Friday, July 1, 2011

DG-Spec Scion tC Remains Bulletproof

LONG BEACH, Calif. — Typically when you debut an untested turbo setup in 100-degree weather, and then attempt to race continuously for 240 miles, you anticipate that “issues” will crop up. This past weekend, at the fourth round of the WERC endurance series, the DG-Spec team proved that solid engineering and the right partners can produce winning results, even the first time out.

After three hours and 78 laps, and with no problems, the team captured the win in the competitive E1 class. Drivers Scott Webb and Dan Gardner kept the car (mostly) out of trouble, as they brought it home not much worse for the wear. Finishing a whopping two laps behind was a Porsche Boxster, followed by a winged BMW.

Just two E0 and three ES cars finished ahead of the Scion, as DG-Spec claimed a heady sixth place in the overall standings. In fact, second place overall was just a lap ahead of the turbo tC. The win gives the team 380 total points in the WERC series, a good 55 points ahead of second-place, with four races left to go.

“On Friday during testing we saw ambient temps get as high as 103 degrees, and we knew it was going to be brutal on our new turbo setup,” said team owner and driver Dan Gardner. “The water and oil got hot, as did everything in the engine bay, but this Scion just kept going and going. I can’t say enough about our partners at Dezod, Garrett, Burns, Goodridge, and AEM. They all provided great pieces and tech support to give us the best chance of an issue-free setup right out of the gates. As it turns out, it wasn’t just issue-free, it also carried us to the winner’s circle.”

The race started promptly at 6:15 p.m. As the green flew, Webb got into a good clear pocket, as others jockeyed for position. He passed a couple cars before turn one, and glued the front of the Scion to the back bumper of faster-class E0 BMW. In back was another E0 BMW, and Webb would battle for a first half of the race, as he kept the Scion out in front.

Early on, Webb managed to rip off fast lap of the weekend with a 2:09.xx, which helped the Scion build up a gap over the E1 Acura, which had started one position behind the tC.

Just a few laps into the race, the radio kit in Webb’s helmet would fail. He could hear the crew on the radio, but couldn’t respond back. The team put their contingency communications plan into place, which involved flashing the lights to signal affirmative responses.

The biggest issue involved trying to calculate when it was time for a fuel stop. When the car first bobbled Webb flashed his lights and zig-zagged down the front straight to indicate that he had switched the other two pumps on. The team now had a general idea about when the car would need to come in for fuel. Without two-way radio communications, however, the pit crew needed to be ready on a moment’s notice if Webb pulled into the pits without warning.

The crew consisted of David Fredrickson, Aidan Spraic, Shawn Meze, John McNulty, and Alec Johnston, so Webb, Gardner and the turbo Scion were in good hands. Crew Chief and team anchor Sean Morris couldn’t make the event as he was saying “I do” to his now wife, automotive engineer, swimmer, and all-around great gal, Merritt Johnson.

“Sean’s how I met Dan and this team, and his role as the main fueler during stops is critical,” said crewman Spraic. “I had some big shoes to fill, taking his spot in the pits, but he prepared me well before he left. I think Dave and I got into a rhythm during fueling practice, and the stops went pretty flawless I’m proud to say.”

Just before the race’s halfway mark, Webb came in for fuel and a driver change. The crew sprung into action, as Gardner jumped into the car. The first few laps were rough as he tried to find his groove, but things improved as the race wore on.

Early on, Webb came on the radio to let Gardner know he had been hit twice on the left side by an out-of-class BMW. The hits came on the last lap before Webb pitted, so no one really knew the extent of the damage.

Fortunately the team would regain two-way radio communications, and driver and crew would have a running dialogue throughout the remainder of the race. During the first part of Gardner’s shift, the low, fiery sun would be blinding in a couple of turns, with cars driving off the track regularly. Gardner too found himself in the dirt in off-ramp, but drove on without incident.

As darkness approached the team radioed that the main HID driving lights were not on. Gardner hit the switch repeatedly, but the lights would not turn back on. During testing and qualifying the team had kept the lights on to test this very issue, and the lights performed flawlessly.

With the two supplemental HIDs still functioning, Gardner started to feel out how to drive with limited vision. Fortunately, reflectors on the track really helped the driver when it became pitch black.

Fuel would become an issue as the team hadn’t made it quite halfway through on the first tank. Rather than wait until later in the race, the team decided to have Gardner come in early to take on a splash, as the Scion was two laps ahead of second place. The idea was to run a conservative race from this point on, as it was pointless to take unnecessary chances with a two-lap lead.

The crew banged off another great stop, and Gardner would take off again, carefully watching his dash, as radar guns were constantly monitoring pit lane speed. As the Scion took to the track again, the team checked Timing and Scoring and still saw they were up a lap. Gardner extended the lead, as he managed the darkness by relying on the reflectors, which were well-placed by series officials.

One benefit of the night was that water and oil temps came back down, and the bright green temp warning light would extinguish, giving the driver more confidence that risk of a failure was low.

With just a few laps to go, Gardner kept the car pointed ahead though he took evasive action once at the bus stop, when a car slowed considerably and the closing rate was too fast to bleed with brakes. As the checkered flew, the Scion took home the win, and barely missed a top five finish overall, impressive for a limited-class E1 car.

The fifth and sixth rounds of the WERC endurance series will take place at Thunderhill Raceway on August 13-14.

Press Release by Dan Gardner, DG-Spec

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