Chapter 305 - October 2022


For the second week in a row, I'm speeding north into the pre-dawn darkness of Saturday to slip into a car and try and be the fastest. Missed it last weekend by a bit (but, I've got a ton of excuses....really...) so maybe we can stand on the top step this weekend? I dang sure hope so. 

Last weekend was the Formula SAE Texas autocross where a ton of folks with FSAE cars stage a huge event in Arlington Texas. See chapter 304 for the full details and pics and even an in-car video that is pretty enjoyable. 

On pole....hopefully we can stay there!!!

However, THIS weekend was an SCCA Time Trials weekend along with a normal HPDE. We'd never done one of these but they are gaining in popularity and it is easy to understand why. Great folks put the event on, everything went smooth, and they ran pretty much on time all day. I had reached out to the folks running the event and had good communication with them and we got registered in SLJHMR for the U1 category, meaning Unlimited1. There is an Unlimited2 for cars that are also Unlimited but with smaller motors...then there is a Max class, Sport class, Tuner class, etc etc. We didn't want to change anything nor run any other car, so we staked our flag in the fastest of the fast classes and wondered if we could play in this sandbox. 

I casually checked the entry list on Friday (event was Saturday) and saw Hollis and his McLaren 720S in the U1 class as well along with a few other corvettes. Now, as much as I am a "car guy", all the new stuff is pretty lost on me and between TX2K and track events I am a bit desensitized to big power. I honestly did not even know what a 720s weighed, nor how much power they had. Hollis and I have compared notes a few times in the past about tires and such, and I knew he has had some teething issues with the cars electronics but I also knew that they are darn fast cars and he's a very quick driver with the shelves of trophies to prove it. So it was insanely funny when I was texting Louis that I had googled a 720s and was shocked they had over 700hp...and as the phone is in my hand I get an out-of-the-blue text from Hollis saying he'd be on many-many heat cycle SC3Rs and to take it easy on him!!! Hilarity (a literal LOL). SLJHMR has an LS3 crate engine and we're some 250+whp down from a 720s (sigh).  Our A7 scrubs had about a dozen cycles on them and felt decently tacky, but we'd be several seconds off fresh rubber. Louis came to the point quickly and texted: "You got a race/ don't be a b!tch" and he added some smileys. That boy...

My buddy Robert (building the S10 LSX) and his brother bought an 05 C6 (auto!) for a smoking good deal and are tracking it. They did the first track day a month ago and then Robert went to Cresson on Thursday to play a bit on the 1.7 short course. After a few sessions he got an error and the GSpeed folks figured it out quickly (gas pedal electronic fault) and so he left it there to be fixed so he could track it in the HPDE portion of Saturday. Also, Jon, one of the tuners who works with GSpeed has a new black 1LE Camaro that he wants to track as well and he'd be there too. #Wahoo #GangsAllHere

So well before dawn (heck, we were in Cresson at dawn...sheesh) I scooted over to Robert's, loaded all my crap (suit, helmet, gear, cameras, etc) and we scooted off northbound into the darkness. Robert and I discussed each corner on the short 1.7 and he was excited to get to drive the 3.1 and start to put all that together as well. We arrived and SLJHMR was ready in the garage, but still stickered up from the Holley LS-Fest. Off came the numberboards and on went the SCCA numbers and such. Robert's car was indeed fixed and ready, he peeled off the masking tape numbers and put on some fresh ones and then checked torque on the lugs and set the air pressure. I rigged my SOLO and put my helmet, HANS and gloves into SLJHMR and then we headed on down to registration.

Check in was a breeze, SCCA had a lot of folks there and in moments we were checked off and wristbanded. Drivers meeting was about a half-hour away so we wandered back to GSpeed (where we operated out of today) and chatted with the arriving folks. Back to the drivers meeting and it was blissfully kept short, hitting the critical stuff and taking questions with an honest plea to "see any of us if you need anything" at the end. For a while our TX2K drivers meetings were getting lengthy but the past few years we've shortened them up and clearly SCCA got the memo before we did. 

