Session 4, Qualifying Race – qualifying lap times don’t count toward lap records.
Since that’s the case there’s no reason to burn up the better set of tires. Swap back to the older rubber and hang on. There’s 10 heat cycles on them now and the tread life is getting pretty thin. They’ll be slow, but how slow? I need just enough to start at the front of the FC grid for the afternoon. The other problem with this is that I made a change to try and add some rotation to the car. I won’t get an accurate read on it with these older tires.
I’m lined up on 1st row of the grid with my closest competition right behind. My quick time yesterday afternoon put me between the F1000 and Atlantic. Great! That’s a sarcastic great, after yesterday’s holdup with these two I’m not excited about this. That Atlantic will motor by me. At least he’ll be on my right and not right behind me.
Green, green, green. I managed a good jump and my competition is behind up thru 3rd gear, but he’s using my draft and once I grab 4th he pulls alongside. He has the inside for Turn 1. Damn, I’m P2. The car is crazy loose on cold tires.
“Or is it the bar change?” I think to myself.
Either way, I am managing to absolutely harass P1 all the way thru the first lap. As we head around the back toward turn 11 I’m right on his gearbox, let’s take him in the braking zone, then try and get away. To the inside I go, going really deep at first then backing off so that I can keep him to the outside at turn in. Done.
Now a good run up over the hill and maybe I can survive the draft heading down to Turn 1. He’s got nothing for me at the end of the straight and I’ve got smooth track ahead of me. P1 secured, 1:18.91 was the best lap I could manage, and at the end of the session a quick look at the left rear tire shows why. They’re done, cords.
Fortunately, as the tires came up to temp the chassis balance settled down. On old tires the front bar change was alright and the car wasn’t as crazy loose as it had been on Lap 1 and 2.
The session ended up being useful in other ways too. The biggest take away is that I figured out I can take the right hander leading onto the front straight, the one up the hill, with the big drop on the backside, flat on the throttle. There’s no marker so you turn in blind. It’s a big commitment to keep the throttle pinned, but there’ll be a big payoff down the ¼ mile front straight.
Session 5, Race 2 – time to nut up. I am incredibly nervous going into this one.
The data says I can do it, the car has been solid all weekend, but deep down I’m not sure I’ve really got it in the tank. And it is a long wait until we race. We’re the last group of the weekend and all I can do is sit around and think about it. I’m good at putting too much pressure on myself apparently. Once the call to grid comes I am almost relieved. Let’s get on with this.
I’ll be starting on the second row again right behind the quicker Atlantic and F1000 again. They battled it out pretty hard on Saturday and were holding me up on occasion. What I need is for them to get away clean and let me do my thing. They don’t, instead they are neck and neck and side by side for three laps, and are holding me up between the Jump and the Bowl. I throw down a couple mid 1 minute 16s with the one being a 1:16.49.
“These ass holes are costing me time!”
I only need a couple more tenths and they’re holding me up across the middle of the lap. The next lap I get a bit of a break, the Atlantic goes wide into Turn 1 and by the time we all reach Turn 4 the F1000 is away cleanly. With the FA alone he should be able to get away from me purely with the additional power he’s got. Wrong! He’s still holding me up! After two laps of this I take a moment to status my lead.
“I’ve got 10+ seconds in hand, so let’s back off a bit and make some space.”
Over the next two laps I make a 6 second gap for myself to the Atlantic. But during this time period my brakes decide they’ve really had enough of this. Something is giving me a really long, spongy brake pedal and my confidence in the car is getting thin. At the time I figure the pads have just gotten too thin and are starting to fade badly.
I didn’t hit anything so why is the right front corner belching smoke!? I didn’t see this happen in the car, just felt the result in the brakes. After watching the video it looks to be that the front right caliper decided to spit out a big gulp of brake fluid.
