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Road Atlanta February SARRC
For the first time in three years we ran at Road Atlanta in February, the 21st & 22nd specifically. The short story:
Cold, COLD, C-O-L-D!!! But we went faster than we’ve ever gone at Road Atlanta in a GTA car, so it wasn’t a totally miserable weekend.
On edit (March 1) – it would have been a HELLUVA lot more miserable had we run it a week later! Rain and drizzle all day Saturday; rain, SNOW (and 34 degrees!!!) on Sunday.
And now the longer story:
Prior to this weekend, our best GTA laps at Road Atlanta were set three months ago at the ARRC by GRM – 1:32.397 in qualifying, 1:32.516 in the race. And for those with short-term memory loss inflicted by random experimentation with recreational drugs back in the 70’s, please recall we were concerned then about the cause of the performance drop-off we experienced as that race wore on. We knew the alternator was trashed so we rebuilt it and the front calipers over the winter, but otherwise the car was the same as we ran in November (even the same tires we used in qualifying then).
It was 26 degrees when Dennis & I got to the track Saturday morning for that day’s single fifteen minute qualifying session, but it gradually warmed up as the sun rose in the sky. Mike Eakin was in group 2 with his FC and reported the track was amazingly grippy, but we were the only GTA car entered and only interested in sorting the car out and making sure everything worked (i.e. - I wasn’t expecting to set the world on fire). I ran three laps to bed the new pads followed by two laps without using the brakes at all to let them cool down, then I stood on it. On the first hot lap Dainton Brooks (AS Mustang) and I arrived at Turn 10 at the same time and even though he was far left I backed off to make sure he knew I was there. That lap was a 1:33.990. The next lap was free of traffic and fairly clean driving-wise but not stellar, so I was surprised when Dennis called out “1:31.9” over the radio. He was concerned about the accuracy as well, but the official time was 1:31.983 - the fastest lap I’ve ever turned at Road Atlanta in a GTA car - and on five heat-cycle tires that were first scuffed-in back in July! Not saying the driver knows what he’s doing, but at least we demonstrated he hasn’t forgotten EVERYTHING he knows about driving.
Dennis and Mike prepped the car for Sunday while I went off to play Radar Cop for the Six-Hour Enduro. When I got back Cuervo was covered up and resting on jack stands, so all we needed to do was add gas and put the tires back on to be ready for Sunday. Since there was nothing to prove I decided not to go out in the 10-minute qualifying session Sunday morning. We were schedule to run the third race after lunch and we’d have plenty of time to get everything ready after my duties as Safety Steward for the PDX (plus I’d also “recruited” Data and Eva to work corners for that). Bottom line, we made it to our third-place starting spot in plenty of time. Bill Smith in his ’55 Chevy SPO car was on the pole with a 1:29.2, Bob Mayer’s ex-World Challenge Corvette was outside pole at a 1:31.4, us at 1:31.9, and Grant Leadbetter in his ex-Cup Dodge was beside me with a 1:32.0. We all talked beforehand and agreed we’d run hard but no one would run a defensive line – we’d just race hard and have fun.
Bill had some wheelspin on the start, so Bob led into T-1 with Grant second, Bill third, and me fourth followed by Ed Lewis in his Z-06 STO Corvette, then Dainton Brooks and David Hester in their ASedan Mustangs. We all ran nose-to-tail the first lap, Grant slowed coming up out of T-5 on lap 2 and we all got by before Six, then I looked in my mirror and saw a white #50 spinning behind me. Ends up Grant had transmission troubles and locked in two gears at once, so his race was over. I hung close for another lap, then Bill and Bob’s tires warmed up and they steadily pulled away while I pulled away from Ed by 1-2 seconds a lap as well. It was a pretty lonely run after that, but I continued to push and ran consistent 33’s while experimenting with coming out of Turns 7 & 10-B in second gear rather than first. I ended up running a 1:32.8 on lap 11 (of 15), but I’ll have to go back and check the video to see if that was using first gear or second. There didn’t appear to be a major difference in lap times either way, but it IS good to know the car didn’t drop off in later laps like it did at the ARRC by GRM.
In Impound we found out the officials were concerned about the hood “flapping pretty badly” and Eva reported from her vantage point in 10-A that it was “fluttering”, then Mark Hatheway came by and told me it looked like a Pro Stock hood scoop on the back straight. We looked, and only the outside two hood pins were in place. I opened the hood and the other two pins (AND the hood prop rod) were right where they were supposed to be! Needless to say, we’ll add a “check the hood pins” right under “torque the lug nuts” on the pre-race checklist! <g>
Before the race Bob Mayer had told me he was going to run into me at the start so he could be in one of my stories, but I replied that really wasn’t necessary! <g> Here you go Buddy:
After the race both Harriett and Data reported that Bob and Bill had the best race they’d ever seen at Road Atlanta! The two of them swapped the lead just about every lap and were never more than a second apart, but Bill’s horsepower advantage overcame Bob’s braking/handling strength on the last lap and the “Belair” ended up winning by less than half a second. Obviously I didn’t get to see any of that since I was thirty seconds behind at the checker, but it looks like Bob is finally getting some reliability to go along with the speed his yellow monster has shown from the start. Good job, Bob!
Attendance was certainly down, but all in all it was a good weekend and a good way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of my 39th birthday. This is most likely the last event Atlanta Region will run at Road Atlanta in February, and I truly appreciate the efforts of everyone that made the weekend possible. As I said in my note to the Race Board and BOD, I’m honored y’all allow me to be a part of your team.
The next SCCA event at Road Atlanta is the March 21-22 National weekend that will feature the resurrection of the Trans-Am Series after a two-year hiatus. We’re hoping to have at least twenty fire-breathing Trans-Am cars in attendance (some of which will run the National race as well) so it ought to be a barn-burner of a weekend! Tickets will be $30 for the weekend or $20 for one day (with a 50% discount for SCCA members and those with a valid student ID), so contact me or visit www.AtlantaSCCA.org if you’d like more information about the weekend.
The next scheduled competition outing for BK Racing is the May 16-17 Track Trials at Nashville, but we’ve got some other deals cooking so that plan might get adjusted in the next couple of weeks. I’ll let you know as things develop.
See y’all at the track…