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Executive Summary:

After a pretty hectic start to the weekend, we ended up with a result that, in Mike Eakin's (aka - Purple Frog's) words, was "Probably the best drive you've had in five years". The car performed perfectly (it appears we FINALLY have the shifter adjusted correctly), we turned the fastest GTA lap of the weekend, and we won Saturday's 16-lap race.  Unfortunately, the race was actually 18 laps and we finished second to BJ Holley by 0.677 seconds! <g> 

Longer Version:

Those of you who actually read the longer versions of my past reports may recall that we were off our expected pace during the V8RRS Finale the weekend of Oct 15,16. I wasn't sure if there was something wrong with the car or if it was more my lack of experience at VIR, but we would definitely find out at my home track of Road Atlanta where we figure I've run 1200 laps since 1976. While unloading after VIR I did find a problem with the set-up on the new rear end that effectively made it into a fully-locked differential, but was that enough to make me 6-8 seconds slower than I should have been? At VIR we also had a recurrence of the shifter problems that had plagued us the previous two weekends (Barber & Watkins Glen), so we also needed to confirm the 1/8" difference in adjustment of the 3-4 shifter rod had fixed that. 

Our schedule for the ARRC weekend called for qualifying on Friday with our championship race on Saturday. I was looking at the entire weekend as a test and did not run the Thursday test day, but I still went up to the track on Wednesday afternoon to secure our paddock spot. Since I was not going to be on track until probably 10:30 or so Friday morning I did not unload anything on Wednesday evening, which was a mistake. I left the house around 7:00 Friday morning with the intention of getting to the track around 8:30 at the latest, but I'd forgotten just how bad Atlanta-area traffic can be. Even though I was using back roads I arrived at the track after 9:00 and still had to unload the car, set up the paddock space, install the tires we'd used at VIR (at least I didn't have to get new tires mounted), set tire pressures, prepare the radios, and do all the other little things to get ready to go on track. Mike (Eakin) was there helping Mike Rand and Court Dowis in earlier sessions, so things got a bit calmer when he showed up to help. But then as I was getting into my drivers' suit Mike decided to clean the inside of the windshield and it immediately fogged up! I was ready to throw in the towel (literally) for that first session but Mike perservered. I got out of the car and helped him remove the windshield so he could have better access to the inside, then he gradually cleaned off the scum well enough that I could almost see where I was going. We re-installed the windshield, I buckled up again, and we joined our 20-minute qualifying session about halfway into it. I tried to stay out of everyone's way while I got some heat into the tires, then ran three pretty clean laps in the 1:37's before ending up 10th overall and 3rd in GTA with a 1:37.093.

My fastest lap ever (in a GTA car) at Road Atlanta is a 1:31 back in 2010 but I believe the track has "slowed down" a bit since then. Other drivers were also talking about the track getting greasy later in the session (apparently there were two blown engines before I got on the track) and we came back with around 23 psi in each tire after the session (the target is 25 psi) so I obviously did not get the tires as hot as they needed to be to work properly. Given that and considering the mad dash to get the car ready I was "okay but not enthused" with our lap times. We did have one more 15-minute session in the afternoon however, and even though the afternoon sessions are usually slower we felt like we needed to run it to see if we could do better. After a quick lunch and a bit of promotional work for the 2017 V8RRS program we went about getting Cuervo ready to go. 

Unlike the morning session we were ready in plenty of time and took our spot tenth on the grid. A number of drivers chose not to run the afternoon session, so after warming up the driver, tires, and brakes I found a pretty good gap in traffic and started leaning on things. I ran a 1:36.2 on lap five, backed off to build another gap, then with Mike telling me I pretty much had the track to myself I reeled off a 1:36.177 followed by a 1:35.313 as I came under the checkered flag to end the session. As I ran the cool off lap and waved at the corner workers Mike came on the radio with, "Nice lap, Hot Rod!" and I gotta admit, I felt pretty good about running those times on used tires.

I had a set of sticker Hoosiers 3045s left over from the VIR weekend and I had not planned on using them at the ARRC, but given where we were I had them mounted up for Saturday's race. We were the last race of the day and there was a 10-minute warm-up session scheduled first thing after lunch, so while it was not ideal I figured we'd run that session to scuff the tires in before the race. I know some folks have no reservations about starting a race on sticker tires, but I've always heard (from those that should know) that it's best to warm the tires up one time and let them cool (preferably overnight) before using them to race. Had I known we were going to use them I would have heat-cycled them Friday, but hindsight is ALWAYS 20-20.

