We took the Mini Mania-MINCOMP MINI out racing this last weekend (4-24/25-1010)! The event was the Cal Club SCCA Double National at Buttonwillow Raceway Park and for the very first time this event was sponsored by the American Heart Association! The team goal for this weekend was to secure my qualifying for the National Runoff's!
On Saturday the format was a practice session then a qualifying session and then race #1 in the afternoon. At the time I felt qualifying was going pretty well as I was running times under the current track record! Since it was going to be a long weekend with the double race format I ended my session a little early thinking that surely one of the times that I had just done would be good for the pole! Well...wrong! former mini racer John Bower who now races a Nissan, spanked me with a qualifying time close to 1.5 seconds faster than my best time! Very quickly squelched my arrogant belief that my lap time was "good enough"!
On the Grid that put the MINCOMP MINI well back (6 spots) on the grid from the Nissan! Quite a gap to make up, not insurmountable but we are going to have to get at it! At the drop of the green flag one of the faster GT3 class cars the was up towards the front had an immediate ignition failure that caused a stack-up on the inside lane, now I don't know if this situation was a good thing or a bad thing for me as both myself and Nissan was on the out side lane for the start but by the time we all got to T1 I was up next and inside the Nissan and in a drag race heading to the "S's"! The two of us were side by side at the entrance to T2, the entrance to the S's and I went thru into the lead!
The two of us caught up with an E Production Mazda RX7 that was fast down the straights but in-my-way in the turns and because of this, the Nissan was able to shadow me for several laps! On around lap #5 the Nissan showed me his nose coming out of one of the turns and I decided to let him in front of me so that perhaps he (with me stuck to his rear bumper) could get us around and past the Mazda! Well this wasn't really working very well because of the Mazda's straight-line speed! Going down the long back straight the 3 of us caught up with another E prod RX7, so now it's 4 of us "stuck" coming to the sharp left hand turn at the end of this straight! The Nissan pulled to the left a little to look at making a pass on one of the Mazda's and I took this opportunity (read calculated risk) to pull out left and pass all 3 of them at once under braking...yes I was actually able to make the pass stick!!!
At this point I didn't know what was going on behind me with those three because I just put my head down and drove as efficiently as possible so as to get as much space between them and myself as I could. This same lap going thru the last turn leading on to the front straight the Nissan was 2-3 car lengths back. Now I knew he was going to try to capitalize on his straight line speed against me so I pedaled thru this last turn as fast as I could, unfortunately in my mirror I saw the Nissan spin off to the left and back right across the track and bounce off of the tire wall a couple of times!
I drove the rest of the race unchallenged as the other GTLite entries were well back, fact is a couple of the GTLite entries had retired and those theft running I had lapped so they were 1 lap down. We won the race and set a new track record!
Sunday's race was pretty uneventful, we ran the race pretty much unchallenged as the GTlite field had gotten smaller after race #1. About 3/4 the way thru the race my foot slipped on some fluid on the floor board so I looked at my dash and could see that the water temp was a little high and on the next lap it climbed higher, so knowing that I was considered an "official finisher" because of the amount of laps I had done I decided to pull the mini into impound and end the race for us as I didn't want to risk hurting the engine anymore than it all may already be...again we re-set a new track record by going faster Sunday than our fast time on Saturday!
I was still able to scrounge up a 2nd place finish out of this race and thus has allowed me to get qualified for the Runoff's! If I am able to make this years Runoff's it will be the 25 consecutive SCCA Runoff's for the Mini Mania-MINCOMP MINI...