Sean's Last Chance
VIR, Aug 01
Sean had a most unsatisfying outing the prior weekend at Pocono, suffering a DNF (broken half shaft), persistent ignition problems and a DNS. Still needing a race finish to meet Runoffs entry requirements, I decided to lend him my car for the VIR National.
We drove out on Friday afternoon and had enough time to unload and do registration before darkness came. Being race group one, we arrived at the track early each day. The plan for the morning practice session was to run a few laps (not wishing to stress the car) and verify that the repairs were OK. (Thank god for UPS overnight and for Bruce having the needed parts) Sean went out near Vic Moore, who has been most fast this season in his factory Radical, and immediately turned laps faster than he did last year at the regional in May. (My stock motor last year had 35+ races on it). His fifth lap was slow as Vic spun twice in front of him and he had to come to a complete stop, not being able to see in the immense cloud of dust. Vic had a tire going down. Sean came in. He reported that the gearing was a bit short as he was running out of redline about 300 to 400 yards short of the braking point on the back straight. (running 16/42 gearing). DataLog showed later on his fastest laps, that he was hitting the rev limiter about 1000 feet short of the braking point.
The qualifying session got off before the lunch break. Sean got 3 laps at speed before he lost fire. His third laps was a very respectable 2:04.16 which was a tad faster than my best lap last August at the National. (I was running the stockish zx11 motor that I had gotten from Bob Swensen then). Vic turned a 2:01 and took the pole. Other DSR entrants, Lapham and Bonsey, ran poorly and well off the pace.
After the car got towed back to the pits, we still could achieve fire. We tried all the ECU boxes without success. We took to body off and proceeded to check the wiring. We disconnected the "no lift" device. Sean found a relatively loose connection on the terminal block. He tightened it up and we got fire. He then removed all the connections and cleaned them using the Dremel and coated the connections using liquid electrical tape. We got the car back together and things secure just before the violent afternoon thunderstorm. Sean, Dan and I retreated to the trailer and drank beer for more than an hour as the storm rocked the trailer. Many tents in the paddock would die this day.
Sunday morning, with the threat of more thunderstorms, Sean went out for the warm-up session. He had a high speed miss after two laps. He came in and I changed the ECU box. No better. We did it again. No better, again. Sean drove the car back to the trailer as we considered our next move. Dan insisted that I should change the battery. Since the battery was new this season, had good voltage, and would crank the motor with hesitation, I was sure it couldn't be a battery problem. We changed the battery to the old one I was using as a jump battery and waited for the race. Even with a high-speed miss, Sean would drive around to bag his need "finish".
Sean had qualified 4th overall in the combined DSR/FF/F5/FV field of 25 cars. There were 2 FF's between him and Vic and 3 behind him. He would let all the FF's past on the start and wait to see how the car would run. At lap two, he reported on the radio that the car was running great. He picked up his pace and began turning 2:02 laps. He soon repassed all the FF's but one. I was hoping he would cool it until the official race halfway point (official finish), but he continued to run faster. At lap 8 he turned his best time of 2:01.8. Vic had about a 20-second lead on him and eventually turned a 1:59.4 lap to set a new record by nearly two seconds. Considering that Sean was running with less than optimum gearing and on a collection of used tires, one R45 front that dated back to last year's Runoffs, his performance was quite impressive. He got a trophy, a needed finish, enough points to finish in 6th or 7th in the Southeast division; I got a car back that finally runs. Made the ride home quite pleasant.