Good Clean Fun Part 7 - "Blistering Fast"
By Text: Josh Hurley
Sep 8, 2008 - 10:59:21 AM
After a much shorter break before this event, it was once again time to pack up and head to another round of the 2008 VW Jetta TDI Cup. After my victory in the last round at Portland, my goals for this weekend were different, win if I could, but above all bring home a good finish and reduce the gap in points to the leader.
So on Thursday I arrived into Hartford and drove out to the beautiful Lime Rock circuit. Like nearly every other round, I have not driven here before, but I had worked here earlier in the year. However, t he track had been repaved since I had last worked there so very little would carry over. I did go on a track walk before heading to my hotel; the new pavement was incredibly smooth. In addition to that, I found out we would be running the old layout which would ensure that bravery would be required this weekend.
Early the next morning it was time for our group track walk (golf cart ride). During this time I found out that quite a lot of the other drivers had been here before, so I would really have some work to do to keep it out front this weekend. After this it was time for our morning practice. Before I climbed into the car however, there was a brief meeting. Some of us had new brake pads for this race and would have to “bed” in the pads during the session. I was one of those who had new pads. This meant that a fair bit of my practice session would be spent slowly building up brake heat and letting them cool. This is crucial to the pads life and must be done correctly.
So I strapped into the car and went out onto the circuit for our practice session. Slowly I began bringing the brakes up to temperature. On lap two of this procedure I noticed a vibration, not wanting to lose out on learning the track I stayed out. After three more laps my bed in procedure was done and it was time to get to practice. I started to up the pace and noticed immediately that the car was understeering much more than it was in previous rounds. After just a handful of laps the understeer started to become extreme. It felt like the tire was punctured, and I could hear pieces of rubber hitting the fender. I came in to have a look at the tire. I was told to just head to the garage. I got out and then I saw it. From of the center of the tire out, the tire had blistered completely. This would really prove to be an interesting weekend as many of the fast guys had tire wear issues. In fact the blistering could occur after only two really hard laps, which meant it would be paramount to get clear track in qualifying.
After a meeting about tire wear I once again prepared to get into the car for qualifying. I rolled out onto the track and tried to find some clear laps. Finally it looked like I had a gap, unfortunately as I came onto the back strait, two drivers were driving side by side slowly. That lap was ruined and I only had one more shot left before the tire went off. I found what appeared to be another gap, this time the gap held until the last corner where another driver slowed to enter the pits, causing me to check up and ruin that lap. Well the car was now understeering badly so I would just have to take those laps and see what it got me. I entered pit lane and shortly afterwards the SCCA ended the session due to the severe tire wear.
Upon seeing the time sheets, I was both relived and angry, relived that I was still 4th, but angry because I know I could have once again had the pole if I had timed it better. Still a second row start was not too bad a start for this weekend. We then had another meeting about the tires, where we were told there was going to be a setup change the next morning and we would get a short warm up before the race to feel it out, and see how the tires fared. By now though, I had my strategy formed, with only one passing area, and that arena marginal, my strategy was to rely on others to push too hard and kill their tires. So with that in my brain I once again headed back to the hotel to get a nice night of sleep.
Arriving at the track for warm up, I knew I could not push in the warm up. In fact I could not even get a feel for the car as I was running a tire in (heating it gently and cooling it much like the brake pads before) in an attempt to harden the tire and make it less prone to blistering. So my warm up consisted mostly of pointing other drivers by as I had to treat the tire, hoping this would help in the race.
Once again it was race time, the now familiar lights went on, the butterflies were now gone, I’m getting used to this I thought……Lights out, off the brakes and off I went. I had a great start, maybe just maybe I could get around Mark Pombo…..nope he shut the door. I thought to myself, ok time to settle in and save the tires, I watched the top three begin to just inch away. Two laps later thorough the left hander I noticed the 12 car making a very aggressive move, he was in too deep, I opened my line to insure I would not get hit but sacrificing my 4th place in the process. “Remember the tires” I thought once again. I noticed that the 12 car too was pushing too hard. Slowly I began to inch up on him.
Finally I got a great run coming through west bend, and was able to keep the run going through the downhill. I picked up the draft going down the front straight was able to get inside the 12 going into one. Ok time to dial up the pace just a little, not enough to hurt the tires, but enough to get them closer to the limit. I began to rapidly reel in Michael DeNino. After just a few more laps I was all over him. I was quicker everywhere but had trouble getting by, I would have to really push to get by him. I laid back so that I could build up a run that would reach its peak on the front straight.
Going through the uphill the gap started to close, then through west bend, closing quicker now, then, punishing my tire through the downhill I built enough speed to get into his draft. I popped out at the last second, this spot was mine……he started to come down a little bit. This was going to be close! We touched, his car bounced to the outside and I was through, time to put it back on cruise. It was then that the first double yellow came out. I had visions of VIR in my head, I did not want a double yellow as it would bring the pack close to my bumper. In addition to that, I knew I was saving my tires more than the leaders and this yellow would give them time to cool the tires.
Coming back to the green I did not see the pace car lights go out, all of a sudden the pack was accelerating away from me, whoops I got caught sleeping. Well all I can do is stick to the plan, save the tires. Despite saving the tires I was rapidly gaining on the top two. I looked in the mirror and noticed that we had left the pack, if I just saved the tires for the last few laps I might be able to pull off a win without much risk. I could not risk a crash as the top two were behind me in points and I needed to close the gap to Jurca who was behind me. I needed to keep this race low risk.
Then my heart sank, another double yellow. This should give the Castangna and Pombo, the 1st and 2nd the break they need for their tires. Well all I can do is fill their mirrors and hope they make a mistake.
This time, I was ready for the green, I looked under Pombo, hoping he would make a mistake under pressure and wash wide, but he held on. So I sat back and watched Castangna and Pombo battle. I was hoping they would make a mistake, I was more than close enough to take advantage. Then the tires started to go off. I saw the white flag so I pushed in order to be close enough to take advantage of the tiniest mistake. They made none, but the checkered flag was not out. They gave us a white again. I had really hurt the tire that last lap, so I dropped my pace a bit for this second white flag lap, hoping that they had hurt their tires worse and maybe they would go off or have a failure. It was not to be however, but I was able to bring the Easykart Gunther Volkswagen car home to a second podium in a row!
This puts me in a close second place in the standings, only seven points behind Jurca, and 1 point in front of Castagna. We are now preparing to enter the crucial steps in the season, with the next four races occurring three weeks in a row. It should be a wild ride and I look forward to sharing it with you all! So stay tuned for our next race at Iowa on September 20th!
2002 Speed Arena