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West Coast Challenge Series Race #3

Thunderhill Raceway

June 25-26 2005

  Text by Tim sharp, photos to come

No doubt about it, the two Thunderhill races were the most exciting races in the Factory Five Racing Challenge West Series this year!

However, two of our favorite drivers, Dan and Bob Lawson were unable to attend. We really missed the Lawson brothers at the Thunderhill races. Not just because they are great competitors, but also because they have provided outstanding post-race coverage. In their absence, I will do my best to give you with the highlights of the race weekend.

Saturday Qualifying and Race:

Even without the Lawson’s, there were still nine Factory Five Roadsters entered in Saturday’s race. Qualifying in the front row were Spencer Sharp and series newcomer Keith Delaney. Both drivers posted blistering lap times in the 2:02’s. While Delaney is new to the NASA FFR Challenge West Series, this ex-TransAm driver has been campaigning his FFR roadster quite successfully in SCCA’s Super Production class in Northern California.

Donny Edwards and James Bondurant were also flying. They ripped off lap times nearly as quick as the two drivers in the front row. However, Edward’s engine was cutting out whenever it got hot, a condition which would ultimately keep him from getting to the grid on time on Saturday.

With a little help from Levy Racing, Dave Standridge took advantage of the Friday practice day to dial in his FFR machine. Dave posted his best ever qualifying position, sitting along side PIR second place finisher Langley Kirkenboom. Bobby Bondurant, Rick Anderson and Mike Easton were gridded just behind them.

Getting the jump on the standing start, Delaney passed Sharp on the outside going into turn one. He held that position until turn three, where Sharp passed him on the inside, dropping two wheels in the dirt. Meanwhile, just behind Sharp and Delaney, David Standridge, James Bondurant and Langley Kirkenboom were embroiled in their own battle.

Standridge and Bondurant swapped positions until Standridge got the upper hand. Then, it was Kirkenboom’s turn to take a shot at Bondurant. The two continued to swap positions until Bondurant’s car finally succumbed to a broken drive shaft.

Of course, the real excitement of the day came after the first lap when Donny Edwards emerged from the pits, one lap down, with his hair on fire. (No, Donny did not actually have his hair on fire. This is a term which journalists use when a driver is on a tear!)

Pulling in right behind Standridge, Edwards quickly dispatched every driver in front of him until he reached the second place Delaney. After applying an extreme pressure, Delaney bobbled and Edwards then focused on Sharp who was in first place. By the end of the race, Edwards had caught and passed Sharp. It was an incredible feat!

Of course, Edwards was a lap down, so Sharp took the victory. However, this fact takes nothing away from Edward’s inspired driving effort in the Evans Racing FFR roadster.
At the checkered flag, it was Sharp, Standridge, Kirkenboom, Bobby Bondurant, Rick Anderson, Mike Eastman and Donny Edwards. James Bondurant was sidelined with a broken driveshaft and Keith Delaney chose to run for no points. Gentleman that he is, Delaney knew that this would be his only NASA FFR Challenge race and he elected not to skew the points chase.

Sunday Qualifying, Qualifying Race and Race:

On Sunday, Bobby Bondurant graciously agreed to let his son James take his Evan’s Team mount since James’ car has suffered a broken drive shaft. This elevates the expression, “Hey dad, can I borrow the car?” to an entirely new level.

Spencer Sharp, winner of three of the first four races in the series, qualified on the pole in his GRM/Levy Racing machine for Sunday’s qualifying race. “Ho hum,” you say? Well not exactly. Racing luck has a way of nipping you on the butt when you least expect it.

Dave Standridge qualified second, Langley Kersenboom was third on the grid, followed by James Bondurant, Rick Anderson, Mike Easton and Donny Edwards (Yes, Donny was still working the gremlins out of his engine, unfortunately).

Ok, so Sunday’s format was different than Saturday’s. On Sunday, there would be a “qualifying race” to determine grid positions for the “real race.” There would be a standing start, a.k.a. a drag race to the first turn.

Last place starter, Donny Edwards got the move and beat everyone to turn one. Evidently, Donny had finally gotten his car to run properly. However, by turn five, Sharp re-passed Edwards. Then, racing luck bit Sharp on the butt and he exploded his third gear. Wow, back in the pack, things were changing so rapidly that it was hard to keep up!

Ultimately, Edwards would win the qualifying race, leaving Standridge, Bondurant, Kersenboom, Anderson and Easton to sort out the rest of the grid positions for Sunday’s race. And, what about Sharp? He and Levy were roaming the pits looking for a rear transmission mount so that they could install their spare transmission into their race car. Fortunately, good guy Keith Delaney, would loan Sharp his rear tranny mount.

Of course, Sharp would have to start at the back of the pack in the race. However, things worked out pretty well for Edwards when he started in the back, didn’t they?

When the green flag dropped for the race on Sunday, Edwards took the point entering the first turn. He was followed by Dave Standridge (who has gotten extremely quick over the last three races), then Bondurant, Kersenboom, Anderson and Sharp.

By turn two, Sharp had passed two cars. By turn five, he had passed three cars. By the end of lap two, Sharp had passed everyone except Edwards, who had amassed a sizable lead. Sharp slowly reeled Edwards in and passed him on the third lap. Sharp turned a blistering 2:01.837 lap in the process. In turn four, Edwards spun as his rear three- link suspension broke under the intense pressure. Still, Edwards was able to hold second with Standridge taking third, James Bondurant holding fourth and Kersenboom taking fifth.

After four races, it is Sharp leading the series, having won five of the first six races. When the points shake out for second, third and fourth, it will be close between Edwards, Kersenboom and Standridge, with James Bondurant in close pursuit. I am not all that good at math, so check for the points in the next week. Meanwhile, stay tuned!
One final note. Either NASA or Frank Siharath, owner of Racetune Engineering of Hayward, California ( FFR provide the competitors with free dyno testing of their vehicles. Well, it started as sort of a mandatory check, but everyone took advantage of this cool portable chassis dyno to enhance the performance of their engines. Bottom line, it is a great way to find out if your engine is performing as well as it should be.

Here are the results: Donny Edwards got his car up to 203 hp at the rear wheels. Spencer Sharp’s car pulled 189 hp. Keresenboom’s car originally tested 168 hp, but he increased it to 190 hp using the dyno. Standridge’s car started at 174 hp (he had a brand new engine) and I do not know what his final numbers were. However, you can bet his horsepower improved over his initial test.

While different brands of chassis dynos produce different numbers, it is always good to have a yardstick by which to gauge the relative power of the engines. Let’s hope NASA and FFR sees fit to use a suitable chassis dyno at all major Factory Five Challenge Series races as they did at this one. Kudos to NASA and Racetune Engineering. They are protecting the integrity of the series.


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