NASA’s Race for the Pi in March at Road Atlanta started on Saturday with Grant West winning pole position with a 1:46.107, followed by Yan Dia, Keith Williamson, Connor DeYoung, Don Elvington and Bob Manker.
On the start, West missed a shift heading to Turn 1, letting Dia by on the outside to pick up P1 followed by Williamson P3 and Connor DeYoung P4. After Turn 5, the front group started to gap the rest of the pack. On the back straight, West used Dia’s draft to suck up to him and with a run got beside him as the two entered the brake zone for Turn 10a side by side. West was unable to out-brake Dia, and had to drop in behind as the pair started into Turn 10b. West got beside Dia again at Turn 1, but this time, on the inside and was able to make the pass to regain P1. Dia then missed a shift entering Turn 5 and Williamson was able to pinch off the turn and take P2, but now West had about six-car length lead over Williamson and Dia.
Unfortunately for West, the race then went full-course yellow for a car in the tire wall at Turn 1, bunching up the field. On the restart, West got away well and the group stayed in order until Turn 7, where Williamson got a good exit, enabling him to take P1 as another double-yellow came out for a car in the wall at Turn 5. On the restart, West looked to the inside but didn’t have enough of a run to make it work, and dropped in behind Williamson before Turn 1.
The next time through Turn 7, West got the better exit and got a run on Williamson and the two went into Turn 10a side-by-side, but Williamson washed out into 10b and lost the position to West and Dia. West then took a defensive line entering Turn 1 and Dia was able to get a little better speed up the hill and got inside West at Turn 2. But as the pair tried to take Turn 3 side by side, West washed out a bit and the pair touched, sending Dia on a ride through the grass. Grant was able to keep P1 and Dia dropped back to P2. Grant managed to hold off Dia, and won the race with Williamson P3, Scott Carlisle P4 and Don Elvington P5.
Grant West won pole again on Sunday with an excellent time of 1:45.525 followed by Dia, Williamson, Elvington, and DeYoung. However, Saturday’s weather was one of those days that kept the racers on their toes waiting to see if they would race on slicks or wets. All the racers eventually went with slicks, but while sitting on grid with five minutes to go, another round of light rain began to fall. Then with one minute to go West’s car had a fuel line break in the trunk of his car.
Fortunately, there was no fire, but not enough time to make a repair. West had to watch the racers go out without him. On the start, Williamson was able to keep the lead coming through Turn 1, with Dia falling in behind along with Elvington, DeYoung and Carlisle in the lead group. Carlisle moved up to P4 on the back straight, but DeYoung hounded him as the group continued to feel out the track. On lap nine, there was a full-course yellow, which bunched the field up and promised to make the race more interesting!
The lead Spec E30, Sandro Espinosa, was just behind Dia and the second-through-fifth E30s were just behind DeYoung. As the race went back to green, DeYoung was still going up the hill out of Turn 10b with no momentum for his 1.6, letting Carlisle get a good lead on him. Williamson got a good run down the lower half of the hill as he saw the green flag wave at the starter stand. Espinosa held back to let Williamson and Dia battle it out until he could pass them both without affecting the race. Williamson was pushing hard to tried and gap Dia, but carried too much speed into Turn 7 and had to lift to keep it on the track. Dia pounced on the mistake and got a good run on Williamson coming out of Turn 7 and passed him.
As Dia was about halfway by, Williamson then started pulling him and gave him the bye-bye wave. Then Espinosa in the lead Spec E30 blew by on the far right and gave both a wave. Williamson soon learned his wave was premature, because starting down the hill toward Turn 10a, Dia started pulling even. As the Miatas approached the brake zone side by side, Espinosa’s car was wagging its tail as he tried to slow down in the slick conditions, as if to say to the Miatas: “Boys, you might want to re-think late braking!” Dia braked first and Williamson held on to the lead — for now.
Approaching Turn 5, Williamson bobbled the downshift and Dia closed up to his bumper. For the next couple laps the lead shrank and lengthened and as the next four Spec E30s worked their way through the leading Spec Miatas. On the next to last lap, Dia ran the fastest lap of the Spec Miata race to close the gap, while Williamson locked up in Turn 10a and bungled the downshift. Now passing the white flag with Dia on his bumper, Williamson had no room left for any more mistakes.
Williamson got a good run through Turn 7, and with Dia close behind, he looked in his mirror as he tracked out in time to see Dia’s car step out as it tracked out. Williamson held on for the win, with Dia in second and Don Elvington in third.