Monday, July 4, 2011

Catching up on the 2 Laguna Seca races - June 16-19 - Carnage

Laguna Seca race #2 - June 16-19 - Spec Miata Festival
I came into this race feeling so confident.  I knew the track better now.  I could trust the car.  And I had added the Grassroots Motorsports stickers. ;-)

The June event was a 4 day Double Regional event - which means 2 races instead of one.  Testing was on Thursday.  Practice and Qualifying was on Friday.  Saturday included one race and another qualifying event for Sunday's race.  In addition to all this, it was a Spec Miata Festival so we had an extra race on Sunday at the end of the day!  Very cool.

As part of the Spec Miata Festival, there were some extra special activities.  Friday night was a Spec Miata BBQ and raffle and we took a group picture at the corkscrew.  Its amazing how many Miatas you can fit on track 4 wide for a picture!  I gotta find that pic somewhere.  It was pretty cool.

Anyway, the BBQ and raffle was awesome.  Everybody brought something or multiple somethings and Mazda was giving away $2,000 worth of credit for parts at Mazda Motorsports.  I brought some stuff to give away and won 2 cool things.  I won an ART tuned air flow meter offered up by a fellow SM racer that switched to Sealed Spec Miata, which was awesome, and a set of front brake pads from M&L Racing, doubly awesome!  There were a lot of cool stuff being offered up.  Lots of generosity from a lot of the local shops and fellow racers.  

'Nuff of that.  Lets talk racing. :)

I did not attend the Test day on Thursday but it was eventful.  Apparently every test session ended with a black flag.  Lots of carnage and wrecked cars.  Fellow rookie Terrie G rolled his recently purchased flat black Spec Miata.  It did 2 barrel roles at the exit of turn 4 and came to a rest on its roof.  Terry did not enjoy retelling the story to us but he did.  The roll cage and safety equipment did their job.  Larry Oka and his crew came through and made the car driveable and a windshield installer came to the track to replace the windshield.  Amazingly enough, he drove and raced the car all weekend!  The workers gave him the "Hard Charger of the weekend" award for his efforts!

Friday went normally.  I was pitted with my friend John D who has been racing SM for a few years and has been a great help to me.  Gary P was also pitted with us.  I asked John for info on tire temps before going out so the car felt grippy.  It was pushing a bit at turn 2 and 11 still but I did what I could to get around it.  

Saturday and Sunday went normally too.  My times overall were faster by 3-5 seconds or so compared to the prior race. Although the video shows me getting passed more part of that was from front runners who had gone off and were making their way through the pack again.  There were about 70 Miatas entered for the race.  It was a big field!  I drove cleanly.  Others did not and you could see the body damage during the race.

The big exciting parts of Saturday and Sunday include 3 particular events:

1. Double Stinting
First, my friend and fellow RX7 nut, Guy, broke his car.  He is racing a yellow 93 RX7 in ITE.  His oil cooler exploded.  He asked to borrow my car for Sunday's qualifying and race so he could earn points and retain his lead in the championship.  I agreed.

It was weird having someone else drive my car but interesting to watch.  He kept it clean and I could tell he wasn't pushing too hard.  Just driving fast enough to earn points.  The odd part of the whole thing was that the car was now being used in 2 classes with little down time in between.  I wasn't sure what to do about tire pressures as a result.  I went out w/o changing pressures and the tires got too hot and lost grip as a result.  The second time around, he set the pressures for me while I suited up.

Lesson Learned: Tire Pressures when hot
I had no idea what to do about tire pressures when the the car was still hot and fresh off the track.  Apparently what you should do is set them to what you would have set them if the tires were cooler since they will increase by about the same amount the next time out.  Makes sense in retrospect.

2. Crashing and body damage repair
My fellow rookie racer Cliff and Gary P got into each other about 100 feet before the checked flag on Saturday.  Apparently Gary got loose and potentially lost control at the exit of turn 11.  Cliff was trying to get around him and their cars collided.  Cliff was sent into the inside wall damaging the driver side fender and scuffing up the front bumper.  His passenger side door and fender were also damaged from the collision with Gary.  Gary's car was also damaged in the driver side rear corner.  I broke out my BFH and crow bar and Cliff and Austin got it driveable again.  Thankfully it was just body damage and the car was ready to race.  Neither driver was injured.

3. Crashing and suspension damage
My fellow rookie racer Brandon driving the Sharpie car took a light hit in the passenger side rear wheel by another rookie competitor who spun and hit him.  I didn't know about it until we were starting to get ready to go to dinner.  His car was jacked up and he was changing to his street tires since he doesn't trailer his car.  He told me what happened and I popped my head under the fender to take a look.  

I had read that when a Miata gets hit in the wheel, the long rear bolt that attaches the spindle to the rear lower control arm bends.  So I quickly looked at the bolt and saw it was bent.  Oh boy....

So I got my BFH and the crow bar from Cliff and we set to work.  A fellow racer had a "Drift Pin" which we used to bang the bolt out and had a spare bolt that he sold him.  We spent an hour pounding that bolt out.  Everybody took a turn hammering.  It was kinda tiring.  I need to get one of those tools and add it to my collection of things to bring to the track.

Anyway, we got the bolt out and Brandon drove the Sharpie car to dinner.  Alignment didn't feel great.  He got it aligned the next morning and discovered that he had bent the subframe as well.  Looks like we'll need to fix that too.  He is mildly annoyed at the situation but...

Lesson Learned: Consider changing your setup instead of driving around issues
Now, remember the "pushing"  or understeer I mentioned in turn 2 and turn 11?  If I had given it some more thought, I could have raised the front or rear of the car 1/2 a turn on the coilovers to try and dial that out.  I lost a lot of speed on both of those turns, partially b/c of this handling issue that I was driving around instead of adjusting my setup to address it.  I'll remember that next time.  My car has been corner balanced and aligned by a TFB - a top level race setup shop based out of Infineon Raceway.

So that is the scoop.  Lots of lessons learned that should help me for the next race at Thunderhill.  As a rookie you learn a lot and the key to getting faster is seat time and understanding the mistakes you are making so you can try not to repeat them.

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