TDI Cup Round 2: Spinfest @ MoSport

First off, I would like to give a big congratulations to my buddy Brian Hair and Mark Simons for winning Luxury Sedan Class of the 1 Lap of America in Mark’s E60 BMW M5! A job well done with the whole week consumed by driving and wrenching on their car.

And thanks to Chris Neprasch of Diesel World Mag, for sending me this pic he took from VIR. Cold slicks = very loose!

For the 2nd round of the VW Jetta TDI Cup, I came in extremely exhausted, after having visited my relatives in Korea from the beginning of May. I flew around 18 hours, had an extra 8 hours in layovers, came home to Baltimore around 10pm, then immediately flew out the next morning to Toronto. Wow, what a shocker with the weather. After having been used to warm, 70-80 degree temps in Korea and Baltimore, it is about 50-60 in Toronto! After running into delays with Canadian immigration/customs and whatever BS at the rental car place, I stayed with an old friend, who I had not seen in 7 years, since I attended freshman year of high school in Hong Kong. I want to thank Ada Chan for her gracious hospitality.

Friday
On Friday afternoon, whether it was because of Victoria Day weekend in Canada, or just how the traffic normally was in Toronto, the highway to the track was a constant parking lot. What should’ve been a 1 hrcommute took about 2.5 hours. Leaving Ada’s apartment at 2:30pm, I thought I would have plenty of time for the 5pm registration deadline at MoSport. I barely made it…and we immediately headed out on the golf carts to do track reconnaissance. I had only seen MoSport on tv and holy crap…it is MUCH much steeper in real life. T2 and T4 are very fast, downhill sweepers. Seeing as how MoSport used to be an F1 track back in the day, it was much less forgiving than VIR. Concrete walls everywhere, very little run-off room on some of the fast turns and abusive curbs. Word on the street was, 6 MX-5 Cup Miatas had already wrecked that day. Jan Heylen, Mark Miller and Ryan Arciero showed us around the track and we all took notes for each corner. Of course, what fun are rental golf carts around a racetrack without abuse? Bump drafting, banging carts and locking up the tires were all part of the fun.

After the track walk, I had nothing to do, so I stopped by the MER Motorsports trailer to hang out with Playboy MX-5 Cup driver, Ryan Schimsk. I had met him thru Bimmerforums.com. We talked for awhile about the Jetta TDI program and the MX-5 Cup. He was one of the fastest in practice that day, and I wished him good luck for the weekend as I headed back to my hotel. Before leaving the track, fellow Jetta racer Derek Jones and I chatted a bit about what he would be doing later on. On my way back to my hotel, Derek gives me a call to say his father was driving back to Philly that night and that he had no ride for the weekend. I was just about to pay for my hotel, so I canceled on my reservation and headed over to his hotel. We ate with some of the Jetta TDI technical crew at an interesting ‘Western’ themed restaurant in Canada called Montana’s. Very hip. It was getting late, around 11pm, so we headed back to the hotel. In the parking lot, Derek noticed a white Subaru STi, and sure enough, it had Pennsylvania tags. We go inside the hotel room and it seemed someone was able to cover for Derek’s father, Hal, at his job. We check the weather and it looks like 80% chance of rain for Saturday. Great. We all get some much needed shut-eye.

Saturday
We head to the track early for driver’s briefings and to change to our racing suits. We get a talking to from the SCCA officials, who notify us that they had reviewed all the footage from VIR and would assess penalties for today’s qualifying. It’s not until about 9am or so, when the rain starts coming down hard. With a fast & narrow track like MoSport, and in the rain, it was certainly going to be interesting. We head out to the cars, and now I am starting to get used to buckling myself in. It is cold, wet and dreary at MoSport, and my helmet visor starts fogging up. We are all on rain slicks and we all head to pit lane. The following 30 minute practice session that occurred was ridiculous. I, along with everyone else, was sliding around, spinning out and oversteering in almost every corner. Even on these Michelin rain slicks, there was very little grip and many of the drivers were tapping the brakes mid-corner, transferring the weight to the front and making the back slide out. I admit, I was one of them. I couldn’t believe I was doing that, although I was a rookie in this racing series, I had enough track time under my belt to understand weight transfer and vehicle dynamics. After a very wet and messy, surprisingly, only 2 cars had damage from crashing. We had our debriefing and were told to clean our cars…which seemed silly, as they had been rained on and more than likely, would be rained on again throughout the day.

