After money-shifting my E36 M3 at VIR last month, I was excited to get the car back from Mach V Motorsports and give it a proper shakedown at Summit Point this weekend. Deren had worked tirelessly, tearing apart my poor S52 and getting the head over to the machine shop. The machine shop discovered I had bent every exhaust valve in my exuberant sprint up the back straightaway, and between the two shops, the car was back together in the nick of time – literally. My friend Matt and I loaded the car in the trailer at 11:30 PM on Friday, leaving Mach V with Summit Point Raceway in the truck’s navigation system.
The weather was sublime all weekend, with highs in the 60s and clear skies. Every race weekend should have such perfect conditions! My goals for the weekend were to learn the new suspension, and to cut down time as a result. I’ve never been incredibly fast at Summit Point, and the track has bitten me once before, so building more confidence was to be a benefit of the weekend. Thankfully, the weekend delivered in those aspects.
Qualifying on Saturday was solid, with a fourth-place qualifying time of 1:26.431. We had a group of nine racing in GTS2, so I felt confident in my qualifying time. The race saw me drop a few positions, but I held my own and finished sixth.
The new Motion Control Suspension shocks, combined with higher spring rates and a fatter front sway bar, give the car a wild amount of grip compared to my old Ground Control setup. The new setup provides that grip, but it also means that as a driver, I have to brake later and be even more confident to pitch the car through a corner and know it will stick. That confidence is still building, but grew overnight and I qualified with a 1:24.485. Two seconds off my personal best at Summit Point – a huge drop that made me very happy in itself!
The start of Saturday’s Thunder race
GTS2 as a field seemed to grow in confidence, and that 1:24 was good for a fifth place spot on the grid on Sunday. We took the green flag and unfortunately, only a lap or two in, one of my friends lost control of his E46 M3 and put it into the tire wall on the outside of Turn 3. Although he is okay and the car is fixable, nobody likes seeing their friend (or anyone) in a wall. The race was halted and all cars brought onto pit road while the emergency crew cleaned up the carnage. We were down for about 15 minutes, then followed the pace car back out for a single-file restart.
Single-file restarts are interesting, because instead of taking a green flag class by class, you line up nose to tail and take the green flag in whatever order you last exited the track. So, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be with your class, depending on how your race was going prior to the black flag. I ended up behind a few GTS2 cars, but had some Mustangs and Thunder Roadsters behind me.
We all took the green flag and began again. It felt like some drivers left their brains behind on the pit road as we got a few laps in to the race. Traffic was incredibly busy and cars were everywhere. I ended up in the middle of a melee several times, and frankly, was just happy to finish the race with straight body panels. The highlight (lowlight?) was a few laps in, where a Thunder Roadster passed me and two Mustangs in the Carousel. I ended up next to the first, black Mustang. The NASA Club Codes & Regulations (CCR) state that if another driver has the nose of their car at your door, you must give them 3/4 of a car width for racing room. I was dead even with the Mustang, and he turned further in to the right as we went through the turn. A quick, hard stab of the brakes on my part allowed me to avoid a collision, but made me fall back behind him and a red Mercury, giving up the ground I had gained in an attempt to catch someone in my class. Thankfully, you can’t be penalized for obscenities yelled in your own car.
The Mid-Atlantic GTS2 guys deserve a shout-out after the past two days. We have become a very friendly bunch over the last year or so of racing together, and even with a few newbies in the mix this weekend, it was generally accepted that we’re competitive, but we trust each other to not do anything too boneheaded. We can go two or three wide through a turn and make it out, we play by the rules but to the rules as it pertains to blocking and passing, and after the checkered flag drops, we’re excited to share how things went and do it again the next day or month.
Even with the complete “what just happened?” Sunday race, the weekend was a success overall. Shaving two seconds off of a personal best is nothing to sneeze at, and I absolutely found more confidence in the car’s new setup. NASA’s HyperFest is coming up in a few short weeks at VIR, and GTS2 is looking to have a 9+ car field, which will be very exciting. If you’re in the Mid-Atlantic area on May 19, join us for a day of automotive nirvana at VIR!
Sunday’s Thunder race, after the restart