Tom Patton’s 2018 Racing Season | Issue 2

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First published TEAE Newsletter April 2018  Rootes Review

New Orleans, LA – March 9-10, 2018

Racing can be such a high or a devastating low! NOLA was right in the middle. We arrived in New Orleans to beautiful weather — low 70’s and sunny! We had a test day on Friday to prepare for the races on Saturday and Sunday. Despite our planning and preparation, issues quickly arose and we were in crisis mode early.

After two laps in the first test session the brakes were very erratic and the pedal was going long. This was compounded by the track surface which had become very rough since our last visit in 2016. We ran the remaining three sessions during the day but never resolved the brake issue. That night I told Janet, my wife of 46 years, that I was concerned about the condition of the track and the danger of breaking a rear gear on the bumps in the corner exits. Janet is a big part of Team Tiger and an ardent supporter of SCCA activities. She has accompanied me to every race but one over the past 38 years. She jumps right in with an extra set of hands when needed and makes sure we stay on schedule.

In the first qualifying session Saturday, we ended up fifth out of eight GT2 cars, nearly three seconds off our pace two years ago. After reviewing the data, I saw the rear brake pressure was 200psi lower than normal. We looked over the system, bleeding the masters and adjusting the balance bar, which I had replaced during the winter rebuild. All looked fine, but when the green flag fell at the start, I quickly found the brakes were not right. I was passed by three cars under brakes in the first three turns but got them back on the next lap. Unfortunately, on the entrance to the front straight the car lost drive as I was going thru the gears. We pulled off the track out of the way… our race was over. As I feared, the rear end had broken. We had a spare rear end set up in the trailer but chose not to install it. I might have done the swap if the brakes were working correctly. So we loaded up and left for home Sunday morning.

Road Atlanta— March 17-18, 2018

Looking forward to our next race at Road Atlanta in two weeks, we quickly began to make the necessary repairs. The rear end swap is relatively easy and fast. I did take the broken rear end apart and found the thru shaft had broken. On a quick change rear end the thru shaft is coupled to the drive shaft and it turns a spur gear that turns the pinions spur gear. I have another thru shaft so we will also put that together so we will have a spare for Atlanta. The brakes were my number one concern and a new rear master cylinder brought the brakes back to life. 

We are at Road Atlanta for the second SCCA Majors weekend. This year the schedule was a bit unconventional as there was no test day on Friday. Test days are important for setting the car and getting me into a rhythm with the track. Saturday was wet in the morning but for our first race Saturday afternoon the weather had improved and we had 70 degree temps and clearing skies. Unfortunately, the brake balance was still off and I really needed additional track time to get it zeroed in. The result was a fifth place finish out of a six car GT2 class field.

We went to work making the adjustments to the brakes and prepped the car for the feature race Sunday afternoon. The weather was perfect for Sunday’s race and the Tiger was much better also. We quickly settled into fourth place and set after the third place Porsche Cup car. I was struggling to get my line right for turn one and the downhill turn 12 due to track changes since last year. We caught the Porsche very quickly and made the pass on the long back straight coming out of turn seven.  A bad turn at turn 10a (left hand turn at end of back straight) slowed me going down the hill and under the bridge. This allowed the Porsche to get by at turn two but we closed right up coming into turn seven, made another good exit and motored by into third. Now with a clear track I was focused on running down the Toyota in second. Unfortunately, I made an error in turn 10a again. After turning too early and using too much curbing, the left front tire dropped off the racing surface spinning the Tiger around. I got it turned around and started after the competition; but the car was not right and I quickly realized the left front tire was flat. Race over! Not a total loss as the car had good speed and if not for operator error we would have had a great race. We will get them next time!

Watch the race here

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