Race of Champions Mid Ohio SCCA Hoosier Super Tour – 5/31-6/2/19

Mid Ohio is an important track this year. It is where the NASA Championships will be held, and its also a track that I have never been to before. With NASA Champs on my schedule, I figured it beneficial to try to get to the track before Championships weekend in September. Having had a great time at my first two SCCA Majors weekends, I signed up for the next one on their schedule which happened to also be a Hoosier Super Tour.

The first practice session was good, I went out on old tires to get the lay of the land. Many people watch video or play iRacing in preparation for a new track. I do the same, although I feel like everything always looks totally different from what I expect once I actually get to the track.

Four BMWs in T1 is an uncommon sight for the entry list, T1 is usually dominated by the Amercian V8s. We had a total of 11 in class so a sizable field. We had Hugh Stewart, Matt Gaetano, Jonathan Vasquez, and myself. Hugh was the only one who had been to the track before, it was new to the rest of us. I threw on a slightly newer set of Hoosier A7s for the afternoon of qualifying. In Friday qualifying I almost matched Jonathan’s time, we were both in the 1.34s. Hugh blew us away with a 1.32 for provisional pole, and it was Matt’s first time on track due to skipping practice and he put down a solid 1.38.

Another round of qualifying Saturday morning. I was sloppy and didn’t improve my time by much. Jonathan found enough to push him into the 33s. A T1 competitor John Buttermore bumped me to P6 as he improved his time into the 33s as well.

Saturday’s race was one of my favorites to date. I didn’t have much in terms of expectations but hoped to at least maintain my starting position and maybe make up a spot or two. When I got to grid I was dismayed to see that there were almost 8 out of class cars between myself and the next fastest T1 car of John Buttermore. Crazy what less than a second does to you. When the race started, Hugh got pushed off by another car. He got turned around and faced us on track as the entire field came at him. Scary moment! Hugh managed to get through unscathed.

I turned a few laps, got past some out of class cars, and quickly caught sight of Buttermore’s C6 Corvette. Hammered down to clear the last two A sedans and then did my best to stay on his bumper. The Corvettes have tons of power over our cars so he would gap me on all the straights. I was able to make up most of my time in the turns. I watched the rear bumper of the Corvette slowly get larger as I closed the gap. Finally I got my chance, he went a smidge wide going into one of the last turns. I stuck my nose in and kept him on the outside. He got a poor run out of the last turn which allowed me to get side by side and out brake him into T1. From there I held a defensive line to the key hole and through the back stretch until T5. Managed to grow that gap a bit but then we hit an out of class car. Buttermore followed another car past the traffic and I thought all my hard work was gone. There was gap as we turned up the hill and I dove for it, putting the out of class car and Buttermore behind me once again. Managed to hold my position for the rest of the race. This was one of the most fun races I’ve had to date. Finished P4, but a post race change of positions put me in P3. Vasquez took home a win, and Gaetano a P8. Not bad in a field of 11 T1 cars.

Sunday’s race was longer, and started with some cars off in T1. By T2, we were still three wide when I felt a car hit the rear of mine. Not quite sure who it was or where they hit, we continued on. When we came around to the keyhole again, Buttermore’s car was in the tires. I assumed it was some sort of brake failure as we had contact well into the brake zone. My car didn’t turn as well after that, so I just held on for an uneventful P4 finish. Hugh and Jonathan had a much more exciting race as they chased Bill Baten’s Camaro for the entirety, with only a second or two separating all of them. Matt Gaetano improved on his previous times and finished a solid P7 for Sunday.

It was a very successful first outing to Mid Ohio. The almost 8 hour tow home through the mountains was less painful after some good results. I’m very much looking forward to coming back in September for NASA Championships in ST2.

Ultimate Track Car Challenge/Hyperfest – VIR – 5/17/19

Hugh’s #23 E46 M3 and my #12 E46 M3 were accepted into Grassroots Motorsports Magazine Ultimate Track Car Challenge. There were a total of 55 cars that were accepted, all to compete for the title of Ultimate Track Car. An assortment of different types of cars were signed up. There were Corvettes, Vipers, BMWs, etc.

Our entry to Ultimate Track Car Challenge is sponsored by Skip Barber Racing. Hugh and I both instruct for Skip Barber Racing School. We instruct at the 3 Day Race school, 2 Day Advanced Race School, and 1 Day Teen Driving School.

