This would be my fifth year with the Cheetah DSR and my fifth year at the Runoffs. Going in my goal would be to improve last year's 7th place finish. But that seems unlikely, given my casual approach to racing this season. I am running last year's motor that's gotta be tired by now. (Bruce Sunseri changes motors every session or two at the Runoffs.) Since I have been lending my car to Sean so he could qualify for the Runoffs, I haven't raced since June. Preparation this year consisted of new chain and sprocket, re-painting the nose and a couple of hours of "seat-time" at Mid Ohio with a computer game.
Sean's return to the Runoffs would be a visit to the deep end of the pool. He picked up his new/used Diesel tow truck the week before. He would swing by Columbus, Ohio on the way out to pick us his new/used trailer. Lee Stohr would deliver his NEW/NEW racecar at the track on Sunday. It would be mostly finished and would require 12 to 14 hour days from many every day. As currently built, and it is beautify, it does not cool properly. Not even close.
Kathy and I left on the 580-mile jaunt at 0400. We wanted to arrive at Mid Ohio in time to get the car thru technical inspection on Sunday. Practice would be early on Monday. We arrived about 2PM and found the spot saved for us in the unofficial DSR paddock. Hasty Horn was there and helping Sean and Tom Robertson with their new Stohr's. Tom and Pat Prince had been there since the prior Wednesday, and had already done considerable work on their car. Sean and Mark Walthew were very busy, adding some wiring/controls, casting a seat, changing clutch, and putting on the graphics/numbers. I got thru tech without event. Kathy and I left the track before dark and got a quick burger at the Steak-n-Shake across from the Baymont.
Monday morning practice. With rain in the forecast for Tuesday thru maybe Thursday, I decided to mount by new Hoosier R25A tires for the practice session. The car ran well with several 1:33 laps. Was 7th fastest. Near end, car started handling badly. Came to pits and asked the Hoosier guys if I had a tire going down. YES. Drove to my paddock space where I discovered that I was now missing the right front WHEEL. Bearing in hub had failed, axle escaped, rotor broke at hat, dropped down and holed wheel half and broke the brake caliper. Tire was a little beat up, but likely OK. Visited around the pits to see if I could borrow parts. Got a front upright assembly from Craig Mendenhall, a brake rotor from Andy Juner, but couldn't find a wheel/parts. I had left my spare front wheels home. I called Bruce to send parts. With airfreight in flux (5 days after the World Trade Center), wasn’t sure they would arrive. I put the borrowed parts with Larry Kropp's assistance. Had to visit the Truesport shack and order a brake caliper also. Would have to wait until parts arrived and run the rain tires in the mean time. . We went to dinner with Sean, Mark, Lee Stohr, Tom and Pat at Bucks.
Tuesday qualifier. The track was wet but rapidly drying and most went out on dry tires. I had no option but to use the rain tires, but since they were so old, I told myself they would be more like "intermediate" tires. Didn't matter. My car handled horribly and vibrated enough to scare me going down the straight. Turns out we (ME) forgot to check toe-in after installing the new parts and I had over ONE INCH of toe-out! It was ugly. I stayed out for more laps that good sense would dictate, was very slow (now 17th) and failed to meet the 125% laptime rule. I made a few trips to the UPS/FEDEX shack without result. I spent most the day helping Mark make cooling ducts for the Stohr. We got to delve into the Band-Aid supply. We decided to forgo the "big pork chop" SCCA thing. It was Sean's birthday. We went to the Roadhouse for animal flesh. By now, Kathy's daily shopping adventures were beginning to fill up the cargo area of the Jeep.
Wednesday qualifier. BIG rain. Parts came in the morning except wheel half. Installed them but decided to forgo the track session. Discovered that the bracket on my upright was bent (likely from the VIR guardrail in August 2000) and reinstalled Craig's. Returned the other borrowed parts. Wheel half arrived late in the day. Put it together and had Hoosier mount and balance the tire. It didn't hold air. Disassembled and found manufacturing defect (a tooling ridge around one of the boltholes). After some hammering and filing work, got it hold air. Used up an entire tube of blue RTV. Brian Little and his son Rich showed up in the afternoon to crew. Kathy had rounded up an assortment of take out food that we enjoyed in our room while watching the weather channel.
Thursday (last chance) qualifier. At this point, I was not qualified to start the race. The session was late (5 PM) in the day, and the track was slick from a full day of use/abuse. With over 45 cars in the combined S2000 and DSR group, there was too much traffic. No good laps. Qualified 15th with a 1:34.7 but one place ahead of son Sean and his overheating Stohr. Car was not handling as well as it was on Monday. RaceLog showed top speed of only 133 mph, so I was down HP from last year's 137-mph speed. Guess I should have had the motor freshened, but since I am planning to switch motors for next season, I didn't want to spend the money. It was looking like there is no chance of my improving last years 7th place finish.
Friday, Sat and Sunday helped Sean and Lee work on the Stohr. Since I was using the new steering arm bracket, I decided to check front camber. It was at 1.5 degrees vice the 0.75 needed. Reset it. Friday night, there was a DSR party. Kathy had procured foodstuff at the German village in Columbus and various other places. Everyone brought stuff to eat/drink. Tom Robertson and I manned the grill while Mac Macdonald, Nancy Urso and Kathy prepped the food. A large turnout consumed over 150 hamburger and chicken sandwiches and massive amounts of malt beverages. Understand the party ended about 1AM.
Sunday race. By our 5PM start, the track was generally trashed, particularly with GT1 going out just before us. Buckled up and waiting for the 5-minute signal, I discovered that my tank was weeping some gas to my seat. My buns were beginning to burn. I sent the crew off in search of rags and plastic. Mark returned with a LARGE pretzel bag (fortunately empty) that saved my buns. As I turned on my RaceLog computer, the switch that is mounted on a circuit board broke off. I took out the display and handed it to Kathy. Things were not looking up.
Pace lap was slow with field closely bunched. Acceleration began exiting the keyhole, and mid pack had to brake just before the green. Damn. Sean, gridded beside me, avoided the braking and found a hole up the center and improved several places to 12th. I dropped in behind him. Craig Mendenhall led our 4-car pack, which included Jim Boehm, for nine laps. Boehm and I exchanged places a couple of times. We were having quite a fun battle. Sean eventually let us past but Jim's superior HP left me on the straight. I got past Craig, but by then Chip had closed from his early lap spin and was on my tail. He got by on the straight and left me as I got involved passing a couple of lappers. Chips new Suzuki GSXR motor has a big HP advantage. My car seemed much improved over Friday and I turned 1:33 laps on a much slower (best lap was a 1:30 by Hoover) track. Someone was spewing large amounts of oil/water and I could hardly see the last couple of laps. Sean pitted on lap 10 with overheating, but returned 5 laps later to finish 17th.
At race end, I was surprised to be sent to impound with a sixth place finish. (and maybe a metal) After spending the required hour in impound (Vic and his Radical weighed over 1200#) we were able to finish packing up as the daylight left us. Top six: two Cheetahs, two Radicals, an Amac and a LeGrand; 3 SE Division drivers. None of the two stroke guys finished. A reliability run.
With cold and heavy rains closing in on Ohio, we headed home at about 7:30. We stopped in Pittsburg for the night. But morning, it was cold and raining hard. We outran most of it by mid-PA. A good result made the long trip home much more pleasant.