Kakashi Racing Goes 2-3 at LRP in the rain!
Greg Amy, Nissan NX2000 - #33 ITA
Joe DiMinno, #01 ITA
Jeremy Billiel, #98 ITS
Photos courtesy Thea Moritz
Greg Amy, Nissan NX2000 - #33 ITA
The surface of LRP SUCKS!!! In our first session, the ITA qualifying, I was getting the kee-rap beat out of me. That Nissan's suspension just does not like the rough surfaces, and the car - and driver - were getting beat up. The car was bouncing no matter what we did with the shocks and the driver was getting pretty tired of hanging off the harnesses and seat bolsters. I am *sore* today, worse than I've EVER been in racing...
Anyway, the ITA qualifying came out pretty much about where I expected, with the Miata up front, Richie right behind, and a cadre of good drivers stuck up in there. I was surprised at Joe and my 7th/8th qually, respectively, but I knew that out torque and experience would work to our advantage.
I had entered DP for additional track/development time (good thing) and we used that time to dink around with the shock settings. Because I was getting beat up so much we dialed down the compression and rebound, and I went out for DP qualifying.
Boy was THAT ever a bad idea, on multiple levels.
You sit there on the side of the track watching the Big Bore guys bound around the track, and you think to yourself, 'man, are those guys flying!' Well, drop in a couple of ITA/DP cars (Rob Breault also entered DP) for reference and you'll be surprised at how terribly bad some of these cars are. Frankly, without power, some of these guys would be running ITC times... Most of the drivers were doing a decent job, but a few of those guys are just...well, I can't think of the right words.
Next, because of the damper changes, the car was an evil Pogo stick everywhere. Combining that road surface with a poorly-damped, highly-sprung McPherson strut car made for an abysmal result. Matt called on the radio to say he would meet me on the pit lane to change the rebound (he was watching from the infield) and I began to roll up on a CGT-1 Capri. As I'm becoming horribly frustrated by a guy that PARKED it in the corners (I was alongside him for a full lap in each of the corners) but blasted away on the straights, Matt calls 'ready' for me to pit.
The Capri and I went through the Left Hander and Uphill same way: side-by-side in the corners, buh-bye on the straights. As I entered West Bend (and tried to avoid hitting the Capri), I looked in my mirrors in preparation for pitting: no cars anywhere along the back straight. Under the Bridge and down the Hill (Capri pulls away), mirror again: no cars. Through the Downhill turn, both hands on the wheel (LRP's Downhill is terribly bumpy) I hit the apex while pinching the car inside to simultaneously keep from hitting the Capri *and* move to the inside for the pit lane entry.
Side reference: LRP has a VERY abbreviated pit lane entry, immediately after the corner exit of the Downhill. It's such a tight entry, that if you allow the car to track out of the Downhill properly, you'll never be able to make the pit in. So, you're forced to kinda "abbreviate" the corner, keep the car under control, and quickly move inside so that you can make the entry in.
Well, just as I'm rolling through the apex, and moving inside, and starting to remove my right hand from the wheel to signal a pit-in (you just don't have time to do it sequentially) I look up in the mirror and see a full-boat GT-1 car ***RIGHT THERE*** on my inside quarter panel, with about a 50 mph differential!!!
At this point we're all pretty much abeam the pit entry lane and I'm about a car width off the right side of the track (on an area of the track and reasonably only accommodate two cars). The GT-1 guy is committed to a right-side pass, and I've got this slow-ass Capri on my left. I did about the only thing I could have done at this point, and that was to simply STOP MOVING laterally. I straightened the wheel to drive parallel to the track, held my breath, and the GT-1 car takes to the inside grass, pit entry lane, then grass again to pass me, all without a touch! Keep in mind this is all happening in FRACTIONS of a second.
I grab the pit lane entry and come rolling in. Matt gets on the radio and says, calmly, "Ummm...that was close."
We made the shock change and it seemed to improve the car a bit, but it was still a bump-eating Pogo-sticking evil monster. Good thing I donated to the "Pave the Park" fund, huh...?
And then, as we're going to impound after qualifying, I see some small rain drops on the windshield. Damn!
