NASA Texas moved to Texas World Speedway in College Station on April 22-24 for Round 3 of the 2016 season. After learning some hard lessons at a private test day at this track a couple of weeks earlier, I was looking forward to an opportunity to improve my times (and regain some confidence).
With heavy rain and flooding in the Houston area during the week leading up to the event, it was great to start the weekend with a dry track and blue sky. I ran Friday with High Performance Driving Event (HPDE) Level 1&2 - it was the smallest of the 3 run groups that day and traffic wasn't much of an issue. I spent most of the day trying improve my line through Turn 4 and Turns 13/14/15 before the long main straight. The very old tires (shaved Toyo RA1s) were not enjoying the heat and I was working hard to deal with them - skip ahead in the video to the 5 minute mark and watch for the slide about 15 seconds later.
I had my fastest laps on Sunday morning. With an instructor from the Spec Miata group in the passenger seat helping me out, I found 4 seconds relative to times I'd been running on my own on Friday and Saturday. I'm still a full 7 seconds off the pace of the fastest Spec Miata drivers, but I know most of that is driving skill that I'll develop with more seat time (and a small amount is old tires and the weight of my passenger).
On the lap immediately after setting my fastest time of the weekend, I ran out of rubber at about 80 mph in Turn 8. The rear end let go and I fell off the track, popping the right rear tire off the rim and wedging a chunk of mud and grass between the tire and rim on the front right. Similar to my incident on the test day, the alignment bolts were also rotated inwards.
I had the opportunity to participate in a private test day at Texas World Speedway (TWS) to gain some experience on the track ahead of the NASA Texas weekend there later this month. The private test included just 5 cars and we had the track to ourselves for 5 hours - it was a great opportunity to get a ton of seat time and test my limits.
I installed Harry's Laptimer on my phone to help me get a rough idea of lap times. I was the slowest car of our group and, unfortunately, too slow to really follow either of the Miata's that was with us. I managed a lap time of 2 minutes and 10 seconds by the end of the first two stints - that's a long way back from the Spec Miata race pace..
Knowing that I needed to find more time, I tried to push a little harder. Shortly thereafter, I ran out of talent. I (incorrectly) tried to go faster into the turns when I should have been looking to go faster leaving them. I waited too late to brake for Turn 13. With the track running out, I decided to turn in, but the back of the car didn't want to follow and I spun. The car slid into the grass and, on its way back to the track, the inside of the front right wheel clobbered the backside of a curb.
It pulled the wheel out of alignment (too much negative camber), which we fixed as best we could at the track. I was able to complete the day, but with an odd clunk during transitions between turns. It wasn't until the car was back at home in the garage that we noticed that the anti-roll bar mounting tab on the front left lower control arm had broken.
Fortunately, these Miata's are fairly simple mechanically. With some guidance, I was able to swap the front left lower control arm. Since the front right took the impact, it will be swapped too - just in case. All that's left is another alignment!
NASA Texas will be at TWS on April 22-24, 2016. I hope to have the GoPro mounting location improved and the video linked to Harry's Laptimer for the next weekend recap!
Bryan Bursey, driver, founded Underbite Racing in 2015.