On the Road in 2003

Road Atlanta National, June 8

 

Road Atlanta is a fun and challenging track.Sean and I would venture down for our traditional June road trip.For some reason, the 530-mile trip is particularly mind numbing.Maybe it is the endless road construction, here and there, or perhaps it is the featureless landscape.Donít really know why.

 

Weather forecast was for rain showers, but the percentage was acceptable at less than 50 percent.Kathy (there are good shopping destinations in Atlanta) and I would spend Friday driving and arrive at about 5 PM.We would run into Craig Stafford at the registration shed and signing in went quickly.Not so, getting into the paddock.Atlanta region had decided to assign and escort people to space (like is done at the Runoffs).Unfortunately, they only had one somewhat befuddled lady doing the chore.I understand the backup during the test day Friday was horrendous.Lady wanted to put me on the grass, but Kathy used her PUBLIC RELATIONS skills to get a spot on the tarmac.I kept thinking about the old anecdote about ďarranging deck chairs on the Titanic.ĒDumb exercise, except perhaps for those BIG 18 wheelers who got the primo spaces with electricity.My spot would have a significant incline, which as it turn outs would be fortunate.

 

It started to rain as we began the unload period.Since it was also supposed to be raining Saturday morning, we decided to leave stuff in the trailer.My plan was to wait until the track dried somewhat, hopefully by Saturday afternoon, before taking my toy out of its box.Sean would get to the track too late to get in.Roy Rosmanitz (broke R1 in his OMS) came by to help us.

 

It would indeed be raining all Saturday morning.Sean and I were approaching the Atlanta race in the equipment conservation mode.We would be using OLD tires (from the Runoffs) and minimizing laps.Goal was simply to have fun but, most importantly, get a finish in for the Runoffs qualifications.Running any racecar in the rain is NOT conservation mode.Fortunately, the last qualifying session for our Group One, was in the dry (but green, well washed track).I guess we got about 8 laps in during the 15-minute session.Our group one included FV, F5, FF, S2 and DSR.There were tremendous speed differences.Seanís Motec data logger went a bit bonkers, and he came in early.Marc Walker, in the lone but quick S2, would bag the pole, with Roger Cook (Prince DSR), me, Ben Johnson and Sean within a second.Craig Stafford was having a brake problem but qualified 6th.New guy, green Radical, George Smith was learning quickly.It promised to be a helluva race with so many cars so near each other in time.

 

We leisurely piddled with the cars, as the afternoon passed.Group 6 was a race for the pro IT cars.About 5:30 and near the end of the race, the skies suddenly, and almost without any warning opened up.I have NEVER seen it rain so hard.Sean and I hung onto the tents and got thoroughly wet.The cars did too.The race got stopped as a huge number of the IT cars crashed in T12.The rain subsided to a mere downpour that lingered for the next 2 hours.Kathy returned from shopping and joined us sitting in the trailer watching the water flow.After waiting in vain for the rain to ease for a long time, we decided what the hell and just got completely wet putting things away.We would be joining Craig for dinner.Craig, that sly dog, had closed up and left the track before the storm.††

 

Weather Channel promised a cloudy, but dry raceday.We got to the track very early since our race was at 0815 and there was much bailing to do.The air was saturated with moisture and the track surface was not drying.There was no sun.There was no standing water, but it wasnít drying.Track would be very green and grip would be a question.The plot thickens.

 

The race.Roger, with me on his tail, would get a good jump on Marc in his S2 (despite his much superior Torque).As we took the inside line in turn 1, Roger slowed too much, perhaps attempting to protect his newly acquired lead.Those of us on the inside path got bunched up a lot.Both Marc and Ben Johnson went by me.Drat!There was a huge Georgia Clay spot at the apex of T5.We all avoided it, which compromised our corner entry.(Sean tells me that the mud was not a problem and he ignored it the entire race).I was surprised not to see Sean in my mirrors.Roger managed to stay in front of Ben, and I would get by him exiting T5 on lap 3.Sean, whoís motor was too water logged and was barely running, was dicing with the FVs.

 

On Lap 4, I pass Roger also exiting T5 (entering T6) and immediately pull out a bit while dicing with Marc.By now, we are all busy lapping the 22 other speed-challenged cars.I pulled along side of Marc a couple of times and even passed him going into T10a, but backed off as he appeared to be overly aggressive and I didnít see any need to risk my DSR position.By lap 5, there was no mistaking that it was rain running across my face shield.Turn 10a got slick first and I had to brake a bit earlier.Roger was back on my tail.He could pull me a bit on the back straight.Since I was running old tires and couldnít take T12 flat, he could also pull me on the front straight. (Canít wait to see a copy of Rogerís videotape).I held him off, frequently with the added drama of traffic, until lap 15.He got by me as I struggled to get my car to turn-in in T10a.As we drove thru a gaggle of four cars in T5, one of which was spinning, he put a little track space on me.By this time, our lap times had slowed by 7 seconds and the rain was getting more earnest.I decide to hang behind Roger until the last lap.I knew I was faster in T5 to T7 and could get past him and perhaps hang on for the checker.Meanwhile, by lap 3 Seanís motor had dried out and he was on a charge, but had lost too much ground.Ben had backed into the wall at T5 and George Smith had retired.Craig was running but was 50 seconds behind me.

 

Lap 16 (of 18).I took T5 as before, but the car jumped sideways at the uphill exit. I rotated once (said to myself, Stupid spin) and drifted ass first to the Jersey barrier.Thought I had caught it, but the grass was too slick.I hit at about 45 degrees on the left corner.Impact wasnít much.Damn.Get it in gear and get back into the race.Car refuses to go.(Rear upright had sheered off at the top bolt, and the suspension was dragging the ground).†† Got exciting for a while as the FF leader pretty much duplicated my exit (but crunched his tail on the opposite wall, very near where Ben was parked with a truncated tail).A couple more cars would spin or bobble.It apparently got very wet very quickly.By the last lap, Craig was gone (lost a chain) and Sean had closed to maybe 100 yards of Roger.

 

It rained off and on all the way home.We will all be days drying our stuff out.The morning paper tells me that it has rained on 24 out of the past 30 days.This is a grim statistic to a guy who has seven-year-old rain tires.Next weekend, VIR.Forecast, Rain.