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Door to Door racing

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Joined: 22 Aug 1999
Posts: 3085
Location: Seattle, WA USA

PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2005 2:45 pm    Post subject: Door to Door racing Reply with quote

Courtesy of Sage Schreiner

The best racing in the world happens on tracks where no one is watching,
where the drivers are slow, the cars are slower and all of the drivers
fighting junkyard components in a constant state of near-failure. In my
not-so-unbiased opinion, that is. It also, inarguably, happens when I'm
the one doing the racing. I can say this objectively, because racing in
Conference is definitely more fun than watching Formula 1 on TV;
although a snaggle-toothed Hobbesian narration is hard to beat.

This is the story of the second best race that the world has never seen.

The middle of August was extremely busy for Girlchief and I as we were
hard at work on the Multiple Sclerosis benefit event at my sponsor,
Carpenter Creek Winery (shameless plug: check out their new '03 wines at; I'm super excited about the blended reds, but
I'm not an alcoholic! I'm not!). There was no time to work on the car.
It spent more time on the trailer than in the garage, a pumpkin-colored
eyesore in an otherwise hue-challenged neighborhood. At the same time, I
mulled my upcoming race in Portland. As I had missed the triple-points
weekend of Spokane, I was now behind in race standings -- but with some
good finishes and a bit of luck, I could still pull ahead and win the championship.

Girlchief and I decided to do an early Saturday morning tow down to
Portland. It's a 2.5 hour straight shot, much preferable to leaving at 7
on Friday evening and wandering in around 11.30 after spending hours in
stop and go traffic. It also saves a hotel room for Friday night.
Racerdog loves race weekends, and gets very excited with the 5 am wakeup
call. She knows it means a fun trip, lots of attention, and more treats
than she'd get normally.

We crawled into the misty paddock with twenty minutes to spare, waved at
Jeff and Judge Peneck, and found a spot with the Dirt Cheap Racing
crowd. Registered and teched, car unloaded, wheel torque checked, safety
equipment on and it was time to drive. The 1-minute whistle of the Group
2 practice session sounded. I felt comfortable on the track, despite the
a few sideways glances at the paint on the walls where I'd crashed the
last time here in the June 6th monsoon. I brought my speed up much more
quickly than I usually do in practice sessions. I was sliding into Turn
3, countersteering, then lifting a bit to get the car to hook-up. I was
brushing the brakes at the end of the back straight, riding up high on
the left-hand FIA curbing, and then using the steeper right-hand curbing
to help rotate the car into the Turn 12 breaking zone. The car was fast.
I felt fast.

I passed the smarmy yellow '02 of Dave Karraker. Then he passed me. Then
I passed him. Then he passed me. I drove faster, he drove faster. Our
cars, both BMW 4-cylinders, seemed to be well matched. Our line and
turn-in points were identical. The session checkered waved.

The weather had turned rainy earlier than usual this summer, and it was
unclear what race-day weather was going to be like. Sunday qualifying
could well be wet, so I decided it to treat Saturday afternoon like it
was my only qualifying chance.

I drove the wheels off the race car. Towards the end of the session, I
started to feel the slight hesitation on the straight that had haunted
me at Pacific Raceways. All the same, I felt like I had put in some very
fast, clean laps, without traffic. I braked later, got on the gas
earlier, entered corners hotter, rotated the car more, and tried to find
the line between fast and over-driven. The car fit me like a silk glove.

I had qualified about a 1.5 seconds faster than I had ever driven at
PIR. But Dave's mellow yellow 2002 was .002 seconds faster.
Two-thousandths of a second is a swallow's sneeze at start-finish.
Weather permitting, I was going to find some more speed the next

The next morning, the weather was permitting. I focused. I imagined
taking corners faster. I swallowed my common sense. I spoke in tongues.
I drove the fastest lap I ever had at PIR. I was over a second faster
than I had been the day before.

So was Dave. He was five-hundredths of a second faster than me. My
1:37.602 against his 1:37.557.

No biggy. He'd be starting right in front of me; I'd get him at the
start of the race. Five hundredths is a swallow's fart.

That was the theory. When the green flag waved, forty drivers buried the
go-pedal, and tried not to hit each other. Dave showed his superior
experience and slipped into spaces I couldn't find, gaining half-a-dozen
spots on me. For every place I gained, I'd lose one to a Rabbit or RX-7
engaged in their own close race. Dave's lead quickly grew as the pack
spread out through it's first few laps. I wasn't going to catch him, if
his lead continued to grow like that. Not a chance. My car still had the
slight hesitation on the straight between about 5000 and 6000 rpms. It
wasn't more than a tenth of a second per lap, but I was worried it would
get worse.

Then his pace began to fall off -- he was having brake problems -- his
brake lights were going on too early for the corners. Slowly, I worked
past counter-steering RX-7s and wheel-lifting Rabbits, one car at a
time. It wasn't easy. They were engaged in their own close races, and I
didn't have the power to pass them on the straights. Lap after lap
passed, valuable time dropping behind me.

Then there was nothing in front of me but the '02. It took a lap to
close the distance, and my first try was an inside pass in the breaking
zone for the chicane. I stayed on the brakes a little to late, and the
car over-rotated. Sloppy and slow, and he re-passed me and gained 20
yards. I took a deep breath and focused and went to the inside for turn
4. He closed the door on me, and I tried again in 8.

