Tire Rack driver Chris Harvey pointed the Project STR Mazda MX5 550 miles south to Blytheville, Arkansas for our first SCCA ProSolo event of 2011. Co-driver John Rogers was tending to One Lap of America event duties so Chris was on his own to dial in the car and take on the solid, 12 car STR class field.
The Friday test and tune course was put to good use as adjustments were made for the unique and tricky concrete surface. Using our tried and true Dunlop Direzza Z1 Star Spec tires, KW Variant 3 coil-overs and Hotchkis anti-roll bars, the set-up was tweaked to remove some persistent oversteer we encountered. Nice gains were made on the clock and confidence was high going into Saturday’s first heat competition.
Long time SCCA National level Solo driver Darrin Disimo put down the fastest right side time while Chris followed-up with the quickest left side time during first heat competition runs on Saturday morning. Darrin’s co-driver and car owner, Dave Marcus showed flashes of speed on par with the front runners, but cone troubles pushed him back in the running order.
An announcement was made by event officials after the first heat that all three heats would be run on Saturday due to the strong possibility of rain during the normal Sunday morning final heat. That’s all the inspiration the STR drivers needed to push extra hard in the second heat in search of every bit of time they could find on course. Darrin came out swinging, putting down the quickest clean right side run but ran into cone troubles on the left. Chris answered with a half second improvement on the right side but then ran into red light troubles on his final two runs of the heat to nix any further gains. Once the math was done, Darrin held onto a solid .658 second lead, as the drivers headed into the third and final heat of the event. Dave Marcus cleaned up his first heat cone troubles to move into third, just four-tenths off Chris’ pace.
Tensions were high and some class leading competitors were observed doing rain dances as the final heat runs began late Saturday afternoon. Lots of bandwidth was being used as competitors kept one eye on the sky and another on the weather radar as rain clouds were building to the west. The course remained dry and fast until the STR competitors were directed to the starting line. The skies were dark as the ProSolo starting lights came down on the class leaders. With the wipers coming on and lightning in the distance as they rounded the half way point, Chris and Darrin charged through the finish each finding time on course and Chris closing the overall gap by two-tenths. The drivers then switched sides only to find the lightning closing in and the sprinkles turning into a steady drizzle. Once the drivers launched onto the course, it was clear the concrete had lost some grip and no additional gains would be found. As Darrin and Chris crossed the finish line for a second time, Darrin claimed the event win as the skies fully opened and soaked the course to prevent hope of improvement for the remaining two runs.
The weather at the Tire Rack headquarters in South Bend, Indiana is finally turning as we head into May, this will allow for additional tire testing and suspension work as our search for additional speed continues. Our sights are set on the next major event for Project MX5, the 2011 Tire Rack SCCA ProSolo and National Tour in Lincoln, Nebraska over Memorial Day weekend. Chris and John can’t wait to have another crack at the ProSolo Finale and National Championship event site.