April in the Pacific Northwest means that racing and track day season is about to get into full swing. This year, the Track Attack team moved platforms from the 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9 competing primarily in the NASA (National Auto Sport Association) Time Trials 3 class (TT3) to more of a spec class. Why we made the change? We’ll cover that in a future post.
The new racecar – BMW PRO3 Spec
For 2014, we decided to focus on driver development and becoming the fastest driver possible, not necessarily developing the fastest race car possible. In the Northwest, that means getting into the PRO3 racing series. The PRO3 racing series is for the most part a spec class with clear rules on modifications allowed to create race car parity and make the driver and setup be the difference maker. As in all motorsports, the car still makes a difference but with 75+ built PRO3 race cars in the area and fields of 25+ on most weekends, there are a lot of reference points to help figure out how to get faster and opportunity to work on your race craft because there is always someone to race in the back of the pack, mid-pack or up front.
Race 1 – Rose City Opener at Portland International Raceways – No Chicane Configuration
This was the first race weekend of the season for PRO 3, the first of a 14 race season over 11 weekends. While we were there for the weekend, we took part in the last novice race as to compete in the main races, one must complete the full Novice program which entails 3 successfully completed novice races, volunteering, driver interviews and passing a driver exam. A pretty stringent program to make sure there are only competent and safe drivers competing.
Friday Test & Tune
On the Friday of race weekend, the local Portland driving club put on a HPDE event and racer Test & Tune which allowed us to really shake down the car for the first time after having a number of adjustments made to the car by Southlake European, just outside of Seattle. Many of the race weekend PRO3 cars were in attendance so it was a good opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the No Chicane configuration and see what some of the fast, very fast, veterans were doing. Each session was great with one exception, where a rain shower 20 minutes prior to the session left the track damp and we decided to swap to wets just in case it rained more during the session. Well, the rain never came and being stuck on wets felt like the car was parked on the track as car after car passed. Overall, it was a good day and lap times improved 2 full seconds over the day, with a fast lap of 1:27.996.
Saturday Practice, Qualifying and Race
All day the forecast had called for showers and we watched as heavy rain showers fell around, but not on the race track. After a solid practice morning session, we got some good advice on tire pressure targets and went for it during qualifying. Despite being the second fastest most of the day, a Toyota Celica in another class must have caught a draft as they hit a miracle lap and out-qualified us by .031 seconds. We qualified third at 1:27.892.
Having the race be a novice race, with the emphasis on learning and being safe, they stewards gridded us in reverse qualifying order so we started P12 out of 14. Right as the race started, going in to t take it.
The pole position winner, however took it and that was the difference maker in the race. I followed him through but got stuck behind traffic for half a lap as he blasted past them. I made some ground on him but around lap 12 or so, it started raining around T4 – 8. On the 2nd or 3rd lap with rain coming down, I unnecessarily over-slowed going into T4 and that allowed him to grow the distance back and I wasn’t able to challenge for the rest of the race. I ended up in 2nd place and was running personal best laps at the end of the race, which was a good sign.
Overall, it was a good weekend of learning about the car, getting faster and as you can see from the video – using Track Attack!
Race weekend #1 with NASA Northwest at Portland International Raceways with Chicane. We’ll be running Time Trials on Saturday (TTD) and Race Group on Sunday (PTD).