We ended up third in GTA and eleventh overall, but Bob Davis (1:35.229) was one of those who had blown an engine in Qualifier #1 so we rolled off the grid in tenth spot, right beside the GTA pole-sitter Jarod Lovett. Unfortunately that meant I was on the less-preferred outside row plus the driver in front of me was lagging back on the pace lap, so at the green first Jarod and then Chris Evans in his SPO Monte Carlo beat me to Turn One. I ended up stuck behind the GT1 Mustang for another lap until I could out-brake him into Turn 10A, and by that time Jarod was almost eight seconds ahead of me so I resigned myself to racing for second place in GTA. As we were both starting lap four, however, I noticed Jarod slowing and later that lap I passed him under braking for Turn 10A. It ends up Jarod had a problem with his brakes so he was done, then over the next few laps I turned consistent 36's to gradually built up about a four-second lead over BJ Holley, the (now) second place car in GTA.

The in-car video quit after lap four so I don't remember exactly what happened, but on lap 7 I ran almost five seconds slower which let BJ close the gap to less than a second. I remember at two different times in the early laps I had to slow when a car spun in front of me, but without video evidence my failing memory cannot recall exactly what happened on lap 7. The end result, however, is that BJ was now on my rear bumper and the chase was on!

We ran like that for ten laps and at least twice BJ got past me in Turn 7 (once with two tires in the grass according to later reports from the corner workers) but both times I was able to draft back by him on the long Road Atlanta back stretch. Chris Ingle was spotting for me from 10-A and around lap 14 he radioed "His tires are going off - he's leaving two long black streaks exiting 10-B!" If I hadn't been otherwise occupied at the time I would have replied, "I know that, because MINE are toast as well!" <g>

As we finished lap 16 I was still .801 seconds ahead (the closest he'd been) but  failed to defend the inside line going into Turn One. BJ got a better run through Turn 12 and stuck his nose in under braking for One so I had to relinquish the spot. Two corners later he then drove off the outside (driver's left) of the track at Turn Three and my first thought was, "Now I've got him!", but that was quickly replaced by, "But where the hell is he?" Not only was there a big cloud of red dust obscuring everything, but we also were heading directly into the sun so I slowed until I could see what was happening (no "Trust the Force, Luke" moment here at all). As we emerged from the dust he shot back across the track in front of me and (as the following picture shows) had I not slowed down it is VERY likely we would have had two wrecked race cars to fix over the winter!

<Image courtesy of www.ClarkMcInnisPhotography.com>

Although I was again able to close on him on the back straight, it would have been a very optimistic move to try and out-brake him into 10-A. At the checkers I was still 0.677 seconds behind (about three car lengths) so he got the first place medal for the 2016 American Road Race of Champions. Afterwards multiple people said our race was the best one on the track and BJ & I agreed it was the most fun we'd had in a race car in a LONG time. And even though Eakin said it was the best race he's seen me drive in five years, Roger Penske has not called either one of us yet! <g>

The 2016 ARRC was supposed to be BK Racing's last event of 2016, but during the weekend Tom O'Gorman (2016 Pirelli World Challenge B-Spec Champion and cover boy of the July 2016 issue of SportsCar magazine) mentioned he'd like to get some seat time in a big car to see if that's an avenue he'd like to pursue in the future. He's a serious shoe, so we quickly agreed to a deal where we'd share Cuervo at the Nov 19-20 Track Trials event at Roebling Road (TT has a format perfect for sharing a car). Granted we'll have to borrow a booster chair from the local Burger King so he can see over the dash, but TomO (http://www.tomoracing.com/) gets some experience in a ground-pounder and I get to find out how much I'm leaving on the table. It should be a lot of fun.

In other news, the SCCA Board of Directors has concluded their second round of meetings regarding the SCCA presidency. Based on those meetings we should expect formal announcement of the job opening will be posted mid-November, so until then my official position on the matter still remains:

"I continue to monitor the situation with a great deal of interest".

(New) final event on the 2016 BK Racing schedule:

· Nov 19,20 - "Last Chance" Time Trials (aka - "BK Goes Back to School") at Roebling Road (Savannah)

As always, let me know if you'd like more information about that event.

See y'all at the track…