By on August 4, 2014

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By most accounts, the debut of the American Endurance racing series was a success. Mixing racers and cars from the SCCA, BMWCCA, NASA, LeMons, and ChumpCar sounded like a tricky idea to start with, but yesterday’s podium contained representatives from several different series. The common thread is street tires: in AER, you can have whatever car you want, but you need to keep it on high-treadwear, low-grip rubber.

Most of the drivers weren’t used to the wear characteristics of those street tires, and as a result very few teams made it through the day yesterday without flat-spotting, rounding-off, or grinding the tread off their Dunlop Direzzas. So naturally today’s race started with standing water on the track and heavy rain in the forecast. By the end of the day, not all of us would be driving back onto the trailers.

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Starting order was by fast lap of the previous day, so Jeff “Speedycop” Bloch started my car in fifth. Ahead of us, the AER1 car that finished second yesterday, the Cardorks 901 that won, the Duct Tape 902 that crashed, and the BMWCCA 272. At the start, the Duct Tape Racing car took command. It’s an E30 BMW with the more powerful engine from the E36. Second place was Josh Hughes in the #1 E30, followed by Speedycop. Then something pretty terrifying happened.

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Did you know that flywheels can explode and that the driveshaft of a car can enter the drivers compartment? Now you know, and so do the Duct Tape Motorsports guys. Thankfully the injuries were minor. That left Josh and Speedycop battling it out.

Speedycop

Speedy was fast but erratic as you see above, letting Josh take the lead. But when Josh went off backwards hard enough to tweak the front bumper, Speedycop was in the lead commandingly.

At the driver change, Randy Pobst got in the #1 and I got in the #42. At one point we had a pretty good battle, with a couple passes and repasses. Then disaster struck for me as well.

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The shifter collapsed in my hand as I was cresting the long uphill right-hander Turn 5. Fearing the transmission had dropped, I put the clutch and brake in and took it off the track hard into the wall. When the smoke cleared I had a ringing headache and the #42 car was done.

Randy handed the car to Jack in first place and although Jack’s best lap was three-tenths of a second worse than Randy’s, a fact that seemed to repeatedly slip his mind during dinner, he extended the lead to a full four and a half laps during his stint. After staying out long enough to ensure the track was dry, he handed the car to Travis Okulski.

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On the dry track, Okulski shocked everybody by immediately ripping the fastest time of the race. He was hustling, mostly because he thought he was in the car for just sixty minutes. But then the team started rewriting the script. After Josh, Jack, and team captain Darren conferred for a while and Jack threw a giant temper tantrum about how winning the race was the most important thing ever in history, the decision was made to double Travis’s stint.

“Oh,” was the response from the cockpit. And then it started to rain. It was raining hard and the 272 BMWCCA car, piloted by the region’s chief instructor, Jeff Caldwell, was running just as hard.
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“Just don’t lose more than one lap to Jeff,” was the instruction to Travis. But instead, he ran Caldwell heads-up in a car that everybody knew was slower. Holding the gap to under two seconds a lap, Travis didn’t even lose half a lap.

When the final driver changes happened, it was Josh Hughes back in the car for a ninety-minute stint in driving rain. The lead was three laps. But cars were going off everywhere and the lap times were 30 seconds slower than they’d been. Everybody watched the timing and scoring as one hundred minutes passed. Randy Pobst couldn’t stand the excitement so he jumped into the Team Shark Attack BMW 635CSi to finish the race for them.

But when the flag dropped…

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it was Hughes with the win. You can see him with his children at the top of this article. “The toughest race I’ve ever run,” was his verdict as he fought to remain steady on his feet.

Time for podiums and overall podiums. Rally Baby was the overall weekend winner for Class C. EZ Riders took the Class B overall with their 300E. There was a big Rally Baby team shot with an actual baby:

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Finally, the Class A podium, which made up for in ridiculousness what it lacked in dignity:

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Third place was BMWCCA #272, second place was #901 Cardorks, first place was #1 AER Media. At some point, Jack started openly suggesting that the primary difference between him and Tom Kristensen was his ability to “rip the solo in ‘Sweet Child’.”

I was pretty sore from hitting the wall, and I was pretty sore at watching Travis and Jack prance around the podium like they were Ethan Hawke and Denzel Washington in “Training Day”, but the real payoff was watching Josh Hughes with his children. He came to support the race, he let complete strangers drive his car, and when it was time to deliver the race win, he delivered. That’s what this is all about.

AER is hitting Watkins Glen and Lime Rock before the end of the year. You should be there.

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21 Comments on “AER Race Report Day Two: Rain! Crashing! Strategy! Drama!...”


  • avatar
    CJinSD

    “Fearing the transmission had dropped, I put the clutch and brake in and took it off the track hard into the wall.”

    Somehow this calls to mind the Plane Crash episode of the Young Ones, when Vyvyan sets about destroying their house with a sledge hammer and bombs before the local council can demolish it.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    I never tire of seeing parents hugging their children. May it ever be so. Cool race, even with the ringers. You have to admire the way they pulled it off, with so many disparate disciplines and egos to massage. I admire people who are able to realize their fun ideas.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    Wait… I live fairly close to Watkins Glenn. How can we civilians support the team?

