Cornelius, NC (July 7, 2012)- Following the 4th Of July weekend it was back to business for the D’Vanz Motorsports crew, as they got ready for the third round of Formula Drift/Streetwise Pro-Am Championship. This would be a “parking lot” event as it was a cone-course laid out in the massive parking area at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s drag strip.
Cone courses are viewed by the drivers as both good and bad. Good because they are generally wide-open with not much to hit. Bad because at very high-speeds, they are hard to get your bearings and therefore, hit your marks. They also tend to change slightly as the cones get knocked over by passing cars and replaced by volunteers that might not know their exact locations.
By winning the last Pro-Am event, Doug was in the points lead and was determined to hold onto it. The 1-day format meant there would be two practice sessions, one qualifying session and then straight into the Top-16 competition. Practice session-1 went by without much fanfare, as Doug and his team tried to figure the track out, the spotters watched the car’s progress and the mechanics made a few adjustments to help Doug find more grip on the tricky sealed asphalts surface. “I feel pretty lost out there right now.” DV said at the team’s post session debriefing. “The track-layout is good but it’s hard to see because there are no lines dictating where the track is and where it isn’t. The cones are all the same size, the same color and the clipping points are hard to make out. I’m a bit frustrated to be honest.”
With an hour to “think on it”, watch some run-videos and watch the other group run their practice, the team felt they had a better idea of how to proceed in practice session-2. Team Spotter Chris Orsini said, “It’s easy to sit up here and watch the cars as they run critiquing what the drivers should do. It’s a whole nother story to be in the car, at speed, sitting low to the ground, while sliding sideways trying to figure out where to place the car. My job is to give DV all the feedback and direction I can from up here in the Spotters Stand so he can get a clear picture in his mind of where he wants to place the car and at what speed he needs to be at on the different sections of the course. Having been in the drivers seat myself in the past, it’s a lot harder for DV to figure track like this out than he makes it look.”
Session-2 went much smoother as the team worked together to get the car, track and driver all “on the same page”. DV’s lines were coming together and the car was gaining grip with every adjustment. By the end of the session, everyone felt they where towards the front of the pack and their confidence was good going into Qualifying.
With 29 cars vying for 16 spots, each lap of Qualifying would be critical. Taking a systematic approach, Doug’s first lap was smooth, accurate and carried good enough speed to rank him 4th in the running order. Knowing there was more there, on the second lap, DV cranked-up his entry speed by 8mph (having already set the highest speed on lap-1) and hit the Turns-1 & 2 clipping points with razor-like perfection. Unfortunately, as he sailed across the crazy-slippery spot going into turn 3, his angle was just a bit too much and he nearly spun going in. This slip would take the shine off of this lap and he had to sit on his first lap keeping him in the 4th position. After talking to the judges (post qualifying) DV learned that he was on a “100-point run” when he lost his momentum in turn-3… Close but no cigar…
By qualifying 4th, Doug would have the upper hand by leading in his first few rounds of competition. First up would be JJ Alfano in his Nissan 240. With JJ’s newfound consistency in 2012, Doug knew he’d have to put some clean laps together. On lap-1, DV ran a lap very near his qualifying lap in angle and maybe just a bit more speed. In his slightly less powerful car, Alfano struggled with the Mustang’s pace and had a slightly shallower angle giving Van Den Brink the advantage at the end. On lap-2, DV maintained close enough proximity, with greater angle that got him the victory of the Nissan driver.
In the Great 8, Doug went up against #3 Qualifier, Dan Savage, in his Chevy V8 powered Nissan 240. On lap-1, DV followed close while Savage made small corrections and strayed from the Clipping Points giving DV a slight advantage. On lap-2, the Nissan didn’t have the pace to keep in contact with the Ford and Van Den Brink was awarded the victory based on the lack of proximity.
In the Final 4, #1 Qualifier, Ron Ewerth, was next up. A very smooth driver, Ron could be counted on to run a clean and fast line. On lap-1, Ewerth did just that, his line was fast and close to all the clipping points. For his part, DV stayed right with the Infinity driver matching both his speed and line. In the sweeping left hand Turn-3, DV was able to add angle as he drove up the inside of Ewerth’s supercharged V8 machine. This move along with a good follow everywhere else handed Van Den Brink a slight advantage at laps end.
“You’re in good shape, now just turn up the steam and leave him behind”, Doug heard over the Spotter’s radio. When the Starter dropped the Green flag, DV “dropped the hammer” and sped off in a cloud of tire smoke. The entry to the right handed Turn-1 was good, DV was pulling a small gap on Ewertth. As he transitioned the car back to the right for Turn-2, he carried just a couple of mph’s more than his rear tires could handle and around the back of the car came, coming to rest facing the wrong direction. “I simply got greedy with the speed”, DV said after the round. I thought we had him by a little bit after the first pass and I wanted to make sure there was no way the judges to go the other direction. I just brought the car in there (turn-2) too hard and spun it out. After that, all Ron had to do was complete his lap without incident and he got the win. I’m happy for Ron as he’s had a tough year and now he’s in the Finals so that’s cool. I just wish I hadn’t handed it to him on a silver platter”, Doug concluded.
For the battle of 3rd or 4th place would again battle Jason Jiovani in his bright yellow Chevy V8 powered Nissan 240. On lap-1, DV ran a smooth line but in behind the Mustang’s tire smoke, Jason was able to take an inside line without being detected by the judges and was on Van Den Brink’s rear bumper leaving the course giving the Nissan driver a slight advantage. On lap-2, DV carried good speed and angle keeping his proximity close as Jiovani ran a bit wide not really putting his car where the judges had required. After a short deliberation, the announcer proclaimed, “One More Time”…
With the first two laps scrubbed, the two competitors lined back up for another go. The first lap was the same as the previous Lap-1, DV ran a solid lap, and Jason ran a shallower line to stay close. For the second lap, to everyone’s amazement, DV did the exact same thing that cost him the round against Ewerth. “You know, there are days when you just don’t learn what you should the first time around.” Doug said with a sheepish smile. “I was determined to leave Jason (Jiovani) behind and I just carried in too much steam again into Turn-2, it was one of those, “I got it, I got it… oops, no I don’t” moments. I feel really bad for the guys because I kind-of let them down today but we just needed to find more rear bite today to keep up with my perceived “need for speed”. 4th place is better than 5th and it’ll keep us in the points lead so I’ll have to be happy with that.” DV concluded…
The DVM crew now gets a 4-week break before they are back in action for the forth round of the Formula Drift/Streetwise Pro-Am Championship. Please continue to check back with us to see if our guys can improve a couple of spots….
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