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With sprint season over, it was time to turn to the 2 hour and 8 hour endurance fall race, a part of the Festival of Endurance that is held each year to end the ICSCC season locally.

With the Track Attack #209 done for the year (separate blog post on that to follow), we decided to campaign the Track Attack #226 sister car, which belongs to our Architect, Manu Yareshimi!  This car is bad @$$ and one of the best prepared PRO3 cars in existence.  Manu purchased it from a solid driver and even better person, James Colborn and has been using it in his first year of club racing.

After obtaining his competition license, he experienced the joy of ‘shifting’ his engine and it was down for a couple of months, being rebuilt and readied for the endurance race.

The plan was to campaign the #226 in the 2 Hour race (with Manu and I [Gama Aguilar] co-driving) and the 8 Hour race (with Manu and two other guest drivers).  Further, I would drive a Spec E46 car for the first time, partnering with Grip Racing to drive the Red Bull #95 in the 8 hour endurance race.  I would be co-driving with two other drivers (Rob Dunn and Chuck Hurley).  I have been looking forward to this opportunity as we’ll likely make the move to Spec E46 in 2017 with a build starting in 2016.

Saturday AM Practice

As Saturday of the race approached, the weather forecasted shifted from sunny to rain, to partly cloud and back to rain several times.  By Friday night, it was expected that in the wee hours of Saturday AM showers would hit Portland but then stay dry and cloudy until around 8pm PST that evening, right around the last hour of the 8 hour race.  The rain came through and that morning it was cool, wet on the track and even more wet on the grass.

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I went out first in the Spec E46 on rain tires and upon hitting the first straight away, realized that my 5’6″ frame could operate the car BUT my arms were just barely not long enough to easily shift into 5th gear.  FTML!  After 15 minutes of getting used to the car, how careful you had to be on throttle application and initiating the brakes, I came back in to let Chuck and Rob have a go.

Then it was time to get a few minutes into the #226 PRO3 car as the 2 hour race would start within 20 minutes of practice concluding.  Unfortunately, the ice rink like conditions got the best of Manu and he went off track.  We spent the remaining time making repairs and my first time in the car would be when I would go in for the closing stint of the 2 hour race.

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2 Hour Race

Manu started the race and though we had a good qualifying position, it was still damp and we were going out in dry tires (Toyo RR’s) so we gave him guidance to just slowly warm up, get into a groove and not worry about fighting for position.  Just drive.  That’s exactly what he did and it was great!  He did go down one lap but he steadily improved and kept the car on track as the surface dried.

The first hour came and went fast and next thing you know, it was my turn to jump in the car for the 2nd hour.  Right as we were prepping the pit area for the car to arrive, we saw big plume of tire smoke at pit entry and unfortunately Manu came in a little hot and locked up the front left tire (the most important tire).  No matter, he came in, we did the driver change, refueled and got me going on track.

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Immediately as I came on track I merged right in front of the lead car.  We had un-lapped ourselves in the pit stop but now I had my work cut out for me to keep him behind me and ideally try to go all the way around the track and get the position back.  Turns out, our competitor was on his A-game and even though I had performed much better against him in the past at PIR, in the #209 PRO3 car – it was not to be.

I battled with him the entire race, gaining distance against him but only to catch slower traffic and have him catch right up.  About half way through the stint, I realized I wouldn’t be able to really pull away and catch him, so the goal was to just put down clean laps and focus forward.  All was going to plan until the last 5 minutes of the race.  The lock up earlier caused a slight flat spot and throughout the race, I could tell if I didn’t baby the tire on certain turns, it would chirp and tug.  Then all of a sudden, it got worse and that gave our competition all it needed to put the pressure on.

The last 3-4 laps were extremely tough – I had to be extra gentle on the tire, especially in turn 12 (last turn before the main straight), giving our competition a run.  Luckily the #226 engine (with a new head assembly) is stout and a great brake setup, so was able to hold him off in the braking zone for turn 1.

