Portland International Raceway
Kent, Washington, USA
August 16 and 17, 2003
I'm back at my home track for the second time this year. As usual, I went to the track with high expectations for myself. I was instructing for ProFormance on Wednesday and Thursday before the event, and spent a lot of time time in the passenger seat on those two days thinking about how I would approach the track for my race.
On Friday, I was surprised to find that some of my friends had beat me to the track and held a bit of space for me. That was just great; I like pitting near my friends, and was happy to find them already at the races.
Next weekend, a NASCAR Touring Series event is at the track and some of the NASCAR guys were there for the test-and-tune. Those cars seem too big and powerful for the track. I'm not able to go to the race, but I'm afraid there will be lots of bent sheet metal that weekend. I watched the big, heavy cars trying to get traction coming out of T8, through T9 and onto the front straight. They had even moved some of the concrete barriers to get the cars out onto the straightaway in a more direct line.
I got my pit setup and left to get home early for some sleep. The next day, I came back and ran my qualifying sessions, which aren't very long at SIR--just enough for three or four solid laps. The car was behaving well, but I wanted to bleed the brakes becuase I hadn't done so recently.
In the afternoon, I ran my qualifying sessions and was quite pleased. I wanted to adjust the tire pressure in the front just a little bit, and did so. Miki helped me take some tire temperatures, and I found that the left front was just a tad overinflated. I'm getting a little better at diagnosing (or, at least, noticing!) these problems from the driver's seat.
Unfortunately, timing sheets weren't available by the time I left so I didn't have a quantitative measure of my progress.
On the next day, the morning qualifying went great, and I had a lot of time to work on the car. I had ordered high temperature hose to repair the brake cooling ducts, which are getting pretty ragged. But the hose has yet to arrive, so I had to tape up the very tired hose that's already on the car.
I got my times, and was quite pleased with the results as I had set a personal record of 1:44.000 for a single lap -- about 77.9 miles per hour for the whole lap. I'm still a few seconds off the fastest car in the class, but I'm right in the thick part of the group and have plenty of other drivers to race with.
Unlike Portland on the previous week, I also knew exactly what I had done to earn the faster times. If you ask me, one of the hardest aspects of actually driving the car is braking. Slowing the car down consistently, to the same speed at the same spot on the course in each lap is quite difficult. Braking consistently is important because it is braking that puts the weight towards the front of the car when entering the turn, and that weight transfer helps get the car turning.
By modifying my braking technique in turn 2 and turn 8, I was able to carry more speed into the corners and keep the car more stable.
The races went very well. The Group 5 race had a dicey start, as usual. There was quite a croud through the first few turns! I also heard a very odd noise from the right side of the car, as if I had run over something. I didn't see anything at that point on the track either before or after I heard the noise, and was worried that someone had hit me or that something that had fallen off the car.
I was chasing one of the 240Z cars and making a little bit of progress. I knew those cars don't have such great brakes and my friends tell me that they usually run slower laps later in the race because of brake fade. Unfortunately, the driver spun in turn two and I passed him there. I had hoped to actually race for it!
When I came in, Miki checked it out and we couldn't find anything. Liz and her mom came by to watch, as did a couple of buddies from work--Mark and Mohammed.
The Group 1 race went very well. That group seems like a real cake-walk because there are so few cars and because I find myself rather isolated. There aren't many cars that run lap times similar to mine. Turn Eight had become very greasy, and was a real handful; I couldn't add power until I was exiting the corner. If I did so any sooner, the car went to bad oversteer. Several of the faster cars went off or spun in Turn 8 because of this, and I occassionally diced with them for half a lap or so after they recovered.
Apparently, there was some contact in the earlier races and some of my friends were involved. They were OK, but some tempers were flaring. Since I had done well, I had to tip-toe around the pits and run away when I saw a steward or more than one of the involved drivers in the same place at the same time.
As usual, the final results weren't available by the time I packed up and leave the track. It looked like I'd finish first of two in C Production, and second of five or six in ITS. What a great weekend!