RACE: New Hampshire double regional personal report

>From: Chong_Soo/Iris.IRIS@iris.com I had really looked forward to the Labor Day double regional at New Hampshire International Speedway, put on by the New England region of SCCA. Going into this weekend, I (RX7) had a 9 and 10 point lead...

>From: Chong_Soo/Iris.IRIS@iris.com

I had really looked forward to the Labor Day double regional at New Hampshire International Speedway, put on by the New England region of SCCA. Going into this weekend, I (RX7) had a 9 and 10 point lead over the second (Tom in a VW Golf) and third (Gerry in another RX7) place drivers respectively in NERCC ITS points. I just had to do reasonably well in this double and the final race in October to possibly win the championship.

But I wasn't going to give up great racing for some lousy championship points (of course I would say that now).

It was to be a long, three day, action packed weekend with a warm-up session for each day, a qualifying session for the qualifying race and the qualifying race itself on Saturday. The qualifying race would determine the grid position in the 25-lap regional scheduled for Sunday. The best lap in that race will then determine the grid in the 20-lap regional scheduled for Monday. There was also a Libra race scheduled for the end of each of the three days. What is a restless racer to do but to signed up for all of them--six races in all.

Since I switched to the Hoosier tires, the car would go from near neutral to heavy understeer after about ten laps of hard driving. So I had increased the rear roll stiffness for this weekend to try to give me a car that will remain fast after ten laps. The trade-off is some tail-happiness at the beginning.

After the warm-up on Saturday, I decided that the balance wasn't that far off and the compromise was acceptable, I tried to improve it further with some camber and toe adjustment.

Two laps into qualifying, an American Sedan spilled its guts in T9. I was first on the scene and promptly spun to the outside of the turn facing backward, just so that I could see the rest of the field spinning before my eyes. I threw it in reverse to get as far away from the track as possible. I don't know how they did it but the workers did an amazing job of cleaning it up while we continue to qualify--it was fairly well cleaned up about five laps later! The qualifying landed me first among the ITS cars, sixth overall behind a bunch of hairy American Sedans. Right behind me were a 240Z (James), Tom, and Gerry, all within a half second.

At the start of the qualifying race (12 laps), Tom and James went by me while I screamed bloody murder. I managed to get by James in the oval while he was stuck behind some AS. All of us squeezed by T3 with no incident, with Tom right in front of me. Going up the hill towards T5, James blew by me ("How did he do that?") and almost Tom too. I managed to get next to James coming out of T10, but backed off before T11 because T11 is the last tight corner before the front straight--I didn't want to battle James this early in the race and let Tom run away.

So three of us went bumper to bumper for two more laps, and then suddenly, at the exit of T10, James missed the apex and slowed way down (turned out he lost air in one tire). I managed to avoid hitting him, and proceeded to concentrate on getting Tom.

Somehow an ITE Mustang managed to get by me around that time. I had hope that the Mustang was able to get by Tom too but he just sat there. Took me five laps to get by that Mustang. By this time I was three seconds behind Tom, with four laps to go. My chassis tuning technique paid off. I was able to catch Tom at a rate of almost a second a lap, and I was finally on his bumper on the last lap. Going into T3 (heavy braking from over 100 mph to 40 mph), I moved over to the inside but I knew that I wasn't able to get next to him (Tom knew that too because he didn't even bother defending the line), so I moved back to the outside behind Tom. Doing all these while braking ended up with a locked wheel which sent me in a frenzy trying to get the car balanced and avoid running into Tom. Tom didn't cooperate by going into a spin (turned out he was watching my move and missed his braking point), thereby taking away the extra room I needed to slow the car down and had to try to turn to avoid Tom. That sent me spin ning too. I restarted the car and took off. Unfortunately, Tom took off right at the same time and was able to out-dragged me up the hill and held the position to the finish line with me on his bumper.

That's OK, that was just the qualifying race. So I was gridded second with Tom in first behind four AS. Gerry gridded close to the back of the pack because his engine overheated in the qualifying race and finished only 8 laps. James was gridded behind Gerry.

Some more minor tweaking of the toe and warm-up Sunday morning. My group was to race in the afternoon. Over lunch, a meeting was held to announced the shortened program on Monday in anticipation of hurricane Edouvd.

At the start, I was able to get ahead of Tom because he was stuck behind some AS. Some other AS prevented me from running away from Tom also. I forgot to defend my line going into T3 on the third lap and Tom got by me under braking. The big race then began. I had to drive really hard just to keep up with Tom initially, but after ten laps, it started to become obvious that Tom's tires are starting to go away and his car started to understeer off the track at the exit of many turns. My car, on the other hand, remained fairly neutral, and I concentrated on doing T11 as well as I could to get all the speed I could down the straight. Over the next ten laps, Tom's car got worse and worse, and I was able to get even with him several times down the straight, but had to back off entering the oval. Same story with the uphill following T3. I was able to dive under him and go side by side through the oval a couple of times but that put me on the outside going into T3 where he would take my line away again.

At the end of lap 22, I was able to stay close enough to Tom, and do T11 well enough that I had a little more speed going down the straight that I was able to be even with Tom by the start line and completely by him by the time we entered the oval. Fearing that he might outbrake me again going into T3, I tried not to slow down too much entering the oval. In the oval, my rear end started to slide a little which was normal and correctable. Well not this time. The rear end continued to very slooooowly slide away until a decision was made to LOCK-THEM-ALL-UP! ARGH!!!!

EEEIIIIEEEE! WHAM! BANG! BOING! TOING! I hit the wall, Tom hit me, I hit Tom, Tom hit the wall, the wall hit us, who knows!

We both stalled. Tom restarted and took off ("HEY!"). I tried to restart but the car would not start. I happened to be facing down the banking of the oval and could see that there was no one coming into the oval. I let the car roll down to the apron and got out of the car. All four corners of the car had damage. The corner workers made sure I was all right and asked if I needed a tow. I tried restarting the car and it started right up! I thought of continuing but the checkered flag had came out.

I slowly drove the car back to the garage with the rear end wobbling from side to side. I noticed Tom taking his victory lap. I went over to congratulate Tom, after giving him a little bit of a hard time.

So the rear end is obviously damaged, what with about three inches worth of toe-out. A close inspection shows a couple of bent pieces and not much else. The front wheels were not even touched. Looks like I could fixed the car for Monday's race. The parts I needed were only a little more than an hour away, sitting in my garage, on my street car. :-)

So I grabbed some tools and headed home. During my absence, we were nominated for the best show of the weekend, and Tom was awarded the best spin and recovery.

It took me only 30 minutes to remove the parts I needed. Took a hot shower and went to bed--it would take me only about 10 minutes to install the parts. I remembered to grabbed my big sledge hammer with a broken handle for the recovery of lost fender clearance.

Alas, it was not to be. With the parts installed and maximum toe-in dialed in, it still has over an inch of toe out. So I ended up spending the day on the wrong side of the fence, cheering for Gerry, in the midst of Tom's cheering squad consisting of his wife and children. Gerry won that race, with Tom a second behind.

I have one month to fix the car for the NARCC runoffs. And then there is the Racing Against Leukemia weekend in October, which counts for NERCC points. I think I am out of the running for NERCC but I am not sure. I may still be in the running for NARCC but I don't know. Who cares about those lousy championship points anyway.

PS. Guess whose bodyshop do I bring my car to. Tom's!

-=Chong-Liang Soo=- NER ITS "Limping Bobsled" RX7 csoo@iris.com

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