Day 0: Registration
This was probably the most exciting day, as we saw all the hardcore race machinery pulling up, and everyone was eager to get on the course and start backing up the smack talk (of which there was no shortage). We washed the car, attended registration, and the Scotts did their best to apply stickers without making huge bubbles. We would later find out that the way to go was to spray windex under the sticker, and then use a squeegee to flatten the sticker.
I went and talked to a lot of people, I was eager to meet Justin, the pilot of the single Mitsu Eclipse entered in the event. It turns out that he had just finished building his engine days before the event over a series of all nighters, just in time to make it to registration.
Other notables include two 300z's, who have some large compilations of in-car footage posted on their web site, and Jim and Chris who we had seen on our drive to Pahrump piloting a Porsche 996 turbo. The highlight was when we got back to the hotel and someone had left a big ol' smooch all over Scott's window.
Day 1: Pahrump - Bragg Smith Driving School course
This was a very techinical, challenging course, and lots of fun. We were fortunate to get there early enough that we could take a lap or two at low speed to get a feel for the course. This would be the second time that I have raced Scotts car, and the third time that I have ever driven open track. I had a lot of learning to do real fast, so Scott drove the first session and I observed his pace.
In our first three sessions, we ran times that were way off pace, and we knew we were doing something wrong. So in the fourth session, I was more comfortable with the car, and I thought I saw some spots where I could go faster, so I ramped it up a little (a lot). I actually ran a 1:58, which was fast enough to get us out of last place, and within a second of the next two fastest cars. This was encouraging, as it means we had a chance to be pseudo competitive, although nowhere near enough to win our class :) I think I even heard Scott cheering me on as he said "Oh Fun" (or at least thats what he claimed he said) as I came into turns faster than seemed prudent.
There was more excitement than just what occured on the track though. While we were driving to Willow Springs, we saw a semi change lanes without noticing the bronco in the other lane. The bronco accelerated and pulled onto the dusty sloped shoulder. Accident avoided right? Nope, he decided to try to re-enter the highway going probably 90 mph, and although I didn't see exactly what went wrong, I did see him flipping end over end, and then rolling about 5 times until he came to a stop, shiny side up, scattering wheels and axles all over the road. As about a dozen people rushed out of their cars to see if he was ok, we decided to soldier on, hoping that we don't puncture anything on the various debris left in the road. Brandon was listening to the police radio, and managed to pick up that somehow the guy was ok, a broken left foot and a punctured stomach was getting off easy for an accident like that. A later police report would explain why the accident was so bad, as apparently he had open containers in the car, and some drug paraphernalia. We made it to our motel without incident, with a slightly different perspective on the event.
Willow Springs is a very fast open track, with a turn at the end that some people were doing at over 120 mph. It was a rush, and more than a little scary to drive this track.
In my first session out I had a pretty good feel for how fast I could take the car, and I knocked a second off each lap. The hardest part was forcing myself to hold speed going into the long sweeper turn 8. I'd reach turn 8 going 130mph+, and on each lap I'd slow down less and less as I got used to all the grip that the car had. I didn't have confidence to go in any faster than 110, although I knew the car had a little more in it.
In my last session I was pushing the car a little too hard, and spun on an off camber turn when I made a total novice mistake and lifted the throttle mid turn. I ended up backing off the track, and luckily the only damage was to my ego, my confidence, and Scott's opinion of me as a person. It took me a while to build up the confidence to get back down to the times I had run before, but it was just good enough to edge out two competitors for 7th place in class.
Day 3: Streets of Willow
This was a tight technical track, much like Parhump, which was a welcome relief after the high speed adrenalin pumping Willow springs course. Unfortunately I didn't write about this track while I was there so I forgot most of it :) Scott had his first spin here, but I'll let him tell that story. Hopefully we'll get up the in car footage soon, so I can post some video highlights from each track.
Day 4: Buttonwillow #1 clockwise
I felt comfortable at this track having been here before, although I hadn't actually run this particular configuration. I went out first, Scott went second, and I took the last two sessions since Scott wanted to relax a little. The excitement of the day occurred in my last session when I was coming up to the bus stop, and the rear end stepped around on me. I had learned not to lift like I did back at Willow Springs, but the car kept coming around, so I put both feet in and let it spin. The car spun for about 100 yards on the asphault with all 4 wheels locked. As soon as i got rolling again, I felt a thump thump thump from the wheels as I rolled the car back around to the pits, and I knew what had happened. The slide had ground all of the tread off of the tires, flat spotting them so badly that we were lucky that they still held air. Luckily the track had a tire shop, and we had our backup tires mounted (pilot sports) which were supposed to be rain tires. After Scott finished whipping me for tearing up his $1250 set of tires, we got back on the road, and made it to the motel by 11:00.
