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World Challenge SRT4 Racer
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
This is advanced copy of an article I wrote for SPEEDTV.com


Before I get started I want to thank you, Marshall, for not asking me to do this last year when I finished second in rookie points, 11th overall, and had a podium finish in Touring but waiting to ask me now when I'm doing my best impression of a rolling chicane in GT. I owe you one.

I don't know about you guys but have you ever had a moment in your life where you had an idea that sounded, at the time, to be like the second coming of the ipod but ended up being more like 8 track tapes. Well that was kind of like, no actually it was exactly like, my decision to switch from driving a front engine front wheel drive Dodge SRT4 in World Challenge Touring to driving a rear engine rear wheel drive Porsche GT3 in World Challenge GT, mid season, a week before the next race at Miller Motorsports Park. Albert Einstein apparently has nothing to fear from me. For those of you who haven't been following (and apparently by the overwhelming lack of fan mail I receive that would be all of you) let me go back a few weeks.

Shortly after my last TC race at Sebring I found out that we weren't going to be receiving any funds for development of the SRT4 as we had hoped and with the Tri Point Mazda 6's and Real Time Acura TSX's looking like DeNiro in Raging Bull I was dreading a long season of chasing their tail lights. I decided to go to the Long Beach Grand Prix to chat with a few of the GT team owners about maybe picking up a GT race or two during the season. I was mainly talking to the Viper teams but in the end, K-Pax Racing's owner Jim Haughey heard that I was looking and offered me a ride in his third Porsche GT3 for the rest of the season. Sweet!

Now this deal sounded so good on so many levels. First off the car that I would be driving would be the car that Randy Pobst won Laguna with last season so I knew it would be a good car. Better than that I would be staying with my old Touring Car team 3R Racing, one of the best in the business, that won the 2004 Championship with Tommy Archer and that runs Jim's K-Pax team. Best of all I would be team mates with Randy and 5-time champion Michael Galati. OK now right here is where the little alarm bells should have started sounding in my head. Why you ask? Isn't having two of the best drivers in North America as teammates a good thing? Yes it is, but let me throw a little racing psychology 101 at you.

Basic principle #1 in racing is that all drivers want to be faster than their teammates. Period. Let me repeat. All drivers want to be faster than their teammates. OK now that that's out there, the chances of me, coming out of my admittedly very successful rookie year as a front wheel touring car driver, where any hint oversteer is met with great rejoicing and stepping into a rear engine Porsche (that is constantly attempting to become a front engine Porsche by trying swap ends at every available opportunity) and then being faster than Randy Pobst and Michael Galati my first time in the car .... um, yeah, Not! To top it off the car that I would be getting in was not the uber mack daddy 997 GT3 but the still very quick, but not uber quick, 996 GT3. All right, now that I've got all of the background, and my excuses, out of the way let me tell you how my weekend at MMP actually went. In a word, not well.

MMP is one of the most amazing facilities that World Challenge travels to during the season. From the F1 quality garages to the fantastic spectator facilities MMP is just awesome. But what really sets the venue apart from every other we face, is the 4.2 mile 23 turn course. Even with a 3/4 mile front straight you spend most of your lap in one corner or another making MMP one of the most technical courses that I have ever driven. Probably not the best of places to make my GT debut. I knew I was in for a long weekend straight off in the first practice. When I was here last year in the SRT4 I ran a 3:11 in qualifying. This year in the 450hp uber quick (sorry, very quick) Porsche I ran a 3:09 ?? um, Huh? The whole time during the session the car felt really loose and I was really struggling to get my exits. After coming off the track I went straight into the geek room (engineering) in the 3R trailer to look over data. What I saw confirmed what I felt on the track, that I was going to throttle much later than either Michael or Randy because my car was wicked loose on entry thru exit. My thoughts at the time were, OK it?s your first time in a Porsche and the engine is in the back so the car will probably feel a bit loose and that?s just how it's going be. That was my second big mistake (the first being getting into the car in the first place) I've been doing this long enough now, to know that I can get my guys to get a car to do almost anything that I tell them I want it to do. So instead of making big changes after that first session we went out with a few small changes and hey , wadda know, that car did almost the exact same thing. Do you know what the definition of insanity is? It's doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. So at this point I'm officially certifiable.

