I have been out of the seat for awhile.
2016 was my last full year of racing as I took on this job at ChampCar. Since then I did two races in the hyper slow Opel GT, one race in a Celica, and 1/2 a stint in the MR2 GTv6 at Utah, and one rain race at VIR in 2018. So it's been quite awhile since I had any seat time.
I was really excited about racing in the 24 with Visceral. I was finally able to drive a Porsche in a race. Been a dream for me since I was a kid.
But I was also afraid of how bad my performance would be. When I ran the MR2 at the December 2018 VIR north races, I thought I would just hop in and be able to kick off stupid fast lap times like the old days. That's when I remembered how important seat time is. I had none. I made really bad decisions in that race, especially with being over confident. I vowed that I would not do that again. Especially driving someone else's car, that I was financially responsible for.
Not only was I racing, but I was the onsite producer for the ChampCar.live show.
Saturday morning. I wake up at 4am. Race mornings are always really stressful for me due to all the work I have to do before we go live with the show. Now I am adding the onsite studio for Doc and guests, the live track cameras, and the live in-car cameras.
Saturday practice went well. I got about 15 minutes in the car to familiarize myself with the way the car handled. That was enough to know that the car handled really well, and I could forget about the car and work on me and my driving. I fit the car, sorta. As most know, I have a shape, round. Doc may have mentioned that about eleventy-hundred times during the broadcast. My own car has a seat that fits me. The bars in the seat put some pretty bad pressure on my hips. This may have contributed to cramping in my legs later on.
But, I can work around all that.
I got all the local assets working for the show, then reported to Viscerals paddock spot.
I feel pukey from the stress. I keep thinking about how bad I am going to do, will I look silly, will I hurt the equipment, or worse yet, hurt someone elses day? Crap like that.
They strap me in the car, we roll out, and I am at the back of the pack, in 47th place. I am right behind the fast looking RVA Graphics and Wraps E46 M3 driven by some big guy named Justin Andress. He is some ex-football star turned race winner. I quickly get on his tail, and I am fighting for position. I think I have him positioned for the perfect pass, but remember that we are still in the formation laps and under yellow. As soon as the flag goes green I am on it. But cautiously. I am making some passes. Trying to be clean. Stay away from peeps. Don't hurt the duct tape. My drivers contract said I was responsible for any damage I do to the car. I was trying hard not to think about how much 200 roles of duct tape costs. Probably a lot.
The second lap was insane. As we come down roller coast I am caught up in the mass of cars that were slower. Oh my... this is why I love to start the race. Traffic management is so much fun. I may or may not have screamed that on the radio! It was so much fun. so many cars lumped together. 3 wide on the front straight. 2 wide going up the esses, and finally getting by that group on the front straight on lap 3 when everyone gets in single files rows.
I can settle down and work on my driving now. I am doing 2:25 to 2:28 laps. I remember Ron telling me I needed to average 2:20s. So I need to work on this a lot. This being skill.
On lap 44 I am told to pit. My two hours are up on a FCY. perfect. I pull into our spot. Go to jump out, and my leg cramps that started 2 laps ago come back and make it hard for me to get out of the car. As I push my head bast the roll bar, one of the helpers grabs my shoulders to assist, so I give a final pust just as he lets go and I go crashing to the pit lane like a face plant. All I could think about was I hope that there are no cameras nearby, Doc would never let me live that down. Ever.
I took us to 12th place. Blew me away.
Ron gets in the car and does a 1:20. Ok. I have some thinking to do.
Where was I going wrong? Well one thing I know is that the AIM SOLO was dot set the way I like it. It was set to lap times, and not predictive timing. So after talking with troy, I was able to remember how to cycle through the types of timing. But I also thought about how I was taking corners, and sorted out the mistakes I made. The biggest one was not trusting the car.
Sunday. I am doing the 8am to 10am stint. Seriously. I was thinking of just asking the team to put me in for an hour, if at all. But then, I just needed to man up and push all my doubt to the side, and do this mofo. Just get out there and be a racing driver. Go fast, go fast, go fast.
So that's what I did. Well, kinda. Fast for me.
I think trusting the car and the tires, and having some racing skill return, I was able to really get back into the the low 2:20s. I focused on the Aim Solo and was finally able to get a 2:19.
The racing was fun too. At one point I had my sights on the Fiero. One can never let a Fiero beat me. Well, that did not go as planned as that car was fast, and one I could just not catch. As any good competitor know, you then put your focus on something more attainable. Like staying ahead of NLS, who after their win at Charlotte I knew would feel cocky with that fast little car.
I went in in 13th place. And pretty much held us there the whole stint, putting us into 12th a few laps from my two hour limit. Ron then took over, and on his 4th lap out, laid down a 2:15. So there goes my excuse of the tires being old.
I loved it. This was so much fun getting back into the seat of a top car. Thanks to Visceral, Ron, Jay, James, and Justin, Ron's father, and Troy. This is one hell of a team. Ron prepared a hell of a car, and now I know why he has so many trophies.
Now, time to get back to my day job.