Being at Virginia International Raceway in March usually brings a smile to the faces of Area 81 Racing teammates, Tim Pierce and Richard Franklin. It signals the beginning of the spring racing season after a five month winter break. Both drivers and their crews shook off the rust while splitting wins over the weekend. Richard took 1st place in the beautiful weather on Saturday while Tim earned 1st in class and 1st overall in the rain race on Sunday.
Adversity struck the team within seconds after the start of qualifying on Saturday as race officials reported white smoke periodically trailing from Richard’s Car 81 in the turns. Tim’s Car 18 experienced clutch slippage that had plagued his performance throughout the second half of last season. Richard battled his way through the issue to qualify 1st in class while Tim headed back to the paddock to investigate his issue, without completing a full lap. Ultimately the clutch had to be replaced and Car 18 was sidelined during Race 1 as Car 81 took its 2nd win of the season.
Saturday’s sunny skies gave way to heavy clouds and threat of rain for Race 2 on Sunday. With the clutch issues behind him, Tim qualified 1st in class and 4th overall. The team was keeping one eye to the horizon and the other on the radar. When their group was called to the grid it began to rain. The drivers’ plan diverged as Tim gambled on slick tires and Richard chose rain tires. The rain intensified as the race began and the leader spun in Turn 1. Car 18 was right behind him and took the inside line as the leader slid backwards to the outside. Tim had taken the overall lead and continued to pull away from the field as conditions deteriorated. He tip toed his way to victory lane for his 2nd win of the season.
Tim Pierce, Car 18 – We were very disappointed that we didn’t make Race 1 on Saturday, but the clutch problem was more serious than we thought. We were breaking in a fresh motor and expected minor adjustments, but we finally had to replace the clutch pack and couldn’t get it back together in time. We committed to a dry setup in Race 2 because the track was still dry when we headed to the grid. It was a huge gamble because we knew the rain was coming. I scouted the track to find grip during the warmup lap and was surprised to find it, with the exception of Oak Tree and Roller Coaster. I had a good jump at the green flag and was right behind the leader into Turn 1. He started to spin, so I cut across his nose on the inside and never saw anyone in my mirrors. Dad said some guys came into pit road to change over to rain tires, but I was just as fast on slicks. I concentrated on finding grip, being smooth, and not braking or accelerating too hard. It got worse after the checker flag, as ran off the track in Roller Coaster during the cool down lap. No one could believe I drove that kind of race on slicks until they saw my car in impound. Special thanks to Ray Pierce, Nate Field, and Dennis Schembri for the hard work on Car 18.
Richard Franklin, Car 81 – I had been thrashing for 3 weeks replacing wiring and cleaning my F1000 due to a fuel line fire that my Son Ryan experienced at the Roebling Road Driver School. But thankfully, my hard work paid off with F1000 pole and the win on Saturday. In Tim’s absence, I still had a rewarding drive against another competitor, despite having to overcome wiring issues, a small oil leak and brake rotor imbalance/vibrations. On Sunday qualifying, the brake rotor vibrations continued and I was a bit slower. However, the weather conditions were making the choice between slicks and rains difficult. I opted for rains at the last moment, but as I drove onto the grid, I knew something was wrong. My left front tire had deflated and I simply had to run the race with it. I managed decent speed, but on right turns the car would porpoise and scrape the road. I could not mount a challenge to Tim, who drove a great race.
The next stop of the 2016 schedule is the Buck Muse Memorial Double SARRC on March 26-27 at Carolina Motorsports Park. Be sure to stay tuned to www.Area81Racing.com and our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Area-81-Racing-Team/173745692673454?fref=ts for our schedule and announcements.