On the Road again.
9 Jun 02
I donít look forward to racing at Road Atlanta. Itís a mind numbing, daylong drive on I85 through frequent construction delays in the Carolinas. The track, though interesting to drive, favors big horsepower. In the past, my ponies were modest and my relative performance was likewise.
Kathy and I departed Friday morning in our new tow vehicle, the GMC Envoy. New truck was nice, quiet, smooth and up to the task of pulling my smallish 14-foot trailer up hill. Nothing near the grunt of Sean's turbo diesel device, but very adequate. Sean would be coming to the race solo. Roy Rosmanitz, who lives in the Atlanta area, would be coming out to crew for both of us. Kathy would be doing her usual shopping adventures on Saturday.
The Atlanta regions run a different format of practice/qualifying than most regions. There would be three 15-minute sessions, with the first one an untimed practice. It was cool Saturday morning and I had to borrow Kathy's sweatshirt to keep warm. Unexpected. I drove very ragged in the session and had trouble shifting. Since my laptime display still turns itself off, I had no idea of lap times.
It was still relatively Cool (for Atlanta) at 75 degrees for the morning qualifying session and most drivers went quickest in this session. Vic Moore's 1:29 laps was equal to his best last year. Sean, in his first visit to Road Atlanta in a DSR did well with a 1:30 lap. My Cheetah was having shifting problems (It ran flawlessly at the prior raceÖ. Go figure) and I have having to slam it to shift. My laps were not pretty, and I was surprised to find I have turned 1:31 laps, which are better by one second over my previous best. (I like my new stock R1!)
I adjusted my shift linkage and bled the clutch. The afternoon session was VERY HOT (How hot? So hot that the blacktop in the pits was uncomfortable to touch!) and Sean and I decided to do just 4 or 5 laps and save the tires. About lap 3, my clutch went away, but I stayed out a couple more laps trying my muscle shifts.
Turns out the shaft had come out of my Wilwood slave cylinder. Roy assisted with the repair. He bought his new OMS to the track on Friday to get his annual tech, but he has to do a couple of regional races before they will restore his National license. Anyway, we took the slave cylinder off and discovered that the shaft screws (apparently) into the pressure disc and the shaft had backed off. Maybe the disc had rotated with use, unscrewing itself. The rod ends on the other end of the shaft were locked and could not rotate. Perplexing failure mode, as it can happen anytime again.
Kathy who got stuck in traffic returning the track got there about 6:45. We went off to eat at PF Chang's at a HUGE mall north of Atlanta (about 15 miles from the track).
Sunday would also be HOT. Our race group consisted of the fast formula cars and sports racers and was 34 strong. We DSRs would be gridded mid pack and the first laps promised to be a barnburner. Vic had an ECU failure and never got off the grid. Sean almost didnít make the race. He car wouldnít run and died on the trip to the grid. Seems that he had drained some excess fuel load from the car (gotta save those few ounces) using the fuel test port and had not reconnected it fully. He and Roy had changed the plugs before they found the fuel leak.
The pace lap would provide some early entertainment. One FC spun just passing under the bridge causing some wild evasive actions and the first lap got waved off. The next first lap was less thrilling, but several cars did visit the dirt. Trying to be careful for a lap or two, Mike Kamalian drove under me in turn 10a (much to my surprise). Things settled down for a few laps with Sean just ahead with a FC and two FM's on his tail with Kamalian and me just behind. Mike could pull me a couple of car lengths on the back straight, but although I was a tad quicker in most corners, there were no opportunities to pass. On lap 7, some FC's came together in the esses leaving parts and a two-wheel car parked on the apex to turn 4. We had 3 laps of double yellow and bunched up for another wild start. The guy in the FC drove into Sean's right wheel in turn one, losing his wing and causing Sean some future fiberglass work. (Sean also got nicked by another FC re-entering the course) Now Sean, Mike and I were locked in a nose to tail train. My radios were locked in the drivers mike on position and Kathy got to hear me breathe for the entire race. Mike was smoking and I was thinking he would not last. (He says the smoke is a feature of his dry sump system). I was calculating where I could take Mike, but as I entered turn 12 to begin the last lap, my chain came off and I coasted down the front straight. I had lapped Mike Neal earlier so I managed to finish third.
I had actually eaten most of the teeth off the rear sprocket and the chain slipped off (not breaking). Guess all those muscle shifts the day before had taken their toll on the chain and sprockets. Sean took his second National win in a row and his Stohr is progressing well with its junkyard stock motor. The Stohr's slick shape is a definite advantage on the straights. Damn.
Anyway driving Road Atlanta was much more fun this year than my memories of prior years. Maybe I am finally getting the hang of the place. My best race laps were 1:31.6, which is only 1/2 second slower than Sean's despite being held up somewhat by Mike Kamalian.