July 8, 2014
Our story begins in a strange situation I had never imagined. Our team was going to Formula D Atlanta. Out of all the rounds in FD that I had not driven Atlanta was the track I was most excited for, as I heard the fans were great and that the track was epic. Both things I would come to find as 100% truths.
For this round we wouldn’t have the full support like we had for long beach. The car was being transported by another competitor so we didn’t have all our tools or really any control over the car until it was in our possession. We also had a smaller team that consisting of my Father aka Papa Primo, Ray from Garage Autohero, and my GF Lindsey. Ray and my dad would handle the mechanical and maintenance on the car while Lindsey would be my spotter and driver manager. Although it wasn’t the most ideal situation I was incredibly comfortable with the team and was ready to drive.
We flew out Wednesday with a scheduled arrival of Thursday around 1 am in Atlanta. From there we would have a 1 hour drive to the hotel and hopefully some sleep before we head to Road Atlanta the next morning. I had been speaking with the other driver who was transporting my car and had been told he would likely roll into the track with my car right around the start of Thursday paid practice. I was ok with that timing as the car was ready to go for the most part.
Unfortunately in the morning before practice I got the news that the other driver transporting my car had issues with his car. Therefore he would not be making the paid practice on Thursday and as such my car wouldn’t make it either. It was a serious blow to the entire team. Let it be clear I don’t hold anything against the other driver as he is a great person and tried everything he could to make ATL on
It’s just an unfortunate side of this sport we are all so dedicated to. It was a no win situation all around.
While it was unfortunate there were positives that came from this dire situation. Road Atlanta is a huge facility and as such it was recommended by other competitors to rent a golf kart for the track. So while we didn’t have a race car. We did have a race kart. Our team rode the kart up to the judge’s tower and proceeded to start watching the 4 hours of paid practice. Lindsey and My dad stayed by the judges tower while Ray and myself moved around all over the track watching from different locations. While it would be ideal to drive the course and learn by doing, I know it was successful for me to study the drivers like JR, Forrest, Tuerck, Essa, and others who would slay the course. The best part of Thursday was something personal to me as I got to hang out with Ray for a number of hours when we didn’t need to rush to fix something or work endlessly on a car. We just sat there, talked, and enjoyed each other’s company while we watched the other drive. I should also mention that Ray is expecting his first child in the next month and he and his awesome wife were kind enough to allow him time away to support me. This was pretty cool and I truly enjoyed the time. Once practice was over our team left the track and got some food and rest while we focused on the next day.
Our team woke up early enough to go get the complimentary breakfast at our motel. It’s a staple to make the free breakfasts when you are on a race budget. I spent the other part of the morning answering emails while I kept checking my phone looking for an update on the car. Practice and qualifying were going to start at 4:30 pm. After breakfast, work emails, and some coffee our team headed to the track where we would spend some time waiting.
Finally at 1:00 pm the car showed up! Our team snapped into action and unloaded the car ASAP. I had to get to a drivers meeting and sign autographs all while Ray and my Dad would be prepping the car.
Again it was uneasy for me to do this but I don’t trust anyone more than those two guys with the car. I was now focusing in on what I needed to do and trying to come up with a plan for me to succeed. After the autograph session was over I got back to the car. While everything we hoped to do was not done it was as good as it would get for now. It was finally time to hit the track.
I drove up the big hill of Road Atlanta and immediately got in line. I wasn’t going to waste any time getting to it. It was time to jam. I got to the start line and thought about all the things I saw from the day before. I came bombing down the hill and entered late and went off track into the “kitty litter” aka lots of rocks. I was full of frustration and anger. It was not the idea of me going off that made me angry, but more of how rushed I had to be and how much pressure I was feeling in the moment. I had a very short time to get a course down before qualifying where I would need to outdo the best drivers in the world for one of 32 spots.
