USTCC Season Finale at Infineon Raceway, Sonoma Ca on October 25, 2009
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Vincent Parker driving the Mini Mania/ BayBridge Motors, Mini Cooper S, placed 3rd and secured the Rookie of the Year Award at Infineon Raceway on October 25, 2009. The USTCC (United Statees Touring Car Championship) held thier final race of the 2009 season with a 2 hour enduro in conjuction with NASA (National Auto Sports Associattion), PRC (Porsche Racing Club) and WERC (Western Endurance Racing Club).
Getting Ready for this race was quite an adventure. After nationals at Miller Sport Park in Utah in September we came home with a lot to repair. Blown head gasket, broken crank pully, super charger out of oil, belts and tensioner, transmission rebuild with new OSGiken diff, new cluthch and flywheel and some suspension upgrades. We had run the last 2 races on a borrowed transmmission from Jan at Revolution Mini so we needed to get his returned. Don at Mini Mania was able to get us a used 2002-4 tranny but without a difff or ring gear. A special thank you to Hans Dinse who spent several weekends at my house to help get everything rebuilt. He even took Jan’s transmission down to LA and returned with our broken one so we could use the 2005 gears. Hans spent several days fitting the 2005 gears into the 2002 box, close but not an exact fit, required some file work. At the same time we were installing a prototype clutch and flywheel for Competition Clutch and had to do some machine work to get the fit just right. We also did some upgrades to the suspension to stiffen the rear. We got the car back together on Saturday morning and went to Niello Mini for an alignment. Thanks to Niello Mini of Sacramento forr the use of thier alignment rack.
So we arrive at Infineon on Sunday Morning and have one practice session then qualifing then the 2 hour race. No time to do much with the new suspension, let alone make sure everything else is working. Since we didn’t make enough changes, Mini Mania gave us a new 22mm solid Rear Sway Bar to check fitment. Fitment was very good, we went out for practice with it set to medium. With the stiffer rear springs we didn’t want to have to much oversteer on cold tires and track. Practice went well, we matched our previous best time of 1:57, so things were encouraging. Engine temps were good. After Nationals and a blown head gasket we iinstalled a water temp guage that reads on the AIM display.
For qualifying we adjusted the tire pressures and went to hard on the RSB, still not enough rotation, but the pull from the OsGiken diff is amazing. No more spinning wheels in turn 2, the front plants so much better with a lot less understeer. Feels good to be able to accelerate through the corners instead of waiting, waaiting, waiting.. Qualified in 6th with a 1:56, over 1 second faster than in the summer. Pleasantly surprised with how things were going, no issues with the car or transmission. The new Competition Clutch setup shifts well and has a good pedal feel.
3pm, Race time. Car is as full as we can get it with fuel, not sure how long it will go but hopefully more than an hour. We had been testing useing my Iphone for communication, I velcroed it to the dash. Surprisingly the buttons work with gloves on. Bluetooth headphone is difficult to hear over the engine noise so the plan is I will call the pits 1 lap before the pit stop.
Good start, moved up to 5th ahead of the Mazda RX8 of Micheal McColligan, then the team of Yeung/Mak in the Acura Integra R slot in behind me and we run a close battle for about 10 laps. Our times are very close so l let the Integra by so I can just follow for awhile and relax. I’m old and need too conserve if I’m going to last 2 hours. The Integra seems to be loosing brakes and is stopping sooner so I repass in lapped traffic. The next lap I see the Integra has wrecked in turn 7 with a RX7 that was being lapped. A few laps later I come up to turn 6 and see Curt Simmons in the Dodge Neon SRT4 is on fire and safety crews are there which brings out a full course yellow. It is just shy of one hour and fuel economy is better than expected. I make the mistake of calling the pits to let them know I will stay out for awhile longer but its all garbled with the engine noise. unfortunatly when I called I lost the contacts screen and couldn’t find the number again to call back when I was really ready to pit. I cruised to the 1.5 hour mark then attempted to let the pit crew know I was coming in by waving and flashing lights. Came in the next lap and the crew was a little surprised but recovered quickly. We put in 7 gallons then went back out. About 2 minutes on pit lane, not bad for our first ever pit stop. Pushed hard now since I was rested and knew I had plenty of fuel. At some point earlier Pete Bovenberg in the Honda Civic Si blew an engine so I was now in 3rd place. I had passed Rich Woo earlier and come to find out he was on a no stop strategy, so after the pit stop I came up to pass him again not knowing he had passed me during the pit stop, so i was really passing for position. With a few laps to go the Mazda RX8 broke his right front wheel studs and broke the rim going off in turn 3 just shy of the retaining wall. This brought out the second full course yellow that would take us to the checkered flag. I was pretty sure I placed 3rd but Rich Woo was directed to the podium as well until the final results were posted. Rich came close with his no pit stop strategy but i managed to secure 3rd, with Andre Hartanto in first driving the Chevy Cobalt and Andy Chitum in 2nd driving the BMW 228i. I also finished as the top rookie securing the coveted Rookie of the Year honors.
Chammpagne never tasted so good. Now just need to figure out how to get it out of the racing suit.
Again a Special thanks to Hans Dinse for all his help this season.
Thanks to the sponsors without thier support none of this would be possible.
Mini Mania: parts, advice, support.
Bay Bridge Motors: update to cage, annual inspection, track support.
Valley Motorworks/ Point Six Racing: tire mounting and balancing, alignment.
Niello Mini of Sacramento: electronic diagnostics, alignment.
Texas Speedwerks: suspension goodies.
Revolution Mini: tuning, track support.
Mini Corsa: use of thier shop and lift fot tranny swap.
And my wife Meribeth for all her support.