SCCA – A Week Filled with Cheese (Usually Fried): Peter Portante’s Journey to the National Runoffs

CleanSCCAlogo8-03Through many complicated Italian conspiracies and many other auspicious things, I found myself somehow eligible to race in the 2013 Runoffs at Road America.

I had arrived late last night to the Packed flight full of Green Bay fans headed to the game, alright I’m sorry, that joke was a bit cheesy. As I have just read the poor quality joke, I should probably apologize to all the readers for this, as I am writing this is a quite delirious state (One, I cannot believe I actually won. Two, Im 79% sure I have not slept for the past 18….thousand hours) although it “might” ( please don’t quote me on this one) be slightly more entertaining.

Saturday…Take 2 And Open Testing Day 1
Road America, if you are familiar is pretty much a drag racers wet dream. I mean I think there are only two “real” turns that are not 45 deg and after every corner is a straight the size of Lime Rock Park. For this reason the Arms Up had there secret special aero kit ( that’s the official name ). The rear wing was cut short with a super small upper element as well as the front wing elements being taken off and instead just putting a slight bend into the end of the mainplane. This (Obviously) causes the straightline speed, a lot. However it puts a huge task on the chassis and suspension, as now mechanical grip is such an importance and you are unable to add aero as a crutch. But this was no problem as mechanical grip was fantastic but the way the car was setup to get this was very unconventional feel to me. And it took me a bit to adapt to.

Sunday – Open Testing Day 2
Molasses is a good enough nondescript word of the day and performance….

Monday- Offical Practice
I started to get the hang of it, my consistency was very inconsistent but at least i showed myself how I could gain the time to race at the front. I was trying many different things trying to figure out how to go faster and faster. By the end of the session i had set a decent lap but more importantly had shown threw data how to make the car fast. As i headed out for the most important session of the day ( dinner ) my engineer Kent gave me words of advice for Tuesdays qualifying session 1, “Its not that you are slow, its just you lack talent”. He is a funny guy…. at least I hope he was being funny … oh goshhhh …. KENTTTTTTTTTTTTT!

Tuesday Qualifying Session 1
There are three quali sessions in Runoffs, one Tuesday, one Wednesday, one Thursday and your best lap of all three is your starting order. We would not be on track alone, as the FF or the Formula Ford Hondas or however that works. Ok, ok off track, no pun intended, at least not this session…

Tuesday Qualifying Session 1 (Take 2)
We would have to qualify in the same group as FF car that are 10 sec slower per lap. This caused massive frustration as the best laps of people would be ruined by passing FF in corner and such, but in my rage and two handed salutes (I didn’t do that! What am I Will Power, not that I would tell you if I did) I did see some pretty sweet little FF Design, I’m pretty sure one was a canoe with wheels, i swear! Somehow I actually did what I was supposed to and learned from my mistake and put a good lap together that was good enough for P1 in that session (Even a blind squirrel get a nut!). Now I would try to Stay on Pole for the following days of quali.

Wednsday Qualifing Session 2

Thursday Qualifing session 3
Rain, I’m on Pole! Now my race was Sunday, so it was time to get ready and….wait.

Its Friday, friday, friday.


I’m Racing, at 4pm. The second to last race of the day. More waiting. So to pass the the time I did the mature thing. Go over notes, video, data, talk to the engineers, and check track conditions. well, almost. What i actually did was ride around on a golf kart backwards acting like a hooligan (p.s. I also hopped on NISSAN Simulator and went P1, in front of Scott Hargrove, Hehe). Soon enough it was time to get ready. And if I wasn’t Nervous enough I managed to Jump the start, as the polesitter! So i was fortunate enough to be able to do another lap at slow pace to raise my hearbeat further. Finally, it was green and all my jokes, and nervous were out the non-existent window.

It was time to Fight, there was an F2000 Champion, an Atlantic Champion, an Indy Car driver and last years winner, and some oval kid from Plainville, CT. The odds were in my favor, I had a good little battle with David Grant for awhile as on lap one we had stretched a bit of a gap over P3-5. I was running at about 80% pace and was trying my best to fully understand the effects and gains of the draft as well as Grants driving style. This style can be described as Foxy, he did nothing illegal but he did little things I have not really experienced yet. Example, In a braking zone he would brake normally, start to apply maintenance throttle, than do a quick jab of the brakes and rocket off. This was just enough to get me to lift and giving him a bigger gap. But to his own undoing this also helped P2-p4 catch up. When I saw they has caught us, I made my move down the front straight and attempted to pull away. I had gained about an 6 car gap by the time I got to 8 but with a small lock up and i threw it all away and he was back on my tail. So i gave him a little of what I had just learned, going through the middle of the carousel I did a slight lift forcing grant to crack back and induce heavy understeer. This gave me the 6 car gap I needed to lose the draft and begin my escape. I would end up pulling 4.5 Sec on Grant before he crashed, and at the same time P3, P4 got tangled up. I would end up winning my first SCCA Runoff in my first try! And would turn out to be the youngest to win in my division. So i guess a better statement would actually be, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

p.s. No, the clock is not digital

Related posts