|Dennis Spencer In Conversation With Andy Hartwell
06 January 2001
Andy Hartwell asked Dennis Spencer to give us an insider's view of his Rolex Test Days experience. His team, Team Spencer, is running their forever-faithful Mazda-Kudzu - the car they won with at Watkins Glen in 2000 - and they are bringing all of their experience and patience to the fight for the Rolex. Spencer provides the following diary of their days in the Florida sun (and cold).
"Yesterday (Thursday) was the first day of testing. Very few cars made the track for the first session. This was due to move in and parking taking that morning and a 9:30 start time. We have completely renewed all of the mechanical parts of the car down to the last nut and bolt. We stripped the car down to the bare tub and started from there. The #62 Kudzu/Mazda is ready to race.
“The car arrived at the track in white primer paint. We will use the same familiar scheme of white, orange, and blue (2000 photo, below left). CrocoTile Modular Flooring and Trench Shoring Services are the sponsors of Team Spencer Motorsports again this year. Look for the CrocoTile Modular Flooring logo that makes our car so distinctive on the track and on Television.”
“We used the morning to unload gear and give the car a final once over before going on the track. Rich Grupp was very ill and after just a few laps (one of which was a 1:49) we all sent him back to the Hotel to try to rest. Since we had pretty much sorted out the new bits and pieces that we wanted to test, we were focused on a new brake supplier. Last year we used Performance Friction. Many things led us to try Ferodo brake pads for this season. So far we are very pleased with the results and look forward to more success in the braking zones.
“Today (Friday), Rich is down for the count. This is a real loss since he is widely regarded as one of the best test drivers in the class. Instead, our team was stuck with me in the car for all the sessions. Had a lot of fun and got a lot of seat time. During a pit stop we did have a spark plug ceramic section separate from the metal base. A new plug was in and we were on our way.
“The Lolas are very fast down the straights. They are seeing over 170mph most of the time. With our current restrictor we cannot produce more than 167mph. Multiply that out over 24 hours and that is quite an advantage. We are very competitive with them in the turns. If the track were all turns and no straights, we would be just as quick.
“The nice thing is that we do not think that the Lolas can run the distance without a number of hours of downtime and the reliability of the Nissan has yet to be a high point of what is a very fine car. They certainly are well designed. On the other hand, I know that we can run the distance without the same failures. A race pace of 1:52 to 1:54 for the SRP2 class is where we want to be. There is no use practicing at a pace greater than you need to settle into in the race.
“Our team comes with a well-disciplined endurance mentality. Most of those we are competing with lack the success or the understanding of a 24-hour event.
“The temperatures were very cold and we had a hard time keeping the temperature up in the water and oil. We put lots of tape on the radiator opening and the temps. came up and the motor smoothed out and we picked up a couple of MPH. The temperature was not as low as Thursday but our results showed that the car does not like the cold.
“We have picked up a miss that is bothersome at high RPM and is affecting our top speed. We did all the obvious things and changed the plugs. No change in the miss. Our best time of the day was 1:50 but we still concentrated on passing and brake zones, brake testing and getting a good read on fuel consumption and tire wear measurements. Every time the car goes out, a precise amount of fuel is measured and put in the fuel cell. Every time we come in after the completion of a session, the fuel cell is pumped dry and we carefully measure the amount that remained. We are still liking the new Ferodo pads. We measure the wear after every session to enable us to predict the wear curve.
“The night practice was not really night at all. The track is so well lit now that you could almost do without lights. This makes it safer and faster. It is also a bonus for the newer drivers. I remember the many times the total darkness of the race gave those experienced in the dark a well-deserved edge. The night session was without incident and we ran all but the last 30 minutes rather than tear up a car.
“While we were back in the garage packing up things, we heard that "car 62 is off the track in the infield" We looked behind us and our car was safe in the garage. A few minutes later we saw one of the Lolas pulled in. Mistaken identity. Our car was offended.
“I really like the new class stickers. They are more fan friendly and the P1 is white with black lettering while the P2 is yellow with black print. This makes it easy for fans to tell the difference in the classes. Good move on the part of Grand-Am. While we don't always agree on everything, all in all you have to give very high marks to Grand-Am for making it this far and keeping it a good show.
“Fans can e-mail us at www.teamspencer.com. We also have a number of eligible bachelors on our team that the ladies might be quite keen about.
“We'll let you know if anything exciting happens tomorrow!”
While racing in the big cars is a Team Spencer tradition, they also make time at the end of each year to get in some endurance practice in little cars. Dennis and Pat Spencer hold a go-kart 24-hour race on New Years Eve and this year, the tradition continued down in Georgia. Dennis tells us about the fun:
"The go-kart race went off without a hitch. 22 karts on the track at the same time. We have increased the track length to 2162'. There were very few repairs or incidents. 71 drivers started the race. Over 100 drivers had been in the karts before the night was over. Everyone left smiling. People were from all walks of life, from all over the country and all shapes and sizes. It was way too cool."
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