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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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