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Racing again.. and #61 almost catches fire!


Last year, I joined the ranks of amateur wheel-to-wheel racers and went to race with the fantastic Vantage Motorsports racing team (to read more, go to The Ram's Eye Goes Racing). It was just as much fun and rewarding as I imagined it would be so I was really looking forward to this (2017) season. Unfortunately, life has a habit of getting in the way of things you want to do so that's exactly what happened this year. I missed all but the last round of the race season, which was on Sunday September 17. It seems, though, that I had a full season's worth of racing experience in one day..

For starters, I missed the early morning call, which meant I had to start from the back of the pack in every race. No problem, I liked that I'd have more racing to do. I went out in the practice session and I found out I was very rusty.. My first hot lap was a 1:27.x, about 5 seconds off the pace of the car on the Toyo R888's that were on it. Second dropped to 1:26.x, then I settled into a rut of high 1:25's. By the end of the session, I got low 1:25's with a best of 1:25.2. Much better, but still a good 3 seconds off the pace of the car and 2.4 off my personal best - a 1:22.8. Disappointed, I found myself a good race car driver excuse: I haven't raced or driven the car for darn near one full year since last fall. Good enough! It'll come down with more time in the car as the day progresses, right?


Yes, trouble is, "more time in the car" turned out to be far too optimistic. Jay - my team mate for the #61 car that I race - went out for the first qualifying session. The session got red flagged due to an incident and ended prematurely.. which turned out to set the tone for the rest of the day. I didn't go out in the second qualifying session to save gas and tires, since I was starting from the back anyway. Fast forward a couple of hours to when we were being gridded for my first race of the day, adrenaline is high, excitement level even higher, and all you can think about is the race. Starting from the back, I was excited to try and make my way through traffic. I'm in the slowest class - GT6 - and my class is only 4 cars so there wasn't much traffic, but it was still fun. I made my way to 2nd place, but by that time, 1st was a good ways ahead. It seemed hopeless.. until yellow flag dropped due to an incident and safety car came out.. just the opportunity I needed!

I caught up to the rest of the pack and pushed hard to try and pass a Spec Miata that was between me and 1st place in GT6 (for the record, Spec Miatas are actually faster than GT6 on our track). I had no chance in the straights, but I actually seemed a little quicker in the corners. Unfortunately, one lap is all I got, before yellow flag came out again and safety car came back out.. Due to my experience level (or lack thereof), a couple of passing attempts were misplaced and resulted in me actually losing some time so I didn't even get a full lap's worth of corners to make a pass. It was disappointing - having lost half the race - but on the bright side, I got 2nd place and dropped to a best of 1:24.9. And I still had the 1 hour Atlantic Challenge to look forward to, where I would drive the car for around 40 minutes and then Jay would switch with me during a mandatory 5 minute pit stop. 40 minutes of racing! Or not..


Another early ending, although this time, our car was the incident. I was coming out of turn 2 when  the car just fell on its face. I downshifted to 1st and tried to go but the car just kept sputtering while barely moving. I tried to limp it back to avoid another caution with safety car and tow truck.. but it was not happening. Then, I started smelling gas.. I pulled to the side on the grass and waited for a tow. Fast forward a few minutes to getting towed to the paddock, we pop the hood, and the damage is clear. The car is done for the day. The front cross member had snapped, moving the engine out of place far enough to pull the fuel lines. The engine and transmission were hanging lower in the car, the car was running on fumes in the fuel line and rail, and the pump was pumping gas in the engine bay.. It's a miracle the car didn't catch on fire, or it'd have been done for probably and I would have found out how quick I can unbuckle, release the window net, and jump out of the car under pressure, or perhaps on fire.

At the end of the day, I was still glad I came out. Sure, it was a disappointing day and no one wants to be part of breaking Old Faithful (the #61 car) or almost set the car on fire. But with the season being over, it was nice to get at least one race day in this season and the little that I raced was a lot of fun, as usual. The experience is just part of the racing. Plus, 2nd place (albeit in a class of 4) is not bad, and I was able to drop my best lap to 1:23.9. I know I'll have a lot of work to do next season to shake off even more rust but that's part of the fun! There's also the no-points, Jack Canfield Memorial (JCM) 3 hour race coming up in a week, which I hope I can make it to.

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