My very first day of flagging ever happened to fall on a day when the remnants of a hurricane blew through Lime Rock Park. The gentleman who was training me asked me at the end of the day what I thought of flagging, and I told him I loved it. He laughed, and said “If you loved in this conditions, you’re really going to love it under normal circumstances”.
I thought of this on Friday of the Thompson Majors event, as hurricane Elsa was due to come up the coast and overspread Thompson with heavy rains. And heavy rains it had in spades, as the track quickly was overcome with standing water. By the second session of Friday morning’s practice and qualifying, a lake formed at the station just before mine, and we watched in amazement as cars would come through on their first laps, not knowing the lake was there, only to dive for the apex and cause splashes towering 8ft in the air, and the race car visibly slowing down as they hit a wall of water. Action was suspended, and a waiting game then played out as we tried to wish the rain away. As us flaggers sat in the garages, deadlines of 11am, noon, and 1pm came and went. Finally at 2pm, they decided that there were too many spots on track that would not drain in time even if the rain stopped (which it did), so a consolidated schedule focused on Saturday were put in place. When we took advantage of the rain stopping, our visuals on the track revealed Pit In lane had about 6-8″ of standing water in it, a small river of about 3-4″ of water was flowing across the front straight just up from the starter stand, the lake at Turn 3 that was very deep, and smaller rivers running across the track before and after the hairpin at Turn 4 (my station).
Saturday dawned cloudy but rain-free. However, there was a lot of water still draining from the area surrounding the track. Track services at Thompson was out trying to dig some minor trenches in the grass to help reroute water drainage at the braking zone just before the bridge at turn 5. Cars handled the wet spots on track with pretty good strategies, but we still had some cars running off track due to water in key braking and turning zones. One Spec Miata entrant put down 3 of 4 pairs of skid marks that led directly at the armcom on driver’s right at the turn under the bridge. Some more trench digging by track services finally allowed that spot to dry up, and drivers didn’t have many issues in any of the wet spots after that.
I finally had the opportunity to attend SCCA’s Time Trials National Tour (TTNT) event at Palmer Motorsports Park, July 4th weekend. Because it was my first time trial experience, I leaned heavily on my fellow MoHud members. A quick review of the classing rules prior to registering, I interpreted them to find my car qualified in the Unlimited 2 class, mostly due to using tires (Nitto NT01s) that were grippier than the encouraged 200 tread wear street tires that series sponsor Tire Rack sells.
The event itself had some unseasonably cool weather that weekend, and when combined with the damp conditions it helped preserve gas, tires and brake pads. I had fortunately signed up for a carport spot at Palmer, along with a majority of my MoHud friends, which lended itself to a very good atmosphere. Our driving experience was all over the board, and since SCCA groups entrants by driving experience, I found myself on track for my sessions with other drivers who had classified themselves as “advanced” drivers. So you had to wait for all driver groups to complete their sessions before looking at your results in class.
For the advanced drivers, we found ourselves with only 1 dry session out of the 6 sessions we were scored on over the 2 days. This seemed to work into my advantage with AWD and some solid experience with the track. Unfortunately for me, another Evo driver who I had the pleasure to chat with while flagging at NER’s June Paddock Crawl Race at LRP was a quick learner of the track, and was soon using his AWD and superior power output of his Evo to establish a lead I wasn’t able to dent. The good news for me was that this spurred me to put an even bigger lead over the other competitors in Unlimited 2.
When all was said and done, I held onto 2nd place and was awarded a trophy. Gotta admit that this was the cap on a really fun event and has me dreaming of doing it again next time the TTNT comes to the area.
Patroon BMW CCA kicked of our 2021 driving season with an afternoon of open track at beautiful Lime Rock Park. The weather cooperated with cool and sunny conditions that kept engine, brake, and tire temps in check.
The only downside of the day was several people coming up to me to let me know that I seemed to have some oil smoke trailing under certain circumstances; specifically when I’m off throttle. I’m assuming it’s the normal puffs when I shift, and when the rings aren’t under compression. Last leak-down test I had produced good results, so we’ll see. As STM told me – don’t touch the engine until you have to.
