The first W2R event had three crew members supporting Baller Racing Team who acted as the host for the event. The new crew supported a promising new car at the PittRace Motorsport Complex in an American Endurance Racing weekend.
Sean C. and David C. joined Jake Mac (crew coordinator) to support the Baller Racing Team and their new car. Jake Mac had worked with the owners at Thompson, CT to do the shake down of the car and everything looked great- the car was putting out 20HP more than last year's car and many refinements made it into the car for this year. But like any new car, it would take the beatings of competition to truly flesh it out.
Friday morning was spent with the car on track in practice sessions and each of the four drivers, Chris Hebert, Ryan Sprole, Steve Cohen, and Ed McLean, put the car through its paces. All four drivers turned extremely quick times but the qualifying session was going to be held in the rain instead of the dry pavement as in practice.
A new format for qualifying in AER was introduced in this event - a 2-hour "sprint" race with mandatory three 3-minute pitstops to allow for driver changes. The 2 hour qualifying session was scheduled after the afternoon practice session. Chris, Ryan, and Steve participated in the practice session and at the end of the session it was discovered that the power steering pump had developed a leak. The team scrambled to effect repairs but no spare parts were to be found. Fortunately, an inventive member from another team helped create a spare part for the car and helped to get it installed. Unfortunately, the issue caused the team to miss not only the grid for the qualifying race but also about the first 30 minutes. To make matters worse, Steve was caught speeding in the pits which resulting in Ed having to come in for a stop and go penalty during his stint.
Despite the problem and the at times heavy rain during qualifying, the drivers got the car into class 3, one class higher than the car ran in last year, albeit last in the class due to entering the race late.
Natalie G. joined us remotely on Saturday and Sunday to get some experience as a Strategist, a position new to W2R but one that could prove to be critical in upcoming races.
The race on Saturday started off dry with Steve taking the car at the start. He gained a few positions but a speeding incident during a virtual safety car resulted in a 2 minute penalty. Ed took over for the second stint. After about a half hour in the seat, fluid started to go up across the windshield and eventually fluid covered the windshield. Ed pitted and went back to the garage where it was discovered that the repair to the steering pump had failed. Everyone in the crew worked to try to come up with a fix but, in the end, Steve made the decision to strip out the guts of the pump and turn it into an idler pulley.
Ed was back at the wheel for the remainder of his stint but this time without power steering costing him about 3 seconds a lap due to the very heavy steering.
Ryan and Chris followed in subsequent stints. Steve was back in the car in the afternoon and ended up deciding to retire the car at the end of his stint due to engine oil consumption.
That night, Steve made the decision to do an engine swap. He and Jake (with the assistance of some of Jake's local friends) worked until 3 AM doing the engine swap.
On Sunday, Ryan started off the day followed by the always fast Chris. Both put in extremely fast laps and got the car into 3rd in class. Ed took over on the third stint and, thanks to some data analysis by Chris, was able to shave several seconds off his lap times, enabling him to climb back to 3rd after the pit stop. However, at the pit stop at the end of his stint, he forgot to close his visor and ended up costing the team another penalty - due to point accumulation for the weekend, that meant a 5 minute penalty. Steve ended up serving the penalty this time and the team dropped to 4th.
Following the driver change and Ryan taking over, an engine failure and subsequent spilling of oil going into turn one by one of the competitors resulted in a safety car followed by a stopping of the race to allow for clean up. After the clean up, there was a long safety car period which allowed the team to do a tire swap. Because the safety car was so long, the team decided to do a driver swap to attempt to make up a lap during the yellow but it ended up being a mistake - after the driver swap the car got held at the end of pit lane because the safety car had just entered the back straightaway. This caused the team a lap an put them 2 laps down on the 3rd place car.
Chris did a great job trying to make up the time but was only able to shave off one of the laps and the team finished in 4th.