Global Time Attack Pro Series Rd 1 at Road Atlanta is not only the biggest Time Attack event on the East coast but also the first on the Pro Time Attack schedule. It is essentially our Daytona and being alongside Formula Drift and the Trans Am Series there are more fans at this event than you can imagine. With many teams making changes during the off season, often without testing and traveling from all over North America it is always an interesting event that gets bigger every year. Not only does the crowd get bigger every year but so does the entry list. This year their were 52 registered teams! Thats more cars than Formula D and more than Trans Am and the best part is that it seemed to be the perfect mix of some of the fastest cars on this side of the planet in the Unlimited and Limited classes but also a great mix of new drivers and teams in the lower Street and Enthusiast classes. Seeing the registration numbers and the healthy balance of quality teams and new teams makes me believe the sport of time attack in America is most definitely on the rise and its awesome to be a part of it!
Just as with Daytona most teams show up at Road Atlanta with their cars for the first race of the season fresh out of the garage, untested and almost always heavily modified since the previous season. Leaving the team and driver wondering if all the blood, sweat and dollars were worth just that small amount of time on the track and if the changes they made would work at all. Some plan correctly and get at least a test day or two under their belt before Road Atlanta but for many this is not the case, certainly not me, and many teams end up using their first sessions of the weekend sorting out the car as quickly as possible and scrambling to make it work. As usual (what do they say about working well under pressure?) I ended up making a lot of large changes just a few weeks away from the race and as usual I didn’t end up getting the test day and seat time in the car that I was really hoping to get.
As you may have seen on my Facebook feed or on this website (KParlettRacing.com) this year the #44 Infiniti G35 has gotten a new primary sponsor in the way of BC Racing Custom Coilovers and Z1 Motorsports as the co-primary sponsor. With their support along with a few others we ended up changing a lot of key components on the car including prototype BC Racing ZR Type 3-Way Custom Coilovers, Haltech Traction Control, super special OS Giken differential with Z1 diff cover, Z1 aluminum lightweight driveshaft, Aeromotive fuel pump, Racing Radios in-car radio system, new tune from Z1 Motorsports and a few other smaller things.
Scrambling to the very last day before I headed to Georgia the car somehow got completed, aligned and corner balanced and ready to go in the perfect amount of time and although I was exhausted I was also more confident in it than ever before, even though the last time I had raced it was this exact same race the year before. It had been a while but I knew with all the changes we made the car should be faster than it ever has right out of the box and with some adjustment on the new suspension, thanks to what I learned working with the Nissan World Challenge team last year, that we would be faster than ever before. Beyond just the sponsors that helped us get to the track I also got a ton of help getting this car ready in such a short amount of from my dad and brother, my fabricator Eddie and even a last minute traction control test session in my driveway from the guys at Haltech (now thats what you call service!). Without everyone involved there is no way we would have made it to this race and I cant thank them enough… now enough of my blabbing, on to the race recap!
With GTA having 52 registered cars there was bound to be some large classes and the largest one just so happened to be mine with Limited RWD boasting a proud dozen. Now with all the changes made to the car and having no testing at all on so many brand new components normally I would be a bit nervous for not only by having such a large field to try and beat but also on shaking down the car in general at such a fast track as Road Atlanta. But for this time I was very confident and put trust into the setup on the car and the quality of the components and changes we made for the 2015 season. Also this year GTA had a free practice session on Thursday morning that we essentially used as our shakedown session. Immediately out of pit lane I could tell the car was not only faster from the new Z1 tune but was handling a night and day difference better with the new BC Racing ZR Type Custom Coilovers and OS Giken differential keeping the power on the ground while the Haltech Traction Control kept me from losing precious time in corner where we either spun tires or had to back off the throttle in the past. It was impressive and confidence inspiring from the first lap and for the first time since building the car it feels like how i’ve always thought it should. After doing a few tire pressure changes and no major adjustments at all we finished the practice session knowing we would be in good shape for the weekend with a podium possibly in our grasp and I couldn’t wait!
Early Friday morning with brand new sticker Hankook Ventus TD Tires on the #44 BC Racing Infiniti G35 came the first session of the first race of the 2015 Global Time Attack Pro Series. As with every GTA race the first 15 minute session of the morning includes all cars on track in a Speed Index session to figure out who the faster cars are in an effort to separate the filed of 50 into two separate fields; a Group A and Group B. Group A would have the faster cars (usually Unlimited and Limited cars) and B the slower. Not only is this session important to make sure you end up in the fast group but it also sets the grid list for Session 1 based on fastest lap. Knowing we were quick from Thursday practice we assumed we would be seeded in Group A easily but I really wanted to set a pace mentally to be quick out of the box and ran a 1:37 on my first out-lap and then quickly parked the car to avoid traffic. When I was told the time over the radio I almost couldn’t believe it because with our first time session of the 2015 season I was already within a second of my best time from the previous year. This was going to be a good weekend and you probably couldn’t pry the shit-eatin’ grin off my face the rest of the day if you tried!
