June 25/26th 2011 NASA Florida Spec Miata Challenge Race
Racing in Florida always brings two possibilities: heat, and rain. Well, we experienced both of those Florida factors this past weekend at the NASA Florida race weekend held at Sebring International Raceway! While it wasn't the first time we've experienced heat and rain, the weekend did provide our first experience in providing trackside support for two future Spec Miata drivers participating in NASA HPDE program. Since John decided to hand over his title of NASA Florida Race Director following the last NASA event at Homestead, he opened up a new door that has been in the plans for 5X Racing. That plan was to transcend just selling Spec Miata parts by offering trackside support and coaching services for up and coming Spec Miata drivers and established Spec Miata drivers alike. Our first weekend offering trackside support and coaching brought us two customers, one wanting basic support services to perform the necessary maintenance items needed throughout the weekend while he adjusted to his Spec Miata, and one customer who had a proven Spec Miata and crew but wanted to learn how to go faster in her Spec Miata. Sebring is a tricky place to learn, as it has 18 turns, but with our track experience and Spec Miata setup knowledge, we were able to coach our driver to her best ever lap time at Sebring in a Spec Miata! Everyone was also officially welcomed into the 5X Racing familly paddock, where many of racing stories and good times are had!
On the track, no session was the same as weather played a HUGE role in determining the weekend. Our Saturday morning warm-up and qualifying sessions were dry, but the race was a different story. The biggest question on Saturday was: "is it going to rain for our race?". Everyone in the paddock waited until the last minute to decide on what tires to use, and as the dark clouds moved in, we chose to use dry tires as there was still not a rain drop to be felt. As we went out for our pace lap, the skys opened up and brought on a typical Florida mini-hurricane of rain. As the pace car pulled into the pits, the two 5X Racing cars pulled in behind him and John decided to mount his rain tires with the idea that either everyone out there on dry tires (all but 3 cars) would spin and bring out a full course caution, or everyone on dry tires would come in and mount their rains as well, leaving us on a level playing field. As we re-entered the track, we were one lap down from our tire change. John raced as hard as he could but was only able to work his way back up to 7th place, as the track started to form a dry line towards the end of the race that allowed all of the other competitors to regain speed on their dry tires. None-the-less it was a fun race, as it really tests your skills and capabilities of driving a race car at high speeds in the rain. At one point, John eclisped 100mph in the rain in his Spec Miata. Now that's tense!
Sunday brought a warm up session and qualifying session before the floods came. In our warm up, we broke in a new set of tires and played lead/follow with our team mates. In qualifying, John set a 2:40.0 lap in the blistering heat that was good enough for a 4th place starting spot in the race, which is venerable considering how much the hot weather effects the small Miata engine. It's too bad the race never came to a start, as John was looking forward to the consistent lap times a 30 minute race demands to improve his position.
Overall it was a fun weekend. Rick was able to set his personal best time around Sebring, further improving his driving skills at this tough track. We were also able to meet new friends, help our new friends in their Spec Miata adventures, and get a little wet and muddy like little kids at the end of it all.
Our next race will bring us back to the SCCA and the world famous Daytona International Speedway in August. We thought Sebring in June was hot!