The 2009 SCCA Club Racing Season was really enjoyable. I was able to make it to seven race weekends this year plus four other high performance driving events. That is more track time in one year than the sum total of track time in my entire life before this year.
I really learned a lot and set new personal best lap records almost every week. I started the year with my best lap in the MARRS 1 qualifier being a 1:37.908 and 8 of the 10 laps being slower than 1:40. I finished this year in the MARRS 11 final race with a 1:31.826. Six seconds faster in a single lap is a great improvement. More telling was the consistency of the laps in each race with many of them clustering in the 1:32 range at the end of the year.
I met a lot of really great people as well. I could not have even come close to making this happen with my busy schedule if it were not for Mike Collins and his fantastic program at Meathead Racing. A huge shout out to Wendy, Sherise, Glen, and Jimmy who helped me though a huge learning curve.
The other racers were also fantastic (aside from some early “rookie bumps” out on the track to initiate me to Spec Miatas). Some of these people are very accomplished racers that turn laps in the 1:27 range. Yet they will still spend time and talk with the slow pokes like me to help me learn and grow with this sport. Many of the Meathead Racing teammates also took time to help me get buckled in and ready out on the grid as well. Such an outstanding group of people to spend a weekend with! If you have ever considered learning how to race in wheel-to-wheel competition, I would highly recommend contacting Mike Collins at Meathead Racing. Even for a busy person such as myself, they make the words, “arrive and drive” a reality.
My hosting provider performed a platform upgrade (actually sold part of the business and moved to a new colo). So somewhere between September 25th and October 2nd, my blog went down when WordPress could no longer access the DB. While they assured their users there would be no interruptions to service, clearly that was not the case.
I saw that the blog was down this morning, figured out what was wrong, and edited the wp-config file to point to the new database. Things are seemingly back to normal. It could have been MUCH worse. I have seen total disasters in migrations such as these (none under my management of course). 🙂
Now I need to jump in my car and high-tail it to Summit Point, WV for my last SCCA Club Race of the season. I am shooting for a new personal best lap record after setting one in the qualifying race yesterday.
I had the awesome opportunity to attend the Berti Roos Racing School up in the Poconos last week. They teach open wheel racing in Formula 2000 cars. This was my first event in Formula 2000 or any open wheel vehicle.
We were allowed to pass in one specific zone if we were given the flag indicating it was OK. I am happy to say I passed a lot of people – but no one ever passed me. That is the way it is supposed to be (aside from real racers at SCCA Club Racing – where getting passed was a reality for me this year).
You can click on the photo below to see a couple of more images on Webshots.
A group of people from work joined over a thousand other riders and rode from the Dulles Airport to the Pentagon today. The Rattle the Runway Ride was conceived to honor those people that flew Flight 77 on September 11th from IAD and crashed into the Pentagon. We staged at the airport behind the Air and Space Museum. As we left, we rode into the airport and through departures. We then proceeded up 267 to 66 and onto the Pentagon where we were able to spend some time at the memorial. The memorial has a bench for each person that died in the crash. The benches face in two directions: one for those that were on the plane, and the other for those killed on the ground. The benches are lined up by year of birth. The youngest victim of this cowardly act of terrorism was only three years old.
It was a nice ride and a nice way to pay my respects to those that lost their lives that day. May they and their families find peace.
I got my new TraqMate installed and used it in the MARRS 7 SCCA Club Racing event this weekend. The device is astounding. It uses a GPS to track your speed and a video camera to record what is happening in front (and optionally in back) of you.
This device will let me know how fast (slow in my case) I am entering each corner and what my exit speed is. This will help me compare to the really experienced drivers and know where to push it harder. The camera and GPS do not lie. And they record every lap and every missed shift. So this should be a huge help towards setting my new personal best lap record.
This Sunday’s SCCA MARRS race was a culmination of a number of year’s worth of effort. Back in May of 2006 up in Seattle, WA, I began my journey towards obtaining my SCCA Club Racing license. My job change and move across the country to the Washington DC area caused me to be sidelined for all of 2007 and most of 2008 aside from some PDX and HPDE type of events. (Photo below of MARRS 4 race weekend).
After attending day 1 and day 2 of my SCCA Drivers School in a “Spec Miata” that I rented, I attended the SCCA PDX and SCCA Club Trials in a “Spec Miata” as well. It was at this point that I finally realized it would be best for me to have Meathead Racing help me as my “Spec Miata” pit crew and support team for the 2009 SCCA Club Racing season. I bought a 1999 Spec Miata from Bad Al Bell and I was literally “off to the races”.
