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Road Atlanta SARRC

Short story: We have our first win in the quest for the 2004 SARRC GT-1 Championship, but it WASN'T a walk in the park.

Longer story: There was no test day on Friday, so we were approaching the weekend as a "test day" for the B.K. Racing / Cool Shirt Corvette (aka - "Lucifer"). We had changed back to the Club engine ("Mildred") from the Tran$-Am engine ("High Maintenance Meredith") we ran at the ARRC last November, so I was anxious to see how we'd run in comparison.

We missed the first session on Saturday while chasing valvetrain problems, plus the track was still damp from the morning rains so I'm not sure we would have gone out anyway. In the afternoon qualifying session we learned that the engine runs MUCH better when the both pieces of the two-part distributor rotor are actually connected to each other (novel concept!). Even with only three laps we qualified third behind Joe Hooker's GTA Grand Prix / Monte Carlo (running in GT-1) and Bill Smith's SPO Champion Dodge Daytona (with SBC drivetrain). The fourth place car (Bob Meyer's T-1 Corvette) was almost seven seconds behind me, so at Saturday night's beer party Joe, Bill & I all agreed to put on a show for the first ten laps then race the last five. We also agreed we needed to talk about it again on Sunday morning when we were sober <g>.

At the urging of many (including my dedicated and respectful crew who taped the January issue of Steering Wheel - the one with the spinning Corvette on the cover - to the dashboard) I managed to keep the car straight at the green and the order was Bill, Joe & myself into Turn One. We maintained that order for one lap while pulling away from the field. Joe got by Bill (don't remember where but the in-car video will show it) on lap two, then Bill waved me by in T-1 starting lap #3. Bill slowly faded behind me and maintained third (first in SPO) until his quickchange packed up on lap 14.

I closed the gap to Joe over the next three laps, setting fast race lap of a 1:31.558 on lap 4. I could pull Joe just a little bit on the back straight, but I wasn't going to be able to just drive by him whenever I wanted so my best shot was to outbrake him into 10-A or possibly Turn 1. I had pulled close and was thinking about when to make my move when Joe unexpectedly went wide into 10-A on lap six so I tucked inside for the lead.

My past experience racing with the GTA cars is that they tend to run out of tires and/or brakes as the laps wind down, so I was surprised when Joe's taxicab stayed prominent in my mirrors. More than once I tried to put traffic between us as we were lapping cars, but every time I went by someone Joe was right there to go through too (one poor guy in a Mustang apparently didn't see me coming in the esses, so I KNOW he didn't see Joe freight-training behind me - we'll have to get him some air freshener to combat the odor next race!). I kept waiting for Joe to fade, but he never let up. I got a bit of a break when he spun his rear tires trying to get a run on me out of T-7 on the last lap, so I knew he wouldn't be close enough at 10-A to get by. Then I got wide entering Turn 12 and left him a gap on the inside, so his left front was at my door at the checker. The official margin of victory was .087 seconds and the two of us had lapped the entire field. Not as spectacular as the "spin and win" at the ARRC, but a serious thrill nonetheless.

Wayne Cabannis was there both days, helped out a bunch with the mechanical "challenges" and spotted for us on the backside. Rich Shafer was in charge of our Cool Shirt operations (which worked flawlessly) and spotted from 10-A/10-B both days. Engine-builder Mike Harrison and son Carl came in Sunday morning and showed me the correct way to adjust the valves and install the stud girdles, while Data (Eric Bartel and wife Annette who came to help celebrate his 35th birthday), Dennis McClintock and son Kevin made it possible for me to concentrate on the important issues like signing autographs and politicking. Harriett took care of food and drink, brought Data's cake out Sunday and reminded the driver to eat on occasion. I know I've said it before, but running Lucifer at this level is NOT a one-person operation and I hope I don't embarrass them too badly.

And thanks also to all the workers and officials that allow us to play on weekends. It's as close as you get to the racing action without being behind the wheel (and yes, I'm a licensed worker as well as a driver), so if you're thinking about getting involved in racing it's an excellent place to learn what's required. I don't have "Thanks Workers!" on the back of the car like some - my sentiment is "Become a Worker!".

All in all, a good first test day and we came away with a 2004 SARRC win besides.

Current plans:

  • May 7,8,9 - Double SARRC at VIR (Mother's Day) 
  • May 15,16 - Blue Ridge Hillclimb 
  • May 29,30 - Skelly Solo I 
  • July 9,10,11 - Double SARRC at Barber 
  • Aug 7,8 - Kershaw Solo I 
  • Aug 14,15 - Double SARRC at Kershaw 
  • Sep 5,6 - AMS SARRC 
  • Oct 8,9,10 - SARRC Invitation Challenge at Roebling 
  • Nov 13,14 - Roebling Solo I
See y'all at the track...