Day 5: Thunderhill
Thunderhill is the one track that Scott had experience with, so he takes the first run group. I ride along and pick up a few tips on where there is speed, which is crucial since there are two big hills where as you crest the hill, there is nothing but blue sky to reassure you that you aren't about to drive right off the course. Scott gets stuck in a lot of traffic, and runs a best of 2:23, which is just slower than his previous best time of 2:21. Unfortunately, Scott isn't the only person familiar with this track, and everyone in our class posts better times. I notice however that the #116 vette is conspicuously absent, which is notable since he is one of the few T1 cars that we have a chance of catching.
My next session I go out with Jim (codriver of the 996) who happens to be an instructor. He gives me some nice pointers and helps me get my time down to a 2:18, which is still behind the rest of the pack, but it feels really good, and I know there are still spots where I could pick up at least a second or two. This is particularly sportsmanlike of him, since we actually have a possibility of beating them if we improve.
Since Scott is familiar with the track, and I took two sessions at Buttonwillow, he takes the next two sessions, and clicks off some more 2:21's, and after the instructor rides with him in the fourth session, he knows where he can get more times, but unfortunately we have run out of time for improvement.
It looks like the backup tires are hurting us a little, but we are strangely consoled by the thought that we were never that competitive in the first place. We're actually climbing up through the ranks just by attrition, as the #221 MTI vette with the 500HP motor throws its timing chain, and is out of the running (although they show up with a Celica at the next event just to run for fun)
Day 6: Buttonwillow #14 ccw
This was the one track that I had already experience with, so if I had an advantage anywhere, it would be here. Sure enough, I go out on the first run group, and starting with a 2:15, i quickly get down to a 2:09. then a 2:08 before the session ends. This is good enough to put me at 5th place in class on the track, a position that I don't think we've been in yet. Next run group I go out and back up my times with another 2:08, but the track is hot and tires are greasy, so that is the best I do, leaving us with a 2:08, 2:08, and 2:09 for the track. Scott wants to get to Vegas, so we skip his runs and head down.
When we get to Vegas around 6, Brandon has a really cool friend named Margie who meets us at a casino, where she proceeds to buy us a very nice Italian dinner, and give us each $100 (!) of her money to gamble away. We go over to her favorite machines, where I proceed to lose $40, and both Scotts lose all $100, and Margie wins $400! After the attendant comes over to pay out, I sit down at a blackjack table with $100, and after about an hour or two, I'm sitting on $240! I manage to tear myself away long enough to cash out, and we go back to our suite at the Rio and crash.
Day 7: Las Vegas motor Speedway Infield Course
For the final course, this was a little disappointing, as it was the shortest, slowest, and least technical course on the route. Basically we got 4 20 minute sessions on an auto-x course, and everyone seemed a little let down to have that as our conclusion, but the complaints ceased once we got out on track and found that even though it was slow, it wasn't going to be easy. It was a fun little course even though we turned in one of our worst performances of the event here. We were fatigued, we didn't want to break the car on the last day, and to be frank, we suck at autocrossing :)
Margie came out and supported us for the first half of the day, which was cool to have our own little fan club. We concentrated mainly on staying out of the blistering las vegas heat, using the shade from the pit garages whenever the track officials weren't looking (they wanted to charge us money to use 'em). Margie was nice enough to run out and pick up lunch for us from subway (you can only eat so many burgers), and we enjoyed sitting in the shade munching down our subs. While we were sitting though, I noticed a suburban rocking back and forth in the parking lot, and I jokingly asked Margie if it was hers. It turns out it was! As we rushed over to assess the damage, it turns out a certain grumpy competitor (think hyphenated last name) had been pissed that he parked next to her trailer. Instead of moving his trailer, or asking around to see who it was (we were only 20 feet away), he decided to high center the car with two jacks and try to flip it into the next parking spot. Long story short, she moved her car, and a little agitated we continued on our merry way. I think we weren't the only team that found this competitor to have a very unsportsmanlike conduct, including going out on the last day, in the wrong run group, and nearly running half of the cars off the course. But thats another rant for another day.
That evening we attended the awards banquet, which other than the crappy PA system (karaoke machine), went smoothly. They had catered food which was so/so, and gave out the appropriate awards. We socialized for a while, said our goodbyes to our competitors, and got to bed early, as we had a long drive home on Sunday. The event was a total blast, and I'll be back next year in my own car. This is a good time to thank our sponsors, Brad's Custom Auto who made sure Scott's car was bulletproof during the entire event, so we could only blame our bad driving. Homestead, which I used to make and host this website, and Brandon, without whom we probably would never have entered the event, who took a week off of work to haul tires, tools, cold drinks, portable chairs, shade, and everything else that we might have ended up needing.