August 11, 2013
The Windy Win

photo-5Round Four of National Auto Sport Association’s (NASA) Western Endurance Racing Championship (WERC) would be held in the high desert of Tooele, Utah at Miller Motorsports Park (MMP). It would be a six-hour romp in the dust and the dark as RJ Racing (RJR) looked to regain their endurance racing dominance. Making the 650 plus mile trip to Utah was not possible for the entire team, so RJR would find themselves short-handed going into the race weekend. This would mean each crew member would have to work that much harder.

The green flag would wave at 6pm unleashing the field on the wide-open and fast turns of MMP. The first hour went by fast and clean as teams settled into their respective grooves. Just after the first hour, however, some ominous clouds began to move in from the southwest. Suddenly, and without warning, the constant breeze turned to fierce gusts of wind. Chairs, tables, and tents went flying and instantly the track was awash in a massive cloud of white dust. After a minute or two the gusts subsided and the drivers were able to see the track again.

IMG_6606Most of Driver and Team Owner Rob Gibson’s first stint was spent battling a higher classed car that was well off the pace. After about ten laps of being held up, Rob attempted a pass in turn three. The other car dropped his outside tires and began to oversteer. His car turned left into the #23 RJR Miata’s right front fender before bouncing off and spinning out. Rob was finally clear of the obstruction holding him up but was now fighting a less than perfect suspension on the car.

He would be able to gain one position before he handed the car over to Driver and Team Owner John Gibson for the team’s second stint. John would just have time to get settled in when Mother Nature kicked up another dust storm just as severe as the last. Once again normal racing would resume minutes later without any major incidents. About this time the engine temperature began to rise. The crew suspected a low oil level might be the cause since the inlet water temperature seemed relatively normal. The suspicions were confirmed when the oil was checked during the next pit stop.

photo-3As night engulfed the track, John began clawing his way back into first. His fast and consistent lap times would put the #23 RJR Mazda Miata first in class by the time he handed the car back to Rob.  Rob would simply have to maintain the teams lead for the entirety of his second stint. The dark track combined with slightly misaligned lights caused lap times to drop significantly. Rob was called in as soon as the team was within its final fuel window for a minor light adjustment and the final driver change. John used the team’s Rigid Industries LED’s to pierce the night and extend the lead on the E3 field. The lead was sufficient enough to allow for a last minute tire change after the left front became severely corded. The checkered flag flew at midnight and the RJR crew had returned to their endurance winning ways finishing first in class, seventh overall.



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