I thought this post would never come! It’s taken so much time, effort, and money to finally make this dream a reality and I’m so happy I’ve finally accomplished this goal of mine.
My first obstacle was to rent a truck and trailer as I don’t have one currently. After weighing lots of options, I ended up going with my last resort, renting both the truck and trailer from UHaul. This was going to be expensive…
When I picked up my UHaul truck, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I would be driving a new GMC truck with ~2500 miles on it, not bad! This would turn out to be a great tow vehicle. I was somewhat nervous driving it around with the trailer because you have to be very cognizant of the length of it all. This is the part that gets left out of most racing recaps, the haul is so important, otherwise, you’re staying at home.
I had only taken off Friday from work, so I had to finish up the day and then start packing the truck and getting the car on the trailer, which meant not leaving Atlanta until 8:30pm for a 4 hour drive to Roebling Road just outside Savannah Georgia.
After a stop at Walmart for supplies (food, water, oil) I arrived a little after 1am and began to set up a borrowed tent. This took about 30 minutes because I was exhausted and haven’t camped since I was about 10! Eventually I got it figured out and was in bed by 2am for a 6:30am wakeup call.
First order was to go through tech and get all the required paperwork done, then on to drivers meetings, which were followed by my first on track session. This was my fist time at Roebling so I knew I needed to get comfortable as soon as possible. Roebling has lots of long sweeping turns, so it’s difficult to determine where the apex’s are when you’re still going slow. As the day went on I began getting faster and the apex’s became somewhat more apparent.
Each on track session was preceded by a meeting where we would discuss what we were going to accomplish on track. We went through a number of drills, including a side by side drill, where you drive next to someone for the whole session to get comfortable off the racing line. We also had two mock races, one with a standing start and one with a rolling start.
There were 3 other experienced SpecE30 drivers there who came on track during the mock races to try and shake me up. They would drive erratically, box me in on all sides, and be on my bumper the whole race in order to get me accustomed to what a real race is like.
After all the on track and classroom sessions, I had to pass a written exam that mostly covered flagging scenarios. I was now a provisionally licensed driver!!! Each racer is a rookie for their first 4 races which they must race cleanly. Once the 4 races are completed the drive can be officially licensed.
On Friday afternoon the rest of the Spec E30 crew showed up and began cooking dinner and hanging out. One of the draws of SpecE30 in the Southeast is the fierce competition and the camaraderie in the pits. After this weekend I can attest to both of those being true!
Saturday started with the usual drivers meetings which led into the first practice session. I was determined to follow some of the other drivers around the track because I was still around 4 seconds off the leaders pace. I might have gained another second or two, but it looked like I would still be slow for the race.
Qualifying was my first glimpse of what racing was like. My laps were relatively uneventful, but I was still nervous about hitting someone else at race speeds. I drove as fast as I could without going off, even though plenty of others did! I managed to qualify 17 of 20 which didn’t upset me because no matter how I qualified, I would start the race in last place due to my rookie status.
After qualifying, I had to come in and get weighed. A SpecE30 car has to weigh 2700lbs at the end of the race, it turns out I was a little light. This meant I was DQ’ed… but who cares, I was starting from the back anyway. I scrambled to find some additional ballast to make me legal. (I also just noticed the printout says that it’s 1994…)
Finally it was time to race! I was very excited and very nervous. You never know what’s going to happen, so I took one last picture of the car prior to the race.
The race was to be a rolling start with me on the left side of the grid. With all the adrenaline flowing on the last corner before the start I had to remind myself to breath. Once the starter dropped the double yellows, the race was on!
I was immediately surrounded by E30’s all jockeying for position. I caught myself watching all the action around me and almost forgot to drive the track! For the first half of the race I kept up with the other cars at the back of the pack, but ended up dropping back a little due to out of class traffic. My goal was obviously to race, but more importantly I needed a clean race to bring myself and the car home in one piece.
I had a great battle with another rookie in an E30. We swapped positions seemingly every few laps. He seemed to be faster on the front part of the track, gaining ground in turn 1, and I always seemed to pull away on the last turn prior to the straight. This was a ton of fun even though we were battling for last!
Once I saw the white flag come out I thought “Ok last lap, I need to go FAST”. Maybe that wasn’t the right thing to think. I ended up going a little hot into turn 1 and went wide. Not bad, but just enough that my opponent was able to sneak on the inside and take the lead. I thought I would be able to regain that position on the last turn as I had in previous laps, but that turned out to be in vain. I ended up in second to last due to another car that had spun out. When my friends asked me how I did, second to last doesn’t sound exciting, but they weren’t there for it!
Overall this was an incredible experience that I can’t wait to have again!