You have to understand that while I've been racing for over 20 years, I've *never* raced in the rain. Yep, I've done a couple of practice/qualifying sessions in the rain, but all of them were on slick tires and none of them were of any consequence (except for qualifying 27th in the rain - on slicks - at WGI last year...another story). Hell, I never owned any rain tires until last summer, and they were still in the truck just as clean and shiny as they were when Smarty mounted 'em for me. Plus, I've WATCHED rain races, and the carnage was quite evident, with the only people usually being successful are totally insane idiots like my buddy, Joe DiMinno. So, I dreaded rain with a passion.
Thus, the light rain started coming down worse.
Matt and I gave serious consideration to passing on the races; balling up the car was not within our goal sets, we were there to try and resolve some significant suspension problems for key future events while testing new damper valving. But, I noted that it very well may rain at these key events we have out sights set on, and we needed to know how to set up the car appropriately (and I needed to learn how to drive in the rain). So, we made some big changes to the car's setup, slapped on the new rain tires, and off we went.
As we sat on the grid I reminded myself of the goals and made a conscious effort to not participate in the madness. I was going to let folks take whatever holes they could find, let THEM run the gauntlet of figuring out not only who was fast and who wasn't but also what the track conditions were like. I predicted that the vast majority would end up taking themselves out and that my best strategy was to sit back and lie in wait. That prediction came true. At the drop of the (very early) green everyone surged forward, LITERALLY into the mist, jockeying for positions. I gestured Joe DiMinno forward into the big gaping hole between us and he shot forward like a rocket; I stayed behind Christian Chandler's BMW, tight on the inside (where I could control who got inside of me on the slick stuff: no one). We rounded T2 and Christian got sideways and made a killer save while Doc Breault simultaneously made a nice outside pass on me. Doc and I slipped by Chandler in the short chute and the pack was tight through the left-hander.
On to No Name and we saw Richie Hunter move to the right and slow, rowing a box full of neutrals. Lou Iannaccone got his nose close to my tail as we turned into the Uphill; unfortunately, I did not see him coming until I'd already committed to the corner. He had to lift to keep from hitting me and spun going through the Uphill, leaving a trail of dirt on the apex (fortunately, he was able to continue unscathed.) Then, as I was trailing Doc through West Bend he started to apply power and the back end snapped around on him; he was now blocking the track perpendicular out of West Bend with a flock of kinda-snarling ITA car on its way!!! Fortunately, Doc somehow managed to flick the car's nose back towards the originally-intended direction and we all *barely* snuck by him (I swear we touched, but I can't find the mark); unfortunately, the checkup we all had to do to keep from hitting him split the pack into two chunks, with me and Christian leading the second chunk...
Whew! And that was just Lap One!
As we passed S/F I saw Christian coming, and I knew I was unlikely to hold him off. Plus, I could tell that I was causing us to lose time to the lead chunk. So, while I didn't point him by, I gave him the unpreferred line going into the Left Hander, and he handled it like a champ. But I didn't handle it well and I ended up dropping a rear tire off the outside. I figured I was destined for the swamp but somehow saved it through the magic of Front Wheel Drive (see photo...don't know how I pulled that off...)
The track, of course, was slick as snot. I've always heard about "the rain line" at race tracks, and I've heard conflicting reports from guys whom I trust: some say the rain line is "where the water ain't" while others say it's radically different. Both are likely correct, I guess it just depends on the track. Well, at LRP the "radical" part is the right answer: the track surface is so old, so rough, and so polished that if you drive ANYWHERE where you normally would in the dry you're likely to either get bounced off (from the bumps) or slid off (from the smooth surface). The "rain line" at LRP is the perfect opposite of where you would otherwise.
After one lap driving behind Christian, I realized that him getting by was my best strategic move of the weekend (well, besides not hitting other cars): that guy knew ALL the rain lines at LRP. I got 10 or so laps of "rain-schoolin'" from that guy, the kinda stuff you could never get otherwise. Seriously, Christian: thanks!
Despite that, it just ain't an easy thing to convince this wired line stuff to your brain, the body part that's doing its damndest to keep you - and itself - alive. It's one thing to SEE someone in front of you driving in places that would kill you on a dry day, but it's something totally different to say "yo, arms, how 'about we drive out there?" "You freakin' KIDDING ME?" they reply. And then you try it, taking that one tentative step out in The World Of Guaranteed Death and Destruction in a Ball of Fire, the car sticks better, and you brain says "dude, this ain't right" but somehow you convince it to try again and again...
