2 wins and 2 podium (P2) finishes during Rd. 6 of the 2019 NASA Pro Racing Super Touring Championship and the Western Endurance Racing Championship (WERC) 3.5 Hours of Sonoma
After less-than-ideal results last month, the team regrouped as planned in an effort to come back stronger than ever. On September 6th, we returned to Sonoma Raceway; anxious to test some of the changes that had been made. In an effort to see if we had truly succeeded in making the car better, we decided to run the entire day on the same set of tires from Sunday (August 4th) at Thunderhill.
We were pleasantly surprised to discover three things. First, the CAE shifter is amazing. Shifts are now much faster and most importantly, more precise. This helps with acceleration (up-shifts) and deceleration (down-shifts) on the track. Second, the Trackspec Motorsports (thanks, John Nguyen!) hood louvers work great -- they are designed to draw-out and release heat from the engine bay. In similar ambient temps, we saw a -13F degree drop in ECT (Engine Coolant Temperature, aka Water Temp) from 197F to 184F. This helps with performance and longevity. And third, the Toyo Proxes RR tires are so damn consistent. By the end of the day, we were still running consistent low 1:48’s on the same set of tires which by then had 122 laps on them. Amazing!
The only downer? We are still having an inconsistent brake pedal, which means that the calipers were not the culprit after all (we’ll be replacing the brake master cylinder with a brand new OEM BMW unit before October). However, it never hurts to have freshly rebuilt AP Racing CP8350 calipers, fresh rotors, and new G-LOC R12 pads. I was able to run a 1:47.5 on Friday, which is only one-tenth off of my ST4-trim personal best. Pretty good, considering I was on scrubs this time around vs. freshies from when my PB was set. See that lap here:
Jon was planning to co-drive in the endurance race with me on Saturday, so it was important for him to turn some laps in the E36 since he had never driven it on track before. He was able to jump in and get comfortable quickly. He managed a 1:49.5, which is a very impressive lap time considering it was his first time in this car. See that lap here:
During lunch, we reviewed AIM data, talked about what we were feeling in the car and decided to increase the rear Eibach ERS spring rates from 450lbs to 550lbs. I ran a session on them and decided I liked this change for the better. Jon also hopped in for a few laps and agreed.
Just as the day was coming to a close, we were joined by our friends Erik and Brad from StopTech Brakes. They came up from Southern California for the weekend to spend some time with the Super Touring crowd. I was stoked, because the last time I saw Brad was at GTA/Formula Drift Road Atlanta in May, and it had been at least a few years since I saw Erik in-person. They brought some new products to display, and let us use their sweet canopy.
Saturday’s schedule was jam packed. Jon went out for morning warmup just to get a few more laps in before the Enduro. We then had 2 back-to-back qualifying sessions, first for Super Touring and then another for the Enduro. I qualified P2 in ST4, and P5 in E1 class for the Enduro.
After lunch, we had the first Super Touring race which was really fun. I finished the race in the same position as where I started, P2 on the podium. Congrats to Justin for winning that race in his E46 M3. Ride-along with me here:
For the 2:30pm Enduro, we decided on the following strategy: I would start the race, Jon would run a middle stint, and then I would finish the race. We based this on what we assumed with regard to fuel consumption for the E36, seeing as how the car is still relatively new to us and we had never run it in an endurance race before.
It’s at this point in the blog, that I should also mention something we did after last month’s race. In preparation for the Enduro, Jon modified the fuel filler neck on the car and he also modified the fuel jugs that we were using. With these changes, we were able to cut our 5 gallon fill time from 42 seconds to 18 seconds. A huge improvement, and one that would prove to be critical during the race.
I had a solid start, passing several cars and working my way up to P2 in class after the 1st hour (32 laps in). I had to pit for fuel and that’s when Jon jumped in to drive the next stint. Shortly into his drive, there was a major accident and a full course yellow with a safety car on-track. With the safety car out, we knew we would save additional fuel so I made the decision to stack Jon for a double stint after we went green again in order to maintain his current in-class position. Jon came in, but only for fuel.
And then, the car in P1 suffered a mechanical so at 2.5 hours in, we took the lead. But we had a very narrow margin. Here was the situation at the time:
The El Dorado Motorsports CRX (also in E1 class) in P2 was catching up to Jon
We knew we needed to stop again for fuel, but they didn’t
If we had to take on 10 gallons of fuel (the max allowed per stop), it was likely that they would pass us to take the lead with less than an hour to go
If we changed drivers, that would be additional time added to our pit stop
Meanwhile, Justin (also in E1 class) in P3 was quickly catching up to El Dorado too
Originally, I was preparing to jump in for the final stint. But then we got lucky, because another full course yellow was thrown. That’s when I began to talk to Jon on the radio again about his fuel consumption. I realized that if we could conserve enough fuel during the yellow, we might be able to win if Jon just stayed in the car and we only took on 5 gallons, instead of 10 for the final stop after going green again. So that’s exactly what we did. After the green, Jon continued to drive consistently until the car began to fuel starve. When he came in, we only dumped 1 jug (5 gallons) in and away he went.
By then, there was only 30 minutes remaining and the El Dorado CRX had closed the gap to just 10 seconds. Jon didn’t know that he was actually leading the race by then, and I didn’t want to put too much pressure on him. So, when the CRX had reduced the gap to 8 seconds I calmly let him know that the CRX was catching him, and asked him to pick up the pace. Jon drove amazingly, he began to gradually stretch his lead. After 4 more laps, and with only 20 minutes remaining he was ahead again by 12 seconds.
At that point, El Dorado was also battling with Justin who had caught up to them. Our hope was that they would hold each other up. All Jon needed to do was to drive clean and run down the clock, lap after lap. And then, at 6pm the checkered flag came out and it was only when Jon crossed the start/finish line that I yelled “CONGRATS! WE JUST WON!” into the radio.
Phew! What a race! When we finished, Justin who had passed El Dorado on the last lap for P2 was only 11 seconds behind us.
Ride along with Jon and I for the first 15 mins and the last 15 mins of an amazing 3.5 hour race here:
To be honest, we are still in a bit of shock at the results. Not only did we win E1 class, but we also finished 4th overall (behind 2 ESR cars and 1 ES car). What a team effort, through and through. A huge shout-out to Drew, Graham, Martin, Liam, Marc, Vanni, Ashly, and Victoria for near-perfect pit stops and everything else that went into this shared victory.
On Sunday morning, we decided to give “Heidi” fresh Ravenol fluids for the engine, transmission, and rear differential.
Afterwards, I went out and qualified P2 for the 2nd Super Touring race of the weekend. I finished that 11:30am race in P2, just over 3 seconds behind Justin who was in P1. See that race here:
Unfortunately, Justin had a mechanical issue and was unable to start the 3rd Super Touring race of the weekend at 2:10pm. This meant that I led the race from green flag to checkered, finishing P1 overall and 1st in ST4 class. Ride-along with me here:
While we are thrilled about a terrific weekend at Sonoma, we also want to continue to improve ourselves and the car. With that in mind, we’ll be back out for testing at Buttonwillow on October 12-13, before the last round of the NorCal season at Sonoma (October 26-27). Thanks for reading!