12 Hours at San Jose Speedway
A couple of weeks ago Rick Phillis invited me to participate on a team going to San Jose to participate in a 12 hour slot car race. I hadn’t traveled before for a slot car race, but since it was in my home town and I could stay with Derek it sounded intriguing.
Upon arriving at the racetrack location I was first blown away by the track. What’s not to love about a track that has a t-Rex roaming the paddock? In addition to featuring a lot of elevation changes, the track with it’s minimal landscaping made it feel more like a real race track. Ok, so real racetracks don’t have cows grazing on the hills, but it felt like home for those of us on the Ferndale team. There was even a little homage to The Fray, the major HO slot car event that takes place here in Ferndale.
But this was no Fray style event, either in the way the race was held, or in the cars being raced. While both differences were fun, it did put our team at a disadvantage. The biggest lesson I learned was it is really necessary to have someone on the team familiar with tuning the style of cars we were running. Each team has one car and it is used the for the whole day. The cars were provided by the people running the event, and were identically prepared at the start of the race.
We were also disadvantaged by the fact we only had 3 people on our team, so we had to take turns running a lane we weren’t used to.
But while our car was fresh and running quickly, we were still getting used to the track and the different style of car, and by the time we got comfortable with the track and car, it was losing it’s performance. At one break when we rotated out, Rick was able to recover some of the performance with a shoe change, but we were still getting blown by on the straights by the other teams. By the end of the 12 hours are car was running pretty poorly again to the point that I couldn’t match my earlier times, even though I was making steady improvements in lap times and number of laps per heat throughout the day.
At the end of the day, the leaders has run bout 3500 laps, and second place was down only by about 10 laps. Team Ferndale came in last, down by 300-400 laps. (Due to a setup error in the race computer, the final scoring was done by adding two races together so I don’t have accurate final results.)
Even though it was a really long day, it was a great event and the home team fed us two great bbq meals and provided a well stocked refrigerator for liquid refreshment. Because the race is so long the racers seem more relaxed than they are at the Fray and that made it more enjoyable too. All in all, I’m happy I said yes to Rick and attended this event.