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VIR 24 – Another New Team – also the best weekend ever


Trukk
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So the John Allen Special team made a nice post (http://forum.chumpcar.com/index.php?/topic/5394-vir-24-new-team-terrible-results-lead-to-the-best-weekend-ever/) about what a great weekend they had at VIR even though their track time was cut short by engine that didn’t want to play. I read their post, and after reading some of the venting going on in the other VIR threads, I thought I would post our experiences as a new team as well. This post is a quick recap of putting the team constitutionalist (White e30 #77) together, and then our experiences in the actual race.

This was our team’s first race together in any series. We are 4 guys that DE together at VIR to different extents; with one guy who has run 1.5 NASA races (aside from that none of us had wheel to wheel experience.) In April we decided that Chump was pretty intriguing to us: inexpensive racing, tons of track time, less intense (in some regards) to the sprint style races, and overall it just looked like a lot of fun. We decided then to go for it and put a team together and shoot for the Aug VIR race. No experience, short turn around, 24 hour race: What could go wrong?

Our team did establish early, that we had no idea what we were doing, and that if we did want to do this, we really needed to start from the beginning and do the following:

  1. Read the BCR and VIR supplemental rules *many* times through
  2. Set team goals [safety First, then have fun, finish the race], then organize the team around that (LLC, Money, Expectations, Task Lists, Concentration areas for each team member)
  3. Try our best to identify everything we needed to do (through the BCR, Car Prep, Team Prep, and reading the forums for lessons learned from other teams.), and do what we could to uncover as much of “what we don’t knowâ€
  4. Get the car done as early as possible, and test it prior to the race

We had a nice team chemistry from the get go. Ron and I are business partners, and are both attention to detail guys (read: anal retentive). Will is our car guy, and main wrench. Robert is also a business owner, thus has attention to detail as well, and lives near Will to help on the car. Will had a car: his son’s old e30, that ended up having a motor fire while he was away at school, so it was a great candidate for our chumpcar (available, fits the criteria, a car we know, and uber reliable and a competitive chasis). We formed an LLC (this fits into our safety first goal: none of us wanted to get sued over this thing), and created the mother of all spreadsheets, that listed everything we needed to do to get the team and car ready. I can’t stress this enough: You have to have a good wrench on your team obviously, but you also have to have a good logistics person (captain spreadsheet), and a strong leader to keep all the feathers from ruffling.

We had weekly phone conferences to go over the ‘to-do’ list, and make sure we were on track, and everyone was executing their action items. With our safety first mantra, we splurged and got a really nice NASCAR style cage from Piper, got a fire suppression system, went lexan on the back and rear windows (I watched those car fire videos and insisted that we keep the car closed due to that) and mandated that all driver wear a HANS and use triple layer suits. We also did a cool suit setup (to me this is a safety item: with possible 105 degree temps, no idea how anyone can function long in a triple layer suit in those conditions).

We made it out to VIR to test with Chin just before the 4th of July, and really beat on the car in the long end of the day sessions. Only very minor issues (had an ABS problem, and on the last session noted that the cooling fan was rubbing against a water hose.) Car was rock solid at max 225 degree oil and 200 water temps. That was my first time ever in a momentum car (I track a caddy), and my first time on track since 2007 (amazing how quickly it comes back). We practiced pit stops, and generally got comfortable with car (as best we could).

While we were there we ran through the tech sheet and ‘teched’ the car. We found some issues, and added them to the master ‘to-do’ list. At that time, since we were about 6 weeks out from the race, we prioritized the list into ‘things to be done to get car to pass tech’, and everything else. There were action items that we didn’t get to because they were “nice to have’sâ€.

While Will and Robert continued to work on the car, Ron and I worked on all the logistics. We may have gone overboard here, but we created a schedule that indicated who would be doing what for the entire 24 hour race, in 5 minute increments. We finalized it a few days before the race, when we had a final head count of crew, and then we stuck to the schedule. This really helped for the middle of the night, when we were all pretty cooked. We made lists of all the stuff we would need in the hot pits, cold pits, paddock/garage. We planned out the food, and tried our best to think of all the misc crap that are minor details, but could end up as gotchas. We managed to do one more 1 day test at a corvette event (at CMP I think, I didn’t go) the weekend before the race (this gave Robert a chance to drive the car in its race trim prior to the race.)

