The Cursed Cow – Autobahn Country Club Revisited (Aug 2019)

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The events called the Clumsy Cow and last year I was a guinea pig of sorts and formulated an attack plan to good effect. I was pretty excited for another round at Autobahn Country Club with the NASA Great Lakes region. I’m not sure what type of voodoo was performed before my arrival but this year I’m calling it ‘The Cursed Cow.’

Warmup

My issues started with warmup. I was feeling confident about the track as I was somewhat familiar with it this time. However, something was markedly off about the car from the start. Every left hand turn was met with massive amounts of oversteer. Like someone or something was greasing up my right rear tire. There are two high speed left handers that are pretty important at Autobahn. I dealt with it during the session and noticed that there was water in the floor board upon inspection back in the pits. Turns out my cool suit was leaking, causing water to exit the drain holes in the passengers floor just in front of the rear tire as I turned left. Effectively coating the contact patch in front the tire enough to cause oversteer.

Qualifying

The first issue kind of killed my confidence a little so I spent the qualifying session getting my speed back up in the left handers. Didn’t shoot the moon in this session but I was slowly closing in on the front runners. Overall I was already faster than last year by several seconds. So pretty good results even though I qualified towards the rear.

Race 1

I thought my luck was turning at this point as an inverted grid was chosen for race 1. This put me towards the front at the start. They say, ‘a race isn’t won in the first turn but it can be lost.’ This refers to the disproportionate concentration of incidents at race start. I’ve also learned that if you don’t capitalize on a start, a race can be lost too. Not because of accidents but because an early lead makes you infinitely more likely to win/podium.

So that is how I played it. I started the race aggressively to take an early lead and had a small gap on the field after lap two. Then the bad luck … or bad judgement struck again (not sure honestly) when an EV was called onto track to remove a stranded car. Normally this is standard fair. An Emergency Vehicle (EV) flag is thrown at the station before the incident so you know it is coming up ahead. I have always been under the impression that you do not pass under an EV flag as it functions similar to a yellow flag. Or no passing and that a dangerous condition could lie ahead.

Apparently, I was wrong. In this situation, a yellow was thrown coming onto the start/finish straight and then an EV flag was thrown at the next, let’s say six stations leading up to the incident. This was confusing. Autobahn uses digital flags so only one flag can display at a time. This is where judgement comes in. I decided we must be under caution due to the sheer number of EV flags preceded by a yellow. So I adjusted my pace for caution and started thinking about a restart when positions 2,3 and 4 come flying by me. THEY WERE STILL RACING. I still thought I made the right call so I proceeded until I passed a station with no flags and resumed racing thinking the three that kept racing would be disqualified for passing under caution.

On a side note,  after the race no one had been disqualified. This being an out of region race where points don’t really matter for me, it wasn’t a big issue. However, I did want clarification on what was going on with the extra flags and yellows so there would be no question how to proceed next time. I was told it wasn’t a full course caution or even sector caution and that racing is OK near the EV. Every region does things different so I’m just going to leave that last sentence there and move on by simply saying, ‘I disagree.’

Race 2

The start of race 2 was eventful with one of those, ‘you can lose a race at the start’ moments when an out of class BMW spun at turn one. We were racing on a drying track so conditions were mixed. My plan was to take an early lead again but I came up to the incident boxed in and had minor contact with the car next to me. No big deal even though we both lost position getting around the spun car.

And then my electrical demons came back. I struggled with the engine cutting out at high RPM last year. I thought, ‘screw it,’ might as well get my track time in since I drove all this way. Well the issue got progressively worse and I ended up pulling into the pits right before the checker. I didn’t want to be that guy needing a tow at the end of the race and making other sessions lose time.

Fortunately, it was a loose connection in my fuse box causing the issue. Nothing a quick zip tie wouldn’t fix.

Race 3

And for the ‘highlight’ of the weekend. Race 3 ended on lap two as I was catching back up to the field after a boneheaded lockup on lap one. Things were going really well actually, pace felt good and then an E30 started losing control in front of me coming onto the straight. I was committed 10/10ths at this point so when I tried to scrub a little speed and tighten my line to avoid his spin, my tires touched the still damp grass. I pretty much lost brakes and steering and careened directly into the tire barrier. I had a few moments to ponder whether there was a concrete wall behind said tires as there tends to be at some of the circuits I race. Lucky for me it was a soft barrier. And even though the last thought before impact was ‘this is gonna suck,’ I was pleasantly surprised with an impact of only 5.3g. I was out of the race though as my fender was bent and rubbing the front drivers tire.

In short, this weekend at Autobahn Country Club was a bust. I am fortunate that what could have been a major incident during race 3 turned out to be a minor setback. But nonetheless, I drove my car immediately onto the trailer and got the hell out of town.

<h5><Assessing the Damage/h5>

It only took me a couple of hours to fix the car when I arrived home.  Just needed to replace the front drivers quarter and valence.  And it just so happens that the SCCA was running a Track Night in America or TNiA that I could test at that Tuesday.  With Mid-Ohio coming up I felt it wise to give the car a thorough shake down.  Really glad I did.  The car is running great, tracks straight, handles well and then my CV axle let go.  The boot was torn and had expelled most of the bearing grease.  Hopefully this is the end of my string of ‘incidents.’

Damage wasn’t too bad after contact with the tire barrier.
Hard to see but the ball bearings are not where they are supposed to be.
The boot tore on the CV Axle causing the grease to get thrown out of the bearing.

 

By Chris Simmons

Chris Simmons is a race car driver, instructor, business owner and all around gearhead. His passion for motorsport started in the drifting community over 10 years ago and progressed into wheel to wheel racing of all kinds. When off track Chris can be found training and working on a myriad of projects. After a hiatus from writing, he is back to share his passion, knowledge and experience in regard to motorsports on and off the track.

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