2018 RVA Graphics & Wraps
AMP’d Up Duals Race Recap
Story by Doc Waldrop, Pictures by Bill Strong
For the 31st race of the 2018 ChampCar Endurance Series season the teams headed down to the Atlanta Motorsports Park circuit nestled in the North Georgia foothills near Dawsonville, home of the legendary NASCAR driver Bill Elliott. The track is just as “awesome”, featuring 16 turns tightly bound in its 1.89-mile length with many challenging elevation changes. Designed by Hermann Tilke of F1 track design fame, the course offers no respite for the drivers that made up the 52-car starting grid.
Saturday, October 27, 2018 – 8-Hour
By random draw for starting position, none other than Randy Pobst led the field to the green flag for the official start time of 8:30 AM on a wet track in his #740 Happy Moose Volvo 740, but before the first lap had even been completed the track went to a full course yellow (FCY) as the Mean Green Racing #679 Civic made contact with the #713 Racing Analytics Excelerace Mazda Miata and sent the Mazda into the outside wall in the turn 15 carousel scattering the tires that made up the barrier. Shortly after The field would not go back to green until 36 minutes later from the official start time of 8:29 and the driver stint limit of 2 hours was adjusted for the long delay.
When the field went back to green at 9:07 not much had changed from the original starting grid as there was hardly enough time to gain a position, but the order showed the #268 Legacy Auto Sport Mazda Miata leading the Mazda Miata #230 of Momo Champ, the #107 Tuttle Motorsports Mitsubishi Eclipse, the Full Throttle #476, and the #97 RPM Mazda Miata. The RPM’s Mazda Miata P5 position was not for long as the car was soon reported backward into the turn 15 wall. The Happy Moose #740 was behind the wall early with electrical problems.
Off to a rough start already, the race got even rougher as the #987 Pistol Star Racing Porsche Boxster, battling hard with the McKibbins Biohazard #381 Toyota MR2, pushed too hard in the off camber turn 16 and put 2 tires onto the wet corner paint. When he regained traction on the asphalt he shot across the track, hit the inside wall and caromed back left onto the track, collecting the Biohazard MR2 which was braking hard but not able to come to a stop in time to avoid contact. The Porsche came across the MR2’s nose and took him to the outside wall with a hard impact there as well. The incident may have started in T16, but it ended near turn 1 with the Boxster ending up in deep in the T1 gravel trap. The Porsche Boxster was immediately withdrawn from the race, but the Biohazard crew took to extensive repairs in the paddock.
The field went back green at 9:45 and as the first pit stops approached a light rain began to fall at 10:15. Since the stint limits had been extended, the team’s pit stop strategies were all over the place. Some panned out at the end while others didn’t: Visceral Racing Group in their #918 Porsche 944, running in 1st place, gambled and pitted without taking fuel in their first stop figuring the long cautions and slower pace could give them an advantage over the rest of the field. They would have to go 1 hour 50 minutes by the time they next pitted. The Danger Racing Group Lexus SC300 #464 in 2nd place could not afford to take that gamble and rejoined the field in 6th place.
Third through sixth, 901 Motorsport’s #901 BMW 325is, Legacy Auto Sports’ #268 Mazda Miata, Hong Norrth’s Mazda MX3, and Kelly Brother Racing’s #850 Mazda Miata all pitted while Apex Predator’s #912 Pontiac Firebird (P7) and Munich Speed & Engineering’s #531 BMW 318is (P9) stayed out with the adjusted driver stint limit and briefly moved up. Leviathan Motorsport’s #255 Toyota MR2 (P8) and FoShoMoCo’s #455 Ford Taurus SHO (P10) also came in with the leaders near lap 56-57.
Shortly after those 1st stops Apex Predators’ hope for a good finish were dashed with several black flags for exceeding the sound limit along with Leviathan’s Toyota MR2, the latter after losing a lot of oil on track which the Visceral Porsche found. At the halfway point Danger Racing Group had taken the lead from Visceral’s 944 which in turn led Hong Norrth’s Mazda MX3 which had steadily moved up in the field passing Tuttle’s #107 and #108. The #108 had been black flagged for smoke and the #107 was soon to retire from the race. Momo Champ’s #230 Mazda Miata, the Schumacher Taxi #189 BMW 325is, No Cents Racing #2 Mazda Miata #317 and the John Allen Special #46 had made impressive gains on the field and all of them found themselves in the top 10.
AMP’d Up’s #424 Mazda MX5 Miata, the Munich Speed & Engineering #531 BMW, and the #476 Full Throttle Mazda Miata had all played briefly in the top 10 but had trouble staying there as had the Kelly Brothers Racing #850 Mazda Miata and the Sparrow Speed #216 Mazda Miata. Running Bulls Racing’s (#160 BMW 325is) strategy of pitting early had not panned out and the yellow flag they counted on came only to help their competitors more. Still, they had cracked the top 15 and would stay there. The McKibbins Biohazard Toyota MR2, once thought totaled, had returned to the track and despite the wheelbase being shorter on one side, the car was turning in very competitive times.
