Southern Nationals 2021
Louisiana beckoned this past weekend as the Racetime entertainment crew built us a fun layout to battle it out at the Southern Nationals. This year the weather conditions were crazy (and we were in a building!) The concrete floors were sweating and the track was holding moisture like never before. Also on Sunday before the truggy main the storm outside was so intense it was blowing like a hurricane through the open side door and nearly caused an E-Z up inside to blow away! But thankfully the race went off without a hitch and some epic racing ensued.
This weekend I ran 3 classes consisting of my WRC buggy rides and a new SWorkz truggy supplied to me just before the event. I built it Tuesday, practiced with it 3 tanks to break in the drive-line on Wednesday and took it racing at the Southern Nats. Friday was practice and as alluded to in opening paragraph the track was damp and it stayed that way. Thus tires in practice were an assortment of AKA Super Softs. I ran a variety from grids, to double down / Enduro combos. Basically you wanted some pins to dig through some of the loam and when a slight cleared off line started to form then going to the tighter pin like double down was possible. But generally we were coming off the track with tires caked with dirt.
As Saturday rolled around it was time to begin the 3 rounds of qualifying. Truggy was up first and I had transitioned into SSLW compounds near the end of practice as the track started to dry ever so slightly and I felt the slightly stiffer pin integrity dug into the dirt a bit better and also didn't balloon as much providing a better feel. I also decided to sauce the SSLW compound after Q1 of Truggy as I didn't seem to have the grip of many others in the class and I knew they were all saucing. So in truggy I would take a 10th in Q1 and follow it up with a pair of hard faught 7's in Q2 and 3 to seed me 8th overall in the class. The field this year was deeper than ever and it truly lived up to it's name of "Nationals" with almost all the top drivers in attendance. In Nitro buggy I would get off to a great start in my WRC SBX buggy with a 5 in Q1 on SSLW Double down / Enduro's. I would have a poor Q2 with crashes but came back with an 8th in Q3 to qualify 9th overall. In ebuggy I was a little off this week never really feeling comfortable out there. The track had a lot of left/right chicanes and started to get pretty rough in a few corners and you really had to pinpoint your lines. But after it broke up it really did hold together pretty well afterwords all considering. I would end up qualifying 12th in ebuggy into the A-main.
Nitro truggy was the first main up on Sunday. I opted for SSLW Gridirons and the track was now dried out and grip was up. I also chose to glue my foams which to me usually takes away a little grip, but we were trying to carry so much corner speed in some sections I felt it would help make the truck track more consistent and hopefully feel better throughout the 30 minute main. In warmup I wasn't feeling to confident, the truck was a bit loose in the rear on exit and it was going to take some adjustments. Starting 8th I was able to get by a crashed car on lap 1 into 7th, but as I rounded the corner before the big double I looped out the rear end. I fell to 12th on that lap but others were crashing in the next few laps too and I worked through the crowd into 9th on lap 3 then 7th on lap 5 and 5th on lap 16. I ran there until attrition took out another and I inherited 4th on lap 33 and spent the next 12 laps trying my best to hold off a hard charging Rivkin. He would catch me and make a mistake multiple times over that timeframe. But I was able over the final 10 laps to throw down a 39 every lap to hold him off and take a hard faught 4th. Overall very pleased with this position!
Nitro buggy was next on the docket and I had made a few changes before the main to hopefully help with the increased grip levels. Main thing was going to a 2.4 front sway bar instead of 2.3 to help mellow out the steering response a bit and it seemed to work. My buggy felt the best it had all weekend as I also went out on AKA SSLW Zip front and Catapult rears. The tire combo worked great to skip over ruts and I had a good fast pace. I had another good start taking tight inside lines as some others crashed off the track. On lap one moved up to 7th and got up to 5th by lap 4 before overshooting the floater at the end of the straight and falling back to 7th again. But I pushed on getting into 5th again on lap 17 and keeping pace with the lead pack. Unfortunately my luck at this event and from this year in the mains bit me again. On my pit in lap on the offcamber at the top of the track I hit a rut and my car rolled onto it's side. The marshal came to get me but missed on his first attempt and doubled back to get me. I think being my pit in lap the clunk wasn't able to reach the fuel as it was on it's side and thus it died. Can't believe my luck sometimes. So that knocked me out to 17th by the time I got back fired up and on the track. So when I did get back on the track with a little more umph behind my driving I threw down the hot lap of the entire main of a 38.4. My buggy had pace as it's had often lately, I just couldn't put it where it could be in this final and would end a disappointing 14th.
Last race of the day for me was the Ebuggy main. I thought a similar set-up like I had in nitro would do well but with the added grip level and the slightly heavier weight of my ebuggy it had a bit too much roll for me in the rear on power. I did however adjust best I could and had another great start moving from 12th to 8th on the first lap. Then into 7th on lap 2 before getting caught with some traffic on lap 7 an falling back to 11th. There was a pack of us battling it out and I went from 11th to 7th on lap 11 before being taken out from behind on lap 13 knocking me to 12th. On the last lap I would get back to 11th.
Overall this is always a super fun event with a great layout but one that I have many years of less than stellar luck at. Positives though this week were a solid result in truggy and my Nitro buggy being super racy and on pace for a podium. Will continue to work hard moving forward and hopefully the results will come!