Welcome to BK Racing
Powered by Squarespace

July 26-27, 2015 – Road Atlanta Double SARRC Weekend

Executive Summary:

Although anything where Cuervo was running at the end of the weekend would have been an improvement after the catastrophe that was our last outing at Roebling Road, our July 26-27 weekend at Road Atlanta was successful by any measure. We expected six GTA cars to compete at the start the weekend but while only two (Jay & Vern Smith) took the green on Saturday those two put on a helluva show! The in-car video will show the cars (and drivers) were pretty evenly matched, with Vern winning on Saturday by about half a second and Jay returning serve on Sunday. The next event for BK Racing is the August 22-23 Majors event at Michigan International Speedway that we’ll use as a tune-up to get ready for the September 21-28 SCCA Runoffs ® at Daytona.

Longer version:

Those whose short-term memory wasn’t affected by chemical experimentation back in the 70’s may remember we broke a second rear axle during the first race at Roebling Road earlier this month. It was the remaining survivor from my incident at the Road Atlanta Majors that also bent the rear axle tubes, so prior to Road Atlanta we tried to install two new axles. The new axles were longer than the ones we’d run before (an attempt to engage more of the spline area in the differential) and I couldn’t get the LR drive plate to seal, so I ended up (re)installing the shorter axle we had left over from Savannah. We also replaced the starter ring gear and found the reason why the hydraulic throw-out bearing was leaking, so we thought the car we took to Road Atlanta on Thursday evening was in pretty solid shape.

Since Jay has a fair amount of time at Road Atlanta and the track staff offers partial test days, we decided to run just the afternoon sessions of Friday’s track-sanctioned test day. We were a bit tardy getting out for our first session after lunch, so Jay got a warm-up lap and was halfway through his first hot lap when they black-flagged the session to retrieve a car stalled in a dangerous position off track in Turn 3. That took longer to clear than was left in the session, so they threw the checkered flag while we were sitting on pit road. Jay reported the car felt fine and that the clutch continued to operate as it should, so at least that was one item off the checklist.

We made sure to get ready on time for that afternoon’s second (and last) session and after his warm-up lap Jay turned laps of 1:36.1, 1:33.9, 1:35.4, and a 1:38.7 while dealing with traffic. The fifth time coming out of 10-B, however, Jay reported “It quit running” over the radio, then coasted down the hill to where I was waiting on Pit Road. It ends up the engine would still run but, just as we had at VIR and Roebling Road, we had no forward drive. After towing Cuervo back to our paddock spot I pulled the LR drive plate and found yet another broken axle! It ends up it was the spare I had run previously and it had broken because I had installed it on the other side from where it was originally located. In discussions with Ricky Sanders we “remembered” that over time an axle takes a set based on which direction the primary load is applied, and when we (*I*) reversed that direction it had negative results. We made some modifications to the remaining new axle and this time marked them so even a caveman would not mix them up going forward. Unfortunately BJ Holley and Jarod Lovett never made it to the track and both Steve Magowen and Chris Burnett suffered mechanical issues on Friday, so the expected field of six GTA cars was now down to two – Jay and the “Naples Flash”, Vern Smith.

Saturday morning’s single 20-minute qualifying session was key because the fastest lap would set the grid for Saturday’s race while the SECOND fastest lap would be used for Sunday’s race. I’d never seen this done before and the drivers’ meeting was after the qualifying session, so I was not sure how many competitors would actually realize they needed to turn TWO good laps rather than being satisfied with just one. It ends up it made no difference since the grid for Sunday was essentially the same as Saturday’s, but it would have seriously messed up anyone’s plans to share a car like Jay & I did last year. At any rate, Jay did a good job of finding a gap so he could turn consistent laps and (after seeing that Vern’s best lap was a 1:34+) I called Jay in after he ran two laps in the 1:33’s. It ends up Atlanta Region’s clocks are pretty close (<g>) because they had us eighth of sixteen on Saturday’s grid with a 1:33.377 with Vern two spots back at a 1:34.131.

As the accompanying in-car video shows, Saturday’s race was, uh, “exciting”.  From my perspective on the front straight Jay got a good start and led Vern for the first two laps, then as they came down the hill to complete lap three Vern was ahead of the red #57. You can see at the 2:50 mark on the in-car that Jay got balked going into Turn 5 by a 800 hp SPO car that was much faster than our 500 hp GTA car on straights but parked in the corners. Vern (who could see it all developing from his position a second behind Jay) got a better run out of Five and passed us going into Six. Jay was able to stay on Vern’s bumper until he tried out-braking Vern into 10-A but succeeded only in tagging the orange/white #34’s LR with his RF. After slowing for a couple of laps to make sure the fender wasn’t going to fly off Jay closed the distance back to Vern’s rear bumper but (despite Vern almost being run off the track on the last lap by the same SPO car) took the checkered flag about half a second back. As I posted on V8SC.com that night, we turned the fastest GTA lap of the race at a 1:34.878 to Vern’s best of a 1:35.411, but we came in second while Vern was next to last. And given that Vern has been racing longer than Jay’s been alive, this was definitely a case where old age and treachery overcame youth and enthusiasm! <g>

Saturday’s race video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1R_eKnRwVw

Highlights (or lowlights) from Saturday’s race:

