February 4-5, 2005
The first race of 2005 came quickly for the Compass360/Racing team. In the past month, we purchased and prepared two new cars for Grand Am Cup competition. That's an absolutely Herculean effort on the part of our Crew Chief and the guys at Hockley Autosport, and yet the cars came off the trailer looking great and ready to race in their BMW blue-and-white livery.
Our #36 car was piloted by Harold Linville (Ohio) and Tim Hauraney (Peterborough), while David Rosenblum (Philadelphia) drove with me in #06. Both cars proved to be very quick in practice, with David setting 8th fastest time, while Tim and Harold acclimatized to driving a car they'd never been in before. Throughout the weekend, these two improved their times each session, and #36 ran every lap flawlessly.
Unfortunately for the other car, the clutch let go during Dave's first practice. Our spare clutch assembly, which worked quite well in last year's car (and would work nicely with this year's #36) didn't fit in #06, and so we spent the remainder of the day sourcing a replacement, meaning that we missed qualifying. Which was too bad, as we would have qualified well into the top ten. Harold, meanwhile, put #36 into the 21st slot on the grid.
Race day was Friday. The new clutch assembly arrived... and it was the wrong one! Fortunately, we had a back-up plan! By the time #06 was back together, we'd missed morning practice, but the car was ready to race. And meanwhile, Tim and Harold kept lowering their times and turning consistent laps in #36.
On the grid, I could see Harold five lanes ahead of me, as I started from the very back. No matter, from the green flag on, it was great fun making my way through the pack. Both of our cars make such good power, and are so well balanced, that they're a real treat to drive. Everyone makes room for each other in Grand Am Cup, although not a whole lot of room -- you have to battle for every position!
An early yellow flag came out, and on the restart I had a real stormer, making up four or five positions. Twenty laps into the race I'd managed to make my way to sixth place (from the back!) and was honing in on the top five. Another yellow came out -- this time from a wreck involving our friend Jim Briody, who was okay after a nasty shunt in corner one -- which was within our fuel window. Only one other car came in during the stop; one of TC Klein's Z4s. It was a gamble that would pay off if the rest of the race stayed green.
Rosenblum got in the #06 car, and we were good to go. Meanwhile, we had split the strategy by leaving Harold out in the #36 car, which effectively enabled us to do well regardless of the late-race yellows. Unfortunately, for the second time during the event, #06's clutch let go during David's stint, rendering the 06 car unable to race, and out of contention. Our "brilliant" race strategy was out the window, and the car was put back in the paddock.
The clutch failure was troubling, as I found the car to be flawless. During first practice the clutch was fried within ten laps, and in the race Dave managed less than six. Perhaps his technique did not suit the Z3!
With #06 back in the paddock, we concentrated on the #36 car, and changed drivers under green about 2/3rds of the way through the race. Tim got in and managed to better his times nearly every lap until the finish. At the checkered flag, our #36 car finished 12th, and the #06 (which had run so very well) finished a rather disappointing 20th. On the positive, it was a really good job by Harold and Tim as neither put a wheel wrong all weekend!
Most frustrating was that our pit strategy for #06 turned out to be the right one, as TC Kline's Z4 won the race! If not for the wrecked clutch, we very likely would have been on the podium, if not fighting with the Z4 for the win.
However, if we look at Daytona as a test of our new cars, it was quite successful. Both #36 and #06 are remarkably quick, and with all drivers focused on finishing the race, will be able to fight for podiums.
You can watch the race on SPEED Channel, Saturday March 5th at 11am.
A special thank-you to Andy and Stephen Januszewski, PCA UCR members that joined us as crew for the event (you may recall that Crew Chief Ian McQuillan and I are UCR members, too, despite the fact we are racing BMWs). Thanks for all the heavy lifting, guys!
We have two months before the next race, which is April 1st and 2nd in Fontana, California. Our cars will be ready!
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