The Annual Dirt Nitro Challenge saw NEMO Racing USA in attendance a year on from our debut event at the same race in 2014.
As ever, the entry list was huge and Joey had built an exciting and challenging track for everybody, although this year was certainly more drivable than last.
Practice was delayed hugely as something like 300 entries were taken on the morning of the event, which resulted in everybody competing only getting 1 practice heat with each car instead of 2. Not only does this put visiting drivers on the back foot, it is a bit of a kick in the teeth having spent untold amounts of money to get there for ‘avoidable’ issues to result in lost track time. Nobody minds if it is freak rain or something beyond the control of the organisers that creates this situation, but simply because entries aren’t concluded prior to the event is actually not acceptable. Drivers were also allowed to enter multiple classes based on ability to gain more track time. Surely if the classes are graded on ability, you are either a Sportsman, an Expert or a Pro? It seems not at this race...
Anyway, When the race finally got underway Darren was happy with all 3 of his cars in the one run he had, and headed into qualifying pretty confident he could make a good start.
The second day is always E-buggy and Truggy qualifying and in Truggy Darren got off to a decent start with a clean run. His pace had got faster and faster throughout the run and by the end of the run he was running top 10 lap times, but the slow start had cost him. Round 2 wasn’t very good, but in round 3 he confirmed his pace by taking 9th in the round and securing a place in the B final and good chance to bump into the main.
E-buggy, started off well with a 9th in round also, Darren running a converted A215 chassis into the configuration Agama will release an all new A215 based E-buggy later…the new car was having its first outing and Darren was happy with its pace. Two scrappy runs later in the day meant he couldn’t get the place in the main final his pace probably deserved, again a B final spot was his and a chance to make the bump.
Buggy qualifying started great, Darren drove great in rounds 1 & 2 to take 5th and 9th respectively and all but secure his place in the main final with a round to spare. He took the opportunity to make a bit of set up change in round 3 to see if he could improve the car, but that didn’t work out leaving him relying on his original scores. As it turned out they were good enough, and he took the 12th and final direct qualify spot for the main although the gap back to the 13th driver was 7 points so he wasn’t really in any danger.
More delays due to power outages, meant the schedule was running over badly again and and they actually switched the schedule so the Pro guys ran 1st rather than last in a round so the guys running multiple classes ran later. This meant some pretty savage days for the track crew and some of the competitors as I think the racing didn’t finish until 3.30 in the morning on one occasion.
Shout out to Mark Pavidis whose son Ryan was in the last heat in the early hours of one morning, around 03.30a.m. and Mark himself was in the 1st heat the following day at 07.00 a.m.!
Darren's E-buggy main got off to the worst possible start when Darren went right round the outside at turn 1 only for a car to shoot out of the pack and flip on his lid between the two peals of the first double. The marshals didn’t see him and he was 10 seconds off the back of the pack before he had really got underway….still he produced some good lap times to get himself back in the pack, but the 3 leaders had broken away at the start avoiding the carnage and were abel to see it out.
The Truggy B main was a great drive from Darren and he was in contention for a top 3 position all the way through. A couple of mistakes in the whoops dropped him to 5th but still with a chance, but it wasn’t to be…the competition level is so high that any mistakes are punished heavily.
With Darren qualifying directly into the main final, he wasn’t due to be on track until 15.00 in the afternoon for main final practice, where he tried some different ideas set up wise which again he wasn’t convinced with, so he reverted back to what had served him well in qualifying for the main final.
He had a decent start and was able to run fast lap times, but Darren was finding the car a little edgy and would sometimes catch him out. After a long and tough final we were convinced that we had chosen too soft a compound for the tyres. We confirmed this with some running at the track on the Monday after the event, where we found Soft compound to be way easier to drive than the Supersofts Darren had used the previous day. With such limited track time, it feels like a real gamble to try different options in this respect when you are so in the moment, but it was great result for such a young team with limited experience in these conditions…
Overall we were delighted with the performance of all 3 cars, and the results showed how far we have developed in the 12 months since last year. The team worked wonderfully together and although tiny in comparison to all the other manufacture teams the Nemo spirit and have fun outlook was ever present. A special thank you to Hunter, his dad Russ and Billy Tylaska for the hospitality and for representing NemoRacing USA so well...
Darren will now compete at the Silverstate Race in Las Vegas in late March, where he will once again hook up with his USA team mates. This year has the added importance of being the track for the 2016 Worlds and will no doubt serve as an early indication of the conditions that we will encounter for that event...