First session is a warm-up for the faster HPDE folks and the TT folks. No passing, but you get to go out at a nice 60-75% clip and see the track. Our TT session was first so I only did 3 laps and pulled in to see the grid mostly full. Thankfully they told my crew they held the P1 spot for SLJHMR (color me impressed, shocked, and humbled) and so I slid over into P1 in the huge carport with a lot of SRSBZNS looking machinery filling out the group. The TT group was split between the 'fast' folks (TT Green) and the 'faster' folks (TT Red). We were in the latter (red ftw) and soon the checker flag flew for the warmup group and I knew we were minutes away from taking the track. Next to me is an all black C6 sounding rowdy and then Hollis' 720. Tough crowd. 

Camera started. In car, HANS, helmet, gloves on and harness tight. Adam pops up the window net and steps back, giving me some space. He and Louis are both there, but when the visor drops it is game prep. SLJHMR and I have a short chat...neither one of us will do anything stupid and let's lay down a serious flyer. 3 minute warning. My finger kisses the starter and with only a moment of engagement, the stock LS3 jumps to life with the MoTeC dash telling me vitals. I click the SOLO over to 'predictive' and worm my way down as low as possible in the seat and re-snug the shoulder straps even tighter. The HANS is spreading out the load on my shoulders and it is just a kiss away from annoying/irritating but I know that'll go away the moment SLJHMR begins to move. The slightest twitch of the chassis will be instantly telegraphed to my body and assuming my reactions are fast and true, I'll keep us out of danger. (#foreshadowing?) 

Grid marshall points, I clutch and select first and we're moving. I don't feel the straps, I don't feel my breathing, We're on pitroad for the short trek over to the entrance at the top of the 3.1 and I'm alternating brake/gas to put heat into the big hoosiers. We're on 335 fronts and 345 rears and I need friction. For a sliver of a moment I wonder what TT outlap speed is. Faster than I can shift I evaluate the options, decide I'll keep it slow for the entire 'new' section, and then pick it up a bit as we get to the 1.7 section and then go from 80-100% starting at LittleBend. And that's what I did. Full send coming out of Horseshoe/Boothill/Tombstone on the way to big bend. Cross the SF line with a big head of steam and get into Rattlesnake ("the autocross section"). All is going well as I transition through T5 to the new portion of the track and I was really feeling good. 

swoooooon (dis car fast car)

T9 is a bowl-sytle right hander that goes on forever, but the approach is odd because you've just come over a hill and if you're not in the right 'lane', you run out of pavement. As I stated, I was feeling really good until that hill unloaded the back of the car as I was just straightening up but the back rotation was a LOT more than I wanted. Before my brain could register 'catch it!!!', my hands twitched to straighten out SLJHMR as we (this is clearly SLJHMRs fault but we're in this together) put the right side tires in the grass, and then quickly go back to the loud pedal to minimize the time we just wasted. The goal was to only take 2-3 laps and now this one is botched already. I fly through the next few corners but catch a late-released car between 10 and 11 (11 is Ricochet) and that really kills me. I get a pointby right after 11 and off I go, holding a bit back through Little Bend, all the way to Big Bend. In Big Bend I send it and the back of the car is clearly the limiting factor, but we don't win events by bitching, we win by hoping the best we can actually do is enough. And the best that we can do means push hard. So I push hard. (#foreshadowing)  

Overall the second lap is nice. Until I get to T10 (the one before Ricochet) and the brake pedal goes WAAAaaay down. We're slowing down, but not as much as we should be, so I turn in early, letting the big hoosiers help me scub off speed. I go back to the gas and while I'm floored headed to Ricochet, I'm pumping the brakes to see that they still work...ish. I lift a kiss early and brake, but I'm only getting about 70% of my normal stoppage power. I nurse the car around the rest of the lap going as fast as I dare, all the while worried the pedal will just go all the way down and it won't be pretty. But, I know we have two master cylinders and the odds of both dying on this lap are pretty slim, so I push as fast as my 'this could end badly' brain will let me go as I follow my usual 'must...go...faster' brain. The SOLO spits out a 2:15.0 as I cross the line and baby it into Rattlesnake. Louis is on the wall with his arms in a big "X" telling me to come in, but I was already on that path. I stayed out of everyone's way on the inlap and made sure I didn't impede anyone and limped it back to the shop. 


