The penultimate NASA event of the 2022 season was at Carolina Motorsports Park (CMP). I was excited to drive CMP, because it is only an hour from me, but after a year and a half in Charlotte, I hadn't driven it yet! Thankfully, I was not disappointed.
Moving to TT6
After my most recent less-than-competitive outing in TT5 with my #74 E30, I finally caved in and moved the car down to TT6, where it is a better natural fit. Being near the end of the season, and with 2023 rulebook changes imminent, I went with the path of least resistance and simply ballasted the car to meet the TT6 power-to-weight limit (19:1). I had to put the car back to stock body-wise, and paired with some other positive modifier bumps for things like running Toyo RR tires, and running a skinny tire (225) relative to the weight of the car, I was able to slot in with a minimum weight of 2,839lbs. I made it there with 245lbs of ballast and a full tank of gas.
With the added weight, I made sure to corner balance the car again, and re-check the alignment. I was surprised to see that the corner balance wasn't as far off as I expected it to be, even though the weight distribution of the car had improved significantly. Front weight bias improved from 55.3% down to 52.4%. Left-side weight improved from 52.3% down to 50.6%. Still, with the added weight, I wasn't sure how the car would handle or feel. It was balanced better, but it was also much heavier. Thankfully, if anything, the car was over-sprung at the lower TT5 weight, so I had high hopes that the new setup would work well.
Southeast Rolls Deep
Contrary to the Florida region, in the Southeast the bulk of the TT group comes from the slower classes of TT5 and TT6. Lately TT6 has had the lion's share of entries. For this event, there was a whopping 13 entries in TT6! I had never competed in a field this deep. Quite honestly, it was intimidating! There was some stiff competition up front, with guys that regularly win the class, plus the track record holder for the class signed up.
Since it was my first time driving the track, and considering the new car setup, I didn't hesitate to sign up for the Friday test day to get some practice in before the competition started. Friday was hot and dry, and with 9 total sessions available for the day, I opted to showed up around lunch time and did the 5 afternoon sessions.
The car felt great in the test sessions, and I was growing increasingly familiar with the track each time I went out. By the end of the day I felt that my pace was pretty good, and I was confident heading into Saturday that I had a chance to be competitive.
Day 1 Started with Rain
Saturday morning was wet and dreary, but I didn't let it deter me. Time Trial competition sessions are typically gridded by the driver's best time of the day, regardless of the class. Sometimes you can get stuck in traffic if you fail to set a good time early in the day, so I made it a point to go out in the wet and push hard. It worked, as I actually had the 7th fastest overall time (of the entire TT group of 35+ cars). However, when it came to the first timed session, they didn't use the wet session's times. They used the driver's best historic time at the track, and since I had never been there before, I didn't have a time. Oh well. I started the first competition session at the back.
Luckily, by the first competition session, the rain had stopped and the fog had cleared. It seemed like the track would still be a bit slick, but enough of a dry-line had formed to be able to push hard. I wanted to break away from the back of the field, and luckily I didn't encounter too much traffic. I was able to set a good time in the first competition session, and it ended up standing for the rest of the day. The second timed session was red-flagged due to a grenaded engine, and the third and final timed session was just too slow in the afternoon heat for anybody to go any faster.
Not only did my time from the morning stand, but it was P1!
This was my first win in a field of more than ~5 cars, and with 13 total, it felt really great to win. Not to mention there were enough cars for contingency money!
Day 2 Ended with Rain
The grid for day 2 was based on day 1's results, so I got to start in a pretty good position for the first session early on Sunday morning. I made the most of it and set a good time in the first session, enough for P1 again. P2 and P3 improved on their times from the day before by quite a bit, so the margin of victory was slimmer on Sunday. In the second timed session, nobody in podium position was able to improve on their time due to the heat of the day.
By the time session 3 rolled around, so did the afternoon rain. That was basically it for the day, which meant that I won again!
Double Wins 💪
I was skeptical going into the weekend about the car's competitiveness against Miatas that weighed 400-500lbs less than my car, but had similarly-sized tires. While CMP isn't a huge track and the straight-aways are about average, the high-weight and high-horsepower setup seemed to work well, and I was able to eek out the wins in a deep field.
The best part about the weekend, though, was the camaraderie in the TT6 group. I hadn't met half the group before that weekend, and everyone was incredibly inviting, and truly excited for the increased competition in the class. It was great to see an eagerness for everyone to step up to the increased competition of such a deep field. Each driver was happy to share advice and input about the track, car setups, and anything else to help out a fellow competitor. To me, that's what racing is all about.
While I have lofty goals for my new E30 in TT5, as well as hopefully procuring a Spec E9X in 2023, I really can't wait until I get to race with the SE TT6 group again!