The World Racing League visited the stunning Barber Motorsports Park for the U.S. Sports Car Showdown and boy was it hot. Once again I had the pleasure of driving for Casey Carden Motorsports in one of their Mazda Miatas in the GP3 class.
Saturday morning came and it was humid and hot early on. I was going to start the race and having never raced at Barber before, I had stayed up watching some in-car video and ran iRacing the week leading up. The green flag came and I slowly made some spots up and became more comfortable with the track. It was a nine hour race and we had a total of three drivers. Our plan was to run three hour stints which is a hard task when the outside air temperature is over ninety degrees Fahrenheit with interior temperatures well above one hundred.
I got to the hour and a half mark and we were due for a fuel stop soon. The team owner called to see how I felt and honestly I did not feel bad but had not been drinking a lot of water as I wanted to save it for the last hour and a half of the stint (see an upcoming blog entry on health soon). I got called into the pits and as soon as I entered pit lane at a slower speed the fumes of the exhaust hit me and the heat of the day all at once and I felt nauseous. Once the car stopped it started getting worst and I was borderline about to throw up or pass out, the world was spinning. I argued and demanded to get out, costing us valuable time as our second driver wasn't expecting to jump in so early. I felt bad about it but it was that or end up crashing the car.
The car was back on its way with one of my two co-drivers driving and I laid out as people poured water and ice all over me. I had no idea how hot I was. Luckily I was sweating so I wasn't completely dehydrated but it felt like heat stroke.
The day went on and we were looking good. However once again the heat effected our plan and the second driver needed to bail before his three hours was up as it was too rough. So our third driver jumped in and the plan was to stick me back in for the final hour and a half, this time wearing a cool shirt and drinking loads and loads of fluids beforehand. I still felt sick but I felt I had a job to do.
Time came to get into the car and I just went for it. The cool shirt felt good as I flipped it on and off versus leaving it on the entire time as they said I'd melt the ice faster. The bad part was my water bottle was not put in so it flew around on the floor and I only had a few sips before it all split out.
Finally the white flag came and eventually the checkered flag. We finished third in class which was a great result given the conditions and our car class. The other two GP3 cars are very fast so we just didn't have the raw pace but our strategy and consistency got us on the podium.
Sunday came around and I was not planned to go out until after lunch so I spent the morning drinking water like a mad man and just relaxing in the shade. The race was seven hours Sunday with a break from 11:00 - 12:00 due to local noise ordinance. When we got to an hour the driver in the car called in to say he couldn't keep going at the fuel stop. I couldn't blame him. However I was told to gear up so I had to run and get everything on.
I got into the car and tried to keep the pace he was at for an hour and a half until the break. The car felt good and I was feeling ok, still under the weather but not getting worst. We were up to third in class again with fourth place chasing us down.
The break came and I was to get back in the car for a brief stint at the restart which I was ok with. I was told to go out and drive like I was qualifying. At the restart I did just that. We were lucky in that the car we were battling with for third pitted right at the restart so I had a clear track to go for it to build a gap before handing the car over to our finishing driver.
I was pleased to see my lap times below what I was asked to do and ended up setting the fastest lap in the car. After about eleven laps I was running on fumes and it was time to pit. The pit stop went smooth and my co-driver was underway to drive until the end. Which he did.
We were able to finish second in class and in the top ten overall. It was a great way to end a brutally difficult weekend. The car ran without a single hiccup the entire weekend but us drivers fought the physical demand of racing in high temperatures.