Kent, Washington, USA
May 22 and 23, 2004
In my previous race, I noted my surprise at having two great weekends in a row. Unfortunately, I manged to jinx myself and my streak came to a halt.
As usual, I drove down on Friday afternoon to set up during the afternoon. Because of the terrible traffic in the Seattle area, I wanted wanted to drop off my gear and mark my paddock space by 1pm. Then, I'd be back home by 3pm and I could register and tech on Saturday morning. Mark called me from the track, where he was helping a friend run a test-and-tune session, to tell me that nobody would be allowed into the track until the end of the test-and-tune at 3pm.
So I adjusted my plans. Resigned to fighting traffic, I drove down and arrived around 330pm. I found that the rules had changed again: I couldn't set up my paddock until I registered. This new rule was rather problematic, as I'd have to stand around until 5pm, at least. After a bit of negotiation, we ended up going into the registration building to help stuff driver packets. That would let the registration folks open earlier, and everyone could get on their way.
After filling a couple hundred envelopes, I set up my pit. I was with Bruce Boyd and Mark Cockle, and their friend Mark McClure, who was shaking down a new Caterham Super 7. What a car! It's light and tiny, and he was turning laps faster than 1:38.
Then, I immediately took off. I wasn't home until 630pm, which was far away from my plans.
I returned on Saturday, again planning to skip the practice sessions. I did tech, which didn't take long thanks to my annual inspection. It was raining, but I expected it to clear for my practice -- and even if it didn't, I thought it would be sunny on Sunday so I'd have another crack at setting a fast time. The dry tires went on the car, and I went out.
My ITS qualification session was quite wet, but the line was dry. As long as I didn't get traffic I could twist off a fast lap and have fun. And I did; I set a respectable lap in the high 1:43's. After adjusting the front tire pressure a bit, I twisted off a slightly faster time for my CP session.
During the rookie race, Jon Ament crashed in T1. After seeing the video, I was surprised his Miata suffered so little damage. He tore off his chin spoiler and bent the right front control arm. The car was rolling, but very awkward to move since the front wheels were pointing in the opposite direction. He was fine, but the video was quite impressive.
I helped his wife Bessie, Carlo and Taryn Sparacio prepare a BBQ, and had some great food. They generously provided burgers, dogs, and salad. Before and after eating, I tried to help with the food and with getting Jon's car up on their trailer so they could get it home and take apart the folded suspension bits.
And that was that; I drove back home. On my way home, I noted that I end up driving back and forth to the track six times for the weekend. That's a total of almost 250 miles, which is about 60 percent of the round trip to Portland! When I stay at a hotel for an away race, I choose lodging very near the track and have to drive less than ten minutes -- probably three miles, on local roads -- before I arrive at the track.
On Sunday, I arrived early and got my qualifying times from drivers services. On the way out of the new trailer, I was hit by a car! Someone backed into me as I was walking away from them. I had absolutely no chane of seeing it coming. It was quite shocking, as I thought one of my friends had come behind me and was shoving me around to surprise me -- but when I turned around, I found a whole minivan still rolling.
The experience was quite embarrasing and painful. Fortunately, I was wearing long pants and thick boots. My ankle was captured under the van's trailer hitch bar, and I badly bruised the back of my shin. At its peak, the bruise was bigger than two dollar bills with an abrasion the size of a half-dollar coin at its center. It hurt plenty, but when it got stiff, that was the real problem; I couldn't push or pull with my foot. Even with the boot on, I jammed the nail on my big toe hard enough to crack it lengthwise!
And I screamed like a girl. I wanted the driver to stop. She hadn't seen me, and I knew that if I fell, she certainly wouldn't see me. The ambulance for the track came by and gave me a quick examination. I was fine, though I feel sure that I would have broken my ankle had I not been wearing my boots.
All this happened about 15 minutes before my call to grid for qualifying. Plus, I was booked on a flight for 8am Monday morning to go to a big week-long conference in San Diego. What luck!
The good news was that all my friends came running. Hugh, Jaqueline, Mark, Bruce, and Don all came by. They made sure the ambluance found me (and that I had the EMTs check me out, even though I insisted I was fine). And I was fine to keep driving, though I found that twisting over to heel-and-toe was quite painful.
For the morning, I ran decent qualifying sessions but was horribly distracted and didn't imrpove my times. The races started and I got going.
Some friends from work came to visit: Ted Lee and his girlfriend, then Andrea Fox and her husband. I had fun chatting with them, and I hope they enjoyed the races.
The ITS race was terrible. I figure we spent only six laps racing because of a full-course yellow after a driver hit the wall on the front straight before the kink. And even those laps were punctuated by the occasional local yellow. Worst of all, I was passed not less than four times under the yellow.
During the restart, I got the hole shot on Lincoln Burns, one of my ITS competitors. But I couldn't keep it together, and let him go to finish third of the six ITS entrants.
My C Production race was uneventful, despite my ankle swelling in my boot. I munched some asprin, then got around the track as best I could. Unfortunately, I ran out of room in T1 and hit some cones -- at about 130 miles per hour! This caused me to lose my brake cooling hose (as well as some other plastic in front). My braking wasn't very predictable, and I almost spun while trying to overtake someone. After that, I cooled it. When I came back in, I was disappointed to discover that Guy Selle had overheated his car again, and didn't finish -- though he completed more laps than before. Hopefully, he'll get his problems sorted soon.
On the last lap of my C Production race, I saw Mark McClure stopped in T4. When I came in, he told me that he had lost oil pressure and decided to park it. We haven't heard yet, but hopefully his car just lost its sensor instead of truly finding a problem in the engine.
And to cap it all, Mark Cockle spun in T9 during his Group 2 race. He impacted the left front of his Miata hard enough to smash the wheel rim, and spun to touch the left rear of the car, as well.
I collected some points and had a bit of fun, but it's a weekend I'd rather just forget. I'm still looking foward to my next race at Portland, and I know it'll go better than this weekend.