June 16th and 17th marked Round 4 of the 2018 NASA Super Touring series at Sonoma Raceway. We returned, anxious to do well because we had a newly-rebuilt transmission.
After a solid morning practice session, I went out for qualifying and discovered that the track conditions had changed dramatically after the sun came out -- and not for the better. It was really loose out there, everyone was slipping and sliding all over the place. See for yourself here:
Despite this interesting and unexpected challenge, I managed to qualify P6 for the race. I started fairly well, and after patient but aggressive driving I worked my way up to P3 -- when suddenly my front driver-side knuckle broke with only 2 laps left. As such, I had to limp the car around and ended up finishing P10. I was lucky the failure allowed me to still get back to the paddock, and more importantly that the break wasn't worse and didn't happen in a high-speed corner. That would've been catastrophic as I would've likely done severe damage to the car as well as possibly injured myself. Phew!
Here's what the broken knuckle looked like after we removed it:
Ride-along with me and "Irene" for an exciting race with an unfortunate ending:
After the car cooled down, we got to work. Graham donated a spare knuckle, so we got the car back together very quickly. Then, it was time for an alignment using the awesome Wunder Aligner HD10 system, provided by Liam.
The next day, I was excited to be back in action and to have the car in fighting form. I ran the 3rd fastest time overall in morning practice. Then, during qualifying I made a minor mistake and got too close to the tire barriers at T11. I clipped one stack and accidentally knocked off my fender flare. I also tweaked my alignment. Oops.
But once again, it was Wunder Aligner to the rescue. We riveted my fender flare back on and after ensuring that "Irene's" alignment settings were correct, it was time to race. Since my qualifying session ended prematurely, I was starting the race in P5.
Personally, I didn't think I drove as well on Sunday as I would have liked during the race. My pace was just slightly off, and I felt like I was wrestling the car a bit more than usual. I was battling for P3 but made some mistakes and dropped down to P4. That's where I was when with only 1.5 laps to go my front passenger side knuckle also broke. What are the odds, right? Watch that race here:
Despite feeling disappointed by the end of the day (both in myself and also with the double mechanical failures), I was optimistic for two reasons. First, typically with this type of break it's almost impossible to avoid damaging the car; especially at Sonoma where it's so narrow and there are concrete walls everywhere. However, I was able to do just that. Both times.
Second, the back to back broken knuckles have shown us that we clearly have an issue that we need to solve -- and we're going to do just that. Jon and Son will be busy measuring the suspension travel, the bump-steer, and deciding the best course of action going forward. Round 5 is in August, so fortunately we have some time. As always, I know we'll come back stronger and ready to bring the fight once again!