After that glorious weekend, I needed a few days to relax, recover and finally realize that yes, it truly did happen.
What. A. Weekend!!!!!!
Start to finish. It was all good. Awesome weather, great pot-luck (thanks to everyone that joined in - lets do more of those!), hanging out with friends (some of whom feel like family now), and of course, superb racing. And of course, finishing 1-2 was amazing!
The book (movie coming soon! lol):
I came into the race knowing that we had a solid top 5 car, with potential (hope) to finally get one of those sweet trophies for Ana. With the new Wingmen Aero wing and other aero bits I've added, she's come a long way from the first test last year, and the up-and-down last 1.5 seasons where she had an impound or bust mentality. I guess Ana really does identify as a non-vanos type of girl, as that is the only engine she has not rejected. Ya'll can blame Spartan Racing for helping me out with selling me this engine last year.
Team wise, it was a significant mix-up from past races. With the original Bavarian Mustache Werks team spreading out all over the world now, my potential driver pool has gotten to be a bit of slim pickings. So as @mcoppola mentioned, I went local. My Dad was the only other one from the original team, and had not driven this car in its current configuration. The other guys have never even been in an E36 before. Luckily, the other guys we found are all solid racers, having many years of track driving / racing experience and some success with SCCA and Waterford Hills, so I knew everyone would adjust quickly with how I have the car setup. But man the average age really shot up for this one! It feels funny to have a 40 year old significantly lower the avg age of a team. Yeah, you guys and gals all got whooped by a bunch of old guys
After a most excellent pot-luck Friday night, and subsequent paddock wandering to empty the keg (that didn't take very long...), the team was 75% ready to go (I still wanted more sleep... mmm beer).
We got a bit lucky Saturday with the draw for pole position pit-stall, as our pitmates (Crank Yankers) were able to start near the front of the field (13th IIRC). Dad was out first, his first race of the year and first time experiencing all the aero improvements. Solid stint had us nicely positioned in the top 10 after the first pit cycle, although even with some instructed fuel saving tactics (short shifting a 6k, coast into a few corners), we did have to pit a bit earlier than I had wanted. Pretty sure it was new sorta old guy Mike P that went in for 2nd stint, having a solid run and getting the team up to 2nd place at the close of his stint (granted, we did get some help from a few other team's misfortunes....). Again, needing to pit right on the limit, we sent the other old guy Paul out, with clear instructions to fuel save so we could make the last 2 full stints. Exited the pits in 3rd, back to 2nd an hour into that stint and briefly up into 1st before pitting. After the last fuel stop (and left front tire change, we toasted that RE71R), I jumped in the car for the last stint, amazed at where we were positioned. I knew full well that Spartan's were on the chase and super quick (there is a lesson in power to weight ratio in there somewhere). I had nearly 2 hours to run, with knowing that the tank was good for 1:50-1:55 if I ran normal. I knew I couldn't run the pace needed to hold the gap to Spartans, so I set out to delay how long it would take them to catch me and give myself some fuel to fight them once they did. Dropping max revs down and lift/coast, while trying to maximize corner speeds was the name of the game. Traffic turned a slow reduction in the gap to 'oh crap, they are right there already!'. A compromised 10b passing a lapped car sealed the deal, as Spartans cleared the traffic easily and scooted by down the straight. I had a choice at this point. Cruise to a 2nd, or fight for 1st until I ran out of fuel or talent. I chose the later, and understand that we put on a pretty darn good show for ya'll! The race was on and I pushed to fill their mirrors - not that it would really matter, pretty sure it was Scotty driving, their really really good ringer (instead of their other drivers, that are just all really good ringers - lol), that likely wouldn't be phased. But I knew I needed to stay close and take any opportunities to take the position back I could. A few really fast laps later (managed a 4th fastest time of the day in there), while right on their bumper, I see smoke coming into 5. At first, I thought that was a really odd place for such a massive lock-up. And then I saw one of the rod caps and some other chunks fly out from under their car. I was sure I was going to be bringing some engine bits back with me after that one. Terrible ending for their race, and I would have much rather fought to the checkered. But such is the racing world. After that happened,I radioed in to the team to find out how far ahead of the next car we were. 1+ laps. Sigh of relief, then some calculations and realized that after that brief blast of running nearly all-out, I needed to go back to fuel save mode as there was a real risk of running out before the end of the race. I brought it home, gleeful and proud of the team for doing so well. Amazed that we managed to exceed my expectations and manage to take the top step of the podium.
