Kent, Washington, USA
August 7 and 8, 2004
The ICSCC season seems to have a bit of a break in it during the summer. This year, it was split by the Spokane race and wasn't quite as long as normal. But it still seemed quite a while since I had worked with the race car. Fortunately, my first race back was at Seattle, my home track.
Better yet, my friends Mark and Bruce repaired their car after their shunt at the previous Seattle race and were ready to drive again I was very much looking forward to their returned company. They're always really helpful, and we spend the afternoon clowning around and playing jokes on each other. It really breaks-up the time between heads, and softens any of the setbacks we might experience.
I went to the test-and-tune on Friday. Unfortunately, Seattle doesn't allow drivers to park their cars and setup their pit space on Friday unless they've actually paid for the test-and-tune time. Other tracks (like Mission) are available for setup on Friday whether attending the test-and-tune or not.
I hardly need the time on the Seattle track, but I wanted to make sure I pitted with Bruce and Mark. I did spend some time on course making sure my new Alutec wheels would work well. They fit OK, but you can never know if they're going to work until the car gets is suspension loaded up. All the dimensions change when the springs squat!
Unfortunately, it was quite rainy on Friday. The track was absolutely soaked; there was standing water on the front straight, and the usual rivers crossing the exit at turns 3B and 5B. I turned about 25 laps, ten of them on the new wheels. It's fun to drive in the rain, as the limits of the car are very low and it's plenty easy to slide around and get the car pitched.
And I did! I got around turn 2 in a full glide, and almost spun after adding too much power while fording Lake 3B.
I went home pretty early, as did Bruce and Mark. They didn't have their car's defroster unit in the car, and were having some real problems with visibility.
When I returned on Saturday morning, the track was still wet, but the line was drying and there was very little new precipitation. By the time I qualified, the track was essentially dry. I was quite surprised to find that my times had dropped some more: I was down to a low 1:42, which is just outstanding as it means I was more than 1.1 seconds faster than my previous personal best!
On Sunday, I wasn't able to better my times, but the weather was very dry and I was excited to have a crack at an obviously dry track for the first time this season.
My ITS race was great fun; I managed to out-qualify Skip, but dropped a few spots because I was tentative at the start. I ended up passing a few cars, and found myself one car behind Skip going into turn 5A. The car ahead of Skip tipped over a cone, then Skip caught it under his wheel. It flew over the car ahead of me, then hit me hard on the right front. It tumbled over my windshield and roof. I saw my grill leave the front of the car, and later discovered a huge den, a cracked headlight bracket, and a missing corner marker.
I passed a couple more cars as Skip and I worked through the field. I was nipping at his heels for the last few laps, but just couldn't get my car around his. At the last lap, I damned the line and just dove for the finish; the front end of my car was even with his passenger door when we crossed the line. I lost another race by less than a twentieth of a second!
Fortunately, my damage was quite minor and I didn't have any trouble continuing my race, or starting the Group 1 race for C Production. All of the parts I lost were easy to replace and readily available. I had to spend about $150 at the BMW dealer, and spend some time on that headlight bracket. It uses a bunch of pop-on fasteners to hold the headlight assembly, and they're a real chore to remove.
On Monday after the races, Mark Cockle stopped by and massaged-out my dent. I had already scheduled to replace my windshield, which was fortuitous because it was badly cracked by the cone.
My C Production race was fast and clean. Guy was nipping at my heels for a few laps, but I was able to walk away from him and chase around a couple of E30 BMWs. I got around Dale Buening, then he suddenly disappeared later in the race. Roland spun when I chased him into T2, but he was just fine and ended up finishing just behind me.
Another great weekend in the books, and my driving continues to make great progress. Gaining that second really helped me be competitive with Skip, but I still owe him more points than I can probably make up before the end of the season. One of the things that troubles me is that I'm making unconscious improvements. That is, I wasn't trying anything in particular in order to add speed; I'm trying to trail the brakes more, not over slow the car, and keep my turn speed up. Maybe that's enough to explain my remarkable improvement.