Northern Swing Starts at Summit Point
It was 42 degrees and raining most of Friday, so none of our V8RRS drivers ventured out on track. It also ends up Bob Davis didn't make it to the track and Gerry Hudson discovered a problem with the brakes on his motorhome while hooking up the trailer, so neither of them were around to take the green for either session on Saturday. We did pick up extra entries in Mark Mercurio and new member Tony Stefanon, however, so we had seven V8RRS drivers (plus two more possible recruits) out of the 18 that turned a lap on the first day of competition.
Mark and Amy have been working overtime to get their new business (A & M Automotive) off the ground, and between that and getting Randy Walker's GTA Camaro and Andy Trought's GT2 Camaro ready they hadn't had time to work on their own GT1 Camaro. As they were loading up on Thursday, however, his volunteer crew (Bill Eschborn, Bob Webber, Pat Wiesmore, Don Roberts, and Phil Haynes) "suggested" that if he didn't load his own car into the rigs along with the others then they weren't going to go! Mark argued that he doesn't like to take an unprepared car to the track and they replied, "It's going to rain all day Friday, so we'll just finish it up there!" It was only missing the entire braking system, valve springs, rocker arms, and the front splitter, plus the engine hadn't been cranked since he broke a rocker at Mid-Ohio in October 2018, but they were undeterred. Sure enough, the #114 GT1 Camaro was finished up and ready to go when I got to the track around 3:00 Friday afternoon!
It had stopped raining by the time we got to the track Saturday morning, but it was still 45 degrees and overcast. As Group 2 we were hoping the SSM cars in Group 1 would dry the track out somewhat, but all they did was spread mud all over the critical corners. As our guys rolled off the grid for the single 12-minute qualifying session the WDCR grid workers displayed a sign that said, "Mud in Turns 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, & 10"! Don't worry about going fast, the challenge in qualifying would be keeping the car on track. Everyone got progressively faster as the session went on, but even at the end of the session some folks were still spinning the rear tires when shifting into fourth on the front straight.
At the end of the session our heroes lined up thusly: . 1st GTA (1st OA) - Chris Durbin, Hawk Brakes Monte Carlo; 1.33.335 . 1st GT2 (4th OA) - Andy Trought, Winfield Farms Camaro; 1.35.005 . 1st AS (5th OA) - Jim Jost, Jost Iron Works Mustang; 1.35.179 . 1st GT1 (7th OA) - Mark Mercurio, A&M Automotive Camaro; 1.36.194 . 2nd GTA (13th OA) - Randy Walker, Walker Properties Camaro; 1.42.998 . 2nd GT1 (15th OA) - Tony Stefanon, Catfish Racing Cadillac; 1.48.142 . 1st SPO (17th OA) - Dave Melley, Mad Metals Monte Carlo; no time
During the break between qualifying and Race #1 the track continued to dry out and the sun even started poking through the clouds, so we knew the order would be shuffled significantly during the race. Andy made quick work of the two AS Mustangs in front of him and was right on Chris' bumper going into Turn 1, Mark quickly moved up through the field to run in third overall at the end of lap 1, and Dave moved up from 17th to 9th by the end of lap #2 with Tony on his six. Dave's race ended on the next lap, however, as he experienced an "oil retention issue" (the #2 rod exited the premises via a hole in the block). Two laps later Randy spun in Dave's oil and his freshly refurbished Camaro is now in need of additional refurbishment. At the front Andy kept up with Chris for a couple of laps but then slowly dropped back as the engine started falling off at higher revs. Mark moved past Andy as they finished lap 4, then moved into second overall after tracking Chris for three more laps. Meanwhile Jim maintained first in AS (between 6th and 8th overall), but also fell afoul of the stewards for ignoring the black flag (for sound) for seven laps. As he explained afterwards, "This is a test weekend for us and I knew they would DQ me for sound after the first black flag, so I just stayed out there to see what the car had." Unfortunately, the operating steward did NOT find his actions amusing.
At any rate, here's the order at the end of the fifteen laps: . 1st GT1 (2nd OA) - Mark Mercurio, A&M Automotive Camaro; 1.15.894 . 1st GTA (3rd OA) - Chris Durbin, Hawk Brakes Monte Carlo; 1.16.874 . 2nd GT1 (4th OA) - Tony Stefanon, Catfish Racing Cadillac; 1.17.153 . 1st GT2 (6th OA) - Andy Trought, Winfield Farms Camaro; 1.18.022 . 1st AS (8th OA) - Jim Jost, Jost Iron Works Mustang; 1.21.338 . 2nd GTA (14th OA) - Randy Walker, Walker Properties Camaro; 1.21.611 . 1st SPO (16th OA) - Dave Melley, Mad Metals Monte Carlo; 1.21.438
Jim has already gone home (he was only planning to run Saturday from the get-go) and Dave is out. Randy is getting his Monte Carlo ready while the A&M Automotive crew diagnosed Andy's issues as a clogged fuel filter. While we'll only have 5 entries for Sunday's 20-lap feature race, it should indeed be another good one.
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Andy Trought made a few laps during Sunday morning's hardship warmup and declared the car was good, and since Randy Walker changed cars he would have to start from the back for the day's 20 lap feature race. As stated before, Jim Jost had gone home while JB Weld was not able to repair the hole in Dave Melley's block so we were down to five V8RRS drivers for the day.
At the green (potential new member) Jim McAleese disappeared into the distance while Mark Mercurio slotted into second, but behind those two Andy and Chris Durbin had a heated battle for third overall. Andy got a good run on the front straight starting lap 2 and completed the pass under braking for turn 1, then shortly after that the course went FCY and then Black Flag All to retrieve a Mustang from the kitty litter outside Turn 10 (high-speed right-hander that leads onto the front straight).
Once the safety crews retrieved the wayward Mustang (I wonder if he thought there was a Cars & Coffee that morning?) and the race was restarted, everyone settled in while Randy continued his charge from the back of the field. He was up to ninth by lap 6, and seventh by lap 10, then moved up one more spot when Mark pulled off in the cut-thru between turns 2 & 3 on lap 17. We were watching from the Tower as Mark came down the front straight and down-shifted into turn 1, but he later said he felt the engine go off-song as he went back to the gas leaving the corner so he pulled off before doing more damage. Andy's fuel pressure issues returned so first (new member) Tony Stefanon and Chris got back by. On the last lap a competitor oiled down the track in Turn 10 which made things pretty hairy for some, but all our guys survived the experience. At the end: . 1st GT1 (2nd OA) - Tony Stefanon, Catfish Racing Cadillac; 1.14.835 . 1st GTA (3rd OA) - Chris Durbin, Hawk Brakes Monte Carlo; 1.15.943 . 1st GT2 (4th OA) - Andy Trought, Winfield Farms Camaro; 1.16.596 . 2nd GTA (6th OA) - Randy Walker, Walker Properties Monte Carlo; 1.19.503 . 2nd GT1 (12th OA) - Mark Mercurio, A&M Automotive Camaro; 1.15.098 . DNS - Jim Jost, Jost Iron Works Mustang; no time . DNS - Dave Melley, Mad Metals Monte Carlo; no time
Not only did the Washington DC Region SCCA appreciate our participation as much as we appreciate the quality events they always conduct, but we generated some interest among the NEDiv big bore drivers. Besides Jim McAleese, T2 driver Steve Martin also expressed interest in what we're doing.
Next up is May 4 & 5 at Daytona with VIR (also the 2018 Championship event) the following weekend.
See y'all at the track...