We had almost everything done before arriving at the track on Friday. We had to mount the transponder, and tape the lights, and add our stickers/numbers. Our team name is Team Constitutionalists Racing. In an interesting (Freudian?) spelling error on our team graphics, the main logo says ‘Team Constitutionalist Racing’, however our side graphics said ‘Team Constitutional Racing.’ FACE PALM. We pitted next to the Hong North guys, and the let us know, how great it was that we were a Crap Can team that like to sh!t together. Anyway, we got done with the car at about 4:30 and went over to the tech line. A lot of people were giving us crap because our car looked so nice. It was pristine white (Car #77), with not a dent in sight. With 3 ‘rookies’ on the team, we left Ron (the only guys with a NASA licence) to tech the car. We had to go with the ‘$500’ stock AIV rating on the car to start, since I haven’t had enough time to get our AIV down. In our rush to finish the car, we did not have time to return it to full stock from some of the mods Will’s son had done to the car (bilstein sports, poly bushings, camber plates). We pre-cleared what we had ‘extra’ on the car with Mike C, and the BMW tech Guys (Don W), so we ended up with 15 laps. Quite frankly we didn’t care, as our goal was to try and finish, place be damned.

We went to the rookie class. It was about what I expected, with the exception of the talk on “Rubbing is Racingâ€. I was really expecting “There is no tolerance for that hereâ€, but instead got “It’s going to happen, be prepared for it.†I’m not sure if this message led to some of the bumper cars out there or not, but it certainly raised my eye-brows. In that end we stuck a black X on the back of our car in the license plate area to let everyone know we were rookies, so they would hopefully use a bit more caution around us.

For the initial stints of the race, we decided to go 70 minutes each, so we would all (hopefully) get a turn behind the wheel. We also mandated short shifting, and being smart on managing traffic (i.e. remember it’s a 24 hour race. Let the bozos by if they seem erratic, and wait for a pass if needed.) We put Ron in the car first, since he was the only one with Wheel to Wheel experience, and thought it best for him to try and deal with the expected first stint shake outs that we expected (he reported no issues while on track). We made it with no issues and no contact the first 4 stints. I think our first pit stop took about 8 minutes; we got the next one down to just over 5. Over the race we probably averaged about 6-7 minutes per stop.

I had the 3rd stint. WOW what an experience. Going out onto a hot track never before having raced wheel to wheel was one hell of an experience. I am *VERY* glad that I was very familiar with the track. I’m not sure how the rookies cope with doing a new track and new to racing at the same time. I had been on grand one time in 2006, and done the course some on iRacing, but let me tell you that first time through the small essess on patriot, and seeing that last tire wall was *DEFINITELY* pucker inducing. I saw a lot of folks working to pass just prior to going through that section. I definitely took it easy through there.

Near the end of the 5th stint, Ron noted a wobble in the first end. We pulled the car in, and took a look. The left front rotor looked like it had worn significantly more than the right front, so we took the car to the cold pit to do a rotor swap. We swapped the rotor in about 25 minutes, and swapped drivers. Just before going out, we went to torque all the lugs, and noted that the right front tire was *really* loose. ROOKIE MISTAKE: check the dammed lug nuts every pit stop. We figure that due to the rain in Ron’s stint (when it rained the hardest), it must have been enough to cool down the aluminum rim, and really loosen the lugs. Not sure if the rotor would have lasted until the 10PM safety break or not, so we may have squandered that 25 minutes, or it may have been good luck that we caught it before it became a problem.

In my second stint (just before dark), I ran out of driver skill while dicing with a red e30 (perhaps the #999?) I followed him for a few laps, and then tried to out break him/her into 1, and ended up doing a 180 half way through the turn. Luckily no contact ensued. Got back on track thanks to the corner worker, and then went around. I was beating myself up for that bone-head move, and came through the mini-esses on patriot on someone’s butt just at the flag station after the tire wall, that car made a quick move inside, and I immediately saw why: The little Angry Alfa was smack in front of me. I had to go 4 off on the right to avoid. After two incidents in one lap, I backed off to get my sh!t together. The rest of that stint was uneventful (thankfully).

After that stint I went over to the lodge for a shower and a 90 minute rest. Wow did that help. I really felt great after that (albeit a bit stiff and sore.) I ended up missing the safety break, so I’m not sure how that went. I know we barely were able to complete a pad swap though.

