Track weekends in the fall are some of my favorite – the weather tends to be ideal for a weekend outside, which means drivers and engines alike are a bit more perky. This past weekend at Summit Point was no exception, with crisp 50* mornings and highs in the mid-70s both days.
It’s always fun wondering which of your track friends you’ll run into on the journey out of town – this time, I shared the Dulles Greenway and Route 7 with Navin, Will, and Jon at various points. We all made it to the track around 6:30 PM and unloading was quick.
The last time I was at Summit Point was my first time driving the track with aero on the car. I was fairly nervous (read: slow) then, and was eager to get back out there for practice to get my “sea legs” again. Our Saturday practice was unfortunately cut short by an American Iron Mustang, who crashed hard enough between T4 and T5 to require black flagging the session after just half of the first green lap. Dang. (The driver, thankfully, was okay)
The Thunder group had downtime until early afternoon, which gave me plenty of time to check fluids and swap wheels to my Kosei K1s, with fresh BFGoodrich R1’s. Phil and Kim of Phil’s Tire Service deserve kudos for not only getting the tires when most other suppliers could not, and then a quick mounting turnaround Saturday morning. Thank you both! Turns out one of my K1’s is bent, but following Kim’s recommendation, I threw it on the right rear corner and the vibration is nearly imperceptible.
Saturday’s qualifying was unremarkable, I qualified fifth of six and focused on where I could pick up speed for the race. The race was a quick one at just 20 minutes, so I didn’t have much time to work through traffic. I stuck to John’s bumper but kept throwing away chances to pass, and thus it took most of the race to get past him. Once I did, I set my sights on Mark. Right as I was reeling him in, the checkered flag dropped. Another lap or two and I’d have had him. Chris unfortunately didn’t finish the race, as he broke one of his rear half-shafts early in the race.
I finished fourth, but was awarded second place Saturday evening after Scott and Matt (our 1st/2nd place finishers) both blew the dyno by ~8 horsepower.
My parents and some family friends came out to watch the race, and they couldn’t have picked a better one to spectate! I sent them over to the Carousel and they posted up at Turn 8. The race was 40 minutes long, which I was looking forward to as I would have more of a chance to pick through the field and hopefully secure a decent finish.
The green flag dropped and it was game time. We were hustling as a GTS2 pack which was a lot of fun, and I was holding a solid 4th place position while working toward catching Mark again. Matt ended up getting past me, which put a damper on that plan. And then, a newer Viper blew his engine at the end of the front straight. The debris flag came out and I seized the opportunity to (according to Mark) “pull a Cole Trickle” and pass both Mark and Matt amid the smokescreen. It worked and I found myself in third as the double-yellows came out.
We followed the pace car around single-file for a few laps and prepared for the restart. The green flag dropped and within a lap, Mark had re-secured his position in third. I was holding Matt off but my lead was very slim. Finally, the white flag came out. “Just hold him off for one more lap.” Naturally, I botched Turn 1 and Matt snuck past with better exit speed. He held me off for the rest of that final lap, leaving me with a fifth-place finish.
My personal result on Sunday was a bit disappointing, but we all pulled in to the paddock with huge smiles. Forty minutes of nose-to-tail racing is how every single race should be. It was tremendous fun and we all exchanged position repeatedly, while fighting to secure what little lead we may have had. And, we kept it clean, with no donuts or bumps. The GTS2 guys are really a class act and I am glad to be racing with them.
Two of my friends ended up with totaled cars on Sunday during the Lightning race. Charlie dropped two wheels in the grass in the Carousel and his Spec E30 spun across track, impacting the tire wall at T8. Navin was door-to-door with a fellow Honda Challenge racer, racing to the finish line, and was accidentally pushed off track in a defensive move gone awry. He impacted the tires at the end of pit road, catching some serious air before coming to a stop.
In both cases, the drivers walked themselves into the ambulance to be examined, and the only outcome was a broken rib from Charlie’s impact. The crashes and results speak volumes about the importance of quality safety equipment. For those getting faster in HPDE or competing in Time Trial – make safety a focus! Racers are required to have a lot of this gear, HPDE and TT are not. It’s saved my (literal) neck at least once in Time Trial, and the investment is worth it.
The M3 will be getting a new steering rack to replace the (incredibly) leaky rack. Otherwise, it should be all ready to go for VIR in early October!