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Executive Summary:

Allan Kosloski and I shared the O'Brien Express Monte Cuervo at Buccaneer Region SCCA's annual Jim Stark Memorial weekend at Roebling Road (near Savannah, GA) the weekend of April 21-23. This was Allan's first "real" race weekend since he completed his SCCA drivers' school at the same venue back in February, so I ran a couple of sessions during Friday's test day while he drove the rest of that day and all day Saturday. After a rather disappointing day on Friday "the lightbulb came on" that evening when Randy Walker explained to him that he needed pretend he was driving in snow, so on Saturday Allan got faster all day, raced well, ended up fourth overall (of 15) in the run group, and got signed off on his Full Competition license. Needless to say, he was pretty pumped up that evening.

My race Sunday, on the other hand, was not so good, but "that's racing" - as my buddy and track announcer Scott Conway said, "That's the first time I've ever heard a corner worker ask for a chain saw to get a car out of the woods". Sometimes you're the windshield and other times you're the bug.

Longer Version:

Longtime readers (i.e. - last month's Update) may recall that Allan did the combined SCCA/SVRA school at Roebling back in February in one of OPM Autosports' Spec Miatas. While he successfully completed the school and was approved for wheel-to-wheel racing, we were surprised when he turned his fastest laps of the weekend during his very first session on the track. Because no one else was driving the car we didn't know if the car was getting tired or he just wasn't pushing hard enough, so we decided sharing Cuervo with me would provide a benchmark against which to measure his progress. In my first session Friday morning I ran back-to-back 1:19.0's to verify the car was working okay, but we didn't get the in-car camera working so Allan had nothing to compare his driving to. In session #2 Allan ran four laps with a best of 1:23.05, then in the last session of the morning he ran nine laps mostly in the 24's and 25's with a best of 1:23.30. In that third session he also found out how deep "too deep" was in Turn 1 when he spun before continuing at a reduced pace. :-)

During lunch we discussed what he was doing and looked at his in-car video, then we made sure the camera was on when I took Cuervo back out for the first afternoon session. This time I ran six laps ranging from a 1:19.32 to a 1:20.69, and afterwards while viewing the video Allan remarked that my hands were moving around a lot more than his were. I explained that you drive Cuervo with two steering wheels (one in your hands and the other one under your right foot), but in his last session Allan ran nine laps with a best of 1:26.87. That evening he went down to see Randy Walker who mentioned, "you need to feel like you're driving on snow" - a comment that resonated with Allan since he grew up in New Jersey. As I wrote above, a lightbulb went off in Allan's head.

During Saturday morning's 20-minute qualifying session Allan spent a few laps warming up and finding a gap in traffic, then reeled off laps of 1:23.698 and 1:26.282 (while finding a way around a Porsche driver who appeared to be driving on a different track than everyone else) before finishing up with a 1:22.350! That put him seventh of the fifteen cars on the grid, and also on the more favorable inside of the track. To say he was pretty pumped while we discussed race strategy during lunch is an understatement.

Allan got a good start at the green and slotted into sixth overall, then moved up another spot when Mark Davis came down pit road and retired to the paddock at the end of lap four. On lap nine he came on the radio saying the T1 Mustang just in front of him (Skip Bozeman) looked to be running out of tires (both Skip's rears and the LF were showing cords at the end), then Allan got a good run out of Turn Nine and passed Skip under braking into Turn One. On that same lap the third place driver (Vern Smith) overcooked the braking zone at Turn Four and was just coming back on the track when Allan came by, so we had gone from fifth to third in half a lap! Allan turned his best lap of the race on the next lap but was unable to keep Vern behind him, so at the checkers he was fourth overall less than five seconds behind Vern (and the last car on the lead lap). Out of 17 race laps Allan turned six laps faster than he'd qualified with a best of 1:20.304 and only one lap slower than a 1:24 (and that was when he was dealing with traffic). On the cool-off lap I reminded him to wave to the corner workers and told him he'd done a GREAT job, particularly for his first-ever real racing experience. He didn't need to drive the next day, so MUCH frivolity ensued that evening. :-)

In one of his more lucid moments Allan remembered the engine was "buzzing" a couple of times each lap, then in Sunday morning's qualifying session I experienced the same thing so we determined the clutch was wearing out. I did run two hot laps with a best of 1:17.382 (good for third overall) and since I was the only car in GT2 (event #2 towards earning a Runoffs invitation) we thought it would be okay for the race as long as I didn't abuse it.

