November always seems to be the busiest month on the racing schedule and this year was no exception. With Super Lap Battle / Global Time Attack Finale’s being in Buttonwillow, California on the first week of November and the NARRA US Time Trial Finale the following week in Sebring, Florida along with the PRI Trade Show in Indianapolis a few days later it makes for a crazy month. We knew in the beginning of the year when we made the schedule that it would be hard if not impossible to do two races on opposite sides of the country 3,000+ miles apart in less than 10 days. I had originally planned to do one or the other but after our dismal raceday at SLB and a long drive home to think about it I had made the decision to go to Florida and end the season in a better fashion than our 7th place in California. I had always wanted to go to Sebring as one of my dream tracks and we were also mathematically in the hunt for the 2013 NARRA USTT North Cup Championship in TT1 so as long as we could get the car ready for track duty then it was a no brainer, we would be going and aiming for the podium.
When we finally got back to Charlotte on Monday we got the #44 SOHO Motorsports Infiniti G35 all fixed up (minus the body damage that we didn’t have time to fix) and tried to get some much needed sleep, which of this course was impossible after the trip cross country. Before I knew it we were loaded up on the trailer and headed 10 hours south to the infamous SebringInternational Raceway in sunny, 85 degree Florida for the final NARRA race of the year.
NARRA (North American Road Racing Association) has a unique set of Time Trial rules compared to the other TT/TA series across the nation. The main rules for each class from TT3 all the way to TTU is power to weight ratio and that’s about it, allowing racing slicks in all classes. Most series we run have a specific tire tread-wear limit per class and rarely use the power or weight ratio. With our car being primarily a Limited Class in Global Time Attack the car is setup for those rules at 600hp/600tq on our sticky Hankook Ventus TD tires with a tread-wear of 80. With the NARRA rules we have to detune the car to get to our designated 6.25:1 power to weight ratio. We simply do this by reducing the boost on our TurboSmart eBoost 2 controller but the issue is that we aren’t running our normal power levels and we are on 80 tread-wear tires when literally every other car on the lot is using Pirelli Slicks, putting us at a disadvantage before we even touch the track. But with the #44 G35 on our awesome Hankook Ventus TD tires we do pretty damn well against all of those Pirelli slick whenever we get a chance!
After waking up to a warm Florida morning we got the car unloaded, tech inspection passed and the drivers meeting over it was time to finish out the 2013 season with four sessions around the gorgeous 3.75 mile track. Being the final event of the season it was a double points day and one of the racer’s I needed to beat to win the cup had not shown up putting me in an even better spot of winning the cup before I even touched the track. I still needed to get on the podium to win the championship but with a track this large the #44 car could stretch her legs around Sebring and we thought we had a damn good chance at doing well. The first session I used to learn the track as best as I could and actually kept up with everyone pretty well having one of the top 5 fastest laps of the first session. After the first we made a sway bar and tire pressure adjustment and went out into the second session knowing that it would most likely be the fastest because the track surface was getting hot quickly in the nearly 90 degree temps.
The second session I had the track down pretty well and boy did I love racing around Sebring’s 3.75 miles of bumpy asphalt and concrete. Sebring was built on an old airstrip and had multiple long straightaways allowing me to max out 5th gear a couple of times each lap and hitting speeds in excess of 175mph on the back straight. It was easily one of the best times i’ve had around a racetrack in a while and was quite refreshing after having been at Buttonwillow Raceway the week before. The weather was perfect, the track was awesome and the #44 G35 was running great. After a quick warmup lap and even a late start by me on the stacked start (NARRA likes us all to be somewhat bunched up on the start whereas most series send us out in gaps) I was ready to see what we could do. I was on my 2nd lap of the session and the 6th lap I had taken all day. I got down the front stretch and through the first few sections great until my transmission wouldn’t let me shift into 5th gear easily. I finally jammed it in on the third try going under the Florida bridge into turn 6 and 7 slowing me up a bit and messing up my entry into 7. From there I dug deep and trusted the Hankook VentusTD‘s that were at the perfect temperature and pressure to hang with the guys in front on their racing slicks. I kept giving her hell all the way around the next few sectors but I couldn’t quite get out of the turns as quick as the guys on slicks. With our tune and new aero I would run them down pretty quickly once I was up to speed thanks to our Turbo by Garrett GTX3582R turbo but corner exit we were struggling a bit compared to the rest. Then after the esses on the back side as I approached entry onto the back straight I ate up every inch of rumble strip and put the pedal to the floor for what I knew was going to be the fastest lap of the day and sure enough turned out to be.
With a solid lap in the second session under my belt I was currently in 2nd place for TT1 and two more sessions left to go I knew I could improve on my 2:29.783 by a good amount since I was learning something new and finding time on every lap. Unfortunately going into the third session the track nor the transmission wanted to cooperate with me. Nearly all the TT lap times in the third session for everyone were starting to slow. The nearly 90 degree temps and the radiant Florida sun had heated the track past its optimal temperature (at least for the pressures we were using the session before) and halfway through my hot lap it became obvious that I was sliding in places that I shouldn’t be and even a lap that I thought felt faster turned out to be slower than my best. The track was one thing but not the real problem. After the 5th gear issues in the second session it would now barely let me into 5th at all no matter how hard I tried to throw it in gear or how softly I modulated the Competition Clutch twin disc clutch. After that session ended with no improvement on our lap time we felt like we were solidly in 2nd place for TT1 and decided to park the car for the fourth session knowing that we had done what we had come to do for points and also knowing that we certainly weren’t catching the person in first place with a slightly limping car. Unfortunately a late arrival came out in the final session and beat our lap time dropping us down a peg on the podium. but even with that result I was happy to be going home from such a fast track with no damage and nothing more than a bad gear.
We finished 3rd in TT1 for the event and in the process won the points necessary for the 2013 NARRA USTT North Cup Championship in TT1! Sebring was a blast and it was a heck of a way to finish out what had been a tough last two race seasons rebuilding the car and dealing with new car blues. I cant wait for 2014 having a ton of experience with the new car, it handling and running better than ever and me having more confidence than ever. Until then be sure to check back here at KParlettRacing.com often for offseason updates and be sure to check out our 2014 schedule.