Billy Easton Column – Florida State Series

Howdy fellow Serpent Team and column readers. This Florida State Off Road Series event was the fifth leg of their 7 race series. The event was to be held in Ocala, Florida at the Ocala RC Club. I took the trip from Tampa on up to Ocala, approx. 1 hour 10 minute drive and was really surprised upon the arrival. It was only Friday, the first day of practice and the park was full of Trailers/tents. I would say at least 60 from my line of sight. It was like a big race, but was just a State Series event.

I was amazed by the following and was happy to see that many racers out practicing, getting ready for the event. When I found a pit spot I could already see some more of the higher class racers like Ryan Eckert, Jason Ruona and Gene Hickerson. The track was Georgia red clay, and the lay out was really high speed with a huge bank off the main straight into a double/double or a triple/single depending on how you hit it. It was a long jump into a step up step down corner. The track also had a variety of other obstacles including a option lane and a table top into a long quad on the back wall.

I through down my car and began tuning the engine and learning the track. The weather was just gorgeous for the event. It was 80 Fahrenheit, sunny with no clouds. After a few tanks of fuel, I had the engine close and the track lay out down for the most part. More and more people began showing up to run. JR Mitch and Leon McIntosh were the next Pro level racers that I saw. After most of the day was over, and the drivers had some practice under their belts it looked like it was going to be a great race.

Qualifying day was upon us. There were over 175 entries, I think closer to 200 but I am not exactly sure. There were 4 heats of pro buggy alone. The track in the morning was a bit moist, but hard packed underneath. They had put calcium chloride on the track the night before, to help reduce the breaking up of the track and to get the groove in place faster.

After the first Round, I had run a near flawless run, but rolled it on the last lap. The mistake was 3 seconds long and stopped me from going the extra lap. I was able to TQ the round by 9 seconds, over second place. I really thought my car and set up were great, it did everything it needed to do and or was asked. Some of the other drivers did not have as clean of a run as me, but my lap times were still very, very fast. I believe that Ryan Eckert was second. Some drivers had broken their cars as well, so we will have to see what would take place the next round.

As the second round was coming up the track was becoming super hard, and cars were beginning to traction roll. Yes, blue groove baby. It was so hooked up out there, it was wild. The m3 tire would only last 5 minutes and the fronts were bald. It was crazy.

The first round had gone off, but their cars looked so hard to drive, it was more of who could keep it on the wheels the best. Jason Ruona had beaten my first round TQ, by 1 second, so it was going to be interesting what I could do on the grooved track. I put my car out on m2 hole shots and it was awesome. My car did not have a flipping problem and felt very similar to a race indoor I did on clay in December at Leisure Hours. It had steering and traction. With a slight front bias, it was manageable and super fast. I was nearly 1 second a lap faster than almost all the other drivers. I could consistently turn 28 second lap times to the 29’s of others. I ran a perfect race and was able to run 15 seconds faster than Jason’s time. I was happy, and knew that we could possibly win the race with no troubles.

As main day came around, it had rained slightly and kind of showered on and off as the main was approaching. My tire of choice for the main would be a m3 crime fighter. The track was no longer hard packed and was slightly soft on top. As I was warming up my car for the Main, my receiver battery shorted out on the aluminum holder and caught on fire. As I was pulling the battery out of the car it sizzled then exploded as I was dropping it to the ground. Needless to say, all the wires in my car were melted together due to them all being in shrink tube together. So, there was no way to change everything in 2 minutes to make the main start. I was very fortunate and Leon said that I could use his car in the main. It was an Xray. Not the new one but the older one. So, with no choice that was my only option. The horn sounded for the race and I was off, I lead about 5 minutes of the race, but something became wrong with the car. Besides it did not jump very well to begin, let alone go through the bumps worth 2 biscuits, there was something wrong in the rear end. At some point in the life of Leon’s car, it bent the rear shock shaft and would not rebound. It did not jump anymore and I could not get around the track all that well.

The competition was closing in and surviving was all I could do. Eventually the pack had caught me and I was going to just to the best I could with what I had. Gene Hickerson was the first to catch up with me, while he and Jason were in a heated battle. I continued on, but was heading to the back. Eventually the engine flamed out, and the pipe screw came out. My race was over. Things though did progress for other drivers, Gene and Jason had a great battle, well until Jason’s tires all came un glued, then he was out. Then, Gene had the lead and JR Mitch was running him down. Gene was not the fastest guy, but he was the guy out front. People were pushing to catch him, but just could not get it done in time.

Gas racing is what it is. Although I did not have a gas related problem and more an electrical malfunction the race was great and the competition was high. I would definitely enjoy going to more of these races for sure. Hopefully next time, I can use my own car in the final.

For all you newbie’s out there, this should be a great lesson. Gene did not have the fastest car, but did run consistent to the finish. A good lap in the main was a low 29 second lap time. All the while Gene’s best lap was a 29.9. He ran a consistent race and deserved the win. Congrats to Gene for the good finish and to the rest of us, better luck next time.

Oh, and by the way, I am truly sorry to the guy that was standing next to me when my battery exploded. I realize you were hit with some flying debris and want to apologize to you for that. Although you were not injured, Im deeply sorry.

Billy Easton

Source : Serpent

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