Sunday, October 17, 2010

Putnam Park - NASA Spec E30

I came to Putnam Park a bit nervous. Not because I was feeling pressure to place well, but because I had pressure to just FINISH both races. The regional championship came down to this weekend. I was nervous because only part of this was in my control. I felt confident that I could keep the car on the track, but a mechanical issue or a rogue SpecPi├▒ata could easily take the championship out of my hands.

Pre-race, I made sure the car had enough tire and brake and ensured that nothing weird was going on. But, the night before I was to head out, I heard a tick in the motor that I didn’t like, so I pulled the valve cover and reset the gaps on the rocker arms. Although I did find a few out of spec, it didn’t seem to have made much difference. However, I gave Nate a good scare when I sent him a picture of the exposed internals of my engine when I was supposed to be getting loaded up! As added precaution, during the races, Nate was stationed in the pit lane with spare tires, duct tape, and zip ties, as well as an assortment of tools; to get me back on track should something go very wrong. Both races would take place on Saturday.

I posted the best times for practice and qualifying, but the car wasn’t feeling particularly good. There was lots of oversteer, making it difficult to drive “flatout”. Yet, it was pushing notably in turns 9-to-10. It was more than a little hairy. We made a small camber adjustment, based on our tire temps, but we didn’t have much time to play with it and had to somewhat wing it.

Sean Louisin giving chase (Alyssa Nolan photo)

I started the race from the pole position, on the inside coming out of turn 10. With radios not working, it was up to me to look for the green flag to drop. I jumped at the same time as Sean Louisin, but he had a slightly higher starting speed, since he had come through the outside of the turn. He was pulling on me, but there was a slow 944 in the left lane and I wasn’t going to be so courteous as to move over and give him the room to complete his pass! So, I lead into turn 1 and stayed in front, despite a lot of lap traffic and a particularly annoying 944. He was fast enough to keep me behind him for several laps, but was also slowing me down enough to allow Louisin to keep me right in his gun sight. He made a couple moves, getting beside me, but I was able to emerge ahead each time. In his final attempt, coming out of turn 8, he pushed wide. He went over the rumble strips, over the access road and, when he hit the grass on the other side, he did his best Dukes of Hazzard impression, launching his car a couple feet into the air. After a hard landing, he was able to continue on at speed and cross the line. For me, I brought the car back cleanly in 1st place, save for a good coating of dust all over the back end. That was one race down; one more to go.

SpecE30 10/9/10 Race 1 - Putnam Park

Coming through the final turn (Alyssa Nolan photo)

It was great to have Alyssa, her parents, and my friend Luke all in attendance. Our future SpecE30 competitor, my buddy Denny, was giving rides in the HPDE sessions to Alyssa’s parents. The track was getting dustier and slicker after every session, as cars would put a wheel (or 4) off the track and kick up a cloud that would eventually settle back on the track. Alyssa’s mom wasn’t even fazed by her 4-off experience!

Nate and Anthony, getting ready to race

In the second race, we started in the same positions as in the first, but my start was no better. I had Louisin pulling me on my left and Richard Bratton III making a surprise attack on the right. We were 3-wide as we entered the braking zone for turn 1. I weighed my options… In the best case scenario, I could win this turn and stay in the lead. In the worst case, we could bang some fenders, get disqualified, and the whole championship is gone. I chose to brake early and let the other two duke it out. I got back by Louisin after turn 2, but Bratton went on to pull out a significant lead, while I had to deal with out-of-class traffic.

Out-of-class competitor (Alyssa Nolan photo)

Once I got through the bulk of the traffic, I set my sights on the fish tank in the distance, 9 seconds ahead of me (Bratton’s car has a vinyl wrap to look like a fish tank). There was an E36 M3, running in PTB, that was making my quest difficult, though. He would rocket down the straight, but held me up through the rest of the course. He got the picture when he passed me late on the front straight, only to have me re-pass him in turn 2, with my inside tires in the grass. He backed off and only passed me in the following laps if he could get by early down the straight. We eventually made our way up to Bratton and I regained the lead by taking him on the inside of turn 8. He remained close behind as the M3 more or less tried not to interfere. Bratton made his last ditch effort going into turn 7, but pushed 4-off into the dirt. The funny thing is that he didn’t seem to lose any speed at all and I’m sure he never came off full-throttle. I came across the finish line to win the second race and secure the Great Lakes SpecE30 Regional Championship!

SpecE30 10/9/10 Race 2 - Putnam Park (Championship Race)

Great Lakes Region’s 2010 SpecE30 Champion (Alyssa Nolan photo)

After having suffered heart-breaks and learning-the-hard-way in the last 3 seasons of running BMWCCA K-Prepared, then SpecE30, I am thrilled to have finally put a championship together. These things rarely happen by accident, though, and I had great support from Nate Thulin throughout the season to make it a reality. He has pushed me to continue to develop the car and not to let it sit idle, just because it’s a “spec” class. We’ve learned a lot about it and made improvements. These resulted in 9 1st place finishes, 1 2nd place finish, 8 pole-positions, and 0 DNF’s this year. I’m really looking forward to next season, when we can do some real testing and tuning to get the car, and myself, ready for the NASA National Championships, which will return to Mid-Ohio in 2011!

Thank you to Alyssa and Nate for all the support AND all the pictures!

A big thanks goes out to my 2010 sponsors:, Ireland Engineering, DTR Performance,, Enthusiast Auto, and FASTtech Limited!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome job, Anthony! And, what a great photographer you have! ;)