This “weekend” is the SCCA 2019 VIR Super Tour Majors. I used quotes as I flew in on Wednesday after getting home at 1am Monday morning from my regional MARRS 1 race. Racing weekends now start on Wednesdays!
There are over 500 drivers packed into VIR as this will be the location of the 2019 SCCA Championship Runoffs. So people want to practice as much as possible at VIR before the big event. My Spec Miata (SM) class has 78 cars registered and 70 showed up to qualify. That is a lot of cars on the track at the same time!
I have not raced in a “Majors” event in over three years. So I plan to try to keep out of wreckage and drive my car onto my trailer at the end of the weekend.
Thursday Practice Sessions
We got four practice sessions on Thursday. All without rain and for me, mostly without any drama. I was able to run a lap at 2:19 – but only one. No where near my best times in the past. The main reason for my attendance this weekend is that I will need at least 2 “Majors” events to qualify for the SCCA Championship Runoffs. So good times are a bonus – but just turning a wheel in the race checks the box.
Friday Practice / Qualifying…
The good news is that it rained all day today. I decided to skip the practice session after the first lap when I realized my defroster was not working. No sense in balling up the car during practice in the rain. John McCaulley rigged up a temporary defroster and I was ready for qualifying. Unfortunately, your best lap in the practice session was used to grid you for qualifying – and thus – I will qualify LAST.
In the afternoon, the rain continued during qualifying where BOTH of the two laps we got were black flagged! Good times.
We qualify again tomorrow morning and then have races tomorrow afternoon and Sunday. This is all barring more thunder of course. Rain expected both days…
Saturday Qualifier and Race
It rained all day Saturday and due to the number of cars, many drivers were forced to paddock in the grass. It began to look like the Woodstock of racing. Cars with slicks could not get out of the muddy grass paddock, and had to be pushed. It was quite a mess. I took a few pictures which really don’t even do it justice.
In the Saturday race, I started in 53rd position (of 70 cars) due to the lack of qualifying laps/times. I had a pretty good run and finished 32nd. The main concept was to not bend up my car or have an accident in the rain. Success!
Today looks like it will be dry. No rain tires and a very different field. I should start on the grid in a much better position due to my fastest lap. Hopefully another day of no bent metal and drive the car onto the trailer. Rain video to come once I get back home and can edit it down to the fun parts…
Sunday Race -You can’t “fix” stupid
We actually had a race today without rain! The track was great and we were on slicks. We did have two full course yellow flags, which of course made the restarts interesting.
The great thing about Spec Miatas is they are fairly easy to fix. If you smash them up, you can fix them by the next event weekend. However, you cannot fix stupid – and I was REALLY stupid today. We got all the way to the last lap and I had a car closing on me extremely fast. I knew I would need to let him around – but chose to block the top of “South Bend” and let him go by after we crested the hill. Bad idea – I slid off at the top of South Bend and went for a mud slide. I went from 34th to 52nd. Had I let him go by at South Bend and done my best to hang onto his back bumper, I would have had a respectable finish for starting in 53rd place due to the lack of qualifying laps…
Lesson – choose not to be stupid! I was letting faster cars that had gone off by all weekend. Only one car left to let by, and I lose brain cells.
At least I did not bend parts or have body damage. We can just drive the car onto the trailer for the next race. Not terribly bad for having not attended a Majors events in at least three years…
It is now officially February, the Super Bowl is tonight, and next Month is March Madness at VIR. This week was 31 below zero (53 below with wind chill) in Minnesota. It seems too cold to be thinking of racing already!
The Washington DC Region (WDCR) has posted the Mid-Atlantic Road Racing Series (MARRS) schedule on its website, so it is time to get things moving with marrspoints.com!
It looks like the WDCR has decided that we are back down to 9 Feature races this year – but the same number of weekends. For the first time since 2009, when I started racing in MARRS, the VIR race will not be a double for MARRS drivers. It will use the standard format used by MARRS races aside from the first race in the Labor Day weekend double. This seems to make skipping VIR easier for folks. It used to kill your points total by missing two Feature races right at the beginning of the year.
Like last year, we will attend two away races at NJMP, one each at Thunderbolt and Lightning. It is such a shame the NJ state police do not allow NJMP to start before 9AM. Makes heading home on Sundays so difficult. They are fun tracks though.
