WDMS Chapter 178    17 March 2011    Part One!


Grand Sport Speedway

1.3 Mile 'Mako' Circuit

I had NO idea what to really expect out of this event, but Scratcher needed some track time! The 'TX2K' events (www.tx2k.com) have been around since 2000 when Anna's friend Peter started it. It began as a 'Supra' event and grew into 'Supra + Import' and then 'Supra + GTR + Import' and now is pretty much attended by everything fast. It has evolved from a weekend gathering and some drag racing to the current four day format including a Thursday Time Attack Day (road course), a Friday Dyno Day, a Saturday TestNTune drag day and then culminating with the day of Drag Racing on Sunday. In the evening there are 'unofficial' gatherings with many 1000+rwhp cars doing highway pulls for street supremacy. We'll cover the 'Dyno' and 'Drags' days in another update as this one is all about the Time Attack Day. A few months prior to the event I talked to Fair (Vorshlag) and he was down for taking the E30LSx car as well as the Mustang so he and Amy could both drive. Sadly, the E30 broke the week before at the NASA event so they doubled up driving the Mustang. With Anna being connected to the event, Scratcher was entered by BikiniRacer.com and sponsored by Vorshlag Motorsports. Victory, if attainable, brings good press. Actually, victory does a lot of good things....but anyway...

Peter (organizer & great guy) in black and Randy (track manager & great guy) laying down the rules for the track day 

Above: TurboMiata's on a goose, and the WDMS/Vomo rigs behind GTRs, EVO and an ACR Viper

An actual RUF 911, and some Elises and a prepped Z06 behind the ACR

So the format for the track day is pretty simple. Peter takes all the entrants (limited to 40 to ensure good track time) and divides them up into three groups. We have two Advanced groups (A and B) and then a Beginner group. We all get two sessions in the morning, two in the afternoon and then the last 15 minutes of track time will be the Time Attack! The format for the Time Attack will be the top 6 cars will each get a few laps spaced out to lay down their official 'Best Time' and then trophies awarded to the top guys. The big thing will be to make sure I can get Scratcher into the top 6 to ensure I'll be in the Time Attack session! 


Saw the Ferrari at three of the days....never saw it off the trailer :-(

With a brand new motor installed the week before I had hoped to run the NASA event the previous weekend but I simply was not ready and I wasn't going to rush it. So I ended up doing one day of the NASA event in Mike's GT1 car (running SU, picking up two wins), and then the next day did an autocross in the Vorshlag STX Mustang. On Wednesday I loaded up Scratcher and some spares and headed to Bryan, staying there and then leaving at oh-dark-thirty to make it to Grand Sport Speedway (GSS, south of Houston) at 0800. Waiting for the gates to open some interesting hardware showed up. While Scratcher is really a full-on racer, this course is tight and small and if it is dirty and I can't put down power then I'll likely lose out to smaller and lighter machinery. As I'm pondering this the smaller and lighter machinery shows up in several iterations. An Ariel Atom with wings front and rear arrives. Oy. If that thing is on tires and the guy can drive then I'm in trouble. A couple of turbo miatas show up. Ug. Again, if they are on good tires with decent pilots this could be tough. Then an Elise. And another. Sheesh. Then the GTRs showed up. I'd seen a few videos of the ForgedPerformance car winning a lot of events for NASA SE and the BoulderNissan car going very quick also. These cars have lots of mods, as much or more power than I, and all-wheel drive to put all that power down. The saving grace against the GTRs is that I'm a lot lighter and should generate more lateral grip. The saving grace with the Atom, TurboMiatas and Elises was that I hoped I could out-drive them. I kept reminding myself this was simply a shake-down and to break in the motor easily and then see where I stood. If I got whipped, but got some good shakedown time and all went smooth, then it was still a victory. I had to ensure the new drysump vent system worked right, and I had hard compound tires that were three years old and a medium compound that was 2 years old, both pretty heavily used. My (heh) excuses were completely locked and loaded should I need them. I'm pretty competitive and I hate losing, but I was concerned. Anna reminded me 'shake the car down, worry about the Time Attack when it happens'. It was the right thing to do, but I kept my excuses handy :-) 

Above: Amy piloting the Red Terror, and below: Terry pushing hard to catch the red GTR (he did!)

