Welcome to BK Racing
Powered by Squarespace

2008 SARRC Invitational Challenge

Short story – didn’t race, but went anyway to provide support for the 2009 GTA-Southeast Compliance program. Learned about some SCCA procedural issues, quieted most if not all of the “GTA drivers are notorious cheaters” discussion, saw one helluva race, and congratulated Tony Amico on earning the 2008 SARRC GTA Championship. He is a true champion in every sense of the word.

And now the longer story...

= = = = = = = = =

Although we had run enough races to earn an invitation and probably could have gotten Cuervo back together in time to make the annual SARRC Invitational Challenge, I made the management level decision before Labor Day to skip driving at that event and instead concentrate on taking the best GTA car we’ve ever had to the ARRC by GRM in November (more on that later). 

Besides my own racing effort, another thing we’ve concentrated on for 2008 is fine-tuning the GTA Southeast rules and verifying them with on-track performance (the “asphalt dyno”, as Ron Cortez calls it). We now have a stable set of rules that promotes good competition, but as we continue to grow the GTA class here in SEDIV we need to have more than that. We also need to create confidence that the cars people are racing are actually built to those rules. Since I was not driving at Roebling Road and have a pretty good knowledge of the rules (and the creative ways people might try to interpret them), it seemed like a good time to prototype the 2009 GTA Southeast Compliance Team. Longtime GT-1 competitor (and 1995 Fitzgerald Award winner) Rick Hartsell came down from Charlotte to help, and I sent out a notice to all GTA competitors that we’d be taking a close look at the cars throughout the weekend.

Tony Amico was in the driver’s seat for the championship with six wins for the maximum possible 144 points followed by Jeff Bailey at 124 and Tom Graham at 122. Since the SIC counts double points (48 for the win), any of those three had a chance to take the title depending on what the other two did. The fourth driver was Preston Fowler IV (aka – “Young Preston”) supported by his dad Big Preston (even though Young Preston is taller than Big Preston) in the car they bought from 2007 Runner-up Wayne Quick. With 47 points Preston and Preston were out of the championship hunt but came to gain some valuable seat time.

Before the first session I went around to complete the Minimum Weight worksheet on each GTA car and had the owner and/or crew chief sign each one to signify they were aware of what they were supposed to weigh. Tony and Tom both brought two cars in case anything went wrong, so we had six sheets in hand as the cars went out for their first qualifying session. At the end of that session we brought all the cars through the Tech area and checked minimum weight, overall width, track, ride height, overall height, front air dam clearance, tire make and model, and rear spoiler height, width, and angle. We found two cars that were too low (by less than ¼”), the Tech Staff wrote them up, and the SOM removed their times for that session. Everyone then went back to the paddock to prep their cars from the afternoon qualifier.

It was at this point I learned something about SCCA procedures. Earlier in the year our SEDIV DA of Tech had recommended we establish the GTA Compliance Team, so I checked in with him before the event to let him know what we planned to do. He was not the Chief of Tech for this event so I talked to that person and he was happy to work with us. Ends up, however, that we ALSO needed to get an approval from the Chief Steward, and I had failed to do that. Bottom line is all times were reinstated, we got approval from the Chief Steward to continue our activities (with Tech’s supervision) the rest of the weekend, and I learned something that we will roll into the GTA-Southeast rules at Jekyll in January. As I said after the hoopla died down, “That’s why we run test days – to find out what we didn’t know.”

Tom planned to run his second car (the yellow Chevy) in the afternoon session, then would race the faster of the two. Ends up the Ford was slightly faster, but that’s why he’s listed twice on the Grid sheet. We checked the same things after that session and all the cars passed except Tom’s Chevy (slightly too low), but he planned to race the Ford on Sunday so the Tech crew made a notation in his log book to have it fixed before the next event. After both sessions, the GTA field lined up thusly:

Overall

Car No.

