Victoria Day Speedfest Sundowner 2011

This past Victoria Day weekend, Team 00 attended the Sundowner 3-hour enduro. Jay, Steve and I drove #00, a nearly stock Acura Integra Type-R we bought in Dallas; Frank crewed for the team with help from Vern.

We arrived at the track Friday evening around 8PM. After a quick BBQ steak supper, we started to prep the car, as we were the first group on track Saturday morning at 8AM.

Steve working on the wheel studs
Steve working on the wheel studs

Trouble started immediately. Two aluminum lug nuts on the left rear wheel sheared off. The torque face against the rim was still there, but the hex head broke off. The only solution we had was to drill out the remnants, at the cost of breaking multiple drill bits. Once the nuts were finally removed we had to replace the wheel studs, as the drilling had destroyed the old ones. We had spare studs, but they were longer than the original studs. To gain enough space to thread the longer bolts through the axle hub, we had to remove the ABS sensor and rotate the dust shield out of the way. The next challenge was to seat the new studs. We borrowed some steel washers and a steel wheel nut from the Krikorian’s and torqued them down, which slowly pulled the studs through. It chewed up all six battery packs we had for the air wrench.

We finished around midnight and retired to Jay’s RV for the night.

We were up at 7AM. Steve was the first on track. He and I split the morning 30-minute practice session. I set the best time – 1:43.393.

After lunch, Jay took the 30-minute qualifying session. We finished in 15th place on the grid of 17 with a time of 1:46.376. We had classified the car as GT-4 with hopes that with fewer cars in the class we might stand a better chance, even though our lap times were well off the GT-4 pace.

In the mid-afternoon, a rain-squall passed over Mosport. As I watched the puddles form, I knew our car had been set up for dry conditions. I grew more and more anxious as race time approached. A dinner consisting of only strawberry Twizzlers didn’t help either my anxiety.

The race started at 5PM; we arrived at mock grid around 4:40. Mentally I prepared for the start by focusing on just staying on the track and didn’t worry about positions. The rain had stopped, but the track was still wet. We had three hours to make up any lost positions.

As we came around to start the race, I was on the inside of the 8th row (14th place as one of the competitors did not start). When the green came out, I saw a big gap down the middle of the track. There was some risk, as I would have nowhere to go if the was an accident in turn-1. But it paid off handsomely – I made two positions. Everyone was cautious and it was a clean start. At the top of turn-2, Mark Gawronski was slow on the inside – he might have started on slicks – so I passed on the outside of 2.

In turn-5, I went to the outside again and went around two faster BMW’s, but lost the positions on the race up the back straight.

Up into turn-8, I was behind a red BMW when he started to lose it in the wet. Would this be a repeat of my big crash at Calabogie in 2008? He started to spin right, then corrected left before completely losing it around to the right again. I had lifted and stayed basically center track behind him until I could figure out which way he would end up. When he finally lost the tail, I saw the opening to the left and went for it. I quickly glanced in my mirror and saw that his spin had basically bottled up everyone behind him – I was the only one who had gotten by cleanly.

By the time I came around to the start line, I was already up to 10th place overall.

Working turn-9
Working turn-9

This gave me a breather to chase down the next car ahead of me, a Porsche GT3 driven by Roberto Sabato. What a thrill it was to hound down a GT3! It was obvious that Roberto couldn’t get the power down on the wet track. I tried at the bottom of turn-2 and again in turn-5, but each time he made his Porsche as wide as possible. At the same time, one of the Sentras was also trying to get by me and we traded positions a few times but I was able to get by pull out a gap on the Andretti straight.

At the end of the second lap Howard Chin took back the position he lost on the opening lap and was able to close up on the Porsche too. I was able to stay with him and eventually took the position back again on the pit straight; he retired a few laps later with a mechanical issue.

In the wet, I was able to go on the power a little earlier than the cars around me, which gave a good run out of the corners.

Eventually, as the track dried out, my wet-track advantage was lost and I started to fall back as the faster cars could start using their power and grip to get by. After a little over an hour, I was called in for our first drivers change. I had been up as high as 9th place overall, but when I pitted, I had fallen back to 11th.

Over the radio Steve asked about the fuel state and I replied that the tank was just under half. So we made the decision to just do a drivers change without refueling. Coming into pit lane I loosened the belts and prepared to hop out.

Jay got in and when out. I told him the car was great and to start pushing right away.

However, we found that the fuel gauge is not very accurate. Jay drove until the car started having fuel pickup problems after about 30 minutes. We prepared for our second stop, this time for both fuel and driver. I was still in my race suit so I was assigned to fire extinguisher while Frank did the fueling. We put in one 27-litre can and meant to add at least half of a second. I watched the fuel level, but I misjudged it and we got about 1/3 of the second can.

Steve got in the car and tore out of the pits. But he was nailed for exceeding the pit lane speed limit. He came in for his stop-and-go penalty and went out again.

After about 30 minutes he radioed in that the oil light had come on, so he came into the pits. We added liter of oil and he went out again.

A short time later, he radioed in that he was out of fuel. Since Jay’s stint was short, we decided to do a fuel stop and driver change to put Jay back in.

Frank had already changed out of his fire suit, so I did the fueling. We had to ask one of the Krikorian’s crew-members to hold the fire extinguisher. We put in a full can of fuel and then strapped in Jay.

However, he also broke the pit lane speed limit and had to come in for a stop and go penalty. He had started a scrap with Vincent from Quebec but the penalty brought that to an end.

In the rush to get in the car, Jay didn’t have time to get the radio system plugged in, so we didn’t have any communications from him. When he was slow to get around, we grew concerned. He finally arrived on pit lane, driving slowly. Once stopped, he asked us to check the tires – the car was not handling well. We checked all tires (pressures were good), brakes (one pad was well worn) and wheel nuts (all looked secure). Nothing looked too bad, so we sent him out again. Again he was late to come back around. Time ticked on and he did not complete the lap, so we checked with the officials. They radioed the control tower and they found out he had stopped at the top of turn-4.

It was 15 minutes from the end of the 3 hours.

Once the race was over and the car was towed back to our paddock we found the left front wheel bearing had failed. The only thing holding the wheel hub on the car was the brake caliper. This caused problems when we tried to load the car into the trailer. We had everyone push as hard as we could then had to use the tie-down straps to pull the car into the trailer.

After that, we had a burger BBQ for supper.

Reviewing the weekend, I felt great about my start. I really made a great run in the wet. Even the track announcer was remarking on my progress. I was only 0.3 seconds off Steve’s best laps although we are still slower than expected. Our two strategies really failed. Classifying in GT-4 was a mistake – the other car finished, so no matter what we would have done, we could not win. We weren’t even fast enough to be competitive in GT-5. The breakout time is 1:41.000, and Steve’s best lap was 1:42.706. And our pit stops were terrible. We made 7 stops, including three driver changes and two stop-and-go penalties.

We will return in September for the BEMC War Bonnet 3-hour race. Hopefully we can have more success then.

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