Cabin Fever

Summit Point, 4 April 2004


Although the calendar says it is spring, pleasant weather is still weeks away from the mountains of West Virginia.  The Washington D.C. Region has moved the first National of the northeast up a week for the past two years.  Stupid. Weather was miserable, but hoards of racers (perhaps showing less sense) still showed up.  After six months of inactivity, racers were raring to go.


By Wednesday night before the race, all the paved paddock spaces were claimed.  Dave Gomberg, who lives somewhat nearby, went out Wednesday and roped off a few spaces for the modest DSR clan.  THANKS Dave.  At least 50 racers would spend the weekend in a sea of ankle-deep mud in their paddock spaces.  


It was very cold and rainy for the Thursday and Friday practice days, but quite a few racers went out.  Hardy lot.  Kathy and I arrived Friday afternoon after a leisurely drive up and a shopping side trip.  We unloaded, stood in the registration line under an umbrella for an hour or so and then headed off to the warmth of the motel.   Five DSRs showed up with only newcomer Dave Watson doing the practice day.  Dave, who recently purchased the ex Craig Stafford Radical, is from Toronto and is a former FV pilot.  Dave was finding the step up to DSR to be intimidating and at times “scary” but was progressing rapidly.  He loved the POWER and acceleration.


The fast Sportsracers (CSR, DSR, and S2000) were group two, so would be on the track early each day.  Saturday bought more rain.  Dave Gomberg and I, being old and averse to being cold and wet, passed up the morning qualifying session.  Dave Watson and the two young lions, Matt DiRenzo and Tom Becker, put on the rain tires and went out.  Matt and Tom did only two laps before deciding they had enough.


For the next several hours we all stood around and stared to the sky hoping for some clearing.  It stopped raining (mostly) around noon, but the track was slow to dry.  By the time for the afternoon qualifying session, the track was 80% dry but stone cold with no sun breaking through the heavy cloud cover.  I set my car up with moderate softness and maximum downforce.  I gave away way too much straight-line speed.  With my laptime display on strike, I had no idea of my lap times.  I drove conservatively and kept the car on the pavement.  I was a bit surprised to see that I had turned 1:18 laps and was sixth fastest in the 18-car group and third in DSR.  Matt took the pole with a 1:16.9 on new, soft tires.  I was using the somewhat used up R35s that I bought at the Runoffs.  Tom got a 1:17.5 lap for second in DSR and 5th overall.  Dave Gomberg did a lap or two before his motor yet again failed him.  At the end of the session my water temperature was 110 degrees (F), oil was 150 and tires were not even warm to the touch.  With the forecast for the Sunday morning race being 40 degrees, SNOW showers, and 40 mph wind, I would be taping up most of the radiator and oil cooler openings.  I took the rain tires out of the trailer and asked myself why a reasonable person would even be there. 


Sean showed up to crew.  Having recently joined an over 30-soccer league, he was suffering body abuse and could hardly walk.  At least, the car required no special attention. 


Racing buddy, Eric Cruz was along with his very pretty, new FSCCA car.   He would have an incident in the 50 car FA, FC, FM, FF (wild and crazy) group and destroy his nose and front wings.  Ka-ching.  $2500.  Much to his disappointment, none of the official CSRs that are suppose to have spare parts at the track had anything.  He would have to go home.


At least it didn’t snow Sunday morning.  Track was wet and cold with wind chill at about 30 degrees.  Track was drying so I didn’t have to mount the rain tires.  Kathy put on extra socks and Sean borrowed lined gloves.  We were ready to race.  Gridded sixth, I was behind two S2000’s.  The inside line consisted of Jasek Mucha, Matt and Tom.  Of course that line was much faster at the green flag.  Tom got held up a bit in turn one as another S2000 passed him and I got ahead of him also.  Turn 3 is a high speed, uphill left-hander.  The S2000 in third (barely) got badly out of shape at the apex.  I got a full view of both sides of the car.  The other S2000s in front of me drove left and right of the oscillating car and made contact.  Tom and I met at the apex with my right front getting tapped.  I barely missed the gathering roadblock of the 3rd through 6th placed cars as they all kinda came together.  My nose section was ajar, but I continued on.  It was rubbing on the tires and I was smoking some.  Since only one side was ajar, I continued on pass the pits on the first lap while wildly pointing to the nose.  Kathy said they couldn’t figure out what I was trying to tell them.  I had a radio, but for some reason didn’t think to use it. 


The nose got worse on lap 2 and I decided to come in and get it reattached.  This time I used the radio.  As I came to a stop in the pit lane, the nose section departed and slid nicely down the pit lane 10 to 20 feet.  Sean, crippled, and Kathy (who had never put on a nose) struggled to get it back on.  An annoying pit worker who was in the way and kept saying that they could not get the nose back on safely did not help the process.  Sean finally yelled at him to BACK OFF!  Car would not start and the jump battery had broken a cable on the grid.  Relatively immobile Sean had to push start me (took 3 tries as the driver was too anxious).  I was down two laps, but now running well.   Car handled very well despite the cold track and I was passing cars every lap.  I passed Dave Watson in the Radical and was closing on him again when the checker came out.  Tom would have a backmarker induced “off” 4 laps from the end, run over his nose and end up parked and giving up second in DSR.  Bummer.  Matt would spend the race alone in the two car lead pack, staying close to Jacek’s CSR.  He would take the DSR win with a 1:15.7 best lap.  I was pleased with my 1:16.9 best lap particularly since I was running only at about 95% and being very careful.   Dave Watson would get second in DSR and a trophy, not too shabby for his first outing in the Radical.  


Kathy and I packed up and headed out.  By the time we reached home in southeast Virginia, it was 65 degrees and sunny.  Spring races need to be further south or I need to be much younger.