Wow! What a weekendÖ.

By 

Jason Holland
"Chump"
 

 I attended my first Club Race this last weekend at Road Atlanta. It was held by the Peachstate Region of the Porsche Club of America and it provides an opportunity for club members such as myself to come out and compete on a world class facility like Road Atlanta.
My weekend started on Friday, which was a test and tune day for the race participants put on by Road Atlanta. I was working with my race shop, Performance Imports (Atlanta, Ga.) helping to take care of the other team members cars. The full team lineup for the weekend was Scott Freedman #9 in a Class E 944 Turbo S, Hank Cohn #64 in a GTC2 996 SuperCup, Perry Bell #27 in a class I 944 and myself, Jason ďChumpĒ Holland #667 in a class F 944 Turbo. 

 

 Friday was fairly uneventful, getting the cars ready, testing setups and generally getting acclimated. The team needed to get to know one another, get used to how the Crew Chief, Bob Sanderson, worked and just take a little time to gel. I spent a lot of time changing tires, running errands etc. Also, took some time to talk to other racers about the track and setups and other miscellaneous matters. 

 Towards the end of the day I started dealing more with my car and my own race. The first experience was going through technical inspection for the first time. I had read the rulebook over and over and I felt the car was prepared to the utmost of the rules in regard to safety but there was still that nagging anxiety that something would not be right, that I had forgotten something that would not allow me to race. Well, all that anxiety was for nothing and the car passed with flying colors. I received my logbook and off I went to the rookie orientation meeting. The stewards of the race, Dick Lane and Bruce Boeder took lots of time to let us rookies (some of whom were not rookies in the strict sense like myself, but rather, new to PCA racing) know what was expected of us throughout the weekend. We went over flags and how the practice starts and fun race would work and the details of the whole weekend. 

 After the meeting was over I proceeded back to the paddock to do a few last minutes things to the car to be ready for my first day of driving. I then hit the sack pretty early in order to get a good nights rest. It was difficult to sleep, however, as I was replaying the track over and over in my mind and rehashing what I wanted to do the next day.

 6:30 AM came pretty quickly once I finally got to sleep. There was a lot of work to do! My first session was pretty early and as I got ready to go out, I went over what I wanted to do with my crew chief and the other racers. The track was cold and it was important I didnít do anything stupid this first time out. I got on the track and starting getting into a groove. However, the car just felt weird. It was nothing like I remembered it the last time out. I had been continually struggling with understeer since I had changed my suspension setup and for the first time ever, the car seemed really biased towards oversteer. It was a strange sensation and an little unnerving because the rear end started to slide quite a bit in the esses. I really knew there was something wrong when I went through turn 12. The car was leaning massively. I took it easy the rest of the session and the times reflect that. Best time of the session was 1:52:263. I was pretty disappointed, but hopeful there was something we could do about that time. The fastest I had been at Road Atlanta was a 1:51:80 in January of this year.

 I got back to the pits and discussed with my crew chief and new engineer (James Bricken) about how the car felt. I told them it seemed really loose and that I thought it was weird. We started talking about sway bar changes and tire temps and pressures. We went about a course of action but I decided  to give the car a once-over in the front. I am glad I did. The front sway bar link had come off of the sway bar meaning there was no effective rate. No wonder the rear felt loose! Apparently the hardware on the link was somewhat defective, it was not tightening down before it reached the end of its adjustment. James and another friend, Bob Bausum, fashioned a shim out of a hose clamp and I was back in business. We kept everything else the same and looked forward to session 2 to see what happened.

 The second practice session was much better. The rear end was much more behaved and the car was more neutral. There were no incidents and I set a personal best of 1:49:789! The third practice session was fraught. I was pushing too hard, made many mistakes, and certainly didnít have my head in the game. At the entrance to turn 3 I overcooked it and went off into the dirt. This necessitated a trip to the black flag station in the pits and basically cut the session short for me. It was an important lesson in that you cannot force things too much. You need to be a little more smooth and let things flow a little more naturally. Faster times will follow if you donít try to push too hard.
 

 After a little time and some great BBQ (provided by the crew chiefs father) it was time for the practice starts. To be honest, this was what I was most anxious about. How would I react? What would others do? The starts were not as bad as I expected and I ended up getting a position or two. The only bad thing was I got over anxious on the start leading to the fun race and as I crested the hill to turn 12, I noticed that people were not going as fast as I thought they would. I smoked the rear tires and flatspotted my good set of tires. A switch to my backup set of Kumhos would be needed as it felt like I was in a logging truck on the back stretch. I was anxious because I didnít know how this would affect my setup and qualifying was next!
 

