Team Phoenix Principal Dustin Wright teams up with Karting standout Phil De La O of Phoenix Arizona to do battle with North America’s F1000 elite.
For the past two years, F1000 hopefuls have converged on a picture postcard perfect autumn fall weekend at N Georgia’s famed Road Atlanta, for the American Road Race of Champions (ARRC).
For the past 2 years, the winner of this race would be crowned F1000 Champion. Starting in 2009, the title would be decided on points attained all year long, all over North America at SCCA Nationals
De La O in only his third time in an actual open wheel car is tossed into the deep end of the shark tank and emerges with a solid P3 in Qualifying. After an epic, race long battle with multi-time SCCA National Champions, and the 2010 F1000 Champ as well. At the checkers, De La O finishes 2nd in this most prestigious of events.
All the more impressive in light of the fact that the front wing had been damaged severely due to contact from another car, virtually rendering the car zero front downforce
De La O adapted to these changes, and proving the incredible mechanical grip of the Phoenix, appeared to never skip a beat
“The Phoenix F1k09 is an incredible piece of kit – my job behind the wheel was that much easier as the car was incredibly predictable, and the power, wow…” said De La o from the second step of the rostrum. "I’d also like to thank my dad, Phil Sr for supporting me, and the whole crew at Phoenix."
Plans for next year include as much seat time as can be had in the Phoenix F1K9, running SCCA Nationals with an eye towards the SCCA National Championship Runoffs in September at Road America, located in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
Here is a recap of our 4000 mile round trip to show just how good the Phoenix F1000, and the 16 year old Phil De La O really are…..racing against multiple SCCA champions and the 2009 F1000 newly crowned champion, who were just a handful of the 13 car field of beautifully presented F1000 race cars.
This was the first race for Phoenix with Phil, and his 1st proper road race (two Mazda Bondurant school races really are not anywhere near the performance level of the F1000 car).
Mechanically, the car was pretty much as we finished the two day Firebird test that we did last week with Phil…..his first days in our car, and he took to it like a fish to water.
Aero wise, we had tested on the 1.3 mile Firebird East Track with maximum downforce, but heading east to run on Road Atlanta’s long straight and many 80mph plus turns was obviously going to need a ‘less draggy’ set-up. So the aero level was reduced from max to a lower setting….about 45%, on the front and rear wings. And the ride height was adjusted to allow for the 145mph top speed expected.
Circuit / Conditions:
The weather was fantastic all week…….about 68 degrees nominally for the 4 days……maybe a little warmer in mid-afternoon. But extremely nice conditions with clear skies and very little wind.
And the track was in great condition…..smooth, wide and almost bump free. Right from the beginning, the grip was good, and just improved as the sessions went on.
Summery of the days:
On Thursday, we had 4 sessions (2 X 25 minutes, and 2 X 20 minutes), and my brief to Phil was to ‘finish every lap possible in every session’, and he did just that. Since he had never raced a car with this much power, and he had never been to this track before, we needed to get the absolute maximum seat time to accelerate his already steep learning curve. He had a quick spin in the 1st session (and continued, loosing only about 8 seconds), but otherwise ran hard, and learned the track quite quickly…..a tough thing to do here at RA.
We ended P1 at 4.3 seconds behind the quickest F1000. In P2 we were -2.3 seconds. P3 we were -0.7 seconds, and in the final session, P4 we were -2.0
Phil’s progress was very good up to the end of P3 where we were .-0.7 seconds. Then in P4 we had heavy traffic, and he reverted to ‘karting’ driving habits and we were 2.0 behind the pace.
Q1 on Saturday we ended the session with an excellent 3rd position…..1’23.435 to the leaders 1’22.727.
Then in Q2 it came down to the final few laps.We were doing really well until the track shut down to remove the poor crunched Citation. Then we kinda got screwed in the final few minutes of the session, and only got 1 clear lap…….the other front runners had 3 to 4 clear laps……..but that 1 clear lap was a flier which was a lot faster and vaulted us back into contention and 3rd place again, abet faster than the Q1 session. Our time was 1’22.836 to the leaders 1’21.735……well done Nicky Coello….a good run, but I think we could have matched you.
