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Road Atlanta SARRC (July)
Reader's Digest version:
Started third overall, ran second early, dropped to fifth (second in GT-1), got lucky, ended up fourth overall, first in GT-1. VERY intense race, next event is Daytona Aug 6,7.
And now the unabridged version:
Road Atlanta is the reason I moved to Atlanta back in 1986. Even with the demise of The Dip, it's still one of the most challenging pieces of asphalt in the Southeast and you know you've accomplished something when you get a lap right there because you forget to breathe for a little over ninety seconds. It's been said that if you can go fast at Road Atlanta you can go fast anywhere.
Although he was unable to make the trip from metropolitan Sopchoppy, Crew Chief Emeritus Mike Eakin did send an e-mail on Thursday telling me the differences between Lucifer and Cuervo would be more pronounced at Road Atlanta than they were at Roebling Road. Based on the fact that I could hardly get out of bed Monday morning and it was Tuesday before my back and shoulders loosened up, I'd have to say he was correct. Part of it was the heat, part of it was that Cuervo is less sophisticated than Lucifer, part of it was that Road Atlanta is a more demanding track than Savannah and I hadn't driven there since last November, but most of it was that I didn't get a chance to relax mentally for the entire fifteen laps! But I get ahead of myself.
We did not do the test day on Friday, but we were there to lend support to old Corvette buddy Steve Robertson (not to be confused with Club Ford buddy Steve Robertson) who was making his Road Atlanta debut in his Spec Miata plus lend moral support to Bob Monette as he tried to sort out his Panoz GTS. Fellow GT-1 competitor Denny Rigdon toasted the transmission in the Team Rutabaga Camaro Friday morning (they really run better when they have lube in them guys) and was VERY grateful that we had our spare there for him to use. What I forgot to mention to him, however, is that part of the price of using the tranny is that he had to agree not to pass me on Sunday! I won't make THAT mistake again <g>.
Saturday morning we met Ralph Bush and his friend Rita Moore. You could say Ralph has a racing background - he produced his SCCA license that was issued (by Cal Club) back in 1954! As you might guess, he had plenty of stories about the early days of SCCA including a page of specs for the first roll bars required starting in 1957. This was Rita's first "inside" experience with racing and she was/is very impressed with the spectacle.  She also thought Cuervo looked very fetching during the first practice session in his black, lavender and hot pink attire and disappointed the two gay guys cheering me on by telling them the name over the door was "Butch", not "Bruce" (not really, but she and Ralph did kid me about the color scheme). We did manage to run a 1:35.7 in that session despite laughing most of the way around the track.
During the single afternoon qualifying session we warmed up with a 1:37.8, then ran a 1:36.3 followed by a 1:36.050 on the next lap. Figuring that was good enough to be able to see the green flag on Sunday I brought the car in after only three laps and sure enough, our time was good enough for third overall behind Dan Shaver's monster SPO Corvette and Van Sayler's pristine Porsche GT-3 Cup car. David Daniel was beside me with his much-modified BMW M5 followed by Denny in his now-repaired GT-1 Camaro and Bob Mayer in the first of the three T-1 Corvettes entered.
Sunday morning I searched out Van to introduce myself and explain that, should I happen to beat him into Turn 1 (I didn't expect either of us to have anything for Shaver) I had no intention of racing with him. His Porsche was in a different class and would get faster as the race went on while Cuervo would slow down as tires and brakes got hot. His car was faster over fifteen laps, I fully expected him to catch me before long and I wouldn't try to keep him from getting by. If he DID happen to hold up Denny's Camaro, however, that would be okay with me <g>. Observant readers may notice that I didn't bother to talk to David Daniel - another mistake I won't repeat in the future!
At the green I indeed beat Van to Turn 1 and followed Shaver through, but Denny had also gotten a great start and was right on my rear bumper. I managed to stretch a bit of a lead over the first two laps, but Denny started reeling me in as the brakes and tires got hot. We both turned our best laps of the race on Lap 3 (mine was a 1:36.182 while Denny inched closer with a 1:35.546), and on that lap the #9 Camaro pulled slightly ahead on the back straight but I was able to regain second place under braking for 10-A. Next time down the back straight Denny pulled far enough ahead that I couldn't get him back under braking, so I dropped back to third overall, second in GT-1 with Van on my bumper. Next time into 10-A I waved Van by and now had a black BMW on my tail (remember the guy I hadn't talked to?).
After another lap I waved David by (again, not in my class so no need to abuse the equipment trying to stay ahead of him), then I noticed that Denny hadn't really pulled out that much of a lead. David's BMW was quicker than my taxi-cab in the tight parts but I could pull up on him on the straights, so we both set off in pursuit of Denny's Camaro. One time David & I went through 10-A and 10-B side-by-side and never touched each other - great racing and it's good to know who you can go into a corner with. I had never really raced with David (or Van & Denny) before and I look forward to racing with all of them in the future.
The car and driver were both getting hot (the Cool Shirt had quit on the pace lap - we need to re-route the hose to keep it from crimping when I tighten the seat belts), so I REALLY wanted to back off and cruise for a while, but the race with David had brought us both in contact with Denny again so I sucked it up, kept pedaling and slowly closed the gap. As we started lap 14 Denny went wide in Turn One to let David through but apparently didn't realize I was stuck up under David's wing so I snuck through before he could close the door. Given his horsepower advantage I knew I had to build as much of a lead as possible before we got to the back straight, then I got lucky as we encountered lapped traffic coming out of Turn 7. I wasn't really blocking, but I DID leave a fairly wide margin (seems like it was exactly three-quarters of a car width <g>) between myself and the cars I was passing, plus it's possible I might have been a bit indecisive about where and when I was going to pass them. I managed to keep the GT-1 lead that lap, but we still had one more lap to go and I knew Denny still had legs on me on the back straight.
I got lucky again. We caught David Hester's AS Mustang just as we entered Turn 6 on the last lap, Denny tried to follow me through on the inside but apparently got into something and slid off the outside of the track in Turn 7. I cruised to the checker fourth overall and first in class, then started breathing again for the first time in two laps. As I said, a very, VERY intense race!  Denny and I talked about it in impound and agreed it was the most fun we'd had with our pants on for a long time.
Couldn't have done it without the BK Racing crew:  Eric Bartel (Data), Dennis McClintock, Eric Roberts (Gramps) and, of course, my lovely bride Harriett. Once again, Denny, Van and David - I'll race with you guys anywhere. Finally thanks to Atlanta Region SCCA, SEDIV and all the workers and officials, but as I've said before, don't just thank the workers, BECOME one! I hope I did my fellow F&C guys proud.
Next up are the Daytona SARRC events Aug. 6 & 7, then we're off for a month before Atlanta Motor Speedway over Labor Day weekend (that weekend WILL happen!).
See y'all at the track...