Race Report: SCCA SARRC/Regional at Sebring International Raceway
Headline: 5x Racing's bad luck streak continues at the first SARRC Race of the 2008 season.
The 2008 SARRC season begins just one short month after the close of the SARRC Invitational Challenge where 5x Racing had an impressive showing finishing 3rd, but was later disqualified due to a protest by a competitor from on track contact which was really just a "racing thing". The bad luck continued this race when rain threatened the entire weekend, making for uncertainties in tire choices.
Practice and Qualifying
The morning practice started out dry, but halfway through it was raining on the 12 hour side of the 3.7 mile course. The 5xR Miata was sliding all over, as it seemed impossible for John to find grip on this slippery track. Upon qualifying, the rain still loomed overhead. John and Rick made the choice to put on our rain tires for the qualifying session. This seemed to be a good idea, with 15 minutes until our tracktime it was consistently raining. As luck would have it, the rain stopped once we made it to the grid. John had to qualify on the rain tires with dry track conditions. Consequently our times were about 3 seconds off our usual pace, which in Spec Miata is major. We ended up qualifying 20th in class, which severly limited our chances to score a podium finish.
The condition of the track for the SARRC race were the most diffucult John has ever had to endure in a race, as the entire club course section was wet/drying and the 12 hour section was dry. Starting 20th was going to be a disaster with these conditions. When the green flag dropped John got an excellent start, he jumped into the top ten by the first lap! On the second lap John was dive-bomb passed by a competitor and forced onto the wet line through the corner, the brakes locked up and John was forced to use a runoff road and cut through the grass back onto the track. After the off course, John was close to dead last. Thankfully it was a 30 minute race, and John worked his way up to about 17th before the entire field was black flagged and course shut down due to a communications loss with race control. This was good as it allowed John to catch up to the leaders. After the restart John had 13 minutes to gain as many positions as he could, and it was enough time to allow John to work his way back up to 8th, salvaging a top ten finish.
The Regional race that followed the SARRC is where John's luck went from bad to worse. Starting 20th, John once again worked a miracle on the first lap, going from 20th to about 6th. After things got settled in, John was catching the leaders with about 10 minutes to go. John then set up a pass on the #03 Spec Miata of 5th placed competitor John Barben coming out of the turn 4 carosel, and with lapped traffic coming up on the right, Barben miscalculated his tuck behind and made contact with our right rear, sending us sliding sideways down the strait and eventually into the lapped car. We had considerable damage to the front bumper, left fender, and left door. The car was able to drive back to the pits, and after further inspection the damage seems mostly cosmetic. It looks like most of the damage can be bent back into shape, and new tires are necessary (sliding sideways at 90mph flat spots and cords tires immediately), but hopes are high to redeem our luck at the next SARRC Race at Moroso Motorsports Park on December 29-30.