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The Rams Eye is Racing (Again)!




I went back for the second (and third) race days of the season. I heard this is the first time we had a double header weekend since 2009. For a lot of the teams (basically all local), it's tough to make sure cars are race ready for two race days in a row, due to limited budgets, crew, and resources in general. Unfortunately, due to the same constraints for the organizers, a July race day couldn't be arranged so the option was to have one fewer race in the season, or do a double in June. Obviously, the decision was made to do a double in June.




As I mentioned in the previous post, the car I am racing is a 1995 VW Golf GTI. I am very fortunate to have the Vantage Motors team. They maintain and transport the car so I had a lot less to worry about for the weekend. This time, I shared the car with Jay Barthelotte and, once again, Derek Lugar. This is how we split it for the days:

1- Qualifying A: Jay
2- Qualifying B: Myself
3- Race A: Jay
4- Race B: Myself
5- Unlimited (no classes): Jay
6- 1 hour Challenge: Myself & Derek




Each race is a 30 minute sprint, except for the 1 hour challenge (obviously). The schedule was the same for Saturday and Sunday, except for the 1 hour challenge being done by me and Jay on Sunday instead of Derek. The 1 hour challenge requires a minimum of one 5 minute pit stop. On Saturday, Derek drove for the first 20 minutes while I drove the last 40. On Sunday, the plan was for me to drive the first 40 minutes and Jay drives the last 20 but that didn't work out so well.. more on that later.

Saturday didn't start off too well.. On the first race, and on the first green lap, one driver lost control in corner 7 - the fastest corner on the track - and skidded off to the tire wall. I saw it all in real time from the tower. He was carrying a lot of speed and caught some air on bumps off road leading to the tire wall that caused the car to almost roll and hit the tire wall at quite a steep angle. Miraculously, the driver was not hurt and the car landed with the shiny side up, minor front end damage, and was racing the next day. And the race weekend continued to be eventful..




This tire rubber spaghetti is unfortunately my fault. Prepare yourself for some class A racecar driver excuses.. Our team had a bunch of old used Hoosiers that they wanted to use up. I had no prior experience with Hoosiers. The car has no ABS. Front wheels do most of the braking on the vast majority of cars, more so here due to the car's loose suspension tuning. Combine all those factors together, and the result is tire murder. Brutal tire murder. I locked up the tires more than once and flat spotted them. They held up for my qualifying session, but got destroyed in the first race. Jay had a good battle and would have ended up in 5th place, but the tires and my ham fisted (footed?) braking cost him the position - the tires let go a couple of laps before the end of the race so he had to pit and he came in last. Note on Hoosiers: they are very unforgiving. I heard that a lot before but obviously hearing and experiencing are two different things. I was a lot more careful during my race, which was rather uneventful.




The unlimited race, though, was far from that. It was huge fun to watch. Brian Gay (blue E36 M3), who was supposed to start upfront, missed the grid and had to start from the back. He made his way through the whole field and had to battle Joel Nelson for first place. The race was epic. They both are awesome drivers. Brian's car is a little faster but both are in the same class. It was almost guaranteed that Brian would catch up, the question was whether he would catch up with enough time to capitalize on an opportunity to take the pass. He caught up and there was better racing for a couple of laps than almost an entire season of F1.






The endurance was even better for me, though. Because, well, passes! During the race school and the first race day, I didn't take any passes. I only moved up one position, but only due to the misfortune of SCG (Slower CRX Guy, as he has now labeled himself). In the endurance race, I took two positions! Up until that point, every single pass I've done on the track was done only after getting permission to do so. That's a rule in all HPDS's, lapping days, and time attack events in our region and for good reason. The reason is obviously to improve safety, to make sure a pass is taken when both cars are aware of the pass and cooperate to complete the pass safely, especially considering the short and technical nature of our track. Anyhow, I digress. The point is, passing during the race was far more satisfying.




More importantly, it was more fun. You have to work harder for it and strategize for it. When you see an opportunity and decide to take it, you have to stick to it and follow through. Moreover, in slower cars like the one I'm driving and the ones I can compete with, you can't really count on trying to setup for a better corner exit and use power to carry you through. There is no power. Most of the time, you're going to have to be able to carry more speed into the corner and maintain it to make the pass stick, all while making sure you have enough room to do so. It takes more work which makes it both more fun and rewarding, in addition to making you a better driver.

I left feeling very happy. My best lap time for the day was 1:23.46 so I cut about 0.7 sec off my last time. I was on better tires, but they were older, used Hoosiers and it was a very hot day and track was greasy. In fact, a lot of people were running about 1 second slower than the last race week day so I was very satisfied with my progress.




On Sunday, I found another two tenths of a second and got my best time down to 1:23.2 or almost a whole second quicker than my best on my first day on yet another hot day. The rest of the day was rather uneventful, until the 1 hour challenge. The plan was for me to take the first 40 minutes while Jay would finish off after the mandatory pit. Unfortunately, just over 18 minutes in, and on the back straight, the car all of a sudden pulled to the right and a bad wobble and vibration befell the car.. I had lost the front passenger side tire. I had to pit and was done racing for the day. The upside, though, is that I had done two more race days, in addition to the first race day in May, for a total of three, which qualified me for a full race license and down came the novice triangle from the back window! 

Overall, the race weekend was once again a fantastic opportunity to have huge fun, learn, and hang out at the track with like-minded, equally inflicted people (i.e. race car drivers). Moreover, when I wasn't racing, I tried to pull my weight around the paddock more than the first weekend. The more involved repairs/troubleshooting were still done by the seasoned team members but I tried to help with the grunt work - moving/replacing wheels and tires, checking pressure, torque, fuel, etc. At the end of the weekend, I helped pack up the trailer and tie down the cars, and headed home. August race weekend can't come soon enough!


Photography by Colin Carroll

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