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The B.T.S.S. Franken-Chump-Shark-Miata Spokane Experience

Guest posnova

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Guest posnova

I'll post an actual writeup later. I, the farthest-away team member, who needed to clean and return a borrowed pickup to a friend who needs it for work this morning (in a couple hours), am a bit tired.

One thing of note, though, tied to such a late return time -- we brought replacement parts for the wrong vehicle. Little did we know that after running a mechanically flawless race in the #20 shark, that our '83 Chevy Van 305-powered support vehicle and trailer were in need of some mechanical excellence. After a fuel stop just south of Kennewick, WA we detected the 2nd (of 4) trailer tires was about to fail. We replaced it, as we in fact procured a new trailer tire during our time at the chumpcar event, but we were destined to continue home with half the tires on the trailer good, and the other half not so good, without a spare. A quick bladder-relief break where the van was shut down, shut it down rather permanently it appeared. After much futzing and starter-beating, we discovered that not only did the battery overheat and boil all over, but the starter was a giant piece of ... well, it's probably original.

Luckily the other vehicle was able to run back to Kennewick, find an open auto parts store on a Sunday evening, procure new battery cables, a starter, and a battery, and return to the scene. Repairs were made and the homeward-bound convoy resumed.

Sheesh. Like I said, we brought replacement parts for the wrong vehicle.

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Guest posnova

Here's noon to midnight. I'm long winded. I'll finish midnight to noon in another post.

So, our original strategy was based purely on minimizing pit stops that were not mandatory. Sounds pretty simple really, but would we have the fuel to do it?

First in the car was Jeff for the race start at noon, which after transponder pacing laps, got started at 12:21:39 (according to timing). For the day, the strategy would be to split the mandatory pits every 3 hours, with a "pit that counts" on the 1.5 hour marks that had to be completed with the new driver returned to pit-out, time-ticket in hand, in 5 minutes or less.

That strategy paid off for us all day long. Every non-mandatory pit was performed safely, with driver change, refuel, tire temps and pressures, engine bay quick-visual-inspection and oil check, then return to pit-in, almost dead on at 5 minutes. The mandatory pits at 3pm, 6pm, 9pm, midnight, and 8am were performed almost as quickly, with only the midnight pit taking longer because we chose to do an oil-change. At 3, 6, 9, midnight, and 8am, we returned to grid waiting to go on-track no worse than 8th out.

Jeff deftly avoided traffic and incident, posting up 34 laps, pitting in at 13:35 averaging a 2:11 lap speed, best of 2:04.1, on the long course with all traffic out and a few turn-station-only yellow flags. Good first stint!

Chris jumped in the car and also avoided all incident, posting 35 laps, pitting in at mandatory pit at 15:01, averaging a 2:15 per lap and best of 2:04.1, with a few more turn-station-only yellow flags. Good job!

The heat of the day was now upon us at 3pm, and I, without cool-suit or hydration system jump in the car as well hydrated as I can imagine I've ever been. I wish I had scaled before I put my gear on, and again at the end after I lost the gear. All I can recall is how bloody hot the car, track, steering wheel, transmission tunnel, door, everything for that matter, was. I sat on grid, in the 2nd position, from 15:07 to 15:15 -- no start. Continuing to broil, I radioed my pit crew for some water because there was some incident that delayed us returning to the track until 15:27. Thanks for the water Keith. 20 minutes baking on grid had got me from rare to medium in a hurry. I finally was out there racing, but past 50 minutes I was intently focusing on my own condition and mental sharpness more than racing itself it seemed to me, at least during the long straight where you have a minute to collect and refocus. Our tires protested the heat intensely with a predictable, but noticeable fade from usefulness. The turn to the front straight let me know I'd found the limit on lap 80 when I spun out trying to match Rogue Squadron's line. We didn't have the traction for it at the speed I requested the car to perform it at. Luckily there was little behind me at the time other than the SHO which safely avoided me, but most certainly cursed me for breaking off their pursuit of the Sentra, at least temporarily. A little more traffic was passed by, some who may have misjudged exactly where I was, but nothing a few wheels off couldn't manage. A little bit later I encountered some yellow flag confusion where a turn station would display a yellow, the next would not, the next would, and the next would not. Everyone I was around obeyed the flagging and held off passing during the yellow, jockeyed around a bit, then locked in position for the next yellow flag duration, then no flag at the straight meant whoever had the motor could escape the traffic clusters. A few words flew around the pits to the officials to the workers and everything was straightened out for the rest of the day it seemed regarding flagging. Good job to ChumpCar for handling the issue. A full course yellow came out about 10 minutes before I was due in to the pits, and I couldn't have been happier to hear over the radio "bring it in" because I was literally toasted. I put up 27 laps averaging 2:13 per lap, best of 2:02.8, with a liberal splattering of random yellow and a spin out of my own fault.

