Race Report: 2009 SARRC Invitational Challenge at Roebling Road Raceway

Our 2009 SARRC season did not end as we had hoped at the 2009 SARRC Invitational Challenge this year as our annual bad luck continued at Roebling Road Raceway. We actually did very well all weekend, even though we were fighting a rich air/fuel ratio problem that killed our top end horsepower down the long 5th gear strait-a-way. During the Friday Test Day we were running respectable lap times and dialing in our famous Roebling Road set-up, also we were trying to figure out the rich mixture problem. When Saturday came we were ready for some on track action, being the first Qualifying session out we had cool track conditions which made for some quick lap time possibilities. Even though we were down on horsepower, we still posted a respectable time good enough for 4th place on the grid. Although we were 4th place, there was still a lot of horsepower to be unlocked in our Race Engineering 1.6L engine once the air/fuel ratio was restored to the proper level. The race directors threw a curve ball in the game this year by having a qualifying race in the afternoon. The best times from either Q1 or the qualifying race is what would be used to grid the cars for Sundays race. A lot of people decided to either not race, or just post a couple of laps in the qualifying race instead of risking damage to their cars or tires. We decided to race the qualifying race and ended up starting on the front row with the venerable Tom Fowler, a southeast spec miata legend. After a 10 lap battle with Fowler, and Danny Steyn, we came out on top and took home first place in the Q race! Although it was not an official victory, it was still cool to bring the #25 5xR Miata across the line in 1st. Our 4th place grid position stood throughout the race, and luckily we were able to figure out the air/fuel ratio problem Saturday night and were ready to race on Sunday with a car that was 100%. The championship race was shaping up to be a good one, with plenty of fast racers all within 2 seconds of 1st place. When the green flag dropped, the craziness ensued! We were able to get a good jump on the front row and found ourselves in 2nd or 3rd place by the time we reached the starters stand. Unfortunately the cars from the rows behind pushed each other forward like a riot and swamped us, trapping us on the outside going into turn one. With Steyn getting spun in front of us, it forced us to take to the grass to avoid hitting anyone. When we got back on track we were just about dead last, and had a terrible vibration from all the mud on the wheels. With a lot of work to do, we worked our way through the field and on lap 8 we were battling a pack of about 4-5 cars going through the back section of the track. Coming out of turn 7 we were nose to tail on the car ahead of us, practically driving through his windshield. As we headed up the small uphill going to turn 9 the cars in front darted to the right of the track, and by the time I saw what was going on we crested the hill and saw our friend George Munson sitting sideways in the middle of the track, not moving. Once I saw the car, I steered as fast as I could to the right to avoid t-boning George in the door and glanced his rear bumper with our left front wheel. The contact threw our car to the side of the track, and then back across the track eventually settling in the grass off of turn 9. We had some major damage, the car would not steer and the tire was flat, but at least it was still running. When we pulled into the pits and accessed the damage it was not good. Our front left suspension was heavily damaged and the fender and door were trashed. It looks as if we had no frame damage luckily, so hopefully the car can be repaired easily. It was a bad ending to a consistent season, but through it all we still ended up 11th in SARRC points, which is not bad for not finishing the SIC. Our next race is going to be with NASA Florida down in Homestead, John recently accepted the position of Spec Miata Group Leader for NASA Florida, and he hopes to attract more racers to NASA FL races in the future. The Homestead race is on December 11-12, and is going to be a trial run as group leader for John. If you are a Florida Spec Miata racer please check out this event, John has creative control for the Spec Miata group and plans to make NASA FL events the go to events for Spec Miata racing in Florida.