But I wouldn’t be held back and my team was there to support me. Right back in line I went. This time I entered earlier as I am now finally realizing how fast this car is with the new Garrett GTX4088R and very sticky Achilles 123s tires. I drifted the entire course and for the first time seeing the whole track did pretty well. I proceeded to hot lap the course a few more times before a very quick tire change. I got a few more runs after that where I continued to progress on the unfamiliar course. I was off a few of the clips but for the limited time on the course I was feeling confident. I even managed to get my entry speeds up to 104 mph which is pretty quick. There were faster drivers but not many. It goes to show that our S14 has a lot of potential. I just need to further develop the car and myself as a driver.
While it was dry thus far through the event, that was going to stop at this point as the skies opened up and started to pour once the top seeded drivers headed out for practice. The track changed significantly. It was really an unfortunate situation for all drivers as the monsoon began. But as qualifying started we were alerted by Formula D that all drivers would get a practice run just before their qualifying run to get a feel for the newly modified track.
On my first practice run I went down and essentially threw the car just like I did in the dry. This ended up in me pulling a 360 on entry and looked more like something from a movie than a drift competition. I went back up to the top of the hill for my first qualifying run. I came down the hill and initiated, this time allowing the car to float out vs throwing it. I was set up well and navigated my way through the very wet and slippery course. As I ended the run I knew it wasn’t the cleanest however I was on or near a majority of the clips and thought I would at least put something on the board considering the tough conditions. My spotter came over the radio saying “Good run!” As I got to the top of the hill I was then made aware that I got a zero on the run because I apparently straightened out at some point. I have been wanting to see the run but the footage hasn’t been uploaded at this point. So I really can’t say whether I agree or disagree.
Leading up to my second run I was a bit concerned as the track was wet but in the process of drying. This is probably the toughest circumstances to drive in as it’s hard to predict what the surface will do as you navigate the course. However like the previous run Formula D chose to allow every driver to make a practice run on the course before they made their second qualifying run.
On my second run I made a run down the hill and entered drift. Again my entry was on point and as I started climbing the hill into the keyhole I was good. However I made the crucial mistake of getting off the gas too early as I thought the top of the hill would be a bit more slippery and wouldn’t have as much grip. This caused me to dive in early and zero out my second run.
I had no one to blame but myself. Formula D did a great job managing the rainy conditions and allowing each driver to make practice runs. It simply came down to me not doing what I needed to do. As I drove to my pit area behind the start line I was silent and didn’t say a word, and when I got to my area I sat in the car just reflecting on what happened. To say I was disappointed would be the understatement of the century. But I know for a fact that there were a good number of other drivers just like myself in the same area feeling the same level of disappointment. So I picked myself up out of the car and gave each of my team members a hug and a thank you for the hard work. Our team then packed up our area and returned to the pits. Where shortly thereafter we would head back to the hotel for a rest.
The next day the team spent time talking with all the Atlanta fans and preparing the car for Miami. Wash and cleaning, fluid change, spark plugs, tire prep, installing of the new awesome Carbon ARP mirrors, refreshing the taillights and finally loading the car on the trailer. Doing this while talking to all the fans made for a very busy day and our team didn’t get a chance to actually watch the competition until mid-way into the Top 16.
I’m really glad we finally got to make it up to the course as it was an awesome Top 16. The highlight battle for me was JTP vs. JR both in Ford Mustangs. Watching those two drivers go at it made me realize how far behind I was in this level of FD and the only way to get better would be more practice.
Don’t get me wrong I believe in my skills, but looking at the top level drivers and teams you really see how far ahead they are in the series. Therefore at that point our team decided to make somewhat of a shift in our season plan. Due to a lack of team members for round 4 in Jersey we are going to forgo that round and instead spend money on season fees for the Formula D pro 2 series. Therefore for the remainder of the year we will be running Formula D Pro and Pro 2 events at Rounds: 3, 5, 6, and 7. Excited for some fun opportunities to come. Thank you all for the awesome support and I hope to do you proud!