The weather hasn’t been a big motivator to getting things ready on the Evo. A recent trip to my buddy the fabricator held some interesting results. One of the things I asked him to take a look at was the possible causes of my autocross tires having a belt width portion of the front driver’s tire’s tread lathed off of it during a spin I took a look for possible causes and found two areas that showed signs of rubbing, but both seemed like they would have affected the sidewall of the tire, not the tread surface. However, my friend thought that the trailing edge of the body in the wheel well could have had a part, especially if the tire deformed during the spin. The fix? Cut the edge in several places, fold each portion over, then re-weld the cuts to solidify the edge once again. Sounds drastic, but I don’t want to lose another $400 Hoosier A7 in the process, especially one that was on its first day of use.
September 4, 5, and 7 – I spent three days as a flagger at Lime Rock Park’s iconic Historic Festival. We were fortunate it got the go-ahead to take place considering all the restrictions on large gatherings, and for sure this event was different, as spectators weren’t allowed, but the racers themselves came out and supported the event to ensure car counts were good.
I was station captain at station 1, the entry to Big Bend. The great thing about station 1 is that it is a prime passing zone, and as such you get to see some excellent racing at this vantage point. The downside is that because of the passing opportunity that is presented to the racers at this point, you quickly find that not everyone possesses the talent required to pull off passes cleanly, and without contact. For the event, I wrote six reports of contact between cars – an all-time high for me. We saw some heart-breaking incidents between some fantastic and beautiful machinery, but fortunately all the drivers were fine.
I was looking forward to Event #2 with the Mohawk-Hudson Region of the Sports Car Club of America. We had upgraded our timing software, we had a new laptop, and I had two new Hoosiers on the front of my Evo. We had tested the software and I’ve run Hoosiers for quite a while, so I was set.
Or so I thought. First up was the sinking realization that I had completely forgotten about testing out our live timing setup. It’s based on a donated wireless router and some freeware software that was written 7 years ago, but it all seems to have worked. Until now… turns out the new timing software changed the output format of results, and the freeware we used – axti.me – couldn’t read and process it. We had a few folks gathered around to help with troubleshooting, but it wasn’t to be.
We had a great autocross course, and the new Hoosiers were putting me closer to the battle, but my times were still off from what I felt the leaders of the Pro class were putting down. My last run I decided to push myself to the absolute limit, and I did just that, but stepped over those limits at the end, spinning through the stop box and knocking down 4 cones. I managed to avoid the timing lights and cables, and watched a light pole spin by, but the 180 I did voided my event best time. Oh well, the car didn’t stall, and I was able to continue on and get back to grid. I got out and looked at my car to make sure it was OK. I laughed – I had two perfect outlines of cones on the driver’s side. Usually when you hit a cone it smears on the front bumper or wheel, but I had hit these straight on with the side of my car in the spin. I went to the passenger side, and noticed a patch of orange in my front wheel well. Oops – I still had a cone stuck between the tire and the fender liner. I got down on my back and slowly worked the cone down to the ground and just as I was wrestling it out from under the car, I noticed another issue: I had a long ribbon of what looked like fabric extending off the driver side front axle and extending to almost the middle of the car. “What the heck is that?” I said out loud. I got up and went back over to that side and got down on my back to look at it. It wasn’t cloth, but actually felt like a rubber strip. Touching it made my hands a mess, with dirty oil on it. Weird! A small group was gathered around, and as I pulled on the rubber strip, it wouldn’t come loose. Someone offered me a knife, and I cut it just behind the front tire. I figured once I got the car back up on my trailer, I could see what the heck it was. As I got up and showed folks the rubber strip, another competitor got down on the ground and was looking at it when he shouted “It’s from your tire!” Damn – that tire was brand new. As we looked at it and once I got it up on the trailer, we finally figured it out. Apparently when I spun, the tire rubbed on the trailing edge of the inner wheel well so much that the sheet metal literally lathed off a complete ribbon of tread, about 2″ wide, right down to the cords. The tire is shot and I’m out $400.
