March 10, 2002
With Bike Week going on at Daytona, I would be entertained with lots of passing bikes and trailers going to and from Savannah. It slowed traffic up a bit, but it was never boring.
There would be a very nice turn out of our mostly bike engine powered DSR cars for Savannah. Kathy and I would leave Friday morning for a leisurely drive down. Hasty and Dave Gomberg would already be there for the test day; as were, as it turned out, most of the DSR field. Sean and Mark would arrive Friday night. We got to the track mid afternoon and Dave was the first person I encountered. He informed us that he had his motor die, and would be heading home. I again offered to sell him a bike motor for his Cheetah but he still has that "sow's ear" thing going.
I was surprised to see Hasty there with his Stohr car vice his Cheetah. He had gotten needed parts for the Cheetah somewhat late and had figured out mostly how to fit in the Stohr. He remains a sucker for that pretty face. He hasn't figured out how to fit his size 12 feet into the foot box yet, so he had to drive without using the clutch much. He will install a hand clutch lever for the next race.
Savannah is an abrasive track surface requiring hard tires. I would be using the tires I bought for the Runoffs….. soft, but now aged R25's. If the weather turned out to be anything less than cool, I would be at a big disadvantage. Sean too was running his Runoff tires, but would consider the race weekend as a test session to proof his cooling modifications (they worked, fine).
As group one, our session got off early Saturday morning barely before the fog lifted. Temperature was a nice 50 ish for the 15 DSR's that did the session. Tom Robertson, although having arranged to rent a Radical, was reduced to spectator status when the guys driving it on the previous day trashed it too much. Vic Moore, current lap record holder, set the best lap at 1:12.32. I was forth fastest at 1:12.94. Sean and Hasty didn't get any lap times since they hadn't installed their transponders yet. Sean's muffler blew a big hole in the side, and we spent some time fabrication a patch.
The afternoon qualifying session would be quite warm with temperature at 84 degrees. I knew my tires would get snotty in no time. The great majority of the drivers turned their best lap within 2 or 3 of going out. I took too much time working my way up to speed and by the time I was honking, traction was becoming elusive. I ended up 8th fastest in DSR at 1:13.6 and 0.12 seconds behind Sean. Chip Haddock, now with a FULLY modified Suzuki motor, was flying. His time of 1:10.8 was better than the lap record, as was Jay Lovett who was second fastest at 1:11.11. Sean blew up his muffler patch and had a big off in turn three. We would stay fairly late cleaning much sand out of his carbs. Brian Little and Roy Rosmanitz came down to crew. We kept them somewhat entertained.
At this point, I had run every lap of both Saturday sessions. The car was running fine and I was having fun. Add gas and go.
The forecast for Sunday raceday was for cooler and windy. Unfortunately for me, it didn't turn out that way and it was too warm for me to be completely competitive. I toyed with buying tires, but since the R45 compound that I would buy would not be appropriate for Summit Point, the next race, I decided to wait.
First Kathy pointed out that Rich Mullin would be just behind me on the start, so I knew I had to account for some crazy first turn action. As I rounded turn 9, the green flag fell. Immediately, Jasek Mucha's Ralt slowed (He had a broken half shaft) causing the field to split right and left. We got bunched up pretty good going thru turn one. Mullin hit me pretty hard on the rear knocking me somewhat sideways. Mullin and another yellow S2 had the momentum and passed. Sean, Gelles and Cook were just ahead and we were all very busy challenging each other. As I round turn 9, I see the pace car come out and the "double yellow" flags. I see a black S2 up against the pit wall just past start/finish. (He was at end of the field and had hit Mucha in the rear.) Chip Haddock, had a bout of "red mist" and spun in turn 4 on lap one.
The pace car was only out for one lap and we got back to racing. I got back by the S2's in a lap and put myself on the tail of the Sean and Gelles battle. Sean got past him quickly. I did not. It took four laps to find a way past. Gelles' new Van Diemen in a pig in the corners but had good straight-line speed. He was holding me up and we were turning 1:13.8 second laps. Sean had opened a good gap on Gelles and I was afraid it I didn't get by soon, I would have time to catch Sean. I finally got inside of Gelles in turn 4. Unfortunately, while braking for turn 5b, my foot unintentionally hit the accelerator (it does happen, but rarely) and I went wide into the sand. By the time I got my tires clean again, Gelles had put several hundred yards on me. My next three laps were in the 1:12.0 range as I caught back up to Gelles. Sean overcooked the exit to turn 7 and spun off. It took me three laps to pass Gelles. I followed Tom Nastasi (the race leading CSR) as he lapped us into the inside line to turn one. Gelles gave me a pretty good shot as I braked for turn 2. I then turned some good laps and Gelles disappeared from my mirrors. Chip, with his very healthy motor, would pass me and eventually pass Jay Lovett for the DSR win. I would finish 4th. Then came the Flag Fiasco.
My view of the Flag Fiasco
Poleman Mucha's CSR broke a half shaft at the green flag and fell thru the field like a rock. A S2 near the end of the 24-car field hit Mucha and ended up parked next to the concrete pit wall.
The flag chief (I talked with him) decided to go with a FCY (full course yellow) after a small delay.
By now, the closely bunched pack of cars were on the backside of the course, locked in tooth and nail combat, with a clear course in front of them. The double yellows got put up in a stealth fashion. There was no waving of a flag (HEY….. LOOK AT ME !!!), they just appeared. Drivers were very busy, side by side looking for apexes, braking points and a chance to finish an overtaking. Some noticed the flags before others. I saw them maybe two corners after they MAY have appeared. I suspect that most of the field didn’t know of the FCY condition until they reached the front straight and saw the pace car come out.
So the officials Disqualified EIGHT cars for Passing under Yellow.
Many appealed. Of the three appeals that I have heard from so far, all the DQ's have been lifted but a one-lap penalty was imposed on two drivers (Sean and Chip). Cook had his DQ reversed (he had video). NOT MUCH of a vote of confidence of the flagger's calls.
Guess we all should be running video recorders.
Getting a very unfair DQ, made me stew all the way home. It is now several days after the race, and the official results are still not available. I am getting over it now. Good news from the weekend is that I was able to turn lap times within .2 seconds of my personal best in 1999 on NEW TIRES. I can judge my Yamaha motor conversion a success and look forward to the next race.