It has been a long and challenging season, but we finally arrived at the 50th running of the SCCA Runoffs at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. We are proud to be a part of this historic event. Past runoffs champions were invited to race without qualifying, like John Morton who won the race in a 240Z in both '70 and '71.
We suffered from part failures at all but one event over the course of the season. This is the problem when you race production based cars. The parts cannot hold up to the stresses of racing. The good part is that we were always able to put the car back together at the track in time to finish the races. In fact, we qualified for the runoffs after the first two races.
We arrived at Road America on Monday with driver, Don Bunt and four crew members; Caitlin Bunt, Nolan McCann, Paul Glinski and Eileen Bunt. We had practice scheduled for Monday and Qualifying on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The race followed on Sunday.
This season, after 15 years, Goodyear decided to quit making tires for amateur racing. So we had to make the switch to Hoosier tires. At the same time, we decided to move to radial tires. This requires some fairly substantial changes to the cars suspension. During practice on Monday, still not having the suspension geometry completely figured out, we burned up the outside edge of our left front tire. After consulting the onsite Hoosier tire experts, we made some additional changes to the front end geometry.
On Tuesday during qualifying, we ended up running even slower than practice and our lap times were about 5 seconds off last year. We immediately went looking for a problem in the cars suspension. We found that a critical rear end part had broken causing the rear toe setting to change while the car was being driven. Within a couple of hours, we had the car fixed and we awaited our second qualifying session on Wednesday.
When Wednesday came, so did the rain. We knew that we wouldn't go any faster in the rain, but we had to test the fix of the car, so we proceeded out with rain tires on. The car ran good, but we needed a dry session to see if we could make lap times as good as last year. Thursday was rainy all day and we didn't even to out. We were stuck with the slow lap that we made on Tuesday with a broken car. This put us starting 18th of 38 entries for the race. For the weekend, two additional crew members arrived: Kurt Benda and Mitch LaMonica.
On Sunday, knowing that we should have started up further up in the field, we were excited to get on with the race. When the pace car went out at a very brisk pace, with the field in tow, we were very spread out. In fact, there was no way to get the field formed up in time for the start. The start was waived off and we had to make another attempt. On the following lap we got the green flag. We had a good race and picked up a few positions along the way. Racing with Lance Loughman in one of the other 240Z's was priceless. We traded positions multiple times during the race. In the end, we are satisfied with our 11th position finish.
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Watch our in-car race footage
The road course at Michigan International Speedway is back in the SCCA rotation for the first time since 1994, and is the opener for the Northern Conference Majors Tour. This two day event is our first Majors event and we had high expectations.
This event offered no practice and all drivers were expected to qualify on Saturday with little knowledge of the track. Prior to arriving at MIS, we watched every in-car video of the track that we could put our hands on, in order to learn the track layout.
Within the first couple of laps of Saturday qualifying, we realized that the car would not stay in second gear. The car had popped out of second gear during a couple of upshifts at our last race, but we didn't think much of it. Now we were stuck using first, third and fourth gear. This was fine for the 140+ mph high banked turns and straight, but was a problem for some areas of the infield road course. Even with the gearbox issue and in a large 15 car field, we were able to qualify fifth of 15 E production cars with a time of 1:27.122.
The MIS infield was repaved in 2012 and there is no curbing installed yet. Instead, the apex of every corner is full of gravel. This is not a good mix with cars that have sticky slick tires on. On Saturday's race, we got caught out in the marbles and gravel during the start. With gravel stuck to the tires, the car pushed off track twice on the first lap and we lost several positions. We ended up finishing seventh of 14 cars with a best lap time of 1:27.926.
After racing on Saturday, we were left with a decision whether to swap out the Quaife dog ring gearbox for a stock gearbox. We decided that the gear ratios in the stock box would not be much better than when we had with the Quaife gearbox, so we decided to race with what we had.
Sunday introduced a new concept during qualifying. There would be a qualifying race; where finishing position would determine position for our race instead of best lap time. We finished the qualifying race fifth of nine cars, with a best lap time of 1:26.282.