Sunday was my second official SCCA MARRS race and fulfilled my requirements for my regional license. I did qualification laps and the qualification race on Saturday to grid myself for the race on Sunday. On Sunday, I started in 31st position and finished the race in 24th. So I moved up and had an incredible amount of fun doing it. My fastest lap got faster in each of the three qualification and race events during the weekend. The key is to be safe, improve each week, and try not to fly off the track or bend any metal on either mine or the other driver’s cars. All was accomplished successfully.
On Sunday I joined up with a couple of co-workers and their friends and family and rode down to DC as part of Rolling Thunder to celebrate Memorial Day and our nation’s fallen soldiers. It was especially meaningful to me this year after my trip aboard the USS Truman. The complete photo and video album of my trip to Rolling Thunder is here.
Each year Rolling Thunder gets larger with some estimates of approximately 500,000 bikes participating. Below is a photo of just some of the motorcycles that staged outside of Patriot Harley-Davidson in Fairfax, VA.
Once we were in DC, we parked our bikes and looked at the Korean and WWII War Memorials. From there, we waited and watched the beginning of the procession of the official Rolling Thunder. Below is a video of the beginning of the event.
After watching thousands of bikes go by, we decided to head home and beat the traffic. It was a great ride, a great day, and a great way to say, “thank you”, to all that have fallen in the line of service to this great country.
On Thursday I drove down to Richmond, VA and participated in the World Class Driving Tour. We had a chance to drive five different exotic sports cars through the country side of Virginia. Of course, no speed laws broken by any of the participants, especially me. Cough… Below is the group shot from our outing (more photos of my group at bottom of this post). I am the second person from the left.
We started the day at 7:00AM by signing our lives away. It would have been unpleasant to have wrecked one of these as I think I promised the future lives of all my relatives for many centuries to come as collateral.
Then we were out to the cars for the group photo and then the road. Each driver took a turn in each of the five cars. We had eight drivers and only five cars, so each driver had three legs as either an exotic car passenger or in one of the lead or chase vehicles. This was the only let down of the whole morning. I am not sure I would have registered had I known that. OK – I probably would have – it was a total gas.
I was lucky enough to sit out the first segment – as that was driving through town in a very slow, deliberate manner. No fun sitting in a high performance car in traffic! My first segment was in the Audi R8. It is a fantastic car that handles superbly. It clearly can be a daily driver (and Ash Patel at Yahoo uses it as one). My only complaint was that it was somewhat under powered for an exotic car. I was also at the very end of the pack – so lagging back to rev the engine was somewhat more difficult. Still great car and I was very impressed.
My next segment was in the Callaway C16 Corvette. It is supercharged and was by far the very fastest car of the day. It has an automatic transmission as well as paddle shifters. The automatic was so well tuned there was no need for the paddles. I did a hole-shot out of the parking lot and was shocked by the power. It got a bit squirrely even with the traction control on. Yeah – that’s what I’m talking about! I was second in the conga line behind the Lambo and I lagged back quite a few times. The car was like a rocket ship when I would nail it and downshift two gears. The whine of the supercharger was outrageous and the power literally pinned you to your seat. I have owned some fast supercharged cars – but this was the best. Callaway got this one right. I noticed that there was blue smoke pouring out of the back of the car when I would pound on it. I figured I would point that out when we stopped next (I really did not need to since I was coating the 3 cars behind me). It turned out that the blue smoke was a harmless leak from the supercharger cooler that only occurred under very high load (ie. me). I must have done 5 or 6 power runs after lagging back and flooring it. That ride alone would have been worth every penny – but it gets better. We got to a straight, well paved, wide-open section of two lane highway following a slower car. The lead car passed and and the Lambo followed, I lagged a bit so I could wail on the C16 and then hit it. We blew past the car and began to climb into the back seat of the Lambo. I am sure we went a tad over 55…
Eventually we pulled over and switched again. I got the Lamborghini this time. I figured there was no way I was going to enjoy that after the C16. While the Lambo does have 10 cylinders, it is not supercharged, etc. Well, I was wrong! The thing was amazing. I was behind the pace car (driven by Roland who is an experienced pro racer that could have made a tricycle go fast). I let Roland get a good pace ahead of me and pounded out the Lamborghini. It was almost as impressive as the C16 – but it is all wheel drive and really was incredible in the curves and corners. I pulled a number of power downshifts in this car too and was really torn as to which car I now liked best. Either way, there is no loser out of these two.