Our side-view mirrors were inches apart as we slid through the corner at
the edge of adhesion. We were dead even with each other. Almost every
corner we were door-to-door, scrabbling for any traction, any advantage.

When I would try to pass, Dave would leave me exactly enough room to fit
my car, and nothing more. I gained a bit in the breaking zones, but our
corner entry speeds and lines were almost identical and every time we'd
hit the straight-away my car would hesitate and he'd gain a bit on me. I
found speed in corners where I'd never known it could be, but I couldn't
outpace Dave. He might lead for a corner or two, then we'd be
door-to-door, then I'd be ahead momentarily.

The hesitation on the straight was getting worse and worse, until it was
so bad that Dave was gaining 3 or 4 car lengths on me. I'd pass him on
the last corner, Turn 12, and then the mellow-yellow 2002 would blow by
me like I was a highway cone. I swear I saw him wave once or twice. I'd
start to make up the distance in the chicane breaking zone, then we'd be
door-to-door through the entire back section and through the back
straight. I might have half a car length on him going into the 10-11-12
complex at the end of the back straight and manage to squeak past him.
Once I tried to pass him on the outside in Turn 10. Bad plan. Pavement
disappears very quickly at 100 mph. But he gave me the space I needed to
recover (if not pass).

There may have been other cars racing with us, but I don't remember
them. In my gas-tinged, sun-addled haze, all I remember is the sinking
desperation I'd have every time he'd pass me, and the sudden ecstasy as
I found a way to pass him.

I missed the 5 Minute warning, but saw the LL placard displayed. I hoped
against hope that this lap I could stay ahead of him on the straight.
Maybe he'd over rotate in turn 12 and wouldn't be able to catch me
before the start. Or something. Maybe.

We raced mirror almost touching mirror, sticky-hot tires scrubbing
sideways through the corners, noise and heat and wind, the last yards of
the race disappearing in one great rush of speed. He lead me in turn 10
and 11, but I slipped inside in Turn 12, and was ahead of him on the
exit. But there was nothing I could do. My car gasped and hesitated, he
made no mistakes, and as we passed Start / Finish, he was three car
lengths ahead of me.

It was a great race. Greater in the telling, perhaps, if I had won --
but it was still a great race. In line for the scales, Dave and I
rehashed the race, lied about how fast we'd be if only... and
congratulated each other on a race well-driven. Girlchief and Racerdog
hadn't yet made it back from where they had watched the race, and Dave
gave me an ice-cold water bottle. It went down like ambrosia.

That's what racing is supposed to be like.

The following weekend, I won at Mission, BC, having lead every lap
except one. I beat my competition by half a lap -- but I drove poorly,
and wasn't challenged. It wasn't half the fun. Racerdog disagreed. She
liked the bacon the snack-truck lady kept sneaking her when Girlchief
wasn't looking.

[ 03-02-2005: Message edited by: dale ]

[ 03-02-2005: Message edited by: dale ]
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Joined: 22 Aug 1999
Posts: 3085
Location: Seattle, WA USA

PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2005 2:47 pm    Post subject: Door to Door racing Reply with quote

I suspect that many folks when I tell them I go racing have no real
idea what it's all about, other then the NASCAR stuff seen on TV or
Indy, once in a while. For me, watching it on TV is usually somewhat
boring. Getting out and doing it though, well, Sage does a great
job of describing the two extremes. Closely match cars, closely matched
drivers, equals great racing. Extreme mismatch in either cars or
drivers and one guy/gal just runs away with the race, and it's
pretty boring.

BTW Sage is a good friend, and I really hope he upgrades his car this
year to race in the same class I am in. And if you find this entertaining
Sage has many more accounts like it at his site,


Note1: Hobbesian=David Hobbes is famous for his color commentary on Formula 1 racing
on the Speed Channel(33 for those of you with cable, and first race is this
weekend of F1, which I really hope won't be extrememly boring again this year)

Note2: Sage's car is a 1984 BMW 318i that he bought for $1500, and last year
painted bright orange. Dave's car is a yellow 1974ish BMW 2002.
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Joined: 05 Apr 2005
Posts: 7
Location: California

PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2005 7:47 pm    Post subject: Door to Door racing Reply with quote

Wow, nice story. I agree on the racing bit though. It is fun watching it on TV, but it was way better going out and actually racing. I went indoor karting the other weekend and had a blast. I kept reliving the race just like you are right now.

Thanks for the story telling.
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Joined: 10 Mar 2004
Posts: 2182

PostPosted: Thu Apr 07, 2005 4:46 am    Post subject: Door to Door racing Reply with quote

"For me, watching it on TV is usually somewhat boring"

I feel the same way...I have a buddy I track with WHO LOVES watching Nascar, formula1 etc, etc, and all I can think is, why watch when you can do?
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Steve D

Joined: 09 Aug 2004
Posts: 102
Location: San Diego

PostPosted: Fri Apr 08, 2005 10:08 am    Post subject: Door to Door racing Reply with quote

Absolutely! I've taken a couple friends of mine who are big NASCAR fans for rides around Phoenix Int'l Raceway with NASA in my spec e30 car & though I scared the sh!t out of them they had a blast. They both said the perspective from actually being in the car on the track was completely different from they'd thought it would be like, based on sitting in the stands.
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