We ended up finishing in 2nd, putting down the fastest lap of the race for ME2 and having a blast.  Every single second of every single lap in that 2nd hour stint was with a strong competitor on my back, working our way through traffic or having much faster cars blowing past.

We’ll cover 8 hour in a second post.  In the meantime, thanks to Austin from Flying Bye Photo for being a driving force behind the enduro and for the awesome pictures!

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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.

Gama 3

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.  :)

Gama 7

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.

Gama 2

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.  

DashKidsEnduro

37 laps, 1 hour, 2 drivers and 4th place.

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.

Gama 5

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.  

Started 11th, Finished 5th!

Started 11th, Finished 5th!

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!

 

As we’ve mentioned previously, in the Pacific Northwest, there are two main motorsports competition organizations for road racing; Northwest Region of SCCA and the International Conference of Sports Car Clubs (ICSCC).  Despite the more regional focus of the ICSCC (conducting races only in Washington, Oregon and Vancouver, BC), it by far ends up with larger fields across the classes.

Most classes are the same as those found in the SCCA and NASA, such as Spec Miata, the new Spec E46, Formula V, Formula Ford, etc… but PRO3 is unique to ICSCC (they are more powerful and slightly more capable Spec E30’s).  So, this was Round 5 of the calendar, held at the challenging and dangerous, Pacific Raceways.

Mid-season updates!

A couple races ago, at Spokane County Raceway, we ended the weekend on a high, getting the electrical demons from a bad MAF mostly sorted out and a strong run on the final points race.  The downer was that we noticed one of the front Koni yellow shocks had started leaking mid-way through the weekend and by the time we got home, the shock had dumped all of the remaining fluid in the trailer.  While the Koni’s perform well and are double-adjustable, we had been looking to move to something different because of non-clicking adjust knob nature of the shocks.  Unlike most modern coilover setups, when you wanted to adjust compression or rebound, the knobs didn’t click so you never really knew how much to ‘turn’ the knob and it was difficult to feel the difference – making set up changes pretty challenging.

So we turned to Fortune Auto and their 510 road-race only series coilover setup.  These coilovers are all custom made-to-order.  You cannot buy them off the shelf.  We contacted Fortune Auto, talked to them about our series, the car and the types of tracks we run and ended up with a setup made just for the Track Attack #209!

 

Fortune Auto 510 Coilovers for the PRO3 Track Attack #209

Fortune Auto 510 Coilovers for the PRO3 Track Attack #209

We go them installed with the help of our Crew Chief, Bryce Allen from Southlake European, we partnered with local hot-shoe, ex-pro driver and instructor/coach, Ted Anthony Jr. for testing day at Pacific Raceways.  After a full day of running, twisting knobs, tire pressure/temperature checks and changing drivers, we felt the car was dialed in and ready to turn some competitive laps for the weekend.

Thanks to Fortune Auto and Vivid Racing (who we purchased them through) for the great quality product and support!  Despite the 510’s being only single adjustable for both compression and rebound, they did everything we needed them to do and for half the price of the super-high end product.  The performance, quality and value is unmatched!

Qualifying

First, we decided to run the Track Attack PRO3 #209 in two groups (or two races); Group 1 is the main venue for the PRO3 class championship and Group 8, the venue for the Northwest Endurance Championship.  The endurance championship holds an endurance race each race weekend, with longer races to book end the start and end of the season (2, 6, and 8 hour races).  For the second time, we partnered with Ted Anthony Jr to co-drive in the endure after previously winning the PIR and Spokane rounds.

For Group 1 qualifying, the goal was take the 1:35.3xx lap times we had been able to clock and stick with the top 3 current runners, to catch a draft and punch our ticket into the mid to low 1:37.xxx lap times.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get out to pre-grid on time and despite putting down solid and consistent mid-1:38’s, we were stuck in no-mans land, too far from the next front runner and too far ahead of the next front runner.  We ended up qualifying 9th in PRO3 but feeling good about the race pace. Click here to watch the session (open in new tab or window).