UTCC is hosted by Grassroots Motorsports Magazine every year in conjunction with NASA MA’s Hyperfest. It is a three day weekend full of motorsports fun at Virginia International Raceway. The UTCC format follows NASA Time Trial rules which is similar to time attack. Competitors don’t race each other for position, but rather race the clock for the best overall fastest lap time.

We kicked off the event on Thursday night with GRM’s annual on track photoshoot. I was lucky enough to be chosen to participate in the on track shoot. This was extra special to me since I’ve always helped officiate this event, and watched many of my favorite race cars get photographed by Flim Flam. Our annual tradition was to ride in the photography truck together. This year was a little different since I would be in the car. We have tons of incredible photos on track during golden hour with the sun setting in the background.

Photo by Tian Xia
Photo by Tian Xia

It was a scorcher on Friday, which meant that our tires were cooking within a few laps. The first session which was a warm up didn’t counted, but that would have been the money session to throw down some fast laps for the day. The hot ambient temps saw us have some higher than normal water temps. My AiM dash is set to give me a red light warning at 200F and then a second warning at 212F to cool down or shut off the car.

My best for the day was a 2.01, Hugh’s best was a 2.00. Hugh finished 12th overall and I finished 14th.   

We gathered some good data from both cars. There are some changes to be made before we come back to VIR for the SCCA Runoffs.

My car won the Spa Technique Safety award thanks to the beautifully built Hi-Speed Motorsports cage. The judges were thoroughly impressed with the quality and attention to detail on this build. Thanks to Spa for being a part of this event!

Pitt Race – SCCA Majors – 5/11-5/12/19

Pitt Race is my second round of the SCCA Majors this year. The format is a bit different from the NASA stuff and kicks off Saturday morning by going straight into qualifying. No practice, no warmup, just get out there and throw down some flyers. I had raced GTS2 at Pitt Race in 2017 so was familiar with the track. It is a nice facility that has been updated and the track repaved. The elevation change and blind turns make it exciting as you trust yourself that the track is still in the same spot as you squeeze the throttle to the floor.

Qualifying went really well. I had previously done a 1.58 in my GTS2 E36 M3. The track record for Touring 1 was a 1.48, but luckily my T1 E46 is a much faster car than the E36. Within a few laps I saw a 1.51 on my AiM dash. Not bad, but I knew there was more in it. Backed it off for a lap to cool down the tires and get a gap and made a final run to put down a good qualifying time. I was rewarded with a 1.50 and a P3 stating position.

The race was a lot less interesting and I was not thrilled with my own driving. A car behind us tried to win into T1 at the start of the race. It created this huge mess of splitters, brake ducting, and all sorts of debris through the turn. I went off line several times to avoid both cars and debris. Ended up picking up a bunch of old rubber off line on the track and it became a disaster to drive as I tip toed around with slag on the tires. While I finished P3, I was not thrilled with my driving for the day. My punishment was to take a heat gun to the tires and scrape off the extra rubber I had picked up on track.

Sunday once again brought rain. The forecast was supposed to be clear after raining overnight, but an eerie mist that continued all day kept the track damp. I put rains on just to be safe, but there was definitely way more grip than I expected for how wet it was. Pitt race has a lot of grip in the rain, maybe in part due to the repaved surface from 2017. Another P3 for the day.

With the event being just four days away at VIR, Hugh and I took some time after the race to prep the car so that I wouldn’t have much to do during the week. The alignment was a bit off, but nothing drastic. Loaded the car up and we were ready to head home. The racing wasn’t quite satisfying enough for the weekend. As we packed up, we decided to check out the massive karting course. They were still open! Not a single person was on the track. We quickly paid and sat thru the safety briefing. The track was wet with enough of a mist coming down that it would stay wet.

Karting in the rain might be one of my favorite things ever. Normally I feel beat up after a couple of sessions, but karting sideways in the wet doesn’t beat you up as badly, and is an excellent car control exercise. The course took a few laps to learn and Hugh and I picked up the pace. Soon we were tandem drifting through the first few turns. One of the kart track employees saw that we weren’t total noobs at driving and joined us for the next round. We were soaked from the spray of our karts, and  a spin or two in the mud. It was a good way to wrap up the weekend at Pittsburgh International Race Complex. Long haul home to get back to work, and then off to VIR in a few days.