My first experience at an SCCA national championship run off was exciting and left me impatient for the next season to start. I arrived on Sunday night and unloaded the car from the transporter that Joey Jordan Motorsports graciously allowed us to use.
All of the Mazda 2s were able to pit together under the covered paddock (thanks to Mazdaspeed). We were positioned at corner 14 so we were treated to a great view of the track while we chatted each day.
On Monday I was way off the pace of the other B-Spec cars in practice. The best time I was able to get was a 3:00 flat and the fastest other B-Spec was running in the 2:55-2:57 range. This was my first time out on the track so I knew there would be some learning to do as a simulator can only do so much.
On Tuesday, during the first qualifying session a Mazda 2 was clipped in Canada Corner (turn 14) and flipped. It spun across the track and flipped back over in the gravel. The driver was ok and he hopped out saying something funny about his stunt driving. The car lost its windows and was cosmetically damaged but all of the safety equipment was still in great shape.
We continued to make changes on the CorkSport Mazda 2 through the week but there were quite a few black flagged sessions due to people crashing out on cold tires. I saw several cars destroyed by hitting the walls in corner 7 and the kink on the back straight.
On Saturday we decided to make some large scale changes to the car and see how they would help my warm-up STL race on Sunday. My goal was to get into the 2:58s for lap times so I would stand a chance of keeping up with the rest of the cars fighting it out for the lead. The changes worked like magic and I was able to get into the 2:57s. With a good lap time set we left the setup where it was and bolted a new set of tires on the car for the race.
I qualified in 8th place due to being off the pace on Tuesday and not getting a clean run on Wednesday and Thursday. The race was very intense, especially with the first lap cars going off the track. Joel Weinberg who was the pole sitter had his steering wheel come off in his hand and he hit the wall taking him out of the race in the first corner. I was able to pass one of the Honda Fits who missed the corner at turn 5, locked up his brakes and allowed me to move into 6th. There was also a wreck coming out of turn 7 where a few cars made contact and a Fiesta was destroyed when it hit the wall which moved me up to 5th. After a few laps the Mazda 2, which was involved in the wreck earlier, was able to get around me (he also set a new track record playing catch up with a 2:54). We did some bump drafting to try to get past the 4th place Mini but there was some questionable blocking of the 5th place Mazda 2 (including some contact). I made two errors in corner 6 which dropped me back too far to catch up. At the end of 13 laps I was in 6th overall. This meant I was sent to impound with the rest of the front runners to pass tech.
After 4 hours, a few protests, and the tech inspectors not being able to find information on the camshafts in the Minis they cut us loose to load up the cars and hit the road. After quite a few days, the results were final and I was awarded 6th place overall. In the race I was able to get a low lap time of 2:56 which was great to see from the car and myself. I believe I can do better if given more track time.
Want to watch the race? Click on this link and skip to 5:15 for the start of the T-4/B-Spec race.
Overall it was a crazy week of learning at the track. The result is not what I wanted, but to make it through the race with no damage made me happy, and there is always next year which is closer to home at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.