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Executive Summary:

First time back at Watkins Glen since 2010 and it's a L-O-N-G tow, but despite a recurrence of the shifter issues we finished both races (and actually won on Sunday!), then loaded a running race car in the trailer at the end of the weekend. Next event is the V8RRS Finale at VIR the weekend of October 14-16.

Longer Version:

Watkins Glen International is one of the iconic tracks in the U.S. and Finger Lakes Region SCCA puts on a great event, so we had the 2016 version of the "Fun One" on the V8RRS calendar from the get-go. My regular group of ne'er-do-wells had other plans the weekend of Sept 16-18, so I made the 18-hour tow (each way) to Watkins Glen by myself. Making the trip solo gave me a lot of windshield time to meditate and ponder the meaning of life and even with almost 40 hours of that I'd still have to say, "I don't have a clue!" However what I did figure out is (a) a truck wash is a great place to have your truck and trailer cleaned up and (b) there are a LOT of 18-wheelers on I-81!

Since I would be by myself I talked fellow V8RRS members Mark & Amy Mercurio into coming down from Buffalo to help make sure I didn't injure myself working on Cuervo. They met me at 6:00 AM on Friday at the registration building (WGI doesn't let you in on Thursday even if you're doing their test day), and after signing all the paperwork we set up in one of the few spots in the paddock with shore power (Mark & Amy had been there before and knew where to go). Many of the V8RRS racers had rented garages since they were concerned about forecasts of rain on Sunday, but we were soon joined by Andy Trought and Chris Gill "out in the boonies". We were on flat pavement, however, which ended up being a good thing as we spent a great deal of time under the car.

I had not driven at WGI since 2010 (http://www.b-k-racing.com/watkins-glen-the-fun-one/), so reports that last year's repaving had changed many of the reference points did not concern me since I needed to learn the track all over again anyway ("I'm pretty sure Turn One is a right-hander, correct?"). I was gradually getting more comfortable during the first session when the brake pedal went almost to the floor as I entered Turn One on lap #4. I managed to get everything slowed down without incident, then proceeded slowly back to the pits. As I hit the brakes coming down pit road I noticed brake fluid spraying on my right foot and (correctly) figured out the brake light switch was leaking. After Amy & Mark recorded the tire temps I proceeded back to our paddock spot where we started working on the brakes.

Mark got on his phone and found an AutoZone in Watkins Glen, and while they didn't have a switch we could use their computer showed their sister store in Corning had one. Before we made that trip however, we checked at the NAPA store just down the road in Montour Falls and they did have one in stock. We got that one and the necessary connectors, plus ordered a spare (which ends up being off a '75 Jeep CJ) that we could pick up later. Doing all that meant we missed the day's second session, but we got everything buttoned up in time to make the first session of the afternoon.

For session #3 (our second session) I went out a bit more agressively and turned a 2:13.3 on my first hot lap, then as I went thru the Esses the shifter got hung up in second gear again (same problem Allan & I had experienced three weeks earlier at Barber). I trundled back to the paddock where we tightened up the shifter and also tightened up the left inner tie rod bolt when Mark found some play in the steering. For the fourth (and final) session of the day I continued to gain confidence and got down to a 2:09, but as I started lap #3 the shifter got stuck in second gear AGAIN! We ended the test day with the car in the air again while Mark went underneath to actually adjust the shifter instead of just tightening it up. Friday night is Prime Rib Night at the famed Seneca Lodge, which lived up to it's reputation as a rival to Siebken's in Elkhart Lake - lots of racing history in BOTH those places!

Saturday morning dawned clear & dry, so we bolted on a sticker set of Hoosier 3045's and got ready for qualifying. After finding a gap in traffic (which was pretty easy to do with 23 cars spread out over a 3.4-mile track) I turned a 2:11.308 on what was essentially a warm-up lap, then proceeded to get serious. Unfortunately, the shifter AGAIN got hung in second gear heading up thru the Esses so our 15-minute session was over and we ended up 13th overall. We were still first in GT2 compared to Mike Attaway's 2:17.278, and since we were out of ideas we decided during lunch to take BJ's advice and run that afternoon's race using nothing but third and fourth gears. As insurance, however, I asked Mark & Amy take the tools necessary to pop the thing out of second gear down on pit road for the race.

