Our Fourth Race!After the Memorial Monster event at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, South Carolina, we found that we had damaged the rear axle on the #91 car and our buddy Sam Henderson at Precision Performance Corvette (Mauldin, SC) did the repairs for us. With the car back in running shape, we finally got to compete again race over the weekend of August 13th and 14th, 2005. The South Carolina Region of the Sports Car Club of America organized this event, the Buck Muse Memorial, at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, South Carolina. We codrove the forty-five minute enduro of the Carolina Cup Pro Series race that weekend.
Getting ThereThe weekend started out reasonably well. Lefty left Atlanta about 1400 Friday afternoon, headed for Wellford and Righty's house. Arriving in Wellford, we found that one of the magnetic trailer lights had fallen off the trailer and broken. When we left Wellford to head to Kershaw, we found that the local AutoZone store wanted US$ 50 for the same magnetic light set we'd purchased at WalMart for US$ 30! Well, not having much spare time, we coughed up the fifty bucks and headed on down the road.
From that point on, the haul was pretty easy. We arrived at the track shortly after dark, so decided not to unload until Saturday morning. We visited for a while with our IT7 friends from the Greenville area, Sam Henderson, Freddy Klopper, Brian Dobson, and Travers Tapper. They even had an (over) abundance of freshly grilled hamburgers, and “forced” us to eat a couple each, then hounded us to eat a couple more each, but that wasn't in the cards.
Eventually, stuffed to the gills with red meat, we wandered over to our usual hotel, The Executive Inn, in Kershaw, SC. Luckily there had been a cancellation or two, and we were able to upgrade from a single to a double room, which made life a lot easier. After a pile of snacks from a convenient convenience store, and a little television, we crashed.
Saturday - QualifyingSaturday morning, we slept in until about 0900, and timed our arrival at the track for the last half hour of registration, after stuffing ourselves with Bojangles biscuits. Things went swimmingly at registration, and we headed to the infield about 1100. We got our paddock area set up and a little basic prep done on the blue car. After sweltering a bit in the Lowcountry heat and humidity, we decided that we should head over to the hotel and luxuriate in the air conditioning, and maybe catch a nap. Our qualifying session was scheduled to be the final session of the day, so we didn't need to be at the track until about 1600.
We got back to the paddock about 1500 Saturday afternoon, found Dad there waiting on us, and made the final checks on the car. Then we just hung around trying to stay hydrated in the heat and shooting the breeze with Dad. By the time they called our run group to the false grid around 1630, we were nice and sweaty, and the sky was starting to threaten, with the typical late-afternoon thunderheads so common in the South during summer. Sitting on the false grid, the threat turned into a promise, as those same thunderheads let loose on us.
The plan was for us to split the twenty minute qualifying session, with Lefty starting and Righty taking the second half. Starting in the rain, on Hoosier R3S03 slicks, Lefty tooled around fairly slowly, more interested in staying on the track than setting a new lap record. That turned out to be a good plan, as the track was as slippery as owl stuff in several places, particularly “The Carousel” (turns five through seven, “Faith”, “Hope”, and “Charity”).
Lefty noticed as he went through the final turn that the clock had wound up to about nine minutes of the twenty minute session. Forgetting about change over time in the pits, he figured he'd come in on the next lap. Righty was waiting patiently when he came in with about eleven minutes of the session gone. We feverishly got him into the car and hooked up to the helmet blower. As Righty clicked the last section of harness into the cam lock, there was a big clap of thunder and lightning lit the sky and the Stewards terminated the session for the safety of all of the volunteer workers. What a bummer!
Saturday EveningSo we packed up and headed to Gus' House of Pizza to stuff ourselves with some excellent pizza for dinner. The weather was good, though hot, and after dinner Dad headed back to Charlotte while we headed for the hotel in good spirits. We spent a couple of hours watching television and finishing up the plumbing on our home-brew “cool shirt” system. Unfortunately, we didn't have the mounting hardware or electrical stuff to actually get it into the car before the race on Sunday.
