Ah sunshine. It’s something that many of us in the Northeast consider a commodity worth more than precious metals once daylight savings time come into effect. We regretfully turn our clocks back an hour and all take a collective hiatus from the track, while subsequently burrowing into our dens (garages) like bears, where we all hibernate until Punxsutawney Phil decides to break our hearts every year with six more weeks of winter. It’s usually about this point we decide to dust of the car, scour VW part dealers for better Volkswagen replacement parts, and ultimately dream about selling it all for some obscure 1 of 200 AWD diesel wagon that you can’t get parts for anymore. (Or maybe that is just us looking up the weird cars).
However, at the Krab Shack, we decided to be proactive this year and spent some quality time going updating our Jetta with Volkswagen replacement parts during the winter doldrums, ensuring that we had a well fed and rested steed ready to attack AER Road Atlanta, at the American Endurance Racing series opener. Granted we were still working on it while it was being loaded onto the Pilot Transportation Hauler, but we managed to get a big chunk of VW performance part upgrades done, and we’re confident that the 236,000 mile juggernaut was gonna bring home some hardware in the form of trophies, and not broken Volkswagen parts.
As a team, only one of us had ever been to Road Atlanta, so we took advantage of Precision Track Time’s Thursday sessions to get the VW up to snuff, as well as to learn the ropes ourselves. After some first lap excursions down pit lane (by accident) by myself and Alex, and some Turn 3 excavation, we were able to get comfortable behind the Volkswagen Jetta’s wheel at this big boy facility, and managed to start clicking off time and laps in preparation for battle on Saturday and Sunday.
After two days of practice, and no major VW performance part failures we got the car to grid Saturday morning with time to spare, and with team confidence at an all-time high. As the day went on, the VW continued to run flawlessly, aside from developing a small exhaust leak at the Volkswagen’s turbo downpipe. Competition was VERY close in group 3, with some S52 Powered BMW’s from Raw Racing, Sandcrawler, and Memmer, a new Mercedes C300 from FCPEuro, and a well driven and a well prepped E36 from RRT, however somehow, we found ourselves up in the head of the pack with the Volkswagen Jetta, and decided to push onto the finish at AER Road Atlanta for day 1.
With an upgraded VW fuel system, we were now also able to go longer than ever, helping extend our pit stops. As time prevailed, this ended up costing us as we took the checkered Flag first in class, but forgot to take our last 3 minute pit stop because of a counting error on my part. DOH! After realizing our bonehead mistake, we went from first in class to 5th, due to the penalty. OUCH. Regardless, the VW ran the best it has in a long time, without any issues, thanks to the new Volkswagen aftermarket parts.
Sunday was a new day for us. With a quick lesson in counting, we were sure that the VW was gonna get right back up front and get us on the podium. After spending the morning with the top 5 cars back/forth (all timed around pit stops) we realized that we had to really start pushing the Volkswagen Jetta, as everyone else was in it to win it as well. All of us were able to run our best times of the race weekend, (1:44.2 for Jay) and we were able to push past the competition up into second place for the weekend! We may have been able to make a better run at first but the broken Volkswagen downpipe melted our VW shift cables only letting us have fourth gear for the last hour of the race, and anyone knows at AER Road Atlanta that is PAINFUL with the back stretch. Either way, second place was a great end to the day!
Overall for the weekend, we were able to somehow secure second overall in class. IN a somewhat bittersweet way, we also realized that even if we did win Saturday, that we’d not have been able to get First overall as the FCP C300 finished 2nd, and 1st on Sunday, which would have made them win by a point. At least there is some silver lining to the adventure!
Either way, it was a (almost) flawless weekend for the Krabby Kraut #202 Jetta. No predicted mechanical failures, utilizing quality Volkswagen parts, and the ability to overcome what did happen are what keeps the Jetta up front in American Endurance Racing. We hope to see everyone at Watkins Glen here in April…and we’re looking for redemption from last year with such a horrible showing!