Wow - what an amazing experience. Not only was it a successful race weekend, but it was incredibly gratifying to have so many wonderful families come out for the race to cheer us on and contribute to FAAN. We had more than 50 people come to the event - a pretty incredible turnout! And all of the kids (28 or so of them) had a great time meeting the race drivers, seeing the races and actually getting rides in the race cars around the track. We also raised over $1500 for FAAN! Special thanks to HMS Motorsport, UUC Motorwerks, Turner Motorsport, VAC Motorsports and the TireRack for their generous prize contributions. I was very proud to fly the FAAN flag, that's for sure.
The race weekend was a success, with the #2 car coming away with all three class wins, and the fast lap of the weekend in Spec E36. There were three cars competing in class (30 in my race group), and in the torrential downpours on Monday I wasn't holding out a lot of hope. I raced "my race" and stayed ahead of one of my Spec E36 competitors (Tim Smith) while the other Spec E36 car (John Cloutier) checked out. Unfortunately for John, he got hit going into turn 1 and couldn't finish the race, so I held on to my position ahead of Tim and ended up first in class.
Tuesday morning dawned as a beautiful dry day, and in race 2 I turned around an 11th place starting position, emerging in 5th place overall after turn 1 and 4th place overall at the end of the first lap. I ended up finishing in 3rd overall, with a 1/2 second better lap time than John and a few seconds better than Tim. It was Tim's first time at Lime Rock though - next time he'll be faster.
Just when it looked like we'd get away with a nice day, the storm clouds rolled in about 1 hour before the afternoon feature race and it started pouring buckets with fierce rain. I'd guess that an inch of rain fell in about 30 minutes, and just as soon as it was there it was gone, leaving us with a drying track and iffy weather. I went out on a wet setup to be safe, but looking around the grid it was clear that almost everyone was on slicks. At the start, my treaded Yokohama tires performed amazingly, and I was in the overall race lead going into turn 1! By the time lap one was done I had about a 3-4 second gap on the field. I could absolutely hear and feel all of the kids and their families cheering for me each time I went past start-finish in the lead. However, as the track dried my tires overheated, and the field came back to me. After about 10 laps I was caught and couldn't do anything - I was sliding all over the place. As my friend Eric came up to try to pass me in his beautiful J-stock M3 painted in Gulf colors, he misjudged how slippery the inside passing line was and he hit me in the right rear corner, and we both pirouetted off the track. Luckily we both were able to drive through the mud and back on track, but it was a close call for sure. I finished in 4th overall, completing a class sweep for Spec E36 for the weekend. Muddy but safe.
When I came back into the pits with the car covered in mud, I was surrounded by all of the families that had come for the RaceFAAN event. We all had a nice time talking about safety and managing risk and food allergies, and the kids all had a chance to climb into the race car and make "vroom vroom" noises. Then one of the parents suggested that all of the kids help "wash off" the mud, so everyone grabbed a rag and made the car sparkle. We all took some nice pictures, and then it was time to have everyone get rides in the race cars. Lots of race drivers and instructors had volunteered to put in passenger seats to get rides for the kids. Everone who wanted a ride got one - it was amazing!! I will upload some great pictures - this was a really fun and gratifying portion of the event. At the end of the day, some kids even asked me and some of the other race drivers to sign their t-shirts - it was a fantastic experience.
I hope that all of the families came away with a great memory of the event. I got so many nice comments from then afterwards - one parent wrote:
"I am sure that you know as a parent of food allergic children, [my son] is always seperated from the other kids, he always has something different to eat than the others but this is the first time that [he] has been singled out in a positive way because of his food allergies. It was very meaningful to all of us, an we want you to know how very grateful we are that there are such good people out there looking out to brighten the lives of some kids who don't have it so easy."
I couldn't agree more and it felt so wonderful to be a part of this event. I am really looking forward to the Watkins Glen event - it should be fantastic!!