We’re dropping the mic and letting Cody Miles tell everyone about his #lifeonair as he embarks on another winning (and now record setting) year on the track with his 2007 Subaru STi, fitted with our Subaru STi air suspension kit and the latest Air Lift Performance 3H control system.
With the third and final round of the Global Time Attack Pro series taking place at one of my local tracks, I couldn’t wait to get it on and battle in my back yard against drivers from around the country! I had already ventured to Georgia for Round 1 and to Louisiana for Round 2, so bringing things to my side of the map was a pleasant change. Besides Super Lap Battle taking place at a favorite local track, it most importantly meant that I didn’t have to take 10 days off of work to travel across the country! My vacation hours are currently preceded by a dash, as funny as that might sound… Yes, I’ve managed to somehow owe vacation hours at work. I never knew that that was even possible – until racing sunk its teeth into my life, that is.
But let’s get to the exciting stuff, the driving! Luckily for me, prepping for this event was simple, thanks to the fact that the car has been performing without issues for a few months now. To make things even easier, I didn’t even have to wash it thanks to SEMA the week before! The car was polished, waxed, and ready to do what it does best – attack! This is exactly what it wasted no time in doing on Day One of the 2016 Super Lap Battle.
The day started with nice temps, sunny skies, and zero wind, which is a good recipe for going fast. The first step was getting through registration and a drivers meeting, which revealed an incredible 80+ drivers! Participants from Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, Michigan, Arizona and even Canada were in attendance! The fastest time fighters from across North America were all in one place, sharing a single goal – to throw down a lap time that accurately represents and justifies the immense amount of work, struggle, and determination that have gone into their custom creations behind the curtain of podium stardom.
As a brief one-hour open practice session kicked off the event, there was a full field with five different run groups. I used this session to ease into the car and make sure that everything felt good and ready for the hell I was going to put it through. Just as I had hoped, the car felt solid and gave me every bit of mental confidence I needed to move forward.
From there, it was time to begin the timed sessions. As always, the first morning session is generally the fastest, so you need to come out guns blazing. I ran the session just as I would any other, two hot laps and two cool down laps. The car felt great for the most part, but the front end seemed to get unsettled fairly easily when entering riverside. There’s a bump leading into a fast right hand sweeper, so the suspension needs to be able to absorb that, then immediately plant itself again for the corner. Once that session was through, I ended up going 4 clicks stiffer on front dampening, which later solved the issue I was experiencing. My fastest time from that session was a high 1:50, which happened to be a new personal best for me by about a half-second! I was off to a good start, but I knew I had more in me. After all, Day One had just begun. I still had plenty of time to lay down a heavy-hitter.
After the previously mentioned dampening adjustment (nice to have 30-way on these), I was set for the second session. When that time came, my A group and I were hot on track. I pushed a bit harder this session, especially since I was now knocking on the door of sub 50 lap times. Maybe I pushed a little too hard, because I ended up going off track and into the dirt several times. When fighting for tenths of a second, we often find ourselves using every millimeter of track width, especially on corner exit. Because of this, even the slightest correction or miscalculation can result in an off-road adventure. One of the reasons I love Buttonwillow Raceway is because it encourages you to push extra hard due to its forgiving surroundings, which allow for safe off-course adventures. I can remember one specific event months ago, held at this same course, where I completely blew a corner entrance (like, COMPLETELY blew it) and I ended up blasting straight off into the dirt and weeds at about 100mph. I was referred to as “lawn mower” after that, but the car acquired zero damage. Needless to say, because of all of my dirt drops I landed a fastest time of 1:51 for that session. Slower, yes, but I learned a few things about the corners I blew. Sometimes you have to go past the limit in order to find it.
After learning a few things about limits during session two, it was time to try again. I went out with the goal of sitting right on that limit, instead of overkilling it. I made a strong point to keep out of the dirt. I ran my 2 laps, and the car was feeling as solid as ever. Good oil pressure, happy water temps, and decent grip. I was hitting my marks on each corner and feeling pretty confident that at least one of the laps I ran would be my new best. Unfortunately, they were both 1:51 times.
