Race Report for Viking Racing, Formula Car Challenge - Race 1/2. March 9/10, 2012
March 10/11th was the date for season opener double header race weekend in the Formula Car Challenge. Unfortunately our preparation towards the new season has been really bad as we spent virtually all our time on fighting engine and car problems meaning I had not had one single lap at Infineon Raceway since our race in November last year.
I managed to get a couple of days at Buttonwillow Raceway but also here most of the time was spend on fighting engine problems varying from misfiring to lack of power issues.
As such we knew it was going to be a tough weekend and we just had to get the best out of what we had. We started Friday with continuous troubleshooting of the engine and although we managed to solve a few items we were not able to solve the fundamental issue that the engine was down on power, and enough to affect lap times with around a second.
Late Friday afternoon we decided to change the engine to an old spare engine and thanks to a heroic effort from my mechanic Brent we completed that 1am Saturday morning - only a few hours before Saturday morning warmup.
Although the new engine was better I was still not happy with the car as it felt very hard to drive and control. My engineer Rick was scratching his head as he could not understand why I felt the car was so much off. I qualified 5th place, which was not bad afterall but also not satisfying.
In all our troubleshooting and fire fighting it turned out that we had forgotten to align the front end (wheels) and they were signficantly off in ecah their direction, which explained why the car was so tough to drive.
Starting from 5th I got a good start and made it to 4th right away. The next few laps were very close with me on the bumper of 3rd and 5th on the bumper of me. The car felt much better now and I was able to open a gap and as 3rd place made a huge spin I passed him and was now in 3rd. The car just got better towards the end and I was able to push hard and I caught up to 2nd place but due to slower traffic I lost a bit of time and had to settle with 3rd place.
We were all very excited about our first podium finish and it was especially nice with a podium with all the trouble and horrible start to the season!.
In Sunday's race I qualified 2nd - my best qualifying result ever in the car. The start was not as good as the first one and I lost a position and was in 3rd. I started to push from the get go and I was able to pull a gap from 4th place and started to catch 2nd place. All of a sudden it felt like my right front tire went away (lost grip) and I could not keep my lines and braking points.
My driving coach Steve was instructing me in very deliberate terms to get it figured out and get back on my marks! I pushed like crazy, played with the adjustable bar in the car to get more front grip but it just turned worse and I had to use every muscle available in my arms just to do a left turn. Clearly something was wrong but I was not able to tell what it was since it seemed to be related to the bar...
With Steve in my ear I pushed and pushed but eventually I had to give in and I got passed and was now in 4th, which I was able to hold until the checkered, but only by a hair!
It turned out that I had a big hole in my right front tire - probably casued by debris on the track so I had run more than half the race with a completely flat tire...
Everything said and done it turned out to be a good weekend and a 3rd place followed by a 5th place achieved with a flat tire is a good result and everything looks promising in terms of going for the Championship.
I hope my portion of bad luck is over for this season and I can start focusing on the car setup as well as my driving rather than having to chase problems. I would like to extend a big thanks to my mechanic Brent for an untiring effort as well as Rick and Steve for a good car as well as a lof of valuable driving feedback both on and off track.
As usual I would like to thank my sponsors for making this season possible! Next challenge up will be March 30th in the Molecule karting championship where I now have moved from Rotax to the faster 6-speed Honda shifter class.