Chapter 242 - September 2015
WRL @ TWS
Bic and the WDMS gang make more laps...
This race was actually a 3-race weekend billed as "triple 7's" by WRL since we'd have a 7 hour race on Saturday from 9a-4p, another race from 9p to 4a starting Saturday night and then the final race from 9a to 4p on Sunday. Whew!
This means we needed lights and I snagged some pimpy looking LED ones that plug-n-played with the normal connectors and went right into the stock light locations. They were BRIGHT and I was looking forward to running at night for sure. Since it looked like we'd continue racing with WRL it was time to invest in a few minor upgrades, so a larger aluminum radiator was installed as well as a set of Bilstein front struts (stockers were horrible!). I debated on the front springs but we can change to those later since they are common circle-track sized springs. (spoiler alert: should have upgraded the springs too....but we'll have them for the next race!!) The rest of the car was pretty good to go with a set of fresh tires and fresh brake pads. Off to the races we went!
Driving this weekend would be a mix of old and new drivers. Cody and Ron had driven before recently and Frank had driven but it'd been a while and this was the first endurance race for Louis. We were all looking forward to it and ready for the weekend. Louis had an issue on Saturday so he would not make it until late in the day, so he'd help drive the night shift and Sunday.
Cody started the race and did well. The field was on the smaller side due to this race being added late in the season, but 28 cars took the green with 3 in our GP4 class. We started 25th and 3rd in class but Cody quickly had us 2nd in class and climbing the leader board. 20th by lap 3, 15th by lap 27, and 12th by lap 56. Things were looking pretty good when Cody did an unscheduled stop due to a bad noise in the front end. Sadly, we had a wheel bearing let go that damaged the spindle. I ran to the house for a spare as Frank pulled the one on the car apart. We lost almost 2 hours and dropped to 24th to effect repairs and then Ron slid in the car to get us to the end. He put his head down and cut great lap times but in endurance racing you simply cannot have a delay like this and recover easily. Ron worked us all the way up to 20th when the checked flag fell, and we were sadly 3rd in a class of 3. It's nice to beat 8 other cars in faster classes, but still....ug.
We took a break and checked the car over really well and double checked the alignment of the lights and I was going to start the race in the dark. I was pumped. For all the drivers who profess to love "endurance racing", most of those fear the night. We only had 9 (NINE!!) teams take the green for the night race. There was only two GP4 cars and we started on the last row. We did a last minute striped-tape job on the rear window to reduce glare and our 9 cars rumbled into the darkness. After a few parade laps to see where the track edges were (we ran the shorter 1.8 configuration), the green was thrown and away we went. This was just stupid fun and I passed cars on the first three laps to get us up into 5th and 1st in class pretty easy. Then, black flag. FRAK.
Somehow we lost rear running lights and we lost two laps attempting to figure out why and then we ended up taking a red interior lamp and shining it backwards from the cockpit and I took back off. I was down in 9th and started to attempt the climb out of the cellar. I was driving hard and the other GP4 car and I were close and ran that way for many laps. Very good fun! He had a bit more handling (curse you stock front springs!) but we had more torque off the corners. Running the 1.8 was a lot more physical (with no power steering) and so I was using the drink tube and twice I dropped into turn one trying to get the drink tube put away and dropped two tires off in the dirt each time! Exciting in the dark at speed!! I worked hard and got us into 6th and then turned the car over to Frank and he fell to 7th and then got back to 6th and held that the rest of his stint.
Frank's shoulder was acting up and so when he came in we put a just-arrived-Louis in the car, but he had a late questionable dinner and was not feeling well and as he strapped in he almost tossed the cookies. We all looked at each other (at somewhere around 1am) and said "let's simply bail and start fresh tomorrow". And that is what we did. At least we'd start the Sunday race somewhat rested. ish. The other gp4 car (our fastest lap times were within .2 of each other that night) kept making laps and finished in 2nd overall, reinforcing what we typically demonstrate about decent laps, quick stops and no delays despite being the slowest class of car in the field.
Sunday arrived and we were somewhat rested as the green flag flew. Cody was in the car and we got an early mystery black flag that dropped us from 15th (out of 18 cars and 3rd out of 4 in gp4) down to 17th for unknown reasons. There was no penalty and they let Cody right back on track, but in the first few laps that means tumbling down the leaderboard. Cody drove well and had us back in 15th by lap 13 and then he radio'd with a slight stumbling problem that was slowly getting worse. He kept making laps but knew it was costing him lap time (and we could see it in the times too) and so he finally came in on lap 31 with the motor acting like it was fuel starved. We lost 45 minutes figuring out that the fuel pump pickup had pulled in a piece (a big piece!) of foam and blocked the pickup. With that out of the way the car fired up and ran great. Since Louis had not driven yet, we dunked him in the car and sent him out. He joined the field in 16th overall and started putting down fast clean laps right away. By lap 51 he was up into 13th and he pitted on lap 62 still there. I slid in the car and we didn't lose a spot, and in fact ran my entire stint staying in 13th overall! I jumped out at lap 81 and we put Cody back in so he could drive a car that was running right! He ran his whole stint in 13th place as well, putting down great times and we ended up dropping to 14th when he pitted on 96 to turn the car over to Ron (and head home...he had a long haul to make). Ron ran from lap 97 to lap 122, taking us back up to 13th during his final stint. Frank slid in the car for the final stint of the race and took us from lap 123 to our final tally of 141 laps and put us back into 3rd in GP4 and got us all the way up to 11th overall as the checker flag finally fell on this long day.
Overall the car had shown good pace and our pit stops were very quick. The wheel bearing was a surprise since we'd never had a problem there before and the fuel cell foam was only two years old. We'll have fresh bearings and new fuel cell foam for the next race just three months away again at TWS and see if we can get a little higher on the podium!
Final thoughts: Great racing with the team and I was bummed we had some small problems bite us. The foam and the wheel bearing both were surprises but we overcame them fairly quickly and continued. No drama, no tempers flaring, just solid working together and making things happen. Again, the team ran a whole weekend with so very few errors. No driver-induced black flags, no penalties, no serious offs that hurt anything, etc. Louis brought his "A" game and was damn fast and just stupid consistent. At one point he had four laps in a row that were all within a tenth (.1) of a second of each other while overtaking traffic as well. Awesome. His times were very competitive and he's looking to drive for us at COTA next year. Frank had not been in a car in a very long time, but he was very fast and clean as well. No mistakes, no issues. Cody and Ron showed why they are always welcome to drive with the same strong performance as always of putting competitive laps on the board with no issues. We all pull together during pit stops and the day seems to fly by as we get to enjoy racing and great company. Too freaking cool. Huge HUGE thank you to Richard for coming and crewing as well as Anna too. Officially we ended up with two thirds and a second, but I'm wanting that top spot on the podium again! We're back at TWS in December...maybe then???