What a weekend trying my hand at time attack with Grid Life’s 2020 Chicago event. It’s been a long time goal of mine to get into competitive track racing, and to see it finally happening – despite all the various setbacks from this year and last – has been truly rewarding.
The event actually runs like a well structured NASA/HPDE weekend. The various different groups all go out, not unlike a normal HPDE weekend – with each run group taking turns to go out. The time attack run groups function like advanced HPDEs – people still typically give point by’s, especially when it seems like they are about to be passed. Time attack here is more about having appropriate spacing rather than necessarily chasing someone. In the hour block you are given, you run in Heat A, B, or C, depending on how you did previously – and are ordered from fastest to slowest, with about 20 drivers per run group.
The weekend started off decently – though it had rained Friday, the rest of the weekend stayed dry, albeit very hot. As I was an unknown, I was placed near the back of Heat C of the Time Attack group – bummer, as it would be difficult for me to get a good lap in if I were in a field of slower cars. On top of that, as I made my way to grid, I was immediately called back for not wearing long pants – I turned around as fast as I could to run and put my jeans on and rushed back out into the grid, but it was too late. The heat was off. As luck would have it though, everyone was immediately called back in to retrieve a car from the track – and I was able to squeeze into the 6th car position as I had been already waiting in the grid. I ran a 1:38.64, which put me near the front of Heat B, where I would remain for the rest of the time attack.
While I was here, I wanted to take advantage of another unique opportunity – Tom O’Gorman, who used to run the Professional Awesome Evo, was available to drive, give pointers, etc. and I really wanted him to take the Evo out for a spin. He did so, and while most of the information he gave will be kept private, I’m happy to report that the car’s setup is good, albeit soft for Time Attack. The next heat, I started getting into my groove, running a 1:37.17 – within 4 tenths of my all-time best. While I was happy with the result and it kept the rest of the field at bay, I knew I had a lot more work to do. I was 6 tenths from podium, which meant I had to run a 1:36.5 – faster than I had ever ran.
Due to some delays, we had only one flyer for Saturday evening, which I wasn’t able to capitalize on, as the brakes and tires were just warming up. The competition started to creep closer however, while the STi I had been battling achieved an insane 1:35.3, leapfrogging all of us.
Sunday morning, I knew I would have to go for it – the weather and track were the coolest they had been or would be all weekend, which had stayed mid to high 80s. I put out a 1:36.107 – the fastest I had ever gone by about half a second. However, I was 6th by this point – the 370z and the M3 battling way up top in the 1:32-1:33’s, followed by the STi, the Alfa Romeo, and the Nismo 350z then me. The rest of us spread by 5 tenths of a second. Unfortunately, I did not record the session.
The Gears & Gasoline guys had started to catch up at this point too – their K24 civic had run a 1:36.7 and was right behind me, and the Evo X TA car that was 4th overall in Grid Life Street last year was also a couple places back. Sadly, I hadn’t recorded my fastest lap. I had, however, run a nearly identical lap – a 1:36.08 on the 5th session, which I did record.
By the end, the tires were really starting to wash out as the day heated up. We decided to try setting the rear sway bar to the middle setting for the final lap, but it didn’t grant me much except for a few tail out shenanigans. I still ran a 1:36.30, but couldn’t get into the 1:35’s as I was hoping – I think e85 would have really made the difference here. Tomo drove some of the other street class cars and said that they were flat out making a ton more power than I was.
Overall, it was a really great event and we were glad the weather held out for us all through Saturday and Sunday. I did have one spin and one off – the spin was on Saturday from ground water seeping up through the seams, which cleared up by Sunday – the off was me just trying to carry in way too much speed in one of the corners. I def have some driving improvements to make, and maybe some setup tweaks to continue trying in this car, but was at least happy that I cut my personal best. I’m getting a better feel for when I’m not pushing hard enough, which is really nice. I think I can continue on this for now to try to maximize this setup.
Set Up (Evo):
- Ohlins DFV (Custom valved); Shocks 3/5
- OEM FSB; WL 26mm RSB; Soft
- RE-ACD: Tarmac; TRE-OSG Rear Diff
- Camber at -3.5, -1.9 rear, 0 toe all around
- Brakes F: Girodisc 2-pc & S/S; Brakes R: Girodisc 2-pc & S/S
- CE28N 18×9.5; 255/35-18 Bridgestone RE71Rs
- 35psi all around on RE71Rs
- 2020 Evo: 6 autox runs, 8 track sessions
2020 Event Count: 3 Autox, 3 Track Days