Dateline: Friday, June 16, 2023

As long-time readers may recall, VIRginia International Raceway was the site of scR motorsports’ first GT4 victory. The year was 2020, COVID was in full swing, and Bill Auberlen and I were just starting to figure each other out. That weekend was a triple-header, and between the two of us we garnered three pole positions, two wins, and a second-place podium appearance that could have been a third win had I not botched the restart on Sunday afternoon. But no matter how you slice it, that was a very, very special weekend, the success of which we had not been able to recreate more than three years later.

Well, until now. Welcome to our very, very special VIR weekend, 2023 edition.

The guy on the left (not the far left) gets all the credit. I don’t really know the guy on the far left.

Q: So, you finally won a race? It feels like this was coming all season.

A: Not me. Us. And it’s even better than that. Every single aspect of the team was switched on. The car, the prep, the strategy, the setup, the engineering, and the driving all converged perfectly. We walked out of the weekend having put the car on the pole for both races, capturing two wins, and leading the Pro-Am Championship (forget that last part for the moment, though).

And for good measure, James and Charlie in the #36 Am-Am BimmerWorld Racing sister car did the exact same thing in front of the home-town crowd. They came away from the weekend having put their car on the pole for both races, winning both races, and leading the Am-Am Championship.

Trophies for all, but next time we will park the 82 out in front of the team photo.

Q: Yeah, that sounds very, very special!

A: But you haven’t even heard the best part yet.

Q: So, what was the best part?

A: My mom and dad were both at the track, a relatively rare occurrence now that SRO is no longer racing at Watkins Glen (boo). And it just so happened that Saturday was my mom’s birthday and Sunday was Father’s Day. It was a weekend filled with celebration, family, and, well, celebration with family! Pinch me.

Happy birthday, mom! Sorry I smell like sweat and champagne.

Q: Seems like everything went exactly to plan.

A: It appears that way from the outside looking in, but the reality was that I nearly missed the race. A significant work conflict had me in St. Louis the day before practice and qualifying, and when it spilled over into Thursday afternoon there was no way to get to the track in time to spend any time behind the wheel.

When I called this to the attention of Matt Travis, the driver of the #47 Porsche Cayman leading the Pro-Am Championship, he proposed a solution that was equal parts sportsmanlike and magnanimous. It’s probably also true that he did not want me making up any lame excuses in the next newsletter explaining how our lack of track time somehow encumbered our performance. Maybe he is now having second thoughts about that, but here’s a huge shout out to the Matt and the entire NOLASPORT team for being true competitors. There is a huge favor here waiting to be repaid.

This is exactly how it felt flying from St. Louis to Danville on Thursday afternoon.

Q: Are you, like, going to let him pass you or something later in the season?

A: Probably not. It wasn’t quite THAT huge. But that doesn’t diminish my gratitude at all.

Q: The new car works pretty well at VIR, I guess?

A: Absolutely. It also helps that we tested and tested and tested for this race. By the time qualifying came around, we were locked and loaded. My flier was a 1:53.4, more than 1.7 seconds faster than my personal best set in 2022. That ultimately was good for third overall and first in class for Race 1. I am quite confident I have never qualified overall that well in GT4. Ever.

Tyler did more of the same. His crazy fast 1:52.9 was also good for third overall and first in class for Race 2. A nice bit of symmetry and a strong, strong team performance.

P3 overall in Qualifying 1. It was a very special lap.

Q: Was Race 1 an actual race, or was it littered with yellow flags?

A: Are you sitting down?

Q: Of course.

A: From the wave of the green flag, I saw exactly zero yellow flags.

Q: *Faints*

A: I know, right?

Q: You have been saying all year that should work to your advantage. Did it?

A: Heck yes, Napoleon. At the start I was able to maintain my third-place overall position and when the driver change window opened up 25 minutes later, I handed off the car to Tyler still in third place. Our closest Pro-Am competitor was more than a few cars behind, but Tyler never looked back. He took off and ran away, finishing the race under green flag conditions, more than 25 seconds in front of the second-place Pro-Am competitor.

Lap 1 of Race 1 with BimmerWorld leading the way in Pro-Am and Am-Am.

Q: Did it feel good to spray the champagne from the center step?

A: Well, for a little while. Matt, probably regretting his decision to help get me to the track on time, perfectly launched a stream of champagne that managed to bypass my sunglasses and essentially blinded me for about five minutes. I mean, I’m not complaining, but truly I tell you I was without any sense of vision for a brief while there. I now understand why stick-and-ball athletes wear goggles while spraying the bubbly in the locker room after winning a championship.

