The first race of the 2020 SCCA Hoosier Super Tour was at Sebring International Raceway in Florida. It would be my first time to drive this iconic track, and to say I was excited was an understatement. As is my typical fashion, I watched a few videos on YouTube, made a few notes on what I thought would be important corners to figure out, but otherwise went wholly unprepared. Going with me would be Kent Carter in his Mazda2 that got a full front end rebuild halfway through the 2019 season after he loaned it to somebody, and Tony Roma rented my blue Ford Fiesta, while I borrowed one of my customer and friends Jon Over’s Mini Cooper.
Before we get to the weekend, a little back story! Jon and I drove his Mini in a fun enduro at MSR-Houston in December, and it was there driving my red Fiesta in one stint and the Mini in the other, and watching the Honda’s and Fiesta around MSR that I decided the Mini was taking an automatic rifle to a knife fight… the car was so smooth and planted that I figured going to what everybody says is the bumpiest track on earth would make up for any shortcomings the car may have. And given that I was able to chase down and pass the 2019 National Champion in the car at MSR-Houston, and it didn’t have the new header, I really thought I’d be able to shine at Sebring!
So off we go, with a little detour through Houston to pick up some Spec Racer Ford’s to deliver to Sebring… but not before the trailer frame decided to crack over the rear axle and set the trailer wall on the tires! After a 6 hour wait and an amazing mobile welder, I was back on the road, even arrived in Sebring just a few hours after load-in opened! Kent and I signed up for the Thursday test day, having never driven Sebring, while Tony did his practice on iRacing. Joining us in B-Spec for the weekend were Joe Gersch (who skipped the test day as well but did this race last year) and a newcomer to B-Spec but a local to Florida, Bob Iverson. Bob was kind enough to let us follow the first 2 practice sessions and speed up our learning process, then he handed the car over to his coach for the third session. While Terry Borcheller drove off into the sunset in Bob’s Honda Fit, I was able to run under the track record in my third session on old scrub tires!
Friday comes and our morning practice is good but the track feels dirty and slow, I run an OK time but not what I was doing the day before. The afternoon qualifying is unpleasant with all the traffic, and it seems with the Prod cars any time we try to come up with a Plan to get good laps, the old adage attributed to many but originally from Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, “No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy’s main strength” continues to rear its ugly head for us. I’m able to put the Mini on the pole, but not run laps like I was on Thursday. This part of the plan is still OK as I figure we’ll be able to run faster times Saturday morning with cooler temps as long as the track is clean.
Helmuth, or Murphy, or whoever it is rears their head Saturday morning and a small downpour occurs during AM Qualifying, so not a single one of us in B-Spec goes out. Which is nice, because I still get the pole! My first EVER, much less at a Super Tour! I’ve always said I’m not a qualifier, I’m a racer… but apparently I can run a quick lap every now and then! Thankfully the race is dry, we’re doing a split start so we’ll have a few laps before we catch the backmarker Prod cars, and I’m stoked. As I’m new to the Mini I’m still learning the sweet spot in the rev range, and I was in the wrong gear and wrong RPM for the start, which makes for an exciting one. I slot in behind Bob out of T1 and plan to just push him away from the other cars so we can get a good gap and battle it out at the end. Finishing the first lap I get a hell of a run out of 17 and clear Bob into T1, but going into T7 I touch the rumbles inside and the RF axle snaps! I spend the rest of the race watching from outside the guardrail in T9 as Joe and Tony duke it out after Bob had a tire go down, with Joe ultimately getting the win! Kent rounded out the podium.
Once I confirm its an axle, the odyssey of finding one in central/western Florida begins. First a parts house just up the road says they have one. When we get there it turns out it’s not for a 1.6L, hatchback, 5 speed. Evidently Mini uses a different axle for everything, I think even different color cars have different axles! Thankfully Kent was my chauffeur and drove and helped find the proper axle at a 24 hour Autozone warehouse/parts counter near Tampa, or I’d have not raced Sunday! With the proper axle in hand we got back to the track at 11pm, and I decided then I’d just wake up early and put the axle in in the morning.
With a new axle and a bit of apprehension, we take the green Sunday and my cousin and his son are there to cheer me on! The announcers got word of our axle adventures and talked about me at length as I drove away from the field, Bob dropping out with an engine issue after a few laps. With my first Super Tour win well in hand, I come upon a Prod car that I’m lapping for the SECOND TIME, unfortunately in a standing yellow zone (this would be the second lap we’ve passed this standing yellow), and he decides to come nearly to a complete stop before the incident. Not wanting to pass under yellow, I come to a nearly complete stop in Turn 16 too, which leads onto the back straight, andnow Tony and Joe have been able to exit 16 at full tilt and overtake me. The B-Spec cars are not powerful and it takes me a lap to get my momentum back, and thankfully as we go through 17 and onto the front straight no white flag so I’ve got 2 laps to get by both of them! I follow for most of that lap and get a huge run out of 17 the next lap coming to the white flag, past Tony, and what-the-holy-hell-why-are-they-waving-the-checkered as the overall leader passes us at the line… because I guess his 15 second lead over 2nd place wasn’t enough to let us finish our race.
So it was a rough and tumble weekend, but I came away with a track record, a 2nd place, and my customers brought home 3 trophies! So while my weekend generally sucked, it was highly successful and a good way to kick off the 2020 season!
Full race video from Sunday and track record lap are posted on my YouTube, check ’em out and give me a subscribe if you like hatchback / pizza delivery car content! Some cool postcards, B-Spec shirts and G-Loc Brake Pads are for sale through this and my other website, tracksideatthecircuit.com — pick up some sweet B-Spec merch today!