|June 14, 2006
AudiBMW.com Racing Scores Another Win, but...
The #06 Audi S4 of AudiBMW.com Racing scored another victory this past weekend June 10th and 11th in Weatherly, PA, but not without incident. The second event on the Pennsylvania Hill Climb Association (www.PAHillClimb.org) schedule was held in the quaint small town of Weatherly, PA, not far from the Pocono Mountains where NASCAR was also running this weekend (made finding a hotel quit a challenge). Coming off a victory and establishing a new ITE class record just two weeks ago the hopes were high for Weatherly.
We made our first run early Saturday morning and the World Challenge Spec S4 felt strong in the early morning cool air. Of all the hills in the series Weatherly is considered one of the most challenging. With segments of the course named the “Wall” and the “Jump” you know a win is not going to come from road racing skill alone! When speaking of the jump the question is not whether or not air was attained, it’s how much air did you get and it is usually measured in feet. After my first run I knew I was going to be the weakest link in the partnership of man and machine, at least for awhile. This was my first time on this hill and although I have heard stories for years from colleauges, nothing really prepares you for the first time you launch a 3100 lb car through the air with a dense North East forest on either side. Although, as any quattro driver would expect, the landing was always rock solid and very predictable. I give some of the other fast competitors of the weekend a lot of credit for flying through the air in less than optimal, 2WD cars. Immediately after crossing the finish line I was already planning a more strategic attack for the next run.
Light turns green, bring the Motec controlled 2.7 twin turbo to 5,000 RPM and dump the clutch. The solid mounted AWD drivetrain transfers the power to ground almost instantaneously and the car lurches forward with violent, brutal force. The top of 1st gear comes so quickly the motor sits impatiently against the red line waiting for second gear. 2nd pulls hard and last only slightly longer than 1st. 3rd engages with a short push of stick, the turbos spool their way to creating so much torque that even after spending two years with this car it seems no less impressive.
Turn one approaches, a quick stab of the brakes, remain in 3rd, look through the high speed turn as you rotate the wheel to right. Do not use a typical racing line, as the crown in the road will loosen the rear of the car as you cross the center line and the car will surely be the victim of violent oversteer. Turn two, down shift to 2nd, look left, turn in hard, unwind and put your foot dead in it. The hill now becomes very steep but the 2.7 pulls hard and trees disappear quickly in your peripheral vision. Look right, “the wall” I have traveled all over the country and I have to say I have never seen a public road with such an unnaturally step and violent incline. Hitting an apex through here is not a consideration.
Against every ounce of training in your racing career the fast way through turn three is around the outside. The Audi handles it well and the undesirable oversteer as you crest the top of the wall is easily corrected with the AWD and your right foot. Turn four approaches quickly along with the 2nd gear rev limiter. No need to shift, turn four is another very steep, 2nd gear, left hand turn. The Hoosier race tires are finally starting to get warm and Audi starts to achieve lateral G’s as a legendary quattro should. Quickly back to the top of 3rd, stay dead in it and just as you begin to feel comfortable with one of the only traditional corners of the course the road straightens slightly and then disappears from sight.
The Jump! After the initial sense of panic you realize you're committed at this point, get the car straight, grip the wheel tight and hold on. Road noise suddenly vanishes. A few seconds of confusion is instantly halted by the unmistakable sound of the Audi twin turbo motor hitting the 7500 RPM rev limit. Holly S..t , serious hang time. What does it feel like to land a very stiffly sprung Audi S4? AMAZING! I know I’ve said it before but AWD rules! With the astonishment of the jump fresh in your mind you must turn back the task at hand: the finish.
Shift the new close ratio box to 4th for the first time on the course. Look ahead and avoid the natural sense of tunnel vision that tries to over come you as you exceed 100 mph. A very late apex, left hand turn, is approaching rapidly. Stay out side. You still can’t see the apex. If you turn in too quickly at this speed you will surely run out of road on the exit and you will end your run prematurely in the trees. Don’t lift, you were patient and even though you are drifting toward the guardrail and your grip becomes tight you see the opening and you are rewarded with the satisfaction of knowing you made it flat and flying. Wave back to the finish line worker, who is shaking his head as he has just witnessed what has been 25 years in the making. qUATTRO !!!
The hunt for the ITE class record fell short on Sunday. I hate to admit this but I failed to secure the hood pins and through the final turn of what may have been the record setting run, the hood released, at somewhere around 100 mph. It was a scary ride. Fortunately the windshield and the hood took most of the damage. I want to thank the Danko Race Team for all their help in removing the windshield and pounding out the hood with a few mallets, so I could continue my assault on the record. Now would be a great time to upgrade to a Seibon carbon fiber hood ( www.seibon.com ). They make some great looking stuff. I did make one more run without the windshield. The drastic change in aerodynamics made the car very unstable at speed. It was time to put the car in the trailer and consider it a lesson learned.
The AudiBMW.com Racing #06 S4 did secure another ITE class win. We will be in Reading, PA June 24th & 25th for the third event on the schedule, Pagoda. With a new windshield and hood (hood pins installed) in place we will attempt to lower our own record set 2005.