Saturday night involved swapping out tires to Direzzas, bleeding the brakes, cleaning the rather oily windshield, wiping some crud off the tow hook and enjoying some local brew. And of course, going through highlights from each of our stints from the day.
Sunday - with our 'atta'boy' + 1 lap, along with starting near the tail end of the field due to luck of the pit-stall draw, I knew that we had our work cut out for ourselves. I went into Sunday thinking a top 5 would be spectacular and may even be in reach. With the race just 7 hours, it did mean that we had less to worry about with fuel. There was a chance.... I put @mcoppola in for the 1st stint, so at least his first time back in a race car after his break and 1st time in a RWD car with aero in years would include a few laps of FCY to get acclimated to his office for the next 2 hours. That seemed to work well, as Mike quickly got down into the 1:50 range. As 2 brothers had mentioned in their interview, we were also hoping for a FCY to take advantage of. The plan for Mike was to run at least 1 hour, and pit with a caution. That never came, so he got to play for a full 2 hour stint. And that was one fine stint! Started 44th (last of the cars that left pit lane behind the pace car), and made it all the way up into the top 10 before our on-the-nose 2 hour pit stop. Paul jumped in for the short stint before the break, 12th after all the pit stops were accounted for. By the end of his hour we were up to 8th and what appeared to be within striking distance of 4th through 7th, just 1 lap down on those cars and positioned well for the afternoon re-start. Dan was in the the stint right after lunch break. Plan was to run him for somewhere between 1 minute and ~1 hour, depending on when a FCY came out or the car stumbled on fuel. No FCY, but after that ~55 or so minutes was up we found ourselves in 6th. Could it happen? could we make impound? or, gasp... podium? At this point, we were rather out of cycle with the other teams for pit stops. 3 hours to go. 1.5 hours was plenty doable for running the RPMs up and pushing the car. So we sent Mike P out with that in mind. Lap times were down in the 1:48s. Faster than the others. Except that flyin' Merc. Mike slowly kept picking off cars. And with the others pitting sooner, we suddenly found ourselves sitting in the top 3! No FCY to take advantage of, so Mike ran as long as he could. We lost radio comms somehow, but as we were trying to figure out how to get him to come in, the car appears at end of pit lane. I jump in the car, and head out on track. Mike told me before leaving that everything on the car was good, but it was getting a little loose. I nearly missed pit-out when the brake pedal went 3/4 way to the floor. Things got hot, I guess. So, with a brake pedal I had to tap a few times before each braking zone and enough fuel to finish it out, I was on a mission. I expected to be in somewhere between 3rd and 5th, same lap as 2nd-4th and a lap back from 1st. I knew that the Gyvulys guys was the only other C-class car up there, so they were my goal. After a few laps I caught sight of them and game was on. It was then I found out that it was going to be the race for 2nd! I pushed hard to catch them, and then had to work really hard to get by. We played cat and mouse for a number of laps. Aero-aided handling vs. superior power. We were nose to tail and side-by-side, running close, racing hard, never touching. It was a blast, and the type of racing that what keeps me coming back to this stuff. I managed to sneak by with some help from a lapped car after Gyvulys got rather loose coming through turn 9. Then I nearly ran off the track in 10 and almost gave it all back... Followed that up with my fastest lap of the day to get some decent gap. I hope everyone watching the broadcast enjoyed it as much as I did. I was pumped and really glad there was only ~5-6 minutes left after that battle. I'm still a bit tense! After the cool-down lap was over, and I managed to get out of the car, we congratulated ourselves and then I had to jog over and give a hearty fist-bump to my worthy competitor - can't wait for the next battle!
All-in-all, awesome weekend. Thanks to all the competitors for really good driving on track, and to the workers for keeping us safe. This was one of the best events I've participated in over last couple of years.