Following a red flag filled 2 hour practice session that resulted in each Hammerheads driver completing only a handful of laps, and the car suffering a complete meltdown, the team can take a lot of consolation knowing their race weekend was full of win.
“We had to travel over 850 miles from Maine to get the car to Virginia International Raceway.” stated Hammerheads driver Darren Setlow, “Despite the long haul, we were one of the first teams to attend the Friday evening beer and pretzel social. To me, that’s a win.”
Driver, Kevin Binkley, had a similar assessment. “Friday was just an awesome day for us. We moved into our garage, had the car up on jacks and were spilling brake fluid way before anyone else. I checked around. That was totally a win.”
Warm temperatures and a packed morning schedule kept all 99 teams in attendance on their toes. With pit lane not opening until 7:30 am and the green flag for the practice session waving at 8:30 am, there was a lot to do before the engines could fire. Hammerheads had arranged with guest drivers Tom and Taylor Masiero to install and manage an in-car camera that would provide a live stream of the race. “We had it set up and running before the car even left the garage,” observed Tom.” “No one else got their live stream up as fast as we did,” said Taylor, “I’d call that a win.”
Nearing the end of the session, yet another red flag brought the field back to pit lane where the Hammerheads BMW would experience a water pump failure that catastrophically overheated the engine and ended their weekend. Mike Grant joined Hammerheads as driver for the 24. “We pushed that car the length of pit lane and then through half the paddock to get back to the garage.” Mike said. “When we got to the garage, Kevin wheeled it in like a boss. Complete win, right there.”
Taking stock of the weekend, team principal and driver, Bob Grant, took a more practical look at summing it all up. “We saved $375 in the fuel budget alone. We’re bringing home two sets of tires we didn’t use, and we never even opened the coffee. You add that all up and I see win. Big win.”
Back in Brunswick, the car will get a thorough inspection to confirm the cause of the overheating and determine the extent of the damage. Afterwards, the rebuilding will commence. Continuing his evaluation of the weekend, Bob Grant had a few more thoughts.
“In all seriousness, the weekend was a big disappointment for the team. A lot of people worked really hard to get the car ready for a 24 hour race. Our sponsors stepped up and gave us a great deal of support both before and during race weekend. I think everyone on the team feels we owe the people and organizations who support us a big comeback.”
Work on rebuilding the car commences next week. Hammerheads will provide updates here as well as on Facebook and Instagram.
In late May, Hammerheads Racing headed for Watkins Glen International for the Sahlen’s Champyard Dog at the Glen Double 7-Hour Enduro. A weekend of racing with an untested car and two untested drivers. What could possibly go wrong? Everything. What actually went wrong? Nothing!
Friday was load in, Technical Inspection and practice. We moved into our garage early in the morning and were in line for Tech by 10:00am. We passed Tech with one minor issue that was quickly set right and, after setting up our pit stall, we were ready for practice. There were four hours of practice divided into two sessions in the afternoon. We were able to practice driver changes, calculate our fuel consumption and get used to the car and track. The BMW ran perfectly and at the end of practice we knew we had a good car. When we closed the garage door, there were smiles all around.
Saturday was sunny and hot. The driver’s meeting was brief and we were on the grid and ready by 8:45. ChampCar has an unusual method with which they determine the starting order. 104 cars were in the grid and we ended up starting in 95th position. Tony, Kevin and Darren ran flawless stints, the car performed beautifully and when the checkered flag flew, we finished 26th in class and 54th overall. To some, that’s not a very impressive statistic. But, to us, it meant our BMW had run 7 straight hours at race pace, and our drivers had never put a foot wrong, kept the car clean, and stayed out of trouble. And we passed a bunch of people and stayed running when others didn’t.
Sunday dawned grey and overcast. By 7:30am it was beginning to rain. The weather folks forecast a wet and cold day that was going to last all 7 hours of the race.
They were 100% accurate.
A steady rain was falling when the green flag waved and it rained until about 5 laps from the finish. We had a couple of spins with no contact and one incident with very light car to car contact. Beyond that, another perfect performance by car and drivers. At the checkered flag, we were 26th in class and 58th overall. Sound familiar? Consistency.
As a development race, we learned a ton. Our rookie drivers got a lot of seat time and were very impressive. Kevin set our fastest lap time on Saturday and Darren ran a string of laps that were machine like in their consistency.
We’re back in the garage now getting ready for our next race which will be the Lifeline 24 Hour Classic at Virginia International Raceway on August 11-12.
Our BMW is great fun to drive and handles quite well. As an all wheel drive car, it carries more weight than most of the other cars in our class. We will never be as fast in a straight line so the team is hard at work, trying to get the car as light as possible to give us more straight line speed, and making suspension improvements that will see us quicker in the corners.
Kevin Binkley: “Watkins Glen was the perfect first race for putting the Autowerkes Maine BMW, and myself, to the test. Fourteen hours of racing with a mixture of wet and dry conditions. What’s not to love? The car performed amazing and we learned what changes to make for the future. I can’t say enough about the great job the team did getting this car track ready. Best looking race car on track, by far.”
Darren Setlow: “The Watkins Glen race went exceptionally well, and was a perfect first race for car and team development. The car handled beautifully and held up better than expected. The all-wheel drive in rain conditions made all of us confident and happy with the car choice. With lap times improving with almost every lap through the weekend, we’re really excited for our next challenge, the Lifeline 24 Hour Classic at VIR.”
Bob Grant: “There’s no question I was nervous going into the first practice session. But after the first couple of laps I settled down and got comfortable. The whole team worked hard to get the car ready and it really showed once we got on the track. Everyone drove clean, the car held together and we ended up with a result that exceeded my expectations. We know what we have to do to improve the car before the next race.”