Ain’t no party like a GridLife Party, and the MidWest party certainly didn’t disappoint! GridLife is a truly unique Time Attack series that does it right, and blends all of the attractive parts of the motorsports industry into uniquely epic events all across the country. With a full series of Track Battle races all across the Midwest and East Coast, the GridLife season is anchored by its two main events; the GridLife MidWest Festival at Gingerman Raceway in early summer and the GridLife South Festival in late summer at Road Atlanta. Both events feature the fastest time attack teams in the country alongside a high quality, full course drift demo featuring dozens of Formula Drift pro’s and coupled with a music festival boasting huge acts and creating an atmosphere unlike any concert or race event you could image. And I haven’t even mentioned the best part: the massive amount of dedicated fans that come out to support Time Attack, and party!
Having driven Time Attack at a “pro” level since 2011, I can honestly say that nothing compares to the GridLife Festivals and they are currently the pinnacle of Time Attack events in North America, without a doubt. Last year when we attended the first annual South Festival it was an amazing experience, with a ton of exposure and a winning result. But we had always been told that the MidWest festival, in its 5th year, was way bigger and much more epic… and boy where they right! The small Great Lake town of South Haven, Michigan was taken over for 4 days of absolute motorsports insanity featuring over 175+ time attack cars, tens of thousands of awesome fans, dozens of drifters and a bunch of headline musical acts taking over the little known Gingerman Raceway in the middle of nowhere Michigan.
All of the GridLife Festivals are 3-day events, with Friday being the practice and qualifying day followed by two race days for a chance to put down your fastest lap in 3 sessions each day on Saturday and Sunday. Having never been to Gingerman, this would be our 3rd new track in only 4 races so far this season. Gingerman is a relatively flat and forgiving race course that demands you to connect multiple corners to get through each section smoothly and fast. It’s an easy track to drive but takes a certain sense of connectivity to create a quality fast lap. Starting the day on Friday for Practice Session 1 we took the #44 BC Racing Time Attack Infiniti G35 out for some recon laps, getting faster and faster each lap until the session ended. The track was fun and we had already gotten to a respectable time that would set us up to do well for the weekend having only done a few quick laps around a brand new course. Everything went well and we were ready for the afternoon Qualifying session, that is until we started the car in between the sessions and noticed a troubling knocking/ticking sound coming from the top end of the engine. It was not pretty, and a sound I had never heard come from the VQ35 before. Not having much to gain other than needed seat time, I ended up spending the rest of the day tearing down the top end of the motor in search for the sound, going through the data, checking compression and pulling the oil… finding no cause for the sound, and after hours of work decided to try it out on track for the first race session the next morning and see what happens.
After a long day of thrashing on the car, Saturday morning came and the #44 G35 went out in the first session with the same awkward sound but once we got up to speed the sound went away and the car felt great (the sound never returned oddly enough). We got a few hot laps and I brought the car in realizing I needed to make a tire pressure adjustment on the Toyo R-888R’s for the Michigan summer heat and a few small suspension changes to the BC Racing ZR Coilovers to make the car handle a bit better in some of the long Gingerman sweepers. We had put down a decent lap, but knew with more seat time we would get faster in the next sessions, but as usual, racing doesn’t always go as planned. In the next two sessions we started to see a new issue pop up, separate from our sound problem, where the car began to go into limp mode at the end of one hot lap, not allowing me to complete either sessions left in the day without being down on power, if under power at all. After inspecting everything and finding no obvious mechanical problems we began to look at the data and realized the car was going into limp mode due to high coolant temp spikes. After consulting the expertise of data wizard Mike Warfield and Haltech, who was on site, we decided to go through the coolant system at the end of the day and try to get any potential bubbles out of the coolant in hopes a pain in the ass bubble was the cause of our problems. With the coolant flushed and bleeding, we retired from the long two days at the track and tried to rest for Sunday and our final few sessions to make a fast lap and try to jump from 7th place to the podium, which we knew was possible given our earlier success when the car was cooperating.
Sunday morning bright and early we went out for the first session of the day expecting the track to be great, and it was, unfortunately by the time we got to the back straight on our first hot lap the car was reporting an overheating issue again and the Haltech ECU did its job and went into limp mode to save the engine, leaving me stranded on the straightaway and waiting for a tow. Frustrated with the temp issues we looked at the data more and realized we were possibly seeing a false reading as the coolant sensor was making drastic temperature jumps that were physically impossible. Not sure if it was the sensor or something else going on, we made a few changes to the tune in the second to last session and barely got one lap before having the same problem. Finally, before the last session of the weekend, and unwilling to admit defeat to the race gods, we decided to turn off all of the safety features on the Haltech and just go out and try to run as fast possible while keeping an eye on the temps, but knowing we would be possibly pushing the limits of the engine.
We took it easy on our out lap, hoping to keep the engine as cool as possible, but as I started the first hot lap I quickly realized that we took it a bit too easy and the tires and brakes weren’t quite up to temp. I did my best to make it work, sliding the car around the first few corners, and we finally got a good lap under our belt. The temps hadn’t started to peak yet, so having finally got a good flyer, I went ahead looking for more time on a second risky hot lap. All went well for the first few turns until I over-drove a bit into turn 9 just before the back straight and I watched my AIM Solo predictive lap time click slower from a potential sub 40’ 3rd place finishing time to a nearly identical, but slightly slower time than my first hot lap of that session. And of course, just as I crossed the line, the coolant sensor showed the car was starting to overheat and I quickly brought it in, hoping not to hurt anything after such a long event.
With a frustrating weekend with the car, and more wrenching than I would ever like to do at a race track again, we ended up with a time slower than what we wanted, but still respectable and good enough to just barely miss the podium in 4th place out of 19 cars in Track Mod RWD with a final time of 1:40.46, just barely shy of our sub 40’s goal going into the weekend. With a few things to sort out on the car and entering our summer 8-week break in the schedule, I’m excited to get the car back to the shop and fix some of the issues that have plagued us this year, but I’m even more excited to come back to this amazing event next year and continue to be a part of the special events that are GridLife. Coming up next in late August is our next race at Road Atlanta for the GridLife South Festival where we will hopefully do our best to repeat our win from the same event last year! Check out our awesome recap video from Gears and Gasoline above, our fast lap video below and visit the KPR YouTube Channel for more race videos and features!