Grand-Am Continental Tires Series Bosch Engineering 250

| July 3, 2011

Return to VIR!#69 Mazda

After sitting out the 2010 professional racing season due to financial reasons, I re-emerged entered in a Mazda RX-8 for Pirate Motorsports in the ST class at Virginia International Raceway the weekend of May 13-14. My co-driver was American Airlines Captain Allen Milarcik, whom along with Dan Harding owns the racing team.  The weather forecast over the weekend was for intermittent showers every day. On Thursday we tested the car and the program was to get me up to speed since I hadn’t raced on a road course for awhile. The crew was very helpful adjusting the seat and controls so I would be comfortable. I had never raced a rotary powered car before but had trained on a Mazda at a Skip Barber car control clinic for half a day at Lieric's first time in mazdame Rock. A friend of mine who owned  one, assured me I would enjoy driving the RX-8.  I went over what rev limit I would shift at (8500 RPM) and what all the switches and buttons did. After a shake down run by Allen, it was my chance to get behind the wheel .  First time out the car felt  stable and easy to drive, and  of course I was easy on the throttle and brakes. As I began to build up speed the car felt sure footed and would start to slide out nicely. So far so good and no rain yet!

Friday ‘s schedule had the Continental cars practicing for two sessions and thendrivers with pit girls qualifying would take place late in the day. Allen was in the car for the first session and I drove the second session. All went pretty smoothly as my lap times began to drop and I managed to stay on track. After a stop in the pits for a full course black flag, I fired up the engine but it wouldn’t  pull any rpm’s above 2000..this was not a good thing. I drove it back to our paddock area and the crew went to work figuring out what was the problem.  The transmission had been changed over night because of some grinding when shifting into 3rd gear and evidently a wire to the engine management system had been scraped and it was grounding out against the engine block. That was quickly fixed and Allen went out and qualified us for the race. We would start 57th out of 61 entries.allen gets ready to race

Saturday was overcast and cool and rain was expected at some point. Allen started the car near the back of the grid and made a good start and our position in the race started to improve. We short pitted during an early full course caution flag hoping to stay out if another caution period happened and leap frog some spots. It  never quite worked out as we hoped but on lap 32 we stopped again and I got into the car. Our driver change took a bit too long due to dented drivers door and we lined up at the end of the line.  On the restart I managed to pass a couple of cars in front of me and waged a furious battle

pit stop

Janie handles the dead "girl" valve

 with them for 20th spot. Oh..and it began to rain! I radioed to the pits that maybe we should stop now for rain tires in case it started to pour.  The crew chief felt it was not raining hard enough and nixed my great plan. “Well maybe not in pits,” I answered.  “but Oak Tree is pretty wet!”  The race was winding down and I could see the leaders in the GS class gaining on me. Once they started lapping me, any chance for good lap times go out the door. Again my radio barked, “Eric, really push it now and get what you can before you get lapped.” Even in the rain on slick tires I ran my best times of the weekend and although I ended up giving back a couple of spots that I race cars in battlehad gained , we finished 25th of the 36 (ST) cars that started the race.  By the way…a torrential downpour occurred at the start of the Rolex race 30 mins. later! 

Overall I felt satisfied that I had raced competently and without a major mistake. Admittedly I ran a conservative pace throughout the weekend and was over cautious in traffic. Surviving a Grand Am race is usually my number one goal and enjoying the weekend is the next. Finish the race and move on to the next one..where and when is anybody’s quess.

Shop for Continental tires at Tire Rack.

Thanks to Grand-Am and Margie Gerard and my sponsors: OG Racing and MJ Mortensen.com

Category: Grand Am, Races, Uncategorized

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