River's Edge at Mission

Mission, British Columbia, Canada
April 17 and 18, 2004

This was my third trip to Mission for a race. Bruce and Mark caravaned with me, and we went up WA-9 the whole way to the track. The drive was fun, but every time I take WA-9 I think it would have been faster to take I-5. And every time I take I-5, I think it would have been a better drive on WA-9.

We stopped at the bank and got some Canadian money, then hit Quizno's for some lunch. Once we checked-in at the track and unpacked, I headded out for one of the practice sessions. My car didn't quite work right; around 2500 rpm, the car would lose power. This made it pretty hard to accelerate out of corners and get any momentum into the straights. The car turned on its "check engine" light about three laps into the session.

To get more inforation, I entered the pits and turned off the engine. The car fired up again, but the idle was seeking between 500 and 1000 revs. I found that I could accelerate out of the pits without much trouble, but the car again stumbled on track.

I came back in and looked at the mass air flow sensor and four or five of the spark plugs. They sensor looked fine, and the plugs were all an even tan color. I decided I'd replace my brakes, since I had the time and needed to do the work anyway. Even if I didn't drive hard because of the sputtering, I'd want the car to be ready to race once it was fixed. I bled the left front, then replaced the rotor and pads.

Unfortuantely, when I moved to the right side, I forgot to disconnect my pressure bleeder. By the time I replaced the rotor, the pressure bleeder had pushed the brake piston out of the caliper and ruined it. And then it started raining! Fortunately, I had brought a spare caliper and mounted it without much trouble. It rained harder and harder, but at least the car was ready.

There were a couple of lightning strikes, and the skies just opened up. Some spots in the paddock had more than an inch of standing water. We decided to split after securing the tents. I was a wreck; I looked like a drowned rat!

For the morning practice on Saturday, my expectations were quite low. I figured I would have to limp through until I could diagnose and repair the engine problem. Fortunately, the problem went away completely! The car pulled out of the corners, and didn't stumble at all. There was no problem with the idle, and the check engine light cleared after the third lap.

I set some decent qualifying times for the beginning of the season, but weren't near my personal best from last year's. Because the weather reports were for rain all weekend, I had brought some rain tires and some brand-new Michelin Pilot Sport tires. I had never run the Michelins before, and figured that their deep (and new) tread would make good intermediate tires in case the weather was unpredictable, or even if it was fully wet.

By the end of the afternoon, I had my times down another second and was about half a second off my personal best. The tires were almost dialed-in, and I thought about fiddling with my new adjustable suspension. In the end, I decided not to make any changes.

Unfortunately, I forgot the safety strap for my camera and didn't want to mount it in my car without the tether. And my the NiCads in my scanner wouldn't hold a charge, so I didn't have my radio working.

But Sunday came, and I felt great. I didn't feel so rusty during the qualification sessions, and as a result felt like I was well ahead of the car (instead of behind it, trying to make too many corrections). Strangely, I didn't get any faster; usually, when I feel better in the car I'm instantly picking up speed.

During the ITS race, I got stuck behind some slower cars. I'm still too tentative at the start; I just don't want to be a part of (or even cause!) an accident. That leaves me behind a few people who have outqualified me, and Mission just doesn't have the room for me to get around them later in the race. I finally wedged myself under the first one, then walked away. I had to do it two more times, but couldn't get around the fourth car before the checkered flag.

The CP race was fun, since I didn't get completely dropped by the next faster car. I chased it around for most of my laps, and passed a few guys who were either having mechanical problems, or had started coasting to save their cars for the rest of the season. Guy is qualifying faster and faster all the time, and I hope he can make his car reliable soon. It'll be fun to race door-to-door with him.