2000 Petersburg ProSolo

(As orginally posted to the Talon Digest)

I really don't know why Denver scheduled two ProSolos on back-to-back weekends - hell, even F1 gets a weekend off between races - but they did. And so a week after Peru, it's load the truck, load the trailer, replace the duct tape and bailing wire that holds the rig together, and off we go to Petersburg, VA, 1100 km away.

We arrive on site at 09:00 Friday AM, to a nice sunny day. Swap tires, clean car, watch course get set up. Petersburg is run on the NHRA semi parking lot where John Force et al park their rigs when they race at VMP. It's asphalt, so low-grip, and it's wider than it is long, so no long first straight like in Peru. Course leaves the lights, just gets into second gear, then bends into a big 90 degree sweeper that feeds a series of fairly open offsets that run down the back edge of the lot. This super fast section then dumps into a 270 degree skidpad loop with a pinched-off exit, that in turn feeds into another series of fast offsets on the way back to a 90 degree finish turn. Sprint out, shut the car down for the loop, sprint back.

The loop looks suspiciously like a first gear deal.

We do a pair of practice starts, register, tech. All perfectly routine by now.

Saturday AM. We're the last group to run. It's cold, overcast, and threatening to rain at any second. Weather report predicts storms, floods, and plagues of frogs for all day Sunday, so getting a pair of dry runs in may mean winning the event. Field is me, the Rafferty Supra, the PurchasingCentre.com Camaro (2 drivers) and a former 1 Lap Omni GLH2 that has been seriously worked over. A bunch of kids are running CP that really should be running with us, but they saw my practice starts and got scared off.

First runs are OK - the course proves to be slick in spots, so I'm having trouble trusting the car and really committing to the throttle. The loop proves to indeed be first gear, and you have to wait and wait and wait before applying throttle - too early, and the car jumps offline and truly punishes you on the exit. What's more, if you try and hold first into the following offsets, the power steering goes into Hercules Mode, so you have to upshift right before the bend and the timing is really tricky. (I really gotta fix that - anyone know if the Evo steering racks fit in our cars?) I wind up with a 28.3 on the left, and a 28.7 on the right. Kent in the Supra puts down a pair of 28.5s, and is leading me by a tenth.

Sat PM. It rained, and the track is drenched. The sun keeps threatening to come out, and it better, 'cause if it doesn't I'm screwed. However, sometimes it pays to be in the last run group - by the time our heat rolls around, the track is mostly dried. As I'm in the #2 spot, I'm in the first batch to go out, and I'm pussyfooting, afraid that the grip isn't there on the moist pavement. It turns out that the grip is fine, and Kent goes faster with a 28.3 and a 28.2. Worse, Karl puts down a 28.3 on the right - I'm now in serious trouble, as I haven't gone any faster. Marcus comes over, and chews me out for driving so slow. He pisses me off, and this time I'm full throttle all the way through the first offset when - BOOM!.

I've heard THAT noise before, and the car dies. The lower IC pipe has blown a connector, just like Ft Myers. Same problem, different connector. I grab a screwdriver and put the hose back on, but I don't have time to get any real torque on it, and my last run blows it off again after a few feet.

Damn damn damn damn damn. I've gone no faster, Kent has stretched out his lead, and Karl is snapping at my heels. If it's wet tomorrow, the game is over.

Back in the pits, I double-clamp the offending connector, and recheck every single clamp on the intake tract. Almost all the clamps I had to remove when I swapped turbos are loose, so I torque them all down. The data shows I was making 23 PSI when the hose blew, but I get occasional spikes as high as 27 PSI when there's a lot of high-speed on-off-on throttle stuff going on. Time to pitch the worm clamps and get some real T-bars I guess.

I don't sleep too well that night. I really need a win here. I try and get myself psyched up for the next morning, but nerves keep getting in the way.

Sunday AM. Cold, overcast, grey... and dry. Four chances at glory, and I'm sick and tired of making excuses. I head out on my first run like the hammers of Hell. Cold tires on cold pavement mean a lot of sliding around, but the slide proves to be controllable and my confidence skyrockets. The next run is a blazing 27.9 - and Kent has gone no faster on his runs. A quick bit of mental math shows that I'm in the lead, and there's only two runs left to go. I pull a 28.1, but that's on the side where I have the 27, so no real help. Kent does another 28.2, for an improvement of a few thousandths - not enough. I've still got the lead. Last runs. I put down a 28.0 on my slow side, pulling another 7 tenths out of my time, and I figure this one is in the bag - but Kent has turned a 27.8 on his last run!

Mental math time - I have a 27.9 and a 28.0. Kent has a 28.2 and a 27.8. Even. It's going to take the hundredths digits to settle this one.

It's a long, agonizing wait in Impound for the results to be announced - and I can't get a break. It's Kent, by 0.042.

The good news is that I make the Challenge, and that I have the course pretty well sussed out. I'm running consistent high 27s, and make it 3 rounds in before clipping a cone when running against Chris Dvorak's RX-7. And even then, I almost make up the time lost by the cone. That puts me fairly high up in the Challenge points, and I'm the highest ranked SM car in Challenge points too. That almost makes up for the heartbreaker class finish.


So, three Pros in the bag, and three second places. This is by far the best season I've ever had. The car is running fantastic (when it's not popping hoses) and I've yet to finish out of the trophies in any event I've run this year. In fact, this season is almost paying for itself in winnings - almost. But yet, with 3 wins stolen from me at the last possible moment, I'm starting to feel like an old bridesmaid.

Ah well. We'll do some more work on the car, find some more speed, and smack 'em hard in Harrisburg next month.

Thanks to Buschur Racing, Forced Performance, and RM Racing for their continued support.