At the green I slotted into third place going into Turn 1 behind Randy Walker and Mickey Carter, then slowly pulled away from Skip in fourth while running laps of 1:19.7 and 1:18.3. With the bad clutch I harbored no illusions of having anything for Randy and Mickey, but as I was settling down to run consistent laps I once again experienced a "stuck throttle" as I entered Turn Six at the back of the course. I had just about enough time to think "Oh Sheep!" (or maybe it was "Oh Flock!") and lock up the brakes as I tried to cut the ignition, but I'm guessing I was still running about 80 MPH (5000 RPM in second gear) when I hit the tire barrier around the outside of the turn. The stacked tires launched me into a jump that would have made the Dukes of Hazzard proud, and Skip later said the front of the car was about 15 feet in the air and still climbing when he went by. When things settled down I got on the radio to let Allan know I had wrecked but was okay, cut the master switch, and dropped the window net to let the corner workers know I was okay before realizing THEY COULDN'T SEE ME!!! I had disappeared from their sight so I scrambled out, fought my way through the briars and branches surrounding the car, and then crawled on top of the tire wall about the time the ambulance and safety crews arrived. It was obvious we/they wouldn't be able to get Cuervo out quickly and he was WELL off the track, so I agreed with their decision to leave the car until after the day's event was done (we were Group 6 of 7 for the weekend). I got checked out by medical and released with the only injury being to my wallet, so the safety equipment certainly did it's job. I quickly called Harriett to let her know what had happened (and that I was okay) and she calmly talked me off the ledge of quitting entirely - "You don't need to make a decision today or anytime soon, we've got plenty of time".

Sunday race (and wreck)

The entire extraction effort took almost an hour, and I have to thank the track crew, Allan, Skip Bozeman, John Black, Jeff Ashley, and many others for their help in that effort plus loading Cuervo into the trailer. As of this writing I haven't even unloaded yet much less done a close inspection, but initial reports from those who looked at things at the track is the frame does not appear to be bent so the damage is bodywork, ductwork, and maybe some bent suspension components. Cuervo's body was getting pretty long in tooth anyway, so maybe this is the racing gods telling me I need to upgrade his appearance?

And here's when Cuervo finally emerged from the woods! 

I put "stuck throttle" in quotes above because this is the third time this has happened in less than two years. The first was at the Runoffs in Daytona in 2015, then it happened again at Road Atlanta in March 2016. Both times we thought we had found the cause, but obviously I was wrong both times. All three times it was a left-hander followed fairly quickly by a right-hander, so in retrospect I'm thinking my feet are getting tangled up and I'm hitting the left side of my right foot with the right side of my left foot when applying the brakes (I left-foot brake). It had never happened before Daytona in the ten years I had been driving Cuervo, but then my feet have never been as old as they are right now either. Since it's highly unlikely I'll re-engineer my feet (that would be a Porsche engineer's response), I WILL relocate the brake pedal to the left side of the steering shaft before I drive Cuervo again.

Obviously things have taken a hit (pun intended), but we'll see what kind of progress we make over the next couple of months. To that end, here are the (VERY TENTATIVE) plans for the rest of the 2017 BK Racing season:

  • Jul 6-9 - Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix (promote V8RRS)
  • Aug 11,12 - Charlotte Motor Speedway (Regional/V8)
  • Aug 26,27 - Barber Motorsports Park (Regional/V8)
  • Sep 16,17 - Watkins Glen (Regional/V8)
  • Sep 28-Oct 1 - spectate at the SCCA Runoffs (also V8)
  • Oct 13-15 - VIRginia International Raceway (Regional/V8 Finale)
  • Nov 3-5 - ARRC (Road Atlanta)

See y'all at the track…