We continued to crank out laps, with no contact, and only minor issues (having to go 2 off to avoid some folks). My next stint was a 0230. I was very happy to be out on Full, as I was much more comfortable with that configuration. The lap on VIR at night was just nuts. I was going fairly slow getting used to driving in the dark. I got passed by 2 cars between turn 5-6, and then got passed un the uphill esses. I’m going on record now: passing in the uphill esses just seems like a recipe for disaster in a 24 hour race – why do that? Just wait for 10. Anyway, after that first lap I got up to speed. It *really* helped knowing the course so well at night. Initially I was concerned that our lights wouldn’t be bright enough (they were: we used 4 hids in the stock housings), or that I would get blinded by the cars behind (I didn’t: I just turned my mirrors down). Soon I was doing a lot of passing. I did note that things were certainly more loose around this time: going 3 wide through hog pen at 0330 was certainly and experience. I tried to make my passes on what I thought were smart places (turn 10, oak tree hugging the inside giving plenty of room on the outside for cars to track out, roller coaster, sometimes T1 or T4) and not the dumb (uphill essess, t 5-6, Hogpen). Hopefully I didn’t piss anyone off. I didn’t go 2 off, and again no contact.

We ended up with a fast lap of 3:40 on Grand and 2:34 on Full. I’d say we were a bit over middle of the pack. There were some fast cars out there. My jaw dropped when I saw that 2:17. Impressive that a $500 car can put that down (was Mike Skeen driving?) I certainly don’t have the talent (or nuts) to do that.

We finished up our stints, again uneventfully. On the last stint, our final driver Will did get a bit chippy and went 4 off at oak-tree, and we got a 15 minute “let’s think about it†session at pit in. I was not too happy about that, as up to that point, we had no black flags against us. We still did manage to finish with zero contact. It is nice that all we really have to do to the car after the race is wash it.

Overall this was an absolutely amazing experience. Driving VIR at night wheel to wheel was definitely my most exhilarating driving experience ever. I think we had a boat load of luck (some real, some helped by good preparation) for our first race. We were thrilled to go the 24, and ecstatic to end up 34th in such a strong field.

I guess our next step is to figure out where to go from here. I’m not sure we want to go the hard-core route that it takes to vie for a podium (or top 10/20 at VIR sized event). Safety was #1, but fun was #2 and I’m not sure if competing super hard at the top level is mutually exclusive with fun. Either-way we still have a lot of events needed to get the experience level to a point where we could even consider that.

Thanks for the long read, and welcoming us into the fold.

-Chris

TLDR: First timers make is a full 24 hours with zero contact, had a blast, end up 34th.

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That is a very comprehensive write up.

On our first car we also forgot to check the lugs at every pit stop. we ended up losing a wheel at nelson ledges just at the end of the main straight. Not a fun experience for the guy in the car. Since then, it's the first thing we do every pit stop.

Good luck in the future!

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While you didn't have blistering lap times, your times were very respectable.

Your times were very close to ours, it appears, and aside from a water pump swap (90 minutes) and big 4 off that cost us 30 minutes, if you do the "what if" math, we could have had a top 10 finish, the same as about 1/2 the field (using the same math).

What I'm saying is that it takes a little luck to be a mid pack car that can still get a great finish. Last year our car was 6 seconds slower per full course lap, but finished 18th. It didn't break. Just keep turning laps, no matter how slow.

Congrats and we'll see you at another race.

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Awesome! Your end result was what we were gunning for! Great write-up! We will be back!

Look forward to meeting you guys. I think there was some luck in play between our performance and yours. What made your engine let go at lap 18, and ours make it 377? We didn't crack our engine at all, and it has 217k miles on the clock. Perhaps next race you get the golden horseshoe, and we get the coal (hopefully we both get the former).

-Chris

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Look forward to meeting you guys. I think there was some luck in play between our performance and yours. What made your engine let go at lap 18, and ours make it 377? We didn't crack our engine at all, and it has 217k miles on the clock. Perhaps next race you get the golden horseshoe, and we get the coal (hopefully we both get the former).

-Chris

Honestly freak accident it seems. We were running the ETA motor and it was not opened up. Had to have north of 200K but tihnking closer to 300K. We slung a main accessory belt that was brand new. The previous belt was cracking from age... and it never slung off. Our driver just did not notice :(

Awesome you finished! Sure it was an awesome feeling!

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Great write-up! Where will we see you next?

Well....For sure next March at VIR. Not sure if we'll do anything before that or not (road atlanta?). We need some down time...this was a pretty big effort for the last 3.5 months.

-Chris

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Well....For sure next March at VIR. Not sure if we'll do anything before that or not (road atlanta?). We need some down time...this was a pretty big effort for the last 3.5 months.

-Chris

Ya, but the car's done now. Time to jump in with both feet. Come on down to RA, let the John Allen Special boys show you how to get around the joint ;)

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Well....For sure next March at VIR. Not sure if we'll do anything before that or not (road atlanta?). We need some down time...this was a pretty big effort for the last 3.5 months.

-Chris

I have to agree with riche30 and you need to do Road Atlanta. Trust me in about a month you will all be wanting more of this and won't be able to wait till next year.

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