Comments on Phil:
I have to say that I continue to be impressed with Phil’s maturity, mechanical feel, and his pace in this car. He is driving the fast corners very well, and other than the braking, his slow turns are good. Phil would have benefited from some track experience here before this ARRC event, and indeed, in the 1st two sessions, it was quite overwhelming. But by the end of the day, Phil was getting up to speed, and was inside the times of the top 4 or 5…..so a very good effort.
In qualifying, Phil stepped up again, and we came away with 2 great sessions, and 3rd on the grid…..excellent.
He continues to struggle with the braking……in terms of braking late enough and hard enough and releasing them early. And after looking at the data, we see one very big bad habit that must go. Phil is sub-consciously pushing on the throttle at the same time as the brakes.
This is bad on every level…..the car is not slowing as needed, it is overheating the brakes, using more fuel, and most importantly, causing unnecessary under steer in the middle of most turns.
Because of this, Phil will give incorrect feedback and I will make chassis changes based on that, which will lead us down the wrong path………this is the single biggest problem with Phil’s driving right now. The good news is that aside from still learning this car, the brake habit is probably the only bad thing I see in his driving.
Being in the correct gear, and changing up at the right time, combined with good reactions to the green flag resulted in a good start, and without being silly-brave into the 1st corner, we really didn’t loose anything here.
Overall, I have to say that we did complete every lap available which paid off in spades with seat time. And Phil’s progress through every session (except P4) was impressive, and in a very ‘heads up’ race with a good mix of smarts and aggression….well done…..keep that up and you have a very bright future.
We started with 7 lap old tires from the Firebird test, then we had some new sets for the P3 & P4 sessions, and a new set for each Q! & Q and the race………just like Nicky Coello. So we were on the same strategy and desire to do well as the factory Firman team……..Thank you Phil Snr.
Looking at the tires of all our competitors after the race, I think we were in better shape than all but Nicky……..our tiers were worn more than I expected, but because of the front wing damage in the race, we picked up some over steer (destroyed the under floor down force) which would explain the accelerated wear.
After running a little short in brakes at the June Sprints in Elkhart Lake earlier this year, we upgraded to ventilated floating rotors, and the performance gain was very impressive. The brake feel, power and modulation seem to be very excellent with no problems reported.
We were not giving up anything to the others in this department.
This set-up was developed at Firebird test and seems to be giving a reasonable balance of turn-in, mid corner grip and power down on exit. We started with a good balance, and adapted well as the track gained more grip with toe and camber changes
At Atlanta, from the visual and the drivers reports, we were not loosing anything to the others in the corners….in fact, it looked like we were very good there. But we can always improve……more shock/spring/bar/geometry development is waiting.
We were running medium low down force here….the long straight is important, but that only represents 22 seconds on a 82 second lap.
As it was, we looked to be the match for anyone down the straight, so our balance of aero drag and gearing looked to be spot on.
At our level of aero drag, our gearing looked to be very good…….taller gear would have helped in the 3rd quarter of the straight, but hurt everywhere else…..shorter gearing would have helped with acceleration off the turns, but hurt in the ability to pass down the straight into the braking zone.
For the most part, we had very few problems. The two biggest mistakes were the clutch pushrod being too long for this motor at the start of P1 (this lost us less than 2 minutes of track time), and the 2nd was the SCCA/Phoenix confusion at the critical point of the end of Q2 where Phil was released too early and only got 1 clear lap compared to the 3 or 4 of Osborne and Coello……this mistake possibly cost us a shot at pole position!?
What looked like radio harness problems turned out to be a misunderstanding of the system, and there-after, they worked well, but would benefit from a tall antenna and booster station.
Other than this, the engine and chassis both performed very well, and continue to improve with every outing……certainly a match for anything out there.
All in all, a very successful week, with the sadness of realizing we could have had pole and won the race only coming because of Phil’s ability to exceed our expectations and ‘run with the big dogs’. We should all be proud of our efforts and resultant success.
P3 in qualifying and P2 in the race are excellent results……we will get them next time.
Special thanks to George for a great motor.
Thanks again to everyone for all the effort to get to Atlanta, and to make it such a success.
Great report Dustin. You guys should all be very proud of the results at the AARC. Certainly, Phil is a wheel man - just got to break some of his old habits from karting, like the brake and throttle at the same time?