When you have success the logical step is to build on that success by setting more ambitious goals. Last year at SCCA’s Devil in the Dark 12 hour endurance race, Maximum Attack Motorsports managed to pull together an unfamiliar crew, with a new-to-the-team car, to win the Improved Touring B class. It was an example of how with a little planning and steady work you can put yourself in a position to take advantage of opportunity.
So it stood to reason that when we returned in 2012, with more shop, extra crew and twice the cars, that we would rely more on preparation than racing luck. Whereas in 2011 we had the slowest car in the field and steady and problem-free run, this year both of our Improved Touring B MKIII Golfs where up to speed and piloted by an equally experienced driver line up that put our #42 car on pole for the class. But, as where last year luck was on our side, this year the tables were turned and we became an example of how even the best laid plans can go awry thanks to racing’s fickle nature.
Our MKIII Golfs though almost identical visually, had some minor performance differences and ran different fuel strategies. This would allow us sufficient gaps between pit stops, so we did not need separate crews for each car. It would also allow pit stops to flow into each other on a more regular time table, keeping everyone busy enough to not get bored between what would otherwise be two hour fuel windows.
We could argue that a boring day at the track can be a good day, as it means nothing goes wrong. Our event turned into anything but boring as late in practice Friday our #37 car broke a transmission, which meant a late night replacement to make early practice and grid the next day. Unfortunately #37 broke it’s replacement transmission again just over two hours into the race, side lining it for the day. Then, car #42 which had been comfortably leading the class began to fall victim to never before seen gremlins, obviously minions of the Devil who wasn’t waiting for darkness to plague the field.
A rear rotor splitting in two brought the car behind the wall. The broken rotor caused more damage than the rotor alone which led to a more lengthy repair than anyone would like this early in the event, or at any point for that matter. Our team of mechanics handled the repair with skilled haste and we were back on track and on pace quickly.
After having lost car #37 and affixing major repairs to #42, things looked to be settling down through the next round of pit stops. Though we were now a few laps down to the leader, the car still had good pace. Our primary rival from last year, the MKII Golf of Team Troxell racing had stayed out of trouble early and was leading at this point. We were steadily gaining back time, until we had a wheel bearing issue. This time it looked to be the driver’s side front, so back behind the wall. We discovered that the front wheel bearing had loosened. In fact, we ended up having to replace the entire front knuckle, and axle shaft because of other associate damage.
The wheel bearing issues ended up putting us well down the order, compounded by rain showers that began moving into the area late in the event. With affixed repairs, our drivers had settled into a steady as she goes pace to minimize the potential of further problems and keep the car in the road in tricky and ever-changing conditions of racing at night in the rain.
Meanwhile, as our state of affairs seemed to have been resigned to just finishing, the #2 MKII of Team Troxell had put itself in a position to take advantage of luck and was well out in the lead. However, not all was well, as a team member of Troxell asked if they could utilize the battery in our long since withdrawn #37 car. Their MKII was having issues with its charging system and losing voltage. Electrical gremlins not being the easiest to track down in such conditions, they had put faith in the car’s ability to limp home but as a just in case, we lent them a battery which proved to be the saving grace. With about two hours left in the event and rain making the encroaching darkness surrounding the Millville course treacherous, Team Troxell was forced to bring the car into the pits for a battery change. With the fall of night, they could barely keep the auxiliary headlights, vital for visibility, switched on. Whatever the voltage problem was, likely an alternator, it was draining the car’s charging system rapidly now that the use of headlights became necessary.
Through the last hour, the sporadic heavy rain exacerbated the fatigue felt by all the drivers and crews, challenging them to put that extra effort in for a good finish. Although we had lost any real chance of a win, our group resolved for the best finish possible. Considering the circumstances, 3rd place was not all that bad.
Meanwhile at the front of ITB, Troxell managed to take the win and their valiant MKII Golf finally gave up the ghost on the very last lap. After seeing the checkered flag, the MKII’s headlights visibly dimmed and it limped around back to its pit stall, where it promptly expired and had to be pushed back into the paddock. It was a amazing example of willing a car to finish and we congratulate Team Troxell for their hard work.
When all is said and done motorsports for most of us is a combination of weekend hobby, business or passion that fuels our competitive natures. Even with this year’s 12 hour being a disappointment, after winning in 2011, there is still a lot to look back on and be satisfied with. There is a lot more to learn from defeat, then victory, and building on those lessons is the key for future success. You can’t view it as a waste of time just because you don’t win. Motorsports is about a lot more than just finishing first on the track. Spending time with friends, family, working collaboratively on goals and the comradeship of a shared passion with your fellow competitors all beats sitting at home on the couch and watching TV.
The Devil in the Dark is a 12 hour endurance race hosted by the SCCA at New Jersey Motorsports Park’s 2.25mile Thunderbolt circuit. NJMP utilizes this track for major race series like American Lemans, Grand-Am and AMA Superbike.