Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Day Four: Sebring International Raceway | Gainesville Raceway

Press on to Sebring a mere 8 hour drive from Talladega. We arrive to our hotel at the track at around 10:30pm. Looks like we are the 2nd or 3rd One Lappers to arrive and settle into the bar for a beer (or 2) before turning in for the night. The weather is breezy and around 75 when we arrive but the predicted high for the day is 90plus. A little background on Sebring and me, I have been driving Sebring ever since my early driver education events after getting out of college. So I have a little experience here and mostly in early pre 90’s Porsche 911’s and BMW’s.

In 2000 I had the opportunity to drive the Sebring 12hour IMSA race with my friend Carlos DeQuesada and Boris Said in an ex-PTG BMW M3. Check that off the list of racing events that I want to do. LeMans, 24hr Nurburgring (which I would have done instead of the One Lap this year except for business scheduling conflicts), 24hrs SPA and some others.

Getting back to the day’s events, I started out the day having breakfast with Howard LaFever and Mark Grzella who are running a new CTS-V and besides making it to every event for the competition their other goal is to visit as many Adult “dancing” establishments as possible along the way, I must say they look a little tired. Then head over to the track to unload the car.

Funny thing is in the middle of the night someone affixed a little devil pig sticker to the rear bumper of the M3…wonder who did that? Anyway the temps are heating up but the track remains cool to the touch. The first session is really felling good in the car, the track is delivering a ton of grip and everything feels great. The only problem is after my 1st lap I notice the power not pulling me to an expected, indicated 160+-mph. This continues once I hit the top of 4th and 5th gears so my speed on all of the straightaway's is not there. Nothing I can do except try to maintain the most speed in the corners and get an ok overall time.

I later find out that this turns out to be worth 3rd overall behind the Stewart/Leir GT2 and Taylor/Rankins GT-R. So results were not bad but I am not thrilled since I know I could do so much better. Coulda-Shoulda-Woulda this is the One Lap. I suspect that the car is running out of gas since the tank was not totally full.

Luckily Karl Hugh and Barry are here to cheer us on from Active Auto in Miami and take a look at the situation. They feel that it is something else like the boost pressure is dropping with the ambient temperature of over 90 making the mixture too rich. Their solution is to modify the ECU tune, and they tell us someone will meet us in Gainesville to re-flash the program. Don’t forget this supercharger is a prototype system and the HKS charger is SN# ending in 001 so a few bugs are possible.

The afternoon session is really heating up, did I mention that one of the Subaru WRX’s grenaded his head gasket blowing coolant all over the motor and smoking up the back straightaway. Too bad because now they have to tow the car home to … Wisconsin or will they find a motor and show up later?

I head out for the 2nd session and try to short shift the car and keep everything as cool as it can be. I does not make much of a difference the car is not getting to the top of 4th and 5th gears. On top of that the track has lost the fantastic grip we had in the morning. I find out that it did not hurt me too much, or as much as I anticipated, we end up 4th overall for the session and remain in 4th place overall only 25 points down on the 3rd place Subaru.

It’s sunny and 96 degrees on the temp gauge as we arrive in Gainesville at around 5:30pm. On to the drag races, not exactly a BMW forte.

Gainesville Raceway

A short drive and we are back north at the Gainesville Raceway for a single ET drag event where the fastest cars in the ¼ mile will be rewarded with points and then a bracket drag event to reward the most consistent. My goal is to save the clutch and diff for the many remaining events we have till the end on the dry skid pad on Saturday.

So I am shooting for a repeatable and consistent time. Good plan I thought. In the ET with a really easy launch the M3 does a 13.13 at 113mph, I am pretty sure that I could knock quite a bit off (1sec?) that if I went for it.

So for the bracket drags I dial in a 13.0 figuring if I do the same thing I won’t break out. Well unfortunately I was gridded next to Hugh Bate in his 997 911 Turbo and guess what a 911 AWD is pretty good off the line.

I guess I should have had a Red Bull because I think I fell asleep at the line with a stellar .9xx reaction time and then I figured that Hugh had red lighted the start with his reaction time…but no, he killed me. Game over I am out of the rotations. Sort of to be expected in this car.

It was good to see some BMW fans out at the track, thanks for stopping by.

On to Daytona for a new flash on the ECU and some fun tomorrow.

Well not so fun for Jose, Officer Prevatt has just pulled us over in Bunnell, FL. She tells us that we were doing 80 in a 60 zone. Graciously she reduces the speed to 74 in a 60 so Jose is facing less points in along with the $191 fine. Luckily he had just slowed down from a speed where she might have been a little less pleasant.

I think we need a beer. Last year we covered 8000 miles without an infraction....

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