OK now I've got my brain back in my head and over the next few sessions I'm giving my guys good feedback, they're making big changes and the car is getting faster and faster until finally in qualifying I run a 3:02 and I missed a couple of shifts that cost me a full second in data. This is not a particularly quick time however it is a full 7 to 8 seconds quicker than my first go of it and the car is feeling much better with a large part of the initial oversteer dialed out. I'm still losing the major part of my time going to throttle too slowly but I'm running right about where most guys were when we first got here. Once again not quick but I've learned that you have to take your small victories where you can. The other thing that was boosting my spirits a bit was that I race very well and my thought was that I could pick up a few spots during the race and come home with a respectable finish. With the way things had been going all week you would think I would have known better than to be optimistic but no not me. Some people see things through rose colored glasses I see things through a rose colored brain.

Come race day my car should have been sponsored by Murphy's Law instead of The Motorsports Gallery (www.motorsportsgalleryUSA.com) with all of the things that went wrong. The first problem I had was at the start. World Challenge uses some high intensity starting lights so that everyone can see them without issue. Ok almost without issue as the reflection from the Utah desert made seeing whether the lights were on or off impossible. So as we grid up I get on the radio to my crew chief Jeremy Smallwood, and ask him to tell me when the lights are on and when they go off. His response was "Well they were on a second ago but now they're off." That last part I was able to deduce for myself as the few cars that were behind me on the grid were now in front of me and getting smaller by the second. I can take solace in the fact that no less a driver than Andy Pilgram had the same problem seeing the lights as me and jumped the start.

Right, no biggie, the guys that started behind me, with the exception of Scotty B. White, I was faster than most of the weekend so getting my spot back should be no problem. Well that was a good thought except my snap oversteer had returned overnight with a vengeance. In retrospect I think that because our race was early in the AM that the track temp was a bit low and that exacerbated my lack of rear end grip. I was back to running 3:08 and 9's. Man this blows! I have never felt so slow in a racecar, ever. As the race wore on I was able to work with the car a bit and by the last few laps I had dropped my times into the 3:04 range. In fact the last 3 laps of the race were my fastest laps which should not be the case as my tires should be shot by then and I should be several seconds slower.

So all in all a tough start to my GT career however I think we've got the car sorted a bit and now I get to do it all over again in 5 days at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Stay tuned.
 

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nice writeup. sucks about the drastically bad handling you started with. Are you going to be pulling double duty for the remaining races with TC and GT?
 

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Very cool. Congrats on the TC races this weekend, sucks about GT. Will SPEED's website be hosting any in-car, or will that be for us?:thumbsup:
 

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anyone see Rob on TV that one time? That dude is TALL!!! :rofl:
can he even fit in a street neon?
 

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robb, the usual login and posting is open for all of your (and the rest of the race drivers on the forums as well) footage that you'd like to post.
 

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World Challenge SRT4 Racer
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
DJFahr11 said:
Very cool. Congrats on the TC races this weekend, sucks about GT. Will SPEED's website be hosting any in-car, or will that be for us?:thumbsup:
Switching between TC and GT is tough especially when you try to use you TC brake point in a GT car! :wah?!: I'll post some vids here shortly.



Sota227990 said:
anyone see Rob on TV that one time? That dude is TALL!!! :rofl:
can he even fit in a street neon?
OK I'm really not that tall. I'm only 6'1" it's just that Calvin Fish(the guy who interviewed me) is pretty short. To make matters worse his camera guy was pretty short as well so the net effect is that I look like Shaq in that interview. Brian Till (another one of the SPEEDTV comentators) gave me some tips on how to appear shorter on TV so we'll see how that works next time around. :thumbsup:
 

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Robb,

Thanks for the write-up and now we know what you've been up to. You still need to explain what happend in Limerock and now Watkins Glen, though!! :thumbsup:

Technonerd geek question...your Porsche was wicked loose, right? If that was the car that Mr. Pobst won Laguna with, why was that so? Way different driving styles? Different track?

