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First Event in a GTA Car
At times like this that I’m reminded of a quote I heard recently that was attributed to Thomas Jefferson:
"If I’d had more time I would have written shorter letters."
I apologize in advance for the length of this report, but a LOT of thoughts are going through my head right now. Having a real job cuts into the time I can spend writing, but I know that (both) my fans are wondering how our first event racing a taxi-cab came out so I’ll just jump right in and do a brain dump.
For those with limited time and/or patience, we qualified fifth overall (of twenty-three) and second in GT-1 on Saturday, guessed wrong on tires for the race and finished sixth overall, second in GT-1. On Sunday some folks went home because of the impending weather (Hurricane Dennis) so we qualified fourth overall, second in GT-1 and finished in the same positions after an enjoyable battle with Blake Beattie and Wayne Cabaniss. Both days we would have won GTA, but that class is not (yet) recognized by SEDIV.
Our next race is July 23,24 at Road Atlanta. Contact me if you’d like more information.
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And now (for those of you still tuned in), "the rest of the story":
Unless this is your first exposure to the B.K. Racing Chronicles, you may recall that the Alabama Region Double SARRC races at Roebling Road over the July 8-10 weekend would be our first outing since trading our GT-1 Corvette formerly known as "Lucifer" to Joe Hooker for the #8 GTA Monte Carlo now known as "Cuervo". A GTA car is heavier, has less horsepower, smaller brakes, worse aerodynamics, a less sophisticated suspension, smaller tires and a higher center of gravity than a National-level GT-1 car (Ed. note: that line COULD read, "A GTA car is slower than a GT-1 car." - please make a note of it.) While it’s certainly a step backward in performance, however, a GTA car costs about 25% in both initial and operating costs compared to said GT-1 car, yet it’s still a big American V-8 that makes the right noises and gets sideways coming out of the corners if you’re not careful. While no racing is really affordable, I’ve often said that GTA offers more bang for the buck than any V-8 road racing class out there.
Eric Bartel (Data) and I drove down after work (unless you’ve been "semi-retired" for a year you don’t realize how satisfying that is to type) on Thursday, dropped the trailer off at the track around midnight and proceeded to the motel for the evening. We skipped the first session Friday morning, but Mike Hearn stopped by and Joe (Hooker) showed up to help shorten the learning curve as we prepped for our first on-track session around 10:00. We had new rotors on the front, so I ran a couple of laps at a reduced pace to bring things up to operating temps (and get a feel for the car), then put in a couple of "90%" laps before bringing it in to check tire temps and pressures. I then went back out and ran two slow laps to further cool the front rotors (sorta like tempering steel), then went back to our paddock spot to figure out what we’d do next.
The first thing I wrote in my de-brief notes was "This is NOT Lucifer!" On my second hot lap I had stormed around Turn Three (a 120 mph left-handed sweeper), then did my usual (at least for the last five years) trail-braking manuever into the 60 mph right-hander that follows. I’m not saying things got busy, but sometime during the tank-slapper that followed I looked directly out the windshield and saw the Turn Four corner worker (which is 100 feet off the right side of the track) reaching for his yellow flag and calling for the wrecker because he KNEW he was about to witness an accident! Somehow I managed to keep the car on the track, ran another lap to blow the foul odor out of the cockpit, then returned to the pits. Back in the paddock Joe nodded and assured me that "Oh yeah, they all do that", which was strangely comforting because it meant I hadn’t forgotten how to drive in the last six months <g>. We made some minor changes and I ran one more session, then we repaired to the Shell House for dinner with a best lap of 1:21.960. Considering Joe’s best ever there is a 1:16.825 set back in October, 2004, I was quietly wondering if he’d sold us a worn-out engine badly in need of freshening.
On Saturday we bolted on a better set of tires, then ran four laps to qualify fifth overall (second in GT-1) with a time of 1:18.165. On the third of those laps I found out I could carry more speed through Turn One than I could get stopped for in Turn Two, so after a brief stint imitating a farm tractor I returned to the pavement, ran one more lap to verify nothing was amiss (as any SUV owner can attest, ground clearance CAN be your friend at times), then parked it again to see what the weather would do.
It started raining during lunch and continued through the afternoon, so halfway through the Group 5 race (we were Group 7), we bolted on the "rain" tires (three-year old hand-grooved slicks) and proceeded to the grid. The rain stopped halfway into the Group 6 race, but we left the rains on since the skies continued to look threatening. Ends up it was a "half and half" race - the first five laps were good for rains, then middle five were a toss-up and for the last five slicks were the hot ticket. After harrassing the third and fourth place cars early, I dropped back as the track dried out and put it in cruise mode. Joe and Mike were calling out the splits back to Mark Higdon (the next car back) and when they started dropping by 4 seconds a lap I woke up and started pedaling again. At the end I barely (0.325 seconds) held off the hard-charging Mark to take sixth overall, second in GT-1.
It was raining when we got up Sunday morning, but it soon stopped and the track dried out for qualifying. We went back out on Saturday’s slicks and qualified fourth overall with a 1:17.865, which put me outside row 2 alongside long-time friend and BK Racing associate Wayne Cabaniss in his SPO Corvette. During lunch the announcement was made that the afternoon’s races would be cut back to 10 laps (from 15) in an attempt to beat the impending rain rolling up I-95 from Jacksonville, so we put in seven gallons of fuel based on our mileage figures from Saturday’s race. Chief Steward (and good guy) Rick Mitchell put the pedal to the metal and tore through the schedule with minimal delays - the group waiting on the grid often got their five-minute warning as checker came out for the race on the track!
The front row disappeared at the green (which came out after a "rubbing" incident between Bill Smith and pole-sitter Dave Bacher - how he (Dave) goes that fast on a shop teacher’s salary is amazing!) and Wayne beat me to Turn One, then I waved by fifth starting Blake Beattie since he was also in SPO and I didn’t want to interfere with his race with Wayne. Blake had nothing for Wayne however and started slipping back toward me, so as we finished the fourth lap I got a good tow from him down the front straight and he waved me by into T-1. Wayne and I maintained station (about 3 seconds apart) for the next three laps, then with two laps to go I noticed Wayne taking the inside ("defensive") line into Turn One. Figuring his tires were going away I started closing up on the back side, then as we began the last lap I was right at one second behind him. He again took the inside going into T-1 and I was all over his bumper from Turn 2 to Turn 6, but had no way to get by without hitting him so we came into the last corner before the front straight nose-to-tail. There was a American Sedan Camaro just exiting the turn as we got there, so Wayne went left and I went right (I’m not sure if the AS driver saw both of us or not) and Wayne beat me to the checker by less than 0.3 of a second. We kidded afterward that I would have had him with one more lap, but when I ran out of fuel driving to impound we figured out the race had ended at JUST the right time. Ends up during the race I turned my best lap of the weekend with a 1:17.298, so maybe that engine Joe sold me wasn’t so soft after all <g>!
"This is NOT Lucifer!", but it's still a helluva lot of fun!
See y’all at the track…