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Formula Motorsports

Proving Grounds

By Michael Tashjian • August 4, 2015

“Ambition is never content, even at greatness!” It was an over enunciated command issued to myself prior to our quest at the Watkins Glen inaugural PCR race.

One of the last true solitaries, whose mystique illuminates the path to remorseless honesty, Nick “Batman” Ventura, had tested well no less than 4 weeks prior. His machine, a brutish test of manliness with it’s boost level set a 1.5 bar had been purposely set much lower as to enhance the ability of creating a set up to a troublesome suspension. Gearing, tires, spring weight, these critical pieces in the puzzle of testing results were meant as an indication of our competitive strengths for the real deal in August. “Nick, ready to run a low 50?” I quipped. An end of test session remark designed to extract any emotion from a man whose gene pool must have emanated from Juan Fangio, having a sole purpose on this earth to fly on the ground, effortlessly. His Brando-isk voice eventually echoed, “Mark, you make the front stick and I’ll run a $#@* 49!

It’s been a 30-year romance with this remarkable ex F1 racing venue woven into one of the five Finger Lakes located in scenic “upstate New York”. Where corner name are familiar to all great drivers, then and now. Names too intimate for some, where abrupt termination would end their game of tag with an apex. Within the Glen’s varied elevation changes, hides carefully carved high speed, guardrail ensconsed turns with dubious nicknames such as the “esses”, “heel”, “toe”, “laces” and the “bus stop”. During a PCA weekend, “Working” these turns could be synonymous to a boy scout Jamboree, with scouts whittling away on blocks of elm, looking forward for the ultimate in achievement, a badge of FTD earned through carefully shaping, guided by their senses.

Hopefully, we would know this 3.5-mile road course with more intimacy than any of the other front-runners in our competitive field of gladiators. Flanked by Erik Postniek, riding his new factory steed, a GT3 supercup, and our experience could only bolster his position as a rookie in his highly competitive class of GTC.

As hardscrabble as our year had been, uncomforted with it’s amount of weather related DNS’s hurtled in our direction, more obstacles needed resolve before Sunday afternoon and the big show. Overwhelmed at the past weeks fate, we arrived on that Christian saboth with not merely a broken rib to contend with, but a severely wounded Supercup manned by a driver determined to succeed in an arena replete with too many experienced hawks overseeing his progress. Overzealous warm up matched to a weakened lower control arm led a list of implausible occurrences. The results of which would eventually lead the GT3 supercup and it’s suspension through a wave of inability in transmitting feedback, creating an off road excursion of substantial magnitude. The wreck would take days and telecommunication around the globe for the specialized parts to arrive and install. The video would reveal a competent driver having offering up his first off road excursion. However poignant and uncomfortable my sustained guardrail injuries were, they would inevitably and physiologically mend. From the driver’s standpoint, wrecks are hysterically psychological and difficult in its ability at re-creation of wellness. This incident would mandate one refreshed warhorse infused with competition among peers, resulting in a real confidence rebuilder.

Don’t ever forget, we all crash! If you’ve never wrecked, you just aren’t going fast enough. My position was clear, make the repair happen, on time! It was what I do, quite possibly, what I do best.

The GT3 suffered severe trauma, severing both left side corners and displacing it’s chassis suspension points. Many of our competitors offered up their parts as well as a sympathetic hand as we repaired this once virgin machine. By Friday afternoon we patched, adjusted and hammered everything into a temporary “fix”. I was in my element and finished the tasks at hand. The supercup, as well as my bones, would have to do what was expected. I explained to a somber Erik, “it was time to get happy”. He didn’t let us down and won Rookie of the PCR race. Other events would be beyond my control

Nick woke to a somber and ominous Sunday morning. The preceding day would see his lap times drop into the 50’s. We had the setup and the driver to win it all! The skies would open in a soaking, as our Batman would retreat to the garages in an unemotional pitch, only to again be robbed of a pole position in a driving rainstorm. While the trusty steed was readily packed for its trip back to Gotham, mother of nature teased us in tire choices, for the GTC class effort. Erik had his first venture into competition riddled with a compilation of issues usually discovered within the course of a whole season, only to face them in a few short days.

As Mother Nature played good bitch with us in the form of sunshine, an over tenured Batmobile would be hurriedly removed from the transport late in the day. Without the luxury of qualifying “Bruce Wayne” had to start the race from the back of the wolf pack. Experience, as the mother of that nature, could not thwart the venerable lead driver of Metro, on this Bible belt Sabbath. As seamless as a virtuoso, Metro’s own hurtled this stealth 914 with 800 frustrated ponies to an undaunted 5th overall. He passed 25 competitors in 25 minutes summarily exorcising his pent up frustration, feeding it to a racing cultural Cuisinart, and a duly appropriate catchword, COMPETITION, it gets you up in the morning!