Man, last weekend’s race at Grattan was a challenging one.
Despite never having been there before, our original plan was to bypass Friday practice in order to preserve the cars to get our “needed starts” on Saturday. That decision was validated when trailer modifications took longer than anticipated and the cars couldn’t arrive in time anyway. I arrived early, when through the amazingly easy check-in process (thanks WMR SCCA volunteers!) and watched 5 minutes of practice.
After that I got in a course walk. This was the first time I had walked a road course track, and brought back many memories from the days of autocrossing. I preferred to walk an autocross course 3+ times minimum; that wasn’t going to happen with a 2+ mile road course!
After that I headed back to my restel, or “restaurant/hotel.” The rooms were above the restaurant, which was very cool, especially in a quaint little downtown. After gorging self I headed out to a local dirt track, to make sure that I was still connected with my inner oval racer being.
Saturday morning we shoehorned ourselves into a spot, got both cars out and through tech, hustling to get on the grid for the first session (which doubled as qualifying). I struggled to learn that track, mainly because I was unable to get the car to stay in 3rd gear (again). After 5 laps and being a general roadblock I decided to park it for the session.
After discussion we decided we would pull the gearbox after the race. We discussed methods to “drive around the issue” and we headed to the grid just after lunch. Our race took off, and the issue remained. I was able to work around it a tad, but mainly just practiced going faster in the sections that 3rd gear wasn’t needed – to get confidence up through the twisty stuff.
On the 8th lap I came off the last corner heading up to the main straight and I noticed a large amount of smoke in the cockpit. Looking in the mirrors I saw a much larger plume of smoke. I got halfway up the hill and killed the engine to coast in to the pits.
The culprit, thankfully, was only a rear main seal. It is easily fixable, just not at the track. Given we accomplished our goal, the car was parked for the weekend and I became the de facto car chief for my teammate. This was good practice to learn the cars more, and to support his solid race – when he wasn’t spinning!
Enough for now, until the next update with big news. (And the big news isn’t that I won my first iRacing race in a street stock at USA International Speedway)