This morning we were expected on the Mountain at 2-3am, to let spectators come up after us. Understandable as far as logistics of the event go but it does put additional stress on the teams. The drivers’ meeting is at 7. We show up, and catch a 3-hour nap.
The sun comes up. The bikes are supposed to start at 8 but the Mountain has different plans, with ice on the road surface that takes another hour to clear up. A reminder that we are just guests here, not masters. We get ready and wait.
Once the day is in full swing it’s a beautiful and clear one. There are some red flags delaying the progress but fortunately no major incidents. We wait for the cars to start. In the starting order Jonathan is 11th and Rodney is 16th – once bikes are done and cars get going.
Our plan with the D2 is to get tires up to about 200F with tire warmers, then use the staging time to let them cool down to 140F. Worked well in practice. On race day we don’t quite catch the timing right and when it’s time to go, it’s time to GO.
No cooldown and therefore tires that start overheated and stay that way. So Jonathan has to baby the throttle out of each corner all the way up. The course is slick and the bumps are back and badder than before thanks to temperature changes. Later the consensus is that the course is about 20 seconds slower than last year. Today 10:04 is the result.
Rodney is up 15 minutes later.
Yesterday I took a guess at what the AFR should be off-boost, and it was a conservative one. Turns out we’re too rich but of course we don’t find that out until the race run. Still, Rodney does an excellent job coming in at 10:06.137. The latter three digits turn out to be important but first, here’s a video of both cars launching.
We watch the timing screen. It’s a now-familiar but still nerve racking ritual. You wait for each of the section times to see if they come up at all, then compare them to competitors and try to figure out the finish time and what is happening. It’s an emotional roller-coaster. Then the board shows both cars finishing.
At this point both cars are in the top 10, Jonathan 2nd in Open and Rodney 3rd in Unlimited, and also the fastest rookie. Not too bad all in all, and since the cars running behind us all qualified slower I think it’s pretty solid. Now we wait. For the rest of the day. Half hour later I go by the board and check it just in case. DAMN. A French rookie driver edged Rodney out by 0.1 second. He is in a different class so the Unlimited podium finish still stands, but no rookie of the year award. Well, that’s racing. We’ll just have to do even better next year.
As we wait, we watch the weather change. Like last year it is now snowing at the top. We’ll have more pictures and videos later.
There was still a bunch of snow in the cars when they eventually did come down. Below is Jonathan’s video of the trip down – on race tires, with sheer cliffs, in the snow.
I’ll do a more thorough post later, for now this is all I can manage. We took on a challenge. And then some. We got it done. I couldn’t be more proud of the whole team – the crew, the drivers, and all who gave us the support we needed to do what had to be done. It is a good feeling.