Sonoma Raceway, again. But we aren't complaining. The track is beautiful, and it's only an hour away from the shop. October 28-29 marked the last race weekend of the NASA NorCal region, and this would be the weekend where we secured 1st overall in points for the Super Touring 4 (ST4) Northern California Regional Championships. It was also where we would try our first-attempt at endurance racing for our Trackspec Autosports Honda S2000, "Irene."
For this weekend, we were joined by Dan Chow, who also crews for Bay Area Formula D pro drifter, Matt Field. Dan is a friend to both Tom and Graham, and he was our ninth adult (because, we can't forget Max Downey and Rory Downey) team member (counting myself, Jon, Drew, Tom, Martin Tagliavini, Liam Downey, Ashley Downey, and Graham Downey). Together, we would field 3 cars in ST4 (2x S2000s and 1x EG6 Civic) and then 2 of those same cars (S2000 and EG6 Civic) in the 3.5 hour enduro on Saturday night.
Tom drove very well on Saturday morning, qualifying on pole position with a new personal-best in ST4 trim at Sonoma, 1:49.6. Unfortunately, he made a minor mistake during the race chasing Martin (who had a terrific start), and ended up finishing in 3rd.
The team then got to work preparing for the 3.5 hour endurance race with Tom doing the first stint. Unfortunately, because of tight timing and Liam losing a clutch during the ST4 race, his Civic was not able to start the endurance at the green flag. So while Tom was out on track, everyone was busy swapping in a new clutch for Liam's B18C powered EG6 Honda Civic.
Tom started the endurance with a great pace, lapping consistently and staying out of trouble. Then, after just 30 minutes he radioed to tell us that he was hearing a funny noise. A few minutes later, he reported that something had broken on the car. He limped "Irene" back to the paddock and we saw that the differential had broken (likely the ring and pinion gear inside). Meanwhile, Graham had taken Liam's Civic out but after just a few laps, the gearbox went out. Damn!
With 3 hours left in the race, the team quickly pulled out our spare rear differential and began swapping it in. They decided to just focus on getting "Irene" repaired because the Civic would take too long, and so 50 minutes later they were done and this time Graham went out to try and make the most of the remaining 2 hours.
Graham ripped back out onto the track, but then 2 laps later he came right back in. He said the spare differential had also broken. We were super puzzled...until we jacked up the back to find that the drain bolt was missing. All of the fluid had leaked out, and the parts inside had seized together. We had a third spare rear differential, but decided with the amount of time remaining that it wasn't worth the scramble because we would've only had a few minutes left to complete laps before the end of the endurance race. We decided to clean everything up, get organized, and then get both cars ready for Sunday's race after dinner together at the NASA BBQ.
The guys worked late into the night installing our third (and final) rear differential into "Irene" while also putting Liam's spare gearbox into his EG6.
Sunday morning arrived, and Tom was anxious to get back out on track to make sure that everything was working properly. He had a solid warm up and then qualified well, once again getting pole position for the race.
Despite not being able to put the power down as well as he would like (since the full-time differential that broke on "Irene" is a heavily modified unit with a carbon-plate LSD and the spare was just a stock AP2 diff), Tom still managed to start the race from pole and to lead from green flag to checkered. What a great way to end the season, with a win!
Time for us to regroup and to begin planning for the 2018 season. We are really excited that next year's NASA National Championships is once again a combined East/West event, taking place at the world famous Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX. We'll be racing there one month before Formula 1! Our team is poised to do even better; we know we have some parts that we need to rebuild, and there are plenty of things we are looking forward to improving upon. Check back soon for updates about off-season upgrades!