So the schedule is set and in the marrspoints.com system. I have not flipped the default year to be 2019 yet (still set at 2018 so it is easy to see results from last year). We still need the WDCR “powers-that-be” to decide on how many drops for the Net Points and things like that – but those do not matter until more than half way through the season.
It seems that bracket racing is taking off in the Mid-Atlantic Road Racing Series (MARRS) in the DC region. Great foresight and drive by Chuck and others to keep pushing this progressive idea and helping others get involved in the sport of auto racing.
Now that I am the co-founder of a new start-up, WolkeWerks, I have the challenge of maintaining that delicate work / race balance. Some people may ask, so you mean work / life balance? Of course, if you are the co-founder of a start-up and spend your spare time flying across the country to race cars, you have no “life” left to balance. But I digress.
A number of years ago I wrote a blog post about maintaining work / race balance. I was in DC just starting as an executive for AOL. Starting a new job can be overwhelming with the learning curve and wanting to make a great impression. This is especially hard when one is learning an intense new hobby such as auto racing at the same time.
The Land of the Free, Home of the Brave
Mostly I am still amazed almost ten years later than the common terrible driver can take their car out to a PDX on a real race track! Yes, that pimple-faced teenager that cut you off on the way to the grocery store is bombing around some race track in his mom’s station wagon. Quite soon they become a common reasonable driver. Some go on to be rookie and then an accomplished race car driver. Hey – this is America!
I must admit, back in 2009 when I decided I was going to get my racing license and go compete, I had no idea what I was doing. I thought I was going to race my 2001 Z06 Corvette that I had used at a couple of PDX events. Not so much. A PDX allows street cars (which now kind of scares me). But real race cars have roll cages and safety equipment. The fact that “instructors” for the novice and intermediate PDX drivers get into cars with no safety equipment and unskilled drivers makes them very BRAVE. Or something else. But I do not want to discourage them or be negative in this blog…
The plan is for Ted Cahall and Cahall Racing to make it to all of the MARRS events in 2018. That means VIR and a couple of events at NJMP. Meathead Racing will be there to help make that possible. They will allow me to maintain that delicate work / race balance.
Flights were delayed coming out of MN due to mechanical issues with Delta. An hour and 45 minutes later than planned, I was on my way. Normally this would not be such an issue, but I had a dinner planned with a long time friend and his wife. So it was good the delay did not completely cancel that portion of the trip.
I had a really nice dinner when I landed in the DC area with U.S. Army General (Ret) David Cole and his wife Connie at Morton’s Steakhouse in Reston. A great couple and a man of great service to our country. I highly recommend the Wagu Filet. We all enjoyed the company, the food and catching up. Here is an honorary card the people in Iowa made for one of their favorite military sons.
Friday Practice Session
We started the track sessions around 8:30AM and focused on selecting the best of my three cars for the race this weekend. It has been a year since I was behind the wheel, so the first session was about getting back into the groove without breaking the car or myself. I chose my blue #80 car. The car’s steering felt like new bushings had been put in the front end and there was too much caster. After Ed York went out in a major wreck, we were black flagged off the course. I checked my tire pressure, and determined I was basically driving on flat tires. Not uncommon for some checks to get missed as many cars are being readied for the first session of the season.
The second session was great. The #80 car handled much better and the “caster” issue has gone away. I turned a 1:27.2 – which would have been fantastic for me especially after a year without racing. Except the track had just been completely redone and was now by all accounts “faster”.
The third session I switched cars to my #79 backup. It needs to have the heel plate moved and caused me to not be as comfortable as the #80 car. I was working my way through the session and noted it was “looser” than the #80. Unfortunately, coming into turn 1, the engine started to make a noise. By turn 2 I realized the engine was blown and drove off the track so as not oil it down for the drivers behind me. That just made the car selection process a bit easier (and unfortunately long term costlier).
The fourth session was interesting. Ted was back in the #80 while Nick Bruni tried to shake out the #78 VVT model. Unfortunately the radiator hose came off the #78. Nick brought the car back in to protect the motor. The cars were winterized and this should have been caught. It could have been a very costly error had Nick not been so perceptive.
