River's Edge at Mission

Mission, British Columbia, Canada
June 12 and 13, 2004

It seems that each Conference season brings a spurt of 3 races in three or four weeks. This is the last of the races in the bunch for this year. Racing the third time on the fourth weekend, it's easy to see some fatigue. The car isn't clean, it's easy to forget items when packing the tow rig, and never easy to get enough sleep. And it's hard to stay ahead of maintenance.

I've mentioned in previous reports that rain racing doesn't bother me much. But sitting around and waiting for the race to start is much harder. Staying dry (and keeping tools and loathing dry) when outside at the track is a challenge for drivers like me, who have only a tow vehicle and a flat bed trailer. With an enclosed trailer or a motor home, keeping comfortable is just a matter of staying inside!

The weather reports for Mission this weekend called for rain. Passing showers were just enough to keep the track wet, though I manage to get some dry runs on Saturday. I installed my Michelin Sport Pilot Cup tires, which I've been using all season until now. I was profoundly frustrated by their performance. At turn in, the car would start to push terribly. The front suspension is so stiff and well-sprung that when the car pushes, the front end makes a fierce scraping noise.

I thought that the dampening settings on my car were to harsh for the small track. Mission is just a postage stamp. I can wind the car up to 100 miles per hour on the front straight, but I didn't think that I would be able to transition weight into the suspension. I thought a softer setting for dampening in the front, and a stronger setting for rebound in the rear would be advisable. Carlo and Ken agreed, or, at least, didn't think I was crazy.

The change made the car behave a little better, but still wasn't satisfying. Not being able to get the car turned-in was slow, but the more pressing problem was that the bad push wasn't confidence-inspiring. I knew that, even with the new suspension, if I added power to work the push the car would eventually snap oversteer as I straightened the wheel and tried to exit the corner.

Out of frustration, I installed the Kuhmo tires again. These worked great for me at Portland after the track dried out, and I would need to run them all day Sunday, anyway, as I expected rain.

The change was immediately obvious and simply incredible. The car turned in, I could add power well before apex, and I had no problem setting a more impressive time for my Group 5 qualifying run. In fact, I set a personal record for the course! I was thrilled to find that I was about .6 seconds faster than Skip Yocom, a driver with great experience and a wonderful competition record in ITS.

On Sunday, I was eager to better my Group 1 time. The weather was dry until just before my group left grid. It rained enough to leave the track wet, so I had to tip-toe around the course and couldn't better my time. Group 5 was also quite wet, but drier than Group 1. I couldn't qualify any better. Skip got a little faster, but I was still just less than a quarter-second faster than he was.

The Group 1 race started wet then became dry. After avoiding someone else's spin on the first lap, I slipped back in the pack. I ended up stuck behind a Datsun 510. I was a couple of seconds faster than this car, but I simply couldn't make a pass stick. Mission is a funny track; I often find that I can pass and make moves that I don't expect to work. In other races, like this one, I'll feel frustrated because I can't get around a car I know is less powerful than mine.

Since no other C Production drivers were in Mission, my results were inconsequential. Group 5, where I would go against Skip, was the real challenge.

I ended up gridded two spots ahead of Skip, which meant that he would be in my mirrors from the start of the race. The green flag dropped without incident, and I had a decent run into Turn 1. Nobody did anything foolish, and I held Skip behind me. He was on his full-dry tires. The race started dry, but became wet after about four laps.

In the rain with those dry tires, he had a terrible time putting the power down and ended up spinning. If I finished without a mistake, I would end up winning. What a thrill! Skip is a formidable competitor, and competing with him is inspiring. Winning against him is a real triumph. He's very skilled, incredibly knowledgeable, and a wonderful competitor.

Earlier in the weekend, I noticed that the ITS entry list included a driver running a Honda CRX. The CRX is a nifty car, but isn't eligible for the ITS class. It is classed in ITA, where there are several other CRXes running. I figured that the entry list was in error, and didn't worry about the car.

As the race ended, I pointed by a CRX that was making great progress through the field. After it passed, I was surprised to see it lettered for ITS! The stewards were very helpful in getting the matter straightened out. Carlo let me borrow is GCR, and I provided it to the stewards to show that the car shouldn't be in ITS. It has a great advantage over me in the rainy conditions, since it has front wheel drive.

I felt sorry for the driver; I wish that someone had pointed out to him that he was running the wrong class much earlier. as a result of the mistake, I was denied my checkered flag and victory lap. IT's a bit of a pity, since I will cherish besting Skip for some time to come.