It was great to be back on track. First race since the 2015 25 Hour race and it didn’t take long to knock the rust off! We had our long-time team driver Roger Eagleton back in the car to share racing duties with team-owner John Gibson (Rob Gibson was out for the weekend getting ready to welcome in a new baby).
We had some development work to do on the car, some things to test, and only a couple on-track sessions to squeeze everything in. Things were developing smoothly until a weird steering issue developed late in the afternoon, less than two hours before the race was to start. The steering wheel would move leading the team to think the steering rack was the culprit. After switching to the spare rack the problem was still appearing. Hmmmm… After an in-depth look, and almost complete tear-down of the steering system, we figured it out: a stripped steering wheel hub (I know, we’ve never run across that either). Unfortunately, the only spare we didn’t have was a spare steering wheel hub (we do now!).
Long story short, after a quick uninstall, a quick (sanctioned) break-in of a Spec Miata car not running the race, and a quick install we were on the grid ready to race with 10-15 minutes to spare. Roger was strapped in and everything was looking good. The race started and a Turn 1 incident almost collected the #23 RJ Racing Miata. Then Roger reported a misfire. After a quick pitstop to replace, what turned out to be, a faulty ECU chip he was back at it. As luck would have it that chip turned out to be faulty as well. Another quick stop and everything was running smoothly…but we were almost two laps behind. Roger was gaining on the leaders and the team strategists were praying for a yellow to quickly make up more ground.
That didn’t happen but the class leading car, the #26 Sampson Racing Saturn (yes, a Saturn) stopped well before the halfway mark of the race. The strategists consulted their Ouija boards and determined that car would have to pit once more – we still had a chance. The decision was made to keep Roger in the car as long as possible to run on light fuel then short fuel the car based on the amount of time left in the race. After one hour and 50 minutes Roger got out and John got in with enough fuel to finish.
The strategy allowed us to get back on the lead lap but we still had almost two minutes to make up in less than an hour. Despite some impressive lap times we were only able to get within 45 seconds of the leader and a second place in class finish. Not the top step of the podium but a solid effort and great comeback after some bad luck.