At Last

Summit Point, April 7, 2002

For the past 5 years, I have wanted very much to break the DSR lap record at Summit Point. Before buying the DSR and running only National races, I ran regionals at Summit maybe 7 or 8 times per year. I knew the track, and it owed me.

My Cheetah chassis was capable, and the Kawasaki ZX motor likewise. However, events conspired to keep me at bay. First year, I had a weak motor and it rained like Noah. The following year, running my stock motor, I was within .4 sec of record. Next year, my race motor died in practice, and I put the by then very well used stock motor back in. I qualified about .6 seconds off the record, but rain for the race ended that year's assault. Last year, running the race prepared ZX10, there was a slipping clutch in qualifying, and the car was too loud and couldn’t run flat-out for the race.

This season, I have replaced the race prepared ZX10 motor ($$$) with a stock Yamaha R1. Good choice. I have been faster at the two early season races. I expected to run faster at Summit.

Kathy and I arrived about mid-day. Son, Sean, was supposed to be there running the full practice day, but as it turns out, after several late nights of preparation work, he decided that rest was more important. Mark Walthew was along to crew for Sean and Thor Barbru (old racing buddy, who now has a FA). Mark stayed very busy. As usual at Summit, the place was mobbed and finding pit space was a big challenge. There were 14 DSR's entered, but several didn't survive the test days and only 10 remained to play.

With overnight temperatures in the 20's (some claimed to have seen SNOW flurries) and daytime highs in the low 40's with a stiff wind and clouds, Saturday was an unfriendly day. We were on the track for the first qualifying session by 0945. Early on, I got a brief whiff of that anti-freeze smell. Gauges were fine, continued. Had trouble with a couple of shifts until I learned that the throw was longer than I remembered. I got black flagged on the last lap of the session for "leaking fluids". Turns out that the radiator had a hole (where in the hell did that come from?) and had run out of water, which in turned caused the motor to overheat (How Much????) and blow out some oil. A quart maybe. Anyway, the oil temperature never got above 200 degrees. I guess the cold day was a blessing somehow. My data system display has died, so I had no indication of how fast I was running. I was somewhat surprised to learn that I was on the pole in DSR by more than a second with a time of 1:16.41. Sean, who had stiffened up his Stohr, had run several laps in the low 1:15's but got disqualified for being too loud. We both were running new R35 Hoosier tires.

Sean would spend the entire weekend, repacking his muffler and tweaking it with limited success. His plan for the afternoon session was to run maybe two hot laps after the tires got up to temperature and to come in before getting flagged for sound violation. However, his brake balance cable came adrift and fouled his brake pedal travel and he spent the entire session from lap 2 parked in the turn one gravel trap. My session went without event. I was concerned that I may have "hurt" my motor in the morning session, and drove with some reserve. Never approached 100 percent or put a wheel off. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I had taken the DSR pole (as well as the entire CSR, DSR, S2 group pole) with a lap record breaking time of 1:15.56. John Howarth, in an Amac ZX10, had the record since April 1996 with a 1:15.965. Bad news was that Bob Gelles in the new Van Diemen DSR was only .1 second behind and also well under the previous lap record. Bob's VD is maybe 150 pounds heavier than my Cheetah, but he has a very stout "Graves, Stage III" motor making maybe 30 more HP. It was gonna be a horse race, particularly if Sean (who would start last at 20th) could get past the field quickly. Tom Robertson in the rental ride Radical from Leslie, could also be a factor as he was getting accustomed to the shifter.

Race Day. Morning temperature was 23 degrees. My water buckets had one inch of ice on them. Sean did warm-ups and failed sound again. He went to the auto parts store again. The day warmed nicely as the clouds left. It would be maybe 50 to 55 degrees for our race, just after lunch. They gave us two pace laps in order to get the cars/tires better up to temperature. The S2 driver, A.J. Smith (sometime pro racer), who would start just behind me, asked if I would do a fairly "fast" start in order to spread the field out some before turn one. I had already decided that I didn't want to engage Gelles ( with his superior HP) in anymore of a drag race than was necessary. In second gear, I accelerated somewhat moderately, to 8000 RPM, exiting turn 10 and held it while I waited for the green flag. We got waved off. Did pretty much the same thing again for the next pace lap, and we got the green.

Gelles was not challenging as we approached turn one (he had gear-shifting problems). However the gaggle of S2's from grid positions 3 thru 8 were hot on my tail. A. J. Smith and I were locked in battle and slowing us both down (turning 1:19 laps) and keeping the pack at our heels. I let Smith by and concentrated on turning smooth laps. The trailing pack of cars disappeared from my mirrors. I stayed about 50 yards behind Smith. Within a very few laps, we began encountering lappers. A couple groups of 3 cars provided some real passing "moments." With no DSR's to challenge, I was driving conservatively. A "Robertson Blue" DSR was parked/off in turn 4 at lap 5, and I wondered it if was Gelles. Turned out to be Mike Sirianni. Was carefully watching my mirrors to see if the red Stohr of Sean's would be closing. About mid race, I got interested in catching back up to Smith. I closed the gap to his tail a couple of time, but got delayed as we passed several groups of cars. By race lap 20, I was turning low 1:15's again. I got a good run on Smith entering turn 10, but he suddenly slowed spewing some smoke. (He had a tire go down). I spent the last 3 laps telling myself to drive carefully at 95%, but as it turned out I was still turning relatively fast laps. I would lap 5 cars twice. The victory lap was sweet.

Sean would finish second in DSR and 7th overall. He would drive the race lifting well before the sound control location but still bagged laps in the 1:16 range. With the handling, cooling problems solved, and with a working muffler, the Stohr appears to be a formidable competitor. Sean is stroked.

As for me? At last I have the much-wanted Summit Point lap record, not to mention a National win. Can't get much better than this.