Memorial Day 2019 race weekend report from Pueblo Motorsports Park in southern Colorado. The 350Z scored two second place SCCA Majors finishes in Touring 1, but that was far from the entire story! The Z ran well on Saturday but could not match the pace of the GT1 twin-turbo Porsche 911 or the T1 Corvette GS that finished 1-2 both days. There was plenty of racing action both days, but my biggest problem came mid race on Saturday when a BMW Z4 M-coupe hit my RR wheel/tire attempting a pass. The impact threw me across the track and it took me several turns after the hit to determine whether the damage was terminal.
The Z is one tough car, so I decided it was worth the gamble to continue. I took off and began hunting down the BMW and the Porsche Boxster ahead of it. Applying pressure once I caught up, I ended up making two clean passes to finish fifth overall, but the real surprise was when we got to impound. The RR Enkei RPF-1 wheel was badly damaged, with part of the outer rim peeled back and exposing the bead of the BFG R1-S tire. If I'd known the damage was this bad, the Z would have been retired immediately! After a short talk with the BMW driver and the race stewards, he apologized and I decided not to protest his ill fated pass attempt.
Inspecting revealed more damage. the wheel-to-wheel contact had banged the wheel bearing hard, but also sent a shock wave up though the half-shaft to the NISMO diff. Continuing in the race, had allowed some of the loosened diff bolts to shift and knocked the RR ABS sensor to shift. This didn't come to light until Sunday when the ABS diagnostic system gave me a C0010 code and we figured out that the ABS system was compromised. Unfortunately, by this point, the sensor harness itself was shredded and that's not a component either myself or any of the other Z teams had in their spares. So, no ABS for the Sunday races.
In a separate issue, one of the rookie drivers who'd been racing a H Production Datsun 1200 came up with a show-stopper. His A-series engine had suffered a bent pushrod and his crew had spent the night trying to repair the damage, only to determine the damage was terminal. This driver needed a finish to qualify for a racing license and I decided to help. Although our races were back-to-back, we got him fitted to the car and changed his entry to allow him to race the Z. The driver, Ian Sullivan, is a friend of mine and he went on to do a nice job driving the car smoothly to a finish and bringing it back to the paddock to be refueled and into the next race. Starting the Sunday race, it was clear the grip and race pace was down from Saturday. My goal was to make half distance and get the finish, but never got the signal.
On lap 14, the brake monster got me, and I locked up the fronts going into T1 at about 118 MPH. My usual line takes me deep into the turn with threshold braking and the fronts locking put me in immediate danger. With so little track space to recover, I was off the lip of that banked turn in a flash. Flying through the air, all I saw was sand and BIG rocks in the runoff area! Landed with a crash and kept the steering straight to prevent any dig in and potential rollover. While I covered enough laps to be counted a finisher, that was the end of my third race weekend of the year. Loading my sand-covered Z into the trailer, lots of work to be done before the next race in July.