Circuit of the America’s has only been around since 2012. In its short 3 years of existence the European inspired, 20 turn, 3.418 mile track has become iconic in racers eyes. With major elevation changes, tightening s-turns, carousels and more, it is a long, technical, gorgeous track.
Geoff Reeves' #40 Z28 Camaro was under the gun to be finished in time for this race. Unlike last year he was not able to get a good amount of seat time in the car during the off season. The hard working crew put the finishing touches on during the wee hours of the morning on Saturday, just before the team hauler had to leave. Geoff met the car Tuesday when he and the team were unloading in the rig and setting up the paddock.
The new Z28 is gorgeous! The front of the car is more sinister looking, the built in spoiler looks great, the blacked out wheels that come straight from the factory are an awesome touch against the cars solid yellow body. The carbon ceramic brakes are MASSIVE in comparison to last years steel discs, and the transmission / engine sound mean!
“From the drivers perspective, I am beyond pleased. The components are more true to a race car than ever before. I still don’t like the restrictions put on the car by the series though." - Geoff Reeves
Chevy’s monster engine has a bigger restrictor thrown on it despite the already top end speed issues they battled in the 2014 season. The overall weight of the car went up from last year and the cars ride height is now to be 5” (raised up from last years 3.5” inches).
“It was like racing a truck, the center of gravity was high. I literally could put two wheels on either side of several of the curbs and straddle them without a problem. In fact, after a practice, an official came up to me showing me a picture of me doing it reminding me I needed to stay on the racing surface. The car looked great, but getting her to handle properly was something else." - Geoff Reeves
Geoff not having raced on this track before, used the promoter test day and each of the 2 series practice sessions to get familiar with the car. He relayed everything possible to the crew and his engineer.
“We had short time to adjust and try different spring and shock set ups to get he nose to bite in particular corners while keeping the rear end planted where and when Geoff wanted it to." - Slade
By the time qualification came around, Geoff was a bit off the pace which was expected. Other teams had been testing all off-season and were a head of the game with their cars set up. With the forecast looking grim teams continually checked the weather. Rain was an unwelcome addition to the already stressful weekend. Luckily the rain held off, at least for the first round of racing. As Geoff got strapped into the car, he and his mechanic Slade went over the game plan.
“This first race is going to be more or less a shakedown session since the car hasn’t had any hard testing yet." -Slade
... and it absolutely was.
The team learned real quick that running extended periods of made the carbon ceramic brakes give serious “knock back”. Knock back is when the brake pads, through vibration, move away from the rotors within the caliper. The result is the driver hitting the brakes hard and finding sometimes he has brake pressure and sometimes he doesn’t. At 143 mph down the back straight into a left hair pin turn isn’t the time to find this out, like Geoff did. The driver can tap the brakes while accelerating to push the pads back to center and build up pressure in the lines to help reduce this, and it is a good habit to do, but Geoff found he was CONSTANTLY tapping the brake pedal. Valves can be bought and inserted to help minimize this, but the team didn’t have any.
All race long the Camaro’s were fighting the bigger restrictor. The car would handle well in the twisty’s, but as the Camaros turned the corner on either the front or back straight, every Mustang, turbo’d Optima and Aston Martin V8 Vantage would pull away. It happened last year and is happening again.
The “fun” came when Geoff thought he blew his cars transmission 3/4 the way through Race 1.
“I went to shift gears and very quickly it felt like I was playing real life Mario Kart. I thought I broke the linkage, transmission, some important piece for putting down horsepower. I heard clunking now and again, so then I thought I broke a half shaft, but the car kept running. I thought, Hell, keep going! Finish the race!” I didn’t get concerned for my safety until the cabin of the car filled up with smoke. Then I started looking for fire when I wasn’t looking at the track in front of me." - Geoff Reeves
Now wanting to complete the race and save the car at the same time, Geoff’s goal shifted from placing to getting as many drivers points as possible and not destroying the car.
When the checkered flew and everyone was back in the stable, the crew descended immediately upon the #40. It was found that both motor mounts broke. This meant that the engine was only being held in the engine bay by the transmission. Two Chevy Racing reps who were helping the team said they had never seen that before in all their years. Since the engine was loose in the engine bay, that caused one of the shifter stabilizers to break, and the combined two problems made shifting feel like a video game. As the engine bounced left and right through the turns, the engine crimped a low pressure oil line, which became a week spot and eventually wore a hole. Oil then hit the hot engine which caused all the the smoke. Thank goodness it was a 7.0L engine, Geoff only had .5L left.
Race 2 wasn’t as exciting thank goodness. The crew swiftly got #40 all put back together and in great shape. Geoff was a little handicapped because the broken stabilizer on the shifter from Race 1. This meant he had to be extra smooth when shifting gears otherwise he could lose the ability all together.
The GTS Class could only hold off the rain so much before it down poured in Austin. Again Geoff and his team prepared for another shakedown session, but this time in the rain. The crew compiled over all the data and made their best educated guess as to what the perfect wet set up was going to be for this new race car. It was good, but the results were not great.
“We talked it over between all os us and agreed we had set the car up for what we thought was going to be a fighting chance. Within the first 3 laps I wish we had completely disconnected the front sway bar to give the car more body roll. The extra weight pushing down on the front tires in the rain would have helped my front end grip in a couple of the important turns. " - Geoff Reeves
With the weekend behind them, the team will regroup and focus on the Streets of St. Petersburg, FL? The 2015 seasons only GTS street race!