VIR is so nice and so close, it is impossible to pass up a race, even if it is only a regional. Last year Sean and I went with the intention of sharing my car. I went first, ran very fast, but the engine expired due to bent valves. Sean did not get to play.
Well, we went again this year. Same plan, I would go first. As I was airing up the tires before loading the car into the trailer, I noticed that the right front wheel (actually the axle in the front upright) was loose. Since I could not find my 27mm socket to tighten it with, I took a side trip to Sears. Getting the nut tight is a chore when doing it alone.
Wayne Hayden, who is sorta local living near Richmond (only 65 or so miles up the interstate) would be saving me a paddock spot. He bought Jim Boehm’s AMAC and this would be his first race in DSR. (The sportsracer community has at least this one convert from Spec Miata.)
I got to VIR midday on Friday. Sean and Sammy got there shortly thereafter. Sean had spent the morning at Sammy’s field day. (This fact’s relevance will be uncovered in a bit.) I visited around while the other guys did practice day. There was a more than 50% chance of rain for Saturday, but the forecast for Sunday (Sean’s day to race) was for cooler and dry. We got the rain tires outa the trailer and got ‘em ready.
Saturday morning was grey but dry and warm. Looked like I would get to do my qualifying session at least on dry tires. Good. I would be running my older R35 tires. The first lap out was sobering. The tires had absolutely no grip. I went WIDE often. By the end of lap 2, they were feeling OK and my driver’s rust was beginning to fade. I saw a 2:02 lap on my dash on lap3. Not bad for still working up to speed. Then I noticed my brake pedal going “long”. Damn, had I not bled the brakes adequately? I’ve never had a problem at VIR with the brakes overheating. I scared myself a couple of times with little initial brake bite. I drove another lap, carefully pumping up the brakes for turn one, oak tree and the roller coaster. Brakes did not get better, so I came in. I qualified 6th overall in the wings and things 20+ car field and second in DSR. Jean Luc Liverato was flirting with the lap record of 1:51+ in his Stohr WF1. I was pretending he wasn’t in attendance.
While bleeding the brakes, I discovered that the right front wheel was loose again. I was too busy playing with my new video setup and data to give it much thought. I got Wayne’s crew chief to help me torque down the nut again. Ah, that should hold it!
By mid morning, Sean was hurting. His foot had swollen and was turning colors. He could not bear to put ANY weight on it. He couldn’t bear shoes. Wayne’s lovely wife is a nurse and provided some pills and advice. Sean elevated his foot and wrapped it in ice. He’s had this foot problem from time to time. Spending the prior morning standing around at his daughter’s field day was likely the catalyst. He managed to hobble over on the atv to see me to the grid for my race.
I put on new R35’s for the race. For some reason, time and scoring had only gotten me for a 2:04 lap. Although starting 6th, I knew I was faster than a couple of the guys in front of me. With Sean hurting, I didn’t use the radio. The front 3 rows were in tight formation and really too close together as we slowly approached the starter’s stand. I decided to watch Jean Luc rather than the starter. I also decided I needed to drop back a little. Just as I eased up, the race was on. Oh well. My car was accelerating strongly and I went up the center passing 3 cars as we entered turn 1. The pack behind me quickly disappeared from my mirrors. I stroked it for a lap, before setting out to catch the FE in second maybe 100 yards ahead. I begin to close the gap. I see a 2:00 on my dash. I have only begun to pickup the pace. I am having fun. I did notice that the brake pedal was again getting a bit long. Hummm?
Lap 4, going into turn one. Applying the brakes, as usual and not yet testing the limits. Car pitches left then right. 138 MPH snap spin. Very quick. I never leave the pavement. I end up just past the apex about 90 degrees to the racing line. I try to restart the stalled car. I have killed the starter. One must get the clutch in when rolling backwards in a motorcycle powered car or the gear reduction starter will spin at a gazillion rpms and fry. In ten years of racing motorcycle powered cars, this is my first casualty. The remainder of the field passes just in front of my nose, before the workers come out and push me to the grass. I have video. I have data. I have a DNF.
Sean is feeling somewhat better by mid afternoon. We work on the car. Sean does what he can while firmly installed in a lawn chair. The starter is easily replaced. The front bolt is now really loose. We decide to remove the axle assembly to take a closer look. The bearing falls apart. It is garbage. I rummage thru my “spares” and find a spare upright with the bearing installed. Putting it on requires switching some brackets, etc. Not a trivial task. We get it done and prep the car for the Sunday morning qualifier. Sean thinks he will be able to drive. We go to an early dinner at the VIR tavern. Food is still very good.
Sunday morning dawns grey, cool, windy and almost spitting moisture. It never actually rained. Sean is in bad shape. He is not using the bad foot at all. He is hopping around. He withdraws from the race and heads home, not being totally sure he can operate the gas pedal for the trip. (He made it.) I leisurely pack up and head home.
Not your classic successful race weekend. But the video system worked well and we didn’t wreck much equipment. Better than some.