  • avatar
    doug-g

    Everyone on the podium looks so genuinely and sincerely happy. I must say, I’m more than a little envious! :)

  • avatar
    Speedycop

    I left early Sunday in order to get my airplane car home from a big car show before dark (the headlights on my street-going 1956 Cessna 310 SUCK), but not before I’d turned in a clean 100 minute stint in the rain for the second day in a row. BOTH days I started in the #42 in the wet, and BOTH days I finished my stint in P1 overall, two laps up on the field, IN A SLOWER CLASS B CAR, having run cleanly the entire time. Saying I was erratic while showing a picture of my ONLY off on Sunday (caused by running Toyo tires in the rain, which sucked horribly, and hydroplaned EVERY lap on the huge puddle at T7, which is the turn shown in the pic) isn’t really a fair assessment in my book. I went fast and clean all weekend in every car I drove.

    Getting these fast car guest stints won’t be any easier if I’m painted as erratic/unsafe. I never spun out, crashed, had contact, or broke the car. I ran within a half second of the reigning national Spec E30 champ (Jeff Caldwell)on his home track, despite not having driven the car or the course on practice day, and only having ever been in an E30 once before, for an hour at Monticello. Pretty good for a cop who builds mostly wacky stuff and only races about 8 times a year, if you ask me. Just sayin’… ;)

    Also, I was still P3 during that off. I passed the very talented Josh Hughes when he spun out, and held it for the rest of the stint. What followed was 30 minutes of the closest and most fun racing I’ve ever had, with both of us sliding around on the wet track and him right on my tail most of the time. It was exhilarating!

    It was a pleasure running with you Sam. Let’s do it again sometime.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Jeff,

      I gave that shot to Sam because you told me you wanted to see a picture of you going off or sideways in the corner. I watched your stint and i think you did a fine job.

      Nobody’s criticizing the quality of your driving. I think “erratic”refers to the fact that you had some slow laps and some flyers.

      • 0 avatar
        Speedycop

        Thanks Jack. I did want the pic, I just didn’t want that to be the focus of my driving performance. Everyone on that first rainy stint had slow laps and flyers, what with offs and cautions. Randy said he watched me and I was really flying out there. That’s high praise indeed. :)

    • 0 avatar
      Travis Okulski

      You were rockin’ Jeff. Loved watching you push harder and harder and catch that car through turn 7 every time. Great stuff, can’t wait to race with you again!

  • avatar
    BrioPA

    Enjoyed reading the two articles, Sam, and briefly meeting you on Saturday.

    Not that it’s that important, but the 2nd place 272 BMW CCA Car is actually a completely stock e36 325is prepared to Chump rules. It’s run in a few CCA events for seat time and shakedowns, but that’s about it. There’s nothing fancy about it at all.

    Oh, and Jeff Caldwell is the president of one of the local BMW CCA chapters, and he’s an instructor and club racer, but not the chief instructor.

  • avatar

    Sounds like a fun romp! Sorry I missed it. Glad you’re OK, Ms. Miller.

    Go Speedycop!!!

  • avatar

    Oof! Glad to hear you’re all right after that wall smack.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    “Did you know that flywheels can explode and that the driveshaft of a car can enter the drivers compartment?”

    Scattershields and driveshaft loops aren’t required?

    • 0 avatar
      rpob5t

      also the flywheel didn’t explode, drive shaft had a vibration in it and it killed the flex-disk (guibo); front half of the driveshaft was free to roam from there…

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        Ah, you see the problem with both covering a race AND running in it; you wind up hearing half of the story.

        The first thing we heard was flex disc but later on we were told flywheel.

        • 0 avatar
          rpob5t

          yeah it was just the flex disc, but if you look at it, you’d have swore it was the flywheel, pulled the shifter down and through the trans tunnel and then proceeded to wind up as much of the car’s wiring harness as it could around the drive shaft… mas carnage to say the least, luckily no one was seriously hurt…

      • 0 avatar
        FormerFF

        Wow, I didn’t think those things were used on street cars. The only thing I’d ever seen them on was a really old Formula Ford where they were used instead of CV joints.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    You want to know something? Sam Miller writes pretty solid copy. Just FYI to any powers that be around here.

  • avatar
    fiasco

    It sounds like waaaay too much fun was had. Am I going to have to do more terrible things with credit cards and figure out how to get the Merkurian Falcon to Lime Rock in late November?

  • avatar
    rpob5t

    bummer what happened to the 42 but it was going to get DQ’d anyway as it was on r-comps (toyo RA-1’s).

    http://www.windshadowstudios.net/american-endurance-08-03-2014/h2400d5#h2400d5

    overall still a great event, I hope AER can keep the car counts up so that they can continue to put on great events like this one!

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    “Jack started openly suggesting that the primary difference between him and Tom Kristensen was his ability to “rip the solo in ‘Sweet Child’.”

    Well, that, and the nine Le Mans wins Jack doesn’t have…


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