Miata Race, Thunderhill, 28-29 March, 2004

Getting packed to go took way longer than it should have. Rather than staying at the Blue Gum Inn Friday night, I decided to try the Motel 6 in Williams, and save my self a cumulative 20-30 minutes of driving. I pulled into the Motel 6 a little after two. I confirmed that I was 30-40 minutes from the track and asked about a wakeup call. He asked what time. I took the time that I needed to be at the track (7:00) subtracted time to drive, and time to grab breakfast at Nancy's, and said 5:30. The guy looked at me like I was crazy. I thought about it, decided that a "real" breakfast wasn't as important as sleep and changed that till 6.

Joe drove in the first two session (practice and qual for Saturday's race). In qual he got the car rather muddy going off the track in turn 8. He turned basically a 2:14. Just after he left, I went to AIM to buy a new tire to replace the one I flatspotted (corded) at Sears, and they happened to have two takeoffs in my size! Score! I bought them both for $90 (one mounted for $50, the other for $40). I won't bore you with details right now about breaking in race tires, but having 4 heatcycled Toyo's is a good thing. My first session in the car at Thunderhill was qual for sunday's race. I turned something sucky like a 2:18. Part of the problem was that on my first hot lap I hit the berm in 6 and spun the car. Scott got past me, and I could never get around him to get a clean lap.

Barry Hartzel was going to give me a ride in my car on Saturday afternoon, but he noticed that one of my front brakepads was rather thin. I bummed some old pads off of Elvis, mixing and matching to put together a set that would last all weekend.

In the race on Saurday, I was gridded just ahead of Craig. We passed each other a couple of times. He got past me and I could never get back around him. The places I was faster were the turns and I wasn't enough faster to catch up, and get around. I tried some inside passes, but wasn't quite willing to push it hard enough, i.e. risk a wreck for second to last place. My best time in the race was a 2:15.487. I could have turned a better time if rather than being caught behind Craig, I was chasing a faster car, but I was restricted to my slower pace where he was faster, and his slower pace where I was faster. Other than when we got separated by other traffic, I don't think we were more than about half a second (50-75 feet) apart the whole race.

Saturday night Sherry was gracious enough to let me stay in the spare room at her place in Willows. We had a sumptuous repast at Granzella's in Williams. I highly reccomend it for having dinner on the way home from the track, it's only about half an hour south of Willows. When we parked, I noticed a Lotus 7 parked by the bar in back. It was likely a Caterham because it had the CABC Lotus badge (license: S2 Seven). A couple of the locals were curious about it, so I gave a brief lecture. I never did see it at the track this weekend, so it was just a coincidence.

Sunday practice (at 8AM) I turned a 2:15.XX where XX > .487. Not too bad considering it wasn't a race. A bit later in the day I got Barry Hartzel to give me a ride in my car. It turns out that he was only turning 2:13-2:14 laps, but I learned some new lines from him, also learned that I could wind my engine a lot tighter, an unless I missed a shift, it was impossible to damage it by overrevving. I had a good long talk with Barry and Bob Cornish about lines, technique and some of their mental techniques. Barry also said that my car was set up very nice, that he could be competitive in it. One of the SMs in group 4 out accelerated me, but he only had one person in the car. It's nice to know that I don't need to buy any more expensive parts for the car unless, until I break something or wear it out.

I completely, totally, blew the start of the race. "Normally" when the pace car pulls off, the polesitter takes it real easy down the straight. I was close to the back of the grid (of SM cars, the other classes had a separate flying start) and by the time I realized the polesitter had just hammered the trottle, I was a couple car lengths back, and was basically screwed. I got past Craig someplace on the first lap and was gone. My second lap I turned a 2:12.008 (yes close to 3.5 seconds better than my previous best), and was pretty much keeping up with the pack of SM cars for a couple of laps. Once I realized that I wouldn't catch them, and they wouldn't catch me, I started working on trying things I had learned from Barry. My times got worse for a bit, but by the end of the session I was back under 2:13, and that was without anyone to dice with.

I really need to get out to the track some Friday for a testing day and just learn the car.

Copyright (C) 2004 Larry Colen
Most recently modified by lrc at Thu Oct 21 21:02:30 PDT 2004