 

Car Tender Challenge Group 1 Qualifying - where is a draft?!?!?

Car Tender Challenge Group 1 Qualifying – where is a draft?!?!?

For Group 8 qualifying, Ted took the wheel and battled with 2013 PRO3 champion, Cody Smith for pole position in the ME2 class of the enduro.  In the end, he edged Cody by .10 seconds to put us on pole for the race!  Cody would be partnering with Hank Moore, owner/operator of Advanced Auto Fabrication (who refreshed the #209 over the previous off-season).

Check out Ted’s qualifying fast lap here – using an iPhone 5, Optrix wide angle lens and a Ram Mount Claw holder/mount! Click here to watch the fast lap!

1:37.043 - one pole for the 1-hour endurance race and the fastest the #209 has ever gone around Pacific Raceways!

1:37.043 – one pole for the 1-hour endurance race and the fastest the #209 has ever gone around Pacific Raceways!

Race Day!

Group 8 1 Hour endurance race – ME2 class on Saturday afternoon

For the race, we decided to have me (Gama Aguilar) start the race with the objective of staying up front, creating the biggest gap possible to the next contenders (Hank in the AAF PRO3 2013 Champion car) and Bruce Humberstone (solidly fast driver in the Basto’s DTM era livery car) so I can hand over the car to Ted in 1st position and have him close the race.

Thankfully, we had our comm’s in great shape and got a good start, temporarily getting in front of faster class cars that Hank and Bruce would have to deal with and putting a gap.  A few laps in, there was a healthy enough gap to Bruce in 2nd place that I could start running qualifying style lines but suddenly, the waving white flag came out in 2, indicating a slow emergency vehicle on track (which ended up being near the turn 5a entry – killing a lot of my momentum).  I had to slow to respect the white flag and that let Bruce close the gap.  From then on, the gap would widen and shrink from lapping traffic, my own mistakes and good runs.  A couple laps after the pit window opened, feeling I had a good gap to Bruce, we pitted for the driver change.

During the pit/driver change, there was confusion about the minimum time required for the pit (1 minute stopped or 1 minute total).  We took the conservative approach, assuming the 1 minute pit requirement started after you came to a full stop but our closest competitor took only a 1 minute pit/driver change total – putting them in front after the pit stop.  Instead of arguing, Ted put his head down ate up the lead.  With about 10 minutes left in the race, Ted got close enough to go for the lead and in lap 26, he and Kevin Doyle exchanged leads a couple times with Ted ending up with the lead at the end of the lap.  From then on, he steadily built on the lead and with a late race off by the Basto’s car, we ended up with a win by 30+ seconds!

Check out the full race here – shot with a Lumia 640 phone, GoPro Hero 4 and QSTARZ 818XT.

Group 8 - 1 Hour Endurance Race.  We start on pole and come out with a win!

Group 8 – 1 Hour Endurance Race. We start on pole and come out with a win! Click on the link above and open in new window.

Group 1 Race – Sunday mid-afternoon

Finally!  The big race!  The race was run mid-afternoon, in about 80-85 degree weather.  Starting 9th in PRO3 and 14th overall put us in row 7 of the grid, close enough to make charge with a good start.  Historically, we’ve had decent starts with most improving race after race.  Thankfully again, we had our comm’s down really well, got a good start, positioned the car well and coming out of turns 3b and 6 was able to take advantage of the traction that would wear out as the race went on due to the heat.  By the end of lap 1, we were in 7th place, getting ready to overtake for 6th place on the main straight.  After getting into 6th, the race settled down for the most part, just outside the draft distance from the next car and just far enough from the trailing car and the pack that was battling hard for 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th place.

At some point the 4th place car retired, putting us in 5th place and though we were cutting the lead to 4th, we finished the race in 5th after a tough wreck ended the race under full course yellow.

The 5th place finish was a solid performance and with Ted’s help, showed the car has the capabilities to fight for podium positions every race.

