JAG Promotions UPDATE from Sebring Florida Test, May 11-12 2000
|Welcome to the first installment of many updates to come on the progress of the Boise Cascade Office Products Racing program. The Boise Racing program is officially underway, kicked off by my first test of the Reynard 98E at Sebring Florida this past week. I would also like to mention the fact that there are several co-sponsors making this happen: KJWL Radio Fresno, Bank of the West, and Top Shelf. The program will be visiting at least five events with the Cart FedEx championship, and Boise Cascade will be conducting hospitality events with all of them. Look for us at Detroit, Cleveland, Mid Ohio, Elkhart Lake, and Laguna Seca.|
||Down To The Wire
For some reason, no matter how hard you try to make things happen in a timely fashion, in racing everything seems to come down to the wire. The past four weeks have not been an exception to the rule. We started the process in March with Boise bringing in Momentum Design to properly design a paint scheme for the car and a unified look for the drivers suit. Due to the relatively short lead-time, Momentum worked quickly to design a look for the program. Once we had a sense of what we were trying to do, the last few weeks were spent ironing out last minute details and making it all happen so that Boise could have photos taken for collateral and press materials to be used with the racing promotion. We literally brought each piece of the puzzle down to the absolute minimum lead-time required; but it all came together. I picked up my helmet from the painter Friday before leaving. The decals were sent directly to the shop in Sebring. The new drivers suit was finished on Wednesday the 10th (the day before the test) and arrived Thursday morning in Sebring. The paint on the tub of the car was finished when I arrived on Tuesday the 9th but the sidepods and engine cover were shot Wednesday afternoon, and dried on Thursday. Photos of the car were shot Friday morning, and everything was fresh and shiny. I actually arrived late Monday night, and traveled down to Sebring Tuesday morning. I made my way out to the Barber Dodge Pro Series Race Shop Tuesday afternoon, in order to be fitted to the car, and meet some of the mechanics and series staff. These cars are much larger than the Formula Ford 2000's that I have been driving. The pedals were adjusted to my height, and we poured a seat. (Instead of having a regular car-type seat, most formula cars require literally pouring a two-part foam mixture into plastic bags that hardens around the driver's body in the car. When the foam hardens, the new seat is taken out of the car, usually cut into sections to facilitate installation and removal, and covered in material or tape.) Wednesday morning I headed back out to the shop to tape the seat, and apply the few decals that I could. The paintwork was finished in the afternoon.
My Primary Sponsor, Boise Cascade Office Products, a wholly owned subsidiary of Boise Cascade Corporation, had arranged to send the Sports Marketing Coordinator, Tammy Pruitt, and Momentum Design (Boise's design firm) had the car's paint scheme designer Paul Wells and photographer Stephen Glenn (no known relation) on the way from St. Louis to oversee the test and conduct a photo shoot. The whole point of finishing the graphics and suit before this test was to shoot photos for Boise Cascade Office Products collateral materials - a press kit, driver cards, and other handout items to be used with their hospitality events in conjunction with the racing. Paul Wells and Stephen Glenn arrived in Florida on Wednesday afternoon. Tammy Pruitt from Boise arrived around midnight Wednesday night in Orlando. The photo shoot was originally scheduled for Thursday, but the drying paint dictated that the car shots would happen on Friday.
|A Brand New Deal
Adding to my pressure load was the fact that I had never driven one of these cars, and the whole Barber Pro Series setup was new for me. In the past, I have worked with a single team with one or more engineers, and a crew dedicated to the one or two cars on that team. The Barber Pro Series is a spec series- using one type of car, with many of the variables fixed - in other words, everyone is on the same spring rate, sway bar diameters, and has the same internal shock valving. The drivers can adjust the stiffness of the swaybars, low speed bump and rebound on the shocks, and wing angles. There are also driver coaches to go over the data acquired by the cars pi data system- this records and graphs several parameters while the car is running on the track. Speed, lateral Gs and throttle position are monitored in all of the cars, and everyone's data is available to all in the series. The coaches can look at the data, and compare between any driver's data and the fastest driver in that session. What is really different for me is that you are not working directly with an engineer thinking about what changes to make next to make the car work with your own driving style.
My goal in this whole test was not to set the world on fire, or worry about my speed in the car compared with the other drivers, (for several, this is their third year in the Barber Dodge Pro Series) my real goal was to get comfortable, learn the six speed sequential gearbox, and make everything happen with regards to the photo shoot. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I had never driven on this part of the track at Sebring before. All of the cars roll out of the garage with a "baseline" setup. Drivers can make adjustments to suit their driving styles. Out of the box, the car felt pretty good. I did a couple of sessions, learning both the car and where I was going. Paul and Steve showed up, and I introduced myself, while suited up in the car between sessions. The car was running with black bodywork while the paint on the real bodywork continued to dry. To keep things as even as possible, on series test days, drivers can do 50 laps per day, with a computer download every 25 laps. By the second half of the first day I was making changes to the car, to try and alleviate an understeering condition, and to see how much of an effect the adjustments had on the overall feel of the car. Speedwise I was about two seconds off, but still coming to grips with the car and track. The test days are more like half-days with the lap limit. When I was done with my laps for the day, we rolled the car back to the shop, the mechanics prepped the car, and I began to apply the graphics to the finished bodywork. Paul and Steve stopped by the shop to see the last of the graphics applied to the car. The car looks good. Paul seemed pleased. The graphics were on by roughly 6:30pm Thursday night. My day was far from over at this point - Tammy Pruitt of Boise Cascade Office Products had elected to work Thursday from the hotel. We all got the chance to meet for dinner, and since the suit had arrived earlier in the morning, we went ahead and did the "driver only" photo shoot in a hotel room / makeshift studio. The session was pretty painless, and I was done around 10:15pm. Friday was an early morning. The track went green at 8:00am. Tammy Pruitt, Paul Wells and photographer Stephen Glenn were all on hand for the sessions. The testing went well, as I continued to gradually knock my time down, and felt more comfortable with the car. I improved another .6 second, but it was difficult to gain any time toward the end of the test, as the temperature crept past the mid nineties. I was still pleased, and had not really been trying for ultimate lap time I was still getting used to the fastest corner on the track, still losing a bunch of time there and in one other spot. I was pleased with my comfort level in the car, and by the fact that there were no damage causing incidents. We did one last static photo shoot discreetly on pit lane, which for me was warmer in the car than actually driving it on the track. After this was done, Paul and Steve headed north for the Orlando Airport. After wrapping everything up at the shop, I had a stressful three-hour jaunt trying to find an appropriate container and shipping store to FedEx all of the Boise Graphics back to California. Friday night I had dinner with Tammy Pruitt, and we checked out some local culture at "The Watering Hole - Home of the 14' Gator" a bar/restaurant in between our hotel and the track. They really did have a live gator in a pen in the back. My flight left Orlando at 5:50pm on Saturday, so I had a leisurely morning in Sebring, and was able to check out Orlando before heading out to the airport.
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