I did not think there was anything more exhilarating than driving at speed. That is, until going through corners two or even three wide. For example, Turn Four, downhill left, lots of room and minimum 160 kph speed unless I was being held up. For a couple of laps I was behind a BMW that I simply could not catch on the straights but I was all over in the corners. No good passing position opening until turn 4 and the black BMW (is there any other colour?) went very wide, giving me an opening on the inside that a tractor-trailer could have fit through. However, just as I pulled my front wheels even with his front wheels he changed line and, while I thought he knew I was there, he attempted to close the door, coming drastically fast to the left. But that is exactly where I was. There was no question I was going to be hit; my only thought was what would happen. There was a bang, he dropped back to the right and behind me, the Miata tracked straight, I took the position into five and on we went. The car felt good. No vibration. No weird sound. No signal from the pits. And no vision through the passenger side mirror, which was now bent in so I could almost see myself. Now this was exhilarating.
This is was the dilemma. I could pit and get the mirror fixed but without a doubt I would be removed from the car, as there was only twenty minutes or so left in my driving stint. The car was fine I just had limited vision on the right rear side. And I wanted as much seat time as I could get. Already I was jealous of the time. Checking my rear view mirrors that worked, I ensured that I was not going to impede anyone in the corners and on I raced. Staying in tight to the right of corners or wide to the left if a faster car was behind me I may have lost a bit of time, but I was still grinning from ear to ear.
Signal from pit row that my time was up I pitted, pulled into our spot and climbed out. I could not stop myself from running around to the passenger side to see the damage and realize that it was not as bad as I expected. Pulled the mirror back into position and then went to my post, which was helping John get buckled in. I told him about the track, to watch out for the black BMW, and assisted in getting the mirrors into position while the team fueled the car. Then I went and enjoyed the thrill of driving, chatting with Ralph about the car, the track, the close calls and the contact. Plus I wanted to know about our position – which was in the top ten. My times were reasonable. I always think I could have done better but it was a good outing.
Unfortunately John was back in shortly after he went out. There was a miscalculation about the fuel I had used and the car was running on empty within 30 minutes. This error was frustrating for John, but we saw him frantically waving to us and were all suited up and ready for anything when he pulled in. The fuel was topped up and he was on this way quickly. The car was fine other than that and John went out to consistently put in the fastest laps the Miata had seen thus far. However, that five minute stop cost us time and bumped us down a couple of spots.
That was until Ralph went out and his lap times bettered everyone’s – John’s by a second and mine by close to three. The Miata did not have the power of a Viper, but in Ralph’s capable hands he was pulling out the fastest times it has ever done on street tires. Ralph brought it in for the checkered flag and, without knowing our exact position, we all celebrated. We had finished. We were champions. The exact place did not matter (well, actually, we really wanted a podium finish but it would appear like sour grapes should I start giving excuses about why we did not finish better) because we came together as a team and had an awesome day at an incredible track.
Eighth was an absolutely fantastic finish for four guys who did not know each other before this weekend. John had meticulously prepared the car and it would have run for 24 hours if it had the chance. There was a minor glitch in that the transmission did not enjoy finding third gear, but that did not cost us much more than embarrassment as we wondered if the spectators heard a bit of grinding. And this was just the first seven hour stint. Our teammates in the #881 Civic came in fourth and, in the rain on Sunday, they placed third. ChumpCar put on an excellent event and I was very fortunate to be able to participate with an incredible team with ‘No Budget Racing’. What a talented group of individuals. Unfortunately, the #998 Miata did not fair so well in the rain on Sunday, but that is a different story. Except to tell you that the BMW that had contact with me on Saturday spun twice entering turn 8 – and I saw them both times in my rear view mirror. That was a lovely sight.
Special Thanks to:
No Budget Racing – John Dattomo and Rob Pacione
ChumpCar World Series