Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Waterford Hills Road Racing, Inc.

September 18, 2005: Clarkston, Michigan - Team MatherMotorsport attacked a new (to them) track this weekend. Waterford Hills Raceway is a 1.5-mile, 11 turn road course that is very hilly, and extremely physically demanding.

Having tested the previous weekend at an open track day, the team was armed with data and had the CG-Lock / Total Fitness SpecMiata setup for the track when they arrived Saturday morning. Waterford Hills runs their races weekends slightly different than the typical SCCA weekend. Saturday is the normal race day with a qualifying session in the morning, then race in the afternoon. Sunday is different because there are two races; a morning race then a feature race in the afternoon. That’s right, three races in one weekend. The morning race’s starting position is determined by the finishing position of Saturday’s race. The feature race’s grid position is determined by the fast lap in Sunday morning’s race.

Saturday morning found the CG-Lock / Total Fitness SpecMiata right up to speed, starting in third position, only five tenths of a second off of the pole position. When the green flag waved Mather had a slightly slower start, but still managed to hold his third place position. Going into the turn known as “Hill top”, Mather was side by side with Jeff Stevenson, with zero room between them. Everyone made it through without incident (other than a tire donut on the side of Jeff’s car) and continued. Mather was hounding the back bumper of Stevenson for the next two laps. Mather finally out-braked Stevenson going into turn six and moved into second position. He then worked on catching up to Alan Faitel, who is the track record holder and last years track champion. However, Alan had gotten enough of a lead to win, with Mather and the CG-Lock / Total Fitness SpecMiata capturing second place.

Sunday morning, Mather started outside of the front row, next to Faitel. He had a better start this time and was right on Faitel’s back bumper. Half way through the race, Mather got a run coming out of turn five, “Big Bend”. Mather was able to get to the inside of Faitel coming into turn six, and they were side by side for the next four turns. Unfortunately, the track narrows into the esses and Mather bounced off of a curb and lost some momentum. This allowed Faitel back into the lead. Mather was still close enough to keep Faitel working for the win, and held on for another second place finish.

The CG-Lock / Total Fitness SpecMiata was gridded second for the start of the feature race. With an excellent stat this time, Mather was pressuring Faitel from the start. Mather kept the pressure on for the entire race. One mistake and the Mather would be able to pass. But the mistake didn’t happen, and Mather finished a still impressive second place.

This was one of the best weekends of racing Mather has ever had. Three second place finishes at a track that he has never raced before, and keeping constant pressure on the track record holder is quite an accomplishment.

Thanks go out to the MatherMotorsport crew, Cory and Katie B., and Ben L. for their help this weekend. Also joining this weekend was David H., who raced at Waterford Hills in the past and gave Phil some pointers, Josh E., who got some excellent racing action photos, and Bruce Mather of CG-Lock. On Sunday, Giuseppe Del Giudice from Total Fitness Personal Training joined to watch the racing action. Without the support of CG-Lock (www.cg-lock.com) and Total Fitness’ training program (www.totalfit.biz), MatherMotorsport wouldn’t be having the excellent season they are enjoying this year.

Team MatherMotorsport will be making their next appearance at Nelson Ledges on October 15th. This will be their final race of the season. Stay tuned for the next race report!

2005 Still Plays with Cars Double Regional at Grattan Raceway

September 4, 2005: Belding, Michigan - Team MatherMotorsport and the CG-Lock / Total Fitness SpecMiata returned to Grattan Raceway Labor Day weekend for the 2005 Still Plays with Cars Double Regional. Grattan raceway is one of the most challenging tracks to be fast at. Every turn is either blind, uphill, downhill, off camber, or a combination of any of the above.

This race had a very large turnout, with over 25 SpecMiatas making an appearance. The field was split about 50/50 between SM (open tire class) and SMT (Toyo tires only). Mather was competing in the SMT class for this event. The SpecMiatas also had their own run group for this event, meaning that out of class cars would not be a problem like in previous races.

After a test and tune on Friday, Mather and crew had dropped almost one second per lap from their previous visit at the track.

On Saturday, Phil Mather drove hard to place the CG-Lock / Total Fitness SpecMiata third in class, eighth overall on the starting grid, with a time that would have set the track record and gotten pole the previous year! Competition has been stepped up this season.

Mather got an early break when lining up for the first race. The car starting in front of him arrived late, and Mather got to move up one starting position (seventh overall, second in class). When the green flag waved, Mather got a very good start, gaining two positions going into turn one. From then on it was a constant battle with Shane Benson from AIM Tuning, Alan Faitel, David Watts - SMART Series co-founder, and Brian Post. Mather was right on Benson’s back bumper for much of the race, and swapping positions several times in two laps with Faitel. Mather was able pass Faitel when he missed a shift coming out of the hairpin turn. He was then passed by Shawn Slattery (who started dead last) headed into turn one. Two laps later he was able to get by Benson when he got sideways in turn eight, also known as “The Bowl” due to its steep banking. Since passing and driving a defensive line tend to slow down lap times, traffic from behind had a chance to catch up. He was also fighting tires that were near the end of their useful life. Mather was able to make his car as wide as possible for the last several laps to capture a third place in class!

On Sunday, armed with a better set of tires, Mather again qualified the CG-Lock / Total Fitness SpecMiata third in class, but this time qualified sixth overall, having gained over 0.5 seconds on his previous best lap time. At the start of the race, the green flag didn’t wave. The field was not lined up properly coming up to the starting line and the start was waved off. The field slowed down and re-gridded for another try. Take two was even worse. The top ten cars were in a single file before the starter was even visible! This made the race officials very upset, and they blacked flagged the entire field in to the pit area, where they were given a not-so-pleasant talking to. The field then formed up, again, behind the pace car. The third time was a charm and the race was under way. Mather was again in a battle with the front runners. He had an excellent start and was running in second place in class after the first lap. About three-quarters of the way through the race, Shawn Slattery was able to make an excellent pass on the outside of the hairpin turn, dropping Mather to third position. Mather didn’t give up and was right on his bumper until two laps to go in the race. That’s when bad luck struck. This year, the team has been concentrating on fuel usage during the race. Well, with the two false starts and subsequent flying laps, Mather didn’t have enough fuel With two laps to go, the CG-Lock / Total Fitness SpecMiata was starved for fuel. Had the two laps counted, the fuel load would have been perfect. With only a short distance to go, Mather backed off the throttle and upshifted, hoping to make it the last few miles to the checkered flag. He did make it to the finish, only losing two positions in the process, ending up in fifth place. The car then ran completely out of fuel on the cool down lap and he had to be towed into the pits. If that had not happened, a third place was almost guaranteed, and second place was within reach.

Phil would like to thank all of the competition for the incredibly close, but clean racing all weekend. The car came out of the race with no new scratches or dents.

Thanks also to the MatherMotorsport Crew. Cory B. was unable to attend, but put a new alignment setup on the car for this race and the improvements in lap times were obvious! Ben L. was at the track and a big contributor to Mather’s accomplishments for the weekend.

Also joining for the weekend was Steve Hopkins from Total Fitness Personal Training. Steve brought his family along to join in the fun as well. Big thanks for all of Total Fitness’s support throughout the year. Thanks to the program they have put together for Phil, he is able to stay sharp both mentally and physically throughout the races. His driving and average finishes have improved dramatically this season, and Total Fitness Personal Training is one of the main reasons! Check out their website at http://www.totalfit.biz/!