September 14, 2011

Two day Summit: NASA Spec E30 report

Pete and the Freep raced their Spec e-30 at Summit Point in August. Here is a chronicle of their week end as told by Pete.

"Last minute" would be the operative word for the Spec E30 race at Summit Point in August.

Freep and I planned on leaving New Jersey early for West Virginia but, of course, it was not to be. Freep had trouble getting down to the Axis secret warehouse due to some very bad thunderstorms. In reality his being late was not the end of the world as Justin and I were still in the process of replacing the transmission in the Axis #343, cracked housing mount. After a very quick gearbox swap, 66 minutes to be exact, we loaded up the cars and headed down into the night and never ending rain.

Morning brought us lots of sunshine and dry track conditions. Some triple checks on the cars and it was off to practice. Freep in # 232, ran only a few laps to shake down the car, I on the other hand used every second of available track time. In the middle of the previous race at Pocono, #343 had ABS issues and during practice at Summit it became clear the fix had not worked.

Qualifying was uneventful in a good way, I was only a few tents off the leader. i would start the race in P4 with the Freep in P5.

Rather than the usual roll and go, NASA decided on a traditional standing start, WOW we were excited: Australian V8 super car style with 500 less HP! Continues, with videos, after the jump

The green flag dropped and the action was on. Freep and I got off to a great start, the first few laps were exciting.
The lack of ABS was hurting me, I could not slow down as well as other Spec E-30s and in Turn 5, Robert Grace in the orange car, hip checked me pretty hard. The incident left Grace's car blowing smoke all around the track. At first though was tire rub due to contact, but soon after my windshield was filled up with oil. My car was feeling very different than in qualifying and for the rest of the race I battled with the Freep. After Grace had thoroughly filled the track with oil and smoke he finally pulled off about halfway through the race, handing me the last podium step and P4 to the Freep.

On Sunday I had to figure out what changed with the car. A quick check on the alignment jig and found both left side wheels not pointing in the proper direction. Damaged alignment corrected, it was time to qualify.

Sundays times were almost a second quicker for everyone, the track was in great shape. I would start the race in P4 again, with the Freep in P6. We all set up and ready to go.

But then, a rain shower came about 45 minutes before the race. Minutes before the race and conditions changing by the second. After extensive conversation, Freep and i decided full wets were the way to go. Rolling to the grid it wasn't clear we made the right decision but everyone else was on the same tire. A rolling start for Sunday was called because of conditions.

After a very limited visibility run down to turn 1, it was time to test braking without abs for the first time. I guess i was so excited about actually having made it into turn 1 that I quickly ran out of talent on the exit. Too much gas for too little grip and I lost three spots in three turns.
I gave an encore exiting turn 9 and ended up in the middle of the track yet somehow, didn't get hit.
(on board with the Freep)

Next lap a full course caution came out and we ran around with the pace car for a long time. by then, I could hardly see Freep, i think he was in P3 and i was P13. During the yellow flag the rain stopped but the track was still very wet.
After the caution it was looking like a 2 lap shootout. Freep lost a position then got it back before the end of the race to finish P3. I guess the long caution period helped me remember how to race in the rain again. I managed to pick up 7 spots in 2 laps to finish P6. At the finish line i had P5 to my right and P4 about 3 inches ahead.

Overall i think the Freep and I were happy with our week end results. Without mistakes and mechanical problems, i think we would have been fighting for the top spot each day. Competition is so tough in this series and i think the equipment has gotten better year by the year. Winter will definitely be the time to build some motors that can compete with the Mid Atlantic motor supplier. This years focus has been on setup, which has kept us up in the top of the pack.

(photos by Aldo Pinotti)

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