Race Report: NASA Savannah Sizzler
5x Racing decided to try our hand at a NASA Southeast Spec Miata Challenge Race, and what better of a track to visit than Roebling Road Raceway in Savannah Georgia? NASA racing around the country has been growing rapidly, with a younger, progressive, future oriented outlook on racing it's easy to see why. NASA has a different format on a race weekend, mostly because they have TONS of classes racing within one weekend. From High Performance Driving Event classes, Time Trial, and Race Groups, NASA has it all in one place. They make it very easy for someone interested in getting into a racecar to learn the ropes without jumping in head first. The NASA way of racing was new to 5xR, as we were grouped with about 50-60 cars in the "Lightning" Race Group. The spread of times was remarkably close considering the vehicles involved, with lap times ranging from low 1:20 to 1:30 it made for some good racing all around. All in all it was a great weekend, we had excellent results and made some great new friends. Read on to see how the race went...
Q1 was a bit tough, with so many cars on track it was almost impossible to get a clean lap. Over 50 cars on a 2 mile track makes for a 2 mile train, and it took it's toll on John's performance not being used to dealing with cars slower in the turns. Our lap times were suspiciously high from our past precedent through the practice and Q1 sessions, which had Rick searching for an answer in the set-up of the car. John was blaming himself for the slow times, and the 30 or so Spec E30 BMW's! Although the set-up was off and track crowded, John still salvaged a not too bad 3rd place starting position considering the circumstances. Luckily Ricks suspicion was correct, as he found some reversed shock heights on the rear shock set-up, no doubt a shop mistake when changing to the 99+ Miata shock hats last week. We also lowered the whole car a hair to set the car on the bumpstops through the corners.
With the set-up tweak John was ready to attack the track for Race 1. A funky split start brought the Spec Miata field right into the back of the E30 field going into turn 1, which made for some interesting racing from the start. John was battling with Jeffrey Walter and Joseph Strong for 1st place for almost half of the race, with each racer taking his turn at leading the pack. The #25 5xR Spec Miata was flying down the strait-a-ways, but unfortunately the Spec E30 BMW's were a touch faster on the straits and slower in the turns. John kept getting held up around the track by the E30's, which allowed Walter to catch up and eventually pass John for the lead. A car stuck off of turn 1 brought out a double yellow, which paced the field around the track for the rest of the race ending in a yellow/checkered finish. John came home in 2nd with no chance to catch Walter for 1st, it was a bittersweet podium. We were very impressed by the awards ceremony and BBQ NASA held for the racers on Saturday night, it was very cool to be honored for your performance and hard work. This is something the SCCA can take a lesson from!
Q2 was where John and the 5xR Miata shined! We totally nailed the set-up of the car and the fuel weight, in combination with getting clear track conditions for the first 3 laps allowed John to post a flying lap of 1:23.777, right where we were in September for the SARRC Championship race! With this being the fastest Spec Miata race lap of the weekend, John non-the-less secured pole position for Race 2. A clean track was the key to getting fast lap times this weekend, which was very hard to achieve with all the cars.
Starting from pole and being able to pace the field for a split start was important to getting out in front early. John secured first place on lap 1 and held strong until the traffic came up, which allowed traffic master Jeffery Walter to catch up quickly. John and Jeffery were racing hard for several laps, swapping in and out for 1st place many times. They were also killing their tires on a very hot day, which came into play sooner than later. John settled in behind Walter with plenty of time left in the race to mount an attack to see if a mistake could be made by applying pressure. Sure enough the hot tires took it's toll on Walter and he went off track in turn 2 which handed John the lead for good. Several laps later John took the checkered to secure the Race 2 win! A smart weekend was played by John as he did not put a wheel wrong in any of the sessions, not even going off track once! Consistency is always going to pay off at the finish line! Look for us at our next race on June 28-29th at Moroso.