Axis of Oversteer, as part of our expanded motorsport coverage this season, will feature first person reports and videos from racers competing in different classes, both amateur and professional. We see this as invaluable to our readers, many of whom are either racers or would like to be more involved in the sport, as a learning tool. We hope to share on-track tips but also equally important experiences in car preparation and gathering of sponsorship.
We are especially pleased that Michael Skeen agreed to share his season with us. Michael was 2008 NASA Spec e30 National Champion dominating with 22 wins and 21 poles over 34 races.
For the 2009 season Skeen is expanding to the newly resurrected TransAm series flogging a nasty sounding Corvette for Atlantic Autosport.
Read Michael's race report and see him slicing through the field during the season opener at Road Atlanta after the jump.
Muscle Milk Trans-Am Series Opener, Road Atlanta March 2009.
Ask anyone in racing, and they will agree that our sport has the highest highs and the lowest lows—perhaps that is what makes it so addicting. For myself and Atlantic Autosport, the season-opener for the 2009 Muscle Milk Trans-Am series was the perfect illustration of this concept. Before getting to the details, I want to back up and give you some of the history behind what brought us to this event at Road Atlanta.
Some of you will remember my participation on Setup, which aired on SPEED about one year ago. During that time, I met Matt Moorefield at a TrackDaze event at VIR and we stayed in contact after that event, doing some SCCA enduros in his ITR BMW. Matt, the owner of Atlantic Retail Construction, was bit hard by the racing bug, and we spoke about how to get involved in some pro racing throughout 2008. When announcements were made about the resurgence of the Trans-Am series with Muscle Milk as the title sponsor, we thought that would be a good fit. Fast cars, action-packed sprint races, and one of the most recognizable series brands in American racing history. What more could you want?
Within the last two months, we formed Atlantic Autosport and found a well-prepared car at Shaver Motorsports. It was a great foundation, but all of our testing was spent fixing small issues that were the result of its dormancy over the last two years. After submitting our entry for Road Atlanta, we still were not sure we would make the event because we were rushing to get the car ready. We made it down for the test day on Friday and the car was running properly for the first time.
Some might say we were in over our heads against the professional teams in the series, but we were quietly optimistic. We stayed on old tires all day Friday and Saturday with the intention of saving our one set of sticker tires for qualifying Sunday morning. With decent times on old tires, we expected to qualify within the Top 5 on the good rubber, maybe better if we were lucky. We were also worried about our fuel mileage because we were running the existing fuel cell, which was designed for shorter races. Our plan before qualifying was to get near the front and just follow the top guys as best we could while saving some fuel for the end.
That all went out the window on lap two of qualifying. When I left the pits during that session, the car never felt quite right and we later learned it was because the center of our 3-piece wheel on the left rear had separated, allowing the tire to slowly deflate. At the beginning of the second lap, it deflated quickly and the tire came apart as I entered the concrete-lined esses. Fortunately, the car stayed off the walls and we just picked up some Georgia clay as I cut through the grass and parked the car at the Turn 6 flag station. Without a hot lap in the books, we were stuck at the back of the pack for the race start.
Our new strategy was to go all out from the start and put on the best show we could. Without any sponsors on board, we had to show we could deliver results, even if that meant driving to the front and running out of fuel. Our stellar crew of volunteers worked hard to get tires under all four corners and check over the whole car to make sure it was ready to go. At the start of the race, I carefully picked off cars as quickly as I reasonably could and I found myself in the Top 5 within a matter of laps. About 15 laps into the race, a fuel cut issue we had in testing began to resurface. It was subtle, but by the time I had caught Pickett and Drissi in the Jaguars, I could not accelerate fast enough to stay close at the end of the straights. At this point, I decided I would follow them, save fuel where possible, and wait to see how the cards would play out.
After a few laps of this, we got the blessing we needed in the form of a full course caution for several cars that had wrecked or dropped oil around the track. With numerous areas to be cleaned up, the race could not be restarted in time and we finished under yellow. Securing fastest lap, a lap record, receiving the Flowmaster Star of the Race Award and Sunoco Hard Charger on the podium in our first race was a great moment, and certainly the most exciting of my career. Second place never felt so good.
Round 2 of the 2009 Muscle Milk Trans-Am Series will be held April 17-19 at Virginia International Raceway in conjunction with the SCCA Oak Tree Nationals. Check out MikeSkeen.com for more information and come see us at the track!
(all photos:Don Yaun, SilverEIGHTStudio.com)