Check out the full race here – click here and open in a new tab or browser window.

Making a charge on the first lap!

Making a charge on the first lap!

What’s next?

We have a few weeks of a break before the next race at Portland International Raceway, the weekend of August 22/23.  We plan on doing routine maintenance, prepping some new sticker tires and hoping for continued sunshine.  We will be running the same groups and this time, partnering with Cody Smith from Code Red Racing on the 1 hour endurance race and he might run the #209 in the Group 5 race.

 

Heading out for the 1 hour enduro!

Heading out for the 1 hour enduro!

Coming in for a pit stop and driver change.

Coming in for a pit stop and driver change.

Winning!

Winning!

Ted bringing some Dirt Fish action to the pavement.

Ted bringing some Dirt Fish action to the pavement.

Waiting for a driver change.

Waiting for a driver change.

It’s almost April and normally we’d be less than a month away from the first track day, or maybe already done a handful of test and tunes.  This year has been and will be a little different for good and not as good reasons.

Injuries

Last September, I finally one an amateur league race at our local outdoor go-kart track, Pacific Grand Prix.  This meant that I got upgraded to the ProAm league, where the competition is faster and more consistent.  So that first week in October, I participated in my first ProAm race.

It was awesome but unfortunately, on the last race, an over zealous driver who was trying to make a last to first epic drive, on the first lap, took out a couple cars and they eventually collected me as I was exiting the turn.  I finished the race and initially the hit felt like not much but as the days wore on that following week, it was clear that something was not right.

Long story short, that hit plus my decision to train for a half marathon (and little to no strength training) has resulted in a 6 month recovery period.  It is now almost  April and I am about 75% back to normal.

Lessons learned?  Being fit, warming up, stretching, having the right safety equipment and being aware of your competition during a race, even in rental karts is paramount.  If you sometimes become that hasty driver when the competitive juices start flowing, show restraint.  Not only will you likely drive much better but you won’t put other people’s health in danger.

Off-season Rebuild

As some of my have seen on our Facebook page, the Track Attack PRO3 car has gone over an extensive makeover.  We’ll have a detailed blog post in a few weeks but the car is night and day different.  Because of the extensive amount of work and that it was done in Spokane, WA (close to 5 hours drive away), the car has been gone up until a couple weeks ago.  Super excited about the car, to share the details and more importantly, why each upgrade or change was made.

Season schedule

With a hiatus of NASA northwest in 2015, this year we’re focused on a more regional but super competitive racing schedule with ICSCC and in the PRO3 racing series.  This is a spec series for BMW E30’s, similar to Spec E30 which is popular across the US but a little faster.  We’ll be campaigning an almost full schedule, revolving around 14 races, across 10 race weekends.  You can find the full schedule here and each of the race results.

  • The Ridge Motorsports Park Test & Tune | Early May
  • Pacific Raceways | May 17, 2015 – Results
  • Portland International Raceway | June 7th – Results
  • Spokane County Raceway | June 19 – 21st – Results 1, 2 and 3
  • Pacific Raceways (SOVREN Historics) | July 3 – 5th
  • Pacific Raceways | August 2nd
  • Portland International Raceways | August 23rd
  • The Ridge Motorsports Park Test & Tune | Early September
  • The Ridge Motorsports Park | September 20th
  • Portland International Raceways 8 Hour Enduro| Mid-October
  • TBD – 25 Hour of Thunderhill | Early-December

We’ll also have between 2-4 test race days to break in the new components, coaching and testing any in-season upgrades.

We’re also trying to figure out how to get to Thunderhill, Sonoma and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca sometime this summer.

Excited to get the season started and hear and see all about how our users are getting out there on track!

