This was the
final SCCA race of the season, and as such felt that taking advantage of the
Lime Rock Park (LRP) test day on Tuesday before the Friday/Saturday race
weekend would be highly beneficial. If you recall from my
previous LRP event things did not go as planned, with a shunt at Big
Bend, and so never had the time to truly dial in a good setup plus learn the
race line. Sure i won that race at LRP back in June, yet there was still
more work to be done. Since LRP was the very first track i had ever driven
years ago by attending a Skip Barber three-day driving school in their Formula
Dodge cars plus a pair of days immediately afterwards in the Ferrari 308GTS
QV with FCA, it was nice to get back there in hopes of securing the 2007
title of second place in the driver's championship for the North Atlantic
Road Racing Championship (NARRC) region of SCCA.
Arriving on Monday for the test day allowed
me to setup the tent, scales, and have everything ready for Tuesday's event.
Since i have been receiving quite a few e-mails for more photos and videos,
everything was in place to capture the flavor of this five-day LRP
Truck, enclosed trailer and tent setup. Call it home away from home for the
While not the creature comforts of home, hot meals and a cot are fine.
Car comfortably rolled onto the scales.
Side tent bits now attached.
Weight scale readout, as was trying some new bits on the car
and wanted to be sure of the weight distribution.
As i would be at LRP for about a week, things tended to spread out within
is a small carousel, as it were, with lap times being under a
minute and has a nice rhythm to it. After the straight you basically brake
as late as possible and go around Big Bend and and take the Left Hander to the Esses and
away you go to the uphill. Not much to go wrong other than the usual always
keep things neat and tidy at the top of the hill. After that, the back of
the track is fairly easy other than keeping your momentum to carry as
much speed as possible down the hill and take the last right with as much speed as
possible through the front straight. Deceivingly simply really, yet keep in
mind LRP's tarmac, littered with many concrete patches, is not smooth like
Watkins Glen or the many European circuits. In fact LRP is very bumpy in many
places while the concrete combined with newly paved and old pavement
sections yield various grip levels. So you are fighting the bumps, various
adhesions levels, and of course the other cars on the track.
Tuesday started off with a simple warm up, as
sometimes drivers get a bit anxious and perhaps trying new engine bits. As
such, took things (relatively) slow and steady while various cars did make
their way off of the track surface. During this first session was about 50
feet behind a car when it's engine decided to let go, spewing oil all over
my visor in the process as i quickly went off race line and pulled a tear
off from my visor so i could see a more clear view instead of blurry oil
splatter. This first session went well and all parameters of the car's
pressure, temperatures, and other bits felt as they should.
With each passing 20 minute test session my
times were lower as the driving line became more understood and was taking
more speed. Tire grip was quite good during the middle three sessions as
temps were nice and hot and tires were in their midlife of heat cycles. The
last two sessions it was obvious the tires were going off, so the car was
sliding a bit more. The very last session the times were off by about 1.5
seconds and so it was time to retire this set of rubber. A video from one of
the faster sessions can be seen by clicking
With Tuesday's test session ended, things
felt really good and it was now time to spend the next two days to
completely bolt check, clean the car, and also try something i had special
planned for the NARRC qualification session 1 on Friday. If my daemon tweaks
worked, would carry it over to qualification session 2 and the race. if it
did not work out, still have qualification 2 to change things back for
qualification 2 and of course the race.
And Now Batting Clean Up...
Wednesday was spent
tweaking the car and bolt checking. Enjoyed a nice sunny day at LRP while
taking my time completing the various tasks. This continued through Thursday
and by mid-afternoon all was set. While the car engine and other bits were
not really 'dirty' (relative), she was now quite clean.
Qualification Time! The Best
Laid Plans Of Mice And Men...
With the track being a bit cool and the tires
in the same condition, allowed a few laps for things to get up to
temperature. There was no huge rush and sometimes the first few laps drivers
tend to get a bit overly aggressive given the conditions and spin out. It
has happened to me so can not plead innocent there! By lap 3 it was obvious
something was not quite right on the rear of the car. The changeover was not
working well, with good grip with no and high load forces yet light to
mid-loading during bumpy sections causing the rear to step out at a higher
than desired rate (too much oversteer). The bumpy track and changing
surfaces really had me trying to analyze just what was the problem so i
could later formulate a possible solution.
Video link at the end of this paragraph goes as follows:
Was driving relatively slow on my 4th lap around the track and trying to
understand the grip situation during various turns. Taking the Lefthander
was a pair of cars not quite in their normal position. At first i felt go to
the inside (left) of the red car as usually when they spin if the driver
does not stay on the brake pedal the car would drift to the right in this
my grip level by turning the steering to the right, there was no way i'd
pull an inside pass given grip levels so felt going wide (right) would be
safest as could always chop some grass if necessary. Fortunately the driver
of the red car did the right thing and stayed on the brake so as to not
drift and passed him with enough tarmac to not dirty the tires. With that
out of the way, was still being cautious during turning events and you can
note this by the deceleration before the turning events and my obviously
slower speeds as compared to the other video. So another lap
around and past the uphill things were not happy. And then it happened,
taking West Bend carefully the rear of the car snap oversteered to the point
where a brief moment of trying to correct was obviously futile so may as
well stay sideways to scrub as much speed as possible in hopes of lowering
the possible impact speed to the inside wall. Someone up there must love me
as barely touched the wall at 5mph. It felt like a rear upright
broke or something along those lines. After giving the flag/track marshals
the thumbs up i looked into my side view mirrors and the suspension bits
looked fine as best i could tell. So i drove to car to a safe zone and
awaited them to push me out once the sessions was complete. After they
pushed me out i checked what i could while on the track with steering input,
going through the gears, etc to try and find any obvious mechanical
problems. Back in my pit area, only damage to the car were the front end
plates, which were easily banged back into shape. The video tells me that
when the loaded left rear tire touched the concrete patch it suddenly lost
grip. See video of the snap
oversteer by clicking here (9.4MB).
With qualification session 1 being less than
productive, there were a few hours to really analyze what happened. Checking
the bolts, suspension bits, alignment, etc plus had a friend who is an
engineer double check my findings, it appears there was no major error in setup or
lose/broken bits and so this lead me to the obvious problem which i shall not discuss
directly. Fortunately, kept detailed logs and so was able to make
appropriate changes. To make a long story short,
was stuck using my old tires, which were now well past their optimum and so
knew lap times would be off by a good bit. Simply had to finish the race and
get the points, which is exactly how things went. End result, secured second
place in driver points for SCCA's NARRC region in my rookie year as had
already secured second place in SCCA's New England Region (NER).
always, in the end what really matters is that we all...
Enjoy the Track,
Steven R. Rochlin