When my turn was next, I got to drive the Ford GT. This is a true supercar and was the only car with a real stick-shift and clutch. One of the instructors always road in the GT. No problem. 🙂 This was a great car and extremely fast. It is also supercharged – but for some reason the power was very linear and smooth. It did not really let lose and snap my neck back as I had done in the C16 and Lambo. It might have been due to the instructor sitting next to me – but he never made a peep each time I lagged back and then hit it as hard as I could. No question a fantastic car – but it did not rank with the C16 or Lambo. It might be due to the manual transmission. The automatics they are making in these new exotics are really phenomenal.
When we were well on our way back to the hotel, it was time for my final drive. I was in the Alfa-Romeo 8C. It had the nicest sound to it – but unfortunately resembled more of the Audi R8’s power band than the other power beasts. Unlike the Audi’s fine transmission, the 8C would bog under full power shifting. It was also grumble backfiring on downshifts or when I let off the gas. All of this – and it was the most expensive of all of the cars at about $300k! They are only letting 75-80 of them into the US – so it is a rare collector’s car. It is a good thing – because even at about $200k this would not see any sales volume when compared to a Lambo, Ferrari, or other car in that range. It was definitely my least favorite of the five cars. So I was glad it was the one that I had to waste part of my turn in city traffic as we parked back at the hotel. I guess it has some appeal and some woman actually called out to us (another driver was my passenger) to let us know she liked our car… So Italian sound appeal counts for something.
We started the day on the USS Truman with the arrested landing and then disembarked from the C-2A. The photo below is part of an album taken by a Navy photographer as I exited the plane onto the deck of the USS Truman. Click through to see this photo and others taken by the Navy from this trip.
Once on board, we went up to the bridge and met Rear Admiral Mark Fox, Captain Joe Clarkson, and a number of other officers as the performed their duties. The photo below shows Rear Admiral Mark Fox greeting our group of visitors.
From there we began our journey of hundreds of ladders. You cannot live on a aircraft carrier and not be in shape. The ladders will make it happen. Plain and simple. We went and met the Captain of the US Marine wing VMFA-312 on the ship. There are about 20 Marine Pilots on board and approximately 275 total marine staff. Unfortunately I did not have a pen and paper, so I do not know the name of the head of the Marines on the USS Truman. Here is his picture.
We stopped by the room where they maintain the anchor chains. Each link weighs over 300 lbs. They clean and paint the links from that room. We then headed out to the “hangar” below the flight deck. The hangar has a series of elevators that move planes up and down between it and the deck above. After looking through the hangar, we went and looked at some of the elevator bays and out towards the ocean. From there we proceeded to view the fire station and some of the repair labs. We also viewed the rescue boats they send out in case a person goes overboard. From there it was onto the Jet engine repair labs. The photo below is one I took of two technicians working on a GE jet engine. Click through to see a few more jet engine photos from this album.
After the jet engine repair, we had the highlight of the entire trip. We went back to the deck and watched jets take off. The jets (and some turbo props) take off by being shot off the deck by a catapult. It is really an amazing thing to see – and I was lucky enough to also be able to photograph it with my own camera. Below is one of my better shots of a plane just off the end of the carrier beginning flight. Click through the photo below to see my other photos of planes taking off from that album.
After watching all of the planes take off, we were then taken to the back of the carrier to watch some of them land. This part is really amazing. I got to see what I had experienced earlier that same day as part of an “arrested landing”. It was incredible. When the pilot puts the plane down on the ship, he/she actually takes it to “full throttle”. This is to make sure it has full thrust in case they miss the arrestor cable. In that case they need to take back off so they can circle around and try to land again. Once they know they have the cable, they back off the throttle. We were standing a bit too far forward to get good shots of a plane grabbing the cable with its tailhook. I do have one blurry one here. The photo below is a photo I took of one of the planes coming in for landing on the deck.
Note the arrestor cable in the foreground. That is the first cable of four such cables. The pilot is supposed to shoot for the third cable. This was one of the AWACS planes. They are arriving at 150 mph and will drop down to 0 mph in a matter of three seconds. I have an honorary “Truman Tailhooker” certificate signed by Captain Clarkson that states that I have completed an arrested landing and have an “elementary understanding” of the “remarkable challenges and accomplishments of Naval Aviation”.
We then headed off to dinner and had some break time in our rooms. After dinner we went to the outside deck off of the bridge and smoked cigars. After that it was lights out as we had all had way too many ladders!