Optima Ultimate Street Car 2015: TMS Day 2 Recap

Let’s start this by repeating what I started with yesterday in the Day 1 Recapget your car ready, and do one of these events! You will have fun, you will learn how to be a better driver, and you will do more with your car than you ever thought possible.

Now, on to day 2: the Falken Tire hot lap challenge, on the 1.1 mile, 7-turn road course.

Sunday may have been our most anticipated and unsure part of the weekend. I was anxious to get some track time in the car, but also a bit leery of how well the relatively puny 12-inch Wilwood brakes would hold up. I was also unsure of what the relatively small road course in the infield of TMS would be like, particularly after running at the most epic 2.9 mile Texas World Speedway last month.

In the drivers meeting (started promptly according to the schedule again – these guys are good), rules were set forth for each run group, flags were explained, pretty much the standard track day fare. We were running intermediate, or blue, which meant point-by passing on the straight, and each group would get a total of 5 15-minute sessions. Expert and novice were split into two groups each, while intermediate would be a somewhat crowded 18-car single group.

I know I used this one already, but it’s worthy of repeating – thanks to Optima for the pic

The first part of the day started a little rocky, with cars going off or breaking down in each of the first two groups and leading to some delays. Big time credit to the USCA, as this could have set the whole day askew and led to a late finish or lost sessions, but they kept the grind going and still ended the day ahead of schedule.

thanks to Ridetech for the pic

Things started with a 3 lap orientation at around 50 mph, led by Jimi in a big bad..Dodge 200 rental fleet special! We had found oil in the engine bay that morning, so this brief trip out allowed us to be reassured that it was just from the high-G, high-rev autocross tossing the breather reservoir around and dumping a little out the day before.

Intermediate Group to Pre-grid

Before long it was our turn to head out. Session 1 was a bit of a mess, with the blue group being 18 cars deep and no times to go on for grid procedure. The bigger mess, however, came on lap 6 as I reached for 4th gear on the front straight and was greeted by a shifter that was attached to – nothing.

Led to an amusing exchange in the hot pit: “What’s up?” “I have a little bit of a problem”
– flails shifter around –

All 4 bolts had managed to back out of the top section, allowing the stalk, two pieces of aluminum, the bolts, and the two steel pieces that locate the stalk and their respective springs to all come undone on track. Something was on our side, as the pieces that fell out did so in the hot pit and not at 90+ mph going into turn 1.

The missing bits were returned by two different people (thanks to Lance and the other gentleman whose name I didn’t get!).

While we were in the process of putting the puzzle back together, Mike from Wilwood came up to chat with us and ended up getting his hands dirty helping us keep all the pieces together and back in the car. He would end up sharing a wealth of knowledge with us, and I’m looking forward to putting it to good use – big time thanks!

thanks to Optima for the pic

We ended up with a fairly unrepresentative 47.5 in that session, which would haunt me for the next two as it was used to grid us in both 2nd and 3rd sessions. Going into the 4th, we were sitting on a 43.588, which was reasonably competitive in GTV – but I knew there was a lot more to be had with some luck on traffic.

thanks to Optima for the pic 

thanks to Optima for the pic

In the 4th, through a bit of work creating space, I was able to get a mostly clean lap and a 43.001 (video below). By this time, the car was getting exceedingly warm about lap 5 or 6. I actually pulled off to let it cool this time, but couldn’t better the 43 after going back out and catching traffic again.

Finally, the last session of the day arrived, and after some thoughts of skipping it the temptation of open track was too much to bear. This paid big dividends, as only 7 or so cars went out, and we were gridded 2nd behind Jay DeLuca in his 2015 Vette.
Jay and I had been pretty close in time on open track, so I knew this would be a fun one. It proved to be just that, as we both turned in our best times of the day, mine being a 42.982.

data log from the 42.982 lap – truckin!

Unfortunately, the GoPro wasn’t cooperating during that session, so here’s the 43.001 from the third.

Awards Ceremony and Thoughts

Un-freakin-believable. Throughout the awards ceremony we were hearing the names we’ve heard on the shows and read on the website posts and blogs. Then, on to the Hot Lap challenge in GTV – 3rd place goes to Bret Voelkel with a 43.9. Dad and I looked at each other, knowing our time of 42.9, and exchanged dumfounded looks – SECOND. We got freakin second in something!

The biggest surprise came later, though, when the results for each class were announced. Car number 51, 3rd overall in GTV. No words.

Going into the weekend, I had two goals: finish somewhere in the top half of the 19-entry class, and roll the car back into the trailer in one piece Sunday afternoon. For all that our little Camaro has done, this has to be the hardest it’s been run in the 6 years it’s been together, and it took every bit of it like a champ.

The exciting thing is, there’s still a ton of work to be done. The suspension, the brakes, and the driver all have a lot of development work left to be done, and it’s going to be an absolute blast every step of the way.

Thanks for reading, and a huge thanks to everyone who offered kind words and helping hands this weekend – is it time to do it again yet?!?

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