VW Jetta: AJNR/Brimtek Road America practice notes

AJNR/Brimtek - P3 in Practice, Starting P8 for Round 7 and P6 for Round 8 in the VW Jetta TDI Cup at Road America Hello Friends, Family and Fans! Just wrapped up an intense day of activities at the beautiful and quite treacherous Road America...

AJNR/Brimtek - P3 in Practice, Starting P8 for Round 7 and P6 for Round 8 in the VW Jetta TDI Cup at Road America

Hello Friends, Family and Fans!

Just wrapped up an intense day of activities at the beautiful and quite treacherous Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI today. I've spent about an hour to decompress and take it all in and hopefully you will all get an idea of how this Friday went for us in the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup.

Today's schedule was quite busy. We would have three on track sessions including our 30 minute practice followed by two qualifying sessions. The first would determine our starting position for Round 7 on Saturday while the second qualifying session would establish our starting position for Round 8 on Sunday.

Day starts off early at 6 AM as we had our first on track session at 7:20 AM. You guessed it, it's time for the most important meal of the day. Nothing but the best fuel was on hand including eggs, scrapple, sausage, bacon and cinnamon buns! Washed it all down with some hot coffee and was ready for our 15 hour day to begin.

We didn't need to worry about a track walk this morning since we took care of this yesterday evening. I spent yesterday evening studying track notes and watching in car footage to prepare me for the weekend. Soon after breakfast, we had our SCCA driver's meeting and we suited up. We quickly hopped into our VW Jetta TDI Cup cars and hit the track for our treacherous first session. I say treacherous because of a lot of factors. We all had new brake pads to bed in, a brand new compound of environmentally friendly Pirelli tires to get acclimated to, and had to drive in some of the worst fog I've ever experienced on track. Visibility was close to zero on track! They had to red flag the session about half way through due to the fog. Five minutes later, the track went green again but it was under a full course yellow. The reason for this was because the corner stations on track could not visibly see one another. The full course yellow was out for a majority of the session except for the last lap when I was able to put down a semi-clean lap. In the end, it was good enough for 3rd fastest overall in the session with a 2:48.7 lap time. Felt good with myself and also knew the conditions would be a lot better for our first qualifying session.

After a quick debrief with our technicians and instructors, we had an hour break before our first qualifying session to go over what limited data we had. Before we knew it, we were back in our driving suits and I was back behind the wheel of my Brimtek/WWP VW Jetta TDI Cup car to qualify for Round 7.

The track was completely dry, but still a "green" track with a very minimal amount of rubber laid down. I stayed towards the back of the pack to try and run some clean and consistent laps by myself. I was able to put down a 2:40.9 early on and wasn't able to improve at all throughout the session. I drove the car pretty hard throughout the whole session and the grip wasn't there towards to end. I had to settle for an 8th starting position for tomorrow's race. A huge congrats to Chris Wehrheim for clinching the pole position with a 2:39.9!

After another debrief with our technicians and driving instructors, we had a chance to really study our data and compare it with the fastest driver of the session. I felt confident I could go faster in our second qualifying session taking note on areas of the track where I could improve on this technical 4.1 mile road course.

We had a good 4 hour break until our next qualifying session. Play by play commentators Tom Hnatiw and Greg Creamer happened to be enjoying lunch in the VW hospitality tent and we struck up a conversation concerning my plans for next season. They both knew that my plans are to compete in the Porsche GT3 Challenge next season and the series happens to be running with us this weekend. Greg and Tom were gracious enough to invite me up to the announcer's booth to join them during the GT3 Challenge practice session. Had a blast up there chatting with Greg and helped spread the word throughout the rest of the paddock about my plans for next season. Every little bit helps! Can't thank them enough for the opportunity and really hope things can come to fruition to make 2011 a reality!

At 5 PM, we were back in the cars to prepare to qualify for Round 8. Everybody had their smart phones out looking at their weather apps to see what the doppler radar was looking like. You could tell their was a front coming through the region. The temps were dropping and the wind was picking up. Severe thunderstorms were in the area and it just started to sprinkle before we were to head out on track. Rain tires were readily available to the techs to change out if need be. But it seemed to clear a little bit and we were sent out on track with our dry Pirelli tires. As I came down through T3 on my warm up lap, you could tell something big was coming. Just this nasty black death cloud was looming over the track. The heavens were about to open up, we just didn't know when. As I came around to start my first hot lap, I knew this would have to be the one that would count. Sprinkles were littering the windshield but I put the hammer down to run a 2:42.4 opening lap.

As I continued on my second hot lap, the deluge hit my as I entered the carousel in T9. The session was over. Wasn't going to get any faster from here. But it wasn't just rain, it was the lightning and 50 mph gusts that accompanied it as well. The sponsor signs along the track were flying debris. I'm talking big ole fat rain was coming down on us. It was insane! Almost impossible to put into words. Just pure chaos!. I slowly brought the car back to the paddock and parked my Jetta. The storm was relentless and everybody was completely soaked from head to toe. The hospitality tent and tech center was completely flooded and debris was littering the entire track. If you had a tent that wasn't secured, it was considered flying shrapnel at that point. Wild stuff! Anyway, after it was all set and done, my first and only hot lap is what counted. It was good enough for P6 on Sunday's race. Wyatt Gooden clinched another pole with his 2:41.9 lap time. Should be an interesting set of races this weekend.

Well, that's racing for ya! You never know what kind of conditions you're going to expect on any given weekend. We experienced it all today. Get to sleep in tomorrow, too. Round 7 of the VW Jetta TDI Cup doesn't kick off until 6:15 PM CT tomorrow. I apologize for the lack of the live streaming, I have no internet connection in the rural regions of Wisconsin. But the live timing and scoring link still works and you can check it out by clicking here.

Can't thank everyone enough for the tremendous support and am really looking forward to tomorrow's race on one of my favorite tracks. We'll just have to see what the weather will do.

All the best and talk soon,
AJ Nealey

-source: www.ajnealeyracing.com

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Series SCCA