Visceral’s gamble on fuel had paid off handsomely as they made it to near hallway without taking fuel but still ran in second to the Danger Racing Group Lexus SC300. The 944 would again just change drivers with about 2 hours to go hoping they could make it to the finish. A costly black flag for contact with a Mazda Miata as they were trying to make up a lap on the Lexus just ahead would doom Visceral’s chances for the win though.
With an hour to go, Danger Racing had the field covered with Visceral’s 5-minute penalty, but the Porsche 944 held on to 2nd over Hong Norrth’s Mazda MX3 in 3rd even with the extended stop. Schumacher Taxi’s BMW and the Momo Champ’s #230 Mazda Miata would move up a spot when the MX3 could not keep pace with them. The John Allen Special #46 held down 6th followed by the Munich Speed & Engineering BMW, the Legacy Auto Sports Miata, and the hard-charging #108 Tuttle Eclipse having recovered from their problems. Running Bulls Racing’s 325is held down the final position in the top 10. Sparrow Speed’s #216 Miata ran in 11th with the Hot Rod Lincoln #595 Lincoln LS in P12 and the #850 Kelly Brothers Racing Miata in P13. 901’s #901 BMW ran in 14th and the On Second Thought Racing #341 Miata had a 15th place, displacing the Miatas of No Cents Racing and Amp’d Up.
Running Bulls Racing had moved up 2 spots to 8th, Kelly Brother’s Miata up one spot to P11, and On Second Thought 2 spots to P13 with 30 minutes to go while Legacy Auto Sports #268, Tuttle’s #108 Eclipse, and Sparrow Speed’s Mazda Miata had all given up a position. Amp’d Up’s #424 Mazda MX5 Miata had dropped 901 Motorsport’s BMW out of the top 15. With 15 minutes to go Amp’d Up had overtaken the Hot Rod Lincoln LS for 14th and the #46 John Allen Special BMW had dropped Hong Norrth’s Mazda MX3 out of the top 5.
Position changes were the rule rather than the exception when the checkered flag finally dropped at 4:30, the most dramatic being literally AT the finish line when the Momo Champ Mazda Miata passed the Schumacher Taxi BMW for 3rd, the final podium position. Visceral finished in 2nd place, a lap down to Danger Racing Group who notched their 1st overall win and also took home the fastest time of the day honors with a 1:31.883. The John Allen Special #46 dropped 2 spots down to 7th with a disputed black flag penalty for contact, advancing Hong Norrth and Munich Speed & Engineering up a spot apiece. Running Bulls Racing finished in 8th with a lap lead over Legacy Auto Sports who had a very comfortable 4 lap lead over the Tuttle Motorsports Mitsubishi Eclipse.
Eleventh place was decided in favor of the On Second Thought Racing Miata who gained 2 positions in the final 15 minutes while Sparrow Speed settled for twelfth place. Amp’d Up moved up yet another position while the Kelly Brothers Racing dropped 3 positions to finish in 14th place with an unfortunate stop to fix a flat tire. Rounding out the top 15 and bringing glory to American “IRON” was the HOT…ROD…LINCOLN. Not so sure their finish (or the cold and wet conditions) drove anyone to drink, but the prospects of warmer weather and a dry track must have encouraged a few teams in the paddock as they prepared for Sunday’s 7-hour race.
Sunday, October 28 7-Hour
Saturday dawned clear but chilly, but the action on the track was anything but cold. Hong Norrth’s MX3 led the cars to the start, but in the space of 2 laps, Visceral’s Porsche had taken the lead over the Mazda who continued to harass the Porsche 944 lap after lap. The plucky Mazda was in fact warned for aggressive driving as they had tapped the Porsche in the rear bumper several times. As this battle raged, AF Jr Racing in their EC class #501 BMW had taken the lead and they were joined by the #108 Tuttle Mitsubishi Eclipse. Also, the field could NOT have overlooked the #381 McKibbins Biohazard Toyota MR2 was rocketing up in the standings and by 10AM, an hour and a half into the race, the Toyota had taken the lead. Earlier, AF jr Racing was black flagged for exceeding the sound limit when they registered a 102.2.
Hong Norrth and Visceral had hung in there, running in 2nd and 3rd, the Porsche with considerable damage to the nose, while the Mazdas of RPM’s #97 and Momo Champ’s #230 ran in P4 and P5 having moved up significantly from positions well back at the start. They were followed by the BMWs of Schumacher Taxi and 901 Motorsports along with the Mazda Miatas of Kelly Brothers Racing and Five Tales Racing’s #153. Plan C Racing’s #851 Porsche 944. On Second Thought Racing’s Mazda Miata had also moved up rapidly from their starting position of 40th to run in 11th followed by the Leviathan Toyota MR2, the John Allen Special #46, and (GASP) the Danger Racing Group Lexus which was working off a 2-lap margin of victory “penalty”. AMP’d Up’s Mazda MX5 had risen to 15th after a 39th place start.