We turned a fast pit and got our next driver, Travis, out there for the rest of the heat. He stayed with our crappier set of tires as we strategized to just dismiss this set entirely and let them die. From then on, we'd run on the better set from the 6pm mandatory pit until race-finish. Travis hit the course at 16:34 and brought us to the 18:00 pit. Poor guy. He had the hottest stint of the race, and when we pulled him out of the car, he was clearly suffering from heat exhaustion. If he would have been out there any longer, or in any worse shape, we might have walked over to medical to have them take a look or hook up an IV for some forced rehydration. Travis put up 38 laps without incident, with 1 full course yellow out that stood for a while, averaging 2:18 a lap and a best of 2:04.2.

Next in the car was Keith. We got over to grid after the 6pm mandatory pit right away and got him out either 3rd or 4th. A slight delay on this 15 minute mandatory and they hit the track at 18:22. The driver brung it in, again without harm or foul, at 19:32 posting up 31 laps, an average of 2:05.6 and a best of 1:59.3. Holy hell those fresh tires made a heck of a difference there.

Next out, James. He ran us to the 9pm mandatory again without any events of notice putting up 40 consistent laps, 1 yellow that I remember, averaging 2:06 lap speeds with a best of 1:59.3.

I got in the car again at 9pm and was excited to try out some better tires on the car and not be in such blazing heat. It was also the stint that would transition what daylight we had left, into the moonlight. Additionally, the track configuration changed to the short course. I rolled onto track at 21:24, possibly 4th on grid if I remember correctly, right behind someone I could learn a line from... now only if I could have stayed with him for more than 3 laps... I was one of many who rather than having a short date with C. Ment Barriere', blasted some cones and took the long course around on 1 lap. Who's fault? Mine of course. A botched heel-toe 5->3 downshift letting out the clutch and lightening the rear far too much when choosing to brake a little deeper meant a turn in would have been complete disaster. Other than that one incident, I brawled with various traffic all night, passing everything I could, posting up another clean stint of 38 short course laps averaging 1:58 with at least 3 yellows and my favorite flag of all -- debris on course which was later determined to be various datsun 510 drivetrain parts and lubricants. Best lap of 1:45 on the short course.

Travis jumps in next and runs us with very minor contact from various drivers who simply couldn't see us or our position well in the dark and throws down 37 short laps and brings us to midnight, the last time we thought we'd really get to check out the car until 8am.

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Guest posnova

We made it to midnight with the car still in 1 piece. 1/2 over. Let’s finish strong!

James takes the wheel yet again after the midnight mandatory break and is on-track at 00:17 when the pit-out was opened. It’s still the short-course, but without any more mandatory pits, we need the fuel to last the maximum stint of 2 hours. We weren’t planning on seeing James again until 02:17. However, that was not what the cards had in store for anyone. After dutifully placing 33 laps on the book averaging 1:51 short-course laps, our driver witnessed a disaster. By his account out his rear-view mirror, a Corvette and different Miata decided to test their braking ability a bit too deep, especially for the inside line. Both ended up in the concrete, with the miata narrowly avoiding making our car a 3rd participant. Video of the event has been captured by team Cone Damage and should be floating around the interwebz at some point. The time of the incident was 01:18 am according to timing. The track went instantly yellow, and within the next 30 seconds, went full red. Cars rested on course until collected up by the safety truck and brought into pit.

