Jake Thiewes

More throttle! More throttle! Don't lift!

Chasing Time at Virginia International Raceway: NASA Mid-Atlantic’s Season Opener

The lead up to most “season opener” race weekends has seen me thrashing to get that one final something done on my E36 M3. This year, however, I just hooked my trailer to my loaner truck (Ford still has mine) and stopped by FlimFlamSpeed in Richmond, VA on my way to VIR. Kevin has had my car all winter, and took care of everything it needed in the off-season. Having that “one stop shop” with such a good track record put my mind at ease.

So, after picking up the car, I pointed my black F-150 EcoBoost toward my own personal Disney World – Virginia International Raceway.

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I was eager to work on my pace on Friday, having never spent enough time last season getting comfortable with the new MCS suspension. I’d sent a video off to Dion Von Moltke of Racers360, and he provided some great tips that I could easily put into practice. With my biggest changes being made at Turn 1 – braking, turn-in, throttle application – I smoothed out the turn, which lead to a stronger performance all the way to Turn 4.

I ran the first session on brand-new “sticker” tires to break them in, then switched back to my year-old BFGoodrich R1 set for the remainder of the day. The results from Dion’s coaching were immediate, with my AiM Solo reporting 2:12.xx lap times on the new tires, and 2:13.xx on the old. Last season, I’d had to push to get into the 12s, with 14s being a more common sight. Now, immediately, 12s were easy.

Noting that there should be more of a gap between new and old tires, I resolved to keep pushing throughout the weekend.

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Friday afternoon was spent chasing some competition school students as an evaluator. Three friends were in the school, and all three passed, even with some significant challenges (blown axle and exhaust on a Honda, blown motor on a BMW) throughout the day.

Saturday’s qualifying went well, and my AiM showed some 2:11.xx laps, with a predicted 2:10 in there. Great, keep pushing.

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Unfortunately, my electrical kill switch broke during the first lap of Saturday’s race, so my pushing would have to wait until Sunday. I got towed in from the south paddock, we got the car fixed and I was back on grid Sunday morning. Sunday’s morning qualifying was its own race, and I spent the entire twenty minutes chasing another BMW and a red Mustang.

Sunday’s afternoon points race was the kind of fun that every race should be. I had a strong start, sliding (on purpose) past Matt in his gray E36 and keeping a sizable gap on him for the first half of the 35-minute race. Overworked tires and brain worked against me toward the end, and Matt took the lead between us. I held a solid fourth-place lead on the remainder of the pack, and finished the race fourth of seven.

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Looking at my AiM data from that Sunday’s race, I ran some consistent 2:10.xx laps, and my “slow” laps were still in the 11s and 12s. I was ecstatic about that – finding a few seconds is easy when you’re new and running VIR in the high 2:20s. It’s harder to find large chunks of time as you get closer to the 2-minute mark.

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The car clearly has sub-2:10s in it. My competitor Scott has a similarly-prepped M3 and was around the 2:06 mark. At this point, it’s mostly down to the driver.

Speaking of the driver and shaving more time, we are off to Summit Point Raceway in a few short weeks. I’m working with Racers360 again to see how I can improve at this shorter, more autocross-y-feeling course.

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See more at Out Motorsports, a site created to not only share the pursuits of LGBT motorsports competitors, but to encourage others to get behind the wheel and participate as their full selves.

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