Chapter 275 - May 2019

SLJHMR AT COTA

"...BUT DID WE TEST ENOUGH ???"

 

It was a dark and stormy night....

 

Seriously...it was horrendous. Really dark. Really stormy. Massive sideways rain blowing ez-ups down the paddock, sending fuel jugs tumbling and gently rocking the 30+ thousand pound rig I was almost asleep in. I had already watched video and studied my notes and conferred with Louis a bit but our Friday COTA test day was now over and that time would never be recovered. I hoped we were ready for tomorrow. I slept damn good. 

*WATCH THIS* Short video from the SpecCorvette guys from Friday night: https://youtu.be/fMGC9qqBlpc

 

Above: Javen, Ian and Corey with one of Isaac's trophies and Kris talking to Isaac during the Friday test. #UnsungHeroes

After MSR-Cresson (spoiler alert: while we dominated the ST races, we lost TT by 0.18 in a very-un-optimal car. Louis and I debriefed and found our problem. In the rapid-fire confusion we had crossed wires and I wanted a change and it got lost in translation and the adjustments went in the wrong direction. *Twice*. DOH! Folks, I'm telling you when you debrief be really clear and once a path of action is decided, be clear on that action. Louis and I work together really well but that familiarity made each of us assume we understood. Like flying with another pilot, you say "my airplane" out loud when you take control so it is clear who is flying the darn thing. Good news: I'd bet this won't happen ever again and hopefully by us going through it, you don't have to either!!

So we had tested at Cresson (and went faster...by a solid amount) and then tested some sessions Friday and we were close to where we wanted to be. Damn close. Triple checking the next step with Louis, not only the step but the desired result, he engineered one change for Saturday morning and we'd adjust based on feedback from there. 

 

Above: Having family at the track makes it SO much better....

Just like in my Scratcher-days, we'd be running TT and ST...that is doing the TT2 time trial group AND the Super Touring road racing group. This can be plenty hectic. Plus Weathers was there in his STU GSpeed C6 with HPR468. Plus Isaac was there in his TTU/STU GSpeed C6 HPR468. Plus Feras running out of our garage in his TTU C6 GSpeed with HPR468. Apparently these GSpeed/C6/HPR468 things grow on trees somewhere but I'll be darned if I can find that forest. Also the GSpeed yellow C5 was running ST2 with Mark Martin driving as he's done some SCCA and WRL stuff in that speedy little machine and podiums quite often. So the simple hectic-ness of SLJHMR running ST2/TT2 was just a tiny part of the huge hectic-ness of Weathers' fresh build first shakedown, and Isaac's fresh build first shakedown as well. GSpeed brought Ian, Javen, Corey and Kris to help us keep the cars ready to go. These guys were going flat-out pretty much the whole time we were at the track. Huge kudos to them and the old "we could not have done it without them" is a grand understatement. 

First rule of the TT group is throw down a class winning time in the first session and you can park it the rest of the day. Save tires, save fuel, save wear and tear on the motor....but you have to slap down that time first. As is commonly heard in our house: "Discipline equals freedom". If we have the discipline to have a well prepped car and I have the discipline to throw down the fast lap, we'll have the freedom all day to run ST. If we are not winning TT and need to go back out then things get tough as ST and TT run close together on the schedule and swapping tires and fueling takes time. 

Above: One of the issues at Cresson was the car was not "scalpel sharp" and it was tough to put the car exactly where I wanted it. Yeah...fixed that...

GOALS for the weekend. Win and take the track record. Simple goal, just not an easy one. The existing TT2 record is a 2:23.6 (giggle...LOL). We ran a 22.9 with 271 avg hp here a year ago in TT3 trim, but now that we are in TT2 we get to bump up to 350 average HP. Louis worked with our simulations guy Hester (THANKS JEFF!!! Same guy who got me speed at Cresson!) and took all the data points and jumping ~80hp should yield a lap time around a high :18 or a solid :19. With a full cage now, we've added some mass and that will hurt lateral grip a bit and perhaps braking performance but we're on the same tires and unleashed more HPR power so we were, as usual, cautiously optimistic. 

