Round 7 Recap: Autobahn

Posted: September 29, 2011 in Racing

Last week / weekend turns out to be one of the lowest points in the life of a racer.  A good friend of mine passed away not nearly a week ago and his funeral was the Friday of the Autobahn race weekend that I needed to attend (with the goal of pushing to be a competitor at the end of the season I decided I had to race).  However, I spent much of the weekend rethinking of memories of Tim Krumm – a husband, father and all around great guy.

I got to know Tim and his wife Cheryl from going to STL PCA events many years ago.  Often I wanted to get some more track time by heading over to STL and driving at Gateway (a track that I enjoyed immensely until it sadly closed [however it has a new owner and has reopened for 2012]).  The Krumms were gracious hosts for those staying at the DEs often offering the use of their spare bedrooms for migrant racers.  I remember discussions with Tim about driving and his passion for learning more, enough so that Tim became heavily involved with STL PCA, and so contagious in his focus that Chery even started going along to DE events as a driver – leading me to actually sign up my wife for an Girls DE Event.

Little did I know, this was just the start of an underwhelming weekend.

Friday Enduro

We haven’t even started racing yet and Angel was already in trouble.  On his tow back from Mid Ohio an trailer axle bearing destroyed itself and he had to have his trailer and car impounded near the IL/IN border on I80 (not a pleasant place).  So he spent much of the week between Mid Ohio and Autobahn getting parts to fix the trailer and get his car back.  By the time it was all said and done Angel was so worn out in energy and money he decided not to race and packed it back home.

After a grueling week at Nationals, Sid and I decided to skip the Autobahn enduro race.  So with my new found free time I offered to help pit crew for Eric/Neal and Bryan Cohns’ teams.

From the previous 2 events and this weekend Sid and I have learned that we should race in E2 class as most competitors in it do not finish races or spend more time in the pits than on the track.  In this fashion Neal started out in practice only to find out one of the castle nuts on the tie rod came off giving him one wheel steering.  Pull into the pits and get that fixed.  At the start of the race in Neal’s stint – an loose oil pan drain bolt (Eric’s car was torn down from Nationals as he finished 2nd but with Autobahn so close in time there was a rush to put everything back together) caused him to oil down the track including his rear wheels which spun Neal and he was collected by a Spec Miata (who likely could not stop due to the oil).  Later on a spill of fuel onto the ground gave them a 5 minute penalty – akin to 2 laps.  Seemingly Sid and I race in E3 and for the first 2 events have finished higher than Eric/Neal we could have kept our noses clean and taking a higher spot.

Fixing broken tie rod and replacing oil drain plug.

Broken tie tod from impact with Spec Miata that spun on Neal's oil.

Saturday Race

A little work needed to be done to Ken’s car as his headgasket blew and he needed to change one over.  Nick and his team did the work Friday evening.

Ken's call all mended and ready to race.

Saturday was dry (one of the great things we miss racing this year was dry weather as over 50% of our races have been in the wet or slightly wet conditions).  Morning warmup went well with me getting up to speed.  I qualified 5th but Dan was disqualified for passing under yellow in qualifying so I was moved up to 4th.  I got a great start and made up 2 spots at the start by going on the outside of Turn 1/2 complex and got a great run up into turn 4.  I held that position until I slid a little wide losing a lot of momentum in turn 10 watching Neal & Eric battle a slow GTS2 M3 with a rookie in it (he seemed to like racing our slower cars b/c he kept on winding up in the middle of our battles).  I realize in hindsight I should have downshifted to 2nd (usually hold 3rd in that corner) as it would help me not bleed off speed.  The race was a blast as the the 4 of us (Eric/Neal/Dan and I) were battling repeatedly for positions jockeying back and forth.  Neal was able to pull out a commanding lead at first as that M3 again spun and came back on messing up my pass attempt of Eric in Turn 4, then slowly motoring past the others on the straights where he’d dive bomb them in the corners with his sticky Hoosiers.  That is until Eric locked up his rears too much then had trail braking problems and Ray and Dan got past and my self until that M3 incident.  Neal though lost his engine as it was running too lean with 2 laps to go.  He’s had such bad luck this season.  I wound up 4th in the race and was hoping for a higher finish however and the top 4 were all within 1 second on our fastest lap – the smallest spread we’ve ever had through those positions.

After the race we all went out for Mexican and Sid and I went to go see the movie “Chase”.  Before though as racers we did some practice laps for tomorrow.

For the record - Sid did beat my best time.

Sunday Race

With Neal’s motor completely blown – Nick decided to do an all nighter motor rebuild.  They had a spare block already built in the truck, and they had a spare head that needed rebuilding (the hope was Neal’s current head on his engine could be salvaged but the head got so hot is seized.

Black Pistons - ominous signs

Head seized enough that the hydraulic lifters were impossible to get out.

12 hours later...

Other than the motor rebuild excitement, Sunday morning started with the heavens pouring down rain that continued through the day with drizzle to downpour.  I like everyone else didn’t go out for warmups.  In qualifying I was struggling as my car is mainly set up for dry – shocks on hard all the way around and sway bars full firm.  I qualified 5th with a pretty dismal time trying to keep the car on the track.

So for the Sunday race I decided to go with a full wet setup – soft shocks, disconnect sway bars and full wet tires.  Ready to race.  Well the race started out great – I was fast and the car was stable (the best its ever felt in the rain – now I’m knocking my own head as to why I didn’t do this earlier).  The four of us again were flying at the start until Turn 6 of lap 1 where Ray went 4 wheels off at the exit where he hit a mud puddle which splashed mud onto my windshield and with the wipers smearing it I was literally blind.  I slowed and started to pull off to the right side of the track when Ray came back on and spun across the track into my path where we both hit pretty hard – hard enough to spin his car.  I wasn’t sure of the damage so I drove at a slow idle speed a little further on until my oil pressure started to drop and I killed the motor and coasted out into the grass to stay out of harms way.

Poor Baby!

 

Ouch!

 

Ray's Poor Car!

Video from Ray’s Car

Well this ends my season early as I will miss the Road America season ending event.  Sadly I will miss racing with this group of guys as I’ve had a great time racing and enjoyed he support the team provides from friendship and BENMS.  I have not figured out my 2012 plans but racing is in my blood.

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