Regardless of having that new rain line knowledge, you still have to cross over some areas of slickness; the geometry of the track is such that you simply can't stay on a constant "irregular" line all the way around. That's the places where people were getting bit. The Most Common Place of Biting was the Left Hander, where you drove across a longer area of concrete and "polish". I got bit there a couple of times, the aforementioned agricultural run notwithstanding; in fact a few times the ass-end of the NX stepped WAAAY out and FWD saved me while making me look like the Joie Chitwood thrill Show Smarty seems to think I am...Christian was also having a hell of a time there, sliding out each time he drove it.
So, keeping up with Christian, learning as I went along, I was able to surge forward. Somewhere in there the CRX of Daley (?) drove off the track (chomp), Jeff Lawton went backwards to us and graciously spun out in the Left Hander to let us by (chomp), and we began to see Andy Bettencourt moving our direction as well. Jeff parked off the runoff at T1 (thrown water pump belt) and I called into Matt to find that Joe and Rick were in a heated battle at the pointy end. I settled in, expecting a circa-5th place finish and was just biding my time expecting Fortune to smile upon me...
And I got that smile, but not in a way I'd hoped. Jeremy Von Oy, driving an Integra, was also "experiencing" his first rain race, having only gotten his license at NHIS this year. Unfortunately (I seem to be using that word a lot today!), the Left Hander caught out two more victims: Jeremy lost the tail-end of the car and slid on the track backwards. Here comes Christian, with me in loose trail. I saw what was developing and backed off quite a bit, but Christian arrived on the scene with very few options. Still sliding outwards in that area I described, Christian and Jeremy intersected in the Left Hander hard enough for me to hear it inside the car and then slid off the mud. I gathered the NX up and drove on by, looking in the rear-view to see that no one appeared radically hurt (well, except for the cars...)
So, now I was fourth.
Bettencourt was still in view, probably 4-5 seconds ahead, but the Joe and Rick Show were pretty much long gone. I kept my best Chandler Lines in mind and did my best to try and catch Andy, but I just didn't have the time, experience, and bravery to push much harder. The distance between Andy and I remained stagnant, so I settled in for the last three laps for a destined fourth-place "victory".
Then Fate smiled again.
As we were heading down the front straight, I noticed Andy taking a more-typical line, rather than the one we'd been mutually driving for 13 laps. I thought to myself, "maybe he sees a dry line developing?" but the "rooster tail" mist behind his car belied that. Surprisingly, where I expected the mosquito to begin the turn-in to T1 I continud to see brake lights straight-on, with no indication of the side of the car; he'd gone straight off into the run-off area! Time to concentrate, Amy, and drive your lines...I made the turn-in to T1 with Andy still heading outbound and made sure to do everything just as I'd done it for the last 13 laps; I knew that unless I blew it Andy would have zero chance of catching me.
So, that's how we finished: Rick, Joe, me, Andy. My original strategy paid off, Kakashi Racing takes second and third in trying conditions (Joe's report to follow), and I learned **A TON**. As Dick Patullo so elegantly put it, "So the lessons learned were well worth the price of entry."
Absolutely, and without a doubt, Dick. But that was only the beginning of the fun... (select link for Part Two)...
Joe DiMinno, #01 ITA
Limerock. I just love to hate that place but, for some strange reason, I do somewhat-well there.
So far this year LRP has been good to me. In three races I have scored a 2nd , 5th, and a 3rd; not bad for a track far-from-suited for my car. It may be the racing gods watching over me, maybe luck, or maybe I am finally figuring out how to race at the place. Whichever it may be, I had hoped that for the 4th of July the trend would continue.
Qualifying started off kinda scary. On the warm up lap I put "four off" in the dirt at the bottom of the down hill. The car was EVIL to drive for the first few laps until I got some heat in the tires. Even after a few laps the car was still a handful but I decided to get on it and see what kinda times I could run. On about the fourth or fifth lap I had a small off-track excursion exiting Big Bend. Over the curb in to the dirt, no biggie shot right back on the track and continued but I heard something dragging; the bolt holding the muffler up had backed out and the exhaust "turn down" was dragging on the ground. So of course in the CRAZY JOE fashion I ran a few more laps until being black flagged for my poor exhaust dragging. So we brought it in and called it quits.