At this point, it was time to call it quits for the day since ambient temperatures were no longer on our side. Cool weather and a clean track play a huge role in setting that one untouchable lap. Time attack requires an interesting balance of getting as much seat time as possible, yet also knowing when to back off and save the car for a more optimal time. Since our engines don’t exactly last forever, they are essentially ticking time bombs that expire after a certain number of hours. So, as long as my wallet is the one feeling the pain when things go wrong, I’ll continue my strategy of conserving things as much as possible. At this point, Day One was over for me. The good news is that I was currently sitting in 1st place for my class with a lead of about 5 seconds! I checked out for the night knowing that Day Two was sure to be even faster, especially since I had a new set of front tires to throw on! ;)
With my fresh new tires sitting pretty up front, Day Two was officially underway as we ran through a quick roll call to assign groups. I was again in Group A, which meant I had about an hour to kill until the first session. Aside from consuming as much protein, carbohydrates, and calories as possible during that time, I did a few basic checks on the car to make sure that it was ready for more abuse. All was well, so I strapped in the second I heard the call for my run group. Just like any other day, the first morning session is extremely critical, with the environmental conditions being primed for speed. Once on the track, everything felt great, so I charged hard into the first lap. The additional grip that I was getting up front thanks to the new tires was helping tremendously with corner entrance. Wherever I wanted the car to be, it just listened and reacted.
Needless to say, I was given a newfound confidence in mechanical grip that was sure to result in a faster lap. The question… how much faster? Would it be enough to get me into the 1:40’s that I was after? With no way to tell while out on track, I ran one more lap as hard as I could. Once again, feeling very confident that my previous best was about to be forgotten as old news. I brought things down a notch with a cool down lap before pulling in. I must say, this was probably the most memorable cool down lap I’ve ever had.
While slowly cruising and steering clear of others, I was passed by some pretty incredible drivers, such as Daijiro Yoshihara, and Michael Essa. I have a little experience with drifting, so I’ve looked up to guys like them for years now and have watched them compete and succeed in Formula Drift. Crazy to think that I was not only on track with them, but also in the same run group as some big names that I’ve spent years admiring. Anyway, I’ll stop being such a star-struck little fangirl and get to the results!
As I pull into my pit, replaying my hot laps in my head, wondering if one of them was enough, I’m greeted by my brother screaming “Chea!” as he walks over with my mom and girlfriend. Then I hear “1:49 son!” After carefully verifying that they weren’t playing a cruel joke on me, I began my personal celebration. The feeling of breaking into the 40’s, especially in a Street Class car, is pretty amazing! I’ve watched faster guys do 40’s for a couple years now, and really didn’t consider myself to be on their level. The first time I ever ran Buttonwillow, 2 years ago, I put down a 2:04 for a best lap. So, to see my times now be 15 seconds faster than that, it feels incredible! I’ve been putting everything I have into racing Time Attack ever since I started… seeing evidence of the hard work paying off with positive results is all you can really ask for.
With the first session behind me, I looked forward to the second session, where I could potentially improve upon my new personal best. By the time the second session came around, ambient temps had risen and the track had now been exposed to a good amount of dirt and debris. A dirty track is a slow track, but I was way too hungry for more, so sitting out wasn’t even an option. I went out and gave it my all, punishing my new front tires until they cried for mercy through nearly every corner. I was a man on a mission, and wanted a 1:48 with my name next to it. After running both hot laps, I honestly felt like one of them might have been a new best. I eagerly run over to the timing tent, only to see 1:51 in the place of where I was hoping a 1:48 would be sitting.
