Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Grand Am at Barber Motor Sports

My first Grand Am race was a great experience at Barber Motor Sports. Mike McGovern who is the Head Instructor at Bondurant in Phoenix, hooked me up with Karl Thomson at Compass 360 Racing out of Toronto. They run four cars in the Continental Tire Street Tuner Series. They won the championship in 2009 and have two cars in the hunt for the championship again this year.

The drivers could not have been more generous with advice about the track and the cars. Zach Lutz and Ryan Eversley who drive the #75 were especially supportive and helpful. David Thilenius and Lawson Aschenbach are two great drivers who are currently leading the series and helped a lot as well. Great guys all! FYI, Zach and Ryan won at VIR.

Karl runs a great organization – cars are in top condition, crew chiefs and pit crews are excellent and the willingness to share information and insights runs throughout. As I said, it was a great experience.

I was teamed with a very good up and coming Grand Am driver, Alex Kirby. Alex and I had a great weekend together, learning the cars, etc. We got our driver exchange down to 25 seconds!

We had so much fun - here we are signing autographs in the paddock. Zach is on the left (http://www.zachlutz.com/),
then me,
Ryan Eversley (http://www.facebook.com/ryan.eversley)

With the help of data acquisition and pro drivers’ coaching, I dropped my lap times steadily through practices session and qualified 19th of 34 cars. I was pretty happy with that and so was the team.

The race itself was a bit more frustrating. My times stayed competitive throughout, passed a few cars and managed the track with the much faster GS cars. At the start a GTI driven by a guy new to Grand Am and from racing in Australia, was in front of me and lagged so far behind at the start that we were a good 1/3 lap back when we got to start-finish (there is no passing until you pass start-finish in Grand Am) This guy pulls into the pit just before the front straight - he could have let us all go buy when he knew he had car issues, but for some folks there isn’t anyone else on the track but them.

I stayed well into the lead lap and ran a good race. The Honda’s are very strong on the top end so with Barber Motor Sports’ shorter straightaway’s, the Honda’s are disadvantaged. Zach and Ryan pulled off a podium with 3rd and David and Lawton got 4th.

The end of my race was very disappointing. An hour in and only 7 minutes before giving the car to Alex, the same guy who held us up at the start punked me off the track coming out of Turn 5. He was 4 laps down while I was on the lead lap. I passed him coming into the turn, was a car length ahead of him coming out and he got into my left rear about 6 inches into the car. Naturally, I spun off and unfortunately into the guard rail. Car was hurt and happily I wasn’t.

Alex’s father, Gene, had it on video so Karl was able to take it to the Series and raise some cane about the other driver’s conduct. Karl and I and Alex were really pissed to say the least. Some strong words were exchanged after the race and the driver made his apologies. I felt most badly for Alex who didn’t get to drive in the race. Fortunately, Alex went on to a top ten finish in at VIR. Great guy, great driver.

So what’s next? Caught myself on this one and had to laugh. I had really only planned for the one race! Short sighted perspective that! Karl invited me to drive his cars anytime this year or next. Zach and his father still own the Mustang Challenge car Zach drove last year (5th in the Series) and they have asked me to drive their car in the Mustang Challenge this year. So let’s expand the horizon on racing! Even more, Karl and Zach have proposed that Zach and I team up to drive the #75 and go for the Grand Am Street Tuner Championship for 2011. I’m all about it!

So the plan, race fans, is to drive in several Mustang Challenge races in 2010 and go for the championship with Zach and Karl in 2011!

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