The TRMotorsports team #318 had our best weekend to date with ChampCar. Many thanks to the event staff for keep things moving smoothly and communicating the delays to keep all informed.
6 of our 7 regular drivers were able to make this event and all did a a great job keeping our E36 4cyl pointed the right direction all weekend. Last year, 2 yellow flag penalties hurt our chances on Saturday so we focused on running a clean race and attempting to not beat ourselves this year. Saturday's wet conditions made our driving order an easy one. Crew Chief and Gingerman veteran Bob K took the first stint and with the help of a good starting position (6th?) took the lead on the first lap. While conditions were wet, Bob managed to lap all but two cars during the first hour and built our lead to over a minute. As the dry line improved the cars with better dry pace came alive the gap slowly closed during the second half of the stint when the RBank Civic passed us on lap 54 to take over the top spot just 3 laps from the end of the stint.
Joe W jumped in next for another clean, penalty free stint, bringing the car back to pitlane in 2nd position. TJ - our least experienced and arguably least ugly driver took over for the third stint and drove his best stint ever. The BMW returned to the pits in 3rd and our clean-up hitter, John R jumped in returning to fray in 5th where we stayed finishing second in A-Class behind the winner RBank. The team executed perfect pitstops throughout and managed to change the left side tires on the last stop with plenty of time remaining on the clock. The team was pleased with the day and the only repair needed was a small coolant leak discovered in impound.
Day 2 arrived foggy, but we were optimistic as the 7 hour format typically plays to our fuel mileage strengths. We were excited to here the finish time was moved back an hour to hopefully keep our strategy intact for the rest of the day. Our driver Chris H (me) took the first stint as I had experience starting from near the back of the pack last year at Gingerman and generally manage traffic well. After getting surprised a bit by the green flag and botching a shift, off we went moving up 12 positions on lap 1. I found the flags and key reference points alittle challenging to spot, but certainly "raceable" . The car was performing well with some used tires that had previously seen duty on the One Lap of America event, logging over 3000 street miles and several laps on the track. After moving up to 11th and a couple of four offs at turn 5 due to the driver (me) pushing a bit too hard I settled into a rhythm and finished stint in 7th with just a bit of grass hanging off the car from my mowing job. Bob K jumped in to begin the post break stint and finish off our fuel load. The pace car had picked up the leader GWR, just one spot ahead of us in grid. With a light fuel load and a clear track ahead, but chased the GWR car around for a few smoking fast laps (for our 318is anyway) and lowered our personal best time to a 1:47.9. Due to pitstops and a strong pace, we moved into 1st overall just 10 laps after the break and held that spot until pitting for fuel and a driver change around lap 79. Mike J jumped in the car, rejjoing the race in 4th and preceded to reel off a string of very strong laps until the FCY for the oil spill brought him to the pits and within our last driver change window. Currently sitting in 2nd our hopes were high that GWR would need one more splash and go to finish the race. Joe W took over after the pitstop in first place as others pitted as well, but GWR was lurking just a few cars behind. We had plenty of fuel but our 318i's pace was not enough to hold them off. We hoped to push them just hard enough to run them out of fuel, but the late race caution for an engine fire sealed the win for the very deserving GWR rocket.
Special THANK YOU to Mark and the MiElan team for allowing us to raid there spares once again. Bailing us out Sunday AM with some metric screws that decide to exit our intake manifold on Saturday. That's the not the first time they've helped us out and probably not the last. We owe you boys another beer or three.
5th and 2nd overall, 2nd and 1st in class .......soo rwarding for our team after losing engines at Road America two years in a row and other assorted mechanical over the last three seasons. We can't wait for the next one and INDY in 2019 !