 

 

 

 

2014 on the racing front was a great year, with a lot of highs and a few lows but all in all, a great year.  After an eventful end to 2013, the focus moved from competitive time trials in a relatively high horsepower car (NASA TT3 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9) to the world of competitive spec racing. Why the shift?  Having the ability to start a fresh, I wanted to focus on becoming the absolute best driver I could be in one year.  This would encompass a number of activities but when it came to deciding on the car to drive, it came down to one make and model, a BMW E30 race car.  The E30 is an iconic car across the world but here in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, one of the largest and most competitive club racing classes exists – the PRO3 racing class.  This is essentially a spec class (with the pro’s and con’s associated with any spec class) with over 70 known built race cars, 16 races over 12 or so race weekends and each race weekend having between 25-45 PRO3 cars on the grid, in a multi-class field as part of the International Conference of Sports Car Clubs (ICSCC). What’s a blog post without some cool videos?  Here’s an awesome documentary put out on the E30 car and PRO3 racing is featured about halfway.

Here was the plan for 2014 on the driver development front:

  1. Earn a full competition license for wheel to wheel racing.
  2. Drive a full schedule of NASA TTC events (more available track time to focus on my driving versus congested practice and qualifying for a race).
  3. Compliment NASA TTC with 5-7 PRO3 race weekends.
  4. Go Kart during the winter (indoor) and in between race weekends (Summer) in the respective racing leagues.
  5. Train for a half marathon in preparation for an 8 hour endurance race at the end of the season.
  6. Get within 3 seconds of the top 5 drivers at each race track.

So, how’d it go?

Earn a Full Competition License for Wheel to Wheel Racing

Mission accomplished!  In 2013, I completed a 2 day racing school and 2 of the 3 required races to obtain a full racing license with ICSCC (I could have gotten a NASA or SCCA license in 2013 but that’s a story for another post) and would have completed by 3rd race but the spectacular end to the 2013 season stopped me from being able to race the final race of the season.  So in April of 2014, I completed 3rd and final required race and a couple months later (due to additional volunteer working requirements), I finally got my license.  Here is the video of my final race where I started second from last as the licensing director staged us in a reverse qualifying order.

Check out the full race at the link above!

Check out the full race at the link above!

 Drive a Full Schedule of NASA Time Trials (TTC Class) Events

Though I shifted my focus to wheel to wheel racing, getting quality track time was also critical.  I love NASA and the NASA Northwest crew.  They put on a really good program which lets prospective racers or just drivers, experience and be around everything from their first time on the track, competitive time trials and even full on wheel to wheel racing.  A person can see the progression in person and it feels less daunting to move through the ranks.  I believe that because of this, the atmosphere is a lot more relaxed, there is a good amount of drivers but not too crowded and therefore, you get real quality track time.  I ended up doing all NASA Northwest weekends except the last one of the year at Portland (more on that below).  Each weekend prove valuable for working on my driving but also on-track testing of Track Attack builds.  Here are a few highlights from the year:

Big improvements in personal best lap times:

After the first race in April, we had the first NASA event at PIR (same track) but using the chicane configuration.  Once that first race was over, I had a ton of things I knew I could do better in but just wanted more track time to be able to implement.  So with the pro’s I listed above about NASA events, I made the most of them and dropped substantial time off my personal best lap times (in a PRO3 car the year prior that I had rented, in the low-1:38’s) hitting a solid 1:34.949 (not super fast but a huge improvement).

Fastest lap in 2013 - Right Click and Open in New Window

Fastest lap in 2013 – Right Click and Open in New Window

2014 Fastest Lap with NASA Northwest - Right Click and Open Link in New Window

2014 Fastest Lap with NASA Northwest – Right Click and Open Link in New Window

 

At some point, power matters:

In a mostly spec class, every detail makes a difference and I learned a year earlier than I had wanted that power is more than a detail.  The PRO3 car I purchased was built several years ago and while it was well set up, the engine pretty much original and tired.  The head had been replaced and ‘built’ but the bottom end was original with 230k+ miles (the odometer stopped working well before I had the car and it read 230k).  I knew I was going to be down on power from the get go but I was ok with that as long as the engine lasted the whole season.  It was not meant to be.  First, at the PIR NASA event above, we dyno’ed the car on a NASA standardized dyno (the one dyno used for all official dyno pulls to determine if a car is legal in class) and it put down 148whp – about 16whp below what a front running Spec E30 car puts down and between 30-40whp below what a front running PRO3 car puts down.  Disappointing but it at least provided perspective on what to expect. Second and finally, at the following month’s June NASA Northwest event at the Ridge Motorsports Park the engine decided it had enough.  After a day of testing on Friday which went well (made some progress on goals – a 2.5 second improvement from a year prior in a much more powerful PRO3 car I rented for a day), on the third session of a beautiful Saturday June afternoon, a rod decided it need to see the world.

