The 7th weekend in the ICSCC schedule was this past weekend and it was also the 9th race of the year in the PRO3 championship. This is an annual event held at Portland International Raceways, using the chicane configuration of the 1.97 mile circuit. PIR is an awesome track, that is quite different than the rest of the pacific northwest tracks. It is more short, little to no elevation changes and pretty smooth track surface. It doesn’t use up tires or brakes much and is known for being easy to get to 90% of an optimal lap time but that last 10% is really, really tough to get through. You have to really be precise and consistent.
Typically, it’s a really scenic and fan friendly circuit with great views of Mt. Hood in the background of pictures and big blue skies. However, this past weekend, with all the forest fires going on in Oregon, Washington and California, there was a good amount of smoke in the air. Going into the weekend, we felt really good after a 4th place finish at the Car Tender Challenge at Pacific Raceways. We did regular maintenance on the car, put fresh front brake pads (Performance Friction) and felt good about the Toyo RR’s that only had 5 heat cycles on them from the last race.
Friday Test and Tune
Each race weekend, there is an Test and Tune, sometimes mixed with HPDE type drivers. For this past Test and Tune, we were focused on getting the tire pressures dialed in as we would have similar weather each day, getting used to a hard mounted seat (got rid of the slider that had a bit too much slop) and as always, doing testing on Track Attack updates that are under development.
Overall, the day went really well with progress each session. By the 3rd session, we were easily putting down lap times near personal bests and felt confident about being able to get into the 1:30.xxx mark. On the last session, we did find out the hard way the importance of knowing where your fuel pickup is located and how the orientation of the track impacts when you run out of gas.
Saturday Qualifying and 1 Hour Mini-Enduro
We had an AM practice, afternoon qualifying session 1 for the main Group 1 race, qualifying for the Saturday mini-enduro and the mini-enduro itself. Practice went pretty well but just not able to put a full lap together, getting to 1:31.1xx mark. So close! In the mini-enduro qualifying, we had a solid showing with the temperatures rising and qualified 2nd in ME2 class.
The afternoon qualifying for the Group 1 race was quite eventful. We made a big effort to get on grid early and make sure we were turning laps with some of the big hitters in the series to catch some drafts and try to learn some things. This plan was working well as we got behind Chris Hart, the current PRO3 series points leader but as we approached the last turn on the out-lap, went to brakes and the pedal went to the floor. As the car went off-track, was fortunate enough to catch the car, pump the brakes and get some pressure back. A little frazzled, got the car back on track and tested the brakes – all good. A bit perplexed, we carried on getting a flying start to the next lap but as we got past turn 7, black flags started waving and into the hot-pits we went. Turns out several cars were crossing the blend line, resulting in black flag session for a reprimand.
A few minutes later, we got started again but we only had time for 4 or 5 laps and there was traffic everywhere. Came away with a disappointing 1:32.1xx.
So we shifted focus to the mini-Enduro, estimating the necessary fuel and thinking through pit stop strategy. We decided that I would start the race and pit about mid-way through the pit-window, handing the car over to Cody Smith of Code Red Racing and the 2013 PRO3 Series Champion.
Coming around for the green flag, we got a good start and was leading after the 1st lap. Started building a gap but traffic that was slow in the corners and fast in the straights held me up and Kevin Doyle from KD Motorsports took full advantage. He was on me and in my mirrors for the next 8 or so laps until when I went in too hot into turn 1, went sideways and decided to take the safe route out. Ended up falling back about 8-10 seconds.
5 or 6 laps later, I handed the car over to Cody but during the pit stop, we couldn’t get the lap belt adjusted quickly enough so we lost a bunch of time, going down a lap. Cody still put down some awesome laps, putting pressure on the Bastos theme PRO3 car of Bruce Humberstone, eventually passing him. We ended up 4th in ME2 but still had a great time. Watch the full race here on Trackattackapp.com.
Sunday Group 1 Qualifying and Group 1 Race
Sunday morning, we had plenty of time to plan and attack in qualifying to improve in the grid. Despite knowing that I had to tap the brakes a couple of times before the braking zones, I just didn’t have confidence of having the brakes reliably there going into turn 12 and I ended up going through turn 10, 11 and 12 slower than normal. Ended up with a 1:31.285 – an improvement from Saturday but not the 1:30.5xx we knew the car was capable of and we were shooting for. So we started the race 24th overall and 11th in PRO3.
Right after the qualifying, we took off the wheels to inspect everything and see if we could find a way to improve the pad knock-back. We found that the passenger front locking collar on the coilover had come loose, resulting in movement that was equal to a bad wheel bearing. We tightened it up and decided to do some testing during lunch time race car rides with kids. Thankfully, w had that extra track time and determined that the issue persisted so we sourced a new set of calipers from Advanced Auto Fabrications (AAF Spokane, WA) and swapped them in.
During the warm up lap for the race, I drove on the curbing hard to see if we had fixed the issue and thankfully, we had!
Thanks to Reid Morris on the headset, I got a great start and was able to pass a handful of cars right away. By mid-way through the first lap, it became a battle with four other PRO3 cars. About a third of the way in, the #191 made a good move in turn 7 and got in front of me. Very quickly there after, I started feeling what felt like brake fade, usually going into a braking zone as I got closer to the #191. I thought the brake problems were continuing but then I saw the fuel spilling out of his car in left hand turns and realized I was too close, losing grip and getting it all over my windshield.
I decided to back off a little and see if I can get a run somewhere but a couple laps later he got the meatball and I was able to move forward to resume the chase after the Bastos #114. Early on I got close behind him but just not close enough or the right run to make an overtake stick, so I decided to stick to his rear as long as I could and see if he would give me an opening. It came with 3 or 4 laps left in the race as he got a little sideways in a couple of turns and then we hit the oil that a Datsun 510 put down on the track. I saw him wiggle, held off on full throttle until we got past it and got around him. After that, I just focused on putting down clean laps and not letting the yellow flags and traffic give up the gap I built (I almost overtook the Watson’s PRO3 car under yellow in the second to last lap, or so because I didn’t see the yellow until the last second – sorry Dave!!).
Overall, awesome race and we made the most of what we had going into the race and finished 5th. Was able to crack 1.30.xxx for the first time on Saturday during the mini-Enduro and feel confident that we could have done it during qualifying if we would have put the new calipers in earlier but it is what it is. Watch the full race here.
Up next is the last round of the PRO3 championship at The Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton, WA. We’re shooting to make some improvements to the car, freshen it up and do some testing and coaching before the race weekend.
Lastly, enjoy some awesome photos taken by Austin from Flying Bye Photography – thanks Austin!