This morning we were up at 3am, on the road by 3:30 and on the Mountain by 4. The organizers have made some changes for this year and it’s now far less rushed with fewer cars, plentiful parking and more runs. Big thumbs up. As always we start setting up in the dark and get ready to run at first light.
For the drivers’ meeting, officials take the drivers up the course in a truck to show them the bumps. The road surface is in bad condition in some spots but will hopefully be repaired for the race. For this test, being careful and backing off on the worst of it is advised.
Jonathan and Rodney are sharing the car, with Jonathan going up first.
The initial feedback is that the car needs some improvement in stability over the bumps. Rodney goes next and agrees. There are several things we can try and we start with increasing rear tire pressures by 3 psi. It’s Jonathan’s turn again and he finds the change to be an improvement, giving him more confidence and a significantly faster time as a result. We raise the pressures again at the back and a bit at the front as well, and Jonathan takes off again. A few minutes later – a red flag. But quickly we’re told that the Subaru that went in front of us had broken down and Jonathan would be coming back down for a rerun. He didn’t get a time as a result of the red flag but felt the car was greatly improved, so we sent Rodney up next. His time dropped by a full minute from his first run, to 6:16 and within a couple seconds of Jonathan’s time. A convincing confirmation that the car is working better.
Both drivers are still taking it easy and backing off on the rough spots but there is only one car that is slightly faster, an Open Wheel monster driven by many-time Pikes Peak champion Clint Vahsholtz. So we’re doing pretty good. Next thing to tweak is the wing for a bit more rear downforce at speed. There is time for one more run and Jonathan goes up again to evaluate the change – a 5:55 time, second only to Clint’s 5:47, confirms it’s in the right direction. We’ll do a lot more testing when we get back to ORP but this is encouraging.
We decide to prep the car for tomorrow here while we have space, time and daylight. A re-bleed of the brakes produces a much firmer pedal, we’re fueled up and basically done for the day. After all the crazy stress this feels weird. Staring at a broken suspension bolt with no apparent way to fix it was only 12 hours ago but seems like forever away. Jay and Chris go for some drives up and down the road with Jonathan in the rentacar while the rest of us head back to the house. Tomorrow is the lower section test, then we’ll get on the road right from the Mountain for the 1,300 mile trip home.