NASA Texas hosted the seventh and final round of the 2016 season at Texas World Speedway on October 14-16, 2016. It was finally time to attend Competition School to obtain my provisional racing license.
Comp School consisted of both classroom and on-track exercises on Friday. After an initial warm-up session, we did some side-by-side running, a passing exercise and finished with practice starts. Adding the elements of racing (multiple cars in close proximity) to the effort of trying to drive the car fast was almost overwhelming, so I'm glad we had an opportunity to practice in the relatively small group in Comp School. Below is a quick video of one of the practice starts.
Upon completion of a written test to confirm understanding of the Club Codes and Regulations, I received my provisional competition license and will be classified as a rookie until I complete 4 races without incident.
Saturday's schedule consisted of a warm-up session and qualifying in the morning, with two 20-minute races in the afternoon. Warm-up and qualifying weren't too different than any of the other events I'd attended previously - cars were just trying to find space on the track and get a fast lap. I qualified towards the back, as expected - rookies start at the back anyway.
The races were a different story! With approximately 40 Spec Miata's registered, it was busy in Turn 1 and Turn 2! I was a little too conservative and ended up at the back of the main field, but ahead of a smaller, slower pack of cars. It was quite an experience to not be able to hear your own car down the main straight and watch the large field funnel from 4-5 cars wide to 2-cars wide by Turn 2. I finished 33rd and 24th in the two races on Saturday.
Towards the end of each of the races, the tires felt really greasy - a combination of high ambient temperatures and working the tires harder. Tire management will be an important part of the longer race on Sunday.
Here's a video of my first ever racing lap!
Sunday's schedule was warm-up and qualifying in the morning, with a 40-minute race after lunch. The practice session for all car classes was combined, so the short session included a huge number of cars with very different speeds. Qualifying was much the same as Saturday - my pace put me near the back of the pack.
40 minutes feels like an extremely long time when it's hot, humid and your brain is working overtime to both drive fast and deal with all the other cars. I found myself running at the back of the main pack again, but a little further behind two cars that were racing each other. Unfortunately, I managed to miss a shift exiting Turn 9. While trying to shift from 3rd to 4th, I managed to shift from 3rd to 2nd, which locked up the rear tires and caused me to spin. I dropped two places and finished 25th.
It was an incredible experience to finally start wheel-to-wheel racing. I have a lot of learning to do - I'm still not very fast and have to deal with with all the other cars as well. It's going to be exciting to start a full season of racing in 2017!
Bryan Bursey, driver, founded Underbite Racing in 2015.