My plan for this year was to drive in the full Formula D season. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to finish the car for Long Beach without cutting corners. So I decided to try to finish the car in April, test at Club Loose Spring Moves, and then start my season at Road Atlanta.
I got the car running and driving for Spring Moves on April 28th and headed to Englishtown. My goal for the day was to throw around the car and beat on it enough to expose any issues. The suspension setup and alignment was rushed, so I didn’t worry much about how the car was driving. It performed well for the first outing, and I was happy with the added grip and smoke from the Falken tires.
The car didn’t have any problems during the test, so the next week was spent going through the Formula D rulebook and making sure everything was in order. The car was also lighter than I wanted, so I decided to add more weight to get it over 2800 lbs. After the initial test, it weighed 2710 with me in it, but I wanted to get over 2800 to have the option of running 265-wide tires and to have a safety margin in case the car measured lighter or the tires measured wider than expected. After adding various finishing pieces, covers, and the maximum 50 lbs of ballast, the car was up to 2780. I got 255-wide tires for this event just to be safe, but I was hoping the Formula D scales would be on the heavier side and allow me to get over 2800. In addition to this work, I aligned the car again and added caster because I was chasing the wheel around at Spring Moves. I tried adding caster through the camber plates so I wouldn’t lose any angle pulling the wheels forward with the tension rods.
Tony took the car down to Atlanta along with his car, and I flew in Wednesday night with my mechanic, Kareem. On Thursday morning, Kevin Wells inspected the car. Luckily, there was nothing wrong, so we went straight on the scales. The car weighed 2822 with a full tank, which is right around what I was going for.
We had 4 hours of practice on Thursday. The setup on the car was decent for this track, so I decided to just drive and not waste time making changes. I basically drove for 4 hours straight with just one break in the middle for fuel and tires. It felt sketchy on the first few laps, and I was still chasing the wheel around. Once I got into a rhythm, the car felt great, and I could focus on the more difficult parts of the track. The only part I was having trouble with was extending the drift to the outside clipping point going into the horseshoe. The car scrubs speed faster now, and this part of the track was uphill, so the car would slow down super fast if not on throttle. I probably should have taken out some toe from the rear because it was also tough to keep it sideways off throttle going into the horseshoe. Overall, I felt pretty good after Thursday practice, and a few people were telling me that my runs looked solid.
On Friday, we only had one hour of practice before qualifying, so I made sure to be one of the first cars up to the grid to get as many runs as possible. I got about 5 runs in that practice and was still struggling getting to the outside clip in the horseshoe. We decided to just go up in tire pressure a bit to get the car to slide out a little easier. I didn’t want to change anything major without any more practice time. I was the first car to run in qualifying and scored a 65 with a relatively safe run. I thought that would have a decent chance of making it into top 32, so I drove as hard as possible for the second run. I wanted to make sure I hit all the clips this time and got the 10 points for speed, so I was flooring it as long as possible coming up the hill to the horseshoe and flicked the car hard to slide up to the outer clip. Unfortunately, I flicked it too hard or the car bounced weird on the rumble strips causing me to spin out.
It was going to be close whether I would make it into top 32. After everyone had qualified, we were told at the driver’s meeting that only 3 people hit the minimum speed in qualifying, so everyone would be awarded 10 points for speed. That made my final score a 75. The top 32 was announced and I wasn’t in, so I packed up and went out with my crew for dinner. Then, I got text messages from friends asking why I wasn’t practicing saying that my name is on the top 32 bracket they gave out in the drivers meeting. It turned out that my score was the same as Corey Hosford, so we were tied for 32nd place. I talked to Ryan Sage the next morning and was told that the first set of brackets handed out was incorrect and didn’t account for tie breakers. Even though everyone got 10 points for speed, your measured speed was still used for tie breakers, and Corey had beaten me by a few MPH. Check out the video below showing a couple of my practice runs and qualifying runs from the driftstream.
Overall, I’m happy with how the car performed and how I drove although it would have been nice to get to the tandem battles. The next round is in two weeks in Florida, so I’m looking forward to building on the experience from this weekend and getting a better result.
Thanks to Falken Tire and Sikky Manufacturing for the support, Kareem, Adam, and Alicia for coming down and helping out all weekend, and Henry, George, Taku, and Luis for helping tie up loose ends on the car.