Note: This Event originally took place on 27-28 June 2015, sorry for the delay in posting.

Having finished the requirements for my provisional racing license, I was looking forward to the next opportunity to race my Spec E46.  The upcoming NASA-SE event at Carolina Motorsports Park (CMP) looked very promising, with a possibility of five other SE46‘s in attendance.  One slight hiccup; my car was still in pieces.  Several delays in parts shipping meant I was way behind my anticipated competition date.

Rob's 609 Spec E46I had already committed to this race, having already cancelled the previous Road Atlanta event due to the crash, and I really didn’t want to miss another opportunity to get some much needed track time.  The week leading up to the event became a mad thrash.  I was working until the wee hours of the morning right up to the day before the race.  The good news: CMP is only an hour away from home, so at least the few hours of sleep I did get were in my own bed.

I also needed an annual tech inspection the morning of the event, so everything had to be just right.  I escaped with a few minor discrepancies which were easily corrected and was able to make the race.  I had barely got the car off the alignment rack the night before, so there was zero time to shake down the car, much less tune the chassis.  I’d run what I brung as the saying goes.

My setup in the grass Fellow SE46s in the paddock

I missed the first practice, fiddling with a few last minute things, but was able to go out in one of the HPDE sessions to get a feel.  I knew the track was slick from my previous test day, but having an untested car made it much more of a challenge.  My goal was to just keep the car on track and avoid any contact, speed was way down my list of things I was worrying with.

View of the Spec E46 groupI qualified at the back of the SE46s, as expected given the all-star veteran competition I was up against.  No big deal, I was here to learn.  We, as a class, decided to start at the back of the Thunder run group in our own separate start rather than gridding on pure time.  The first race started off cleanly, but I was out of it both mentally and physically.  The lack of sleep had caught up with me big time, and I couldn’t maintain my concentration and felt like garbage, my times were reflecting my condition.

I continued to press on, just looking to finish when a red warning light illuminated on my AiM MXL digital dash, water temps.  I was at 230F and it looked as though it would keep climbing.  I had pressed my luck enough already, so I pulled off that lap and putted back to the paddock area.  I couldn’t find any obvious issues with the cooling system, all signs pointed to trapped air bubbles.  This is the price you pay when rushing to get a car ready at the last minute.

Sandro's Spec E46I decided to pack up for the day, let the car sit and cool overnight and get some rest.  Another SE46 driver had already had worse luck when one of his rear shock mounts failed, resulting in a destroyed MCS shock.  I left early to get caught back up on sleep and hopefully have better luck on Sunday.

The next day I jacked up the front of the car and bled the cooling system thoroughly.  It looked like my suspicions were correct and the engine had some significant amount of air trapped in it.  Feeling recharged from a long night of sleep I headed back on track, this time in a much better frame of mind.  The car still wasn’t working as well as I had hoped, oversteering terribly on exit and pushing on entry, but it would have to do.

Saturday's Race(Note how I was still missing the trim under the headlights and decals from the new fender)

Again I started at the back of the SE46 pack, where we started as group behind the rest of the Thunder field.  This time I felt a little more confident making passes and tried my best to hang on to the back of the SE46 in front of me.  I certainly wasn’t pushing for overtakes, rather waiting for the safest opportunity to get by slower traffic.  Towards the end of the race I could see I was closing back up to the next SE46 up the road, but every time I tried to push, the car would just lose traction on exit.  I was at opposite lock over and over, watching the Mustang and other SE46 in front grow the gap.

My Spec E46 at CMP

Despite the headaches and lack of a good setup, I still had a blast driving with other SE46s and finally getting a chance to mix it up in traffic in an actual race.  This was, after all, the first race where I got beyond the first lap.  It was great to meet and hangout with other racers in the paddock, gleaning knowledge wherever I could.

Finally a little video from the weekend.  Due to my zombie-like state on Saturday, I neglected to bring the memory card for the camera.  I made sure to get it for the Sunday race.  Here’s the race in its entirety:


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