We woke up around 6, got cleaned up quickly and headed to the track. Today was the first day on the road course, and the forecast said it was going to be soggy for the majority of the day. Interesting, that this was going to be my first time trial event, and it was going to be in the rain at a track that I've never been to. I'd been studying videos trying learn the course, but it seems like elevation changes are something that never ends up coming through the videos that you find on Youtube.
So we get to the track, and start to unload all our crap. We were thoughtful to bring a EZ Up canopy. It was a place to keep our stuff dry, and it gave us some space to work on the car as we needed. The clouds looked like rain, when we I got into the car, and drove to grid. One thing that I didn't have much appreciation for, was how to take your time in grid. As a rookie, I felt a decent amount of pressure to be in grid at the time the grid opened up, usually 8am. However, the racing format only has a few cars on track at a time. This means that if you get to grid right away and you aren't one of the first cars that should be going out, you'll end up just spending a lot of your time in grid waiting. Could be up to a couple of hours depending on if the run groups are running without incident.
We weren't so lucky. In the morning, it was actually raining the hardest during the time that the first few cars went out. In a downpour, Catesby (the defending OLOA champ), went out and attacked the track pretty hard. While the Pilot Super Sports are renowned for their rain performance, they fall behind in the dry. Looking to get back some of that performance, both top GT-Rs from 2015 were running the recently developed run-flat version of the PSS. While the dry weather performance went up, the wet weather performance dropped way off. Catesby went off the track during the first session and messed the car up pretty badly. It felt like an eternity as everyone waited from race control to hear if he was ok. Eventually, everyone got the all clear and the car was towed back to the pits. While the damage to the body work didn't look bad, the suspension damage underneath was significant. Catesby was out for the week, and that meant a complete shakeup on who was going to be in the running for the overall victory. Traffic started to move again, and we were slowly working our way to the front of the line.
I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't nervous to out on track. With the crash, and the weather not clearing up, my only goal was to get my head right to avoid crashing too. I went out on track, and put down the best laps I could in those conditions. Video from the session is below.
With the first session now out of the way, it was time to regroup and get ready for the afternoon. Around lunch, the weather began to clear, and it looked like we were going to get some dry track for the 2nd session. This was going to be our first semi-dry session, and speeds were going to pick up quite a bit. You can tell that I wasn't thinking about all the important things, because my strap on my helmet was left un done. In the moment, I must have just been too focused on everything else to remember to pull it tight. Not a smart move, and definitely not recommended. I guess the HANS would have kept the helmet attached to my body in the event of an accident. I'm glad nothing happened. Once we got back to the pits, and checked out the times, I knew that I had done a decent job learning the track and picking up the pace.
Having dropped nearly 50 seconds, I was happy with the performance in the second session. However, I wasn't the only person that got faster. Just about everyone ahead of me got faster too. We were only able to pick up 5 additional spots in the times, and finished the session in 21st position. This was the start of our upward trend, and I was hoping that we could keep it going for the rest of the week.
We packed up our stuff and got back on the road. In front of us was a very long drive from Pitt Race out to Palmer Motorsports Park in Massachusetts. We ran into trouble at around 4pm on the eastern side of Pennsylvania. We had a trailer tire blowout on the interstate, only 65 miles from PittRace. Luckily, we were coming up on an exit ramp, and we managed to limp it to a truckstop and call U-haul.
After about an hour, a friendly guy from the local service station showed up with a tire. As we had already pulled off the wheel, the change only took a minute. This could be the start of what David Bruzewski said would happen. On the night that we were packing up to leave Midland, David stopped by to keep me company, and give me some first hand advice for what was coming. He said "We took a trailer. If we ever go again, I am not taking a trailer. A basket is what you want. A basket doesn't have any wheels". At this point, I was thinking he was onto something with the cargo basket idea. More than an hour behind now, we got back on the road around 5pm.
At 1am, we were about 15 miles from our hotel. We had another blowout! It was the same side as before, and we had no idea what to do. My dad was driving at the time, and asked all of us how we should handle the situation. Unanimously, Ashley, James, and I agreed that we needed to stop the car and deal with the trailer. Dad, with his infinite stubbornness, combined with an overwheming desire for a shower and a bed to sleep in, decided that we were going to limp the car the remaining 15 miles on the shoulder of the interstate with the hazards on. Even that late, we were passed by dozens of cars in traffic. I can tell you that it isn't advisable to drive on the freeway at 20mph with traffic moving at 70+ in the middle of the night. All of us breathed a sigh of relief when we came up to our exit, and made it onto city streets. We weren't out of the woods yet though. We had to make it to the hotel without getting stopped and ticketed by the police. At that point, James through caution to the wind, climbed out of the moving car and decided take some video. I'm glad he did, because his commentary captured our feelings perfectly.We'd successfully driven 15 miles on the shoulder of the interstate. It was going to be a miracle if we didn't pick up some screws in the tires of the car, and require an official tire change permission from Brock.
When we got to the hotel, Dad told the 3 of us to get to sleep. Tomorrow was going to be another long day, so he would stay up and deal with U-Haul. Furious, he told us he was going to have another trailer delivered to the track to us the next day at Palmer. All of us were skeptical. We got cleaned up and turned in for the night, anticipating that we would deal with this fiasco again tomorrow. It couldn't have been more than 2 minutes before all 3 of us were sound asleep.
Extra pictures from the day at Pitt Race.
Trackside images by Bryan Humphries and Highland Design Studio.