It’s been several days since the weekend, and it’s still hard to grasp that we repeated our 2014 feat of back to back wins at this most iconic of race tracks.
Just to finish a grueling endurance race is a feat. To actually win is a great triumph. To do so consecutively, is like winning the lottery.
Then, to have done it all over again 2 years apart is like having won the lottery twice. It just doesn’t happen. But it did! Moreover, at a track as rich in history and legend as The Glen!
Our story begins with Rick Fon and I arriving mid-afternoon Friday, to the somewhat disheartening scenario of finding team principal Troy Truglio and co-driver Jerry Enger struggling to cure a fueling issue that defied many attempts at a fix. But, finally after several fuel pump swaps and venting changes, our beloved green Biohazard MR2 appeared to finally be running well…just minutes before the Friday test sessions ended.
Race #1, 7 hours, 4 drivers; Saturday dawned very hot, already in the 90s, really sapping us and the car’s power as the temperature and humidity increased during the day.
It was a huge field, with 105 cars entered. Consequently, like at Road Atlanta last February, we were pitted 3 deep with our good friends, sister MR2 team Racing Strong Motorsports and Not Banned Yet Racing, which also added to the fun and camaraderie for all!
Unfortunately due to a Tech Inspection rules snafu, we were assessed a -1 lap penalty, so when Jerry took the green, we were actually a lap down. Jerry drove a fantastic stint, slicing through all the slower cars, setting our FTD of the day and unlapping us in the process! Clearly, our fueling issues of the day before were resolved now and Jerry’s efforts resulted in him being up to 10th place when he pitted under a FCY. He had put us on the lead lap, about a half lap down from the leader when I took over.
My stint was largely uneventful and I continued towards the front of the pack. The closer one gets to the leaders however, the harder it is to actually gain position because these cars are faster. One also has to navigate through a huge field of lapped cars which always seem to be blocking the way. The car was handling very well and was a pure joy to drive.
About half way through my 2 hour stint, I felt there was a problem with our left front brake and tried to radio to Troy to let him know to prepare and have a look during my stop. Unfortunately we were also having a problem with our radio communications, so I couldn’t be sure that he understood. The brake problem wasn’t affecting me too badly however, but just knowing there is an issue with the brakes does ebb one’s confidence in the car somewhat.
Nonetheless, we had gotten up to 2nd place, barely 30 seconds behind the leader when I pitted under a FCY to fuel and hand over to Rick for the third stint.
During the stop, Troy quickly assessed the brake issue, saw the caliper was dangling by only one of two bolts, raced back to the paddock for another bolt and we ended up losing only about 2 additional minutes. Truly fantastic pit work but we were back down to 7th or 8th when Rick got back out on track. A setback, but we still had 3 hours to go, so we still had a chance to make it up.
Rick drove a very clean stint, getting ever faster towards the end, despite his malfunctioning Cool Shirt which made the 120f cockpit nearly unbearable in the humidity. He got us back up to 5th place, but still with a huge field of lapped cars between us and the leaders when he pitted to hand over to Kevin for the final stint.
Kevin then did, what he does best…he drove us to the front, despite that same pesky caliper bolt coming lose yet again.
We won not only our class, but overall as well!
After the race, the car was refreshed and we then celebrated our victory at the infamous Seneca Lodge. But not too much, because we had another race in the morning!
Race #2, 7 hours, 4 drivers; The weather was equally sweltering on Sunday, but with the added threat of rain. This time, the technical snafu had been corrected, so no penalty for that, but we were nonetheless still assessed a -1 lap penalty for having won Saturday’s race!
Thus, we were in 90th place when Troy took the green flag for us.
He was decimating the field, at an incredible pace, when he radioed in that he had a handling problem and that something was wrong. He pitted under yellow flag conditions, and we tightened a loose left rear wheel bearing, hoping that it would somehow survive another 6 hours of abuse.
Troy went back out and despite having lost yet another lap with this fix, he continued the charge towards the front. He had us in 8th place when he pitted to hand over to me.
We dropped a few spots during our stop, and my 2 hour stint was predominated by crashes, broken cars, fluids being dumped and then cleaned up by the workers. Almost 75% of the time was under FCYs, with no passing allowed so only 3 actual positions were gained, despite having overtaken countless backmarkers during the very brief periods of green flag racing. It was so hot and humid by now that it was clear we were down on power even compared to the beginning of my stint.
I handed over to Rick during yet a final caution period near the end of my time limit and after refueling he continued the charge towards the front, this time with a properly functioning Cool Shirt.
Rick handed the car over to Jerry for the final run to the checker, now running in 6th after the pit stops had cycled out and this is where things got really exciting. Jerry was driving his heart out and clicking off some amazing laps, helped also by a sudden drop in temperature as a storm approached. About this time we were up to third, but then the rain finally came.
It wasn’t pretty, but the hard charging 2nd place Sahlen’s sponsored RX7 ran out of fuel and this put us in 2nd place, with about 15 minutes remaining! Jerry then caught and passed for the lead and was driving the wheels off the car! Quite literally actually, because the earlier wheel bearing issue was about to catch up to us again and the car had become very loose, wiggling badly.
But Jerry stayed out and hung on somehow. The car had become more than a handful and exacerbated by the rain.The car we had just overtaken was closing back up on us…quickly!
As the final lap wound down, we were crossing our fingers and were simply euphoric when our green Bio car came around one last time, taking the checker just .994 sec ahead!
Once it was all over, we were shocked to see that the stub axle had actually sheared off under the bearing retaining nut and it was solely the caliper that was keeping the wheel on the car! Wow!
These were both very hard fought races, but we had won. Twice…back to back wins…overall and in class! For a second time in as many years! It just doesn’t get better! Hats off to my teammates Jerry Enger, Kevin Tulay, Rick Fon and team principal Troy Truglio.