Carlton and I headed to the track early Friday morning. He, Keith Smith, and Steve Brendle, along with about 15 others, were taking the Comp School.
Our Spec E30 drivers did us all proud and sailed right though the class. They were quick, under control, spoke-up in class, and drove well. A couple of their classmates were not so good. After we told them to keep their cars under control, one guy spun right in front of Steve, while exiting the pit lane during the first track session and crashed into the guardrail. He had traveled about 40 feet. I was two cars behind Steve and immediately thought that his day was done...unless he made a miraculous recovery. He didn't.
Saturday morning, I was still learning the track in my SO car (very different from driving an SU car there) and took it fairly easy during the sprint session morning warm-up. I turned a 2:26 during the session, which was four-full-seconds behind Daniel Herrington's Spec E30 SO record lap time of 2:22. I wasn't driving as fast as I possibly could...but I wasn't cruising either. Hmmmm.
In Qualifying, I went out behind three 944 Cup cars and could see that they were going to hold me up during the session. A few turns into the first lap, I dive-bombed them into turn four, along with the "just passed the Comp School Miata driver" and had an open track for the rest of the session. I drove about as hard as I can and came in after four laps.
NASA Mid Atlantic had 82 cars in the sprint race and split-started some of the cars. We didn't see a grid sheet before going to the grid so I was surprised to see that I was two positions ahead of Daniel and in 15th place overall. There was a V8 Mustang to my left and an E36 328i on my right. On the track, Daniel was right behind me.
As we approached the starter stand, we waited for the green flag...and waited...and waited, getting closer and closer. I was quickly getting convinced that we were getting a wave-off but the green flag suddenly appeared. Understandably, Daniel and many others were rolling into the throttle, but had to get out of it. Daniel came up very close but didn't hit me. Back in the field, some cars did get together.
As we raced down to turn one, Daniel and I moved to the right side of the track, to keep our positions going into turn one, a right-hander. Once through two and into three, a Mustang spun off the left side of the track. We all checked-up some but he kept it off the track and I drove past his nose.
I knew I wasn't going to keep Daniel behind me the entire race so I watched the mirror as we got up to speed. After a couple of laps, he got a good run through the last turn and drafted beside me on the front straight. He took the Spec E30 lead and I followed him for a couple of laps.
Coming out of Oak Tree turn, Daniel missed a shift (I'm assuming) and I passed him down the back-straight. As we got back to the front-straight, Daniel got a good run, drafted, and moved to the right. I could have taken one move to the right to keep him behind but it was still early in the race...but I wasn't going to lay down and give it to him. As we braked and went through turns one and two, I stayed on his left, drove around the outside, and tried to stay up beside him. As we got to turn three, a left hander, side-by-side (after the race, several spectators said that they had seen this), we both stayed in it. I had to turn-in early and slowed enough to keep from washing out and into his car. I drifted just to his door, but we never touched.
Later in the race, after Daniel showed me that a Spec E30 car will go faster though turn ten, a fast left hand sweeper at almost 6000 rpm in 4th, than I ever thought possible, we swapped the lead another time or two.
On the next-to-last lap, Daniel got caught up in traffic in Hogpen (last turn onto the front straight) and went off to the outside. I tucked-in and got by. As I motored down the front-straight, seeing the white flag, I noticed that Daniel was farther back and was not gaining. I dialed it back a notch or two and finished the lap to take the checker.
After we got to the tech shed for weighing, Daniel's trail of brake fluid told the tale. His left rear caliper had shifted and the caliper piston was leaking.
Everyone passed tech. I had put two extra gallons in the tank, just to make sure, and was 25 pounds over the minimum. I had run a 2:21...but Daniel's best lap time was a 2:20!
For Sunday, Carlton and I were planning to share his car for the enduro. However, his wife has the flu, which got worse Saturday night, and he wasn't able to do the 3.5-hour race. I decided to pack-up and just hang out with the group. However, after several suggestions from friends and Spec E30 drivers, I agreed that it didn't make sense to let my car just sit on the trailer. Plus, I really wanted to try to get some laps with Bimmerworld Speed World Challenge Drivers James Clay, Matt Richmond, and Seth Thomas. NASA put me at the back of the 53 car field so catching them would be nearly impossible. So, I decide to race for an hour, or until it started to rain.
At the start, I got passed a couple of the slower cars and immediately started looking for James, Seth, and Matt. Driving Alex's SU car, I was able to pass Matt on the first lap. As I approached, he requested a push/bump-draft but I drove past, trying to makeup as many positions as possible. During the second lap, I got held-up behind a Spec Miata, and two cars, with Matt on their tail, passed me going in to the uphill esses. I didn't force the issue and Matt gave me a wave as he drove past. I know these guys are good, but am I going to fight with an SU car for position????
As we exited Oak Tree, Matt again asked for a push and I helped him down the straight. I then pulled left, and got a thumbs-up from Matt as I drove past.
After several laps of fighting with Miatas and others, I noticed that James and Seth were way ahead, but were not pulling away. Later, I kept racing hard and didn't see James. Next lap, he had pulled-off into the South Course pit lane.
Suddenly, double yellow flags were raised at each station. Good. This might help me catch Seth, which was now my goal for the race. After finally convincing (horn and high-beams) the Spec Racer Ford in front to catch-up to the field, we took the green flag. I was still about 10 cars behind Seth but the traffic was holding him up, allowing me to close. After about four laps, I was on his rear bumper. We raced for about two laps (he has great car control) and I got a good run out of Oak Tree. Seth had dropped a wheel at the exit so I drafted and slowly passed him down the straight. With my goal accomplished, I let him back by and pulled into the pitlane.
As I entered the pitlane, I stopped at the Patton/May/Hall pit area. Robert (Seth was driving Robert's car) immediately said that he needs to work on the car. Hey, what about my driving???? ;-p
Seriously, I suggest that Robert check his car on a chassis dyno. My car made 135 hp at Summit last year, and the other SO cars checked that day made 136, 137, and Barry's built motor made 141. And we will check cars periodically during the season at the race weekends. The only mod I made over the winter was an oil and filter change.
After parking my car in the paddock, I helped the Herringtons (Daniel was flying) do their first pit stop. Later, I went back down to the Patton/May/Hall pit area and briefly spoke with Matt and Seth. Good guys for sure. And it was good to see Vic's car back on the track, its master kill switch fixed.
Thanks to all the guys who raced in Spec E30. As always, everyone helped when someone needed it, and everyone had a great time.
I'm planning to do the NASA Southeast race at Road Atlanta next month and the NASA Mid Atlantic race at CMP at the end of April. It sounds like Chris will have his car finished by then, as will Forrest, Don, and the two cars from Team Norfolk. I'm hoping to see Ric, Jon, and others as well. We should have about 15 cars by the middle of the season, here in the Mid Atlantic area, with 10 to 12 showing up at each race.
Lastly, I want to congratulate Steve Brendle for winning the Team Dynamics/Bimmerworld wheels at the VIR drawing.
Steady growth is our goal and that's exactly what's happening...thanks to our drivers.