Race 13: 2009 February Regional
As you can tell from the menu on the left, it has been quite a hiatus for The Nuts. We last hit the track over Memorial Day weekend, last year. At that event, we had serious problems with fuel supply, and we did not get the second finish we needed for license renewal. Life, finances, and frustration interfered with getting the #91 RX-7 ready to go back to the track ever since.
With our renewal dates fast approaching, and life still in
the way of working on the #91
RX-7, we initiated a conversation with Rick Thompson and
Alex (Kurt) Jackson over at R & R Motorsports
about renting their
Reaching agreement with Rick and Alex, we started to get our
driver gear together and prepared for this race. This was
The weather in Atlanta in February always presents and unsettled face. Sometimes, the weather at this time of year seems a lot more like spring than winter. Other times, it rivals some of the worst January weather. So this event always has the attendees glued to the weather forecasts in the days leading up to the event. This year, the forecasts called for frozen precipitation on Saturday night as late as the Sunday before the race. As things turned out, the weather was clear, but cold.
Road Atlanta races present about the same level of difficulty for Righty as any of the other races we regularly run, since it is about the same distance. For Lefty, however, races at Road Atlanta are much simpler. We could even commute to the track from Lefty’s house, but it takes an hour, and we have to be at the track early. So, we got a hotel room in Oakwood, as we often do when we work races at Road Atlanta. This vastly simplifies the morning ritual, and means sleeping an hour later, too.
We both got away from work fairly early on Friday, with Lefty arriving around 1630, before Registration for entrants opened, and Righty pulling in around 1800. We spoke with Rick on the phone, and he was driving down I-85 headed for the track. He let us know that he would not arrive until 2000, and our rental car, coming separately, would arrive in the morning. So we headed over to check in to the hotel and have some dinner. We came back to the track around 2000 to help Ricky unload and to take our gear through tech. That was all we could do that night, so we headed over to the hotel, watched a little TV, and went to bed early.
Practice (Lefty – ITA)
first actual race at Road Atlanta. Both of
The Nuts have worked corners many
weekends at this track, and that occasionally means getting
to drive our street cars to and from our corner stations.
However, that doesn't do much to prepare you for racing on
the track. It especially does nothing to prepare you for
We all got to the track a little behind schedule Saturday
morning. When we left the hotel, the temperature was only 23
degrees (Fahrenheit). It was definitely
After a bit of scrambling, Lefty took off to the false grid a few moments late. As it turned out, this was a good thing. The rest of the ITA field had already headed out onto the track, and he drove right through the false grid and onto an apparently empty track. The rest of the field was over the hill and out of sight as he started the climb up turn one.
As he navigated turn three, and started thinking about how hard it can be to stay far enough left to get a good entry into The Esses from turn four, he noticed a waving yellow flag from the turn four station. A car was way off the regular track surface, almost past the new chicane for the motorcycles on driver’s right just past turn four.
The rest of the first lap was no big deal, until he got to the top of the hill at turn eleven. A bit surprised, and a bit confused, by the huge expanse of asphalt, Lefty found himself much too far to the left, when he could finally see down the hill a little bit. Discretion being the better part of valor, he went on in pit road, rolled through pit late, and reentered the track, still alone as far as the eye could see.
The rest of the practice session passed uneventfully. He gradually got faster through the session, but never reached the level of the ITA Miata regulars. He did get fast enough to stay out of the way, so that was enough.
Practice (Righty – SM)
Since a six-hour
After a night’s sleep, we headed for the track early again on Sunday. When we left the hotel, the temperature was 28 degrees, so a little warmer than yesterday. However, today brings a fifteen knot wind. And the temperature never got above the fifties all day. So it was pretty much miserable all over. At least it wasn't raining.
Qualifying (Lefty – ITA)
For Lefty, the qualifying session mostly replayed the practice session of Saturday morning. He got a little quicker, and learned the track a little better, but still ended up last on the starting grid for the race. Things were substantially less exciting today with greater familiarity with the track, and he found that several turns, especially three and six, had more speed in them than was immediately apparent.
Qualifying (Righty – SM)
Race (Lefty – ITA)
The race was an adventure for Lefty. Everything seemed fine as he navigated the pace lap, but when the green flag flew, and he accelerated up the hill from turn 10B, he could not get the transmission to go into fifth gear. He fell way behind the pack on the start, and kept having trouble selecting a gear all the way down the front straight.
He pulled in to the Pro Pit Out on driver's right just past turn one to get out of the way in case the trans was totally broken. After getting the car stopped, and fiddling with it a bit, he got it into first and took off. Things got worse from there, and he ended up putting it in fourth gear and leaving it there after about three laps of aggravation and grinding.
He ended up finishing last, three laps down, but finishing.
Which was the primary part of the plan, so that he could
renew his license.
Race (Righty – SM)
The Busa Grandé
In addition to the racing action, The Nuts took delivery of our newly-rebuilt Busa Grandé race car this weekend. Last year, we bought out a fellow that was getting out of racing. The main item was a Baby Grand car (like our #68 Baby Grand) with a blown Suzuki Hayabusa engine. Our friend Kirk Riddle has been slowly rebuilding the engine and refurbishing almost everything else for the last few months. The work finally got down to the level that we could complete it ourselves, so we gave Kirk a final wad of cash and picked up the car after the Sunday race. We need to replumb the rear brakes and fix up the air dam, but then it will be ready for the track. We will get an article and some photos up soon.
R & R Motorsports
The Nuts cannot thank R & R Motorsports enough for their part in making this weekend a success. Rick Thompson and Alex ("Kurt") Jackson make up R & R, and if you have raced much in the Southeast Division over the last few years, you probably know one or both of them.
This weekend represented our first time renting a race car as well as our first time on track in a Miata, something we have wanted to do for a long time. Plus, it was Lefty’s first time racing on Road Atlanta. Rick and Kurt went out of their way to make us comfortable, in and out of the car. The car was pretty strong, and though we had some minor problems in the races, they helped us through them and everything worked out well.
Whenever we find that renting a race car makes sense, Rick and Alex at R & R Motorsports will be at the top of vendor list.
Well, The Nuts froze nearly completely through at this event. It was about Wednesday before we felt like they had thawed completely through. The weather was easily as big a pain in the ass as a couple of years ago when we worked corners for the January Drivers School at Carolina Motorsports Park, and it was sleeting when we went to out stations Saturday morning. We can only hope that was winter’s last gasp for 2009.
Overall, though, The Nuts got our finishes, experienced racing at Road Atlanta, and got their first track time in a Miata. So it was a pretty good weekend, all around, when you get past the being frozen part of it.
would like to extend thanks to the following people and
organizations for their help in making this an enjoyable
and fun experience:
We sure hope we haven’t forgotten anyone. If we have, please let us know and we’ll get you listed.
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