With the Super Lap Battle less than two weeks away, the only track time we could find was at Thunderhill with the folks from Hooked on Driving. Although an HPDE day was less than optimal, it would prove good enough for a shakedown on the new motor, as well as provide us with some time to set up the chassis. The test day went without an issue and we felt comfortable that we only improved the car's overall performance. Brian was able to run consistent times in heavy traffic, reporting back that the car was much easier to drive with the newly improved chassis setup. We were ready for the Super Lap Battle.
With the remaining days prior to the event, it became one big blur of final prep. All fluids were changed, bodywork was cleaned up and before we knew it, it was the night before the event. We closed up shop, loaded the rig and set out for our three and a half hour drive to Buttonwillow. The crew and car arrived at the Motel 6 off of the I-5 at around 1 a.m. and bedded down for five hours of sleep so we could be at the track gates when they open at 7 a.m.
With our partners from GOTO:Racing, we got the rig setup and ready for the days activities and sent the car off to tech. Tech was a fairly straightforward process with the steward taking a quick look over the car and the log book. Now we were ready for the first practice session that would determine our run group.
With Brian settled in the car, the crew moved to the pit wall where we would communicate with him over the in-car radio system. The warm-up and first hot lap went without incident with Brian running a low 1:50. As Brian started to push things a little harder on the second hot lap, he overcooked his turn-in coming out of Talladega, which sent him straight off in excess of 120 mph. As he made his way back to the pits, the crew prepared themselves for the worst. Upon inspection, the damage while aesthetically bad, wasn't too bad mechanically with only the passenger side of the front splitter, fender and headlight damaged. As the crew thrashed to get the repairs complete prior to the first timed session, Brian went over the data from our AIM dash and reported that the spring rates we were running were too stiff for a bumpy track like Buttonwillow. He was struggling to keep on the gas with the amount of understeer created from bump correction during cornering.
With time to do no more than repair the damages to the car, we worked on softening the shocks as much as we could as well as taking out a little wing to help the car rotate a little better. During the first timed session, reports were coming in on some of the other competitors and to no surprise the HKS CT230R was running a low 1:44. If you haven't seen this car in person before, let me tell you that the engineering work is simply first-class. The attention to detail on every aspect of the car is awe-inspiring. You could quite easily imagine it equally at home on a concourse or racetrack-a shear work of art and every bit as fast as it looks. From what we could tell, the next fastest car was the Twins Turbo third-generation RX-7 with the AMS Evo a couple of tenths behind it and then us about five-tenths back. We needed to push harder in the next session.
As the day progressed, so upped the temperature. We felt confident we had improved the car and were ready to knock some time off our mid 1:49 that we set earlier and see if we could get the second place overall. We conceded that short of strapping a rocket to the car or finding a wormhole on the track there was no way we could be anywhere close to the now mid 1:43 that the HKS car was running.