Round one of season four hit Road America this week. For me, it was to be my first every V8supercar event, after finishing 2nd in division four of the other main C class series, the Star Mazda.
I'd been practicing Road America since Tuesday night but I still wasn't ready. I didn't think I'd be competitive, not based on the times I was running in practice. The top split guys were running 2:09's in quali. My best ever lap was 2:13.2 , wiht an optimal of 2:11.6, their race pace.
Race night on Monday the 5th of November and I logged in in time for the 8:45pm event, as did my teammate, Andrew Kiss. To my amazament there were 105 people registered for the race. I shouldn't be surprise though, given this slot is recognised as the big slot for the week. I made the 2nd top split, with a SOF of 2909. That, I think, is perhaps the 2nd strongest field I have ever participated in, and I had the (mis)fortune to be a rookie driver. The other time I encountered such a strong field I was an experienced Star Mazda campaigner.
I didn't qualifying, the only driver to not, so I started from the very rear. It wouldn't have mattered as the slowest qualifying time was 2:13.000 a time I have never bettered. I don't have a qualifying setup either. I had planned to start from pitlane, so starting from the rear is even better, because it meant I wouldn't have to wait for the entire field to go by.
Off the line I made a decent start and started catching the driver in front of me, as I usually do. I noticed a big cloud of dust further up the field and realised there must have been contact. There was. A few drivers were on the side of the road and some were in faced the wrong way. I navigated my way through the mess and somehow came out in 12th.
I passed a driver that had spun a bit later round that lap. A driver came up to pass me into turn 8, gave me a little tap (0x) and I let him through. I definitely didn't want to get into a scrap.
The #5 ranked driver sat close on my bumper though, having also spun but recovered. We battled for a lap and a half, and it was great, before he dropped his left front onto the grass at turn 11 (the kink) and spun. From then on it was smooth sailing. Of sorts.
One thing I did noticed before the race was that 75L is the maximum amount of fuel the car will carry. iSpeed tells me thats only good for 14.1 laps. The race is 18 laps. I have a problem. I figured we must all need to stop. I'm pretty good with fuel, surely most others would be in the same position.
In the race I remembered Martin Brundle saying it's amazing how much fuel you can save by coasting up the braking marker instead of braking hard on it, as you would in a normal fast lap. Then you get on the power slower. And short-shift. I was getting off the throttle 30m earlier and braking a little later and getting on the throttle more gently but it didn't seem to making much of a difference. I was going to be 1.2 laps short. Sitting in 10th place on lap 13 I heard that the leader was pitting and assumed most everyone would pit, so I dived in too. Most people didn't pit and I exitted the pits in 13th, where I stayed for the rest of the race. I also had no one to draft off, being by myself for most the time. I think the leaders were able to draft to save fuel.
I set a fastest lap of 2:13.4 with a race average of 2:19. My fastest lap was about middle of the pack but my average race time was the lowest of all cars. Probably due to me no knowing what I was doing with fuel saving. Oh yeah, when I was in 10th I was catching 9th and 8th, until I had to save fuel...
Now I need to learn about fuel saving...
My teammate Andrew Kiss faired less well. He made it to third top split (1900 SOF) and battled through to 16th, with 10 incidents. Tough luck buddy.