I had a great feeling upon arriving in to Vegas. The Ford Fiestas that compete under the stewardship of OMSE all had a chance get the cars around a track in Lake Elsinore a few days ahead of racing and it was great to take the eBay Motors Ford Fiesta out for a spin after what has been a lengthy summer break.
Our morning practice session got the cars warm and we got to see how quick the other cars are in relation to ours. I was a little bit off top pace of Toomas Heikkenen, but rigorous measurement of split times of all the teams allowed me to pinpoint my weak points and ultimately know where to be more aggressive and improve to qualify well. It was also the start of the problems in the first warm up session. I ran some quick times but ended up losing drive after landing the table top jump. On inspection the guys found a drive shaft had come out due to the aggressiveness of the jump. Credit goes to my chief engineer Ian and the rest of the OMSE team for getting the Fiesta repaired before the qualifying sessions.
With the use of the split times I knew I had to push harder in the chicane and throughout the crossover of the jump; everywhere else we were on the pace. First lap out I found the speed and set a 26.83 lap. The second lap I brought it down to a 26.295 and then on the final qualifying lap I pushed through the chicane over the table top and bang! No drive!! My heart sunk.
We had just knocked another huge chunk off the split time on my final time round on par with Tanner Foust. Once again it was back to the workshop and another shaft to change. Now my guys had to work overtime and try to solve this prior to going to the heat.
My guys had worked right through the break in racing and changed the gearbox which had a slight knock in there. Also, we replaced the shafts and reset the spacers on the shafts to allow more travel.
Lined up on the grid I knew I had the start. We can generally beat everyone off the lights and the guys I was up against knew this. Surprisingly, it was Boss Andreas that jumped the start first. But when we lined up for the restart, Rhys Millen did it next. Now at drivers briefing we had been told that if there was a jump start it would keep going and a 30 second penalty given so when the lights went green I went! But a red flag came out again.
After two false starts by Boss Andreas and Rhys Millen jumping the green, I was under serious pressure to get into Turn 1 before the other racers. I had nailed two good starts and needed to get a third. Now with a hot car and tyres things start to change. I gave it a little more and slipped the clutch a bit extra not to get too much bite and we nailed the third start of the heat.
I was well ahead at the first turn, but I over cooked it, ran slightly wide, and Andreas and Millen got back through. I chased hard, whilst Andreas took the alternative, I took the jump and pushed hard catching them up.
On the next time round I took the alternative and got the bit between my teeth. I could taste a good result and a direct qualification but on the third lap I took the jump and “bang”, the sickening feeling was back as I lost drive for a split second and then it came back. I went up the gears down the straight, braked hard and turned in to bury the throttle. Again, nothing but revs and the car spun out in to the barriers.
It was the third time this weekend I had to take the long walk back to the pits and the first time this year I knew I hadn’t made it straight to the final.
I got the guys together and said are we going to make the Last Chance Qualifier and they just turned and jumped on the car. The boys had 20 minutes to find and solve this problem for good and I knew I had my work cut out to get us in to the final.
They were pleased to report that this time it was an actual shaft failure because the inner joint had failed. The boys swopped it and we joined the back of the grid. Not a place the eBay Motors Ford Fiesta has ever seen and hopefully won’t again.
A good start saw me go down the outside and struggle to stop at the first corner on the painted pit boxes, a slight contact with the back of the Subaru of Dave Mirra made me run round the dirt and push hard on to the back of the others. At the hairpin for the jump it felt like I hit some water as the car slid out wide as I pulled the gears and hit the jump. But as I landed it was evident a tyre had gone. Another half a lap it was off the rim and I wasn’t able to continue to the end.
So Viva Las Vegas wasn’t so good for us. The car ran well when running but the bad luck overcame us this weekend despite the grand effort the whole team put in towards keeping the eBay Motors Ford Fiesta out on track. When we return to Las Vegas in three weeks, I am going to make sure we end this year on a high!