This year’s One Lap of America has been spectacular. Not only has the close competition been a blast, but we’ve had some pretty nice weather as well. Today was NO exception, with a cloud-dotted blue skies and warm weather. Just adds to the beauty of Virginia International raceway.
Today we got to run the South, North and Full courses here at VIR. This is a fast, fun track with a few big-boy corners, especially the full course with the high-speed esses….
With our close battle with Mike Renner in the M6, the decision was to allow me to run all 3 events today to maximize our chances of ending the day ahead of the group, and not tied like we have been every single day this One Lap!
First event of the day was the south course - shortest one which uses the last half of the esses and the first 3/4 of the back straight, linked in with some tight corners and big elevation changes. This was my first time out on the south course (I’ve only run the north course here), but I was able to get enough out of the car and not screw up too many corners to come in 13th overall with a 4:03.350 and 1st in class. Right on my tail was Mike in 15th with a 4:03.750 in the M6 and just a touch behind him was “Superstar Bobby G” in the M3 with a 4:04.002 good for 16th - his home-track knowledge/advantage balancing out the extra power and aero that we have. Myers flogged the Panamara around to come in nipping at Grace’s heels with a 4:04.309 for 17th. Wilks brought the Merc in with a 4:17.779 after trying an alternative line through turn 1, missing the turn-in point and having to use some extra pavement to get the car slowed, turned around and headed back in the right direction. It happens to the best of us (more on that later…)
Next up was the North course, with run groups starting just about right away, so we headed back over to the other side of the track (VIR is a rather large facility). I lined up behind Renner and we headed out on track. On the outlap, we drove by a gaggle of geese (is that how you say it when there are 20+ geese wandering around?) just on the side of the track between turn 3 and 4. Eek. We take the green and head out, geese still there but luckily not a factor (yet…). But unfortunately, near the end of the 2nd lap the #9 Mitsubishi Evo lost it in ‘hog-pen’ and ended up in the tire wall on the outside of the track (driver was fine, and the car ran the afternoon session). These guy have not had much luck this week, taking out a tire wall at CMP as well - the one glimmer of silver-lining was that the hit the same corner damaged at CMP…..
The Session was black-flagged and we made our way back into the pit so the VIR crew could sclean up the mess. Once release, we head out for another recon lap. I come around turn 3 to see the M6 stopped on the left side of the track and geese meandering ALL OVER THE TRACK, with one sitting about 15 ft in front of Renner’s car, with some puffs of white down/feathers about - The bird managed to fly / walk off the track after a bit, and Renner’s car appeared to be OK other than the low-mounted camera being adjusted (can’t wait to see that video!), and he did take the green after a bit of time for the corner crews to clear the birds out of the area
The extra few hot-laps certainly seemed to help me get a bit of a handle on the track. And it paid off as I managed to run a 5:11.771 good for 1st in class and 11th overall. Renner was next with a 5:13.661 in 13th. 5 more points for our lead. Robin ran the M3 this time, coming in 18th with a 5:21.006, followed by Treffert in 22nd with a 3-lap time of 5:22.964. Wilks ran a 5:34.818 for 28th place.
After a nice lunch and a cool photo-op with all the BMWs under the VIR bridge (I’ll try to post that pic up here when I can find it online), we headed out for the full course. The afternoon was not without drama as the Mercedes SLR driven by Todd Treffert over-cooked turn 16 (same place the Evo went off) and went off - and while he didn’t hit any tire walls, he did manage to find a ditch which tore off the splitter, popped both front tires, set off the air bags and did some other significant damage to the car. There was a long clean-up / recovery break after that.
Once we got the green to go racing again, we headed out. I lined up behind the M6 and M3, figuring I could learn something from them on the recon lap (both Renner and Grace have many laps here) - this was my first time seeing the esses at speed, entering them at about 130 mph… I didn’t know yet just how fast the car could make it through so didn’t have full confidence. Following and watching seemed to help, and I was able to work up the confidence to blast up the esses with less speed reduction each lap. Lap 1 to lap 2 gaps to Grace’s M3 were shrinking, but I didn’t know by how much or how I was comparing to the M6. Lap 3, I only had to breath off about 1/4 throttle, which gave me 4-5 mph more - car handled it fine but I seemed to forget about the last little bend. Coming out of the esses, I was positioned too far to the left and knew I couldn’t make the turn at the speeds I was doing (roughly 100mph…), hard on the brakes but out of position, I slid off the end of the track before the left hander. Luckily, there isn’t anything to hit out there and I was able to slow enough to not leave the pavement too far behind me. I just extended the turn a bit wider….. I knew I had just thrown away a great run, but I didn’t know how much….. Checking the Data Acquisition, the mistake cost me 4.8 seconds…..
Turns out I got lucky that Dan added in the supercharger and aero. The power and corner speeds for the rest of the session were enough to stay close, finishing 12th overall with a 6:45.214 and 3rd in class. Also luckily, Grace blasted around the full course getting everything out of the M3, running a 6:42.406 for 10th place, which put Renner’s M6 in 11th overall and 2nd in class with his 6:44.429. The Panamara ran a 7:07.362 for 23rd overall, and the AMG came in 28th with a 7:15.254.
With Grace doing so well on the full course, it means that we only lost 5 pts in class due to my alternate choice of line through turn 10….. AND it means that we end the day in 1st place in the Luxury Sedan Class!!! It’s only 5 points, but we will take it!
We are now on our way up to Beaver Falls, PA for the last 2 time trial events at Pittsburgh International Raceway (formerly BeaveRun - which is a much better name for a race track that happens to be located near Beaver Falls….), and I have been enjoying the gorgeous drive and scenery. 64/81 and the Blue Ridge Parkway are must-see drives in my opinion. Looking forward to a good meal with the rest of the BMW groups and then a good nights rest going into the last day as this tight battle continues!