Chapter 273 - March 2019

SLJHMR - YOU WIN SOME AND YOU LOSE SOME

NASA - MSRCresson

 

After MSRH the next NASA TX event is at GSpeed’s home track at Cresson. GSpeed was hosting the Saturday night BBQ and party so that would be cool to get the company even more exposure to the NASA racers and folks that come out to see “what this is all about”.

For SLJHMR, it would be a busy weekend doing both TT2 and some ST2 racing. We did not plan on doing all four races, but at least do the two contingency races because it appeared we had enough racers in both TT2 and ST2 to qualify to win tires. In case we don't win in one, maybe we can win in the other! #BetterOdds #BuyMoreLottoTix

Saturday - Damp that took quite a while to dry out...

Saturday was damp in the morning so we did the warm-up on old A7s but it drizzled so we skipped the first timed TT session knowing we’d have time to push the car in the dry and we didn’t see the reason to waste tires. We did go qualify for the Blitz race (again on old used A7s) and that went well with SLJHMR gridded 3rd overall (with NINE SU cars!!) and first in the ST2 field of 7 cars (FYI, no ST1 cars this weekend).

The first Blitz race rolls around and we start the race in 3rd place overall (1st in ST2) on those old A7s that are pretty worn but still have some good tack. I keep third place but instantly the car is not pulling well and my eyes are tearing up from the fuel smell/vapor in the car. Right away I’m going down each straight with my left hand out the window a bit to cup fresh air to my face. In the corners and working traffic, I'm pushing as hard as possible to stay in front of an NP01 car that is pushing hard too. We get all sorts of local and then full course yellows and I get to watch the new dash tell me the water temp is 450 degrees, then a touch over 800 and then 1250 and finally over 1500. It was alarming at first and then just funny. After 9 laps the checker flies and SLJHMR is still in 3rd place overall and takes the ST2 win. Wahoo! No matter what happens in TT, we still won a pair of tires today. Popping the hood Louis finds a burned plug wire that a header had summarily eaten. Oops. Well, at least I won ST2 on 7 cylinders!! That should make tomorrow even MORE interesting and now I was looking forward to that race!

Burned plug wire and really REALLY hot water. I mean, seriously hot!!!

Confession: I have the video of the first race (R1) but it is boring...sorry. The two SU cars ease away and I keep a good gap then it is yellow flag central and then a checker. R3, the first race Sunday, is the race you seek. I'll render the vid (has front and rear cams going) at some point and put it up. It's "okay" but nothing really slick.

My buddy Elliott out there pounding out laps and climbing the pyramid of speed like a champ! DGillen photo!

The 2nd timed TT session arrives and we go to grid on used A7s trying to NOT bust out stickers. Feras in TTU (sporting HPR 468 and some GSpeed bits as well) crushes a low 1:14 while the lotus in ST2 bags a 1:17.2 to SLJHMRs 1:17.5 and Chet’s C5 right behind us with a 1:17.8. The Lotus was DQd due to a four-off so we temporarily had the lead on a track that was still drying out and getting rubbered in.

The lotus was 2 seconds back in Houston so they’ve done some work for sure as has Chet. I’d have loved to seen them put on the dyno (we voluntarily dyno’d Friday for the TT director) since there was one available all weekend but I never saw another TT2 competitor spin the rollers. Hmmmm….

Chet's C5 with GSpeed support. DGillen photo!

So before the last TT session, Louis and his data guy Jeff (total badass data guy) and I all watch vid and look at data. Honestly this is the first time I’ve been to Cresson and pushed hard with good track conditions. In the past it’s always been raining…so I was still on a serious upward track-learning curve as well and Jeff found one big and one small area I was consistently leaving time and he felt it was worth about a second in total.

For the final session, both the lotus and Chet sticker up and we stayed on our old tires even though the weather was great and the track was just getting better. It was my call and it was the wrong one. I wanted to verify the gain and so we went out on the same old tires. Jeff, true to his word, handed me a 1:16.6 picking up almost a full second but Chet clocked a 16.5 and the lotus a 16.0. Doh! The car felt a bit odd and Louis and I talked it through post-session. Yes we would have picked up at least another second on our already-mounted-and-ready new tires, but it would have masked the gains Jeff found and I did not want to do that. Sacrifice the short term to better ensure the long-term! Besides, we still had tomorrow.

 

Hester grinning while saying "right here you're being a pansy"...and easily the best shirt of the event!!

Oddly enough, I missed BOTH ST2 and TT2 podium ceremonies (DOH!!)….the ST2 one which I figured would be in the evening (as usual) was just after the second race and I did not even know it happened. The TT2 one was during impound and I had run down to the bathroom after being told “yeah, it will be a while, you have plenty of time”. Apparently not! #StillWantMyWinnerSticker

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Sunday dawns nice and dry and the track should be good from the get-go. First TT session Chet busts off a 16.0 to SLJHMRs 16.1 and I’m struggling. The car is not it’s typical scalpel-sharp but with not much time we scoot over to Blitz qualy and somehow in the huge field I create a nice gap for my first lap, throw down a 1:18.2 while passing a few cars and bring it right in finding out later that SLJHMR is on pole by 1.5 seconds over the SU and other ST2 cars!!! WOW!

