Our First Race!The Nuts drove their first actual SCCA race over the Memorial Day weekend (2004). The event was the “Memorial Monster” organized by Central Carolina Region and held at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, South Carolina. The complete weekend included four races, regular Regional Club Races on Saturday and Sunday, and two enduros on Monday.
We co-drove the #91 RX-7 in the IT7 class of the Carolina Cup Pro Series (CCPS) enduro Monday morning. The race included all of the Improved Touring (IT) classes plus the Spec Miata (SM) and Spec Racer Ford (SRF) classes, so cars of widely varying speed occupied the track at the same time. Our IT7 car was about mid-pack in terms of capabilities, but near the back of the pack on track since there were a lot more cars of faster classes than slower ones. The SRFs were a good bit faster than our RX-7, and we had to be vigilant on the mirrors to spot them early.
This was our fourth trip to Kershaw in the last year, so we already know the track pretty well. We estimate that our previous HPDE experiences there add up to five hundred or more miles each. This was our first experience with the #91 on track, and we were running on Toyo RA-1 tires instead of our trusty Hoosier R3S03s, and the size was a little different, too, so we were feeling our way around a little in the car. Just to make things more interesting, Mother Nature “favored” us with a little rain. Fortunately it wasn't enough to interfere with our sessions, and temperatures were good, though it was a bit warm. Some really nasty clouds passed directly over our heads, though.
Lefty took the wheel first, for the practice session. Righty took over for the qualifying session and put us third in class on the grid. Righty hopped back in to do the start and the first half of the race. Righty started out really well, handily keeping up with the class leading pair. About halfway through his stint, though, the car started acting up, sputtering at low RPM and not wanting to rev up. But he kept pushing hard and didn't lose too much time.
When he brought the #91 into the pits at the halfway mark, the right front brakes were smoking pretty badly, and the car was still sputtering. Our pit stop ran about three minutes instead of the required two, but everything seemed OK except the overheated brakes.
So Lefty jumped in, vowing to himself to take it easy and make sure we finished, and stay out of the way of the faster cars. After about two turns, Lefty noticed that the fuel pressure gauge registered only about three-quarters of a pound of fuel pressure at low RPMs. That would sure explain the sputtering. As things worked out, the sputtering, and the fuel pressure, got better with each lap, until they were almost normal by the end of the race.
With a little care, and dancing between a few rain drops, he made it to the finish. Coming down pit lane, the grid worker signalled that we were in fourth position in class, and sent Lefty into the paddock. Lefty's first thought was “Whew! No impound, I can get cool immediately!”.
After getting the car back to the paddock, and cooling off a bit, we went looking for the series Chief Steward to retrieve our (hopefully signed) Novice License logbooks. We found him, and he had signed our logbooks, getting us halfway to the two-race requirement to upgrade the Novice License to a full Regional Competition License.
In checking his entry, we found that we'd actually finished third, not fourth! That meant we should have gone to impound to be weighed instead of to our paddock space. Going to our paddock space instead of impound would invalidate our finish! We explained what happened, and everyone was very understanding. We took the car directly to impound after finding the problem, and weighed in, making minimum weight easily.
While trailering the car, we discovered what appears to be bearing grease all over the inside of both rear wheels. We'll have to tear into those hubs to figure out what went wrong, but we're hoping we just cooked the grease out of them. Replace the front brake pads, and the fuel filter, and we hope to be good to go for the next event.
So, we completed our first event on our Novice Licenses and got them signed and even won a trophy in the process. Apparently, a protest was lodged against the class winning driver, so we might end up promoted to second, depending on the outcome of that protest.
When we satisfactorily complete one more event, we can submit our Novice License logbooks to SCCA headquarters for upgrade to full Regional Club Racing licenses! Woo hoo!
We sure hope we haven't forgotten anyone. If we have, please let us know and we'll get you listed. We'd include links to our instructors, but we can't find their web pages, so far. :-(
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