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Brett Erickson of Sunnyvale, California raced to an eventual 25th place in the Speed “Touring” World Challenge Series this past weekend at Mazda Raceway-Laguna Seca.
Erickson over came 2 broken axles, 1 exploded clutch and a failing 3rd gear synchro in the #12 VW Dealers Ad Association sponsored GTI Golf Mk IV.
Erickson exclaims, “What a weekend! Heck – what month! No – I take that back, it’s been quite a year! A lot of firsts happened this year. I made my first Pro race, I built my first Pro car, I assembled my first professional team, and we accomplished so much. So many sponsors and supporters to thank…Sturken Auto Body, Sias Tuning, Bildon Motorsport, KW Suspensions, Maier Racing, Techtonics Tuning, ReihlTek Engine Development, FM Grafx, PRO Coaching, ABD Racing, Sunnyvale Volkswagen, and the VW Dealers Ad Association…just so many entities were involved in making this year a hard fought success.”
Please read the weekend’s diary that follows; just imagine that this was only one of many weekends for the Erickson Motorsports Team.
10-14-04 (Mazda Raceway-Laguna Seca)
Thursday at the track was a promoters test day at Mazda Raceway-Laguna Seca for all competitors and with the ALMS series to run in a late afternoon – night practice session. The goal for the test day was for Brett to get comfortable in the Volkswagen Golf Mk IV touring car again and put as many laps on the car possible. The car ran great all day with a best time of 1:44.8 set in the last practice session of the day just before breaking an inner CV joint. Work on the racecar consisting of post-track maintenance and repairs to the driveline continued to 8 PM.
Friday was a timed practice day for all classes competing in the weekend’s events. With the test day out of the way, today we are focused on going fast and making adjustments to the Volkswagen Golf and driver. The lap times were coming down with the help of Robert Orcutt, Laguna Seca track expert and ALMS GT racer, Robert worked directly with Brett to gather driver feedback and to assist in the driver development. In the last practice session of the day, at 5:40 PM, the clutch became locked and was not releasing. This made gear selection almost impossible during the last lap of practice. With the expert and knowledgeable help of the crew and assistance from the guys at Rebello Racing, the team was able to identify the problem by nightfall. Phone calls were placed to several parts suppliers in hopes of having the replacement clutch and associated parts before Saturdays noontime qualifying.
Saturdays schedule consisted of one thing, a 12:15 PM qualifying session. Contacts were made through the night and into the early morning in search of a clutch assembly for the racecar. The crew began working on the car at 7:00 AM, just as the gates for the race track opened, all along waiting on word of the replacement parts needed to fix the broken GTI. Not before long, Steve Zlotkin at Eurospec Sport of Gilroy, California contacted us with great news; Steve made direct arraignments to get the parts into our hands so that we could make the needed repairs in time for qualifying. After replacing the broken pressure plate and reassembling the car, we rolled up to pre-grid 15 minutes before they closed the grid for qualifying. Brett qualified the car at a respectable 30th out of 37 cars with a lap time of 1:44.0. “Not bad”, Brett added, “considering that to my surprise, the car didn’t have a third gear synchro which was damaged during the clutch failure. This made for cautious up shifting into third gear and a great loss of time on the watch.”
Sunday was the big day. At 10:25 am Brett would take his first professional Formula 1 style “standing start” in the SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Series! The cars lined up into their spots on the grid after one lap of scrubbing tires and generating heat into the tires and brakes.
The lights went out and away the #12 VW Golf GTI went around and along side the #05 Honda Civic that was in front of the GTI at the start. Brett commented on the start of the race, “I got a good launch and was door to door with the #05 Honda while I was getting pinched over towards the #00 Integra driven by Andrew Monterrubio. I thought better of the situation and backed out of the throttle with the thoughts of eminent contact. No sooner had I backed out, when the rear tires locked up on the #05 Civic, which shot across the track from right to left, taking Monterrubio in the #00 Integra along with him into the inside wall on the front straight. I made it through safe, whew!”
The pace car gathered up the leaders as the field remained under a full course caution for three laps while the two disabled racecars were towed away. On the restart, Brett was hit from behind in turn 11, by the #94 Honda driven by Peter Bovenberg, Brett continued on without losing a position and sustaining only minor damage to the GTI.
“The track was fairly ‘green’ due to the large amount of rain from the night before although there was decent grip as long as you stayed off of the painted curbing in certain areas of the track. After a few laps I started to settle in and began to work on being consistent, managing my tires, and taking care of third gear – 60 minutes is a long race.”
35 minutes into the race the pace car came back out as clean up was needed for the debris on the track from the Nissan of Peter Cunningham and the Acura RSX of Chip Herr, each hitting the outside wall in turn 6. The safety lights on the pace car went out and the touring car field was let go for a 5-lap dash to the finish. “When I came through the final turn and saw the checkered flag, I had an overwhelming sensation of accomplishment and was enjoying the sweet success of overcoming adversity!”
For more information, go to www.ericksonmotorsports.com