October 28, 2014

American Endurance Racing.

Racing at Watkins Glen in late October, the trees blazing with fall colors, is simply glorious.   Axis of Oversteer  was recently invited to drive in twin 7.5 hour races by the new American Endurance Racing series and it was great!

Photos by Bob Magee

At Team Axis we have all been involved in competition of one kind or another, from SCCA Pro Solo autocross to Time Trial to NASA and PCA Club Racing to Carrera Cup and Ferrari Challenge.
Sprint races are great, we love the 11/10th-ness of it but endurance competition is also an integral part of the tin top experience, the pinnacles of racing with fenders being marathons:  Le Mans, The 24 Hours of the Nürburgring, Daytona, Sebring, Bathurst.

At some point, a true tracktard yearns for that sort of punishment.

CG has raced at the top of the pyramid: the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. Bucket list taken care of  but ultimately he found the experience somewhat frustrating, cost/benefit wise.   As you can imagine, calling it expensive would be a wild understatement and the frustration of losing Sebring because of a faulty $10 brake pedal light switch is close to  unbearable.

At the opposite side of the spectrum is what is affectionately know as "crapcan racing" and right here let me get one thing out of the way:  Axis was banned from Lemons.

Apparently they did not appreciate efforts to actually race,  we like to race and, without taking anything away from those who enjoy comedy infused competition, that scene is just not for us.

Here's the rub for the endurance pining tracktards,  there is not much between the lofty heights of Pro/Am racing like Daytona  and the comedy of Lemons.      There are one off races Like 25 hours of Thunderhill and, closer to us, the 12 hour Devil in The Dark and there is Chump Car.

But what if you already take part it, let's say, NASA club racing and you feel the urge to endure? Where could you race your well prepared Honda Challenge or GTS or Spec E30 car for longer than 45 minutes?

This is where American Endurance Racing is hoping to fit in.  

AER was started by group of Chump car refugees who were unsatisfied with the direction of that series.   Their goal is a series with simple rules that can accommodate cars from SCCA, NASA, BMW and Porsche club racing as well as some faster Chump/Lemons cars.

And my goal here is to convince any club racers reading that it's a great idea.

AER invited Axis to race in their "VIP" car at the double 7.5 Hour Enduros at Watkins Glen.  It's the first time anyone has deemed Axis worth inviting to anything,  thank you AER!

So, club racers, what's your most expensive consumable?  I know, the whole car is a consumable but you probably spend enough on tires that the idea of back to back 7 hr races is daunting, right?

AER solves that by mandating 140+ street tires. Most people used Dunlop Direzza or Falken Azenis, I believe most people used the same tire for Friday practice and both of that 7.5 hour races.

But wait, I'm not going to put street tires on my race car, it will not be any fun, you say?

OK, it will be slower of course but not nearly as slow as you think.  If your car stays healthy you will set your fastest times towards the end of the race.   I set what was the fastest lap in one of the two cars I drove,  6 laps from the end of the 7.5 hour race.   Jeff "speedycop" Bloch drove another of the AER "press" SpecE30 to a 2:21.xx lap after pounding a well used set of Direzza for almost 90 minutes.
That's not slow, The lap record for SpecE30 at Watkins Glen, on Toyo RR is a high 2:18!

Street tires will, without a doubt, work your driving chops as will driving 90+ minute stints.  I drove three stints of over 90 minutes over two days and I can tell you I drove almost every one as fast as the car would go, I know I'm a better driver for it.

Josh Hughes busy running strategy 
Another great plus, you don't have to change to rains.  At the Glen where weather changed from freezing rain to bright sunshine a few times during the week end, this was very welcome.

What about pit stops?

The idea is to give those not willing to put a huge fuel cell and expensive filler equipment in their cars a chance so there is a mandated minimum number of stops based on the lengths of the race and each stop/driver change has to take a minimum of 3 minutes, pit in to pit out.

Classing is done based on qualifying times.  Sandbagging will only cause one to be moved up in class.

That's mostly it as far as rules.  At Watkins Glen,  while the field was more Chump car than Club Racers, the classing seems to work quite well with only a couple of adjustments needed.

The AER press cars were mostly BMW SpecE30s.  It would be fair to say that, while perfectly functional,  they were all less than impeccably prepared.  On the second day, Josh Hughes, Travis Okulski, Kyle Aaron and myself finished second in class despite a car that had become so slow, some of the local wildlife could climb the Esses faster.  No matter, we all drove the car as fast as it could possibly go for our full 90 minute plus stints, using practically no brakes around the track and having fun with futile passing attempts like this.

