This past weekend featured the F2000 Championship’s ultimate event for 2013. Tim Minor, wielding a Citation chassis, won the championship handily over his competitors. Congratulations to him! In fact, Tim did not even need to compete in the final event to win the championship. An impressive showing for sure.
I however had no intentions of claiming the 2013 championship and only competed one previous event on the year. Going into this event, which was at the wonderful Summit Point circuit located in West Virginina, I as well as my team members were more than excited. We had just finished a ground up restoration on a Van Diemen and had high hopes that we could position this car inside the top five positions. Lessons about hope versus preparation can come at a high price though.
Rain struck for most of Friday and left us with little track time. I did three laps in the morning to shake the car down and all went well. We sat out the rest of the day hoping for a dry qualifying session. Sure enough, the big ball of heat in the sky graced us and the track was drying just in time. We as well as most others opted to brave the drying track on dry tires. This was the correct option. Unfortunately, the car lost a water hose and cooked the engine at around the half way point of the session. We thought the engine survived and attempted Saturday’s race only to retire on the second or third lap.
The Van Diemen was retired and the RFR chassis was called up for duty for Sunday. Starting position was based upon your fastest lap from Saturdays race. My best lap having been completed with an expiring engine was appropriately lackluster. I qualified 23rd for Sunday’s event. The start took two tries, the first of which resulted in a spectacular collision amongst two of my competitors and brought out the red flag. Check out the in-car from one my of track mates Nick Palacio. Skip ahead to the 45 second mark to get to the crux of the start.
Everyone was okay, though a lengthy red flag period did take place.
As the race did not make it past the first time the start was declared a false. This warranted getting the field back into their original grid spots (minus the five cars lost) and completely redoing the start. After the second flying of the green flag the field made it through turn one. The race was on! I had significant pace on the cars in my immediate path, but knew that as I dug closer to the front of the field the competition would only get tougher. The strategy was simple, make passes quickly and efficiently but setup the pass in a manner that reduced my vulnerability in the following sections of track. In this way I would gain a position but not waste time racing the driver who I had gotten by. I made short work of a few guys and soon caught a large group. Getting through them could be touch and go, luckily they were racing. This resulted in their own loss of momentum and meant that if I timed passes correctly I could drive through the pack. By the half way mark I was in clean space and catching 5th place. He spun moving me into his position. I continued to push and was starting to put in my best times of the weekend. I was catching fourth place handily. At this time, third place made a mistake and found himself off the racing surface. This promoted me to fourth place. Unfortunately, I made one or two small errors and this hindered my ability to get to the third place position. Nevertheless, this was a solid performance for me in the Bruce Work entered Ralph Firman Racing (RFR) chassis. A 19 position improvement over the course of the race also handed me the CellMark Paper Hard Charger award.
Overall, I feel we are doing good things with the RFR platform and hope that we will continue to make progress on it. Several development parts are in the works back at the John Walko Racing compound and if we can get some testing in we are sure to improve further. Special thanks goes out to Bruce Work for making the weekend possible, to John Walko for his dedicated pursuit of race car engineering, and finally my father Dave for being a kickass mechanic and awesome trackside chef. I hope to see you all in 2014!