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NASA SE Dec 3 & 4, 2011 Santa's Toy Run


ColinO
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I had an absolute blast. Saturday I managed to qualify 2nd in a tight grouping of 1-3 (1:46.604, 1:46.669, and 1:46.739). I'm working on the video tonight, but in Saturday's race, Mike (on pole) and I had a good start. He stayed inside and ahead through 1 and I fell in behind him going into turn 2. I managed to stay on Mike's tail into 7 where I was forced on an inside line. I shifted to 2nd thinking Mike was stuck in traffic on the outside and I might be able to power out of the corner and have a launch on the straight. Well, I got on it too hard and started to lose it, nearly going off into the (rather close to it after looking at the video) wall on the right. Mark was apparently right behind and as I collected the car he passed on the left. I spent the rest of the race trying to keep up. Okay, trying to hold Pete off - my mirror was full of irritating redness.

 

Anyway, it went on like this until Mark got pushed off into the gravel in 10b. As I passed all I saw was an 8' rooster tail of gravel flying behind him and a bondo gray E36 plowing back on track toward me. You can see a little flinch in the wheel, but I had a BMW on my right and not much room to move over.

 

th_Spec313Dec2011RoadAtlanta.jpg

 

He apparently did a nice job of reentering the pavement, but I was wondering if the following red flag was because he crossed into traffic behind me. Thankfully that wasn't the case. Pete and I continued to fight it out for another 2/3 lap until the red flag.

 

I finished in 2nd, but miss communication and bad timing regarding weighing in resulted in an Officials decision to DQ Mike. I doubt that I'd have held Pete off had the race not been cut short but I'll accept a lower case 'w' with an asterisk.

 

 

Here is the whole Saturday race.

 

th_DecSatBlitzRace-1.jpg

 

 

Sunday was the most fun I've had on track to date. Grid was by random selection and Sean and I started mid pack 45 and 46 of 90 or so cars. The other guys were back a bit 115 or so. I pushed through traffic and was pretty happy with my progress until I went off big in turn 1. Shortly after that I saw Mike coming up through traffic. How the hell did he make up that many positions to catch me? I now had something to stay away from. He'd make progress and then fall away in traffic, then back on my tail then a white spec in my mirror. I was trying to identify where he was gaining and where I was pulling away so I could fix my line wherever he was gaining. I think it was in the high speed braking zones where he really made progress. I've got to gain some confidence braking,..... and not lifting in turn 12. I wasn't able to hold him off and in 10a he dove inside and although I tried to defend, ultimately I chose to avoid contact and gave it up. I managed to regain the lead one lap later in the same chicane by forcing him inside again and taking a better line. I then managed to lose the lead one lap later by screwing up the chicane giving Mike an inside line going into 12. I kept the pressure on, but never had a chance to retake the lead. I finished right behind him and was stoked at the battle. This was the first weekend I've had racing where I kept up with the competition long enough to fight it out. Can't wait for next season.

 

As the videos from this weekend get uploaded, I'll add them.

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So here's my excuse... I mean story.

 

Watching video doesn't do justice to the elevation changes on the track. Most notably, turns 2-5, and T11/12.

 

Practice consisted of ALL RACERS on the track at the same time. I was regularly hosing turns 1-5, with less than exceptional T6-7, and no balls in T11/12. The fact that we were double-yellow for a while didn't help either. AND my brain, which usually can pick up a track pretty well wasn't functioning. My best was a 1:57 - yeah.

 

Qualifying wasn't much better, as I finally ran the track at speed. I'm pretty sure T1-5 were my weak points, as it's hard to screw up a big, long straight. Ran a 1:50, while my competitors were 3-4 seconds faster. The brain still wasn't functioning, and I kept really screwing up T3 and 4.

 

So I walked over to T1 and walked along the fence and looked at the track from T1 through T5. Laying eyes on it solidified the layout and elevations in my head.

 

Somehow, the race went better than expected. Starting at the back of the pack, I had a decent start, picking off Sean and eventually catching Colin after a lap or 2. The track just 'worked' this time, and I had several opportunities to pass Colin, but I waited (since rushing a pass on Jon at VIR ended with me in the grass from loss of talent). I followed Colin, noting where I was faster, and poking my nose in right and left to see what his responses were. Then Mark decided he wanted to see just how much gravel he could displace in T10 - Colin and I both checked up a bit and went by him under the bridge. Just as I decided to make a run at Colin on the back straight, out comes the red flag. We sat for an eternity, then rolled under YY a bit, and were guided into pit lane through the pit exit. I rolled a 1:46 in the race - not too shabby considering my driving was nowhere near perfect.

 

I learned another lesson... be patient, but not too patient.

 

The toy race was an awesome lesson in traffic management. Mike, Mark, and I were grided in the 108-118 range, though there weren't any grid markers higher than 70... so we just lined up somewhere up where the 80s would have been. The front of the pack got the green while we were under the bridge, though we apparently weren't watching for the YY to drop. The first couple of laps were so crowded, if you didn't have passing 2-3 wide happening in every corner, you didn't have your eyes open. The overtaking speeds were intense, especially on the straights. I wound up trading spots with Robert Grace for a good while, though he was clearly outdriving me. The Spec3 cars have a huge advantage on the straights, but he was better than me everywhere. I didn't quite get tire pressures right, so the car was a bit stubborn, but I rolled a 1:45 in there somewhere. That's really good news because there were no clean laps, and I won't claim my driving was very good. I definitely know the track, now, but I need to learn and apply the tricks - trail braking, full throttle in T11/12, clipping T3, cleaning up T5, gear selection, etc. Given that, I'm sure there's a 1:43 in a near-perfect lap.

 

Overall, a fun event. I would have preferred less red flags, and doing hot pulls like they do at VIR, but I'm not in charge. I had a good time on track, and a better time getting to know our run group over meals. I still like VIR better.

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Good recaps! Sounds like a lot of fun! Congrats to Mark and his team in the enduro as well.

 

Of course while you guys are beating your equipment up even more, the rest of us are tinkering and tuning, preparing hard for 2012. Or, the truth in my case, putting together a nursery and drinking beer What racecar?

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Looks like you'all (it was a Georgia race afterall) had a great time.
Obviously a yankee . It's pronounce y'all

 

(damn yankees like me came down and stayed)

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