We made it.
We had tech inspection this morning at 11AM and flew through with only one recommended change. The kill-switch needed to be relocated so that it would be within reach of the driver while belted in with arm restraints intact. This required moving the switch about 2 feet from its original position and fabricating an entirely new mount for it.
There was also a mandatory track/facility driver meeting today at 12:30pm to go over basic rules and directions and then the track was opened at 1pm for pre-race testing.
We elected to get the kill-switch modification out of the way before we took the out for testing so we didn’t really get to drive until about 2:30pm. The team moved like greased lighting with Cope & Lawrence leading the charge to get the wiring modified while AJ fabricated a new mounting bracket.
The team insisted I be the first driver so I took her out for the first four laps, marking my first time on an unrestricted track in a modified vehicle in full safety kit. I have to confess that I was not prepared for the rolling nature of the car under heavy cornering and the first couple of laps really rustled my jimmies. I was absolutely the slowest vehicle on the track and was overtaken by at least ten different cars while trying to make my way around the first couple of times.
By the time I’d gotten through with lap three my heart was racing so much I had to bring it in and do a driver swap. Chris was ready to go so I let him take over and drank some water to settle my nerves. The car handled beautifully except for the tendency to lean dramatically in the turns.
The poor handling is caused by the nearly OEM suspension from 1996 on the car having covered more than 170,000 road miles with nothing more than shock replacement. We did the shocks in prep for this event but didn’t touch the springs or sway bars which is something I regret now. We sailed through tech and BS inspection without any question or investigation of our suspension. I could have installed a VMAXX kit on here without issue and nobody would have suggested I was over cost limits. Lesson learned. For Colorado or Button Willow, we will have a fully modified suspension setup.
My next five laps went much better. I was able to push her hard through the turns and take it just to where I was sure traction was going to break loose. When she steps out, she remains very controllable and rolling off the throttle a little bit will bring her right back in line. I definitely didn’t set any speed records but I certainly felt much better by the time I rolled her back to the paddock for another driver swap.
So the highlight of the day is that every driver got a turn of at least four laps on the track and we didn’t spin out, leave the pavement, get shunted off, or otherwise experience rapid unscheduled disassembly of the vehicle.
Tomorrow is the real thing. There are not less than 55 teams participating in the event and we will have a very crowded track. Instead of going for a target number of laps, we’re going to break it out into 30-45 minute stints depending upon driver fatigue and vehicle handling characteristics.
The first hour is all about survival and I’m slated to take the first 30 minute stint. Wish me luck. :)