Our second race was on December 29th, 2017 at Sebring International Raceway. With a new rear end in the car (from the failure at AMP), we were scheduled to compete for 10 hours at Sebring. We got to the track the afternoon of the 28th, and we quickly got the trailer unloaded and pit area prepared. We were missing two crew members and one driver leaving only Gary, Ernie, Patrick, and Ken. This was only our second race, but we have quickly developed an efficient game plan at the track that everyone follows. All of our supplies were in place and ready for action within a couple of hours. We put all of the finishing touches on everything just as it was getting dark. We left the track to get a good dinner and then head back to the hotel for an early night’s sleep. The next day would be a long one.
Raceday morning came early and we were trackside at 6am. One final check over all of the equipment as the sun began to rise. Driver’s meeting was at 7am. After that, it was time to get our lead off driver (Ken) ready and in the car for the start. The race began at 8am. Ken started off steady working up to a competitive pace after a few laps. Each driver was in the car for about an hour and fifteen minutes. To be super competitive we should be taking two hour stints each, but at this point in our campaign, we have decided to take a more conservative approach giving each driver shorter more frequent stints. Ken did great as the lead off driver with a nice steady performance. He came in for the first driver change. We fueled the car up and Patrick jumped in the car. We were pleased to see that everything on the car was holding up perfectly.
Patrick pulled out onto the track and less than a minute later reported a mechanical failure through the radio. He told us that the engine died and he was pulled over on the side of the track. After going through a few troubleshooting steps, it became clear that we would have to be towed in. In the pits, we speculated that it might be fuel vapor lock, but now the battery was starting to die from repeated starting attempts, so a tow was inevitable. This was an excruciatingly long process. It took about thirty five minutes to get Patrick back to the pits from the time he left to go out on track. On his way back to the paddock area behind the tow truck, he tried one last time to roll start the car and it worked. It turned out that a new set of headers that were installed recently were very close to the fuel lines causing vapor lock when the car is shut off for any period of time. Once we determined that this was the issue, we simply let the car run during the subsequent driver changes from then on and it was no longer an issue. Patrick once again left the pit area to finish out his stint. He did a fine job even recovering from a pretty significant impact when another car decided to slide into his front right fender. Fortunately, we only experienced minor wheel damage and the car was fine for the rest of the race.
Our second driver change had Gary getting into the car. He went out on track and quickly got up to a very competitive pace. His stint was fast and without incident.
Our third driver change got Ernie out on track. His stint was also strong and without incident.
We followed that order one more time giving each driver two stints. Everyone did very well, but we had two more delays. One involved a driver being held at the start line because he didn’t have his wrist band on costing us around ten minutes, and the second was for a passing under yellow penalty of three minutes.
In the end, to our surprise, we finished the race! We were very excited that we wound up in 5th place in our class. We certainly have a lot to learn, but this was an awesome outcome considering that we were down on personnel, we had several big time penalties, we are a very green team with a long way to go, and the car came home in one piece! Our next race will be 14 hours at Road Atlanta on February 3rd.
The below video shows some of the action while the poor timing and luck of Patrick being in the car when it decided to vapor lock.