Word traveled fast that both drivers, one with a precautionary trip to the hospital, were both going to be fine and medical disaster was averted. Our next driver in was Keith. He suited up and jumped in the car, and resumed place on grid after fuel and visual inspection. The red flag was lifted and track went green at 02:13. Keith was out on track for 24 minutes and the track was red again. Another car, the john deere vw rabbit had left the surface and encountered a massive boulder decimating the front corner of the vehicle. The driver was ok. A mandatory driver’s meeting ensued where all were reminded about what endurance racing is, and what it means, especially at night. With safety directives firmly entrenched in mind, Keith resumed his stint in the car and ran until 04:39. The red flags had thrown our fuel calculations all catawampus, but we were pretty sure the next drivers could pull off their stints by 8 am mandatory, easy.

Next up was Jeff. He wished we’d washed the window a bit more thoroughly than we had, as he had the sunrise glaring him straight in the face without any sunglasses. Even still, he battled through the night and into the day placing up 57 laps averaging 1:50.8 short course.

Chris went in the car to bring us to the 8am break, taking laps #453 to #506, throwing up a short-course best lap of 1:40.7, narrowly missing Jeff’s best of 1:40.3.

Our tires were less than optimal, and we sat in 3rd place by 5 or 6 laps. Team Git Miata Here was in-reach it seemed, but were they really. A fuel miscalculation or over-aggressive driver would only result in a tow off the track when we ran out of fuel. That might be enough to yield 3rd place to the SHO if we weren’t careful. We knew team Git Miata Here, running the 1.8 tuned the way it was couldn’t do 8:15-am to 10:17am or so on 1 tank, and then switch drivers and fuel up for the last 2 hours and 5 minutes. They would have to pit twice in the morning. Us? We could do it only pitting once, but we had to be smart about it.

James went in the car and rolled out after the mandatory pit at 08:27. Gosh darn it, the mandatory pit ran 12 over schedule. Was that enough for Git Miata Here to deviate from 2 pits to 1? We couldn’t risk it. An aggressive driving strategy to attempt to pick up 3 laps, plus 2 in the pit, for a 2nd place finish was just too risky. It’d blow our fuel strategy to fight that hard and might result in 4th. Our driver made a wise judgment call and firmly placed the nose of our shark directly on the donkey of the #33 miata for an hour and forty-five minutes, never wavering. We didn’t gain a second on them on track, but we didn’t lose one either. They had to pit, and we stayed out for another 15 minutes. James brought the shark in at 10:27.

In goes Keith for the final stint. Could he make the fuel last till 12:22? We knew he could, and that’s exactly what he did. That strategy locked in 3rd place, finishing a mere 6 laps behind 2nd place.

We had some of the best times we’ve ever had racing and the 6 of us, and our 1 crew member that made the drive up threw everything we had into it, always keeping safety and the mantra of “don’t break it for the next guy†at the front of our minds. In the end, our budget, lack of competitive tires, 1.6L vs. a 1.8L, and overall driving experience sum total had no choice but to yield to the better teams in 2nd and 1st. From what I understand, the only limiting factor for the SHO to not be right up there in the fight was a brake job. I guess that’s the difference between 3400lbs and 2200lbs. We applaud the awesome competition provided on track and look forward to racing with everyone again. No excuses and we'd all do it again in a heartbeat. Absolutely every team, driver, and person we conversed with at track was courteous and all-around good people to chat it up with. We’ll see you all at a later event. Rumors brewing in the garages around here seem to be leaning to having the wives take the shark out in Portland, while the dudes do the crewing. Sounds alright to me. See you in Portland.

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  • 1 month later...
Guest shodaddy

****The turn to the front straight let me know I'd found the limit on lap 80 when I spun out trying to match Rogue Squadron's line. We didn't have the traction for it at the speed I requested the car to perform it at. Luckily there was little behind me at the time other than the SHO which safely avoided me, but most certainly cursed me for breaking off their pursuit of the Sentra, at least temporarily.

I was driving the GI SHO when this happened. I just about s#*t myself because I missed you by what seemed like a VERY small margin. Glad you made it through without a repeat of PIR last year. We have this on video and will let you know when its edited an posted somewhere.


Team Captain

Team GI SHO 2.0

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