RACE: Lime Rock Regional personal report 96-08-17

>From: Jeff Benagh <benagh@ICD.Teradyne.COM> SCCA Regional, Lime Rock, 8/16-17 This weekend was the NNJR event at Lime Rock. This event usually has a ton of cars, so it's a lot of fun. Last year, this was my first race as a novice,...

>From: Jeff Benagh <benagh@ICD.Teradyne.COM>

SCCA Regional, Lime Rock, 8/16-17

This weekend was the NNJR event at Lime Rock. This event usually has a ton of cars, so it's a lot of fun. Last year, this was my first race as a novice, and the ITB/ITS group was so big (21 ITB cars and 16 ITS cars) that they broke it into two groups. This year, they put ITB in with SSA/SSB/SSC so there were about 20 ITB cars and 6 SS cars.

My car (ITB '84 GTI) was equipped with new rear wheel bearings, new front wheel bearings, one new tire, and (thanks to Betsey) a new header that wouldn't run out of oomph before the motor did. Now that we've figured out how to pack the truck, we also came equipped with a full spares box, filled with at least one of everything I've broken in the past. This would ensure nothing would break and the getting the fourth rain tire mounted ensured the track would stay dry.

Friday was overcast all day. I was first in line for practice, which was kind of nice because I had one nice lap to myself after waving by two much faster cars. The new header allowed the motor to make power all the way up to redline which was very nice. On the second lap, I fumbled into the left-hander and went straight off into the grass (apparently much to the enjoyment of the children camping next to us). I re-entered at the tail end of the pack and got to re-learn the track and get used to my new-found (or purchased) rpm range. About lap six, I passed by Bill Kaiser's Dodge driving into the pits with a blown up header. All the header tape kind of looked like "just married" decorations.

Right after lunch, I went out and qualified. My goal was to get into the 1:08 range this outing, and I was really running well through the twisty parts, but the motor had other ideas. I hit terminal speed of 85mph by the tech shed (about halfway down the front straight) despite keeping my foot to the floor. There was one !$%!#$^ SSC Miata who braked late and long coming down the hill. I got a lot closer to him than I wanted to get as well as a lot more sideways. Unfortunately he was able to pull me on the straight, but I was able to get by him in the esses. I was getting dusted by every other car down the striaght. Also, toward the end, the motor started cutting out at the entrace to the back straight -- too little gas in the tank now that I'm cornering harder. When the times came out, I was near the end of the grid, but wasn't last.

During the rest of the afternoon we put in new springs in the rear and corrected some bushing and shock problems. A little conference with Dick Shine determined that the motor was probably leaning out a bit with the larger header, so I richened the mixture a little.

Saturday was beautiful. As usual, it was really foggy when we woke up, but it burned off by 8:30 and began to get comfortably warm. Lime Rock practices are interesting -- all closed wheel cars on the track at once. GT1 to Spec Racer to SSC. I went out in the second group (after getting gas) and there was a better mix of mostly IT and SS cars. The mixture adjustment really helped and I kept gaining RPM all the way to the braking zone for turn one, and was able to keep up with almost every ITB/ITC car down the straight. The new rear suspension really helped with the esses.

My spectators (mom, step-dad, and a friend) showed up before our early race (11am), just as I was getting suited up. I was gridded right in front of a bunch of much-slower SSC cars and a slightly slower ITB VW (Jeff Bump) who was at his first Lime Rock race. At the start, I was surprised to see Jeff on my right passing me about 3 seconds before the green fell. Damn! I'm faster than him, but he's difficult to get around.

There was one sideways Golf in turn one and I got by a couple of other cars right after going around this mess. I got a really good run through the left-hander and onto the back straight (in fact my whole first lap was only 1.5 sec off my qualifying time!), but I couldn't get past Jeff or a silver Rabbit who was gridded just in front of me. A number of other cars pulled abot 20 car lengths ahead of Jeff, the Rabbit & I. There were about four of them in a tight pack, and no one behind us for about 50 car lengths.

