What a crazy weekend……with the weather. Wow it was nuts to be on a racetrack with lots of rain, lots of pavement surface changes, and a lot of other cars with crazy drivers like myself. How can you explain in a quick blog entry. Watch the in car footage from it and you can see what I am talking about.
To put the race into perspective I will start by telling you about one of my wife’s pet peeves about how I drive a car on the street. I hate using windshield wipers. Yes I know God gave the woman who invented them the smarts to do so in order to keep her marriage sane. In reality he helped her with the idea for the better of drivers everywhere. In our house if I am behind the wheel on the street I try my best not to use the wipers while driving. I never can find the right speed to operate them plus I want to practice what my vision in the race car would be like in race conditions. Well Resa cannot stand this. She will reach over to turn them on so she can see where we are going. Well during the Watkins Glen race I didn’t turn the wiper off. There were inches of water everywhere.
These conditions aren’t the best conditions to race in. Every driver prefers a dry day somewhere in the mid 70s with a slightly overcast sky so every lap can get faster and faster as we leave rubber on the track. On a wet day this does not happen. On a wet day with predictions of flooding at Watkins Glen this does not happen. We have to fight grip at every corner of the track due to the changes of concrete to pavement. Then throw in the track as applied a tar like sealer to sections to seal the cracks created by a winter freeze and thaw. The sealer when wet is similar to the school floors after the janitor has mopped them with lots of soap and water. Sometimes you see the “slippery when wet” sign on the floor but still run at full speed through the area with no problems. Next time through you ignore it again but slip slightly sending your feet up in the air to the same level as you head. Gravity takes over sending you straight onto your back. Racing in the rain at Watkins Glen is very similar. Lap after lap they change and lap after lap the sealer, concrete, asphalt grip levels all change. Throw in no visibility out the windshield and you now have our race for 2.5 hours.
When the track conditions are like this your job as a driver is to bring the car home without an issue while testing the conditions lap after lap. Every lap you try to push a little bit faster than the lap before. A little bit mean ½ MPH increments faster through a turn or 2% more throttle through a turn. No big changes. Find the grip and the lap time will come. Dan and I did this for our part of the race in the #38 Next Level European Cayman. We started around 20th, worked our way up to around 13th or so with lots of time left in the race. Did our driver change and continued to climb. The distance between the leader and us was a little far to make up all the spots to the front but a top-10 was all ours. All we needed was a caution to bunch the field up and give us the chance to fight for the win.
The caution came right at the point we would hope it would but unfortunately it was partly because of us. We were catching some of the ST class when we came upon a GS car. No biggie at this point from the my perspective. Drive your race and keep pushing forward like I had been. I was sort of in cruise mode when all of a sudden I was peaking my head around another ST car to see the GS car spinning across the track to my left. I see it connect up with the blue Armco wall on the left side of the track with the front of the car pointed parallel to the wall. It was heading in the right direction and the track would be clear. I go to throttle to get clear of the damaged car. At about the time I touch the throttle the car then takes a right hand turn to go across the track. His path will put it right in front of me and I turn to avoid it. Right as I make my move the GS car decides to point straight to the me and the #38 NLE Cayman. There was not where to go. I hit the GS car straight on ending Dan and my race.
This is not how I had the race weekend planned. We were on cue to have a top-10 finish in very adverse conditions. With a short turn around to Mosport neither of us wanted to leave Watkins with a damaged race car the crew would need to repair over a holiday weekend.. This isn’t how the weekend ended. The Next Level European crew worked to get the car back together and we are ready to race for our next round across the border in Canada. Now we are ready to battle for a projected rain free weekend at one of the most daunting tracks in North America. Follow along with our on track action on IMSA.com Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge with live timing and scoring. Also watch the race on Saturday live through the IMSA website. Stay tuned next week for the #38 Next Level European Cayman’s writeup from Canada and don’t forget to buy some parts from Next Level European for your car.