Back to the swamp for round 3 of the NASA Midsouth 2020 season. And following the established trend, this year was tamer than last with all of the excitement reserved for the track.
NOLA wasn’t on the calendar in 2019 so I was pleasantly surprised when I heard that not only where we going back in 2020, we would run ‘the esses’ configuration as well. The esses eliminates the Indy straight on the back side and adds another complex and rewarding series of turns to the track. It also happens to be the configuration where a lot of my fellow 944spec racers have baseline laps and where I hold an unofficial record. Always one to set high expectations, I went into the weekend with two things on my mind, extend my lead in the championship and break that record.
To say it was hot and humid this weekend is an understatement. It was brutal. Leaving more than one driver with heat exhaustion and temperamental cars. I spent a bit of time at the beginning of the season making my car more heat tolerant and although the number 901 performed flawlessly, the heat was so intense that the sole of my right shoe started to melt from the heat coming off the transmission tunnel.
And did I mention the track is built on reclaimed land, aka a swamp? This is starting to show somewhat as the track surface is starting to ‘roll’ or develop waves and undulations in certain areas. This adds to the challenge in my opinion but can also add some unpredictable car behavior. Something I found most pronounced at turn 1 where my brake distance would change each lap as the car bounced randomly in the brake zone. I mostly solved this puzzle by braking and apexing slightly earlier and running farther on the curbing at exit.
My first goal was accomplished quite handily due to the low turnout and low reliability in the 944spec field. If your an F1 fan, it felt like I was on the Mercedes team, dominating every session. But three races and three victories is never a bad thing and I directed focus on building pace throughout the day.
With that said, I was quite concerned that my second goal was out of reach due to the exceedingly hot conditions. But after dipping into the 2.05’s during race 2 it was on.
I had my work cut out for me Sunday. With only one race to go the conditions were still oppressively hot. Starting lap one I gapped the field as much as possible and then set about my attempt knowing I only had a few laps of optimal tire performance. On lap four I ran a 2.04.9 besting my previous day by 5/10ths and officially running a sub 2.05 lap. To put that in perspective, the fastest Spec Corvette ran a 1.58.4. Not bad for a car having less than half the power.
Always wanting more, I immediately raised the bar. I backed off for a few laps to cool things down and set off on another screamer. Just like lap 4 this one was special with the AIM Solo showing a predictive lap down another tenth or so when I missed a downshift going into the back section. Maybe I was paying too much attention to the lap timer but that one mistake ended my further attempts as I saw the white flag one lap later.
I want to give a special thanks to the NOLA region NASA members that put this event together. I know you guys have a few growing pains with the leadership shuffle but overall the event was handled great and only going to get better.