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Little Talladega Track Trials
               
Late last year Atlanta RE Tere Pulliam contracted with BK Racing to provide three 2010 Track Trial events as a Christmas present to her husband Larry. The April 17-18 weekend at Talladega Grand Prix Raceway (aka – “Little Talladega”) was the first of those events.
 
Short story:
 
Fifth overall of 53 cars, best run of a 1:04.954, first in GTA and a new track record. On the down side, Larry actually saw the checkered flag on only two of his six sessions in the car. <g>
 
And now the longer story:
 
Larry drove Cuervo at Roebling Road in November of 2006 and ran very competitive GTA times his first weekend in the car, so it didn’t take much to convince me this was a good idea. I’d get to spend some time at the race track (always a tough thing for me to do), Larry (and Tere) would have a great time, and BK Racing would generate a bit of income to apply towards our racing efforts.
 
Talladega Grand Prix Raceway is a 1.3 mile motorcycle/go-kart track that is about ten miles south of Anniston AL on Hwy 21. Even though it’s too narrow for wheel-to-wheel road racing (“but that depends on who the stewards are”, according to my buddy Charlie Moseley), it’s a GREAT track for driver education and track trials. You can see most of the track, the top speeds are fairly low (we geared Cuervo for 125 mph), and since it’s a motorcycle track there is plenty of runoff room at most of the corners. The only downside is the owner is very proud of the landscaping, so he enforces a “two strikes and you’re out” rule – leave the track surface twice and you’re done for rest of the day.
 
I left Woodstock at 5:45 on Saturday morning and even with the ridiculous 55 mph speed limit in Alabama I arrived at Little Talladega before 7:00 (we gain an hour going west on I-20). After Tere & Larry arrived we went about getting the car adjusted to him (we ended up discarding the booster chair I’d “borrowed” from McDonald’s that morning <g>) and made it to the false grid in plenty of time for his first of the day’s four scheduled sessions. I had never driven the new track configuration, but after discussion with those that had we thought anything in the 1:04-1:06 range would be respectable. I didn’t have a watch on him since it was really just a practice session, but Larry was visibly pulling away from the other cars in the group (including guys that had been there before) so we figured he was running pretty well. Five laps into the session, however, Larry went out of sight behind the Timing Silo (you have to see it to know what I’m talking about) and never came around the other side. Ends up he had spun under braking for Turn Six, so that was an abbreviated session.
 
After getting back to the paddock we added fuel, adjusted tire pressures, and debriefed Larry. He said he just got into Six a bit too hot and the car came around on him. Given the track owner rules we also got a visit from the Safety Steward who “counseled” our driver about the need to keep the back end behind the front end at all times. Ends up Larry had turned a 1:06.460, which placed him first in the group of six.
 
In the second session Larry warmed up with a 1:06.6, turned a 1:05.7 on lap two, improved to a 1:04.954 on lap three, “dropped off” to a 1:05.5 on lap four, then – yep – failed to come around on lap five. Yet he again he looped it under braking for Turn Six but this time kept it running and never actually left the pavement, so the visit from the Safety Steward was averted. His 1:04 lap was still best in the group and fourth overall of the entire event.
 
During lunch we adjusted tire pressures again, but the track was hotter so his best lap was a 1:05.5 on lap three, then on lap four he spun again in Turn Six but kept it on the pavement. This time he actually did see the checkered flag and yet again averted the dreaded visit from the Safety Steward – but we knew they were watching! Tom Turner also ran a 1:04.315 in his GT-2 Mazda, which demoted us to second in the group and fifth overall.
 
For the last run on Saturday afternoon we swapped the rear tires side-to-side thinking the LR had less wear than the RR, plus this time Tere and I went over to Turn Six to watch the session. This time Larry spun the car at Turn Two (out of our sight) on lap 1, then looped it exiting Turn Six on lap 2! Rather than continuing he came straight into the pits and the Safety Steward “put us on the trailer.” Of course it was the last session of the day so it didn’t really matter at that point. <g>
 
Before doing any serious drinking we pulled out the two-session set of tires I’d run at Sebring, bled the brakes, and disconnected the rear sway bar, all of which would/should make the car more stable on Sunday. We then repaired to the Mellow Mushroom in Anniston/Oxford where we made plans for the coming day, told stories of past triumphs, and relived memories of legendary visits to the Go-Kart track down the road (“Absolutely NO Bumping!”). Slow service, but good food, good times, and good friends.
 
Larry lined up second for the first session on Sunday morning, drove fairly conservatively, saw the checkered flag without spinning this time, and came back with a best lap of 1:05.964. Tom Turner bettered his time with a 1:03.8, but the worst news was the stream of water coming out of the radiator when Larry returned to the paddock. Ends up the shrouding had rubbed a hole in one of the tubes, so we figured we were done for the weekend. Larry took his driving suit off and we started loading up, then someone said, “It’s a good thing you guys didn’t run a 1:03 because that would have pissed some folks off.” Rising to the challenge (and liking to piss folks off), we figured the car could make a couple of laps if we left the radiator cap loose. Larry put his suit back on while I added water, then we towed Cuervo to the false grid for session #6.
 
We were second in line behind Tom Turner as we cranked the engine at the one-minute warning. Larry held back a bit on the warm-up lap and was visibly catching Tom on his first hot lap while turning a 1:05.011. Since we didn’t have radios Larry didn’t know he had a ten-second gap behind him, so instead of cooling it on lap two to get a clean run on lap three he had designs of staying with Tom and passing him on the back straight. Unfortunately he got on the gas a bit too quickly coming out of Turn Two and Cuervo was again sailing backwards through the grass at about 50 mph! Rather than pushing the issue, Larry came in the back side of the paddock and we loaded up. In the debrief he thought the first lap was pretty conservative and didn’t know it was within a tenth of his best lap of the weekend, so he was REALLY disappointed he didn’t get the chance for an “on the edge” lap – he KNEW there was a 1:03 out there! <g>
 
Bottom line, however, is that we all had a good time, Cuervo is still in one piece, we now hold the GTA record for Little Talladega, and Larry is getting the equipment to wire his helmet to use our radios. TVR and Alabama Region put on a great event (it was the best-attended TGPRi event in memory) and Larry is looking forward to Part 2 of his Christmas present at the Road Atlanta Track Trials on May 22. Before that, however, we have the Al Fairer SARRC/MARRS event at VIR over Mother’s Day weekend.
        
See y'all at the track...