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  • Russell Soto

NESS Wrap up and NY State Championship - wounded but fighting to the end

We are nearing the end of the season, and with only two dates remaining in our schedule, we were feeling disappointed that things did not work out very well for us in this last part of the season. However, we just about clinched second place in the Championship, with my teammate Adam in first. This is a great result for PSL Northeast in their first year of existence, but I knew that on my end I was capable of so much more. It is a time when you question how much bad luck once can have in a single season, but at the same time I've decided that I need to turn this into an opportunity to grow as a driver, and as a person.

October 7 and 8 were the last two rounds of the Northeast Super Series and New Jersey Motorsports Park, where earlier in the year we ran the Rotax US Grand Nationals. It was an opportunity to grab even more points to make second place official, but also grab a win on a track at which I have some "unfinished business."

However, my academic obligations as a HIgh School Senior come first, and that Saturday I had to take my SAT. This meant missing the Saturday altogether, which was OK because I felt pretty safe, holding on to the runner position in the NESS. What wasn't OK was jumping in on the Sunday, when everyone else had had two days of running at the track. This put us "behind the eight ball," so to speak - again at a disadvantage. But I resolved to press on.

For the practice sessions I decided to wear last year's helmet, I guess for sentimental reasons, and commemorate the last regional race of the season. However, we weren't able to change the drive sprocket from that we used at OVRP to the correct one for NJMP, and at the same time the iridium spark plug we were using had a twisted pickup lead. It was all we could do to source an adequate spark plug for the X-30. but that wasn't the end of it.

Things did not get any better for our second practice, as the water pump on the X-30 failed. I came in when the temps went ridiculously high, but also people told me they could see a jet of steam shooting out of my radiator, like a geyser. Again, Nick did an amazing job finishing the new water pump installation, and we stepped into qualifying not knowing if our engine would perform correctly after being subjected to such extreme temperatures. Not to mention that we did not have a chance to figure out carburation settings for the weather and track conditions. All this meant that we could only manage 7th in quali.

Not being able to do this, the races themselves were rather uneventful. But I was still able work through a questionable engine with less-than-ideal settings to fight and squeeze a 5th place finish when all was said and done. It's still enough to clinch second place in the championship, but I wouldn't have wanted it to be in that way.

October 21st was the very last race of the season, the New York State Championship at Oakland Valley,. By then we had the strong suspicion that the water pump incident at NJMP. I have to say that we simply were not competitive that day, and it was evident that our fears regarding the X-30 were entirely true. Unfortunately, our budget (smaller than anyone else's in the pacddock) does not allow to have a spare engine.

We would run a 40-lap marathon, and I resolved to fight on and drive a mistake-free, trusting my physical conditioning and focusing on consistency over the long race. The result was that I would find myself out-driving everyone on the tight, technical sections, but then losing everything on the stgart-finish straight, which at Oakland Valley is a significant chunk of the lap. For once I wished OVRP's layout consisted of only technical corners, and no straight!

It was obvious that the incident at NJMP aggravated the need to have the engine rebuilt. But this being the end of the season, and money being so tight, that particular issue would have to wait. Again, it would have been fantastic to end the season on a much brighter note. Still, the year did have its "highs" to go along with the "lows," and being able to go out there and prove throughout the year that I am one of the best drivers in the Northeast is in itself an accomplishment that I will treasure always.

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