So, we come to Lap 10, I’ve still not had a clean lap to try and put down a flyer, there’s only 5 left, and I have a serious lack of confidence in my braking capability. There are no more club races at Grattan this summer and I’m not going home to have to wait another year to try for the lap record. I will be kicking myself if I don’t give it a try. So I made a deal with myself…….one lap……wind it up for one lap and get it, then coast it home. So as I came up the hill to start Lap 10 I kept the throttle flat to the floor over the blind right leading on to the straight. I’m going to need every mph down the front straight. Shit, big mistake! I struggle and pull a really slow shift into 4th gear. Just threw away a few easy tenths I’ll never get back. As I come into the braking zone for Turn 1 I quick pump up the brake pedal. It’s long but comes up. I hope it’s still there when I hit it for real. My normal brake marker comes up, I wait, give it a 1-Mississippi, and then pound the brake pedal. I’m super deep this lap but the brakes are there and I’m carrying huge speed as I start to turn in. Bend it down to the apex and missed it by two feet, but I’m super early back on the power, using the compression on exit to catch the car. I use up all the asphalt on the exit and have to pinch it back right to not run off into the grass. Turn 2 comes up, lightly on the brakes, turn in early, waiting for the off camber downhill apex to end, wait, wait, hit the compression and hard on the power and again using all the asphalt on track out. Into 3, down the hill and to the left, again using the compression once I can, staying left all the way thru to open up the run into the fast right hander at 4, just brushing the apex curb and super early on the power, pinching back to the right on the exit as I run out of track. It’s right here that I have to make my 2->3 shift.
I’ve missed this one a lot this weekend, so I have to be very deliberate with my arm motion to make sure I can get it firmly into 3rd on the first try. I get it quickly and smoothly, first try.
Now straighten the car up for the “Jump”, pump up the brake pedal, full throttle all the way to the crest, then lift and pause. Hanging in the air; waiting. Waiting because as soon as the car lands I need to be on the brakes to make the following right hander but if I’m early I’ll lock up and head straight off. The car comes down firmly, the brake pedal is firm and I stab it hard, then turn in for the 5, 6, 7 - Esses. I’m bang on my marks thru 5, carrying huge speed thru 6, then down a gear and tight to the right for 7.
“Easy over the hill here.”
It is easy to get too aggressive with the throttle and give up time due to wheelspin. I get a slight slide. I’ve done this corner better all weekend, damn. The Bowl comes up quick so I forget my mistake and get the car over all the way to the right to setup for the banked left hander. It’s an early turn in, the car drops into the banking slightly, but picks up huge grip mid corner. I get down to the apex then starting feeding in the power hard, drop the right front into the dirt on exit. As I grab 2nd, then 3rd, I look down at my dash for the predicted lap time; 1:16.00
I’m below! Stay strong thru the end of the lap and you’ve got it. Quick pump the brake pedal, go deep into the hairpin, turn in early, thru the downhill apex, rolling into the throttle early, more power, 2nd gear, short shift 3rd up the hill, turn in to the blind crest right hander, FLAT, land and snap the car quick back left, thru the fast final corner and onto the straight, nail the 3->4 shift this time and stay hard on it thru the line.
I cross the line and know the lap is complete, but my display won’t show the lap time for a few hundred more feet, so I stay in it a little longer. I really hope I nailed it. I am dreading having to try again with the brakes this bad. Another go would be soooooo risky.
NAILED IT! Jubilation, excitement, and then relief wash over me. Can I go faster? Yeah, if I put together a cleaner lap I could do it, but I did it now and don’t have to do another. I pump my fist a few times out of excitement and then back out of the throttle and coast the car at half pace into Turn 1. The brakes are really sketchy at this point and I still have 5 laps to go, so I back off the pace, mostly in the braking zones, and preserve my lead. I can nurse it home from here.
The official time was a 1:15.951 and nearly 4 tenths faster than the previous, 20 year old, record. There was a glow over me during the tow home. I was sweaty, smelly, and exhausted, but I had set out to reach a goal that I didn’t even think was attainable this trip and I was ecstatic about it. That weekend will go down as one of my favorites. The car was a rocket and I managed to put my name to a lap record for the second time.