VIR - The Wreck Video and Ponderings - James Clay

My last blog entry was uncharacteristically long. Well maybe not really - when I am passionate about a subject, I will take the time. And apparently when I need to vent as well - anyway, this one will be short. First, the good stuff - here is the in-car from the Thursday test day (refrained from all caps this time!). The camera blacked out but I didn't - apparently when it hit, the nose went straight up in the ar, it spun 180 on the trunk or remains thereof, and landed on the other side of the tirewall. But leading up to that...

Now this is a real eye-opener for me. Two years ago, my friends at Grassroots Motorsports put on an event called the ultimate track car challenge. And while the E36 Uberwagon isn't really a track car, it is pretty sick and it will get up and go. Granted though you are going in what is otherwise a very stealthy street car with stock M3 seats and 3-point belts.

In 2008, I was giddy when we were testing the newly-built wagon for the event and we had to add a roof spoiler to keep the car from spinning at 150+ on the bump at start-finish on the VIR front "straight". In 2009, when everything was dialed in better and we were running the Full Course so we could stretch our legs, I was looking down watching my passenger hold a camera on the gauge cluster as we tickled 170 on the back straight, with street tires and pads. This was down the hill that Joey Hand was lifting for at a mere 160 in the McLaren racecar...

In early 2010 I had already decided after seeing a couple of accidents where people were injured last year that the wagon was no longer a track car unless it had a bar, seats and a cage - too fast (what??). But the GRM UTCC was coming back to VIR full this summer and with full slicks, race pads, and the extra fuel pumping so we can now hit closer to 700RWHP, I was thinking that a 180MPH wagon might just be the very cool answer to Mr. Riley's "track car" that was a DP equivalent. Just to try one more time.

But, apparently my wreck in the BimmerWorld/GearWrench E90 racecar last weekend did knock something loose - a little shred of common sense, or self-preservation, or whatever you want to call it. Racing is not about pure adrenaline and driving all out - it is a very calculated chess game taking place at a rapid pace with some significant consequences. Constant risk/reward evaluation. And while it is important to take chances, they are calculated risks.

ST cars are NOT terribly fast racecars. I was only going about 100 at the point I was hit pre-wall contact, and I have been through that section at over 135. Damage is logrithmic, as are all after effects. mv squared... So a very solid hit, but at a relatively tame speed, and in a car that has not only the latest generation of crash technology from the folks at BMW, but also a fully integrated rollcage, RaceTech head restraint seat, dual side nets, windown net, fire system, and a fuel cell (which somehow held every drop even though it looked like Tommy Boy's suitcase - thanks ATL!). And I felt pretty lucky to be up and around after it, let alone racing the following day.

So as I was cruising home in the wagon yesterday, spinning the tires whenever the boost slammed in, I was thinking about all of these things. And the risk is just not worth the reward. No cage, no UTCC in the wagon. Stupid things happen and while I feel very good about my equipment and level of prep, you never know when the nose of optimism will poke into your rear wheel and take it all away in an instant leaving a really bad mark. I am thankful to have been in the car I was last weekend for a big one!

Now, onto a couple of quick notes on the remainder of the VIR weekend:
-Our crew was awesome. These guys worked non-stop this past weekend and while the drivers had their work cut out, the crew can be thanked for the huge effort and the result.
-Does a big wreck shake you? Yes, but you have to get back on the horse. I went 2-wide in the race with the race-leading GS-car (it can be done!) and appropriately slammed the door on one of my fellow ST cars. Quick risk/reward calculation, act, repeat.
-We had a ton of fans in for the race on Saturday. THANK YOU! That is the reason we do it and it is great to talk to everyone and see the support!

6-hour kart race next Saturday, at the Glen the following Mon/Tue, more karting the next weekend, Road ATL with Chin Motorsports, some testing, then we race Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend at Lime Rock. Never a dull moment!

Thats it, more long-winded than planned, but it will do.