A new racing season in Texas opened with an event at Motorsports Ranch Houston on January 27-29, 2017. With only a single test day since mid-October, I was looking forward getting back together with friends and spending some time on track.
The biggest change to the car for 2017 is the addition of a RaceCapture/Pro data acquisition system and a digital dash. The unit has built-in high-speed GPS and a 6-axis accelerometer, while I've wired engine speed, throttle position, brake switch and fuel level. With that information recorded for each session, along with video, I'm hopeful that I'll be able to coach myself to improved lap times over the course of this year.
The weather forecast for the weekend was cool but sunny - unfortunately, temperatures in the 30's Fahrenheit are starting to feel downright COLD.
Before hitting the track for Friday practice, I completed my annual tech inspection. I had just replaced the expired harnesses and didn't expect any issues, which was mostly the case. It was pointed out that my fire suppression system needs to have a nozzle added for the engine bay in addition to, or instead of, the nozzle in the trunk by the fuel hoses. I'll add a third nozzle before our next event in March so I have coverage for the engine, passenger compartment and trunk.
I was disappointed to be slower during the Friday practice than I had been during a test day in December in similar conditions. I think the increase in cars on track was a sufficient distraction that I wasn't able to also focus on my own driving. With time, I should be better able to manage traffic and drive fast.
I did have some fun following a few other Spec Miata cars and watching their lines. There were only a couple of times where my mistakes caused me to spin or slide off track. Here's a little souvenir (yellow paint) from the inside curbing at turn 14 (Diamond's Edge).
While my data and video system worked well on Friday, the camera decided to take most of the rest of the weekend off. I was able to collect data, but the trigger to start video recording (currently based on GPS speed) either didn't work or worked at the wrong time.
I posted a 1:53.8 in warm-up before falling back a few tenths in qualifying to a 1:54.2 that put me 29th of 34 on the grid for race #1. I finished race #1 up a spot in 28th with just a few changes of position along the way and a fastest lap of 1:53.6.
I should have started race #2 in 28th, but there were a few cars that didn't take the green flag, so I crossed the start line in 25th. I gained a few spots at the start, only to lose them a couple laps later. I had just taken advantage of some traffic to move up to 22nd when the race was red flagged due to a car / grass fire that needed attention. My fastest lap was a 1:53.3.
After a great beer and barbecue dinner hosted by NASA Texas on Saturday night, it was back on track early Sunday for the "All Race Group Warm-up". Despite having cars from all race classes on track, it was during this session that I set my fastest lap of the weekend - a 1:52.5. Unfortunately. that's still 4 seconds slower than the fastest Spec Miata times.
I was able to maintain some of that pace and improve my qualifying on Sunday to 25th of 31 on the grid, with a 1:53.8, going into our 40-minute race on Sunday afternoon. While I picked up a few spots on the start, I gave them back (and more) shortly thereafter. For the last two-thirds of the race, the back of the pack was quite spread out and there was little opportunity for wheel-to-wheel racing. Here's a quick video of the race start overlooking turn 1 and turn 2.
It was a great start to the 2017 season and a reminder that I have a lot to learn about going faster! I was pleased that the data acquisition system and digital dash worked well. While I was able to manage my race weight and fuel levels within 10 lbs of minimum (using ~1 gal per 10 minutes), I do need to figure out how to monitor hot tire pressures. And hopefully I can sort out the reliability of the video system for next time so I can share of in-car video of the racing itself instead of just a fast lap.
The next event in March 10-12 and Motorsports Ranch Cresson!
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Bryan Bursey, driver, founded Underbite Racing in 2015.