End of the last lap, engine blows up - Right Click and Open in New Window

End of the last lap, engine blows up – Right Click and Open in New Window

After that weekend, it was time to make some expensive decisions.  Call it a year and start building a front running PRO3 engine or find a backup engine to get through the season?  Like all motorsport related decisions usually go, I went down the most expensive path – both.  Kind of.  I was able to find a decent running street engine that while it had wonky compression, put down a decent amount of power and was readily available.  I also gave a green light to start a front running engine build from Advanced Auto Fabrications in Spokane, WA – a shop that builds and maintains some of the best PRO3 cars around.  The engine would not be ready until the winter so it would be a 2015 investment.

2014 Sovren Historics featuring PRO3 Racing

Part of the reason I bought someone’s back up engine was to salvage the season but another reason was that PRO3 had been asked to be the featured racing class at SOVREN’s 2014 Historics event on 4th of July weekend.  3 days of racing all day long and 20k+ spectators watching some awesome racing and incredible vintage show cars.  I was able to get the new (to me) engine installed and ready to go with only a week to spare before the event.  Not only was it really fun racing the whole weekend but the lap times continued to tumble!  Below is the last race of the weekend, a shorter sprint race where positions were determined by the finishing position the previous day.  With 30+ cars in the field, I ended up just outside of the Top 10 at the end of the weekend.

Almost got them!  Right Click and Open New Link in New Window

Almost got them! Right Click and Open New Link in New Window

I learned a ton during that weekend in terms of my driving, the difference of a stronger engine and the right final drive ratio and tires, can make.  I left that weekend wanting more time on the track to be able to make the changes I wanted in my driving but not having to worry about other cars to protect a position or simply having too much traffic.

Personal Bests!!

With half the season gone, improvement really started happening at a quick pace, which was awesome!  I was able to make massive improvements on my personal bests at the three of the four major race tracks in the northwest.  Wasn’t able to make it out to Oregon Raceway Park this past year, despite it being one of my favorite tracks.

Pacific Raceways July 19, 2014 – 1:39.927

Taking the lessons I had learned from 3 days of hard racing two weeks prior, I put them to good use and squeezed out another almost 2 seconds from my personal best times.

1:39.927 - Right Click and Open in New Window

1:39.927 – Right Click and Open in New Window

 

Portland International Raceway – August 10, 2014 – 1:31.898

A month later I headed back to Portland with an ambitious goal of improving my fastest lap and cracking the top 10 in a dry weather race with PRO3.  The latter didn’t happen but I did improve my best times by another 3 seconds.  Two big differences – first was that I was driving with a new (to me) engine with ~10-15 whp more than the original engine.  Also, I had studied a lot of video and data from some of the front running drivers who had shared data.  My only goals were to have the same or slightly later braking points and carry the same speed as them through each corner.  In the end, due to having much less power than them still, I was able to brake at the same or later positions easily and in about half the corners, carry the same or more speed.  My last race of the weekend ended too early due to pushing too hard after getting bumped off the track on lap 1.  Lessons learned but still a was a blast!

1:31.898 - Right Click and Open in New Window

1:31.898 – Right Click and Open in New Window

 The Ridge Motorsports Park – September 21, 2014 – 2:00.393

Last time at The Ridge for the year and I went for broke.  With the engine developing a slight hesitation around 6k RPM’s in each gear, I knew I would have to push super hard to get some good lap times and perform well in the races.  Specifically at the Ridge, there are two somewhat significant up hills where being down on torque to other cars is a big disadvantage, so my goal was to carry as much speed as possible as I approached the hills.  All in all, it paid off in that I was able to improve my best lap time by 1.5 seconds from my last time out at the Ridge in August.

