Back to TrackTales

What big eyes you have.

75mph backwards at Carolina Motorsports Park, 5Apr08


Each race has a “Qualification” session prior that determines the race’s start order.  The driver with the fastest qualification time get’s the pole position.  The objective during “Qual” is to simply get one good lap.  To do that you want to get some clear track ahead so your good lap isn’t hosed by getting stuck behind someone else.

 It was raining pretty hard during Qual.  There was standing water at a number of places.  Our tires are prone to hydroplaning because they don’t have a lot of grooves in them, and the car’s are light.  And as I overheard one guy say “when you hydroplane, it doesn’t matter how good you are”.

 The fact that every passing car changes the pattern of standing water doesn’t make it any easier.  Not that you have enough visibility in the rain and spray to see those kinds of subtlties anyhow.

 Another factor that one has to keep in mind is that water soaked grass is really slippery.  So if you go off track into the grass, the car will seem to slide forever.  The tire barriers are a helova lot closer then forever.

 “The Kink”, the turn that took me out, is a tricky little bugger that is generally done at 90-115mph, depending on your horsepower and balls.  It’s dicey, because if you take it fast, the tiniest problem will put you off the track sideways at >100mph.  Which could go poorly.  It doesn’t get easier in the rain.  Or when a pond forms.

 And the story….

Qual today was wet. I spent most of it behind a Miata. He wasn't that fast (ok, neither am I), but I letting folks by and my own ineptitude were preventing me from getting the pass. Finally the stars aligned just right, there was no traffic and I had a good run at 8. I was gonna get by this guy before the kink.

As a rookie, I can count my race passes on one hand. So any pass I do is fairly significant. Passing the Miata might increase my lifetime pass total by maybe 25%.

My good run at 8 did the job. And I was a celebratin' mofo. I'd just executed a pass. Kiss my ass and call me sweet cheeks.

Remember now, it was raining hard enough that there is standing water all over the place, and the patterns of water were changing constantly.

I got the SOB with plenty of time to set up for the kink. I was hauling ass, but really no faster then the earlier laps. This was going to be MY LAP because I now had open track. I was gonna open a can of whoopass.

I made it thru the kink just fine with the Miata now drafting right behind me.

Then in a blink of an eye I was suddenly....backwards. I had spun 180deg so fast that it hardly registered. The Miata and I were now bumper to bumper. Front bumpers. I remember seeing his really big eyes.

It wasn't really an anxious moment. I was right on line heading towards turn 11. I was still ahead of the damn Miata. I was just....backwards.

After a couple minutes I started thinking about how to recover from this. I had the clutch in, but after briefly hitting the brakes, I'd backed off the brakes in order to attempt to control the direct of the slide. There was already someone in the grass to driver’s left, so I didn't want to go that way. And it didn't seem safe to end up on the track, so I figured that I'd try to slide towards the driver’s right.   

Eventually the slide seemed to adopt a vector that would take me to driver’s right (actually left, since I was backwards), so then I hit the brakes. It was all very civilized. A moment later I was off the track and backwards into the wet grass. "Perfect", I thought. "Now I'm off the track".

Which is when the car seemed to accelerate at 10g's. Goddamn how that wet grass was frictionless. What seemed like only an amusing misadventure had just turned very evil. I was watching the tire wall approach in my rear view mirror and it was looking bad for the kid.

But it worked out ok. I slid to a stop in an adjacent county. Then I did a couple donuts trying to get back on to the track and off I went. My fastest lap for Qual turned out to be the warm up lap. Sigh.

Video here.  Look in the Video folder for the Face2Face video. As always, download before playing.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Back to TrackTales