GT Live 2008 at VIR was all about great competition, fast times, big crashes, and lots of mechanical problems. With practice and racing starting at 7 am or 8 am we were all greeted with cold and damp track conditions in southern Virginia.
Heading into the event and looking at the schedule we felt we had an advantage knowing this track pretty well. The problem however was that test sessions early in the year were cursed with rain and locked up wheel bearings. Regardless I knew we had a fast car, I knew the track layout, and I was confident the AMS EVO lap record would fall.
As we set out for practice on Saturday we cruised around the track trying to keep heat in the tires on the cold and damp track. With a 1 hour practice session we didn’t fuel the car up enough and it started fuel cutting and I also ran it out of water (for the water injection). The good news was that with the cool temps and the low boost I was able to turn 14 laps without any overheating issues. Lolly gagging around the track in low boost resulted in a great time of 2.00.38 good enough to set the fast time for both Friday and Saturday’s practice. Knowing we had 100 hp left on the table we were very confident the win was within reach.
With the car fueled up and water tank filled we lined up for Time Attack 1. As I came onto the front straight the car was laying over at 6k rpm. I realized that when I ran the Hydramist out of water I forgot to prime the system and purge the air out of the line. I thought the fail safe was cutting in and my non-water injection map was too rich so I cruised around and finished out the session. Overall the times did not change much and Topspeed, Crawford, and Element were all hovering in the 2:00-2:02 range. The BC/Cwest S2000 continued to have mechanical issues resulting in misfires. Since they were lean on supplies making the trip from California we gave them all the tools and duct tape they needed.
With only two sessions each day there really wasn’t much option to test so we purged the water injection lines, adjusted our tire pressures, performed the regular maintenance and called it a day.
For Sunday’s 7 am practice session we decided to pull the rear sway bar to try to fight the rear wheel hop we’ve been experiencing at the last few events this year. The bottom line is that it didn’t fix the issue enough and it slowed down the car’s transition response sending me a little off course at 140 mph through the uphill esses. Worse was that the car was still shutting down at 6k rpm. As I rounded the last few turns I see that James Elterman has stuffed the Takata Sti into the tire barrier hard at the end of the back straight. This would have to be the worse place to loose it at speeds can approach 180 mph. Luckily I saw him out of the car and I knew he wasn’t hurt.
I called into the pits and we pulled the car off the track to find the real issue. With 30 minutes before the race I hooked my laptop up to data log the Hydra to see what was going on. I noticed two things, one it was running lean on top and the other was the DBW throttle was closing after 6k rpm. The lean out was likely due to me running out of gas on the last lap of the first practice session. The Aermotive A1000 pumps are really sensitive to this and the cavitation can destroy the impeller wheel. Luckily the fuel pressure wasn’t dropping enough that I couldn’t just bump up the fueling in the map to offset this. Knowing we had some sort of DBW failure but only 5 minutes left until race time we quickly inspected, and uplugged wiring in hopes something came loose.
It was time for the final Time Attack and the times leading up to this were Topspeed with Luke Russell behing the wheel in the 2:00, Crawford STi with Tarzan at 2:01, and BC/Cwest S2000 with Tyler McQuarrie at 2:04 and Element Tuning at 2:00. I knew the times would fall by at least two seconds and if our problem wasn’t solved it would be a long shot to beat even our practice time. To make matters worse we hear the DSG 240SX blew a motor before our session laying oil down from turn 1 through 4 sending an S2000 into the wall hard.
Also off in a separate incident was another Honda that contacted the tire wall.
As I headed out on my warm up lap I let the Element STi rip and unfortunately the car was shutting down at 6k rpm. With only a 1k rpm powerband and being limited to 6K rpm I knew there was little chance at a win or even 2nd place for that matter but I wasn’t about to give up. As I come around for lap 1 I get a call over the radio, 2:04, and as I coming around for the second lap I see Luke pulled over at oak tree (they blew and IC pipe), then I pass the Tarzan in the Crawford car putting down the back straight (I heard he missed a shift and 9800 rpm later the engine was hurt), and I hear, “2:02 go faster over the radio, so I knew I had to push it! Here is the final lap video: (sorry same music as last time..under the weather and lazy )
I pushed it as hard as I could and blew a couple turns trying. With such a short powerband, water splashing onto the window since the overflow tank cap popped off, and the car laying over at 6k rpm it was so difficult to drive but I managed a 2:01 on my last lap. A far cry from a likely sub 1:58 lap if the car was healthy.
Congratulations to Topspeed and Luke Russell for taking the overall with a 1:58 and to BC/CWest and Tyler McQuarrie for taking the championship with a last turn pass after Luke’s manifold cracked.
Also I have to thank Jim and John for all their help and hard work this weekend on the Element Tuning STi. With the exception to the mechanical failure things went incredibly smoothly given how little time was available to setup the car. Also a big thanks to Mark at GT Spec for getting us the chassis braces with such little notice.