Be good!
 

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Robb,

Maybe you need to try the Rolex GT Porsche ... it was not so bad. I hope you get things turned around for you in both!!

In car video from the Rolex GT Porsche I drove at the six hours of Watkins Glen will be up on Kicker's (www.kicker.com) website next week. It will probably have some pit stop footage also.

Brian
 

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World Challenge SRT4 Racer
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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
SteveW said:
Robb,

Thanks for the write-up and now we know what you've been up to. You still need to explain what happend in Limerock and now Watkins Glen, though!! :thumbsup:
OK. At Lime Rock I had to start from pit lane because I noticed that my brakes were a bit off on the prade lap so I came in and had the Sorted Performance guys bleed them just before the start. So over the first few laps I was passing a few of the slower cars when I came up on Charlie Putman. I go a huge run on him going up the hill and he blocked to the inside so I went to the outside, not to attempt a pass there but simply to keep Charlie off the proper line so I could get him clean into the downhill turn. Unfortunately I don't think Charlie realized that I had gone to his outside and tried to move back on line and I was already there. And that was that.....

The Glen was my own fault, though I'm still not 100% sure why it happened. I had just gotten by one of the Vipers (for p15) that had been slowing me up for a few laps and I was about to set off after Rob Foster for p14 when I went into the bus stop and got rear lock up which pitched the car into the gravel. We had tried a different brake pad compound that has a different release but I don't think that was the cause. I'm putting it down to brain fade from ttying to drive 2 different cars in 3 different races in 1 weekend

SteveW said:
Technonerd geek question...your Porsche was wicked loose, right? If that was the car that Mr. Pobst won Laguna with, why was that so? Way different driving styles? Different track?
Well first off there were some set up changes that were made and Laguna is a very different track from MMP. The biggest thing is that the Porsche had to much front end grip and the car wasn't very balanced. The second thing is that you have to go back to throttle very quickly in the Porsche to settle the rear end. This is a completely different driving style than the one I developed for the SRT4. If you go to throttle quickly in the SRT4 you just get major push if you don't go back to throttle quickly in the Porsche you get major loose. I am getting more comfortable in the Porsche as the weeks go by and the team is going to do some more testing soon and I think that will help. The other thing is that the Porsche is a low(er) hp car with great brakes and handling, the SRT is a high(er) hp car with weaker brakes and handling. Trying to transition between the two is very tough. It would have been easier switching from a Mazda or Acura because they have similar characteristics.

full-lock said:
Maybe you need to try the Rolex GT Porsche ... it was not so bad.

Brian
Sure it would be nice to have big sticky slicks in Rolex.

full-lock said:
I hope you get things turned around for you in both!!

Brian
Thanks although I'm satisfied so far. top 10 at Charlotte in GT, 9th and 12th (TC) and battling for 14th (GT) at the Glen. If it wasn't for my tranny problem at Sebring, skipping Miller and my off at Lime Rock I think I would be solidly in the top 10 overall in TC all while trying to learn a new car in GT. Not the dream season I had my rookie year but I'll take it. :thumbsup:
 

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Great write-up Robb =) I think I lost track of how many plugs you put into that article! No wonder teams love you =) Well besides the fact you can actually drive =)

Sounds like you have been hitting your share of badluck. It's bound to turn around soon :thumbsup: I wonder if you could set better times if you ran in reverse? Aleast the engine would be in the right place that way! :Wink:
 

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World Challenge SRT4 Racer
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Vipercar93 said:
Great write-up Robb =) I think I lost track of how many plugs you put into that article! No wonder teams love you =) Well besides the fact you can actually drive =)

Sounds like you have been hitting your share of badluck. It's bound to turn around soon :thumbsup: I wonder if you could set better times if you ran in reverse? Aleast the engine would be in the right place that way! :Wink:
After the first session at MMP the team asked me what they could do to make the car better and I said put the engine and drive wheels in the front. :rofl:
 

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#11-SRT4 said:
After the first session at MMP the team asked me what they could do to make the car better and I said put the engine and drive wheels in the front. :rofl:

Haha=) Did they proceed to tell you that your insane? =P
 
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