After our success at Gridlife, hopes were high for finally overcoming the Buttonwillow curse that has plagued us for years. In the past, the car would perform perfectly for numerous events and then have a massive failure in California. This year, we were determined to overcome that destiny.
Preparation for the event went well, we salvaged the bumper that was damaged at Gingerman Raceway, constructed a new splitter from plywood using our of the shelf diffusers, fabricated a new core support to replace the bent factory piece, and installed new brake master cylinders after discovering issues when reviewing Gingerman data. While those weren’t exactly small jobs, they weren’t overly complicated. This was a testament to how well the car ran at the last event.
At the track, the car was ready to roll the moment it came off the trailer, with its new driver, Tom O’Gorman, ready to drive the fastest car of his career. Immediately, he found comfort and cracked off our best time ever with a low 1:40, despite being on the lowest boost setting! The remainder of the first day we worked out some small setting errors on the ECU, dialed in brake balance, as well as damper settings, and prepared the car to chase the overall lap record of 1:37.308 the following morning.
On day 2, we mounted up fresh Hoosier A7 tires, turned the boost to 11 and let Tom loose! He set a 1:38.454, while having to brake heavily to avoid a competitor that lost coolant in front of him. At that time, it was the fastest lap of the event and a new AWD track record! We knew we had a 1:37 no problem, we just needed to find a clear piece of track. The car was working perfectly, with all temperatures in check and not a single indication of anything wrong. We sent Tom out in the following session, ready to bask in the glory of a new track record, when he called in on the radio and indicated the car wasn’t running properly.
Back in the pits we were to discover a crank signal that was reading intermittently. AEM Infinity guru, Tony Szirka, found a quick fix changing a few settings on the ECU, the car fired right back up sounding completely normal, and we were put at ease. We’d have 2 sessions left to secure a clean lap… only when the next session arrived, the car wouldn’t start again. This sent the team into scramble mode to figure out what was happening with the sensor.
Team mechanic, Grant Davis, quickly got to work and found the sensor was seemingly fine. We run the same sensors for both crank and cam position, so we can easily diagnose if one is working and one wasn’t, but both worked as a cam input and neither worked for a crank input. The wiring was quickly tested and seemed to be fine. We found another sensor that would work for the crank position, but wasn’t technically the right sensor for the job. We installed everything back into place, the new sensor seemed to work fine and the car ran perfectly again…
With the final session for the event happening right after the car was started back up, we were quickly on grid and things seemed to be good. The car started its flying lap looking healthy, but unfortunately, we got a call on the radio that the issue popped back up again. The car died and Tom safely pulled off near a corner worker’s station.
While we were disappointed, we were confident in the performance of the car and happy with the victory… until Can Jam and their Subaru STI surprised us. They were very strong competitors, but honestly, we weren’t that worried about them beating our time due to multiple issues they struggled with throughout the event.
During that final session, while everything went wrong for us, everything went right for them and the just sneaked by us with a 1:38.281, good enough for a new AWD record and a win. Hats off to them for overcoming so much to win the event, but it sure was deflating when we knew we had the potential and it slipped between our fingers.
That being said, a second place and the 4th fastest production car ever to drive around the Buttonwillow is nothing to sneeze at. The curse? Well, it’s almost lifted. There’s a lot of time left in the car and all the more, we’ve learned so much this year, we feel we can continue to improve. Thanks once again to our friends, family, and partners for helping us get through the rebuild. We can’t wait to see what 2019 holds!
Full results for the event are here: Full Results at Global Time Attack
Many thanks to Janel Wenger and Brian Steinbrunner for the photos!