May 20, 2011
Both Sean and I would attend, although without any crew. With the wimpy SCCA mandated Honda restrictor plate, we would be down about 10 HP to the Kent powered FF’s. But we like Summit Point and have raced there dozens of times. What the hell, we weren’t running for National points or a Runoffs invite.
Sean had to work on the Friday practice day, but I went needing some track time and to just play with my Swift toy. I went up Thursday afternoon and ignoring the Do Not Enter signs, found a virtually empty paddock. I did notice a long line of rigs lined up along the entry road, but drove on. Turns out they were allowing paddock entry at 5 PM, but no one stopped me. Found a nice space in the paved paddock adjacent to the woods: Nice shade! (The 5 PM land rush into the paddock was amusing to watch!) To save a spot for Sean (Someone said saving a space would be hard and asked if I had a gun), I parked my car in the Sean space up on chassis stands so moving it would be difficult.
Practice Day. Track was very green after many days of rain. There were 4 or 5 places on the road to the track that were still covered with water. My run group included all formula cars, SRs including SRF. There was lots of traffic of very fast and slow cars. My first session was devoted to bedding in new brakes and proceeding carefully. I was running the hard spec tires from the Pro race (6 heat cycles) and the Pro restrictor plate. Since my shins rub against the steering rack and I end up with bloody lacerations, I put on padded shin guards for the second session. Well that didn’t work as that extra ˝ inch of foam made reaching the brake pedal impossible. I came in and pulled the guard up to my knee. Even still, it was hard getting to the brake pedal. With massive traffic, I was reasonably happy with a couple of 1:21 laps.
Next session, I went slower by a second or so. Car seemed to handle poorly in the turn 6 to 8 section. Following session, I went slower again, but it got black flagged after 4 or 5 laps. Hmmmm. Session 5, I went slower again. Damn. Could it be that the tires were shot? I threw in the towel for practice day and fitted the SCCA restrictor and the 1.5 cycle R25 tires that Sean had used at the ARRC. Steve Oseth came by and suggested that I should be running R35 tires.
Hung around the track, visiting with Bob O’Connor and others waiting for Sean to arrive. I didn’t dare leave his space unguarded. About 20,000 ants marched out of the woods and filled my cooler. So much for the price of shade. Did my annual tech. (There is a massive culture change at the DC Region, as my annual consisted of looking at my gear, seat belts but they never asked to look at the car!) After doing registration (still and time consuming and senseless hassle), Sean arrived about 7:30. We quickly unloaded and took his car to tech. We were at dinner by 9 PM.
Saturday: Morning practice. A bit overcast and 80 degrees. For the race, our FF’s were grouped with FV and F500. There would be lots of cars to navigate around in the 27-car field. Again, I was slow and last (DFL!) of the 8 FF’s with a 1:22.1 best lap. I am beginning to get discouraged. Has any driving talent I may have had suddenly gone away? At my last race at Summit (Labor Day), I had many laps in the 1:19 range. Sean and I compared lap data, and I was losing 2+ seconds in the turn 6-8 section. My car was just not working there. I tend to brake later than Sean in most corners, so Sean suggested I try to keep momentum up. I would try it in the qualifying session.
Qualifying: I did better, but still not well. Best lap of 1:20.9 placed me 6th of the 8 FF’s. Leaders were turning 1:16. Colin Thompson took the pole is his Honda DB6 (damned kid!). The front running Kent powered guys wondered out loud if he was running the SCCA restrictor plate. Colin kept a blanket over his engine at all times, so we could not see. (In the race with the potential for inspection, he was not nearly so fast.) We checked my fuel filter to see if there was any clogging. Nope.
Race Day. As the next to last group, we would be running late in the day that promised a 50% chance of rain. Sean had no rain tires. During the lunch break, the rains came. Being the second race after lunch, we got my rain tires ready and watched the sky. The rain stopped and the Miata group before us mostly dried the track for us. The race start was eventful as Sean got airborne a couple of cars in front of me. I have video. My race was relatively slow again (best lap 1:20.9) and thanks to attrition, I did manage a 4th place in FF. All in all, not a satisfying weekend.
Smoking Gun: After I got home and did a car inspection, I found a couple of problems. First, the brake bias adjuster knob came off early in the weekend, so possibly there was some movement. Secondly, my newly rebuilt front shocks had one compression knob lose its detent and moved freely. Chris Billings (Shock-Shop) says that if it is not firmly in a detent, the compression is HARSH. But more importantly, the cross member that bolts to the bottom of the gearbox (and the rear lower a-arms are attached there) had lost one of its two bolts and the second was VERY loose. My rear suspension was very loosy goosy and on hard braking, the car was increasingly darty. I had checked several times over the weekend the usual suspects of bolts that can get loose. No problems. Will have a couple more to add to the list.