Most Unsatisfying

Road Atlanta June '01

Road Atlanta is a fun and very challenging track. I have yet to figure out how to go fast there. I have their "Drive to Win" video and the SportsCar GT video game, but even with my self-teaching efforts, I am making little progress. Thus I am lured back there each year.

This year I need a "finish" so that I can lend my Cheetah to son Sean for a couple of months. Sean has a new Stohr car being built with expected delivery in July/August. He needs to run a couple of SE Division races NOW in order to qualify for the Runoffs. Sean would be my pit "slave" at Atlanta and Kathy chose not to make the trip.

We took the long (9hr) drone down the Interstates on Friday. Construction delays in North Carolina have gotten fewer, thank God. Sean's Palm Pilot with cel phone provided Internet access for the trip. At least we had email, DSR forum and stock quotes to break the boredom.

The June National suffers dwindling attendance each year. The Atlanta Region uses a race-group combining scheme that effectively robs racers of track time. If I could get just one really good lap time, I could never have to go there again in June. Not this year.

There were 5 DSR's entered, but only Vic Moore and I took to the track. Byron Stauffer was there but was saving his car for the June Sprints the following weekend (plus, he "hates" Road Atlanta). No shows: Hasty broke his differential on a chassis dyno, Schmidt has a broken motor, Robertson broke his trailer at Mid Ohio, Cadow had to work, Haddock was at the Canadian GP, etc…… Roy Rosmanitz, who lives in the Atlanta area, showed up to help Hasty but volunteered to assist us. Roy owns an ancient LeGrand needing restoration plus a Zink 10 CF that he is converting to a DSR with Yamaha R1 power. Since my car only required routine maintenance all weekend, we really didn't have the chance to abuse Roy's help.

Being the second race group, we were on the track by 9:30 on Saturday morning. Session lasted 8 laps (15 minutes). I was really rusty (no real confidence on where the track was going next, especially in the blind corners) in turns 2 to 5. Tire temperatures showed that the chassis was working well. The revised exhaust system worked well and sound showed 95-97 dB. (Same pieces that failed the sound test at Summit, go figure)

The first qualifying session lasted 8 laps, with a FM sitting sideways at turn 10a the last two laps. I was beginning to find turns 2 and 3, but was still doing turn one too carefully. Best lap was 1:33.7. My personal best was 1:32.27 last season with my 30+ race stock motor. I expected to improve in the next session…. After all, I have a (mild) race prepared motor now. Vic turned an astounding 1:29.9 (he turned 1:36's last year).

It was much hotter for the second qualifier and we got 9 laps. Vic did not go out, saving his car for the Sprints, I guess. I set the wing at 1.5 degrees less, since I was able to take turn 12 flat out quite easily. My best laps were 1:33.6's. Disappointing. I was working on turn 1 and doing it better as well as taking turns 3 to 5 esses flat out. I was driving somewhat cautiously, and never got a wheel off. I needed that "finish" and didn't want to risk crossing the "limit." After the session, we did a bolt tightness check of the car and then walked the track from turn one to turn 5 taking note of the painted orange dots that the racing school had placed at the turn-in and track-out spots. I was now better educated.

Race day. I was gridded 24th of the combined 28 car FA/FM/FC/S2(only one)/DSR grid. My plan was to hang back at the start to avoid the usual first lap "shebabbles." There was a split start with the FA's and FC's going first. I did a few 1:36 laps, falling to last, but keeping Vic in sight about 75 yards ahead. At lap 4.5 Vic pulled off entering turn 6 (countershaft sprocket came off). At that point, I knew all I had to do was run 1/2 plus of the laps to get the very ugly WIN. I did 1:38 laps until my in car lap readout indicated that I was well past the halfway point. I decided to do a few laps at speed. It was not easy with all the FA and FC leading going by. I gave them plenty of room. At lap 14, I started a "flyer" but noted the telltale smell of antifreeze. I glued my eyes on the gauges. Sure enough, my water temperature was rising rapidly and the gearshift was not working. I came in and drove to impound. By now, I was losing oil also. Ugly, ugly win. Turns out that my water pump, which is held on by two bolts, had lost it fasteners and had come adrift. No pump (and the shift linkage is also bolted on the water pump) plus once the bolts exit, oil escapes from the cases. Fortunately, I noticed the problem before doing any motor damage.

By now the heat of the day was upon us. OK, we did abuse Roy after all. Pushing my car from impound to the trailer was uphill and fully tested Roy's and Sean's fitness. We are resolved to get a pit vehicle that can pull the car (my 60cc ATV is for kids). Best race lap, a 1:35. Finished 20th overall. Very unsatisfying outing.

I took a good look at my RaceLog data after I got home. Motor is down at least 25 HP from when fresh. Don't know why, since it really doesn't have many hours on it. Damn. Maybe it is time to consider the switch to Yamaha R1 power before the Runoffs. I suspect my motor has been lame for some time since I have been generally 1 to 2 seconds a lap slower at every race. I am resolved to check my data more carefully in the future. I hate motors!