Back in the Saddle Again at Gridlife Round 5 Gingerman

It was 10 months in the making. After two engine failures, a fire, and coming so close to the fastest lap ever at Super Lap Battle 2017, we knew we had a big rebuild ahead of us. In that time we’d repair the bodywork, rewire the entire car, update our data acquisition system, install a new engine, add a dry sump system, thoroughly check the entire drivetrain, rebuild the suspension, and make countless other small upgrades and tweaks to improve reliability and performance. It was incredibly difficult to see events come and go and not be able to compete in them. We got by on the hope that the end result was going to be worth it.

With the car nearing completion and Gridlife Round 5 happening at our favorite test track, Gingerman Raceway, we knew it was the perfect opportunity to get out and see the results of our hard work. There was one issue, though: weather appeared to be mocking us. The day before leaving, we saw at least a 50% chance of rain happening every single hour of the event. We didn’t even know if we were going to take the car off the trailer.

On arrival, though, the race gods were smiling upon us. The weather threatened throughout the day by sprinkling here and there, but the bad storms went north and south of the track. This gave us the opportunity to get right out on a mildly wet track to do a systems test to check if the rebuild was more or less successful. With Dan, your humble author, taking the car out first, everything was incredibly good! The engine felt strong at high rpm: even on the lowest boost settings, the brakes were nicely balanced, the suspension was well damped, aero felt effective and everything was looking great. Two minor things: one of the exhaust gas temperature sensor’s wiring become disconnected, as indicated by our AEM CD-7L dash before even getting back to the pits and our MIVEC system wasn’t reactivated after changing out our crank sensor system from the OEM design to Kiggly Racing’s billet system -both easy fixes.

With the track drying out and rain constantly threatening, we switched to having Andy Smedegard drive the Evo to gain some comfort, offer additional feedback, and to see how fast we really were. Of course, on his first lap the car’s engine didn’t sound right and he limped it back to the pits to tell us it felt like it wasn’t running on all 4 cylinders. Time attack life is never easy! The car would idle and with a quick look at the exhaust gas temperatures on the AEM dash we saw cylinder 2 wasn’t firing. Right away, Grant saw the connector to the ignition coil wasn’t fully seated and once it was snapped into position, the car was happy again and that was the last issue we’d have to deal with in regards to how the car performed the entire weekend.

Immediately, Andy took the car and posted a time of 1:26.8, the 2nd fastest time of the event, beating our previous best lap time by 3 seconds and the 3rd fastest time ever for a production based car on the track. To top it all off, this was on our lowest boost setting and year old Hoosier A7 tires. We would get one more session to see what the car would do on our second highest boost level, but unfortunately due to yellow flags and traffic, an opportunity to get a flying lap in was impossible. Day 1 finished with no work to do on the car, our fastest lap at Gingerman ever, weather predictions saying that we’d have hours of clear track the following day and plenty of potential left in the car with more power and seat time. We were feeling very optimistic to say the least. Team mechanic, Grant Davis, was so bored at this point he decided to help a competitor swap a transmission!

Day 2 and we realized that being on Lake Michigan means that you can never trust the weatherman. We woke up to rain and the radar said we were going to get more of it for most, if not all of, the day. The rain wasn’t extremely strong, just enough to keep the track damp, so we took the opportunity to do some aerodynamic flow visualization testing. This involved taking powdered paint, mixing it with mineral spirits and spraying the combination all over the car. After that, we drove the car around the track to get the fluid to spread and let us know how the wind interacted with the surface of the vehicle. With this information we could see how our aerodynamic components were working and see what areas had room for improvement.

During these tests, the rain started to taper off and the weather improved, just in time for the last time attack session of the day. Quickly, we prepared the car with fresh Hoosier A7 tires, confirmed all settings and performed our safety checks on the car. Andy would get one opportunity to see if we could get victory and possibly set the fastest Gingerman lap ever, which was a 1:23.7 set by World Time Attack competitor, Will Au-Yeung, earlier this year.

Andy would have enough fuel for two laps and his first lap, a 1:25.1, was fast enough for the victory and the 2nd fastest production car lap, but when pushing for more, on the final turn of his 2nd hot lap, he drove a little too hard and went wide and into the sand. The damage was relatively minor, a broken front bumper, tweaked splitter, a bent core support and sand EVERYWHERE, but the car returned to the pits under its own power and the team was overall still very happy with the victory.

With one successful event in hand, it’s back to grind we go. The potential in the car is unreal and exciting. Next we’ll fix the damage and prepare the car for the ultimate test of a time attack car’s performance and the event where victory was just a turn away from us last year, Super Lap Battle.

We’d like to thank all of our friends, family, and partners for supporting us through the rebuild process. We will make the sacrifices and help you’ve given us worth it! Additional thanks to Rob Wilkinson, Ben Mich, and Devin Giles for the photos.

Full Gridlife results are available here:

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