ChumpCar World Series: Watkins Glen International – Part 2


Saturday we finished 24th overall and completed 159 laps versus the leader’s 170. My personal performance was my main interest. I knew I was more comfortable on the track, but what would the data show? More consistency with a number of 2:32’s and a couple of 2:31’s – so a significant improvement over day one. We had reduced the time between pit stops so that we could put more drivers in the Miata, so that their weekend was not spoiled due to the challenges that the ‘No Budget Racing 1’ Civic was experiencing. We knew that we were not in the running for big prize money. I can absolutely guarantee that, since I was in this for the fun and personal bests, I was already winning. My biggest fault racing is that I am too much of a gentleman, I focus on being smooth, I will work hard to bring the (John's) car back in the same shape if not better than when I left pit row. This may result in leaving time on the track. When I did have some minor contact with another car on Sunday, I connected where a teammate had already done so on Saturday. John did not even believe me that I had contact! That being said, I do worry myself because I am getting hungrier for that podium. At one point I had come through the Esses and was slowly overtaking another car on the straight. My assumption that they had seen me evaporated as they gradually came to the left and started squeezing my space. When this happened at CTMP the car I passed on the inside of Turn Four gave no warning and abruptly came over and tried to fit into the place where I was driving. Hungry to gain the place I almost had, the thought crossed my mind that I should not give ground and simply let the car hit me. I had earned this line and had begun overtaking on the outside through the Esses. At this part of the pass I was running on the edge of the track and on the back straight there is perhaps a yard (initially I said 'metre' but changed to 'yard') of grass before the track wall. Instead, rather than having to explain more dents, I kept my foot on the throttle and put two wheels on the grass and took the pass. The car being overtaken suddenly jumped to the right, probably when they heard the angry pitch of the 1.8 litre powerhouse, so I know they simply did not realize I was there. The Miata is a consistently capable car. I think it will, under the right circumstance, make it to the podium.


Sunday morning was beautiful. From the main grandstand looking across at the garages and paddock, long shadows demonstrate that the sun was out in full force. This also gives you a view of the excellent grounds at Watkins Glen International.

Sunday was absolutely picture perfect. There was barely a cloud in the sky. The decision was made to put the BFG Rivals on the car. At the last minute there was a call to swap the brake pads. We found later that we should have swapped the brake rotors also, as we experienced a brake shudder that we simply had not had earlier in the weekend. Sergio was out first and he ran strong. Determination was all over his face. He raced well and put us in a great spot. Afshin was out second. Consistency is a trademark of this man’s driving and I cannot say more because I was busy focusing upon being out on the track next.


Sergio missed the team photos so I would be remiss if I did not include a picture of him. He's getting ready to face the Green Flag for the beginning of Sunday's six hour endurance race finale. The look of determination is all over this photo. John made sure we each got a chance to face the Green Flag!

When Afshin brought the car in the decision had already been made to swap a different set of rear wheels, still with BFG Rivals, onto the car to reduce the vibration/shudder that Sergio mentioned was happening. There was fear that the one wheel, which had been touched at 100 mph during our Mosport race in the fall, must be bent. Afshin also reported to me that the track was great but that it was shuddering under braking. Note to self: change rotors and pads together or do not touch anything. Then onto the track and enjoy the flow. Looking back at the data, if my accounting for time is correct then my first hot lap was a 2:31, which was my fast lap on Saturday. I banged off a bunch of 2:30s then hit a few 29s and 28s. Even a 2:27.629 for the fast lap of the day in the #998 Miata. John was in next and nursing a very sore shoulder but that did not stop him from hitting five laps under 2:30. John is fast and consistent. He knows this car inside and out because he built it from scratch and has raced it in Time Attack for years and now ChumpCar. It was his first visit to WGI and he was also thoroughly enjoying himself. The biggest challenge for John was that his wife and three boys were back in Canada. I suggested that he make sure he has them with him at our next race! The next challenge was that his shoulder was just killing him. That was not something that the trackside support crew could resolve. We owe John some extra time at Calabogie because he was brought in too early. Twice. We need better timekeepers on pit row with a recording system, because it was not an intentional error. John, we will make up for it! When he brought the car in for gas he was not happy as the tires were not giving him the sense of the track that he wanted. Too greasy and slippery and, while he did have one spin, his times were very good. It has been said that when Rivals feel like they are about to kill you, that is when you are getting good speed out of them. Back in the pits, John reported that the car was now vibrating throughout the track; not just under braking. It was too late to change wheels as Ralph was in the car, it was gassed up, and he was ready to go.  Plus the tires were good when I was out so, apart from it getting even hotter or perhaps someone dropping oil on the track, I was not sure what had changed. A quick look under the car did not reveal anything wrong, so with a word of caution to be alert to issues Ralph went on his way.

Smooth, consistent, and fast are the best way to describe Ralph's driving. He took the Miata around with seven laps under 2:30, including a 2:27.946. That time is almost as good as my 2:27.6 – and here I have to announce that if my timing is not accurate then that time belongs to John – but I am the author and the way I figured it out appears logical so I am still claiming the lap! Sorry John. Sorry Ralph. FTD in our car on Sunday was me. Claiming this probably means that I will miss out on a trip around a track at speed in a Viper, but still. FTD, I cannot give that up. LOL!

We finished Sunday in 47th place, after the car was brought in about fifty minutes early. The brake shudder was still present, there was a mysterious vibration that was getting much worse, and John's shoulder had essentially frozen in place. He did not think he could endure another session. For a brief moment, the fun of racing was not evident in our expressions. Our WGI weekend had come to an inglorious conclusion. If anything, this made us resolve that we will make sure, apart from mechanical failure or track incident, we finish every other event we are in. The team is made up of many variables. It is really starting to mesh well!


Mike Agiannidis captured this Jaguar in action. This is another team from Ontario!
If you loved seeing the Jaguar, then you'll be thrilled to see this '75 Triumph TR6, affectionately known as 'Lacey' being raced by Jamie Palmer from North Carolina. Jamie's signature says it all – Keep Calm and Carry On Oil!

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