That plan worked really well right up until the first corner! I was in the preferred inside lane, got a decent start and successfully shifted into third gear before Turn One. During the typical stack-up under braking, though, I instinctively downshifted to second and, sure enough, the shifter hung up. I got as far off line as possible as the entire field streamed by and was DFL as I came down pit road to where Mark & Amy were waiting. It took about 30 seconds to jack up the car, place a jack stand under it, and pop the thing into neutral, then with Mark yelling "third and fourth only, rookie!!!" I rejoined the race just about where I would have been had I not made the stop. Of course I was a lap down, but Mike's white Impala was looming large in my mirrors as I went up the hill in THIRD GEAR. I slowly pulled away from Mike but obviously wasn't going to make up the lap unless he had trouble, and when we got the white flag he was still back there so I backed off. I ended up second (in a class of two) but at least I saw the checkered flag for the first time this year. That evening we ate (and drank) at Nickel's BBQ in downtown Watkins Glen (thanks again, Jim Jost), and it's an experience I highly recommend should you ever be in the area.

It rained like a sumbitch on Saturday night, so even though we were the third run group the track was still damp off-line for our Sunday morning qualifying session. The situation got worse when a car went off in the left-hander before coming back onto the front straight (I think that's Turn Six on the 2.45-mile NASCAR course - one of the neat things about the Fun One is they run the long course on Saturday and the short course on Sunday) and spread mud across the entire track when s/he re-entered. When Mark radioed that Mike had already come in I ran one more lap to get the GT2 pole and pulled off myself. My 1:37.783 was almost fifteen seconds off the GTA pole but I was first in GT2 and no doubt the fastest person out there driving a two-speed. <g>

The rain that threatened throughout the day never materialized, so we went out on the pace lap for Sunday's race with me repeating "Second Gear Sucks!" over and over to myself. I was again on the inside, but this time did NOT downshift to second in the stack-up into Turn One. Over the first four laps I built a twenty-second lead over Mike and was getting comfortable when they (understandably) went full course yellow to retrieve an ASedan that had stopped on drivers' right at the top of the Esses. That allowed Mike to close up on me again during the six laps it took to move the stranded car, but when the green flew I was again able to pass a couple of cars and put a bit of distance between us. In the closing laps, however, my brake pedal started getting pretty long which meant I had to pump the brakes and stop earlier and earlier while the white #26 grew larger in my mirrors. At the checkers he was .369 seconds (about two car lengths) behind me, but the operative word in that statement is "behind". On the victory stand Mike said he would have had me if there was one more lap, and I have absolutely no doubt he was correct. His best lap of 1:25.454 was right on my 1:25.004, and he was definitely closing on me in the later laps.

Bottom line, however, is we came home with a second and a first plus loaded a running race car into the trailer. I'm 25 points behind Mike in the race for the V8RRS GT2 championship and we'll need to catch a break in the season finale at VIR, but at least we're in the hunt. We also sent the shifter down to the BJ Holley Racing Emporium in Jackson GA to be rebuilt (he said it was completely shot and must have been like stirring oatmeal with a plastic straw), so at least I should have a four-speed instead of a two-speed going forward (pun intended).

In other news, the SCCA Board of Directors has not yet published how they are going to proceed in regards to the vacant President's position. All the BoD members were not able to make it to the Runoffs, so they're having a series of meetings in Dallas to determine a direction. I expect the formal announcement for the job opening will be posted mid-November, so until then my official position on the matter remains:

"I continue to monitor the situation with a great deal of interest".

Remaining (proposed) 2016 BK Racing schedule:

· Oct 14-16 - V8RRS Finale at VIRginia International Raceway (Danville VA)

· Nov 4-6 - The ARRC by GRM at Road Atlanta (Braselton GA)

· Nov 19-20 (tentative) - Roebling Road TT (Savannah GA)

As always, let me know if you'd like more information about any of these events.

See y'all at the track…