TIRES: We have a brand new set of sticker tires in the rig. Wrapped in plastic to keep the freshness inside. We hoped to NOT NEED them. We'd be going out on our Cresson tires that saw quite a few laps there, then tested both at Cresson and at COTA on Friday. If our testing was a truthful indicator, we would not need them. Still....I'm glad we have them because <foreshadowing> you never know....

 

Above: COTA!!!! and a new graphic on the back of the car blowing kisses to all our ....er....uh....fans...yeah, our fans!!!

So Saturday dawns and it is clear sky and massively damp ground as it POURED till the early hours. TT warmup is first and the whole track is wet. Lap times in warmup only serve to set the grid for the first official timed session later in the morning, so getting a good time is important so you don't get behind a slower car in the dry. We got to grid a bit later (on our used Hoosier A7s, this would be their seventh cycle) than I had wished but it didn't really matter. We'd get 4 or 5 laps and that's plenty of time to find a gap and put a flyer in. So we launch and start circulating and the track sllllooooowwwwwlllllly starts to dry out. After a lap a faint dry line appears in some corners and a few laps later this line exists for most corners. I was taking big chunks of time out each lap (a 54, a 45, a 40, then a 32) and then the checker flew. Coming in, I found out that only Feras was faster, and he only ran a :30. This is looking good. Running down the straights I could run in the damp and keep the tire temps cool. #TireManagement #PurpleCrackNeedsLoveToo #SavingForFlatOut

Next up is "racer" warmup and it is right before the first timed TT session. So I go out for "racer" warmup and throw down two quick-but-tidy-don't-slide-the-tires laps and bring it back to the paddock where just enough fuel is added and then tire pressures are adjusted and I go down to slot into P2 on the TT grid with a nicely warmed up SLJHMR. We launch shortly and I let Feras scoot away a bit in the stadium section and stand on it, unleashing the HPR power! The first flyer feels good. I make a few smallish mistakes, but nothing I think is too horrible and I'm rewarded with the AIM showing me a 2:19.7 on the display right as Troy passes me into T1. I stay with him for a bit but have to lift in the esses so I make sure my back is clear and back off a bit, watching Troy chew into Feras' lead as I work my way back to the stadium section. Once there I start to pick up the pace and by the time I'm on the front straight I'm starting another flyer. I get to the esses and Louis calls me off saying "box box box", so I quickly abort to save tires and bring it home. While Troy got me by 2 seconds he's the only car in front of us. Feras was struggling and the next TT2 car was back in the 23s

Note: The forward video of our :19 lap is on the MoTec system and it is dark dark dark as the camera is back on the main hoop. I'm trying to import it (Pinnacle so far no likey and the first converter didn't work) and then I'll try and lighten it...and the sound quality is crap as well. I watched the vid Saturday night and thus, made sure I put my old GoPros back on for Sunday!

Corey emailing the #480 machine: "straighten up and fly right!!!" #ThatIntakeTho #HPR468 #StupidPower

Quick debrief and we're pretty sure the time will stand. Sun is coming up, the air quality is going down and as the asphalt gets hot it will get greasy and there is not a cloud in sight. Had we went out on sticker tires we likely would have beat the simulation and snuck into the 2:17s (stickers worth 1.5-2 sec typically)!!! We shift focus over to ST qualifying. We leave on the As and after dumping in some fuel we all go *really* early to grid so the four GSpeed road race corvettes line up 1-4 under the COTA tower. It looked really cool. Tons of photographers showed up to get just the right shot after lining the four cars up perfectly. No, not really. It was us and some phones, but it still looked kind of cool....or maybe you had to be there. 

 

SLJHMR, Isaac's #62, Mark's #91 and Weathers' #480 wait for Blitz qualy....and the scootertwins...