Second TT session we sticker up and I put down a 1:15.4 to the lotus 15.5 while Chet had an off and stands on his 16.0 from earlier. The car is still not where it usually is and it is a bit frustrating. Yes, we are winning but...the car is just not working "right".

The TT2 Costas/GSpeed Corvette throws down a pair of 1:15s...it's ugly and I don't like it, but this is as good as we did that day: https://vimeo.com/323382850

 

This is the easy way to swap tires! New carbon splitter pulled 20lbs off the nose!

Blitz race arrives and the little red SLJHMR idles down to grid with all eight cylinders firing and an ST2 car sits on a Blitz pole in I-have-no-idea-how-long or even if-this-has-EVER-happened-before. With a nice field of SU cars, I don’t think I’ll stay here long, but I’m damn sure going to do my best. We’ve bolted on the old used A7s (Louis “yeah, these still feel pretty good, just send it!”) and made a slight chassis change and here we are. I was VERY happy to see Rick on outside pole in his SUvstock car because he is a VERY experienced racer whom I completely trust to go flying into BigBend with when the time comes. We chat briefly and agree on racing room and I tell him if he’s first into rattlesnake then I’ll tuck in and follow and he says the same.

Look Mom, no splitter struts to trip on!!!! (1st place ST trophy on the right)

After the very short half-lap outlap we bunch up for the green. The old As feel pretty good and I put the tach at 3000 in 2nd gear and wait. Rick slots right next to me and the big field stacks up behind us. We actually got pretty far down the back stretch when the green flew and I wailed on the loud pedal and watched Rick just walk away from me. DOH! Thankfully he hit the brakes a bit early (cold slicks vs my don’t-need-temp A7!) and I got close to him and true to his word he left me the inside lane and I threw SLJHMR in there and off we went. I got on the gas early and pulled out a small lead only to see Rick walk back up to me and then get in front of me as his engine woke up. Damn. Next big question: how deep will Rick take the right hander into rattlesnake?

Thankfully he was still fighting cold tires and is a smart racer and he laid on the brakes a moment before forcing my hand and so I went extra deep, trailbraking like a fool around him and I throw SLJHMR into that back-and-forth waste of concrete and come out the other side still in first and with a bit of a gap! I hold the lead for the first two laps and then Hamilton’s SU radical has warm tires and he slips inside me at Big Bend and I chase him for a lap and then he quickly hits the pits. For a moment I wonder if I missed a “black flag all” but Louis quickly radios he has no idea what is going on, but to keep pushing. I go “full send”. Pretty soon I catch GTS traffic and I work the bright front LED lights for all they are worth hoping folks see me coming through. The laps keep counting up and I’m having a lot of fun and the gap to second keeps growing from 5 to 10 and then to 15 seconds! On lap 13 I finally ask Louis “just how long IS this damn race?”. Louis laughs. Lap 15 I ask if this is the Daytona 500. Laughter. Lap 16 I ask if they have lost the checker flag. Louis laughs more. Lap 17 Louis said he thinks it’s a 30 minute race so I might want to settle in and start saving fuel!!! The gap to the next ST2 car was over 30 seconds and finally, after what seemed like forever (18 laps, 30 miles!!) the white and then checker flew and a freaking ST2 car won overall by 21 seconds in Blitz!! We had a few local yellows, but no FCY and the race was almost entirely green-flag fun!

Louis: "Less talky-talky, more drive-y drive-y!!!!"

Had there been rain, I’d have believed it easier. Had there been a lot of fell course yellows, I’d have believed it easier. Heck, had it been a short race, I’d have believed it easier….but an ST2 car winning an 18 lap race overall with a solid SU field in attendance (and a good ST2 field too!) really shocked me. Not only that, but in the 32 car field the little GSpeed SLJHMR had lapped the field up to 9th place! The car was rock solid and easy to drive and I could have easily kept going till I ran out of fuel or tires. Huge kudos to Louis and the GSpeed team for giving me the perfect tool for a convincing win! Rick ended up winning SU nicely as well so congrats to him and his well-prepared car too!!

SUNDAY R3 RACE = SHAKY AT TIMES, BUT A FUN WATCH!! https://vimeo.com/323278367

 

"Daddy daddy, YOU WON!!" sounded incredibly sweet. Little Gigliotti and Costas cruising the paddock...

So again, we got blessed that we win tires in ST2 but of course, we will still push hard for the TT2 win as well.

For the third (out of four) TT sessions we sit out and stand on our 15.4. Chet goes out and puts in a 15.6 and the lotus puts down a 16.2 and so going into the final TT session, we are sitting in first out of 6 cars. Sadly on Chet’s last flyer he gets a bad vibration out of big bend and pops a diff and coasts up into the pit lane leaving a nice trail of gear oil! Whoops!