After lunch and hanging around with other drivers and parents, we get into the cars for the 2:50pm qualifying session. While it was drying up, the VW crew were still uncertain of the weather conditions and made a final decision right before going out to switch all the slicks to rain slicks. While on track, after a few hard laps on these rain tires, it felt so uncomfortable and loose. The car was oversteering and rotating without me helping it, there was absolutely no proper braking as the tires had no grip in the dry and on the straightaways, the cars would wobble side-to-side, the steering pulled to the right and it felt like I had something wrong with the suspension. In each corner, I tried holding my line, but the more I tried to make it turn in, the wider it went out from understeering as the front tires had absolutely no bite. I probably went off around 3 times or so, as did other drivers. The car had such an uneasy feeling, I decided to pull it into the pits as it was getting too loose for me. I roll into pit, I turn the wheel and the crew tells me my tires are done. No kidding. But a nice, surprising moment: data engineer Matthew comes up to me and tells me I am 4th fastest! How the hell!? With about 10 minutes left in the session, they tell me I can roll back to the tech tent. I park the car, talk to some of the parents watching qualifying. One of the people tells me they saw me catching about a foot of air at T1. Haha, whoops! I look at the tires, holy crap, the insides are torn up, and the outside shoulders still have a little bit of their tread blocks. There are so many ‘marbles’ on the tires from picking up crap on the track. After the session is over, all the other drivers roll back and we all talk about how messed up the car felt on track. One of the techs explains to us that the worn out tires cause a different corner balance and the car will veer off into whatever direction it wants. I hear that I qualified P5 as Chris Holman beat me out of P4 and later confirm the results with a time of 1:44.698. I am excited and cannot believe I qualified so high. All that excitement turns into a huge WTF moment when we all go into debriefing. Besides being late into debriefing and getting a $100 fine, we are all shocked to hear the ridiculous penalties being thrown around. It doesn’t make sense as the people who were causing wrecks or doing ‘unsportmanslike’ driving are docked 25% of their points and are docked 4 positions from their qualifying, yet, myself and others are docked 50% of points and 8 positions on grid because of passing under yellow. Wow, I had never heard of transferring penalties from a previous race to the next race’s qualifying order. It would make more sense if they applied the penalties to the finishing order of THAT race. After constant complaints, Jan & SCCA told us the decisions were final. Regardless, there was no point whining about it, we all had to suck it up, deal with it, and prepare to fight for our positions back in the race on Sunday. Sure it wasn’t fair, but as Mark Miller said, in racing, “shit happens”. After having a great qualifying run of 5th, I was now 13th. Derek joked with me about moving from 12th to 4th. Full qualifying results here. Notice they don’t have times listed, as people were moved up & down, Josh Hurley was able to take pole again. After Saturday’s events were over, we all left the track and headed out to pick up Derek’s fiance at the airport. We came back to the hotel after dinner, and I immediately passed out.

Sunday
Sunday, we all had to get to the track by 9:30. After meetings with SCCA and VW, we got ready for the race. We headed to our cars around 11 and got belted in and headed to the grid around 11:30, as it starts to sprinkle and rain a little. A last minute decision was made to start the race on the treadless, dry race slicks. We finally get out onto the track behind the Audi S5 pace car. We do our 1 lap warm up of tires and brakes and that is not enough for the tires. The temp is so cold that the tires still weren’t warmed up properly. We sit on the grid in our positions, as the rain is still coming down, and I start to feel my heart beating faster and start getting more anxious. The red lights come on…I am 13th, right behind 11th of Adam Love. We all go full brake & throttle for launch control mode. The red lights go out, I immediately take off and go to the very inside between #25 Adam Love and the pit wall. I have a great launch and go from 13th to about 9th into T1. All of a sudden, cars everywhere collide in front of me…oh shit…several cars collect each other going into T1 of the start of the race and I immediately get on the brakes and swerve around one of the cars on the inside. I might’ve hit some debris, but atleast I avoided the cars. I go back to racing for the next corner, then immediately, the full course caution is shown. The S5 pace car comes out and as we pass T1 again, I see flat beds and several cars in the gravel pit…not a pretty scene. I count behind the pace car to see where I am…looks like 6th! I am feeling good about my position and cannot wait for the green flag. We all swerve back and forth, trying to build some heat in the tires. The track is damp and if you try to go 10/10th’s, you are guaranteed to go off.