I ran almost 2 seconds slower, how could that be!? Oh yeah, hot air entering the engine and a layer of dirt between my tires and the tarmac! Ugh, not what I was hoping for. I then came up with a new strategy of saving the car for the last session of the day after temps came back down. I was consciously giving myself just one more lap to make it or break it. I fortunately had the luxury of choosing to sit things out a bit while the rest of the pack fought viciously for 2nd place. Those guys were pretty cutthroat at this point, with only .6 seconds separating 4th from 2nd.
It was finally time for the last session of the day. The sun had begun its fall and it took temperatures with it. Everyone was fired up and ready for what the final session might bring. Time Attack is interesting in the sense of the need for strategy and timing. Some of the top cars in the world begin with a reasonable lap time, and slowly improve upon that, then, out of nowhere, will lay down an absolutely insane time on the very last session. If you can convince your opponents to write you off and underestimate you, they might play things a bit safer instead of pushing to the edge. This is when you come out of nowhere and catch everyone off-guard with your true speed in the last session, giving them no chance to reevaluate and offer a rebuttal.
I personally wasn’t dealing with any secretive strategy at this point. I just wanted to accomplish my new personal goal of a 1:48 time. So, I threw my helmet on for the last time that day and headed over to the grid. I went out and gave the track hell. A 1:48 wasn’t going to come easy, so I knew I’d have to work for it. I hit most of my marks and felt pretty smooth through everything. I noticed my line run a little wide over Phil Hill, which is a blind right turn over a crest. Other than that, everything felt right.
After finishing that lap, my 2016 Super Lap Battle was officially over. I pulled in and immediately began bugging my friends and family for my time. Then my girlfriend informed me that it was a low 1:50. Damn! It wasn’t the time I thought I had in me, but the now standing 1:49.86 was certainly nothing to shrug at! It was even good enough for the win, as well as a new Street AWD track record!
I’m thrilled to death that I was able to participate in an event that, just one year ago, I viewed as out of my league. Winning my class with a new best time was fantastic, but I honestly have to hand it to the rest of the guys in Street AWD who stopped at nothing and battled until the very end. One friend and fellow competitor literally blew his engine up on the last lap of the last session, just across the finish line, in order to slip into 3rd place by just three-tenths of a second! That’s dedication and I have an enormous amount of respect for it.
Overall, I want to thank Jason Dienhart of Global Time Attack for continuing to work his butt off to make sure that these events are possible, continuously fighting for more support for us drivers. I also have to thank my dad for taking the time to tow me around to each event this year no matter how far away it was. When I brought up the fact that I wanted to attend a couple of races that were held on the other side of the country, his response was “Ok, what are the dates”?
Aside from all of my family and friends, who really play a bigger part in all of this chaos that I call a passion than they might think, I also have to thank my sponsors. I’ve been lucky enough to work with a few companies over this past season. They have greatly aided in constantly changing my view of what’s possible. Advanced Clutch Technology has bent over backwards to ensure that my clutch and flywheel are something I don’t have to worry about. Their lead engineer was nice enough to come to my house, twice, to personally assist with a freak issue that I was experiencing. Enjuku Racing has yet to let me down on any part I might need for the car, no matter how tight the deadline might be. Scott, at Grip Royal, has taken one of my used and beaten steering wheels and personally re-finished it himself to ensure that it would stand up to more abuse for seasons to come. Peter, at Renner Racing Development, has been kind enough to take me under his wing as one of his own. Peter has an enormous amount of knowledge and experience, and I’m honored to be able to tap in to it.
Last but certainly not least, is the Air Lift Performance crew. These guys are amazing. I truly mean that. The support they’ve been able to provide me with is one of the main reasons I’ve been able to manage racing every month for the last two years. Each and every one of them is far more than a simple individual throwing parts together. They are a team, a unit that functions on an unprecedented level, with an honest care and passion for what they do. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to work with and I’m proud to wear their patch across my chest every time I get behind the wheel.
This is the conclusion to my 2016 racing season. It’s been one hell of a ride with two championship wins and more success than all of us ever thought was possible. I think I speak for everyone around me when I say that 2017 can bring the fight to our doorstep. We’ll be ready.
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