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On the Road Again

It’s been two full months since the last local racing weekend. A couple of events were weeded out of the initial schedule, making travel to Heartland Park Topeka and Miller Motorsports Park a much more realistic endeavor. Both events featured new turns for me to learn and I was anticipating coming up to speed quickly. How did I prepare?

  • Book lodging. It’s a well-known fact: tracks aren’t usually in places where civilization has sprung up. My criteria’s pretty simple – read reviews and find a decent bed. I’m only somewhat ashamed to admit I also try to book near a Starbucks (hey, a girl has needs!).
  • Watch video. When you can, find video of a similar car in similar circumstances (HPDE, Time Trials, Racing) on the course configuration you’ll be driving. YouTube is awesome for this!
  • Drive the track before you get there. We have an XBOX with Forza 4 and these tracks aren’t on there, so I didn’t get to do this for either of my trips, but I highly recommend simulator practice if you can swing it.
  • Prep the car. Based on what you see on the video and simulator, you should be able to get a general idea of suspension and tire setups. Start there & adjust as you experience things firsthand.
  • Introduce yourself. I like to head out to whatever forums the local folks are on and say hi. Ask for any tips that might put you a step ahead in the learning curve before you even get on track.

After that, pack up! Start driving…

 

Heartland Park Topeka

I was planning to be to HPT in time for afternoon lapping. My tow vehicle had other plans – about an hour out from Topeka, in Salina, I got an error message that the oil pressure was high and to turn off the engine immediately. eek! Thankfully, there was a local Chevy dealer and they were able to get me back in the road that afternoon. Unfortunately, I missed out on valuable practice time while I hung out in the waiting room.

20140531-John Hiatt IV-2358As far as I can tell, GTS isn’t a series typically run in the NASA Central region… Rob Hickman and I were the only two GTS racers there. No matter, we threw down in the Thunder race group and had a lot of fun learning and racing a new course. The configuration was slightly different Saturday to Sunday, so each day brought something new. Both configurations included high-speed sweepers we don’t see a lot of here in Colorado. Overall, I’d say I lacked confidence in several places and it resulted in second place finishes in all 3 races. Big kudos to my competition – Rob might be new to this sport but he is fearless and drives hard!

 

Miller Motorsports Park – East Course

Heading to Miller was as much about redemption as it was about expanding my knowledge base. You might remember last year I visited MMP and blew an engine during qualifying on the last day of racing the Outer Loop. There was a 50/50 chance I’d be racing on the very same pavement… and wouldn’t you know, I had the opportunity to replace last year’s memory with a much better one.  And so I did.

For those of you who haven’t been, the facilities are AMAZING. This was a *slow* weekend: in addition to the NASA event, Miller was also hosting a Formula 3 PanAm Grand Prix, Rotax Summer Shootout (SERIOUS karting for big and small kids alike) and an AMA-sanctioned race weekend for the guys on two wheels. There was no shortage of things to check out during downtime.

I was able to get some good practice laps in Friday and Saturday morning, but was still off the pace both my fellow Rocky Mountain GTS2 competitors Rob and Joe Ostrander were setting. I finished 3rd (of 4) with a best lap time of 1:50.844 in Saturday afternoon’s race. Sundays time was very similar (1:50.785), where I ended up 2nd (of 4) after slipping by Rob who had a mechanical failure. Overall, it was another good weekend. Big congratulations to Joe, who won his first races!!

Coming up!

I’m not going to lie, I’m somewhat relieved that this upcoming weekend is at HPR, a track I’ve turned lots of laps on. For this weekend, I look forward to being able to fine-tune and race hard with my competition instead of the leaps-and-bounds improvement required at new tracks. Hope to see you there!

20140531-John Hiatt IV-1137-2* Photos courtesy of John Hiatt IV

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PPIR, Pueblo Roundup

The winter between the 2013 and 2014 seasons was one of the lowest key, yet most purposeful, we’ve spent with the E36 racecar. Safety equipment (nets, seat, harnesses) were expired and needed replacement. But really the primary focus was to de-tune it from GTS-3, where it was heavy and low on horsepower and therefore wasn’t competitive. So we decided to do the opposite of what most would – we added weight and reduced horsepower! All with the goal of placing the car at the top of its class in GTS-2. Mission accomplished… it was time to go race!

