Updated: Apr 19
It seems as though the soaring lumber prices have trickled all the way down to the PNB as this year saw no signature wood jumps or the iconic wall. Instead we were greeted with a fun flowing all dirt track that held together extremely well over the course of the event even with 800+ entires turning laps 24 hours a day!
I came with my WRC SBX and SBXE buggies as well as my Agama truggy to run just 3 classes at this years event. I say 'just' 3 as usually I run 4 or 5 at this event. Overall there was 24 hours of practice starting 6am Friday through 6 am on Saturday. However this year they watered a lot more often as in every 3 hours which truly took about 30min or more out of each segment to water and let it dry enough to be run-able.
Captured some good footage of Joe's Rocket Car Launch to the moon! 🚀
Throughout practice I was still sticking with my plan of running SSLW AKA tires and I was just trying a couple different tread patterns. Because of how much moisture was in the track I was primarily running Gridirons to start to cut through the bit of loam on top. As the track started to take a bit of a groove I began to transition to catapults for a while and then when I came back in the wee hours of the morning for the last practice sessions around 2am - 6am I tried zip front and catapult rears and then double down rears. I ended up liking the double down rears most as it kept the rear a bit flatter compared to the catapults and seemed to have good drive and flow through the corners.
Qualifying began at 6:30am on Saturday and the pro heats were all lumped in the middle of the program so we were up around 9-10am for Q1. I was able to start off strong with a p6 in Nitro buggy, p8 in Ebuggy, and p10 in Truggy. The field this year was the deepest ever. Very much Nationals quality with nearly all the fastest drivers sans Maifield. My Q2 results solidified my Amain positions with a 5th in NB, another 8th in EB, and an 11th in NT. For Q3 I decided to try some different tires as the track was really starting to dry out as they were watering much less frequently and a line was forming with dust outside of it. Hooks was having success with US Scribbles and Ciccarello was really liking clay typo. So I gave the clay typo a try in Q3. In nitro buggy a failure on my part put me out of contention but the tires were fast so I put them on my ebuggy as well and got a p6 just 1.7 out of p3. In truggy I tried the clay scribbles and they improved on my corner speed and forward drive and I got up to a p7.
Sunday was main day and first up would be the 30min Nitro Truggy final. I opted to stick with the clay scribbles for this final. They had just laid down water 10 minutes prior but it wasn't too heavy. The first couple minutes were a bit slicker but the grip came up as the race went on. For this one we got 3 joker lane passes and starting p11 I was just going to use them as necessary for either traffic or pitting. Due to the very large track and thus 40 second lap times sometimes it was critical to cut that down to get into the pits in time. So my first use was on lap 12 on my pit in lap. My second use was on lap 34 on my final pit in lap and I was going to save my last one for the end of the race. I was running mid pack and putting in a solid run but just didn't quite have the top pace. with one lap to go I took my final Joker moving me up from 9th to 7th which is where I would finish about 8 seconds back from the 5 man podium.
Next was the Nitro Buggy final and the grip was the highest it had been up to this point and so I went back to a 2.3 front bar as I had gone down to a 2.2 in qualifying. I go up in front bar when the grip comes up as it helps mellow out the steering a bit and be easier to drive. I also mounted up a fresh set of SSLW Zip front and Double Down rear AKA tires. Starting p7 I had a solid start and kept the car moving forward as multiple people ahead were flipping and crashing. By the mid part of the 2nd lap I was up to 3rd place and I opted to take the Joker lane and go into the lead. All through qualifying I took it basically at the every end or if I wanted out of traffic. But I didn't come into the main with a strategy for it. It's worth the same no matter when you take it and because the opporutnity presented itself for a clean track I took it. I then took it my next two laps because I knew if I didn't then someone else behind would and perhaps I would then be in a battle again which would slow us down. So with all three jokers out of the way I just wanted to push and hold that lead as long as possible. I led until lap 7 when I crashed in the rough whoops section and while upside down the marshal said when I hit the brakes for him to get it that it died. I was worried before the race that my idle was low because I didn't get to finish fine tuning before the main and it seems that bit me here. I'm unfortunately used to it as when my car and everything feels good and i'm doing well is when something seems to inevitably happen. I got back on the track but having lost a lap and a half+ it was just a matter of turning laps. Overall disappointing as I felt like I had a top 3-5 car. My WRC SBX has been so solid for me and I just haven't been able to showcase it yet. But that time will come!
Final race of the day was the Ebuggy final and the grip was now at it's highest point. I went to a 2.4 front bar from 2.3 and I think it was the right decision. Starting P8 I held my position for the first lap as we freight trained around the circuit. On lap two and 3 I held steady as many opted to take the joker which I finally decided to take on lap 4 as I was in some traffic battles. This put me up to 6th and by lap 7 I would move to 5th. From there on I held tightly to that position as I got heavy pressure from Rose and Jones. I was able to fend them off and got a fortunate bounce on the last corner to nab the final podium spot in 5th.
Overall it was a fun weekend on the track racing. The competition was stacked and while the final result in nitro buggy wasn't where I wanted it I felt good with my pace in the short time with the new buggies. I will keep working on and improving my program and come back stronger at the next one.