We see the pit car pull back into pit lane, then we all bunch up tight for the pit straight. I see far ahead the yellow being switched out for green and immediately go full throttle. I try to get on the inside of the guy ahead of me, but I ease off a little for T1. Maybe a bad move on my part as #36 Michael DeNino and #31 Chris Holman had a better run on me and pass me before T2. I tuck immediately behind Holman and try to attack on T3, but not enough room. We all are in a pretty tight knit group as we do another lap. Around T3 of the next lap, I have a good run on the outside of Holman and immediately run him and DeNino down and get on the inside of them for T4. I just made my position back from before the restart and now have to attack more up front in the field. During one of the laps, I see #11 Josh Hurley go 4 off past T2 and he immediately rejoins. As we approach T5b, I notice he gets a little loose and runs wide, I immediately take him on the inside, fishtail a little, but am able to hold him off behind me on Andretti Straightaway. I am having a good run and am working up the field. About halfway through the race, the clouds start getting dark and the rain comes down hard. I am thinking this is not good. We are all spaced out all over the field and I am chasing down a blue car. Somehow, I think I passed one more car or so, but I am currently in 3rd! As the rain is pouring hard and we are on dry slicks, the car is extremely loose. I had to be delicate with inputs and brake much earlier than before. With a few laps left, I am by myself as I go into the braking zone at the end of Andretti straight for T8. I had been catching slides all weekend, but when I got on the brakes this time, I completely lost it and spun off track. DAMMIT!! I look out my passenger window and I see about 10 cars aiming for me…F***!! I see a few sliding around and I get the hell out of there. I immediately steer it straight, get wheelspin, start shifting higher until I can gain some traction. I see a bunch of cars pass me by and try to get back to speed. I think I screwed up again at T1 and then know I just threw away my best performance yet. The checkered flag goes down and time to head back to pits. The final result? I end up 17th, gaining 4 points. It’s funny as #14 David Richert and I switched finishing positions from VIR. I was behind him, this time he’s behind me. Just like at VIR, I threw away my hard earned and hard fought position in the race. I could’ve finished around 8th, but finished 22nd @ VIR. I could’ve finished podium, but finished 17th @ MoSport. It sucks and I really needed those valuable points for this championship. I am disappointed at myself, but know I can realistically place podium and possibly a win at Portland in late July. Once again, my 2nd ever race, I gained very valuble experience and almost did a podium finish. ARGGH!! David Jurca ended up taking the win, with Chris Holman taking 2nd (whom I had passed, then he passed me back!) and Jimmy Underhill rounding out the podium. Full race results here.

What I need to work on for round 3: concentration and focus near the end of the race. I cannot afford to give up another race because of my own screw up. I know I can bring the car home in 1 piece, now it’s a matter of finishing really well. Looks like Speed will not air this series til October. Haha, thanks Speed. I guess it was either October, or air our series at 3am on a Wednesday night. In the meantime, be sure to catch an 8 minute segment on ESPN Sportscenter this Friday night. The producers told me there is a bit of airtime from an interview with yours truly! It will air this Friday night, May 23 @ 11pm EST! Thanks for reading my blog and I will work on getting rightfootdown.com graphics done for the car for Portland. Perfect for gaining new interested readers, as well as potential sponsors.

Also, check out the VW Motorsport site for schedule, current driver’s standings, driver’s bios, etc (takes a few days after race for update).

I’ll finish off with a few pictures from this weekend:

carnage
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more pics here:

http://forums.vwvortex.com/zerothread?id=3845540

http://www.autobloggreen.com/photos/2008-vw-jetta-tdi-cup-mosport/