So I headed down to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the practice day at the FARA event, eager to drive the Leira Ronie Motorsports GTI. As we unloaded the yellow GTI to a typical South Florida down pour, I immediately had thoughts of Mosport! Since I have prior experience driving in Homestead, I sat out most of the practice session and thought nothing of the wet. I took the opportunity to get fitted into the car, which proved to be a touch interesting as team owner David Liera and I are rather different sizes.
After adjusting to what I felt was the proper seating position, I went out for my practice session in the damp. It was then that I realized I was really, really wrong about the seating position. While the throttle pedal, clutch and steering where in the right positions, I was sitting well forward of the shift lever. That meant I had to reach behind the seat in order to shift. Despite this awkward arrangement and the dampness, the car was a pleasure to drive. I could see why the MKII GTI is such a popular race car for club racing. The torque of the 1.8 liter, 4-cylinder engine was excellent. The balance of the car was absolutely incredible. There was awesome three wheeling in every corner with the inside rear coming up at least a foot……classic VW motorsport at its finest.
During the next morning, the track conditions were even worse because of typical South Florida overnight rain showers. After the LRM crew made some adjustments (including moving the seat), I went out for qualifying. The balance of GTI was even better than the previous day as I was able to put the car high up on the grid, well ahead of many faster cars. The race would turn out to be rather exciting due to the mixed-class nature of the FARA series.
So once again, I suited up, this time for a 45-minute sprint race with the South Florida sun beating down on the track……for once! This was to be interesting on both my auditory and tactile senses. The headers in the car are directly up against the firewall. Imagine the heat and noise coming into the cockpit, especially compared to a Jetta TDI cup that is beyond quiet and incredibly well-insulated.
The lights went out on the pace car and the green flag dropped. In typical Josh Hurley fashion, I got a great start and passed a bunch of faster cars, including an RX7 and some tube-frame mini cup cars. These cars got by me on the next strait by shear horsepower. My initial passes on the start were still a moral victory as it allowed me to practice my starts and also hone my race craft. On the next lap, the transmission started to feel rather funny. It was becoming harder to find 2nd and 5th gears. Getting out of 5th was even worse. Not wanting to miss out on any track time, I decided to deal with it. After all, racers have to be prepared for all types of mishaps and then be able to adjust to those mishaps. I switched to double clutching in 5th gear and stopped using 2nd gear entirely. My shifts became slower, deliberate and more methodical.
I then caught up to an Acura Integra GSR. We had an EPIC battle that lasted for almost 30 minutes. Did I mention “mishaps”? During this battle, the GTI developed yet another mishap. The engine started to intermittently misfire. Despite all that, I was able to out brake and pass the Integra multiple times. He was able re-pass me on the straight-aways. Finally, I made a pass that gave me enough of a gap to where he could not get by me. In the middle of the next corner as I began to squeeze on the power, I heard the sound of brake lockup. “Uh oh,” I thought to myself. The driver in the Integra went into the same corner too deep, locked up his brakes and slid right into my right rear door which sent me spinning off track. The incident probably made the gear box issue that much worse. I couldn’t find 1st or 2nd. I actually had to get the car moving by using 3rd. The other misfiring issue also got much worse as the car now felt as though it was running on just 3 cylinders. Luckily, the double yellow had just come out due to another incident. I dove into pit lane and the LRM crew leapt into action. They were able to fix the misfire which turned out to be a plug boot that had come loose.
I drove out of the pits but, unfortunately, I missed beating the pace car out by about 5 seconds and went a lap down. The rest of the race was just a case of bringing the car home. Despite the results, I was happy with my performance, and the performance of the car. I had gone faster than any other ITB-class car had gone there since at least 2001 (as far as MyLaps goes back). All that ……with a gearbox issue! I had also gotten to experience some of Volkswagen’s past with the MKII GTI. Once Portland comes around, I’ll also get to see how Volkswagen racing cars have progressed. Hopefully, this weekend will have gotten all the bad luck out of my system.
I want to say thank you to Leira - Ronie Motorsports, Gunther Volkswagen and Easykart Americas for giving me the opportunity to warm up before Portland. Portland international Raceway will be a pivotal round for the VW Jetta TDI Cup. This will be the first round that will be worth full points instead of half points. A good finish here could really elevate my position in the standings. The track should also produce some interesting racing with the festival curves offering incredible passing opportunities. The weather, which is forecasted to be sunny, is always unpredictable in Portland. When the pace car lights go off this weekend in Portland, look for the #11 Gunther Volkswagen, Easykart Americas car to be battling for the lead once again.
Good Clean Fun Part 1
Good Clean Fun Part 2
Good Clean Fun Part 3
Good Clean Fun Part 4
VW TDI Cup