World Challenge B-Spec Report - got home last night after hanging around Texas for an extra day (ran up on Moore, Oklahoma about an hour after the tornado went through....horrible).
Here are my impressions, and can confirm a few stories you guys have already mentioned.
First the format: we qualified Friday, then tires were marked and we were set for the first race on Saturday morning. We were grateful for the early start time, as Texas heats up fast during the day. 25 minute first race set the start order for the second race which followed after a 15 minute pit stop. During the pit stop, we were allowed to rotate the four marked tires on the car, and add one additional tire to the mix if desired. Not allowed to fuel or touch the car in any way that might change set-up, ride heights, etc....no changes. So two races back to back, with an impound in between. We really needed that extra tire because the front wheel drive B-Specs just crush that right front. Sunday morning we ran the third race, a 40 minute sprint with a standing start (F1 style lighting system).
Charlie did a great job getting to second place each day. We chased the set-up all weekend and are still working through issues...the Pirelli tires are a different animal. We were experiencing a few magic laps rather than consistent performance, but that had a lot to do with our set-up. We got that close on Sunday, and Charlie was much better than me at caring for the right front tire on a front wheel drive. I often found myself lapsing into SM mode...which doesn't work on a FWD with 98 hp. Mid and late in the race, I tried to keep my head down, but the set-up had gone away.
The B-Spec cars, with unprepared motors were very close on track. Big differences in where each car was good, i.e. Mini's braked well, others had better gearing for COTA, others had better straight line speed, some cornered well...there was an element of managing the race to your own strengths.
Fiat - the same Fiat did flip twice. Once without help and once with help from his teammate, which took out both cars. Both times the car slid/spun and "trip" flipped...which is different than just turning over from G-forces. If you go to WC website you will see lots of B-Specs on two wheels, but there is a story behind that. Unlike the BFG Super Tour event in March, the orange penalty gators were unbolted and replaced with asphalt "hot dogs" inside the red and white apex gators. They are painted red, so you can't see them on TV very well. The "hot dog" ran along the inside of the apex with smooth edges rising to about a 6 inch hump. This is part of the show for the Aussie V8 Super Cars that ran in support of the BSpec race. Anyway, just as it gets the V8's up in the air...it does a wonderful job of tossing any B-Specs that wander too deep across an apex....which many of us did while trying to keep momentum up.
There was an incident where a Mazda2 sat in the pits for four laps, then returned in front of the leaders and diced with them for the final laps of the second race. That driver can post his own explanation here if inclined.
Lap times - the front of the pack was much closer to the right set-up by Sunday's race (although we never quite got it right) so fast laps for the top 7-8 cars were within about 1 second of each other. We ran a shortened course which eliminated the back straight by adding a very tight cross over/autocross section (replete with hot dogs and an apex jump). We entered the cross over with brush of the brakes and a downshift from fourth to third and did everything you could to keep RPM from bogging on exit...so lots of cars were getting tossed through there.
World Challenge tech was somewhat forgiving, as it was the first race. People were caught and busted hard, but given a chance to repent and continue racing. Only one driver failed to yield to the steward's mercy and got himself tossed. "Pride goes before the fall." Some of the "anomalies" with hard contact, beeg motas, illegal camber and other antics are to be cleaned up before the next race. The only hammer that fell was the order to "stay on the marked course" so you will see very different racing lines in Sunday's race from Saturday's race. (Hey! It was paved!). All cars submitted RaceKeeper ODBII data with integrated video at the completion of every official practice, qualifying and race session. WC Tech can see everything your ECU sees....tach, throttle, shift points, exit speeds....everything.
We started with a 21 car field, which was very cool. The biggest differences at a WC Pro event is the atmosphere. When you have down time between thrashing on the car, you can watch a V8 Supercar race or settle in for a GT battle. Our driver and crew credentials gave us access to almost any view we wanted. Porsche GT3 Trophy Cup was there also. At night, we chatted it up with the Aussie teams...I think it was noon Sydney time...so they worked all night. Oh...and the fans. Not only were there tens of thousands of fans in the stands and lining the course each day, but they swarmed the paddock. We were parked to create a single lane "fan walk" between team transports and there were thousands of fans oogling and photographing the cars. Many asked questions and wanted their pictures taken with cars, uniformed crew and drivers. Fans crowded around the Mini Coopers while $250,000 Porsche's sat across the lane. I think the B-Specs are very approachable for fans. The Audi R8's got huge attention, of course, but they were roped off a bit.
Paddock security was very tight, and there were no problems with gear or any incidents. Coming off track or driving to the grid was an exercise in pedestrian management, while they snapped photos as you went by. A cool atmosphere and a great opportunity for manufacturers and sponsors.
No need for me to give a play by play of the races, because they are posted on World Challenge TV with Greg Kreamer announcing. Thanks go out to JD for coaching Team SafeRacer on the RaceKeeper data between his Racing Insider TV and announcer duties. Also, crew chief Derek hustled all week managing the crew and two cars, pit stops, load ins, whining drivers, and unfamiliar tires.