NASA Race – VIR – March 2009

wow, what an amazing weekend of racing at VIR last weekend!  i’ve got stories and vids from both sat and sun, so here goes:
arrived late friday afternoon;  it was raining heavily at VIR friday all day….  unloaded the car, and set up camp (fun fun in the rain!).
sat morning, the rain had stopped, except for occasional light mist.  track was damp everywhere, but it was not raining.  i skipped practice (i wanted to save tires and brakes, and i am mucho familiar with VIR, and had been there twice in the last 4 weeks).  qualifying presented a damp track;  i went out with the ‘dry’ setup on the car (very worn Toyo RA-1s;  this was their 10th race).  it was very slippy and treacherous, but i was in my element!  i qualified very well, up in the front.  got back to the trailer, and proceeded to wait (it was 3 hours til race time).  and wait.  and wait!   zero rain fell, but the clouds were swirling around….  i got the car ready for jacks and waited some more (i had my hoosier radial wets aired up and ready to throw on).  with one hour to go, still the same.  no rain, and the track was drying up very nicely…  with 30 mins to go, still dry, and no rain.  guys that had iPhones or some other wireless communications were saying that it was supposed to rain right in the middle of our race (but then again, what do the weathermen know???).  harper, scott, wade (all guys in my PTE class;  all driving SE-Rs), and i were paddocked close together, and we just couldn’t decide what to do…  harper, scott, and wade had intermediate tires (Toyos with good tread) that they could use, but they didn’t want to run them if it was going to be dry….  i had only very bald Toyos for dry, or Hoosier radial wets for rain…  15 mins til post time, i went up to the false grid and proceeded to belt up;  i had chosen to go with my full dry setup (stiff settings on shocks, big stiff rear bar, disconnected front bar, worn Toyo RA-1s)  see pic below for an idea of how worn the Toyos are (pic of left front tire):
harper, scott, and wade decided to go with drys, too! 
i did a quick ‘prowl around’ on the grid;  most of the other folks had chosen to go with dry setups, but a small percentage had gambled on rain and gone with a wet setup…
the ‘new guy’, dave, in the accord had a fairly fresh set of Hankooks on the car.  Eric Roper had full tread RA-1s bolted up.
they gave the 5 min, the 3 min, and the 1 min.  still no rain!  out went the pacecar with all of us in tow (there were ALOT of cars — 71 started).  and then???? — it began to sprinkle on the pacelap!  !!!!!!!!  and i knew then, that the game was on!  by the time we came around for the green flag, the track was already damp, and my rain-x’d windshield was streaming along nicely…  i dropped the hammer, and did what i think is the best driving i have ever done in a race:
i was driving as hard as i possibly could, without going off the track.  there was little to no grip in parts of the track;  mud was being dragged on by all the cars going off, and was spread like peanut butter across some areas (yum, Skippy!!!).   i like to think of myself as a ‘Rainman’;  i pride myself on my car handling skills and abilities, and i put my head down and went as swiftly as i could….  i searched for grip, i avoided puddling water and ‘peanut butter’ when i could.  i kept my eyes glued to the corner stations (folks were going off EVERYWHERE and getting stuck in the mud/hitting barriers).  most of all, i was letting the car run, and keeping the wheel open as much as possible, and being as gentle on all the controls as i possibly could…  just let it run, and slip, and move where it wanted to, without disturbing the car (and staying on the track, of course!).  well, i was moving along nicely, 1st in class and i think 2nd overall (behind a GTS-2 car on wets), with harper behind me in the beginning, and dave in the accord right on my Six for much of the second half of the race (til he got caught up in traffic near the end).  about 1/2 way thru the race, a small bore honda blew its motor right at the top of rollercoaster, and dropped its entire load of oil there….  i saw the slippery flag, and slowed to what i thought was an appropriate pace (boy was i wrong!).  almost spun, but stayed on track…  many many many cars spun, and continued to spin there!  every time i came around, and was approaching that area, i had to say ‘go SLOW!!!’;  even 15 mph seemed too fast!   anyway, the race was only scheduled for 25 mins, and i knew it was winding down…  all along, though, the rain had been picking up and getting heavier, and my car was definitely aquaplaning in the high speed areas, and skipping over little rivulets, etc.  i just stayed on the power, and let the car slide on through.  with only a couple of laps to go, i came up on a HUGE stream of traffic;  i mean, it looked like rush hour in LA from the bridge up to the top of South Bend (and beyond, as it turned out!).  i don’t think i’ve ever passed that many cars in one lap!!!!   on the last lap, approaching Oak Tree, i saw the lead Spec E30 guys coming up quick;  they were in the middle of an amazing duel (both of them had chosen wets).  they split me in the brakezone above roller coaster, in almost perfect unison!!!!   i continued to take the checker, 1st in class, 4th overall. 
and here is the footage for sun’s race:
it was dry and sunny;  totally the opposite of sat’s race!  i had had a poor qualifying session (got caught up in traffic, and accidents in front of me, and yellows) and as such i had qualified back in the pack.  i knew i had to put my head down and drive 105% the entire time (40 minute sprint race).
i ‘got R done’;  and if you watch the vid, you’ll see it was pretty much all in the brake zones, and in bravery through some of the faster parts…  i was running the same totally burned down Toyo RA1s (they are totally smoked now!!!);  the guys in front were on fresh hoosiers and Z214s;  remember, we are all running the same width tire (225), but those SE-Rs are allowed to be as light as 2410 lbs (i’m running at my min of 2765 lbs).  it kills me to see em walk away from me at the exit of the slow turns (they just plain have a better power to weight) but i was KILLING them in the brake zones, and in the fast sweeper sections!  and the longer the race went, the better i like it (my brakes never change;  ever;  always rock solid and perfect!).   enjoy.
PS  i was driving really aggressively in traffic, due to the fact that we were never separated by more than 5 carlengths!!