2:00.393 - Right Click and Open in New Window

2:00.393 – Right Click and Open in New Window

 How’d the rest of the plan go?

Go Kart all year long, indoor and outdoor:

This went mostly to plan.  I competed in the local K1 monthly racing league up until the car racing season started landing 3 podium finishes over the 6 months I raced.  Once summer arrived, I shifted to outdoor racing at Pacific Grand Prix, which is located right next to Pacific Raceways.  After a few months of the Amateur League racing, I finally got my first win and upgrade to Pro-Am.  Unfortunately in my first Pro-Am race I got taken out in the final race and resulted in some back issues that I’m still recovering from to this day.  I haven’t been back in a Kart but am hoping to be fully healed up by mid-January and karting as much as possible in the rain.

Train for a half marathon in preparation for an 8 Hour endurance race in October:

The training went well, as I did a 17 week training program, running almost 800 miles in 2014 and running a half marathon in just over 2 hours in September.  Unfortunately my day job created a conflict the weekend of the race so I was not able to do the Endurance race.

Get within 3 seconds of the top 5 drivers at each track:

Pacific Raceways – check!  The fastest times and near (or new) track records were in the mid 1:36.xxx. The Ridge Motorsports Park – close but not quite there!  I can’t seem to find the qualifying sheets but I believe the fastest laps this year were in the mid to low 1:56’s.  This puts me at about 4 seconds from the absolute fastest and possibly within the top 5 but I can’t confirm. Portland International Raceways – check!  1:29.2x was the fastest PRO3 lap time in August (and I believe the year) which puts my 1:31.898 just under 3 seconds away. Why does 3 seconds matter?  In a future post I’ll give more details on what’s going on with the car during the off-season beyond just the engine.  I think those changes will result in ~2 second improvements (maybe more in some tracks) alone and with improvements in my driving, I think that will at least put me in striking distance with the front of the pack.  We’ll see.

Wrapping up

2014 was a tough but great year for me personally on the driving front.  A lot of highs, some lows and it wasn’t cheap but it was worth it.  We’ll see what 2015 has in the cards but I’m coming back guns a blazing and I hope you all are too!  Here is to 2015!

Getting more than a facelift for 2015

Getting more than a facelift for 2015

 

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.

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Thursday

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
time.

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.

Friday

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Saturday

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!

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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.

PRO3 Race Cars at PIR Rose City Opener 2014

PRO3 Race Cars Lining Up for Weigh Ins

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.

Click Here – Session of 1:27.996 fast lap

PIR Friday Practice Fast Lap

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.

Click Here – Full Race – 2nd Place!

Check out the full race at the link above!

Check out the full race at the link above!

Overall, it was a good weekend of learning about the car, getting faster and as you can see from the video – using Track Attack!

Up Next

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).

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At 9104 Studios, as small as it might be today, we love technology and we love motor sports.  To help us develop the best solutions, we spend as much time on a race track and with racers as possible.  This enables us to come up with usage scenarios and get feedback from drivers, instructors and racing schools about what we’re working on.

With this in mind, we decided that 2013 was the year we would go feet first into competitive motor sports so we enrolled into the first available SCCA competition racing school available at our local racing school, ProFormance Racing School, based out of Pacific Raceways in Kent, WA.

How to get a competition license?

There are different ways that people go about getting their competition license.  Most paths involve some level of an initial day or half day of instruction on vehicle handling and dynamics, followed with lapping at a race track with a driving coach and at some point, you are given the ok to be on a race track on your own, without a coach.  The objective at that level is to make sure you are a safe driver for your own and other’s sake.  This is generally referred to a stage as having a ‘Sport Driving License’.