We launch for qualy, I lead the pack out a touch on the slow side to get ALL the cars out on track and hopefully get in a clear lap. Nope. A few stragglers get released and on my first flyer I pass a few cars but in all honesty they saw me coming (lights-a-flashin!!) and didn't delay me much. We stop the clocks with a 2:22 lap and I immediately cool the car down on lap 2 and box. Comparing data, we see that lateral grip is already down a touch compared to two hours before as the sun warms the asphalt slowing the track down. Air quality was still decent, but track temp was climbing, quickly. 

Second TT session was just before lunch and we stayed in the garage, swapping the autocross compound out for something that can run 30 minutes in the heat. Fastest TT2 car puts in a mid 2:21 (on stickers!) and the writing is on the wall. Thankfully Nick and Fertitta showed up early this morning to chat and help and it was really nice to have extra hands with experience helping out! 

While we sometimes have two road races each day, we only had one long one today and then two shorter ones tomorrow. Frank and Nick got the tires swapped and completely filled up the car to make sure we'd have enough, as well as cleaned up the screen and ensured SLJHMR was ready to play. 

 

FOOD ARRIVES and Athena plays while Ian preps....

GRID: So a prototype was on pole (no shock) and I was P2 (huge shock). There were 6 SU cars and they all have BIG POWER. Weathers sits in P3 and Isaac in P6 along with Rick Ellis' stock car in P4. NASA was doing a TRIPLE split start, meaning the SU/ST gang would start all together and then ~20 seconds after us, the GTS (GermanTouringSeries...BMW,Porsche) group and then after that the new SpecCorvette guys. SC is a really cool class where you build a fairly budget C5 corvette and put it on Falken Azenis (what we have used in WRL...great tire that lasts!) and race. No aero, no race tires, realistic minimum weight, and they looked like they were having a blast. www.speccorvette.com if you want more information. 

So we take the green and I get jumped but not as bad as I thought I would. Rick Ellis in his #11 stock car got by me but I moved to the inside behind him and we all go around the corner and down the hill in that order and thread our way through the esses. I'm *right* behind Rick as we hit the backstraight and he just walks away, but I gain part of it back late braking (thank you Essex/AP) and work to get closer for the stadium section till the last corner and then he walks me again on the front straight. I close up on the esses and he makes a small mistake at T7 and I slip by and manage to barely keep the lead down the backstraight and gap him just a bit. I'm P1 in ST2 and P2 overall and the car is working well. We started on used R tires that will easily last the race, but I'm mindful to keep it fairly tidy as I don't want them to get greasy later and have a rabbit and the turtle situation. Fun race battling back and forth with Rick...we had ST2 covered and there was no way to catch the prototype. Rick made time on the straights, SLJHMR made it in the brakes and we were a bit faster in some of the corners. In the end we finished P3 overall and P1 in the big 13-car ST2 car field. Wahoo!

(Again, the first race is on the MoTec forward camera and I'm working on it...will update this and post it when/if I get it working and make a vid of it)

Rapid fire sessions call for quick adjustments. Here SLJHMR is on grid and Louis makes a quick change! 

After this race we were done for the day and done quite early. And when I say "done", I mean now the real work can begin! Sure, we were all done on-the-track, but now to turn all the cars around for the next day. The 480 car had a shifter issue to solve, the #62 car had an ABS/brake issue and the #91 needed some TLC as well. Feras in the TTU car was pitted with us and already had left the track with a dead fuel pump to take it to a buddies shop with a lift to try and effect a repair. We were all quite busy until nearly dark and the activity slowed down to coincide with the daylight (although we were in a well-lit garage!).