Both the Golf and the Rabbit were a lot slower than me in the turns, but I wasn't fast enough to get by cleanly. Next time through the esses though, the Rabbit slowed way down for the left hander and I got a good run up to his bumper by turn five and then passed him on the back straight. Now I could get Jeff in the Golf. I tried getting by going into the uphill, but there's not a lot of room when the cars are pretty evenly matched and there's no braking zone there. I then tried getting by at the inside of West Bend, but again, not enough room. Jeff was barking where I didn't need to if I had the line, but I couldn't take the inside line without braking.

I then decided to get him on the downhill or draft him and out-brake him at turn one. He was braking at West Bend (just before the downhill) and lifting in the downhill. The next time through (about lap three) I got too close, too early and had to back off. I tried to outbrake him, but he blocked the inside. "I'll just outbrake him on the outside next time" I thought, something I had practiced by accident last time there and knew was possible.

The next time around, I got a good run on him coming down the hill and was right on his bumper when we hit the front straight. Then he hit the brakes!!! I hit the brakes and pulled out next to him to see a blue BMW (from the four car pack just ahead of us) going across the track sideways. Jeff was able to pull me down the front straight, but I caught him before the left-hander. By now, a white BMW was catching up to us. He'd get about 2 car legths behind into West Bend, but I was getting him and Jeff on the exit so that he was pretty far behind by the front straight (about ten car lengths).

Next time through West Bend, I braked earlier than Jeff and got on the gas much earlier. The white BMW tried to outbrake me, but I wasn't braking very long and he had to pull back behind me and get on the gas a lot later than I think he wanted to. I got my front bumper up next to Jeff's front wheel going own the hill, but either he wobbled a little or I just lost my nerve and pulled behind him. The next lap was the same.

On lap 7, Jeff & I and the BMW did the same thing that we had done the past two laps, Jeff braking, me braking early, and the BMW trying to duck inside. But as I let off the brakes the rear of my car spun to the outside and I was pointed at the tires on the inside of the apex. The GTI was leaning heavily, tires trying to stick at 70 mph. I turned into the spin a little, trying to aim for going into the dirt with the wheels straight and generally pointed at the track. I was headed for the down track end of the indentation in the curbing and it looked like I wouldn't hit the dirt and tire wall berm on the right.

My plan was upset when the right front went over the curbing and the car rolled really slowly onto the driver's side in the dirt on the right. Once off the wheels, the car began to resemble a Newtonian physics experiment and I slid across the track (roof side facing uptrack with me hoping no one would visit through the roof) toward the tire wall on the left. It was coming up pretty quick and I braced for a big crash. It was remarkably light and I had ended up right at the outpost flagger. I gave him thumbs up, he waved me safe to the radioman, and told me to get out of the car.

I watched the rest of the race from the flag station, then rode in the tow truck down to may paddock spot (yes, it wa the same tow truck driver from my last time at Lime Rock, and yes, he did remember me). Betsey was the model of calm, cool, and collected. Figuring I had just broken down, she had walked back to the paddock from pit row. The windshield was badly cracked. The hood and the entire left front suspension was crumpled from hitting the tire wall. All the left side sheet metal is bent. Both left side wheels are abraded away.

The driver of the Rabbit behind me and the marks on my right rear fender and the BMW's left front fender confirmed my suspicions that the BMW bumped me well before the turn in of West Bend. I protested for improper passing. The SOM disallowed the protest (insufficient witnesses), but returned the protest fee because they believed it was in good faith.

My next event will be next spring. This season has been quite a learning experience, but I think Betsey and I finally had our act together. We didn't scramble at all the entire weekend (for a change), and probably had spares to fix all but the windshield if I had been registered for the enduro that afternoon. Despite being behind a much slower car (Jeff), I bettered my qualifying time and his best lap was where I wanted to be (low 1:09, but he's still braking where I don't). Kind of a disappointing end of the season when I was finally speeding up.

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