"Buck Muse Memorial" Double SARRC at CMP
The weekend of March 28-29 saw me heading to Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, SC for the South Carolina Region SCCA's Buck Muse Memorial double SARRC race. I have only been to CMP once before, and that was a couple of years ago in the Locost, running the old configuration. I was really hoping to get plenty of track time, but there was only one qualifying session each day and one Race for the day. The weather was not looking so hot, with rain and storms in the forecast for Friday night and Saturday.
On Saturday morning, the day started with a wet track but overcast skies. As things worked out, I was in the last run group and the track was the most dry it would be the whole day when I qualified. There would be a total of three cars in my class for this race. I set out for the dry qualifying session and started getting used to the track and the changes made to the car. The times came down with each lap and eventually I ended up on pole with a 1:54.9 lap, nearly 3 seconds ahead of 2nd place.
Almost as soon as qualifying was over it started to rain, and rain it did for most of the afternoon. Looks like I would get a chance to try out my new rain tires for the first time during the race. I called my buddy AJ for some advice on pressures and driving on these tires, since he had some experience with them. He said "they just work"...good enough for me. In our run group, there were also some faster classed cars (SPU, EP, FP, and SRF) I qualified 10th of about 23 cars overall in the dry. I was a little nervous about racing in the rain to say the least, but it is just part of the deal. I managed a good start and basically maintained position right off. As the first couple of laps unfolded, a few folks are kind of gingerly making away around the track. Armed with some good rain tires and a little bravery, I manage to pick up some spots overall in the class. After that, I simply settle in and learn about my tires and their capability in the rain. I was surprised at how much grip they had overall, and especially how well they work under braking. AJ was right, they just work. By the end of the race, I had managed to move my way up to 5th overall, and the only cars in front of me were the SRFs. I also garnered my first win in class. Woo hoo! I had the camera going for the race. You can check out the video HERE.
For the Sunday race, things were changed up a little from Saturday. First it was a nice sunny day, and the track was drying out nicely. The other thing that changed is that one ITB competitor dropped out after Saturday, but a new one showed up for Sunday. This happened to be last year's SARRC champion for ITB...so some good competition and a benchmark for sure.
Qualifying went well. For some reason though, I went about 0.8 of a second slower than Saturday. That would not matter, because I had pole again by a full second. When race time rolled around the weather was nearly perfect, with other than a little wind. I knew that the day was going to be tougher, especially at the start. There were several "faster" (in a straight line) cars behind me, including second place in class. This would work against me at the start. Despite timing the flag nearly perfectly, a couple of cars got by me on the straight and 2nd place in class was up by my side by the first turn. We would stay that way for the first several turns until the next straightaway. Then he and the car in front of him just took off down that straightaway like I was sitting still. I caught back up in the next set of turns but now I was stuck in 2nd. The car (from another class) in front of 1st place was holding us up badly in the turns. I tried to figure out his weaknesses so that I could set up a pass on the 1st place car (being held up also) by using the slower car as a pick. I laid back and tried to make my move in T4, but that is when things sort of fell apart. I showed a move to the inside before the braking zone and counted on the slower car in front to brake early and allow me to out brake the leader in class. He did, and I made my move under braking. Unfortunately, the leader turned in early as I was coming along side and we had contact. This left him spinning (and continuing) and me continuing, now in the lead. I knew my car was damaged because the steering wheel was off center at that point. I was careful for the next lap to make sure that I did not have any issues with the car or a tire going down. All seemed well, so I pushed on...and passed that slower car that was holding us up on the next lap. I just drove the car until the end of the race and crossed the line in 1st again for ITB. I knew that the toe being out made my lap times slower from the extra drag, but still managed a lap a couple tenths faster than my qualifying time for the day.
I knew that I had not heard the last of the contact between myself and the other car in class. In impound after the race, after some cooling off time, I went and talked to him. He was civil, but informed me right away that he thought it was my fault and had filed a protest form to get the position back. He had finished the race in 2nd. I felt that it was more of a racing incident than anything, but we would have to go to a post-race hearing and let the stewards decide. That process was long and drawn out...both of us would have rather not done that in hindsight. The result of the hearing was that the incident was judged to be a "racing incident" and the results would stand with neither of us getting a penalty on our license. He and I talked about it later and worked out our differences. We are looking forward to racing each other again in the future. If I took anything away from the experience, it was that I need to lean a little more to the patient side of aggression vs. patience. I guess we are always learning... I unfortunately don't have the video from this race because it was submitted for the hearing and they have to keep the tape for about 90 days.
In the end it was a fun weekend that presented some challenges on both days, but two wins...my first.