I can’t see, Matt. I mean, really. I CAN’T SEE!

Q: Seems like a small price to pay for the win.

A: That’s the truth.

Q: Was Sunday’s race more of the same?

A: Sadly, no. Between the two of us, Tyler and I saw a total of seven green flag laps. But we won the race, so I’ll shut up about that now.

I think this is one of Tyler’s three green flag laps.

Q: Any drama, or was it another runaway?

A: Oh, it was most decidedly not a runaway. Tyler’s stint went yellow one lap into the race and stayed that way until two laps before the driver change window opened up. He was running first place in class, but Matt’s teammate Jason Hart in the 47 Porsche was literally right behind him the entire time.

Here’s Tyler deploying our smoke screen (we’re still working on formal homologation).

Q: How did it shake out after the driver change?

A: Pretty ok, but because we came in a lap or two earlier than Jason did, we lost a position during the exchange. Which wasn’t the end of the world, because we were pretty confident that we had pace on them for the second half of the race. And then it went silly.

Q: Define silly.

A: In case I have not said it before, the GT4 America grid can’t go more than one freaking lap without somebody wrecking so badly that we need to parade around under a canopy of yellow flags. When Matt re-entered the track, he did so right in front of me. At the time, I was being followed quite closely by the #44 Pro-Am car being driven by an anonymous guy that we will call “Johan” for sake of the newsletter. So, we effectively had the whole Pro-Am podium right there running nose-to-tail with about 15 minutes left in the race.

As our little train approached Turn 1 on Lap 18, I was in no position to make a move on Matt, but “Johan” (that may or may not be his real name) dove to my inside with an incredible amount of enthusiasm. A little bit too much, as it turns out. He sailed by me on the inside, headed straight for Matt’s door. I had unfortunately already seen this movie at COTA and knew the ending.

Front-row seat to the mayhem. Way too close for comfort. Again.

Q: Oh no!

A: Oh yes. “Johan” cleaned out Matt in convincing fashion. I know he feels badly about it, but thankfully Matt was able to soldier on with a wounded car. “Johan” wasn’t quite as fortunate, as his left-front something-or-other broke and left him stranded at the top of the Climbing Esses. This brought out…

Q: …a yellow flag that ended the race?

A: Yep. The double yellows came out almost immediately, and there effectively ended Race 2.

Now, while I will not ever complain about a P1 finish, this isn’t how you want them to evolve. But racing is racing, points are points, and we made our trip to the podium proudly. I was most disappointed by the fact that I did not get to race with Matt for the lead, but we will have to hope for that another day.

I avoided getting champagne in my eyes on Sunday. Probably because Matt was absent.

Q: Since I dutifully forgot you told us earlier, where does this put you in the Pro-Am Championship?

A: Depends who you ask. While there is a link on the SRO homepage to the 2023 Standings, it still has us sitting in fifth place. Which is simply wrong. So, as a public service to the entire GT4 America Pro-Am grid, here’s a bootleg version of the latest 100% official Championship standings following VIR Race 2 that I found while randomly surfing the internet last night.

This may or may not have been generated with Matt over a beer. Again.

Q: You are car 82, right?

A: Yes, and boy does it feel good to see it there at the top of the list! We knew this team was capable of such a performance, and here at the season’s halfway point we are (narrowly) leading the rest of the Pro-Am field.

Q: Wait a minute. Matt Travis is car 47, right?

A: Well, yeah.

Q: So, he offers to get you to the track and you repay the favor by bumping them to second place in the Championship standings?

A: Frankly, I think Matt was far more irritated for being taken out by “Johan” than he was with our swapping of positions on the Championship leaderboard. And I certainly hope he would have done exactly the same had the roles been reversed.

At the end of the day, the two of us just want to race as best we can. No excuses. No garbage. Just race. While the individual results will speak for themselves (arguably with a little help from the BoP), we thoroughly intend to make this a two-car run at the Pro-Am Championship.

Epic weekend! Props to my sister-in-law Rochelle for this great photo.

Q: Well, good luck with that. Anything else to report before signing off?

A: How about an Instagram update? It looks like @teamscR34 has finally passed @axle_sweet_magoo for the 2023 scR motorsports popularity contest lead! However, my children have informed me that several of my followers are ‘bots’ and I should not take credit for their love and affection. Frankly, I don’t know the difference, but at least for the moment I am going to celebrate this victory as well. If, however, my numbers drop dramatically before the next newsletter, you will know that someone went in and purged my account without my permission.

I love the fact that @thejamesclay gets headliner status on Axle’s profile page.

See you at the track!

#82 GT4
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