Gates opened at 830 and I was met shortly by the Vorshlag red rig parking next to mine and then we attended the driver meeting. Peter asked for help instructing about a dozen of the beginners and Terry, Amy and myself all got students since we've all instructed previously. So we unload Scratcher and skip the first session as I double check the car over and install the $rented$ transponder. Yes, we brought our transponders, but the loop was for KTM transponders and not AMB ones. Ug. Regardless, the RedTerror (Vorshlag Mustang) was on track first session and Terry learned the course quick and was making short work of pretty much everything else. We were pitted right by T1 and the view was great. First two advanced sessions (A1, A2) went smooth (Terry driving one, Amy the other) and then the three of us found our students and hit the track with them. Mine was a viper driver who was quickly up to speed with stable car control and good technique. First sessions done, it was time for advanced again. Finally I grabbed my helmet and gloves and slid into the car. Scratcher quickly fired to life and we went to the entrance. I ripped off three laps taking it easy on the fresh mill and learning the course. It is an AWESOME little track (1.3 miles) with really good punishment/reward sections that, when done correctly, reward you with a fast lap. If done wrong they punish you with being WAY off line for the next series of corners. It is also incredibly smooth with usable curbs and an absolute joy to drive. I came in and checked the car over, made sure nothing was leaking or anything, checked lugs and adjusted air pressure and front sway bar and then went back out and ripped off another 7 or 8 laps. Felt great as everything came up to temp and while I kept the revs down on the fresh motor (shifting at 6.5) the car felt nice and solid. After another instructing gig was done I looked over the car again pretty well, ran a checklist and got the car ready again. A quick check of the timing sheets showed me in 6th, about 7 seconds off the fast guys. Doable. 

Above: Talk about service! My AST dealer making trackside adjustments! Thanks Vorshlag!!! and a Pretty Red Supra!


Above: The two pictures just above (black Supra) were the last two we got before he had a serious 'off'. Check the next picture for the result.

So far the event was great. The weather was fantastic and along with the smallish group and good organization it was running very smooth. Having two of the larger trailers there, Fair and I were loaning tools and supplies (zip ties, tape, brake clean, funnels) when requested and the cars were garnering some attention. Both Fair's were flat 'hauling the mail' out there and passing most cars. I was asked many times: 'What all has been done to that Mustang??!??' to which I repeatedly replied: 'stock, just springs and shocks and still on street tires'. Folks didn't believe it until they saw the hood up and checked the car themselves. One GTR owner came up after a session asking 'What supercharger is on the Mustang?' LOLZ. He didn't believe it either until he saw it was a bone stock driveline down to the factory airbox and paper filter...and then Amy pulled off her helmet and got out of the car!! Priceless!! Comments about Scratcher centered around the size of the motor (I'd hold my hands about 2' apart and say 'about that big'..heh heh), how much horsepower (not enough) and the cost of the car. Once it was established that it was circle track parts with the only 'real' money in the heads and dampers they were amazed. Realizing that Scratcher is so far away from the six-figure cars that were winning the event it wasn't even funny. 

Yup. Owch. Both driver and passenger ended up okay. Video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlQlChe7fIg

Afternoon arrived and it was time to share the Scratcher experience for the first time. Anna slid in the passenger seat and got strapped in and put her Bell helmet on. After syncing up our hand signals (she has ridden with me on autocross runs and at track days in slower cars) and a quick chat "don't you go slow because I'm in the car, you go as fast as you can!", we were off. Fair and I had chatted about the handling and he made some rear AST adjustments and I was happy to find out the change helped a lot. We were on the harder compound tires, but they got warm pretty quick and we were lapping with good speed. Everytime Scratcher went out, lots of still cam and vid cams appeared. I was pushing pretty hard, but mindful that any mistake would be quickly caught on tape and shared with the world. Still, it is against my nature to back off much so we finished our 10 lap run still pushing. A quick damper change again along with an air pressure adjustment and Anna and I ripped off another 8 laps or so and the car felt even better. It began to cut out at the top of second entering the front straight (I never got into 4th...or even to the top of third...) which is a right kink and I either had a problem or was fuel-starving (cross fingers for fuel starving!!). Once in the paddock, we find out I had struck down to 3rd in the overall standings and the interest in the car intensified. The top GTR folks were now wandering over to checkout Scratcher. Off went the hard tires and on went the mediums. The fingernail test told me they were a nice step softer, but how much would that relate to lap time? I was still a few seconds off the quick folks, so would softer tires give me the time I needed? Lastly, another damper change and a small front swaybar change were performed and I decided to sit out and wait for the Time Attack after I dumped another jug of fuel in the cell. While technically we had another session, I had pretty solidly qualified for the Time Attack and figured I'd just save the tires and skip the session. My driving impression so far was really good. Yes, the tires are old and I'm feathering the throttle most of the time, but the turn-in is crisp and the forward bite is good. Our changes have done nothing but make the car faster and easier to drive. I can trail-brake further and get on the gas sooner and no evil tendencies have surfaced. This car is just a stupid incredible joy to drive. A go cart with big power and grip to match. I've got the rear wing angle max'd and thought about lowering the nose for more front downforce, but felt pretty good about the setup. The top spot was only a few seconds away. Surely the changes and softer tires would get me there. Additionally, I was intentionally leaving that last bit of time due to conservative driving. During the Time Attack, I'd lay it out there! For now...rest. 

