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…
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.
As 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!!
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!
* Photos courtesy of John Hiatt IV