Following a last minute axle swap and AYC pump replacement at Showcase Mitsubishi, we loaded up the Evo and the Truck to head down to Indiana. Arriving a day early, I set out to go pick up our trailer from the local U-Haul. Despite being in pretty rough shape, it pulled behind the car really well, and It was pretty spacious. As we were planning to take a bunch of stuff with us, the extra space was going to be really useful. I headed to Dad's place, and we started to load up.
With that taken care of, we loaded up the car and headed over to South Bend. What we saw when we arrived was a sight that I will never forget. It's hard to describe the feeling I had at that moment. I had spent nearly every waking hour of my life for the last 2 years consumed with the preparation. This was it. I'd made it. The way that I felt when we got there was both needing to take care of business, and enjoy the moment while I was here. The sight, sounds, and sheer magnitude of the budgets for the various teams made me feel bush league by comparison. With a Porsche 918, 911 GT3RS, and the duo of ~1000whp GT-Rs ready to go to work the next day, I knew that this was going to be an battle. In any case, I knew that we were always going to have to make the best of performance we could, out of the driver talent and resources that we had.
Once we got the decals onto the car, we hung around a bit and got to know the people in the paddock. People were friendly, and eager to talk about their story. For some like us, they were also lap puppies and had wide eyes to everything that was going on. Others had been doing this for years, and this was just another adventure. Someone told me that "One Lap is the adventure of a lifetime, that you take every year." I couldn't have been more confident that I had made the right decision to pursue a campaign in OLOA. We hung around a bit longer, and then headed to the South Bend Airport to pick up our co-driver. James took a direct flight to South Bend from Phoenix, and came ready to race. Once we left the airport, we headed back go Goshen to get some rest for the night. When I checked the weather report for the next few days, what I saw was rain. A lot of it. Ahead of us was a week long adventure that was the grueling, stressful, exciting, rewarding, fun thing that I have ever done.
Morning arrives, and we load up and head back over to South Bend. It's cold. Weather in the low 40s, rainy, and windy. I think that all of us ended up buying extra jackets. Neither James or I had a huge amount of track experience in the very wet, but he had been on a skid pad before, so we figured he was the best chance that we had at a decent finish.
As rookies, we began in 46th spot in grid. I thought that we should have been closer to the front, but we'd have to prove our worth higher up in the order. Unfortunately, things didn't quite go our way. We managed to climb only 3 spots to 43rd position, getting bested by both a stock Evo, and a Toyota Sienna minivan. We learned pretty quickly, that the RE71 tire was going to make things tough for us in the cold and rainy weather. Based on the performances that we saw, it seemed clear that the Michelin Pilot Super Sports were the tire of choice for the wet weather. Humble pie didn't exactly taste very good to us at that moment. In any case, we felt like we had nowhere to go but up.
We packed our things, and quickly got on the road. Being near the front, our buddies at RS motors had left HQ quite a bit earlier than us. Unfortunately, we heard that they were having some bad luck with a leaking front brake caliper and were held up a bit. They were having a caliper driven to South Bend from a friend in Chicago. We soldiered on, and were making good time on our way to the Passage Control (timed checkpoint) at a Harley-Davidson dealership in Cleveland. After about 5 hours in the car, we arrived. While making up our stop as the Passage Control they were also running a charity fundraiser. We spent a few minutes there, but we were still several hours away from our hotel in Pittsburgh. It was time to get back into the car. We left Cleveland shortly after 9pm, and had another 2 hours to drive to get to the hotel. When we finally arrived, we all were asleep before our heads hit the pillows. Our next day was going to be the first "real" day on track, and I wanted to make the most of it. The weather in the forecast...RAIN.