It’s been a hectic couple of months since we raced at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) - the home of Formula 1 in the US. I’ve posted a few updates to our Facebook page, but only now am I getting around to collecting my thoughts and writing this weekend recap. Better late than never!
I arrived at the track on Thursday evening. Despite the limit space in the paddock area, we were able to set up the trailers and parking right outside our garage. And the garage… well, it was pretty cool to be using the same space that will house a Formula 1 team in just a few months. Here’s a view from the pit lane just outside the garage looking towards Turn 1.
The track is 3.4 miles long with 20 turns, That's a lot to remember, so I had watched a lot of video from other racing at COTA to get a head start.
It's a good thing that I did, because I found myself distracted on Friday with issues related to the data acquisition system and digital dash. At one point, the dash decided not to work at all as I rolled onto the track. I had only the external shift light functioning until I could reboot the tablet while rolling along the back straight. The best time I could manage was a 2:50.8, which was more than 5 seconds off the pace!
Unfortunately, with the heat and humidity, I’d spent too much time hovering over the race car with my laptop, and not enough time eating, hydrating and staying cool. I ended up overheated and back at the hotel early for a cool shower and a long nap that night.
My challenges continued on Saturday.
After warm-up, the Race Director advised that my transponder wasn’t working, so no official lap times were being recorded. We checked all the wiring but couldn't find the problem, so we ran the car over the timing loop again and, somehow, it seemed to work.
Later, a lap or two into the qualifying session, my cool shirt cooler came loose inside the car. It tipped over into the passenger foot well and banged around while spilling water everywhere. To avoid being under the minimum weight due to losing all that water, I pulled into the pits early, only managing a 2:49.9 and putting me 20th of 26 on the grid.
Finally, it was time to race. Race 1 was exciting from the beginning, with cars running 5-wide through Turn 1.
As the field spread out, I found myself running at the back of a group of 5 cars. I was struggling with braking in the downhill entry into Turn 11 and at the end of the back straight into Turn 12.
On lap 5, there were 4 cars running two-by-two coming onto the back straight. With a yellow flag showing on the left, I backed off the throttle, but forgot to wave off the bump draft from behind. It ended up being a fairly hard bump and I got passed at the end of the straight, only to recover the spot as that car went off on Turn 20.
By the start of the last lap, I’d moved up from 20th to 17th. I then picked up two more spots to 15th place by passing car #06 into Turn 1 and car #44 into Turn 11. Car #06 also got around car #44 in Turn 11 and was bump drafting me down the back straight. With an extra bump just before the braking zone for Turn 12, I wasn’t able to slow enough to make the turn. As I spun, I watch four cars stream by, dropping me right back to 19th spot.
Here is the video from the onboard camera for Race 1.
With no warm-up scheduled, our first session on Sunday was qualifying. With the cool shirt cooler full secured, I managed my fastest lap of the weekend – a 2:47.7. It was good enough for 16th spot on the grid, but still 4 seconds off the fastest Spec Miata times. I've included a video from my fastest lap below.
Unfortunately, I don't have video from Race 2. I found myself getting picked off one by one until I had dropped back to 22nd place on lap 8 with laptimes creeping up to the high 1:53s. Then I found some pace and pulled together 8 consecutive laps in the low 1:50s and nearly climbed back to my starting position - finishing 17th.
It was an incredible experience, either with the trials and tribulations throughout the weekend. I was also fortunately to have Jill visiting for the weekend and managed to enjoy some sight-seeing in Austin on Memorial Day.
Next up - the NASA Texas Summer Shootout at the Hallett Motor Racing Circuit!
Bryan Bursey, driver, founded Underbite Racing in 2015.