On the July 4th weekend the Supersport Mk2 made it’s North American racing debut at Mid Ohio Sports Car Course racing with NARRA in the GT1 class. The competition in GT1 was all Dodge Viper Comp Coupes running V10 engines.
I was again surprised how much the performance bar is raised when you are racing a sanctioned event as opposed to testing at our home track. I was also a bit surprised by the higher than expected level of competition from the very well driven and professionally prepared cars at NARRA.
Friday was a test day. We started off running very old tires just to get a feel for the track and the car. Craig Stanton, our pro driver, did a fantastic job of getting up to speed quickly. The second session was skipped to give the crew time to work on the other car we were supporting at the event. One thing about NARRA, they give you lots and lots of track time for your buck!
For Friday’s third session we mounted new Hoosier tires. Craig started pushing hard, running fast times but reported the handling was going away. We returned to the trailer and started inspecting the car. Another big surprise! The rear lower control arms are bent. This is the first time we have run the car with improved aero for more downforce and stiffer rear springs. The control arms were simply not able to handle the increased loads. We decided to repair and reinforce the control arms, using the trailer landing gear as a press and straightened the arms. Craig went to Home Depot to acquire material to reinforce and strengthen the arms. A late night of cutting and grinding had everything ready for welding in the morning. The repair and strengthening was rather agricultural but certainly appeared capable of doing the job.
We skipped Saturday’s warmup session and were ready for the qualifying session. Craig was being very conservative, not being too sure of the control arm repairs and qualified 4th in class. Inspecting after qualifying showed that indeed the repairs were all holding up just fine. Now we started setting the car up for the race. Saturday’s race showed us right away that having the lowest horsepower but best handling car on the track was a challenge, especially with Craig’s instructions to “take it easy, we really want to run Sunday!”. Craig was held up by the cars ahead in the curvy bits but when he got to the straights the Viper’s top speed allowed them to pass. Without diving hard in the corners Craig could not negate their top speed advantage. The half hour race was the longest we have run the Supersport Mk2 in anger. Craig’s smooth consistent driving earned the car it’s first podium appearance!
Sunday dawned with new enthusiasm from both driver and crew. Today we would push harder! Spring changes, aero changes, shock changes, alignment changes, all were made. After the morning warmup session Craig’s immediate response was “better,better,better!”. For qualifying a new set of tires yielded Craig a quick time right out of the box. We are fastest in our class so far so we sit in pit lane and watch the competition. Craig says he has more left in the car. On the last qualifying lap Saturday’s GT1 winner just nips us for the pole. Craig says “No problem, I have plenty left”. He will get them on the start and push hard enough to gain enough in the corners to be able to maintain his position and move up.
On the race start Craig does a fantastic job easily passing the GT1 pole sitter on the outside and starts after a GTU car just ahead. The GTU car is leaking lots of fluid and Craig cannot run too close without risking the car. He is pulling away leading the GT1 class when the handling goes away. He pits and the crew finds that the rear sway bar link is disconnected so we decide to retire.
We learned so much over the weekend. First, we learned that Craig loves the car. His common refrain after getting out of the car was “You have a really neat thing here” and “I just love driving this car!” Secondly, we are really close. We need to design and manufacture new rear control arms, thoroughly test them, and retrofit the existing cars free of charge. Thirdly, racing will push us to refine our setups. The car is very responsive to changes so optimizing it is achievable and easy to do and changes don’t kill the crew.
The engine, transmission, and electronics performed flawlessly and are proving to be state of the art and very reliable. This complete car is truly a drivers car.
As we work towards building our one-make series for the car we are enthusiastic and very confident that the Supersport Mk2 Spec Series will prove to be the best GT series for drivers on the planet.