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Submitted by Bob Perritt

perritt813aThe recent club race at Pittsburgh International Race Complex (Beaver Run), hosted by Allegheny Chapter BMW along with VRG group, turned out to be a great event with all proceeds going to the Autism Society of Pittsburgh.

This was my first time on this track, so having Friday for a test-and-tune before the Saturday and Sunday races was definitely needed. This track has 12 turns and is only 1.6 miles--a fast track. At Turn 1 you are coming off a long straightaway braking uphill before making the left-hander. (Braking late here will put you in the grass; a few cars tried it.) Turns 2 and 3 are full-throttle, hit them correctly, just hold the wheel, and go. There's light braking at another right-hander, Turn 4, then comes Turn 5, a right-hander uphill followed by a left-hander, leading into the infamous blind, downhill with a twist turn at 7. Throttle too early and you will snap spin; anyone following you won't know until it's too late. Throttle late and you will lose fifteen car lengths. Between Turns 7 and 10 is the fastest part of the track. It sets you up for the carousel at 10. Turn 9 is a right-hand chicane. Getting right tires on the curbing allows you to stay full throttle. Get off by a foot? Well, you're in the grass to the left. (It's a narrow track and there's some safe-run-off, but not there. That's bad even in the dry.) There's the carousel at 10 and Turn 11 is right-handed and uphill. Finding the best way for your car is a must here; a race can be won or lost very easily. The final turn at 12 is a left-hander leading onto the front straight where you start all over again.

I was being chased by another car in my class the whole race. I had a great run in carousel, but so did the guy behind me, and he has more horsepower for the front straight. As I approached 12, a third car was losing power. I committed to a left pass, while the other car—a few car lengths back--committed to right pass, splitting the slower car. Suddenly the slower car suggested a point-by for me on the right. Well, that wasn't going to happen at that point; it couldn't happen. The slower car moved left, forcing me to pass with two wheels in the grass and two on the track about 12 inches or so from guardrail. Not wanting to cause any problems, I was able to keep full throttle, complete the pass, mow the grass with my splitter, keeping my position (second) to finish the race. Passing off the track safely was my first concern, knowing if I lifted, I might have caused an issue. I'm not suggesting a pass in grass, but, in each situation, you need to make a quick decision, knowing you put the odds in your favor (being safe) and not endangering the cars around you. It has to happen quickly and efficiently.

In another race, as I approached Turn 1, a slightly blind turn, to my surprise I see oil on the curbing. Maybe a blown motor? The debris flag wasn't out yet. As you can imagine, my car didn't like that at all. Going through the turn, seeing a part of the track one would not normally see, wasn't how I envisioned that turn, but we were able to keep #57 on the track and lost only less than a half second that lap. A couple of other cars behind me weren't so fortunate. They did manage to not hit anything, although they lost a little more time. Anything can happen. Trying to make the best of each situation can help you win your race. It's not all about winning. (Yeah, right. Well, maybe it is.) It's learning to race with your friends, it's being predictable and safe.

I have to tell you, that, this being my first time at this track and not knowing what it was like, it's going to be another track we need to visit annually. (Just like most tracks—all tracks). They say if you haven't visited the track since they paved the paddock or upgraded the buildings, you should come. Even the entrance road is paved. (I guess it was a dirt road; being up hill, it was a real problem before.) We noticed they have started on the new 3-mile track; it should be a really fun, too! Hopefully, they'll make it wider (driving three wide and wider is a blast), as I don't want passing in the grass being the best option. LOL! (Check out the photo of my grille: Grass, grass and more grass).

See you at the track,