Once a track record of knowing how to control a car and be safe on a track, is established, then it becomes easy to know that you want to go after a competition license and be allowed to go after it.

What’s the big difference between a Sport Driving and a Competition Licensing Program?

There are a number of differences but I believe the main difference is the objective.  In a sport driving program, the primary objectives are for the participant to have a safe and fun time going around a track, i.e. not necessarily to be as fast as possible.  In a competition school, the objective is to train you to be a safe and fast race car driver.  Safety and then fast, fast, fast are the objectives.  Be faster than anyone else!

Time to go fast!

Having completed the High Performance Driving Education 1 day course at ProFormance and several open track days with the school, the competition license school was the best option to get licensed as early as possible in 2013.  ProFormance breaks down their program into two days:

Day 1:

  1. Classroom instruction about the racing world (club, pro-am and pro levels).
  2. Drills on braking, slalom while watching for flags and passing.
  3. Practice with a data collection session.
  4. Track tour
  5. Practice pre-gridding, gridding and start of a race

Don Kitch Jr - Chief Instructor

ProFormance Racing School

Day 2:

  1. Track time with instructors working on specific areas from the previous day
  2. Passing drill
  3. Medical examination (more of taking blood pressure and heart rates before and after a session)
  4. Practice
  5. Qualifying for a race
  6. Official race among school participants

The school provides cars to participants for a few reasons; create an even playing field, establish comparison marks so they know what to expect of performances and give people enough power to have fun but not get in to much trouble.

I had the black #11 below.

 

Racing School cars

Racing School Cars – Supercharged Chevy Cobalt SS

While the school end to end was invaluable, these were the highlights for me:

  1. High quality instruction: All the instructors have years and years of racing experience at various levels, in many cases at the pro Grand Am and American Le Mans Series!  They know what it is like to go fast and go fast with other fast drivers in VERY fast cars!  The quality of feedback that was provided was second to none.
  2. Using Track Attack to Accelerate Learning: Yes, a little biased but in truth, only a few other people had video going during any of the practice sessions.  More people brought out GoPro’s during the final race but what a lost opportunity!  I was able to use Track Attack during each practice session to record how I did, review after each session and most importantly, during the first practice session of Day 1, I had my instructor (pro driver and local hot shoe, Ted Anthony Jr) put down a hot reference lap for me to review and compare to my laps.
    1. What did I learn?  First, I wasn’t carrying as much speed as I could into a very complex section of the track where momentum is key.  He could carry the speed (entering around 70mph) and that told me the car could easily do it so if I don’t, it’s because of me and not the car.  Second, the car can easily carry an extra 5-8mph around a long, fast sweeper coming off the main straight away.
    2. How did this help?  The very next practice session, I was able to get within .25 seconds within his reference lap!
  3. Anyone Can Race Almost Any Car and Have a Blast!  No joke.  You’d think, a Chevy Cobalt SS?  Front Wheel Drive, stock with street tires and OEM brake pads and rotors?!?!?!  How are you going to learn to race with that?!??  Just like you would any other car but the saying is true about cars:  It is more fun to drive a slow car fast than to drive a fast car slow.  You don’t need a crazy fast car, expensive parts and huge tires or wings to get on a track or even race wheel to wheel.  Just get out there!

So what’s next? 

This certification of completion was money well spent and paves the road for entering competitive racing with NASA, SCCA and ICSCC.  Specifically the Track Attack team will be doing two campaigns this year:

  1. Time Trials Competition with NASA Northwest – look out for future blog postings on this where we’ll give an overview of the car and each event!
  2. Wheel to wheel racing in a BMW Pro 3 spec car with ICSCC – we’re renting a full on race car and doing racing!

Regardless of what level of motor sports you want to get into, just get out there and start driving.  You don’t need a ton of money or a super fast car.  Just bring a good attitude, energy and your car to most clubs or sanctioning bodies and you’ll be able to get going soon.  See you at the track and don’t forget your mount!

 

 

 

 

 

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