Michael Skeen sent us his latest report from the Muscle Milk Trans-Am race in Mosport, Canada. These are are such raw beasts, great to watch!
Racing North of the Border
Round 3 of the 2009 Muscle Milk Trans-Am series was headed north of the border to the infamous Mosport International Raceway and thousands of enthusiastic Canadian race fans. This was the first time any of us at Atlantic Autosport had been to the facility, but we were excited about the opportunity to share a race weekend with the SCCA Pro Racing World Challenge series and some of Canada’s finest touring car drivers.
Arriving at the track midday Thursday, we were able to get the rig parked and set up in the paddock without any major trouble. We made final preparations to the car so that it would be ready for the promoter test day on Friday—my first opportunity to get on the track and forecasted to be the best weather all weekend.
Friday morning’s first session went very well as we got up to speed quickly with a baseline setup from Scott Murphy that was very good. We were already very close to the pace and had a good idea where we could pick up more time. However, the second session changed our weekend outlook.
After just a couple laps, I noticed the car start to sound a bit off-song, so I brought it to pit road where we could hear a significant valve tick. We ended the session early and took the car back to the paddock to find the adjuster bolt on the number four intake rocker arm stripped and loose.
We hunted the paddock for spares with generous help from our competitors, but none were a match for ours. Many locals pointed us to various shops and engine builders, but we still came up empty handed until we found Dan Boudreau, a local GM toolmaker of many years that happened to have a machine shop in his backyard. Within minutes, he had installed a screw thread insert in our rocker arm and we were ready to get the car back on the track. Unfortunately, we had already wasted the afternoon searching for a solution and missed all of the remaining Friday test sessions.
The weather forecast showed sporadic rain all day Saturday, but dry and cool weather all through race day. Rather than put extra time on the car for wet-weather practice, we left the car parked on Saturday and saved as much as we could for qualifying and the race on Sunday.
With very few laps on a new track and a car of unknown reliability, our goal for qualifying was to go out and set some baseline laps that would keep us in the top half of the field for the race start. After a couple laps, I had put in some decent times but I found myself in traffic and decided to pit for a basic check of the car. As soon as I stopped in the pit box we could hear a valve tick starting to develop again, so we parked the car early to avoid any unnecessary damage.
Back in the paddock we found that the push rod under our repaired rocker arm had been fractured on the tip and shortened to the point that the valve was out of adjustment. With a new push rod from our Canadian competitor, Blaise Csida, we were up and running again in time for the race.
We were optimistic with our fourth position on the grid, knowing we had a better pace than we showed in qualifying. With a clean start, I followed Trans-Am veterans Jorge Diaz, Tony Ave, and Tommy Drissi as we straightened out after the first turn. The car was handling quite well and the power felt respectable considering the abuse the engine had taken all weekend, but after a few laps I could feel and hear problems. It was tough to watch the leaders pull away when I pitted on lap four, but it was clear that the car had lost power and we were risking a catastrophic failure that could have oiled the track if I continued circulating. Rather than do that, we took the car back to the paddock and began to load up for the long haul home.
It is certainly frustrating to give up what could have been a great result, but as they say, “that is why we run the races.” To go to a new track with an under-developed GT-1 car and run competitively among an experienced Trans-Am field is quite an accomplishment for the Atlantic Autosport team. I am proud of what we have done with our second place at the series-opener and two strong runs to follow that up, but I am afraid we will not be at Round Four.
We accomplished our goal of getting on the track and acquiring some valuable experience. Now is the time to step back and develop our program to take advantage of the strong potential it has shown. Keep watching for us as we prepare for the future!