So, as the day wraps up things are going to plan. We absolutely smashed the existing TT2 record and we did it on scrubs, not stickers. We won ST2 as well and so now (if we decide to go), Team GSpeed is now qualified for the NASA Nationals at Mid-Ohio in both the TT and ST classes. Cool! I watched track vid a bit before bed, looking for any weakness or lack of discipline and looked forward to the next day. Sharp-eyed readers will note in the pics my helmet has changed. The last time this happened I was driving for Vorshlag and winning the GRM Challenge back in 2011 and getting on the cover of that magazine. The superstition was strong back then (http://www.witchdoctormotorsports.com/ch188.htm) just as it is now (only about certain things), but after today this new Stilo (thank you GSpeed!!) is my go-to lid while my old Bell (with stripes to match Scrappy, the GRM BMW entry made to look like an art car) becomes the backup. The Stilo fits great, has speakers and ear pads so I don't need to worry about radio hookups anymore or jamming tiny foam-covered speakers in my ear. It is SUPER nice. Need a helmet upgrade? Call GSpeed and check out the STILO brain buckets!!!

Above: Day one complete....

Sunday brought complete clearness in the air and although the air was good the few small clouds burned off instantly. Daybreak brought the requisite spring dew but that typically vanishes pretty early too. The problem: TT was first on the track with zero recon laps, zero clear-the-debris laps and this would likely be THE fast session of the day as the track temperature would (likely) only go up. SLJHMR had the 4th fastest TT time yesterday (behind 3 unlimited cars) so we'd grid P4. Two of the folks didn't show up so it was me and Messer and he said he'd point me by on the outlap to fully warm his tires before going for broke. We were on used tires (again....still...), now their 10th cycle (7th was TT warmup, 8th was TT, 9th was blitz qualy....damn these add up fast!) and so they would come in quick and I'd send it.

Sunday arrives....

The sky was absolutely gorgeous blue, the sun low and climbing and I led the TT group out...mindful to warm the tires while still not going too fast so we could easily bunch the field on the back part of the straight. 23 cars took to the track and by the time we hit T13 I input WOT on the HPR mill and began my lap. I was a bit tidy in the long and fast carousel to not abuse the tires, but flew through turns 19 and 20 to start my lap. As usual with TT, this was the chance and if I did really good, my TT job would be over for the day. I hustled the car and it felt great. We had made some small changes yesterday and the car was solid. I could easily transfer weight where I needed to make fine adjustments to my line and the dampers were easily absorbing rumbles and not upsetting my trajectory. Such a fantastic car to drive. I was actually pretty bummed when I saw the 2:20 on the timer, thinking either the tires had gone off or I didn't drive as well as I'd thought but Louis was quick to waive me off saying the track was not very good and we'd be fine. Sure enough, the closest TT2 time was actually the previous track record holder and the best he could manage was a 2:23.5!

SUNDAY TT LAP (uberquality!!) = https://vimeo.com/334575544

Next up with Blitz qualifying and again we snuck to the grid really early only to find two cars already there! The guy in P1 was out of region and asked me what kind of speed to do the outlap and we had the discussion about 'if you go too fast our fist lap has traffic' and so when we launched he did keep it mostly reasonable and on their 11th cycle, the A7s threw down a solid 2:22 lap, borked with a bit of late-to-the-track traffic, but mostly good. Comparing the grip levels from Blitz qualy to the first TT session showed a slight drop in grip *everywhere*. Sun was higher, track was hotter, air was a bit worse. We elected to swap to roadrace tires and sit out the next TT session.

 

Chet's C5 suffered small issues but he overcame to podium both days, and Fair getting chased by #62 Isaac !! 

Watching TT timing, Chet (who fought a leaking axle seal yesterday and a burned plug wire today) put down a 2:23.4 to get into 2nd place in TT ( BOTH our corvettes ran under the old TT2 track record!!) and looking at "the regulars", the track was indeed slowing down. We kept prepping cars for the race that was just after lunch and the GSpeed crew had a full plate. It seemed like anyone in the paddock with a broken car or questions comes by our place first. Looking for rivets (gotcha covered), an odd short-shoulder 7/16 fine thread bolt (gotcha covered), an 02 sensor for a random LSx (gotcha), look at this video and tell me where I could pick up some time (sure...can do). The GSpeed garage, overflowing with corvettes is constantly busy both with the cars emblazoned with GSpeed and those that are not (yet?).