There I was, sitting on the grid waiting to start the first qualifying session of my life. I convinced myself that there was nothing to prove, this was my first race and I should just go out and set good consistent laps and do the best I could do. I was quite surprised by the result. Even after a mechanical problem ended the session early, I was able to set a personal best of 1:48:570! I was quite happy with the result and my fears about the tires were unfounded as they felt great other than a little more understeer, which I found I could drive around.

 It ended up being a very nice day all the way around. The team had done well with two team members qualifying on pole (Hank Cohn and Scott Freedman) and I had qualified in mid-pack where I had hoped to. The evening social was next and so we went over to chow down on some wings and relax awhile. I ended up winning a Yokohama Motorsports jacket in the raffle! Pretty darn cool. After the social I headed home and went to bed quite early.
 
 


Sunday morning was pretty uneventful. There was a short warm-up to make sure everything was working properly and then it was lots of waiting, an awful lot of waiting. It gave me plenty of time to get nervous! The race was second on the schedule and I gridded well ahead of time and tried various methods to calm my nerves. Along with the nervousness was a feeling of building excitement and as I sat on the grid I said to James over the radio ďthis is one extremely fun hobbyĒ. It was quite strange because things seemed to slow down at that point and a weird sort of tunnel vision began. Then it was time to go out for the pace laps. There were two pace laps and they seemed amazingly slow. It was at this point that some of the doubt started to creep in. Did I warm the tires enough? Will the car make it through the race? Twice around we went and as we approached turns 10a and 10b the second time, you could tell people were ready to go. I was on the inside of 10a and it seemed I got caught flatfooted because everyone took off a lot earlier than me. I really wanted some more go! My spotter, James,  called the green flag and off we went! All of my doubts that I had on the pace laps evaporated. It was go time! The noise was incredible and the adrenaline level in my blood quickly reached peak. I couldnít hear my engine and I had to try hard to remember to SHIFT. I was pretty tentative on my start and was passed by three cars, one of which was obviously a faster D car and two more that were in my class. I was probably erring on the side of caution and left the door open way too wide. In any case after a lap or two things calmed down a little and I was intent on gaining back the ground I lost. 
 
 

 I slowly starting climbing up by passing one competitor in a 944S2, then set my sights on a blue 911 just ahead. I got a good run out of T7 and out-braked him into 10a but completely missed the shift and he re-passed on the outside and I lost another position on top of that! That was quite a lesson. I eventually got back on pace and turned up the wick a bit. I eventually caught the 911 on the back stretch and later out braked a D class 911 into turn one for another position. I eventually gained 6 positions and ended up 29th overall and 15th in class. The sight of the checkered flag was a welcome one. I didnít want to make a mistake late in the race and ruin all the hard work. Once I passed the start/finish line I was flooded with a sense of relief and accomplishment that is even now hard to describe.
 The race was an amazing experience. I was ecstatic with the result. I had done everything I wanted to do and more. I had a great time, I was able to compete with others and I acquitted myself fairly well. I couldnít have asked for more. It was a strange feeling to have finished my first race. I really felt that I was part of ďthe clubĒ of racing drivers. I took with great satisfaction the congratulations of  my fellow racers. I felt now that I was one of them. It was an amazing feeling. 

After the last race there was the awards ceremony. Iím sure everyone wanted to win the set of Hoosier race tires. I know I did! They ran through the class winners and notable mentions when I was surprised to find out that I had been voted Rookie of the Race! I was amazed and very gratified. It was the icing on a very nice cake.


The final tally for the Performance Imports team went like this: A class win for Hank Cohn in GTC2, what would have been a win in Class E with Scott Freedman (unfortunately the car was disqualified for being 17 lbs underweight) and a rookie of the race and 15th place finish for myself. The other I class car developed mechanical problems and did not race. Not a bad weekend at the racetrack!
 Writing this story a couple of days after the event has allowed me to sort through the feelings I experienced. I am still on cloud 9. Iím excited to do it again. Iím looking forward to improving the car and myself to do even better next time. Strangely, itís hard to believe itís all over with. Iíve looked forward to it for so long that itís almost a little bit of a disappointment not to be able to look forward to the race, but there is always next year! 

My goal for the last two and a half years has been to reach and compete in this club race. Itís been a very fun and often frustrating ride. There were plenty of people who were instrumental along the way. First off I would like to thank Hank Cohn for getting me into this in the first place and for providing guidance and friendship along the way. Iíd like to thank Performance Imports for providing me with a quick and reliable car and doing it with style and grace. Iíd also like to thank the Rennlist, the boost-o-holics list, and the countless friends Iíve made at the track and on the internet. Thanks to all my friends who came and supported me and special thanks to Bob Bausum and James Bricken for their help in getting me ready to race. And last but not least, I thank my girlfriend Betsy Humphries for all of her help and support and for not killing me over the last year while I attempted to get to this race.

Jason Holland 
aka "Chump"


 

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