Left: ForgedPerformance GTR was very quick!!! Right: Yes, but is it faster than a Camaro?

The GTRs looked good on track and it was nice seeing them worked instead of being garage or trailer queens!!

Above: GTR Time Attack Finishers left to right: 3rd, 2nd, 8th, 12th, 4th, and 7th. 

Great GTR video of the event here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpITvX7YNa4

Let me just say that Anna is easily as competitive as I am and quickly did not like the 'wait' plan. She didn't like the idea of her entry not being at the top of the time sheets. Quickly discussing the topic while my last session was starting she told, err...advised, errr....requested, errr....floated the idea that I should make my final adjustments and go out and lay a few fast laps down to ensure nothing weird was going to happen and THEN do the Time Attack. Smart woman. She knew I held back abit with her in the car and she told, urged me to go out there and drop the hammer. So yeah, strap in, get the data system recording, vid cam on, and go do what I do. I ended up going to first gear in one of the slower corners (and telling myself I'd go to first in the other slow corner during the Time Attack) and pushing a bit harder (fuel solved the cutout) over two fast laps and then a cool down and coming in. Randy, the track manager, met me at the hot pit entrance and said he didn't have a watch on me, but was sure I laid down quickest time. He was right, as Fair walked up with a huge grin and a thumbs up (keep those sponsors happy kids!!) as he came from the timing van. For some odd reason the timing only picked up one of the laps (good thing I made two!), and it was the slower one according to the data acquisition system (and video) but it was plenty to jump into the lead by several seconds. Thank you BikiniRacer.com and Vorshlag Motorsports, we are going to the Finals and from the TOP of the time sheets. Sadly, Fair was running in 9th and didn't quite make the Time Attack, but to run that fast (and totally monkeystomp a LOT of 6 figure cars in the process) in a Mustang with springs and dampers was amazing. Amy was less than a second off Terry and did plenty of woman-monkeystomping of her own!! 

Above: Scratcher's first passenger, Anna, flashing the 'thumbs up' to the event photographer

Alas, the finals didn't happen. During the final Advanced group a Supra exited the track at a very high rate of speed, flipped many times, went through the barbed wire fence marking the property line and thankfully landed (bent and smashed, but) shiny side up. Both driver and passenger were okay, but we had to roll the EVs and the delay was going to be massive. Peter wisely called the event 'done' and the Time Attack awards would be based on previously posted fast laps. So...pretty much...yeah...We won the event because I went out (like I was told...heh heh) and laid the Scratcher-wood to the field in the last Advanced Session. Wahoo!!

Above: Time Attack Winner!! Below: Looking ahead and pounding out laps

VIDEO LINK TO SCRATCHER'S FASTEST LAPS: http://vimeo.com/21371765

Peter came over with the big trophy and video crew and we had a quick ceremony. Usually this is a big affair, but with the circumstances he wisely scaled it back, did the trophys a bit more subdued and we all began to pack up. I gave my interviews, thanked my sponsors for making it happen and took lots of pictures. High-dollar GTRs finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th, with a Viper in 5th. Lots of folks came by to congratulate us and it was a nice cap to a fantastic day. We heard that both driver and passenger to the balled-up Supra were fine and that made it even better. Cars can be replaced, people cannot. We all stopped a bit up the crowded road and had a great dinner and then headed home after the very long day feeling pretty darn good. Victory does that to ya.