2014 SCCA National Championship Runoffs
So, aÂ few weeks back I attended the 2014 SCCA National Championship runoffs at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with aspirations of finishing on the podium in B-Spec with the CorkSport sponsored Mazda 2.
The first dayÂ was a practice day in order to check out the car and review the changes we made, ensuringÂ thatÂ everything was perfect for the three days of qualifying. Â After the first test session, we made a few small changes and went back out for the afternoon session…
That’s where things got crazy.
The track was feeling greasy and the car was sliding around a bit, making corner 6 a handful since its taken flat out in a B-Spec car.Â On theÂ 7th lap the car drifted to the outside much faster than it had beforeÂ so I steered into the drift and went off in the dirt. My plan was to rideÂ it out and get back on the track towards the top of the hill.
Needless to say, things did not go as planned…
The video above isÂ courtesy of a Spec Miata driver and friend at the track Steven Powers who (being directly behind me) got front row seats to witness the whole thing.
Rather than riding it out of the dirt,Â the front corner of theÂ Mazda 2Â made direct contact with aÂ concrete wall… sideways (which Â data showedÂ being at 30mph).Â After playingÂ 20 questions withÂ the safety crew and getting the car loaded up, I was dropped off in my pit to evaluate the damage and make a plan on what to do next. Â We got the car disassembled with help of fellow racers, slowly realizing just how bent up the car really was.Â Besides the sheet metal, we had punched several holes in the engine block, broke a wheel, bent the right side control arm and front sub frame.
It took 2 hours to take the car from a crunched mess to the picture below.
I chose to sleep on the decision to either rebuild or scrap the whole weekend race. Â The next morning, with an optimistic attitude, we took inventory and made the choice to rebuild the car at the track. Mazdaspeed MotorsportsÂ lent a major hand asÂ we started chasing down the parts we would need to replace, while I was hittingÂ the phones looking for a body shop with an empty frame machine so weÂ could get started on the car ASAP.Â 8 calls later, we had our shop and loaded the car upÂ on a flatbed in order to get the repairs going forÂ straightening the car and getting itÂ ready for a frame rail and shock tower.
Spectrum Auto Collision was a great help with the overall repair of the car. They got right on the job and loaded the car up on to the frame machine whileÂ their awesomeÂ technician started straightening the drives side rail. Arrangements were made to have the replacement frame parts arrive to the shop for the following day so they could continue the repairs non-stop, gettingÂ the car back together for Thursdayâs qualifying session.
Day Three and Four:
Due to a mishap with UPS, we were outÂ one critical part needed to not only start work that Wednesday morning but also have it completed by that afternoon. This complication pushedÂ back the plan that included havingÂ the car assembled in time to post a qualifying time.Â After a discussion with the race officials, they agreed to let me start at the back of the B-Spec field allowing meÂ to race despite not having a qualifying time. Which was awesome of them.
That Thursday evening, my trusty friend was delivered right back to the track so that we could start the re-assembly process. With the help of my crew, we rebuilt the engine, reinstalled the whole front suspension and sheet metal, and reinstalled the rebuilt motor withinÂ two days.
Saturday evening, we fired up the car to make sure it would be ready to go for the race.Â After a drive around the paddock, the car was feeling goodÂ and ready to race on Sunday.
Lucky for us, the B-Spec/T-4 race was the first event on Sunday, meaning the track would be in its best condition.
Since I was at the back of the field, I snagged an opportunity to pass upÂ the stacked up cars on the inside of corner 2 and get passed 2 cars in the first lap. Several laps later I was able to get around one of the HPD Honda fits, putting me inÂ 8th place. The leading Chevy sonic was brought to a stop due to a check engine light, moving him from 1st place to last place and me toÂ 7th. During the race, the Mazda 2 felt really loose (the back of the car was sliding around) andÂ like the tires were wearing out quickly.Â This is not expectedÂ due to theÂ brand new tires we just had put on the car for the race. BFGoodrich tires always hold up extremely well to the abuse of B-Spec cars.Â I reported it to the crew over the radio and I got back an acknowledgement.
If you look at the picture above you can see smoke rolling out of the front wheel.Â
At the end of the race (back in the pits) I sawÂ the driverâs side of the car was coated inÂ Redline MTL transmission fluid which had also been coating the front and rear wheels causing that loose feeling I was getting.
Imagine driving on and off ice whipping through corners at the fastest speed you can go.Â That is exactlyÂ how crazy the race feltÂ driving with the transmission fluid everywhere.
Later I found out that the crew had actually seen the smoke but decided to keep quiet about it so as not toÂ alarm me and keeping me fromÂ changing my driving style (which hadÂ already been working). I am incredibly thankful they made that call, because it would have changed my driving and possibly caused more problems.
The final result was 7th place, which doesnât give any trophies from the SCCA but I got something even better from Mazdaspeed.Â I was gifted a copy of the book Never Stop Challenging, which chronicles Mazdaâs path to winning Le Mans and overcoming all of the challenges they wentÂ through.Â I was told by a good friend at the track (who has experience in amateur and professional racing) that he had not seen a car with as much damage as we had, rebuilt and make it back onto the track before.
Thank you so much to CorkSport, Monarch Inspections (for the season long logistics support),Â Mazda Motorsports Crew, John Doonan, Mike Allen, Scott Kaluza, David Cook, and Dean Case who were at the track for the parts sourcing and tech help and the best trophy a Mazda racer could get.
Big thanks to my Dad (aka the crew),Â Joey Jordan MotorsportsÂ (for the help rebuilding the motor and getting the alignment straight), James Wilson and Black Armor Helmets (for driving out to race his 2 from Texas), Brad Green and his crew (for help getting the car taken apart),Â Steven Powers (for the video) as well as all of the B-Spec racers who I got to compete against all season long.
Last but not least (in any way), I would like to say thank you to my wife Jessica and two daughters for being understanding ofÂ my pursuit inÂ racing.
- Derrick from CorkSport