After we got back from impound Greg and me decided to jump in Matt's bitchin' Miata and go grab the results. On the ride down we were discussing what the grid would be. We figured Andy on pole, Richie second, and from there it was anybody's guess. So I grabbed the sheets and looked for me and Greg. It ended up times weren't too great: I ran a 1:04 flat putting me 8th on the grid just behind my good buddy Greg with his 103.9. Looking forward to see who was starting a head of us to our surprise our buddy AWESOME LAWTON qualified 3rd with a 103.2. Great job, Jeff. It was surprising because of the way Jeff had said how bad the car was and he could barely hold on to it. I guess it is true if the car is comfortable to drive your going too slow...
Next up was Jeremy and Dave's qualifying. Kessler and I sat and watched from the Uphill. This being Dave's first time race his new car and Jeremy's second race this year, they both did a great job. Dave ended up getting pole in ITB and Jeremy bettered his best time from last race by a good second and a half. Great job guys and Jeremy you should be running your 1:03's in no time.
After Greg had gone out for his DP qualifying we were sitting around looking at the sky. It was getting darker and looked like it was going to rain. Of course since I am a sick, sick person I started doing my rain dance. Not much longer after that, guess what? Yep it started raining. Kessler looked and me and said "if you ever do that rain dance again I'm gonna smack you". I smiled and laughed and started setting up the car for a wet race.
It was race time. I was ready to go. We went out for the pace lap. Had to be one of the slowest ever. The track was slick: I mean slick. Being gridded in 8th it is hard enough to get a glimpse of the green in optimum conditions never mind in the rain. So I just waited for everyone else to go and we were off. A hole the size of the Grand Canyon (so it looked like in the rain) opened up in the middle so of course once again in CRAZY JOE fashion I went for it. I ended up going to into Big Bend in 4th place with Lawton, Benzanic, and Bettencourt just ahead. Later I found out because I could see him Greg waved me by into the hole instead of taking it himself. Thanks Greg
We pretty much got in single file and started to get away from the rest of the pack. For the first few laps we pretty much stayed this way until Rick and Jeff did this sweet synchronized spin in the left hander. Rick continued on after a great save with his car being 90 degrees to the track (that was a "how did he do that?" save). Jeff wasn't so lucky: he ended up backing it of the track. So that put me in third.
The next lap or so Rick got by Andy into Big Bend under braking so if I was going to keep in touch with I had to work my way by soon. The following lap I got a good run on Andy through the Downhill and he pointed me by into Big Bend. He let me go uncontested to go and try to catch Rick. Thanks Andy, you did a great job holding us off for the first few laps but the inevitable would have happened sooner or later.
So once me and Rick cleared Andy we just checked out. I rode for a few laps just keeping Rick in my sights and saying to myself "be patient," not pushing too hard, just enough to keep in touch. I kept watching the board for lap count with about 7 laps to go I decided "it's time". I started to reel Rick in little by little. With 3 laps to go I was there.
Now it was time to battle. I had found the spots on the track where I was faster while riding behind for a few laps so I knew where I had to make my move. I was horrible through the left but I would get a good run onto No Name and would close an easy 3 to 5 cars lengths in the Uphill. I actually got such a good run once in the Uphill I got along side Rick going into West Bend. Being that I was on the inside which is not the preferred rain line and it was slick as hell I backed out of it and let Rick by. If I would have stayed in there and tried to go side by side I honestly think Greg would have been in victory lane an me and Rick would have had really bent up race cars. [Oh, my goodness: Crazy Joe learning discipline??? We're all doomed... - Ed.]
After getting in to Big Bend along side Rick a few times under braking, I figured this was my best place to pass. We came down the hill to see the "1 to go" sign so I pushed hard and broke really late right on Rick's bumper. I made him make the mistake I was waiting for. He slid out wide and I ducked under him and was on my way to my first ITA win! But right after that I ended up going into the left a little wide and - oh crap! - the back end swung out was sliding through the dirt.
Dammit! I just gave the race back to Rick. I got back on track about five or six car lengths back. At this point I was, like, "I'm going for it". I'm either gonna catch him or wad the car in a little ball [Ah, now THAT'S the Crazy Joe we all know and love!!! - Ed.]
Well, I did catch him but I didn't get by. I ended up finishing on his rear bumper at the stripe just a mere 0.2 seconds behind. It was an awesome race. I wish every race was as intense. I'll get my first win sometime hopefully soon. I guess it just wasn't meant to be. Always the bridesmaid never the bride...
