Tire Rack: Ultimate Track Car Challenge - VIR
For the second year in a row the #916 Enjuku Racing LS350z was accepted to compete in the Tire Rack: Ultimate Track Car Challenge at Virginia International Raceway in conjunction with Hyperfest. Last year, this was one of my favorite events I attended, and for a good reason. It's got something for nearly everyone, and just being able to share the track with some of these incredible machines and teams is a reward in itself.
The UTCC event happens on Friday, and is a single day event with one practice session. and four timed sessions throughout the day. Given the increase in turn out, this year, the event was broken into two run groups. On Saturday and Sunday, I registered to run Time Trials with NASA Mid Atlantic.
Going into this event, you have to have realistic expectations of where you and your car may find yourselves amongst the stout competition. With everything from prototype cars with pro teams, to factory back race cars, and renowned record setters, I knew a podium was unrealistic, instead I aim to improve upon my times from last year, beat a few close friends, and develop the car's set up a bit further. Still chasing the elusive brake failure issues, we attempted a few fixes, sent the brakes back to the manufacturer in hopes they could diagnose the flex. We went into the weekend hopeful that the problem had been resolved when the manufacturer sent back the calipers and brackets, both bench tested to their satisfaction with a fresh rebuild on the calipers. Unfortunately, the issue continued to plague the car throughout the weekend.
Friday morning I had a crazy early wake up call, as the #916 Enjuku Racing LS350z had been selected as one of the cars to be featured on the cover the Grassroots Motorsports Magazine Issue all about the Ultimate Track Car Challenge!
It never quite seems like you get enough track time on Friday. But I was able to improve upon my times from last year, and drive through the brake issues to the best of my ability. Saturday was a bit more of the same, I became more confident and attempted to minimize the amount that the brakes would hinder my times, the weather turned grim later in the day and our last session was black flagged for lightning. An otherwise uneventful day,
Sunday, I went out in the first session rather determined to shave a few seconds off with the improved track conditions. I may have been a tad overzealous, as I had a crazy fast 5th gear off in the infamous Uphill Esses at about 125mph. I finally got past all the traffic and my crew chief called on the radio letting me know to "Make this one count", so I did my best not to leave anything out there. Unfortunately I came into the Esses a little too hot, tried to hold throttle input, the car pushed, and I dropped my wheel off the right side curbing, completely upsetting the car. with no brakes (not that they would've been able to help anyways) I decided my best bet in that split second, was to try to go off straight, two in, and hope I could get it slowed down. Unfortunately, the track curves back towards the infield before South Bend, and I met up with the pavement again. With the car pointing straight at the the outside wall, I knew I had to try my luck elsewhere, and made a correction. The car gripped up and snapped inside coming to a rest a little off the inside tire wall for the corner station. But it didn't end there. I was now stopped with the nose of the car, still on the track, facing traffic. I threw it into reverse as the vigilant driver behind me safely went by. Once it was resting the grass, I saw smoke from the engine bay and the windshield soon became completely fogged up from it. I egressed, and pulled the fire suppression tab. The fire went out and tow truck and fire crew showed up a few minutes later. Fortunately the header wrap and grass were the only things that caught fire, and the car was perfectly fine.
After a seemingly endless flat tow back to the pits, I got out of the car to check out the damage, I immediately removed the front bumper and splitter. Everything looked good, despite taking nearly an acre of grass with me. Upon inspecting the brakes so I could get back out on track, I discovered a cracked front rotor, and decided to call it a day.
It was a wild weekend, but I reached my goals and the car drove onto the trailer under its own power. I only have two weeks to get her ready for the next race: Gridlife Midwest!