Sending....Car was back to her usual incredible self...and a joy to drive!

SLJHMR gets roadrace tires, fuel and I slide in and head to grid. I'm P3 with Weathers' in the #480 next to me, Rick in the #11 behind me and Isaac in the #62 next to him. Hey brotha, can you spare some horsepower?

The "5" call goes out, GoPros are started and I drop in the car, getting everything clicked in and radio check performed, then we take to the track and await the green. I told Rick before the race I'll leave the inside open if he gets a run and won't shut the door since he's got motor and we're out of class anyway. Green drops and Rick takes the inside but is then on the outside for T2 and I eek by him following the #480 with the #62 on my tail. The first half of the race is damn thrilling (watch the vid) but the last bit I'm mostly on my own. End up P3 overall and P1 again in ST2. Wh00p! Seriously watch the vid if you can, it has front and rear cams and some great footage. 

RACE2 VID = https://vimeo.com/334557635

The third TT session is next with a few TT2 cars. While the air is still decent, the track has been baking all day and it's greasy out there. Our lead is solid so far. We begin packing and getting squared away to load since SLJHMR is not doing the last ST race. We also focus on the cars that still have sessions to run as the day continues to wind down. The air remains good and big puffy clouds are beginning to roll in. Hmmmm....

 

Why miatas slow SLJHMR down in the esses.....and Fair getting in "arm day" workout!!!

The last Blitz race arrives and our garage space is much more organized and I've loaded most of my stuff. Sadly, near the beginning of the race the #62 got tapped from behind and broke a toe link and did some light damage to the rear bumper ending Isaac's day. While the #480 and SLJHMR stayed off track, Mark in the #91 podium'd again! 

For the final TT session, huge sections of the track are now bathed in shade and as the minutes creep by the shade grows. The air is still crisp and with rapidly falling track temps the possibility for a fast lap is very real. I tell Louis if we had put SLJHMR back on the A7s, I'd likely grid up and see what it could do. The asphalt is now very cool to the touch whereas in the sun it was ripping hot. Thankfully no TT2 cars went out for the final session, but Chet did jump into his teammate's TT1 corvette and break the existing TT1 record and reset it to a 2:21.1!!! Great job Chet throwing that time down in a non-aero car! Chet ends the day with a TT1 1st place and a TT2 2nd place!!

Keys to our success: GSpeed, HPR LS, MoTeC, Finspeed, Essex/AP brakes, Hoosier and a big dose of Corvette Z06!!

So to wrap this weekend up, we certainly met our goal. We smashed the TT2 existing record while NOT using a set of sticker tires, won TT2 both days and won the two ST2 races we started. Wahoo! Four for Four!! #BackInTheGroove #WhereDidIPutThoseHoosierForms #NoBurnedPlugWiresHere #NoNewTiresNeededThisWeekend #Scalpel #Shufflin

Weathers in the #480 did great, a few bugs to work out but he's clearly back in the groove. Isaac #62 has some small repairing and ABS to sort, but easily proved he's got a solid combination. Mark's #91 was down on power a bit, but he still hustled that car to podiums and the motor will get HPR'd pretty quick I bet. Feras struggled with some tuning issues but he'll be back stronger than ever, I'm sure. #ThumbsUp #GSpeed #Trophies #Effort

For those keeping score at home, our little WDMS foray with GSpeed and SLJHMR reads like this: 13 starts with 11 wins, 1 second place and one third place (so all 13 podiums), the average size of the field is 8.3 and we've set 5 track records and won a national championship. Pretty good start for our first year!!! 

What's next? I have no idea....but stay tuned!