Our Sunday race went well and it was obvious that we were learning the track. Our best lap was 1:25.587 and we again finished fifth of ten cars despite the missing second gear. Overall, we were pleased with our results and we know that had everything been working properly, we had a real chance of winning the races over the weekend.
We want to thank our crew chief, Caitlin Bunt and our crew: Eileen Bunt, Paul and Brandon Glinski for their help and support. We also want to thank family and friends for coming to support our effort. As always, thank you Doreen Bunt for supporting our racing effort.
At Blackhawk Farms Raceway in South Beloit, IL this weekend, DB Racing had its double national season opener. With mixed weather and an oiled down track, we were able to finish our first national in sixth place. Our second national was much better, finishing in second place to last year’s national championship winner, Jon Brakke.
During our cool and dry Saturday morning practice, our lap times placed us second in the E Production class. Later in the morning, it started to rain. During our wet qualifying session, we were able to qualify third; in front of Brakke, but behind a couple of front drive Hondas. The race turned out to be a handful as one of the Hondas dumped lots of oil on the track. We ended up developing a shake in the front end during the race. After a couple of stops in pit lane, it was diagnosed as a flat spotted right front tire. This was no doubt caused by tire lockups while driving thru the oil.
Sunday's race order was set by lap times from Saturday’s race. After a couple of cars dropped out on the pace lap, we started fourth. We worked our way thru the field and ended up finishing second; lapping nearly half the field.
Thank you to Eileen Bunt for stepping up to crew chief for the race, Paul Glinski, Brandon Glinski and Mitch LaMonica for helping crew this weekend.
I want to thank Nissan for coming back to amateur road racing and offering race contingencies. I also want to thank Bunt Software with SMPLink for sponsoring us again this season.
Our biggest race of the year, the SCCA Runoffs, was held on Saturday, September 22 at Road America, Elkhart Lake, WI. We ran our Bunt Software/ SMPLink sponsored Datsun 240z in the E-Production class.
The SCCA National Championship Runoffs has evolved into what is now commonly agreed to be the pinnacle of American motorsports. The Runoffs were named by Car and Driver magazine as one of the Top 10 racing events in motorsports. More than 500 drivers are competing for National Championship medals in 28 different classes.
There were three qualifying sessions for our EP class scheduled last week. During the first qualifying session, we managed to set a personal best lap time of 2:38.5 on Road America's 4 mile course. This time was good enough to position us 22 of 31 entries.
During the second session, the car developed a push and overheated a left front tire. After the session, while inspecting the car we found that the section of frame that supports the front crossmember was severely torn. We immediately went to work to cut out that section of frame and to repair it while at the track. It took 10 hours to fix, and unfortunately, we missed out on our third qualifying session.
We started the 13 lap race from the 22nd spot. We spent the first half of the race working our way thru traffic. Once clear of these cars, we were able to set another best lap time of 2:35.8. In the end, the Bunt Software/ SMPLink sponsored Datsun 240z finished 9th of 27 starters.
"I have to thank our sponsor, Bunt Software; my wife, Doreen; my children, especially my crew chief, Caitlin Bunt and crew members, Paul Glinski and Mitch LaMonica for their help and support." says Don Bunt. "Also, thanks to my engine builder, Sam Neave of L. N. A. Enterprises, for building a hot rod motor for us this season."
Our biggest race of the year, the SCCA Runoffs is coming up on Saturday, September 22 at Road America, Elkhart Lake, WI. We run our Datsun 240z in the E-Production class. In order to qualify for this race in EP, the driver must complete at least four national races and be ranked in the top 50% in the country by points. This year we are ranked 34th of 85 drivers nationally.
Last year, while racing in the rain, we won the Sunoco Hard Charger Award while picking up 18 positions during the race.
We have high hopes this year at the Runoffs. We switched to using an engine prepared by Sam Neave of L.N.A. Enterprises and have been setting personal best lap times all season.
The race schedule and other information is posted on the SCCA website at http://www.scca.com/runoffs.