Race Report: 2008 SCCA SARRC Invitational Challenge
Coming at the close of yet another SCCA SARRC Season is the big SARRC Invitational Challenge. This is the defining race for all regular SARRC competitors in the SCCA Southeast Division as it determines who is the best of the best, think of it as the Runoffs for Southeast Regional racing. We are always fast at Roebling Road, and this weekend was no exception, but it was not without the drama that comes with our annual visit to the SIC. With only 5 out of the 6 races completed for a full SARRC season we were not in contention for the SARRC Championship, but nonetheless wanted to see how we stacked up against the fastest in the Southeast. Let's just say we are definitely going for the SARRC Championship next season! With our car totally repaired and in perfect shape, we were ready to have a nice clean weekend. Read on and get the details on how we did...
The weather was unseasonably cool for Saturday mornings qualifying session, and being the first group out it made for some super fast times. Before we went out we realized that we did not have much fuel in the car, with the race fuel pumps closed and only about a gallon of leftover fuel in our jug we would be pushing the limits with weight. Regardless, John went out and turned a blisteringly fast 1:22.7 lap around 10 minutes into the 20 minute session. This was our best ever lap at Roebling, which was only 7 tenths of a second off the lap record! When we exited the track, tech was checking all of the cars for legality. Unfortunately with no fuel in the car we came up a little short of the minimum weight requirements. As a penaly our lap times were thrown out, so the session was void. Our lap would have put us on the front row for the start, as it was the second fastest lap of the group.
With our fuel issue corrected we went full tilt for Q2. We needed to secure a super fast lap to assure us a good starting position as the best lap of the two Qualifying sessions would be used to determine our starting position. As the temperature rose the lap times came down, as Spec Miata's seem to slow the most depending on how hot the weather is. Everyone was slower, and we lost almost a full second off of our lap times because of the change in temperature, but our 1:23.5 was still good enough for second fastest lap of the session! Although we were 2nd fastest in Q2, it was only good enough to put us 6th overall because of the faster lap times in the morning session. It would be a tough spot to start, as we were sitting on the 3rd row on the outside when the green flag dropped for the race.
Our goal for the Race, and the whole weekend, was to keep our car clean and bring it home in one piece. We are definitely tired of doing body repair on the #25, we spent weeks getting the car in perfect shape for this important race and it was definitely worth it! When the green flag fell, we went into the first turn in 6th and came out in 5th. John filed in behind the first 4 racers, patience was John's goal in the first quarter of the race. Going into turn 9 a few laps in, the #05 car got loose and dropped back allowing John to get by. John spent the next 4 or 5 laps studying the lines and habits of the 3 cars ahead, John realized the potential of the #25 5xR Spec Miata's grip and found several places on the track where we were faster than the competition. John's strategy throughout the last half of the race was to be easy on the tires and let the first 3 cars fight it out and hopefully take advantage of a mistake or overheated tires. This strategy paid off, and within a couple of laps John passed the #71 and #41 cars after setting them up going into turn 9. John was now in second place pulling away from the 3rd place car and catching the #58 car in 1st. Within a lap or two John had caught the #58 car and was planning his move to take the lead. After finding out that we were faster in turns 2-3-4-5, John got a fast run out of turn 2 and passed the #58 car on the outside of turn 3! The #58 car fell back after a pass attempt on the outside of John into turn 1 and John had a decent lead stretched out. John was now in the lead, with around 10 minutes left in the race he was focused on keeping the car on track and being perfect. The #58 car found it's way back to striking distance, and on lap 17 out of 20 the #58 bump drafted John down the strait-a-way and looked to pass on the inside of turn 1. John hugged the inside of the track to give the #58 car the outside lane, as giving the inside lane would have resulted in a sure pass and his car was not as good on the outside. Coming into the braking zone of turn 1, the #58 car ran into the back of John as soon as the brakes were applied, causing John to spin off the track. John recovered the car and resumed the race with extremely bad flat spotted tires to finish 4th. John and 5x Racing had the win fall through our hands with the contact from the #58 car, it was a great shame after we were running so well that the race had to end in that fashion. Some good did come out of the race, John turned the fastest lap of the race with a 1:23.1 and got the #25 5x Racing Spec Miata into the spotlight at the Southeast's biggest race. Our season ending points total for the SCCA SARRC season was good enough to secure 6th overall in the Southeast, the highest of all Florida Spec Miata racers! 5x Racing is going for the SARRC Championship next season, and will be coming back to the SIC in 2009 for redemption!