I was hopeful to just be in the top ten for R1. 

Thankfully traffic was horrible for everyone and MFW in his ST1 mustang nipped me by just under two tenths (0.183) for pole so I'd start on the front row with another 65 cars behind us. As I chatted with a few of the SU/ST1 folks, we were betting on how many laps till we caught lap traffic and the odds-on favorite was 2. Yikes. In qualifying, many of the low-powered cars were running a lap of 2:20+ and that puts a 30+ second lap time differential between Scratcher and them. For example, their lap time averages about 73mph while I'm averaging about a hundred. With a 30mph differential everywhere, we were expecting a 50+mph differential on the front straight. This would be interesting! 

To give credit where it is due, the low-powered guys were a joy to race with. Typically very good with their mirrors and incredibly predictable. Huge thumbs up for those guys and I'm sure it is a pain to see a higher powered car coming up when they were in the middle of a multi-car battle so I tried to never split them, and usually waited till I could pass a batch of them and not muck up their race either. 

Remember we have a new nose on the car, right? Sadly I made the front splitter a little too long and it made enough downforce to scrape and the weekend was spent trimming and re-securing the aluminum when in the paddock and driving gently when on track to minimize the scraping. LOL.  

So we go out for R1 and MFW and I pace the field around and try and heat up the tires a bit. I've got a good song in my head and I know MFW will race clean into T1. The green drops pretty damn late and I get a decent jump on Matt and drop into T1 watching my mirrors a bit. I took a shallow line to minimize the splitter scraping and by T4 I'm backing off a bit to save the tires and the splitter for the race. MFW is a bit back and Weathers (qualified 7th) is right behind MFW by T7! At the end of the first lap, Weathers goes under MFW for T1, but MFW takes the high line and re-passes for P2. I'm pretty shocked to be lapping a car before I can get out of T2, so for all of you that bet "at the begging of T2" for the lapped cars to show up, you won! By the end of lap 2, I'm catching more cars and by lap 3 it is getting a bit busy. MFW and Weathers have an easier time of it because after Scratcher comes through, the cars being lapped are now alerted that there is action coming from behind. I'm trying to drive to save the nose and being a bit easy on traffic so MFW and Weathers are sticking pretty close and we all start lap 4 pretty close. 

Going into T3, I get balked a bit and MFW closes up as I step around a car and for the shortest of moments his left front fender gets kissed by my rear tire. We were coming up on a yellow and we all slowed down as an rx7 didn't see the yellow and passes all of us. You'd think his mind might scream "wow, should I really be passing these SU and ST1 cars?" but apparently it did not. By the end of that lap we were in a full course yellow and then MFW pulled off track with an issue. 

The pace vehicle came out and we putted around for two laps and then got the green. I had Weathers RIGHT behind me on his nicely-cooled-down A7s! At the end of that lap Weathers was pretty close and the flag came out. Sadly it was white. Another lap. I kept Weathers behind me and we finished 1-2 for the race. As we approached the checker flag we were lapping a miata and I went high as Weathers went low and we split him with a pretty good speed differential. Heh. Wish I had a copy of HIS in-car camera!!

VIDEO OF R1 -------> https://vimeo.com/127667935

FUN 22 SECOND "Leave me a lane please" VIDEO --------> https://vimeo.com/126943404

I had gone out in the first timed TT session but only ran a 1:54, so in the final TT session I went out and put down a 1:43.3 to wrap up the day. The day ended pretty darn well with two more victories for Scratcher and both of them setting track records. Hopefully things would go well again tomorrow. 

Above: We all lined up on the front straight for a big panorama of the field. Scratcher was in the middle on the low line! 

Sunday dawns and there were a few overnight showers but we'll have dry running again today. I head out in the first TT session and re-set track record for TTU and then do a quick Blitz warmup and then go out to qualify for R3. On one hand, the NASA officials learned to use a pace vehicle for a group of this size to bunch everyone up and give folks a better shot at a clean lap, but sadly they threw that away when the pace vehicle blocked folks from starting a flying lap. With the first lap thrown away, we'd need a second lap to put down a representative time and with stragglers coming on track and such a huge field, that was not going to happen. Frustrating. I threw down a high 1:48 and was just hopeful it was close to the front and in the end it was enough for P2 as a radical ran a tick quicker than me. In all, 65 cars qualified and we had the same time differential as Saturday with over a 30 second lap time difference between the quickest and the slowest. 

VIDEO OF SUNDAY QUALY (With In-car)--------------> https://vimeo.com/126189818

VIDEO OF FASTEST WEEKEND LAPS --------> https://vimeo.com/127559645

Above: Note the car on the right finding some puddles as it slides backwards off the track just after T3

The R3 race went well, and I was determined at the beginning to not "let up". Not at all. I'd won R1 by .4 of a second. I knew I was not running R4 and with the TWS track being "unknown" on closing or not, this might be my last race here. Time to really drop the hammer. Anna was going to radio me gaps, but I'd forgotten to change my radio to a fresh one today and it was dying on the pace lap so I turned it off. It would be just as well, I wasn't going to let up anyway. At the end of the 10 laps I took the checker with a 30 second lead to the next car. I took it a bit easy with the nose and a bit easy in traffic, but for the most part I drove hard and quick. Scratcher felt wonderful and was, as usual, a joy to drive.

VIDEO OF R3--------> https://vimeo.com/126335877

With my day mostly done I took it easy and snapped some pictures in the afternoon and then ran into our friend Daniel who runs a lot of DE (he's a very quick driver with a well-prepped E46) events and happened to be at the track. He had his helmet and we took Scratcher out in the last TT session and had some fun. Near the end of the run the passenger side exhaust manifold gasket started to leak so we came in, but Daniel said it was a heck of a ride. I was happy to share the experience.

Final tally for the weekend: 4 races ran, 4 races won, 3 track records set. Free set of Hoosiers on the way!

TALLY FOR 2015: Races = 10, Wins = 10, Track Records = 4