With the speed index session over and Session 1 fast approaching I was excited to see what the G could do in what I assumed may be the fastest session of the day as the weather was still relatively cool and the drifters from Formula D hadn’t ruined their side of the racing surface yet. The morning sessions are always the fastest but getting a quick time right out of the gate at such a daunting track like Road Atlanta really takes some mental (think lower) fortitude. Luckily my confidence in the car was high as it ever was and thankfully the front brake pads I was waiting to arrive to the track from Carbotech showed up with the perfect time to spare (now normally I would have something as simple as brake pads installed way before race weekend but a few mixups ended up having the brakes not showing up until Friday morning leaving me to practice and seed with pads that had barely enough material to be visible) to have my awesome crew chief Kyle from Z1 Motorsports install them and ready for a bed in lap….. err hot lap…. in Session 1.
Knowing that the pads were new and probably wouldn’t work perfectly until bed-in but also knowing that this session would likely be the fastest I decided to just go for it and let the pads deal with the abuse. Starting in the top 5 thanks to the seeding session we quickly left pit lane and the car felt great on the out lap and by the time I had dove down turn 12 and into 1 I knew that this ‘brake bed-in’ lap was going to fast. And it was. Immediately I beat my personal best in Limited RWD and ran a 1:35xx with tires screeching and brakes smoking (a lot, oops) but when I came around from that lap I knew it was quick but more importantly knew that there was A LOT more time left in the car and driver. With Session 1 complete we were sitting 1st in class out of 12 and 4th out of 52 overall.
With Session 1 a success and Session 2 about an hour later in the schedule enough for the car and tires to cool down (Seeding and S1 were back to back along with S2 & S3) I was very excited to run the car and was hoping to get a 1:34 or better. Unfortunately after clicking off a 1:35xx with a bit of traffic on my first hot lap and choosing to take an abnormal second hot lap I was on pace to make a 1:34 and then made a small mistake in 10A with some traffic and ended up losing time and trashing the lap. Either way after 3 sessions (skipped final session 3 due to track temp) he car was running amazing and with zero issues. We were battling for first with another Nissan driven by Erin Sanford and currently sitting in 2nd a few tenths behind at the end of Day 1 and even more excited for what we could do in the cool Saturday morning session for the final day of the weekend and hopefully move to 1st place.
Saturday morning the weather was perfect, the track was ready to go and only had one session of Trans Am qualifying on it to clean it off and make it perfect for us. The tension was thick in the GTA paddock with Saturday mornings at Road Atlanta might as well be the Golden Hour for this event with the early morning weather as cool as it gets before the Georgia sun has had a chance to melt the cars and tracks alike. The Saturday morning session is usually where a weekend is won and records are broken and this weekend was no different. Unfortunately it didn’t work out well for the #44 G35 car though. Apparently we used up all of our luck the previous two days and the second the car got on track Saturday morning there was an issue going into the infamous Road Atlanta esses on the out lap. The car stuttered and went into limp mode for the rest of the lap. After struggling to get back to pit lane in the most painfully slow lap ever I pulled into pit lane and I noticed a small fire under the hood. I quickly radioed Kyle who jumped under the hood and extinguished it before the small fire turned into anything major.
Worried about what caused the limp mode and subsequent fire and without the proper harnesses to repair the melted sections of harness we decided to call it a weekend. Given the lack of ability to repair and the quickness of the Saturday schedule I made the call to not risk hurting the car. When we decided to call the weekend we were sitting in 2nd still thanks to our 1:35 and were behind Erin in his LS powered 240SX. Unfortunately in the same session that we broke Erin did as well and we were both outdone by our fellow Nissan neighbor from the way north (Canadia) Vince Strati in his LS powered 240SX with his quick 1:33. I wish we could have gotten a chance to run Saturday morning and improve to what I thought would have been an easily obtainable 1:33 and contend for the win in LRWD but taking home a 3rd place podium for the first time out with the essentially new #44 BC Racing / Z1 Motorpsorts Infiniti G35 wasn’t so bad either. This is race 1 of 3 in the GTA Pro Series so to take 3rd place points should do us well to start the season and knowing that we have a lot of time left in the car gives us high hopes for the future. Be sure to check out the video of our fastest lap and the BC Racing GTA video featuring the #44 G35 and look for us at Global Time Attack Round 2 at New Orleans Motorsports Park in October! And lastly thanks to Jason and all the crew at Global Time Attack for running such a great series where teams like us get to showcase what we can do in such a well run and represented platform! See you all at the next race!