Name

Car Configuration

Best Lap

5

10

Jeff Bailey

LMS, Open Engine

1.15.509

7

7

Tom Graham

ASA, traditional engine

1.15.899

8

17

Tom Graham

LMS, traditional engine

1.16.066

10

77

Tony Amico

ASA, base LS-1

1.16.465

14

34

Preston Fowler

ASA, traditional engine

1.19.282

Tom elected to run the #7 car and the sixth car on the grid (Russ Snow’s BP Corvette) started at the back, so the three contenders were all bunched together with Preston hot on their tails. There was a major moment at the green as pole-sitter Bill Smith spun the rear tires and probably would have looped it if he hadn’t bounced off Terry Giles, but everyone survived the experience and the race was on.

Jeff got a good jump and led the GTA contingent into Turn One with Tom right on his tail. Tony knew he only had to finish to clinch the championship, so he adopted a (for him, at least) conservative approach for the first ten laps and was content to ride behind Ray Webb’s GT-1 car. Wayne Cabaniss spun his fourth place SPO at Turn Two on the first lap, so as they finished lap 1 it was Jeff with Tom at his door, Ray Webb, Tony, then three more cars back to Preston.

Tom dove inside Jeff under braking for Turn One to take the lead, then promptly gave it back when he spun exiting Turn Two and fell to the back of the pack. Jeff continued to lead GTA even though Ray Webb got by starting lap 7, which put Tony right on Jeff’s bumper while Tom made up ground from his spin. Lap after lap Jeff would pull out VERY slightly on the front straight, then Tony would gain it all back again on the back side. Even as the laps wound down and they worked their way through traffic they were never separated by more than half a second!

As they went out of my sight on lap 18 Jeff was still ahead, then as they came onto the front straight on that lap Tony had gotten by. Ends up Jeff had checked up for traffic coming out of Turn Four which allowed Tony to get alongside him in the short chute between Four and Five. They went through Five side-by-side but Tony had the preferred line and was able to complete the pass before they got to Six. Over the next two laps Tony pulled out enough of a lead through Six & Seven that Jeff wasn’t able to get back by and the margin of victory was .688 seconds at the checkers. Tony also turned his fastest lap on the last lap, a 1.15.034 that ended up being the fastest GTA lap of the weekend.

In Impound we checked weights, rear wheel camber, and rear gear ratios, and all cars passed. The final GTA finishing positions were:

 

Overall

Car No.

Name

Best Lap

5

77

Tony Amico

1.15.034

6

10

Jeff Bailey

1.15.775

10

7

Tom Graham

1.15.863

12

34

Preston Fowler

1.19.824

Besides all the cars being legal, the on-track performance was about what I expected as well. On the straights Tommy’s Ford was faster than Jeff’s Chevy, which was faster than Tony’s base LS-1 car, but Tony’s lower weight and better weight distribution helped him in the corners. Three different leaders put on a GREAT show and any one of the three could have won had the breaks gone their way. THAT is what racing is all about!

When it was all over, Tony scored a perfect 192 points to take the SARRC GTA Championship followed by Jeff with 164, Tom at 156, Ron Fariss at 104, Bob Davis at 98, myself at 88, and Preston moved up eight spots to finish seventh with 77 points. Thirty-five different drivers entered at least one GTA-Southeast race in the 2008 SARRC season, and sixteen finished the three races required to be eligible for the SIC – not bad for our third year in existence.

Not only did Tony take six SARRC wins plus the win at the SIC, but he also demonstrated the attitude of a champion. All weekend long he and his crew never quit working on the #77 car to make it faster, plus Sunday morning I found him thrashing under Preston’s car helping them with their set-up as well. The man is a racer and a champion.

As far as the future, we’ll continue to develop the GTA-Southeast Compliance program. My goal is to have it self-funded by the GTA racers yet totally independent of any driver in the class (most especially me). If you run a GTA car in SEDIV it behooves you to make sure it’s legal because you never can tell when they may show up or what they’ll be measuring when they do. GTA is the best bang for the buck out there and we aim to keep it that way!

Right now I think I’ll head out to the shop and continue to get Cuervo ready for our next event. We are planning to run Buccaneer Region’s Nov. 1 & 2 Time Trial at Roebling Road as a test for the ARRC by GRM the following weekend.

See y’all at the track…