PPIR

PPIR_April2014_Race2

First up, PPIR. This year, we’re only visiting once and each day was run in a different configuration. I was very lucky to spend time with the general manager (Bob Boileau) Friday, learning to push myself in new ways. Left foot braking? Well, sure! Bouncing over curbs? Okay! When Saturday rolled around, I was ready to get to it. The first race was tight from the start, until I had an ARRS car block me for several laps… the front two GTS-2 cars pulled away before I could get around it and start tracking them down. I finished a respectable 3rd (of 5 cars). Second race I vowed that wouldn’t happen again. It didn’t, until I spun in the infield tracking down first place. What happened? Well, uh, remember those curbs? Turns out they bite if you don’t hit them juuuuust right. I turned in a hair early, spun and stalled the car – then couldn’t get it restarted to finish the race. Sunday was a different animal, with a reverse configuration I wasn’t quite as comfortable with. Both races yielded results that showed it too – I finished 4th (of 5 cars) and 3rd (of 4 cars) in those races.

 

While Saturday was better than I’d hoped from a driver performance perspective, Sunday was worse. For the first time in my racing career, I felt like I was part of the mix… when I did what was needed to put myself there. The tires wore well, the rebuilt suspension felt great, my new seat (RaceTech 4009) fit like a glove. I was able to put the car where I wanted it, when I wanted to. I was reminded on both days that Eyes Up! continues to be one of the most important things I can do to drive well. Pretty sure that advice came my way on my first day of HPDE!

 

When pulling the car into the trailer, we noticed some brake fluid. One of the braided brake line compression fittings on the passenger rear had failed late in the second race Sunday. I was VERY lucky not to have brake failure at PPIR as the runoff areas consist of concrete barriers. Ever the optimist, I turned that lemon into a lemon meringue pie. Turner shipped out four corners of StopTech goodness to the doorstep one week later (about a season ahead of the budgeted schedule). We barely had time to get them bedded in before we were on our way to Pueblo Motorsports Park.

 

Pueblo

Pueblo is the first track I ever drove on (in my very capable street car, an E90 M3), so it has a special place in my heart. Turns 6A/6B make me grin because setting your steering wheel and then steering with your foot is just super cool. There are so many ways to haul your mail through T1. I could go on. This weekend was particularly exciting because there were 9 (NINE!) cars in my GTS-2 class. Time to go racing!

 

Pueblo_2014_StraightQualifying Saturday was something of a cluster and I wasn’t able to get a good lap in before my tires were past their prime. I set myself 8th on grid. Cars were three wide going through T1 at the start and I managed to pick up a position and hold it for the first race. I started the second race in 7th. Seemingly a repeat of PPIR, I went into the second race feeling strong, knowing the front runners wouldn’t get away from me this time. I spent the race hunting and picking off the competition… and finished 3rd. Woot! Sunday’s only race gridded based on Saturday’s race results. A poor start (wrong damn gear and a less competitive differential) lost me two positions but I was still in the race. I noticed the rear end felt loose almost immediately. I chalked it up to tires with several heat cycles on them and continued to race hard. Five laps in as I was exiting T3, the track surface crests and falls away and the rear came out on me – I ended up in the dirt. I had to wait for the silt to settle before continuing on my way. Change of game plan: instead of fighting for position, I had to refocus. The rest of the race had me pressing as hard as the car would take, making up 12 of my lost 25 seconds on the leaders. Pueblo_2014_BeesFinal lap coming down the front straight at about 100mph, I see a cloud of something… not quite sure what…. smack-smack-smack! Turns out to have been a giant swarm of bees.  Weird. The racecar was covered in dirt and the front-end and windshield was plastered with bee guts when I crossed the finish line. One thing I’ll say, racing’s never boring!

 

 

Next up

I’m heading to a new track for me, Heartland Park Topeka for a crossover event with NASA Central and NASA Rocky Mountain. It’s been recently repaved and the availability of auto video at race speeds is scarce. Should be a blast!

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Well. THAT was interesting.

SNAP! Just like that, the 2013 season has come and gone. We (obviously) didn’t write/post anything here over the course of it. Mostly because we were very very busy. I’ll give a psuedo-quick, highish-level recap here (Jim has some awesome stuff to cover too, but I’ll let him do that). April 5-6, PPIR with NASA [...]

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PPIR Roundup

Hiya from all of us at MW3! Hard to believe, but it’s already been ten days since our opening event at PPIR in Fountain, CO with NASA Rocky Mountain. So how did it go? It was a great start to what is sure to be a fantastic season!! You may remember Jim installed new suspension (MmMmmm…. [...]

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SCR Performance

You may recall I recently posted about my goals for this season. It’s important to me that I don’t just go out and drive. There’s an ironic saying that resonates with me: Doing the same thing over and over again, hoping for a different result is the definition of Insanity. I would like to think [...]

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Cha-Ching!

Run whatcha brung. For newbs, this is one of the first essential messages we try to impart. Don’t go out and spend hundreds (certainly not thousands!!) on brakes, wheels, tires, suspension. Just make sure your car will pass a tech inspection, and you can get out on track, learn a ton, leave with a smile. [...]

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