The field of Spec E30s blasts down the front straight at the Hotlanta Challenge August 4.

NASA Southeast has a semiofficial “weather girl” who provides the weekend forecast as a regular part of the Saturday all-hands meeting. Her forecast for Saturday? No rain before 5 p.m. She’s usually right, but this time, not so much.           Just as the Lightning group headed out for qualifying, the skies opened up, and the session was halted for two hours while waiting for the rain to slack off.

When qualifying resumed, the track was an odd mix of relatively dry and wet sections. The lap times had an amazing spread of 35 seconds between positions 1-12, with the top three being Richard “Fishman” Bratton, Chris Tuttell and Steve Lako, who borrowed a car because his was destroyed in Charlotte, N.C., last month.

At the start, Bratton took the lead and held it from wire to wire. Fred Switzer, who qualified fourth, moved up to second and chased Bratton all the way to the finish line, ultimately finishing about 6 seconds behind. The drive of the day came from Damion Moses, who didn’t qualify because he had no rain tires. Starting from 14th, he slashed through the field to finish fourth. At the finish, it was Bratton in first, with Switzer and Robert Patton filling the rest of the podium.

In qualifying Sunday, Bratton put down an astounding 1:45.3, more than a second faster than Lako, rookie Sandro Espinosa and Moses, all in the 1:46s. Six more cars were in the 1:47s, illustrating how competitive Spec E30 racing is in NASA Southeast.

At the start, Bratton again took the lead, but behind him were Moses, Lako and Espinosa. After three laps, Bratton had eased out to a 3-second lead, but then a full-course yellow bunched everyone up. On the restart, the field was still coming up the hill into Turn 11 when the green flew for the Lightning group leaders. This is a tough spot for restarts because drivers can’t see any flag stations for a few seconds. The only driver in the top five in radio contact with his crew, Lako got a jump on Moses and Bratton, and took the lead.

Cautious of the rookie Espinosa’s moves, Moses gave him a bit too much room in Turn 1 and ran out of real estate at track-out. This sent Moses on a wild ride in damp grass. After a few 360s, but no contact, Moses re-entered dead last, and in a replay of Saturday’s charge, sliced through the field, ending up in ninth place.

After Moses’ wild ride, the order was Lako, Bratton and Espinosa. A few laps later, Bratton got back by Lako, and the lap after that, Espinosa also passed Lako for second. At the finish, Bratton was in first, with Espinosa in second and Lako in third.

 

A very wet trip through “The Esses” as seen from Spec E30 racer Michael Harness’ car.

In-car footage courtesy of SpecE30 racer Michael Harness.

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