Tuesday, September 20, 2005

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/!