Bridgestone Racing Series Round 9
August 26, 2001
The third day was an absolute blast. The configuration was changed yet again and this time, nearly everyone was on the same level because (almost) no one had driven this way before.
My car's engine did not particularly seem strong but it handled well enough. Throughout about half of qualifying I was pushing really hard while the other half was spent avoiding other people and going a touch slower to try and learn the track.
There was a big moment when someone went off into the dirt and sand a few seconds ahead of me. I came around the corner and the dust was so thick it was impossible to see through it. I couldn't stop because I'd be in the haze and someone would run into the back of me. So I had to keep my foot on the gas and go through blindly as best I could. It was like flying through a brown cloud.
Toward the end of the session the shift linkage also became intermittently very hard to shift. It was obvious something had moved and was rubbing against the linkage. My right thumb began to chafe as I was having to apply so much effort to shift.
I didn't think I had done that well but it turned into the best qualifying result I've had so far: 4th. And wouldn't you know it? Third place outqualified me by 1/100 of a second. What goes around comes around. It was very close.
By the time qualifying was over I had the high speed turns fairly well figured out. I love them! The car is on the edge of control and you have to trust science, overcome your own apprehensions and force your right foot all the way to the floor. Once that's figured out, all you have to do is be consistent every lap. It's an incredible rush.
The race was wild. At the beginning I made a decent start and held my position. But a couple of laps later a full course yellow came out. Two guys behind me had crashed into each other leaving one car in the middle of the track. There was a lot of damage to the back half of it (broken suspension, etc.). So we drove around in single file under yellow for about 4 laps while the car was hauled off and the track swept.
The first restart was aborted and the second one was a go. My tires had cooled and the car was a bit of a handful to drive those first 2 laps or so. I kept putting a wheel off in 2 corners.
A few laps later the car understeered very badly and pushed right off the track, as if the throttle briefly stuck. It's a mystery to me. But I lost one position.
Then a few laps later I went in a little bit too deep in another corner, nearly lost it and lost another position. At the very next corner the guy who had passed me spun and I drove inside to take back the position.
Later on someone ahead suffered a mechanical problem so I was back up to 4th place. The drivers in 2nd and 3rd place were battling very hard. I was trying very hard to catch up to them. It seemed to me that the two of them might take each other out and I'd go by to take 2nd.
So lap after lap I chiseled away at the gap, setting the 2nd fastest lap of the race (0.4 s faster than my qualifying time). It closed considerably but I ended up 3 seconds adrift at the end of the race. But they had banged wheels a few times. So I had to push to be close enough to take advantage of any opportunities that might have come up.
Before the race the mechanics rearranged my ballast to prevent it from obstructing the shift linkage. But near the end the same problem reoccurred, making it impossible to know how difficult each shift would be. Sometimes it would be normal, sometimes very high effort would be needed. It was a considerable distraction but not too much of a problem.
All in all, it was a decent weekend. Not the greatest but it has been the most fruitful weekend to date this year. Let's hope for a really good one next month.