Saturday Update

Authored By Brian

Whew, a pretty long day so far. Some near giant problems that, through the skills of many talented and resourceful people, have been turned into minor problems dealt with in seconds at each pit stop.

  • Saturday, 9:00am – Hectic morning finishing up various mechanical tasks, a few more contingency sponsor stickers, getting the car tech’d and prepping for grid. The schedule is tight and missing the window means we would start behind the rest of the cars instead of 4th place. ESX crew fills up the Indy fueling rig and gets us ready for lightning-fast pit stops. This professional fuel rig will allow us to put 25 gallons of fuel in the car in under approximately 10 seconds. Other teams will be emptying 5 gallon fuel jugs every about 30-45 seconds.
  • 10:30am – Car makes it to grid on time. There are hundreds and hundreds of people on the front straight standing with their cars and mentally preparing for the long challenge ahead. National anthem is sung. The yearly Air Force flyover is delayed unfortunately; last year that was a true highlight as the F-15 flew about 300 feet overhead and then shot straight up with its afterburners glowing.
  • 11:00am – Cars take the course led by the pacecar, the green flag flies and everyone behaves themselves through turn one while we maintain our 4th place position. The polesitting Toyota sports racer starts putting a big gap between the 2nd and 3rd place Porsches who in turn start putting a gap between us, the Hankook BMW World Challenge car (driven by Justin Hall – the former owner of my Spec Miata) and the SSF Autoparts BMW M3.
  • 11:30am – Already been lapped by Toyota sports racer. Minutes later Justin Hall serves a stop and go penalty for passing under yellow with the Hankook team. We’re running in 3rd.
  • 12:45pm – Our first pit stop; lasted 1:19. The car wasn’t close enough to the wall and our fuel rig couldn’t reach the fuel door. With the steering wheel off to facilitate the driver change, it was difficult to reposition the car quickly. Exit the pits in 6th place.
  • 2:00pm – ALMS ace Dave McEntee passes the Hankook BMW for 2nd place. The Toyota sports racer has gone back paddock and looks to be effectively out of the race and down many laps. Speed is not necessarily the way to win an endurance race.
  • 2:35pm – Our second pit stop for fuel and driver change goes smoothly. Front right tire is changed upon inspection with minor cording. On the out lap, new driver Auston comes in immediately with a broken throttle pedal that ESX mechanic Jaime promptly bashes with a hammer into submission. Car goes right back out.
  • 4:05pm – Car has come in twice more for issues. Once for a major vibration that turned out to be wheel weights flying off and again for the front left tire destroying itself on the shock body. Changing two other tires for expected wear and we’re suddenly out of shaved tires. Yokohama agreed to shave our Toyo tires in the spirit of competition but their machine didn’t have the right size and we’re back to running full-tread tires. The danger is that deep tread will quickly build up heat during the race and cause the tires to chunk and wear extremely quickly. Down into 8th position after stops.
  • Now at 5:55pm Car and Driver editor Csaba Csere is in the car on full-tread tires taking it easy to wear them down. Each lap his pace increases slightly. We’re having some radio problems and are trying to source another harness. The driver can hear the crew but we can’t hear the driver. We’ve replaced the radio, the push-to-talk button on the steering wheel and rechecked all of the connections. Hopefully we’ll sort that out.
  • As typing this, I heard over the radio we’re in 4th place and are catching 3rd at 8 seconds per lap! Looks like we’re gaining some ground despite our difficulty. One of the Porsches is still in the lead and the Hankook BMW is in 2nd.

Time to find a radio harness.

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