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NASA Midwest, Autobahn Country Club

April 3-5 2005


Joliet, Ill. -- This past weekend NASA Midwest and the FFR Challenge Series made its first visit to the new Autobahn Country Club. This trip put us on the 1.5 mile North Course. In early July we will return to run the 2.1 mile South Course. Both courses can be combine for a 3.5 mile circuit.

Brian Sanders and Chris Mitchum came to race with Graham McNeill running in HPDE. Chris and Graham shared a Marcus car, giving it quite a workout. Friday was a practice day with each driver having the opportunity to run in 5 sessions each. Each session proved to have quicker times as the drivers learned the track and the quick way through some very technical corners.

Although the day was pretty uneventful, it did have it's moments. After the 4th session, Sanders decided to make a rear spring change after some trouble getting off the turns. This was the correct move, next session out was 2.5 seconds quicker. While Brian was making this change, Mitchum and McNeill came in with car problems. On closer inspection, it was found that a spring hat had broken on the drivers rear. Easy repair if you have a spare hat that is the right size. However, neither of us had the size needed. But since I was taking a 2.5" ID spring off my car and we had a spare 2.5" hat, Chris was able to put this on the car so it could continue to run the weekend.

Due the relatively small number of race cars at this event, there was only one race group and a split start was used. To make the groups as even as possible, Brian and Chris found themselves in the second group with GTS and USTCC cars behind the AI and AIX cars. As the time approached to make our way to the grid for the race, the sky started turning a dark grey. Nonetheless, we made our way onto the track and took the green flag. The tourque of the car allowed Brian and Chris to get a huge jump on the other cars. But, alas, it was a short gain for Brian as he overcooked the tough turn 6 and spun the car. This put him a considerable distance behind the field. As he came around turn 9 onto the front straights, he noticed that he could not see anything to the right of the track (pit lane and paddock). The storm had hit and hit hard. Halfway down the front straight, the first drop of rain was felt. Just as Brian entered turn 1, a canopy blew over the fence and headed for the track. Luckily it came no further. By turn 2, the rain was coming down in sheets. Needless to say the race was stopped and the black flag directed us back to the pits. By turn 6, you could no longer see the track and had to dodge flying cones. It was difficult to find your way home.

When Chris and Brian arrived back at the trailers, they found both their canopys destroyed and blocking the entrance to their trailers. In a short 15 minutes the storm was over. However, it had done some severe damage around the paddock. Since the storm had taken out the timing and scoring computer, it was decided that we would restart the race from the beginning. In the end, Chris took an 11th overall and first in class with Brian in 21st and 2nd in class. There were 27 cars in the race.

Sunday turned out to be a very hot day and the threat of another storm loomed. Chris went out in qualifying and turned the fastest time of the weekend for the Challenge cars. This new track record stands at 1:11.261. Congratulations Chris!!

This fast time also put Chris on the pole of the second group for the race. Chris went on to his second win of the weekend with a 5th place overall finish. Brian did much better in this race finishing 14th overall.

All in all, we had a great weekend. Now it's time to turn our attention to BeaveRun and the second event of the challenging East Coast Series on June 11-12.

C'ya at the track, Brian Sanders


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