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Author Topic: PittRace "Cumberland Classic" Fire and Ice Majors - May 13 & 14  (Read 1342 times)
Rich Grunenwald
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Street Racer
Posts: 3423

Stirring the pot...

« on: May 16, 2017, 12:35:49 PM »

Short story:  Returned to W2W racing after 13 years.  Drove off the trailer, raced and had fun, drove back on the trailer.

Long story:

Kathy and I arrived at Pittsburgh International Raceway around 11:30a on Friday the 12th.  Instead of cheaping out like I usually do, I made the wise decision to do the test sessions in the afternoon.  Given I had never driven our Mustang out of 2nd gear, and was at a new track, this was a good move.

Check in for the test session was easy, and the folks there were very helpful. The facility is top notch - nice event center, plenty of paved paddock, garages, etc.  Easily the nicest amenities I've seen in a long, long time.   There was a brief Drivers Meeting which included guidance on how to get around the track from one of the Instructors.  Very helpful

Of course, my first time in the car fully suited up, the sub belt fell below the seat, and Kathy nor I couldn't find it. Matt Downing was pulling in just then, and came over to help.  I won't say how he found the belt, but I can say he now holds a special place in my heart.  

Weather was good - cool and overcast - and I managed to make it through the afternoon sessions without going off track.  We didn't keep times for these sessions simply because it was about getting comfortable with the car.  The track itself is big fun.  We used the combined course which is about 2.9 miles long with 18 or so turns, many of them blind. It took me a l-o-n-g time to figure out where it went, particularly Turn 14 (http://pittrace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Combined-Track-Specs.pdf) which leads on to the fast long back "straight".  Still, we made it through the day without major incident.  

Kathy and I and race dog Stella stayed at the Park Inn, just 5 minutes from the track. A '70's era hotel, part of the Radisson chain, undergoing remodeling.  Some parts of the hotel were a bit tired, but our room was nice.  Crew member and autocross pal Travis Robuck met us there around 7:30p, and we hit the hotel restaurant for dinner.  Food was good and beer selection was decent though it was all a bit pricey.  

Woke up Saturday around 8a and headed to the track around 9:30a.  Stopped at a convenience store called Al's Market on the way to the track to pick up a few things.  Al's has a deli as well as baked goods from the local Amish. I've got a thing for fruit pies, and both Travis and I got one.  Best fruit pie ever.   Highly recommended.  

At the track just before 10a and got ready for qualifying. Son Andrew arrived which was nice to have him there - he came up for the day.  We were Group 7, the last group, and it consisted of STL, T2, T3, T4, and STU.   Thirty one cars in the field, seven competitors in T4, including OVR members Matt Downing in his Solstice, and Dan Hardison in his Firebird.  This was my first timed session, and I ended up 6th out of 7 with a 2:13 and Matt and Dan were in front of me  a couple rows in 5th and 4th respectively in the 2:08 range.   The class leaders were locals who went off and hid with times in the 2:02 range.

Overall, the session went well, but the brakes on the car seemed a bit soft for my tastes - not exactly confidence inspiring. So, Travis and  I bled the brakes and replaced the front pads.  Matt came over and chastised us for working on the car - apparently that is frowned upon in Touring. Texted PO Greg Vandersluis about the soft brakes, and he said "that's the way it is."  So we buttoned it back up, and got ready for the race.  Kathy and Travis then beat me up for driving like a wimp and hitting the brakes in places I didn't need to.  

Originally, the race was supposed to be 15 or so laps, but there were so many delays with other races, that ours ended up being cut down to 20 minutes or 10 laps.  The start was uneventful for me - I made the mistake of not staying close the car ahead of me, and the rest of the field was off to the races before I even saw the flag.  Nothing like losing 10 lengths at the start.  

From there, the race was uneventful.  I got quicker, down to a 2:09, but I don't think I passed anybody.  Ran by myself the entire race until I was lapped by the T2 and T3 cars.  Just great - lapped in a 10 lap race.   But, I kept telling myself I had a lot to re-learn.  The car was great - so easy to drive and and no bad habits from a handling perspective. Finished where I started - 6th.

After the race, they had a nice welcome party including dinner and beer, but Travis and I opted to grab a couple beers from the cooler and walk the track.  Damn, that thing is hilly! Turn 5 as marked on the map is a bowl, and we were huffed by the time we got to the top of the hill just past 6.  Travis felt a little bad for critiquing me for being slow once he saw all the blind turns (2, 3, 10, 13, 14).  It took us about an hour to get back to our paddock, and we proceeded to down a couple of Four String Switchblade IPA's and Brass Knuckle's with Matt and Dan.  Both Matt and Dan were helpful with advice on where to go faster and such.  Much appreciated.  

Hit the hotel restaraunt again and drank way too much.  Matt headed home for Mom's Day Sunday morning so I figured I might pick up at least one spot! Qualifying the next morning was a bit earlier, so we got to the track at 9:45a.  Went out around 11a for a short 15 minute session and picked up another second to get down into the 2:08's. This time, Dan was in the 2:07's a row directly in front of me, and a T4 Miata was beside me. So, it looked like we'd have an exciting start.  

This start went much better.  I kept up with the field through the first few turns, and Dan and I had a good race.  He was quicker in some places,  and I was quicker in others.  I finally got a run on him coming out of 5 and was able to get inside of him going into 7.  I tended to be better going through the 7 - 10 combination, and he tended to be better at 14 and beyond.  The T4 Miata took off and left us for a while while we were racing, and after a few more laps I was able to put some distance on Dan.  

Then, we ended up with a full course caution for a few laps due to an incident at 17 / 18 which left John Schmitt's STL Civic in a bad spot needing a tow.  This enabled the field to bunch up again, and at the restart, I started to battle the T4 Miata.  We had a great race for about 5 laps.  Very clean and proper.  I tried to pass him in various spots, and just couldn't get quite enough of a run to get him.  However, on the last lap, he went off a little on the outside of 14 and so we went through the fast 15 - 16 section side by side, with me on the preferred inside line. However, I went a little too hot into 17, and he got beside me at the exit, so it was a drag race to the checker, where I edged him by about a half a car length.  

Very good racing, and quite exciting.  I was really happy about the entire weekend.  Both Dan and the T4 Miata driver gave me kind words at the end which was great. Got down to low to mid 2:07 laps consistently at the end of the race.  But, I've got to say that while I didn't do anything exceedingly stupid during the weekend, that Mustang is fast! It has no bad habits and I can't wait to pick up speed in it.  

All in all, a hugely successful weekend given my sabbatical.  Kathy and I can't wait until Mid Ohio in June!

Other notes:

- I didn't catch all the OVR members there, but I know Scott Rettich was there with the Alliance Autosport crew, and I believe won his race in SR3.  
- Rusty Bell was there in his GTL Tercel.  Didn't get too much chance to talk with Rusty, but he pulled in a 6th and 4th IIRC.
- Other OVR members there not mentioned above: Mason Workman, FP Miata; Larry Gallagher, FP Integra; Sam Halkias, EP TR6; Rick Haynes, FP Midget; Glenn Murray, STL Integra; JT Murray, STL CRX
« Last Edit: May 16, 2017, 03:23:09 PM by 31rx7 » Logged

I have two big heavy 'Murican race cars. Must be an old guy thing.
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