July 19, 2020 – MoHud got the chance to host an autocross event recently when Poughkeepsie Sports Car Club (PSCC) decided to pass on holding an event at this point in the pandemic. I, too, was a bit skeptical about all the new protocols we’d need to put into place and ensure that participants followed them, but others were eager to give it a shot. We have some folks on our team of organizers who had been dealing with pandemic protocols in their day jobs, and that experience helped immensely. We also benefited from several documents produced by SCCA National and some other regions that pioneered hosting events under Covid-19 protocols.
The site we used was the former location of IBM in Kingston, now called TECH City. It has large parking lots, and asphalt is reasonably good condition. There are a lot of little stones on the pavement, but in some ways I think that saves wear and tear on cars and the pavement as they aren’t able to put down so much grip that they lift up the pavement.
We decided to put a limit on even attendance capped at 50, following NYS guidelines for gatherings. We didn’t sell out, but we came close at 48 attendees. We also had an unwanted guest at the event: a stunningly hot heat advisory for that day. It made mask wearing a bit more uncomfortable than it normally would be, but attendees were very good at following our protocols. My special challenge for the event was arriving and realizing that the cooler I had packed with cold waters and lunch had been left on my kitchen table. Due to the pandemic, we had announced that we were not providing water to attendees, but fortunately my fellow competitors had brought extra water and generously offered it to me. I took advantage of those offers, but apparently I didn’t drink enough because by the time we had packed up and were discussing the event, I was feeling pretty woozy. Another generous offer of water and I regained my bearings and was able to tow the Evo home.
With that success, we’re looking to put on another Solo event on August 16th.
July 11, 2020 – SCCA Racing in the Northeast has come back with Covid-19 protocols in place. NER had their first event recently at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (TSMP), hosting an SCCA US Majors race weekend. Knowing that the flagger crew generally is an older demographic, I was eager to volunteer to make sure that our new flag chiefs had enough volunteers to adequately staff all the necessary stations around the track. I was also anxious to get out and flag, having most of the first half of our season cancelled due to the pandemic. Being outdoors and not in a crowd is a necessity for me to feel somewhat comfortable in getting out to events. To further reduce the risk to myself, I decided to recruit my wife to join me as a flagger; bringing my social bubble along for the event was a good way to reduce exposures to others.
The weather forecast for the weekend was threatening to be pretty wet, with a huge storm making its way up the East Coast. Fortunately for us, the storm decided to head further inland than first anticipated, and as such we enjoyed hot and sunny weather for the race weekend. SCCA road racers were also eager to get out and enjoy some social distanced motorsports fun, too, as car counts were pretty good; some race groups were 30+ cars. My wife didn’t want to stretch her wings too much during the event, so she stayed on the yellow flags for both days, making me blue flag for both days. We were given an easier station to work so that I could keep an eye on both my responsibilities and give some help to my wife’s flagging duties when needed. By day two, she was starting to get the hang of the event and was commenting on specific cars and racer actions. It was great to finally get her out to an event and see what I do at these races. I’m hoping we can get out to a few more events as a team.
I was keeping a nervous eye on the US/Canada border closure talks as I was signed up to head to Calabogie, ON in late July for Trillium BMW CCA‘s event. I and several of my track friends went last year and we had a blast. This is a trip I’ve been taking for nearly a decade now, but this year the pandemic prevented it from happening. With the announcement that the border will remain closed until July 21st, both my lodging and Trillium have refunded me my deposits on my trip. Others who planned on traveling with me had already decided to not go, so while I’m sad to not attend this year, I’m glad I’m not going to be the only Patroon member there.
Attended Patroon BMW CCA‘s Open Track event Saturday, June 20, 2020 at Lime Rock Park, and it was great to get back to the track. Things were a bit strange, what with social distancing and masks, but we got used to it quickly and focused on turning laps. This was a successful event for Patroon, and we were discussing what factors went into that. Was it the end of quarantine for many? Was it the open track format? We’d like to repeat the success of the event, that’s for sure!