  • 1:20 – Jay is on the rev-limiter in fourth (about 156 mph) as Ricky Sanders (black #19) goes by on the back straight; Vern in the orange/white #34 is now the next car back.
  • 2:40 – Jay checks up for blue SPO car in Turn 7 so Vern is on the bumper, then the blue car disappears down the back straight.
  • 3:55 – Jay again catches the blue car in the Esses and has to overslow for Turn 5, which allows Vern to get a better run through the corner and pass into Turn 6.
  • 9:30 – Jay tries what ends up being an “optimistic move” to out-brake Vern into 10-A and tags the LR of the #34 car; spends the next few laps making sure the fender is not going to depart the premises and/or wondering if we’ll be found non-compliant for having a movable aerodynamic device. Maverick eventually re-engages after Goose talks to him and maintains about a two second gap to Vern.
  • 20:20 – Our dynamic duo again catches the blue SPO car in Turn 7, then as a high-speed train all three cars pass three lapped cars in succession on the back straight.
  • 21:02 – What would have been the white flag were it displayed, but we begin the last lap regardless.
  • 21:45 – Vern almost drives off the track avoiding the blue SPO car in Turns 6 & 7, but gathers everything up and leads down the back straight.
  • 22:35 – Checkered flag, with less than half a second between second and next to last in GTA!

Fortunately we already had gotten a new fender after my incident back in March, but rather than rush to install it we used some Bear Bond, aluminum strap, and pop rivets to patch everything back together before leaving the track Saturday evening. And since Jay was on the rev limiter in fourth for about a three count during Saturday’s race we changed the rear gear from a 3.64 to a 3.56 on Sunday morning. Based on their second fastest laps during qualifying Jay again lined up eighth with a 1:34.0 while Vern was one spot back with a 1:34.8. Ricky Sanders was next behind Vern in his GT2 Camaro with a 1:36.0, but since he had run consistent 1:32s on Saturday no one expected him to stay behind the two GTA cars for long.

Sunday’s race video (plus the following highlights) tells the story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIxnhfarE_o

  • 0:45 – Jay gets another good start and leads into Turn 1, then (as expected) Ricky goes by up the hill.  Vern is once again now the next car back.
  • 0:55-1:20 – Ricky goes off track twice while trying to get by the blue SPO car as the other GT2 cars pull away.
  • 1:45 – First time into 10-A with the new rear gear at almost 160 mph. Not hitting the rev-limiter but Vern is still looming large in the mirrors.
  • 2:30 – Ricky is again held up in the Esses as the other GT2 cars (his competition) vanish into the sunset.
  • 5:00-11:55 – The white nose of the #34 car remains prominent in the mirrors. After the race Vern said he was sitting back and waiting for Jay to make a mistake but it never happened.
  • 12:00 – Blue #28 slows in the Esses with (we found out later) a fuel leak in the cockpit. Ricky and Jay get by cleanly but Vern gets held up and looses contact with Jay.
  • 13:00 – If you watch in the mirrors you’ll see Vern slide off the track in 10-A as Jay is turning in for 10-B. Vern later said he hit oil or other fluid but there was no debris flag to warn him.
  • 13:50 – Blue #28 is in the Cut-Thru off drivers’ right at Turn 5.
  • 14:35 – Jay’s next time into 10-A and Vern is gone (meaning he’s rejoined the race) but is now thirty seconds back.
  • 15:30 – With the other GT2 cars long gone Ricky decides there’s no reason to burn up his car, so he waves Jay by on the back straight. Classy move.
  • 16:30 – Relaxing too much, Jay forgets where we put fourth gear. <g>
  • 19:00 – The overall leader (white #9 Challenger) first appears in the mirrors, so Jay slows slightly on the back straight to make sure the pass is safely completed prior to the 10-A braking zone.
  • 21:15 – The waving wave flag (when displayed) indicates you have begun your final lap of competition.
  • 22:50 – Checkered Flag!!!

As well as the win Jay once again scored the fastest GTA lap of the race (and weekend) with a 1:34.603 to Vern’s best of a 1:35.013. It was also Cuervo’s first win of 2015, so it was a happy driver that applied the coveted chrome decal that we all would run over our grandmother to win. And it was a happy group that dined at the Oakwood Buffalo’s that afternoon, but there was a bittersweet tinge to it as well. Prior to the weekend Jay had let me know he still wanted to race but it is difficult to save money for his own car and support equipment while driving, so the Road Atlanta weekend would be his last one in Cuervo. Our (very unlikely) partnership was an experiment to see if he really likes driving Big Noise cars (he does) and whether or not he has the talent to do so successfully (he definitely does!). And because I wanted to provide the best possible car for him to drive, I have a better prepared car than I would have had I been the only driver. I’m sorry to see our partnership end, but it was a win-win (complete with chrome decals! <g>) for both of us.

In the vein of “a door closes but a window opens”, the Road Atlanta weekend was the first time my neighbor Allan Kosloski has been at the track with BK Racing. Allan has raced dirt motorcycles in days gone by, plus he’s helped out in the shop and has demonstrated he knows which end of a screwdriver to pick up at least 50% of the time. His first exposure to road racing was the Walter Mitty earlier this year, but he had never experienced a Club Racing weekend. One could probably say he is pumped up by the experience, but the clearest evidence is the fact that while at the track he bought an SA2010 helmet that he can use for Time Trials and (perhaps) Club Racing events in the future!

I guess we’ll see what happens. <g>

Current BK Racing plans for the rest of 2015:

  • August 15-16 – Charlotte Double SARRC (watching and helping out where I can)
  • August 22-23 – Michigan International Speedway Majors (Butch)
  • September 21-27 – SCCA Runoffs ® at Daytona (Butch)
  • October 10-11 – Talladega Grand Prix Raceway Time Trials (tentative)
  • October 10-11 – spectating at the NOLA TransAm weekend, then Harriett & I are staying over for the Falcons/Saints game on 10/14
  • November 6-8 – ARRC by GRM at Road Atlanta (Butch)
  • November 14-15 – Roebling Road Time Trials (tentative)

See y’all at the track…