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944 Spec Night Enduro Report


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Race report from the 90 Minute night race at Firebird.



May in Arizona can get hot. This past weekend was no exception. Club Racing Arizona decieded to run a night event at Firebird raceway to outsmart the heat . The event started Saturday afternoon at 3:30pm race group practice with temps still well over 100F All the 944 spec guys stayed in the shade of tents and skipped the practice realizing that little could be learned that would apply to night race. 944 spec was well represented by 6 cars and drivers. Norm Hamden, Joe Paluch, Jon Ariano, Vince Vaccaro, Glenn Gormely and Steve Marlow.


By 6pm the temps had become bearable and this was the practice/qualfying session for short qualfying race for the main event 90 minute enduro. What did we learn from 20 minutes on track in 100F... Not much as it was still hot. As a testement to his speed. Norman ran this session on 16" street tires since he did not have time swap also pulling double duty as an HPDE instructor. Well they all say street tires are slow, but he still managed being being a 1/2 th off of Jon Ariano's pole time. Damn Norm make us all look bad... The caveat is that Jon's pole time was a solid 3 seconds slower than track record.


The qualfying race came a 8:40 pm and in the full dark. Racing in the dark is new experience and very interesting. A few guys had some interesting light set-up, but I am not sure how well any of them worked. Firebird main is an interesting track from this respect. The main drag is very well lit without needing to use lights. However the looper on the end and the back section is spotty. Portable lights were used to show some apexes, but this combined with a track that can be difficult so see even it daylight due to sea of gray asphalt with faded lines makes some of the turns more feel than sight even with the best of lights.


As with most short races the qualfing race ended with field still bunched up, but due to some lucky flag watching I gained 5 spots on the last lap. Running in 13th overall behind Norm, Jon, & Glenn in class I pulled under the flag stand for a white flag. Then came around again looking for the checker. However I saw what a looked very much like a white flag. So I keep going around passing first Glenn and then a large group cars just before the last corner as they took to the pits. I came around and looked down the straight to take the checker and end up 7th on the grid. Seems that due severe radio issues 2 white flags were shown and a bunch of the mid pack guys pulled in 1 lap early. So moral to story is WATCH the flags closely. Just because a certain flag SHOULD be there it may not always happen that way.


944 class grid for the enduro came out as follows, Joe, Norm, Jon, Glenn, Vince & Steve. Unfortnatly Steve Marlow's rear lights failed to work and he missed the sprint race. We were able to rewire these lights and he made the start of the big show.


In most 90 minute races you would expect the field to get strung out and to have most of the driving done to a pace by yourself, however 944 spec is not a normal class. I started at the front this group and as anticpated 2-3 hondas and a mix of higher hp cars pulled by on start and in the first couple laps. I was able to defend positions for a few more laps, but given the lights it is nearly impossible to determing who is who so you just drive. Norm slipped by as did Jon. I tucked in behind them holding Glenn off and chasing Jon. First 10 then 20, then 30 mintues go by with the 3 cara still seperated by 2 seconds. Vince dropped out of the race at 21 minutes in due to a broken alternator belt. Glenn dropped out at 25 mintues due being pelted in the face by a grasshopper. Sounds strange, but the track was littered with these creatures attracted by the lights. In fact there were so many that during the night surface flags were used to denote bugs covering the track like water. Glenn was ok, but decided to end things after a short recovery period. However Norm, Jon and I kept on moving. For some reason my car was slow down the 5/8 mile straight. Maybe it was due to a poor exit from the last corner or just motor with 50 or so races on it. Even so while I lost groud on the run to turn 1 I was able to close alot of that back underbraking for turn 1 and by the tight turn 2-3 complex was able to run right back on Jon's bumper. At one point in the race Norm did a a 1/2 spin in the tower turn and Jon and I pulled by. Norm however fought his way back in to it after a few laps and eventully re-took the class lead. I was able to pass Jon 2-3 times in traffic, but was never able to hold him back. My car ran well, but did start to get warm in the first part of the race. Early on running slow close and then drafting down the straigths my water and oil temps started to increase. My solution was to pull out in to clean air down the straight and doing that for 3-4 laps brought all my temps back to normal. While I did loose a car length on straight doing that I was able to gain that back in the back section of the track. Little did I know a major contributor to my temps was an intake screen FULL of bugs. So much so that I probably only at 75% of my normal airflow and while temps were cooler at night there will still well over 85 for the bulk of the event.


As the race went on the 3 of use just kept going and going never out of sight and never more than 5-6 car lenghts apart. Because pit stops were not required well all filled our cars to brim and kept racing. As the 90 mintues drew to a close the white flag came out. For me this was my last chance to close the gap and take 2nd from Jon. As we went in to turn 1 I saw gravel on the inside and a yellow flag. I still went in rather hot since I still needed to close about 2-3 car length and it seemed a car just went off bring gravel, yellow and I could just see a car off track at the exit. Well unfortunalty that car had blown a motor and oil down the track. I hit the oil and simply went around. Any chance I had to challenge Jon was gone so I just completed the lap losing about 8 seconds on that laps alone. For 90 mintues we ran close and this was the largest gap Jon had all night long.


In the end it was a very fun race our 3 car battle and 90 minutes of solid strong running pulled us to 4,5,6 overall bested by E46 M3, a Viper and an H4 Honda who was 40-50 seconds in front of us. Not a bad finish. Steve Marlow came in 4th in class by being consistant and safe. Also Steve completed his 4th race without incident to complete turn is rookie license in to full competetion license. Nice job Steve!

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Race report from the 90 Minute night race at Firebird.

Steve Marlow came in 4th in class by being consistant and safe. Also Steve completed his 4th race without incident to complete turn is rookie license in to full competetion license. Nice job Steve!


"Consistent and safe" is another way of saying "slow and cautious" but it was quite an experience. Because I couldn't get out for the qualifier I didn't get on the track in the dark unit the race started, so I was really feeling my way around the beginning. I managed to hang in there to the end and only nine out of 18 cars finished so perseverance paid off.


I want to give a special thanks to Joe for getting my tail lights wired up between the qualifier and the enduro. Typical of the AZ Spec 944 group he jumped in and got it done so I could make the race. Thanks Joe! And thanks to Glen for sharing his trailer (and shade) and to Jon for the pizza. You are a great group of guys to run with!

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Well good going, Steve!

I remember my first night enduro. It was at Buttonwillow and even though I knew the track well, I still felt like I was "feeling" my way around, too! No apex lights made it intense. I just had H4's shooting out ahead. Where's that left hander? I know it's coming up.....Yikes! There it went! Grab a whole hand full of left. Whew! Stayed on the track....

Depending on how consistent you can drive......(!) ....sometimes you can count seconds in the dark before you should start turning in.

Thanks for the report, Joe.

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Hey Steve, do you have a full length version of that enduro?


I have about 75 of the 90 minutes because I had started the tape when I went out for the qualifier and didn't rewind it before the enduro. If you would like a DVD copy PM me your email address and I'll send you one. It's a great tape if you like to see lots of cars repeatedly passing someone at a high rate of speed.

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