Jeremy Billiel, #98 ITS
This was my second race of the season and fifth race in my short racing career. After a disappointing race two weeks earlier at Lime Rock, I thoroughly reviewed all of my DL-1 data and had a clear game plan in my head. I had two simple goals for this weekend: 1) have fun and 2) get into the 1:03ís by using less brake in the Ophill and braking much later going into Big Bend. Thatís it! How hard can that be...?
For those of you who donít know me, I am a wuss (as Crazy Joe so ineloquently puts it). I could never sleep the night before a race, I was worried about every stupid little thing, I was worried about wrecking the car, I was worried about hitting someone else, I was worried about driving in the rain, etc. The list goes onÖ But this time something was different. For the first time I was actually able to get a good night's sleep. In fact I woke up the morning of the race and was excited to go racing! I almost seemed lost, but damn this is much more fun!
After driving the 1.5 hours to LRP from home we set up shop in the skid pad and I was rarin' and ready to go, but dang I am Group 7! Qualifying came and boy things came faster, I was braking later into Big Bend, I was using less brake in the Uphill and West Bend. This is FUN!!! Well, until I pushed it a little too far and performed my first spin in the Left Hander. I quickly put "two feet in" and no harm, no foul. As I was waiting to get back on the track I was thinking to myself, "hey, that wasn't so scary!" I immediately got back on the track and started to throw down some good laps. The speed was coming and boy it felt good.
After qualifying I didn't take tire temps or pressures, I jumped out of the car with my data card in my hand put it in the computer and it said that I ran a 1:02.9!!! My fastest lap previously was a 1:05.9. AWESOME! So I went around bragging like a little school girl and boy was Joe and Jeff pissed! To add insult to injury my theoretical best lap was a 1:00.2. Holy crap!
Well come to find out the DL1 had a little glitch of some kind. Usually the DL1 is within .1 seconds of the real timing. Oh well, so I am not that good after all! My qualifying time was a 1:04.4, which is still 1.5 seconds faster than my previous best and placed me 11th overall and 7th in class. I was happy with this turnout although all I could think about was that 1:02.9.
The race came and so did the rain (thanks Crazy Joe!?!). I only had one very large problem: I don't have rain tires!!! The weather man said it wasn't going to rain until after 6 PM! After the ITA race, Lawton felt bad for me, so he was nice enough to let me borrow his Dirt Stockers and I was back to being nervous as I have never raced in the rain before. The good news though is that I have run the rain line at LRP before when I did the Skip Barber Racing School (three days in the pouring rain) so I was not completely clueless. As Dave Gran and I were watching the ITA race, we were getting more nervous by the minute as we saw more and more spins, accidents and offs. This was the Preludeís maiden voyage and all Dave could think about is how much time he has in rebuilding the car. Lucky for Dave, I happened to be starting behind him so at least he wouldnít have to worry about me doing anything stupid on the start. Not being quite up to speed in ITS yet is always tough because I am just slow enough to be in the front of the ITB field and I donít want to ruin their race. My game plan going into the race was to push Dave down the straight and back off a bit to get out of the way for the ITB front runners.
At the start I once again could not see the green flag and I bogged the motor a bit too much. So much for helping Dave! After a couple of laps I got settled in and just ran my own race. Overall pretty uneventful, but I was learning a ton. I did have two "offs" in the race, but no damage to the car, so all is good. At the end of the day, I went to pick up the results and I saw my name at 5th in class! Woo-hoo! I canít wait to go to NHIS July 14th & 15th.
So did I accomplish my goals for the weekend? 1) Did I have fun? Hell yes I did!! 2) Did I get into the 1:03ís? No, but I am confident that I would have if we had a dry race. There is always next time!
Another big congrats to Jeff for a third place qualifying time along with Crazy Joe, Greg, and Dave for some well deserved finishes!!! Itís becoming more and more apparent that I need some Kessler Engineering horsepower! My stock motor is still holding up excellent, but itís hard to argue with Mattís results.
And Jeff you get a "good effort" award for getting your family to the track, when it was raining, only for you to have your serpentine belt break on lap 3...
In-Car Video Links
Joe DiMinno, race part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMAsZKJWSgo
Joe DiMinno, race part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ve_vswUheM
Jeff Lawton, race: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JchkX3Ipmk0
Jeremy Billiel, qually: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2693631312985691481&hl=en
Jeremy Billiel, race: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=36...950554148&hl=en
Dave Gran, race: http://www.goaheadtakethewheel.com/videos/LRP.mov