Hard to believe, but we are already at the half-way point in the Driver Education season. The July 1-3 event sponsored by Paul Miller at Pocono was just completed and we will be at Mosport July 15-17. This year the planets have aligned and if you have the available time to spend north of the border, you can do Mosport, Mont Tremblant and Calabogie all within a two-week period. The September 9-11 event at Lighting will open July 15 and registration for our premier event at Watkins Glen will close July 22.
Last month I neglected to comment on our season-opening event at Lime Rock. This was our fortieth year at that venue, and the event continues to be very popular with novice drivers. Fortunately, everyone who was on the wait list was accepted into the event, thanks to a number of volunteers that came just to instruct. We also had instructors who were participants that took two students. Thanks to everyone for making this event a success! The smiles of everyone at the student classroom session said it all, everyone had a great time.
May 16 and 17 was our advanced/solo event at New Jersey Motorsports Park. On Monday we were at Thunderbolt with an outrageous amount of track time available for each of the two run groups. The weather was great, and we also conducted the PCA national certification course for new instructors. The certification entailed four classroom sessions which were led by Pete Tremper, national PCA Driver Education Committee Chair, along with four on-track sessions. For the track sessions, each candidate was paired with a senior instructor who played the role of a student driver. During the course of the day, in addition to teaching the basics like the line, braking, turn-in, apex and track-out, the candidates were presented with various scenarios they would expect to encounter with a student driver; e.g., following too close, turning in too early, driving erratically, ill-advised passes, etc. During the last session of the day a final check-out ride was conducted. On behalf of all the chief instructors, I am pleased to congratulate the following new NNJR instructors: Bruce Blockus, Lester Cheng, Lisa Goeckel, Michael Gussis, Tom Hassett, Robert Ida, Frank Kissel, Wolfgang Konkel, Wilson Lau, Dan Lewis, Kevin McCarthy, Jason Pintar, Sal Strocchia, and Michael Yura. As I told last year's class, you will endear yourself to the Track Chair by signing up for events early and often!
The next day we moved over to Lightning. As good as the weather had been at TBolt, the forecast for Lightning was bad: 100% chance of precipitation, with possible thunderstorms and heavy rain. This was déjà vu all over again. Recall that last year's event had a great first day and was a virtual monsoon the second. I still have a picture on my wall at work with a doctored photo of my trailer sitting in a small lake, the side emblazoned with "Welcome to Craig's New Jersey Watersports Park" (and despite his questionable photoshop skills, go figure that we still made Michael Yura an instructor!). At the morning meeting, there was light rain and only about half the attendees as the previous day. I put on Hoosier rain tires and had a blast for a few runs, but by mid-morning the crowd started to thin out even more. Then something happened that a few hours earlier was completely unthinkable: it stopped raining! The track was completely dry soon after. Calls from home relayed that it was raining hard there, but Millville, NJ had been spared. Fourteen drivers who had stuck it out now had a dry track all to themselves. We combined the run groups before lunch and basically ran an open track until mid-afternoon. Everyone had all the seat time they could hope for and were able to be home in time for dinner.
At the end of April, NNJR fielded sixteen club racers at the PCA club race at Lime Rock, second only to the host region's (CVR) astounding number of 56 racers! This was the second year for an unmuffled event, aptly named "Twin Sprint Rumble". A few notable finishes: Charlie Boyer had a pair of wins in the Spec-Boxster class; our Club Race Chair Dan Curry took two firsts in GTB1; and Steve Goldman drove his 2005 Boxster to two first place wins in G class, with first and second finishes overall. Keith Peare qualified fourth overall in a very competitive race group and was high as third before being punted by a car behind him, ending his day. It was nice to see "Rapid" Roy Chong return to racing after an absence, but car difficulties prevented him from making the grid. In my first race, I had qualified first in class and never saw anyone else in class behind me, finishing sixth overall. Grid position for the second race was based on your best lap in the first race. This is sometimes a crap shoot. If you get caught in traffic or are racing with someone, you don't necessarily put up your best lap time. Turns out the third place car in class (who I had out-qualified by ~ 1 sec) had a faster lap time in the first race by a mere 2 one-hundreds of a second and would start ahead of me on the outside of row 5. I started on the inside of row 6. I could not get by him at the start, and Lime Rock is a difficult place to pass, so patience would be the game plan. Lap after lap, I kept pressing him. I knew I was faster, and that he was less consistent doing fast laps. I tried a few passes, once on the entrance to the Uphill when he missed a gearshift change, but I could not get it done without the risk of being passed myself. The best place to pass is the end of the front straight, but I could not get enough of a run on him to try anything on the inside, especially when he was guarding the apex at Turn 1. Twice I tried to go on the outside going into Big Bend, and almost pulled it off, but chickened out when I got into the marbles. My only hope was for him to make a big mistake or to use the lapped traffic to my advantage.
The first two back markers did not create any openings, but the third one did. We chased down a slower F car approaching the Downhill. As we came down the hill, he tried to pass the F car at the bottom of the hill. This was my chance. The F car was already pushed to the outside so I could get by him. I held back just enough so I could be full throttle at the exit. The lead car had his entrance and exit speed compromised just enough that I was able to keep along side him all the way down the straight and finally got by him on the inside under braking going into Turn 1. I then built up enough of a lead that I did not have to worry about him for the rest of the race. Congratulations to all the NNJR club racers who turned in podium finishes!
Keep the shiny side up-