The fifth and final session of the day produced 7 laps in the 1:27 s with the best lap at 1:27.3. This was not too shabby since the temperature was hotter which usually implies slower lap times.
Amazing – a Friday the 13th practice day with only one blown engine and no totaled cars!
I expect the track record for the SM class to fall tomorrow morning. Some of the drivers ran a 1:25.9. It will be an interesting weekend!
MARRS 1 2018 Begins!
Saturday Qualifying and Race 1
The day started with a bit of chaos as it was the first day of bracket racing with marrspoint.com. Once I had the race ID and the race-monitor.com relay was restarted, we were good to go and the folks in timing and scoring were able to watch the brackets develop. Success! Congrats to Chuck Edmondson.
Qualifying was interesting. I started 14th of 31 cars on the grid based upon running one event last year. I was running faster and faster laps with my last lap a 1:27.156. My predictive lap timer let me know my current lap was a 1:26.8. The holy grail! The first lap in the 1:26 range for me in at least 3 years. In turn 7, I see the black flag come out. That means the lap is over and all drivers must pull into the pits. Foiled again! It turns out I qualified 8th of 31 drivers. Hitting that 1:26.8 would have only put me in 7th place. Upon stopping in the pits, I was informed the driver sitting on his roof that caused the black flag was a very close relative of mine. Well, I hope the car is OK! 🙂
I jut got word from the home front in Minnesota. Here is what the weather is like this morning. Good thing I am racing in DC in the 70s.
My relative survived rolling his car over on its roof (really slowed his lap down). However, chasing him down in “medical” caused me to miss the driver’s meeting.
The race was less enjoyable, I was hit by another driver that was passing me in a two car freight train in turn 1 of lap 2. It impacted my concentration and caused my Traqmate to turn off (which I use for my shift lights and predictive lap timer). I then missed a shift in turn 8 and dropped cars at both of these points. I ended up finishing 12th after starting 8th. That is considered a bad day at the track. I was waiting for the driver that hit me to come and discuss (and hopefully apologize). Instead, I was notified that I was being called to talk to the officials as he posted an official protest saying I hit him. This is really a good part of why I did not race much last year. It really takes the fun out of racing. At Meathead Racing, it is called “Man Drama”. I talked to the officials, filled out my mandatory paperwork and handed them my video. Final ruling TBD. By the way, the officials were super professional and polite – even the ones from New Jersey (that was a polite dig on New Jersey – could not resist). All of the officials are volunteers and the last thing they need is a bunch of man drama. They have real racing issues to handle.
To top it off, the weather in MN had the airport closed all day, and my flight home Sunday night has already been cancelled. You can’t make this up.
Sunday “Man Drama” Resolution
Word from the home front is that it is snowing hard again today. Yes, it is April 15th and it is snowing hard. Maybe I won’t even get home Monday morning.
I got called back to meet my friendly local officials this morning. They ruled that I was not in the wrong and the other driver’s protest was ruled invalid and dropped. It does turn out that the driver’s meeting I missed yesterday when I was at medical with my relative “the car flipper”, stated that any car to car contact required both drivers to come to impound. I did not go to impound as that was not the rule in previous years. Possibly this issue could have been resolved there without paperwork. But this is not the first time this driver has behaved like this towards me. This type of behavior can be why racing is less fun than it should be. In the end, other than wasting my time, the right answer was reached. Truly I feel he should have been penalized as he was the overtaking car and I left him racing room. The rules state the the car in front must leave racing room, and the overtaking car must complete the pass safely. I did my part, he did not do his part. Why he filed a protest is beyond me. I did not bother with a protest.
Sunday Feature Race
The Sunday race was 20 laps. There was a delay in group 5 and it seemed like the race might never start. The temperature had dropped at least 15 degrees in the last couple of hours and it looked like rain was imminent. Lower temperatures mean more horsepower for the cars and more comfort for some of us “less slim” drivers. But rain is really not a great addition to the sport. Frankly, I am a terrible rain driver.
