Gridlife’s ten year anniversary was this year at Gingerman Raceway in Michigan at their largest event of the year, the Midwest Festival. The GLTC racing class is in its fifth year, and the Condor race team headed north on the 1400 mile tow to their third event with GridLife. The team returned with the #14 again, but this time with a few upgrades. If you read our first entry, you know the E90 330i is built for the Spec E9X racing series. After Carolina Motorsports Park, the team knew the car needed more mid-corner grip, so the next upgrade was an aero package. Since the car does double duty in NASA and Gridlife, the aero needed to be removable. Our friends over at 9-Lives Racing sent us a huge wing to keep the rear end planted, and using parts from Professional Awesome we developed a bolt-on splitter mount which can easily be removed between events. The addition of the wing and splitter also requires more ballast to fit into the GLTC rules, so the car went from the Watkins Glen weight of 3030 lbs to 3150 lbs, post race. As a comparison the car weighs in at 2975 for Spec E9x series. That is a difference of 175 lbs, the equivalent of having a person in the passenger seat.
There were two test sessions on Thursday which were crucial for the team and driver to familiarize themselves with the track, and the new aero setup. The car was very pushy in the fast sweepers, and the team was scrambling to make setup changes before Friday's qualifying session. Carlos went out for qualifying and secured 35th in a 54 car field, with a 1:43.652. This was way off the pace, but with 4 races over the weekend, there was plenty of time to see what Mendez was capable of. Pole was set with a 1:38.802.
Race 1 was action packed, with 48 cars taking the start. Mendez was able to navigate his way through traffic early, picking up a handful of spots on the first few laps. By the checkered flag, he had moved up 10 positions, finishing in 25th. The fast sweepers in the back half of the track proved to be challenging for the 330 which suffered from heavy mid-corner understeer. The fastest lap for the race was a 1:43.683, .030 slower than Mendez’ qualifying time.
Saturday was a busy day and the schedule showed 3 races. The starting order for Race 2 was determined by the best lap times in Race 1, giving Mendez a starting position of 27th. Once the green flag dropped, he was quick to make up spots early-on, picking up a total of 7 spots, in the hot & slippery conditions, and finishing Race 2 in P20. Mendez’ fastest lap in race 2 was a 1:43.058, .6 seconds faster than his qualifying time.
The car was still struggling to find front end grip and the team was trying different splitter, wing and rake angles to try and get more front end downforce.
Ambient temperatures continued to increase throughout the day, and the track condition was the worst of the weekend with more dirt and tire marbles on the track. With some new setup changes Race 3 seemed promising. Mendez started in 20th, and moved up six spots, with a weekend-best 14th place finish. Surprisingly his fastest lap in the race was only a 1:48.885, over 5 seconds slower than the qualifying time. This was most likely due to that fast lap being run in traffic while racing two and three wide through the corners. Unfortunately the second half of Race 3 was spent under a full course caution due to a bad crash that ended the race early. The team was happy with the performance of the E90, and the only thing to do before race 4 was fix a broken wheel stud.
The final race of the weekend, Race 4, was in marginally better conditions with hot ambient temps and all kinds of dirt and debris on track. Race 4 always has an invert of the front of the field, and the number of inverted positions is randomly picked. This time it was the top 8 that were inverted, which did not affect Mendez’s starting position of 14th.
The goal for Race 4 was to make up positions early, which seems to be Mendez’ strong suit. The car and driver had a good start, but Mendez was not able to move up and a small mistake in turn 10 cost him 2 positions. Another incident caused a full course yellow. The Gridlife staff did not want to end two races under yellow, so once the track was clean they threw a green/white flag which means one lap checkered. Once the dust settled, he finished in 17th position by a margin of only .011 seconds.
While the performance of the team, car and driver was optimal at this event, the constrained spec e9x rule set, while it is perfect for a spec racing class, is limiting the total performance potential of the e9x chassis within the very open GLTC ruleset.
GLTC’s points system is based on the overall result from the weekend, with each of the 4 races counting towards the final weekend result. Ultimately, Mendez secured 21st place overall for the weekend, and currently sits 14th in the season points! Not bad, but the team has goals of consistent top 10 finishes. We have recently picked up another e90 chassis and plan to build it specifically for the GLTC class. Are you enjoying these event summaries? If so, shoot us an email and let us know.