Saturday – Race #2 GTL Race #8 LWSS
Sunday – Race #5 ASRA Team Challenge
Ahh VIR – One of those tracks that everyone says the love, but only in the way that you really liked that crazy chick from high school that made you feel cool just for being around her. VIR is a hard track. Hard on the body, hard on the bike, and even harder on the mind. It requires non stop concentration, provides a myriad of corners and conditions, but hey – after a good lap around there, you feel like a real racer.
This weekend represented a lot of things. It was a road trip with Sam and Todd [LWT #61 and LWT #171], it was the last CCS weekend, and also the last ASRA Team Challenge of the year. There is another Team Challenge race in Oct at Daytona Speedway, but Todd and I decided that as a team, we couldn’t make that race. That meant we only had one race to get as many points as possible. Going into the weekend our endurance team had a nice 13 point lead to hold us in third place in front of Rawspeed David Hanig. However, Dave always does very well at Daytona, so to ensure our lead stays and keeps us in third for the year, we would have to walk away from VIR with a full 35 point lead. That meant placing 5th or better this weekend. That was our goal.
Traveling in a group is always better than traveling alone. The 7 hour drive from Philly to VIR flew by on Friday as we made jokes, told stories and got excited for the weekend. The little E-150 that could made the drive although we were ‘scraping the wheel wells’ with all of the weight we were carrying.Saturday morning after a few good warm up laps, I went out for the GTL race. Mark Evry would be out there and Todd LWT #171 would be there as well. They were my carrots and incentive to follow to get warmed up to VIR. The trick with a 25 min “GT” race is to get a great start so you have a lot of faster guys having to get past you. This gives you the opportunity to latch onto faster riders and learn as much as you can as the race drags on. That was exactly what I went out to do. I entered turn 1 in 3rd place and and held that for the entire first lap. After that Mark Evry came around me off the draft on the main straight. Now was my chance to latch onto him and see what he could teach me. Together we settled into a pace of mid 1:39 laps which was faster than I had ever gone around VIR. Having Mark there to set the pace really helped out. Around the 1/2 way mark of the race I started to feel that Mark was holding me up, so I drafted past him and tried to make my break away. That didn’t work as well as I had hoped. Mark quickly zipped right past me on the next lap. I would have to time my pass a little better. I slotted back in behind him and decided to hold back until the last corner.
Little did I know, Mark would drop the hammer the last three laps. I ended up turning low 1:38s those last few laps just holding onto him. On the last lap I turned a 1:38.307 my best by far, drafted him hard out of the last corner and ended up beating him in a photo finish for third place. Podium! It was a fantastic race and it couldn’t have been any closer.
LWSS I went out there with the same plan and went into T1 in third place again. However as I was riding through the back section at VIR I got a little excited to get on the gas and stepped the rear out massively coming out of T9a. By the time I went into T10 at the top of the hill I had lost two places and most of my confidence. I settled into a more comfortable pace of 1:41s laps and decided to save it for tomorrow.
Sunday I had nothing planned by getting a few laps in morning practice on the LWT #171 bike and then heading out for the second stint. This team challenge was only 69 laps, so Todd and I expected to both do a little over 30 a piece. Todd took the first stint and turned an impressive 35 laps while fighting for third place the entire time. LWT #61 checked out with Briar Kcraget on board and half way into his stint Mavros #11 had a mechanical and dropped out. That mean that Todd was fighting for second place and winning. Third place was a pair of newcomers to the endurance scene Slick Willy Racing #25x.
Todd and Slick Willy came in at the same time, but thanks to a great team pit stop, we went out with a total pit stop around 50 seconds. Slick Willy went out 1:12 seconds after us. It was my job to manage that lead for the rest of the race. I set into a very comfortable pace of 1:42 / 1:43 laps knowing that we had second locked up as long as we brought the bike home. Todd stood on the wall and kept me honest whenever I would slow and allow #25x to catch up. Every time he gave me a windmill motion on the wall I would go out and turn a 1:40 lap to keep things spaced right.
When the race was over, Todd and I finished in second in the GTL class, fourth overall, and in the process solidified third place in the GTL class for the season. For anyone on the fence about ASRA Team Challenge endurance racing, I can say without a doubt it is the most entertaining racing I have ever done. The team spirit, camaraderie, and emphasis on “first finishing” makes it a fantastic race series. And I should know, we finished top three for the year. (:
Thanks again to my LWT Teammates, both at VIR and at home – thanks to Speedwerks for keeping me on the best SV in the paddock – and thanks to my wife for supporting me through this awesome season. You can catch me doing an Absolute track day on Monday and I will be finishing off the season with a ‘vacation’ at Barber Motorsports park with AHRMA in October.