And then there is is that spirit of endurance.  One of the AER cars lost its transmission on the first day of practice, the guys were up until 4 am putting a new one in with the car on jacks.  Heroic and the car went on to a class win thanks in part to one of the top NASA club racers, the very fast Eric Wong.

The race winning car crashed hard on Friday, t-boning the safer barrier at the exit of turn 11 and smashing most of the front end.    I watched as the frame rails were pulled "straight" using a chain and a pick up truck, space for the radiator was made using a large sledge hammer.     The car was somehow buttoned up by Saturday morning and went on to two back to back overall wins thanks in no small part to some truly amazing driving in the rain by Pirelli World Challenge's Mike Skeen.

So, racers, I urge you to take a look,   the event was well run, cost is reasonable,  drivers are good and the atmosphere was super friendly and fun....  I mean, c'mob, someone actually showed up with a whole pig to BBQ!   It was delicious!

The final race of the 2014 season for AER will be at Lime Rock on November 21-22, bring your snow tires.  In 2015 AER will expand with races at Summit Point, New Jersey Motorsport Park, Watkins Glen and more.


  1. Couldn't agree more, almost all racing has become bloated and way too political, where the small guy has almost no chance!!!

  2. Bernie's greed and brilliance is killing the sport. The current revenue distribution system will always produce teams like Marrusia, Caterham, Lotus....etc to fail. These teams do not get much revenue at all compared to the top points scoring teams. This system is a cancer to F1.

  3. Indeed, a pyramid....however, I will illustrate a different variant:

    The three pints of the pyramid are: F1's Investment Owners; too much technology (by half again); and ugly cars. The "owners": what may one expect from a hedge fund? When the original deal(s) were done the "writing was proud on the wall". Sow the seeds, reap the harvest. So much for the "Investment Partners".
    Technology: yes, the auto giants like their boffins to "stretch themselves" to achieve the always elusive ultimate with knowledge of the moment. The steering wheels are my best example. Well over $100K! And full of dials like a missile launcher. For what? Who cares aside the manufacturers. Let the racers race, not set "ideal combinations".
    Ugly: you know it when you see it. As a youth I drew cars on the back of my notebooks. I was above average at this endeavor. Many F1 cars. ALL distinct and diverse! The aero route to performance has a intricate map, but some non-changing principles...thus, everything looks same. Were one to paint all cars white only, only a few could tell one from another. This is like young men looking at muscular women (bodybuilders)...they don't!

    As they say in AA: you have to "hit bottom" before you can arise.

  4. Gravit8ed,
    You HAVE the pulse correct. It has been said racing is exposure oriented. I agree. I am from m/c racing. We need to do nothing except explore the "outer-limits" within our rules structures. People come to see Gladiators on two/four wheels endeavor to control more than anyone can imagine. Have you ever seen a rally in Sweden! We need no batteries, flywheels, electronic-storage,,,we need very powerful cars driven by very brave and capable drivers (w/o any connection to their pits) showing US the paying/interested spectators a SHOW of EXCELLENCE of CONTROL! It is THE recipe for success... an old and tried one. What works is: WHAT WORKS! Ask Hollywood and the film industry. They have the public's pulse, and can find the public's dollars. Guess where all begins and ends.....income. If manufacturers agenda is contravened, the magnificence of the "Show" is not. They do not drive. They ride. Does anyone get the BIG PICTURE! Humans/eyeballs call ALL shots. People watch the Kardashian's because they create interest everyday, and are (gulp!) attractive. I have no "horse in this race" except what Mike Hailwood put as a his sponsor on the side of his IOM TT winning bike in 1961, which was: "For Love of the Sport". Get it. Lose it. I just shot my bolt....the end!

  5. I am in total agreement, there needs to be a revolt against this fuel saving lark. No one gives a crap, diesel is the only way normal cars save money, petrol hybrids are useless, batteries end up destroying the o zone layer as there full of poison lithium. Bring back refueling and proper sprint races, the fans will follow and the car companies can show off what kinda power they can create given any engine they desire, why not?

  6. So your saying over a full race distance, if the new cars had refueling. They would be faster than the v10 2004 car over a full race distance? Btw the new cars have slicks not the stupid dangerous grooved tyres made to make the cars slower?

  7. So you would rather watch the drivers get out of the car bored? Nikki lauda states that Even He Could Drive The Current Car As good as the drivers do now. There that easy to drive. It's insane how you think this is good? Go watch touring cars.. or moto go plenty of over taking, 1999 was the best racing I ever saw in F1, refueling, over taking and lap records being constantly broken. Great stuff. Lap records are never achieved now

  8. You are so the man. I am in the same state of mind. I love the sound of a Ferrari flat 12, it needs to come back. F1 was about going around a circuit as fast as possible, breaking records with proper racing heros ready to put everything on the line to win.


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