Sunday - The RaceAs on Saturday, our run group was the last of the day, so we again slept in a bit. We got up and showered and munched a few more biscuits at the local Bojangles for a “healthy” Sunday breakfast. After lounging around the room for a couple more hours, and taking a quick nap after our exhausting morning of shower and breakfast, we finally got to the track about 1400. That's when we discovered that it had rained quite a bit after we went to bed. In fact, our brand new EZ-Up Express II pit canopy was leaking like a sieve. Between that and the stuff we hadn't put under cover at all, most of our stuff, save our personal gear, was soaked.
After we got situated, Righty headed over to the notice board to see how we'd qualified. That's when we discovered that Lefty wasn't listed on the results. We sought out the Timing and Scoring folks at lunch and got Lefty onto the T&S logs so he'd show up in the final results for the event. As it turned out, we'd qualified fifth of seven cars in the IT7 class. Not great, but not terrible considering the rain and the slicks.
We'd agreed that we'd swap positions today, and Righty would start the race. As we went to the false grid, it was hotter than heck and the sky was threatening, again. The rain didn't come, though. After a wave off on the first attempt at a start, the field got the green flag. Righty quickly passed one IT7 car, putting us fourth in class. After a few more laps, he passed another IT7 car, and we were in third, and hopeful for a podium finish. After about six laps and about twelve minutes, there was a huge flash of lighting and thunderclap. The Stewards black flagged the race to let the course marshals take cover while we all waited out the storm.
As it happened, the rain never did materialize, and the thunderheads went past us fairly quickly. The clock continued to run for about six minutes of the wait, then the Stewards stopped it. After about a twenty minute pause, the storm was past, and they got ready to send us back out to finish the forty-five minute race.
As we mounted up, the Chief Steward told the teams that they were dropping the required pit stop. We weren't sure if they meant the pit stop was not required, or if it was prohibited, and Righty was pretty spent from the heat, so Lefty took over to finish the race.
Lefty was doing OK, maintaining third place with a consistend three-second gap back to fourth and fifth place, who were dicing with each other. He was even closing on a Spec Miata, and the SMs are usually a bit faster than the RX-7s. Then an SM from farther up the pack dropped back far enough that he and the SM in front of Lefty got do dicing, and turned up the wick a bit, and pulled away.
Lefty had realized a couple of weeks before that he was losing a lot of lap time under braking. He was braking too early, and not braking hard enough. So he'd been working all weekend on going deeper and braking harder. It caught up with him with about seven minutes left in the race when he cooked the entry to Turn 14 and went hard onto the rumble strips at track out.
When he got to the end of the front straight and hit the brakes, the pedal went almost to the floor, but he did have brakes once the pedal found them. Between screwing up his timing and scaring him half to death, he almost went out the back of Turn 1, and had quite a bit to handle from then on. That was also when the leading SRF car caught him from behind. After giving the SRF too much time and space to pass, the fourth and fifth place IT7 cars, still dicing, were on his ass, and the brakes were still all wacky. So, with only about five minutes left in the race, he pulled out to avoid wrecking himself or anyone else.
We spent about an hour getting the paddock space packed up and the car loaded on the trailer, and pulled out headed for Wellford. Lefty needed fuel before the drive home, so we stopped for gas and found that the front tow straps had loosened up enough that the hooks had come loose from the trailer! After fuelling up and tightening the tow straps, we hit the Interstate. When we stopped in Columbia for a little chow, we found the front tow straps had come loose again!!
We finally got to Wellford almost two hours after dark that night, and still had to swap the trailers. That took forty minutes or so and we were soaked with sweat and dead tired when we finally finished. So we went inside and watched a little television while we cooled off, then hit the sack.
MondayRighty had to work Monday, so they were up “at the crack of dawn” to let him get there on time. With the car already trailered from last night, Lefty got some parts out of the truck and got on the road a few minutes after eight in the morning. With the black trailer, we could use the tow straps with safety hooks at both ends, so no worries about them coming loose during the haul to Atlanta. Plus the black trailer had working lights, so that was one less worry, too. The black trailer, though, is noticably heavier than the orange one, and Lefty could really feel the difference through NutDriver IV (2000 Dodge Ram 1500 with 5.2 liter V8). But he got home and was unloaded and resting by around 1300, enjoying the air conditioning.
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