Louis fixing the car and Jon verifying we have "ALL" the motor because it felt sloooow. We did. It was. 

Windshield out, pedals checked, a borked rear master is the cause and we miss the next session as we (and by 'we' I mean the GSpeed crew...I was simply emotional support and bought lunch) get the master out, replaced, the rears bled and we have a functional car again about 10 minutes prior to the first afternoon session. We also added more rear wing, made a damper adjustment and checked the car over (again, 'we' here is a loose term). I rig up a rear camera as well and then head to grid and slide into the P1 spot again. 

The official times for TT1 (TT, 1st session) was SLJHMR at a 2:14.9, then Jones in the black C6 with a 2:17.2 and Hollis with a 2:19.2 for the first three of six in the U1 category (and first three overall as well). I was ecstatic for the 14.9 with the borked pedal the last portion of the track and I pushed as hard as I felt I could. The times for TT2 saw Hollis run a 2:16.5 to slide into 2nd overall and Jones slowed down a second and a half to a 2:18.7. I was still on pole, but the sharks were circling!!! 

So we grid for TT3 with SLJHMR again on pole, Hollis in P2 and Jones in P3. The sun is out, the track is getting slower but nobody is giving up. For TT3, SLJHMR throws down a tiny improvement to a 2:14.8, Hollis goes a 2:16.4 and Jones a 2:18.7. I was a bit frustrated as the changes in the back end helped AND I drove better but the time did not reflect it. At all. Ug. Louis figured the track was down "about a second and a half or two" from the early morning and so really we'd made good strides. Louis verified the grip delta with our data....I was certainly driving hard AND the setup was better, but the grip was down from the morning. Hot weather, more worn tires. They are not even picking up gravel across the parking lot back to the shop when I come off track. Ug. (ug ug)


Above: Grinding the wing mounts to get more angle.....and a selfie. Love my hair in this pic! 

About an hour before our final session, there is a delay for a cleanup at the apex of Big Bend. Somebody oiled it down and they did a quick cleanup with kitty litter and when Andy saw this (we were in his paddock chatting about old times) he was like "nope, no chance to go faster now" and honestly with the heat and humidity up he was right. So he loaded up and headed out. It was great to chat and I told him to tell Ann hello! (Sidebar - I've known them since Fertitta and I ran SCCA autocrosses at Blossom Stadium in the very early 90s!)

We finished prepping for TT4 (I put fresh batteries in the cameras, the guys checked the car over and Louis made more rear changes since I was whining about that the most) and headed to grid a bit early. Finally we launch and the car is NICELY better, but we still only put down a 2:15.1 on the outlap and I back it up with a 2:15.5 lap two while I'm now in the 'stubborn refusal to give up' category. Hollis was gone and Jones had an issue and came in early so at the end of the day (and it now was the end of the day), SLJHMR won the U1 category for the weekend, also setting the fastest time for all classes and cars. wh00p. 


****Not a "pretty" lap by any means...well-worn tires means this is kinda messy...doh! 

But wait...there is more. Jon and Robert and myself had chatted a lot over lunch and Jon asked for a session so I gladly went and did the last session of the day riding in his 2022 1LE (still on paper plates, no less) and hollering at him most of the time. This was his first track day and he did really well, and the reports are that Robert did too and is close to being solo'd. We'll figure another track day soon to work with these two guys and I look forward to helping both of them as much as I can. #WillYellForDelNorte

SCCA ran an awesome event. The few times we (myself, Robert or Jon) needed anything it was quickly handled with a smile and we all had a great time. HUGE THANK YOU as usual to Louis and the GSpeed crew for giving me a weapon to win with.

What's next? Will it involve an oh-dark-thirty run to race? What car will I be driving? Will yelling be involved? Stay tuned folks....

Saving the best for last, this is a text message I got Saturday after first session. #NoNameToProtectTheInnocent-ish