Unexpected Summit Point, June 22, 2016
It had been more than 8 months since I last took my race toy out and played with it. During the off season, I had replaced the brake rotors as they were beyond the wear limit taking the opportunity to install the floating rotors from Neil Porter on the front. At the suggestion of the AIM guys, I replaced my first generation lipstick camera with the new high definition, much improved one. The old camera had gone back to the service guys 5 times for repair and was basically just unreliable. Good news is that with “credits” I paid very little for it in the long run.
With the off season mainly being spent putting together Dan’s DB3 BASKETCASE, my race stuff got scattered about the shop. It would take some time to assemble it all again. I have a packing list. I went up to the race shop on Tuesday (a cool day that was not proceeded by days of rain) to load up. Getting the trailer pulled out of woods beside the garage was potentially the game breaker. I had cleared some low hanging branches with the pole saw the weekend before. Backing the truck into the woods and pulling the trailer out, proved to be easy with the soil being relatively firm.
Advance registration for the race was very sparse for purpose built cars. There were only two each CFs and FFs signed up. Close competition would NOT be likely. It was past time for me to get to the track and I would treat the weekend as practice. I was sidelined for the past two months while recovering from having a big chunk of my ear being removed (skin cancer, Yes, I am now wearing hats). It has only been a week or so that I could tolerate wearing the helmet.
I leave the Hampton house at 10 AM on Friday for the Williamsburg house/garage/shop. I barely get on I64, when a rear tire expires. I pull off under an overpass (Jefferson Ave.) as it is raining. I get out the Sequoia’s owner manual to find out where the spare and tools are located. I am just getting started when two roadside assistance guys showed up. They did the heavy lifting and they had power tools. The wheel and tire is very heavy and must weigh at least 75 pounds.
There are several tire stores on Second Street in Williamsburg, and I was hopefully I could find a replacement tire there. Merchants Tire was first on my path. The useless counter guy was not being helpful and suggested making an appointment for next week. He was intractable. I asked him to see if they had a tire in stock. They did for $254. I asked if they could just put it on my rim. After much discussion with the shop guy, they agreed. This process took about an hour and a half, and their bogus charges pushed the price to over $300. At his point, I am actively thinking of just going home.
At the Williamburg house, I have to put the new tire wheel back on. This time I would do the heavy lifting. I had to use a sledge hammer and long bar to loosen the lug nut. Damn those wheels are heavy and I can barely lift the spare into the cargo space of the truck. It is still lightly raining but I am enjoying being cooled off. I get and email from Chuck Van Nostrand, my sole CF competitor, says he has truck problems and has withdrawn from the race. Another reason to just stay home, but I hitch up the trailer and head out.
There were many traffic snarls and stoppages along the way to Summit. Where did all this additional traffic come from? It wasn’t bad a couple of years ago when gas was $5.00 per gallon. We need to return to those prices!
Arrived at the track about 5 PM, unloaded, setup the paddock, bought gas, prepped the car and was ready for the early morning session on Saturday. Treated myself to a beer and went to registration. Immediately, I got yelled at and told to leave. Why? Because I had an opened beer. Against the rules (written where?) Why? I was told that they wanted to prevent any entrant with “diminished capabilities” signing “very sensitive” documents. I felt compelled to share my contempt for this insanity with the room. I didn’t make any friends, or for that matter get rid of my nearly finished beer. Grumpy petty registration lump refused to give me an info packet or a tech sticker. I was told to go to tech. I protested that I already had a valid Annual inspection. I got in my truck and drove back to tech with my log book and helmet to get my sticker. They said they would need to examine all my gear first. I pointed out that the Annual took care of that. They were not going to relent. I returned to my trailer and gathered up my driving gear and returned to tech. They made me stand around for 10 minutes while they chatted with someone. Got my sticker and headed to town. It was now after 8PM and a reasonable dinner was not going to be had. Has the spirit of Al Fiala returned?
By now I am just one small slight away from packing up and going home.
Racing activity anyone? I get to the track fairly early and the 12 minute (Yes, 12 MINUTE) qualifying session would go off at 8:30 ish. Wayne Nicolette, the CF usual frontrunner had unexpectedly arrived to play. Good, I would not be the only CF and there were two DB1 FFs also. I began the session very carefully having to break in new rotors and brakes. The first few corners, the brakes were hardly there. (Not cool when you are doing 120 mph heading into turn one!) I also noticed that I was having a problem getting my right foot on the gas and brake pedals. Ever since my back problem about 10 years ago, my right foot has had very little feeling. I had not noticed it before in a race car. The good thing is that after a few laps, my body memory kicked in and my foot knew where to go AND the brakes were working pretty well.
I drove faster each lap and was pleased to see my lap times going down quickly. I was having FUN. I didn’t expect it. Nice. Plus the new video camera worked automatically as designed and produced excellent results. Best lap was 1:22.5.
Having not looked at the qualifying results, I was surprised to find myself gridded 6th for the 12 lap race. I was faster than both FFs but not very close to Nicolette’s time. He was gridded just in front of me. After two laps, Nicolette and Rankin (P2) were pulling out a growing gap. There were no cars visible in my mirrors; I was running alone. I did get lapped by the Indy Lites car near the end of the session. In the heat of the afternoon session, Nicolette ran nearly two seconds slower than his qualifying time. I was .4 seconds slower, so I continue to make progress. The race was completed just before lunch, so I had many hours of leisure ahead. I made it back to the motel by 3PM and was able to take an early dinner.
Sunday’s race was off at about 10AM before the day’s heat could build. Chuck Van Nostrand decided to join us in CF. (He lives just down the road in Alexandria) From the 7th grid spot, I got a decent start shadowing Nicolette and passed Rankin into turn one. It took Rankin a lap before he zoomed back by in turn one. I kept him and Nicolette in fairly close sight for several laps while I worked on my braves and driving. I was beginning to turn many 1:21 laps, a nice improvement. The race was a good practice session for me. On the last lap while trying to give Keith McDonald (FE) plenty of room to pass (he had just rejoined the race), I went off a bit into the gravel in turn 3. Dinged the nose a little. Dumb, but of no consequence. I finished second in CF and 6th of 12 overall.
I really enjoyed the time in the racecar. It was unexpected. Now I can look forward to the remainder of the season. Yippee.