The dry track, therefore faster pace, along with the shorter race at 7 hours threw pit strategy into the air much like Saturday’s race did with the rain and lengthy cautions. It would be a guessing game as to how to craft their stops for the teams enjoying the sunny conditions and warmer temperatures. The first leader to come to grief was the Tuttle Motorsports #108 Mitsubishi Eclipse as he slid off the track in turn 1 and found the gravel trap. The runoff did its job keeping the car off the guardrails, but the Mitsubishi was mired requiring a tow to get extracted. Compounding the problems with the off-track excursion when the car was dropped off in the paddock the car would not start.
Most of the frontrunners found pit road for fuel and a driver change just before 10:30, 2 hours in, but Visceral again just did a driver change to emerge once again in the lead. Shortly after pitting the Biohazard and Schumacher Taxi BMW found each other in turn 6 and the MR2 was issued a black flag for contact after reviewing the video evidence. The Toyota was brought in and after serving their penalty they were soon back in the paddock working on the left front of the car. The problems did not stop there as the Toyota MR2 was above the sound limit with a 102.7 dB reading and with no spare muffler the car was retired.
Danger’s Lexus was locked in a battle with Visceral to get back on the lead lap and would pass the Porsche only for the 944 to out accelerate the big SC300 coming out of turn 6. The Porsche was visibly quicker on exit. As Noon approached Visceral finally pitted for fuel elevating Danger’s Lexus into 1st place for the first time on Sunday and RPM’s #97 Mazda Miata into 2nd. Momo Champ’s #230 grabbed 3rd place while Visceral returned to the track in 4th place after pitting. Some 20 laps later the 944 had wrested 3rd place away from Momo Champ and put the right foot down hoping to catch 1st and 2nd who had put a lap on them. Fifth place was occupied by the 901 Motorsport #901 BMW who was being pressed by the #189 BMW of Schumacher Taxi, both on the same lap (144).
Amp’d Up’s Mazda Miata was holding off the #160 Running Bulls Racing 325is, both 2 laps down further down, while Sparrow Speed’s #216 Mazda Miata was dealing with the resurging #8 Hong Norrth MX3, both a lap further down. Plan C Racing’s #851 Porsche 944 and On Second Thought Racing’s #341 Mazda Miata were on their own lap by themselves under no immediate threat from Five Tales Racing #153 Mazda MX5, Munich Speed & Engineering’s #531 BMW 318is, and Legacy Auto Sports’ #268 Mazda Miata. The Legacy entry had dropped the Justin’s Angels’ #254 more or less all women’s team out of the top 15 when their car lost oil pressure and coasted to a stop in turn 12.
With 2 hours to go the Back Porche Racing #156 Porsche 944 and the #850 Kelly Brothers Racing Mazda Miata, was locked in a battle with the Five Tales Racing #153 Mazda MX-5 and the Munich Speed BMW to stay in the top 15 while Visceral, RPM, and Momo Champ all battled for 2nd place. Danger Racing’s Lexus had once again checked out from the rest of the field, ahead in the overall lead by a lap. With 30 minutes to go the Hong Norrth Mazda MX3 had passed Amp’d Up’s Mazda MX5 for 8th, but could not stay there, dropping 2 spots to finish in 10th. Similarly, the AF Jr #501 EC Class BMW had grabbed 15th knocking Five Tales out of contention but could not hold onto the position as Kelly Brothers Racing moved up.
Up front at the checker, Danger Racing’s Lexus had swept the weekend finishing 2 laps ahead of the RPM Miata in 2nd, the Mazda having rallied from a 46th place finish on Saturday. Visceral once again had the measure of Momo Champ and Schumacher Taxi as they finished in the same order as Saturday’s race, but all 3 were one spot down with RPM’s recovery. 901 Motorsport’s BMW came home in 6th having just missed the top 15 on Saturday and AMP’d Up finished in 7th moving up 6 spots from the 8-hour race. Running Bulls racing matched their 8th place finish.
Other than RPM, Plan C Racing had the next best improvement from Saturday (P36) finishing in 9th place while Hong Norrth dropped 2 positions in the last 10 laps having to pit for fuel and came across the line in 10th. They DID, however, have the fastest time of the day with a 1:32.060 while Danger could “only” manage a 1:33.002. Mazda Miata’s dominated the next four positions: Sparrow Speed (P11), On Second Thought Racing (P12), Kelly Brothers Racing (P13), and Legacy Auto Sports (P14) all finished Sunday with mostly minor changes from their Saturday finishes. Munich Racing & Engineering capped off the top 15 finishers, dropping rather significantly from the 8-hour race where they finished 6th.
As teams packed up several racers were already thinking about their next race in just 3 days. What you say, “we don’t race on the weekdays”!!! I’m speaking about the mouse clicking to enter the inaugural race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when registration goes live at 12:01 November 1st….