I started in grid position 8 as I had on Saturday. The start was mostly uneventful and I was able to hang with the grid leaders through turn 5. By the end of Turn 2 I had started to gap the cars behind me. That was a good feeling. I hoped they all started to battle it out among themselves back there as it slows them down compared to my times running without contention. By turn 10 it was clear the gap was getting larger. I was hopeful I could maintain that gap and would be completely satisfied with an 8th place finish in this field of 31 cars. Then my Traqmate gave out again. No data. No shift lights. No problem. Unlike yesterday, I did not consider turning it back on. I put it out of my mind and shifted by the sound of the engine.
Then the light rain started – and we were in slicks. I was praying that it would blow over. I know John Hotz is an amazing rain racer, and I expected to see him in my rear-view mirror very soon. The rain never really materialized. It was just going to mist a bit and give up.
I bump drafted Ryan Heishman whenever I could make it up to him, but I did not even consider passing him. I wanted to keep taking that draft and making the gap behind me larger and larger. I chased Ryan for about 18 laps until we lapped a car. He squeaked by the lapped car and I was blocked for several turns which allowed him to pull away for good. No problem – I was still in the position I started and no one had passed me all race. I was happy to see the 1 lap remaining sign at start / finish. I knew I just had to keep the car on the track and I was in at least 8th place. I finished and heard that Rob Hines had pulled off with car problems. I took 7th place and had run a fast lap of 1:26.710. That is not the fastest lap I have ever had, but the fastest in 3-4 years. The track was faster and the temps were conducive to records. I was feeling great until I noticed Mike Collins (Meathead) had set the new lap record with a 1:24.886! Holy smokes.
It was a good weekend after all. 7th place, six laps in the 1:26s (and two more at 1:27.004) was not a bad day. No on track incidents aside from a minor bump when a lap car stepped on his brakes in front of me (we cleared that up with video – no officials required).
Last year, Chuck Edmondson did a great amount of work to get Bracket Racing off the ground at Summit Point. Bracket Racing let’s cars of all makes and models go out and compete in time “brackets” instead of classes. In 2018, each of the “home” events at Summit Point will feature a bracket race – starting with MARRS 1 next week!
You can also watch other races as they progress as well – but there is no need for that as Race-Monitor already does that well – and the data all comes from Race-Monitor anyway (aside from the bracket boundaries).
In general, the bracket racing system will not update unless it is a MARRS race weekend. Today, I have it monitoring the Road Atlanta Porsche Club event that is going on so people can see it live. I adjusted the brackets to fit the Road Atlanta times a little better.
Thank you to Chuck for the bracket racing idea, and for asking me to see if I could build it into marrspoints.com for spectators (and mostly the announcers) to see who was winning each bracket. I hope the software helps, it was fun figuring out how to build it.
It looks like my bother Bob and I will be at MARRS 1. I am pretty psyched to get back in the car after a year off.
In absence of the real thing, I have spent some of my time making changes to marrspoints.com. I made a ton of SEO improvements as well as some features to allow tracking the bracket racing live. I also worked on the WDCR Bill Scott Championship points tracking. However, I just learned that the rules now include the Feature Race of MARRS 8 (but with Qualifying points). If you want to see a sneak peek at what the 2017 leaders would have been for this series – sans the MARRS 8 race, you can see it here (without the SEO improvements to the URLs at this point). I guess I have until MARRS 8 to get that race included in the point totals!
I am looking forward to seeing the folks at the track. Especially Lin Toland who recently tangled with a robot and won. I hope you can make it out to the track Lin!
I checked with my two esteemed male siblings about their plans for MARRS racing this year. Unfortunately, due to work issues, Larry will not make it out this year aside from a possible PDX.
My younger brother Bob is all for it, if he can only get around to renewing his SCCA license and the likes.
So the official plan for “Cahall Racing” this year is to try to race all of the 2018 MARRS series – both the Summit Point races and “away” races. This may be very tricky without Larry’s motor home support and Meathead Racing relocating out to Chantilly temporarily.
Maybe – if the MARRS series goes well and the cars hang in there, I will be able to do an SCCA Majors race at the ARRC down in Atlanta in November.
The SCCA now let’s you claim your profile URL on SCCA.com. Not sure how long that has been there – but I finally claimed mine at ted-cahall. So crafty of me. While I was there I added some photos that are also up on my cahall.com front page. It needed something as I had not logged in for two years and never thought it would end up public facing. Maybe Steve Sturm will make one too since he is such a beast!