Locking in that freshness!!!

While we had made the right decisions for most of the weekend it was time to get it wrong and the blame falls squarely on me. I guessed right on slicks for the race Saturday (it was drizzly but dried out), and while we could have gone stickers for the last run Saturday I was okay with not winning and validating the changes. But Sunday I pushed for a change I did not fully think through and it sent us the wrong direction and sadly, since it was the last session there was no chance for recovery. <falls on sword>

 

I get to grid early and want a pic with no cars in the background so I lay down. Fair, of course, snaps a pic and posts it...LOL

Below: When Fair isn't taking creeper pics, he was driving! (Imma steal these momos....you watch) DGillen pic

The mustang (full interior, AC) is between TT2 and TT3 and he was testing A7 vs 200tw streets and setup changes for them

 

Starting the last TT session, SLJHMR is at a 15.441, the lotus is at a 15.5 and Chat has his 15.6. Yikes! The next TT2 car is in the 1:19s so it is likely down to us and the lotus since Chet’s is broken.

We launch and circulate a bit and I’m instantly struggling with a massive vagueness on turn-in. As I slice into BigBend I actually berate myself because this is NOT the scalpel-like weapon that we crushed at COTA with to win the national championship…..and it is not the winning car from January in Houston. I cannot put the car within a whisker of where I want and I am really frustrated at myself. With no pit stops all I can do is push a bit then let the tires cool and then alter my style a bit to try and be competitive. The lotus is on a flyer behind me so I make sure I move well out of the way and as he passes me headed to BigBend I flip the LED lights on (universal TT language for “hi, I’m on a flyer”) let him build a gap and then I push hard to start a flyer. The lotus finishes his lap and slows WAAAAY down in rattlesnake and borks my lap. Hard. I cannot fathom how he would not see me since I’d just let him by and he had the long straight to glance back but either he didn’t see me or blocked on purpose. No clue which and it didn’t matter since my lap was borked. So I went around again and caught traffic again and then again on the next try. I got down to a 15.7 but the lotus had clocked a 15.295 to our earlier 15.441 for a .146 gap. DOH!

Want to see what a textbook TT block looks like? Say no more... https://vimeo.com/323292854

DramaLlama = the lotus driver accused me of blocking at MSRH. Twice. The first time was when a random yellow got left out for our first hot lap (I have it on video and posted it) and the second time was not evident by the vid he showed around. The TT director saw it and did not agree it was a 'block' either. I've seen it and I cannot see anything resembling a 'block'. In TT you must manage your gaps for a clean lap...if you catch a car that is slower through a certain section but they are still pushing, that is not a 'block'...that is simply the reality of racing TT and shooting for the best lap. (Sidenote: After accusing me of blocking in Houston, I offered to swap spots on grid or let him by on the outlap...he declined...LOL). On my sessions (both Houston and Cresson) I caught slower traffic but they were pushing and it certainly was not 'blocking' although I had to lift. The vid I posted just above? THAT is a block. When someone says "hey, I got blocked", THIS is exactly what crosses my mind. At Nationals, folks had sessions DQ'd for blatant stuff like this. <shrug>

So for the second day we did not win TT. And it was due to me not thinking completely through what was going on and making sure the change was in the right direction. Neil (thinkfastbook.com) is always saying “everything depends on everything else” and I simply missed it. Don’t get me wrong, we brought honor to the house of GSpeed for two ST2 wins (one overall!!!!) and we win a set of tires too….but we learn much more from our defeats than our victories and there was a lot (begrudgingly) learned this weekend. We will rectify, verify and execute better based on this.

 

Gotta make time to find the ladybugs in the clover (we found four)...and DGillen got a good snap of SLJHMR on track!

If there is a track we will be less effective at compared to a very lightweight car with the same power to weight ratio, Cresson is it. To miss the mark and still be within 0.15 is not really a loss…but had I made the right call we should have still won, regardless of the weights. Bah!

To me, losing in Scratcher happens. It is my car, and if we lose then oh well. But losing when it can (I’m not saying it *does*, I’m just saying it *can*) reflect poorly on GSpeed is No Bueno. Louis and team work hard to field a car that can win and it’s my job to get it to the top step. I’m proud to have won ST2 on Saturday on 7 cylinders…I drove my heart out that (short) race (much harder than Sunday where we won overall!) and it was an honor to bring SLJHMR home in first that day. Sure, we were down on power but the chassis was completely on point and we snuck in the win. Then, of course, it was HUGE to win overall on Sunday!

As always, huge thank you to Louis and the GSpeed crew!! I look forward to more collaboration, more testing and validation…and work to return to our winning ways ASAP.

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LATE UPDATE (20 April) = Doing another video/data debrief and going the way I *should* have called it, we did another quick test last weekend and went faster <grin>. Amazing how when you do well you don't strive to improve nearly as hard as when you *don't* do well. Gotta remember that....