I ran the practice day to make sure the engine was ok, and cranked up the fuel pressure to fight against the suspected cause: detonation. Everything went ok on the practice day engine wise, but in the second session I took an off track excursion after running through a river of oil in turn 9. The prolonged spin & slide- it's close to 100 MPH through there on a good lap- resulted in a light bump of the nose sliding sideways/backwards. That little 10-15 MPH impact broke the nose, so it was off to the garage to get a spare. Once fixed, the car was still a little loose, and I tried a few things to fix it but ran out of sessions.
Saturday's qualifying session showed the car was still loose in the carousel despite the latest changes, but I managed to qualify second. A couple more changes and I had more pace for the race, but still only enough for second when we ended under a full course caution.
In Sunday's qualifying session I managed to go a little quicker despite the tires being on their 11th heat cycle, but moved backwards on the grid to third. In the race, I ran second for a long time, then made a mistake and went off in turn 3, moving back to third. While trying to get back to second place, I got a bit greedy with the throttle in the carousel and spun, getting stuck in the grass for the rest of the race.
VIR is a beautiful track so far south in Virginia you have to drive through North Carolina to get there. To save money, I was planning to run last year's Runoffs tires, but after running them in practice I found out they are no longer allowed due to a construction and compound change with the American Racer tires. The car was working well on the old tires, and despite not being in the car since September I turned the second fastest time. That was promising since the new tires are supposed to be better.
The new tires also require different alignment settings, supposedly. I increased the camber all around and increaed the tire pressure as recommended, but the car was undriveable on the new tires. At the smallest steering input the rear was ready to pass the front, leading to the worst qualifying performance I've had in recent memory: 13th.
Inspecting the tires showed excessive wear on the insides while the outsides were untouched, so I reset the camber back to the starting point of the weekend. I lowered the rear a bit, changed the toe and increased the angle of the rear wing to calm down the oversteer.
The car was better in Q2, but still horribly loose. I moved up to 10th, which is the furthest back I've started a race since 2002. Time to put it on the scales and make more changes: lowered the rear, raised the front, added more rear wing.
The car felt a lot better on the pace lap for the first race, with much better balance. When the green flag dropped despite a poorly formed field, I got by one car going into the first turn, passed another going into the uphill esses, and one more near the end of the back straight. I quickly reeled in the gap to the next car over the next few turns, but then a full course caution came out due to several wrecked cars in various places on the track, including my teammate Keith. The cleanup took too long, so we ended under caution with just over one lap of full speed racing. That was enough time to tell the car was better, but not to tell if it was good. Still, moving up 3 spots to 7th in just one lap was encouraging, and there was definitely potential for more if we had more green flag laps. As a bonus, I turned the fastest lap of the race.
We fixed Keith's car and left mine alone except for refilling the gas and basic checks. For Sunday's race, the group was split which would allow for better racing. I managed to move up a few more spots and was racing for a podium spot when I heard and felt a bang from the driveline at the top of the esses, and again on the back straight. The next lap, it happened again so I pulled in to reduce the likelihood of major engine damage. Not a good way to end the race, but better than $7k for a new engine.