18 April 2009
My racing season got off to a very late start this year.
A couple of years, I did the January Sebring race, but generally began my
season at the March race at Savannah. I
missed it this year for the first time in 20 years. Why? Simply because my
Cheetah is not competitive anymore at National races.
(It was leading edge in 1997). I
signed up for the Savannah weekend, but after looking at the entry list with 8
super fast Stohr WF1ís entered and me, I just could not summon up any interest
in being completely outclassed.
Well the next race on my dance card, was the VIR double national.
Great track, short tow, and a warming spring, little chance for rain.
Again an army of fast WF1ís, a factory West car, and me. Anyway, with
Sean and Eric planning to be there, it would be a gathering.
I drove up midday Thursday. Kathy
is bored with the shopping opportunities in Danville, chose to stay home and
supervise the contractor tiling our newly redone bath.
Arrived about 4 PM unloaded in the Cruz compound and took the car off for
itís annual technical inspection. Registration
and tech was a breeze. Sean arrived
a short time later and we repeated the tasks.
I donít remember what happened to the time, but Sean and I got to the
restaurant about 9 PM. Tired, very
tired, Motel, Sleep.
Weekend got off with a practice session Friday morning.
Out Formula and SR group numbered 63 (!!!) cars.
Way too many fast cars and adrenalin junkies.
About 2 laps into the practice, a guy got high sided in a very
dangerous, blind spot at the top of the esses.
Before long the yellow flags gave way to a black flag all.
As I pulled into the pits, Mark Walthew noticed that my car was
leaking water. My session
was over. Frank Malone got
the golf cart and towed my car back to the trailer.
Found that a rubber thingy about the size of a pinky that plugged
a vent in the radiator had a crack.
Easy repair, but 90% of the water was gone, so I worried that
maybe I had hurt the engine. This
will give me something to think about for the next session.
The afternoon qualifier was for the Saturday race.
I put on my best year old tires.
Since there were so many cars in our group, officials (who had
ignored a drivers petition to split the group) decided to send the cars
off in waves of 12 separated by a few seconds.
This was a total disaster, with the first group coming around
before the last FEW groups were allowed on the track.
Many dangerous situations. Huge
traffic, cars off everywhere and no clear track to nail a good lap.
My car was shifting badly. Very
difficult getting downshifts. Missing
shifts amidst a stampede wasnít cool or safe.
I wasnít having much fun.
I came in after 3 laps. Best
time 2:03, which got me 53rd place in the field of 58
surviving cars. The fast
WF1ís were in the 1:49 range. Fantastic
speed for the new generation DSRs.
Hell, three years ago the DSR lap record was 1:58.
The sleeve on my shift push-pull cable had come apart, making the PUSH part
(downshifts) mostly impossible. Not having a spare (NOTE, always carry one), Frank and I set
about to make a fix. The cable at
the engine shift lever is near lots of aeroquip lines (some a bit frayed) and in
no time both of my hands and arms were showing Blood. Actually lots of blood.
At some point, Sean relieved me, I suppose getting tired at the sight of
bleeding. Getting the cable in and out was a real chore with the exhaust header
running interference. After a couple of tries, we got the sleeve to stay put,
but the push-pull was VERY stiff. No
other option, but to tolerate it. My
right arm will be getting a primo workout.
Another late departure from the track.
Saturday, race day one. Officials
decide to do a split start with the Sportsracers going second.
This meant I would be dead last since my times were faster than a few of
the formula cars in the lead group. The
split start worked out to be a bad idea. By
the time for the green flag, the Sportsracer group was only 20 seconds behind
the formula cars, many of which were quite a bit slower than the sportsracers.
By turn 2, overtaking had begun. A
long full course yellow came out after a couple of laps and stayed out for 3 or
4 laps. The conga line of 50 plus
cars was brutal and we at the rear had to come to complete stops several times.
I was at least Ĺ mile behind the leader at the top of the roller coaster
series when the yellow flags came down. Me
and a couple of S2000ís were still warming our tires when Dwight Kelly in a
Radical came charging by hitting my car a pretty good lick on the side.
He had radios and knew the race was on.
Not us. I drove carefully
for a few corners to see if everything was OK.
It was. Now to race.
For 5 or so laps, I was very entertained passing lots of cars, mostly
FMís (video shows 9 cars passed.). Despite
the hard shifting, I didnít miss many shifts.
On lap 10, I came up #72 FE in the uphill esses.
I was shocked and spooked when he braked in the middle of the esses.
Traffic in Oak Tree prevented me from getting by him there.
I took the outside line going into the Roller Coaster turn pulling along
side of him. He came over on me
hard; maybe he didnít see me. Regardless,
I took to the grass and ate my nose as it folded under my front tires.
Race over. Finish 46th.
Number 72 took 36th. Got
good video. Must stop trying to pass FEís there.
Fitted the spare nose for the Saturday afternoon qualifier for the Sunday race.
Ran 10 laps turning a 1:59.0 and getting a 37th place. (At least I got on the front page of the results sheet.)
My AIM system showed a 1:58.1 lap so I came in.
Shifting was still a problem, but I had to persevere.
Sunday race. Warm (80 degrees) and
sunny. No split start this time.
Start was fine until turn one, where racing buddy Eric Cruz would barrel
roll three times. A FM got hit from behind shoving him inside of Ericís rear
wheel under acceleration. Launch.
Write off a FE. Fortunately
he was unhurt, but had his bell rung and went to the hospital.
A three lap double yellow came out.
I hung back some distance not wanting to play the conga line thing again.
Cars got spaced out pretty good. I
followed Anthony Sleathís S2000 for a while.
The slower cars were already behind me, so there was little passing until
encountering the back markers near the end of the race.
I was turning 1:59 laps consistently.
Got passed by the race winning FA just as the checkered flag came out.
My AIM system tells me my best rolling lap was a 1:57.1 and best
theoretical lap (sum of best split times) was a 1:54.
Not too bad for my outdated Cheetah.
Clutch travel was getting to be a problem late in the race and of course
shifting was even more difficult. Finished
37th of 53. Sean
would blow his engine on lap 7 but he had a good time all weekend and turned
some nice 1:55 laps.