Race summary: #163 Hong Norrth Grumpy Butt
Road Atlanta Champcar 14-hour
Video of my first stint: https://youtu.be/EPwXHG7C4e0
Started about 1:30pm – finished about 3:00pm
After a winter of crash repair from AMP (replaced suspension on 3 corners), major electrical work (reducing unnecessary stuff, switch panel redesign), and a change to 15” wheels/tires from 17” I was a bit worried pulling into the track on Friday morning for test day. Tech went smoothly and we were ready to hit the track at 10am.
I took the car out for the first 15 minutes to make sure that it wasn't going to kill anyone. The gearing change with the 15" wheels was dramatic – I never thought that a 2” diameter change could have such a significant impact. I was worried that we'd run out of revs on the fast back straight but it never happened. The car seemed to drive fine at the pace I was going - fairly slow on a cold track with new tires. I had 2 new drivers (of 5 total) that had never driven this track or my car, so the emphasis was to get them as much seat time as possible.
Next we sent out the new drivers, then Mike and Steven who both have time in the car and on this track. All came in complaining of a rear traction problem and a front brake shuddering issue. I had replaced the front rotors and brake pads with new stuff so this made no sense, although the pads went in a bit snug and may have caused overheating. I replaced the rotors with a used set that had been machined and the problem was reduced but still there. I sent Mike to a local Oreillys with the almost brand new rotors to have them turned.
The rear traction issue was also concerning but I had made so many repairs and updates after the crash at AMP that I didn't know where to start (tires, wheels, rear trailing arm, front control arm). We set the rear toe slightly in from zero to 1/8", lowered the tire pressures, and I checked the suspension for play. In the end it was the Hankook RS4s that were the issue - they need a lot of heat to work well and never had enough time to get heat into them on a cold day with lots of stops.
We had radio issues and new digital dash issues also but they didn't affect racing... they just wasted time.
Saturday started cold but was supposed to warm up to tolerable by mid day. By random draw we started 50th at 8am and Steven drove up to 15th about an hour into the race. At about an hour and 20 minutes he called in to say that the fuel lights were on and he was coming in. This was disappointing as I hoped to get 1:50 worth of fuel range and make one extra stop during the race. If we could only get 1:20 per stint we would have to make 3-4 extra stops (2.5 laps lost each stop). The good news was that the car was running fine and going fast enough to run in the top 10. Once the tires got enough heat the rear end handling problem went away.
Mike jumped into the car next and started turning fast laps, eventually running the fastest ever lap by the Supra at this track (1:45.1). We moved up to 12th place against a very fast field of 90 cars, but he only made 1:15 before the fuel lights came on and he pitted. Dave (new driver #1) jumped in next and started turning competitive laps while keeping us near 15th place despite the extra fuel stops. About an hour into his stint Dave radioed that he was coming in. He is new to RA and was following another car up the hill out of 10b, and instead of driving his line he locked on the car in front of him. That car darted left to pit road and by the time Dave realized it he couldn't make it back to the track and shot down hill in the grass between pit road and the track. The 626 car had a nice view – start around 1:41:00
There was nothing wrong with the car other than a radiator full of dead grass. The brake shuddering was getting worse and Dave thought it was the right front causing the issue, so I was prepared to swap the rotor and install a set of old pads. It took an extra 3 minutes for the pit stop but made the car drivable for the rest of the race.
We put Chip in the car and turned him loose with a new load of fuel, and he also started turning competitive lap times given how little time he had on track. One small off track excursion in the esses resulted in losing 1/2 of the wood splitter, but no other damage.
The rest of the day saw us pitting too often for fuel, but only cleaning the windshield and topping off the oil occasionally. We stayed in the top 15 all day and gained a few places near 9pm as some of the leaders had a few issues. We had climbed into 10th place by 9pm but had to make a final stop to get me in the car and add fuel. After a very fun hour in the dark I finally took the checkered flag in 11th place overall.
Total race miles 1040. More miles that last year but 6 places back in the standings : )