Tiffany Daniels: Adventures At the Track in South Africa

Mary Jo BuchananSenior Writer IFebruary 12, 2010

Tiffany Daniels has been sharing her adventures as a female race car driver racing overseas in one of the most prestigious events in South Africa.  Here is her latest blog, detailing all of her adventures at the track.

We arrived to the Phakisa Freeway Circuit in Welkom, South Africa on Thursday morning. After we oriented ourselves with the schedule, we walked around the entire 1.5-mile oval.

I wanted to get a feel for the track, and check out the condition of the asphalt. Here is a short Flip video we filmed at the beginning of our walk (Marc Davis and me):

Tiff Daniels and Marc Davis Comment on the 2nd Day in SA, at the Phakisa Freeway

For having sat unused for almost 10 years, the track was in great shape, with very few ruts, cracks or uneven patches. Its biggest characteristics were a bump going into Turn 3 and another on late entry to Turn 1.

After we walked the track, we had to wait for several hours for Customs to arrive and go through all of the containers in which everyone’s cars and toolboxes were shipped. Once the customs officials were finished, we were able to unload the containers.

It was such a relief to see that our cars were unharmed!

On Friday morning, after all of the cars were unloaded, the garage stalls were set up, and ASA released our practice tires, we were able to hit the track.

Our Marc Davis Motorsports team was fairly conservative in the first practice because Marc and I wanted to shake the cars down and make sure everything felt ok before getting up to speed.

After the first run, I wanted to see what the car had and really get a feel for the handling. It wasn’t long before the #19 MDM Toyota was 2nd on the board.  I was able to get comfortable on the track, and the team, with my brother Cliff as crew chief, made some handling adjustments and we ended up in the top 5 in practice speeds for the day. My teammate and car owner, Marc Davis, did too.

After a good first day of practice, we returned to the track Saturday morning ready to go. The track started changing significantly as it was taking more rubber from everyone’s tires after all 24 cars ran more and more laps.

We kept making adjustments, and felt like we had a decent setup heading into qualifying. ASA decided on road-course style qualifying, which means we qualified in groups based on practice speed and had 15 minutes to make as many or as few laps as we wanted.

Our team ended up using it as an extra practice session, making several adjustments after we weren’t as fast as we were expecting, but we realized later that our qualifying set of tires had grown differently, resulting in a stagger issue that explained our handling trouble.

We qualified 8th and Marc qualified 2nd , which gave us both a decent starting position for the long race.

Sunday morning of race day, we had a meet-and-greet with the fans, and then went to our drivers meeting. Not long after, driver intros started and then it was time to strap on my helmet and get the #19 Toyota fired up.

We headed out onto the track and then buzzed down pit road to get an accurate tach reading of pit road speed, show in this video:  

After a few more pace laps, we took the green flag and our 24-car field made history as the first to race on the 1.5-mile Phakisa oval track, and the first stock car racers to compete at the Phakisa complex.

Our strategy heading into the 207 lap (500 km, 310.5 mi) race was to settle into a decent spot and ride until the race got down to the closing laps. This strategy partly worked, but everyone was racing pretty hard through the first part of the race and we were too.

We were also making handling adjustments every chance we had on pit stops, which were set up quite differently than normal – we could only take 2 tires at a time, had to take gas on a separate pit stop, had a very limited number of crew allowed over the wall, and could only take one can of fuel at a time.

I felt like I was making so many stops every time the caution came out, but it was nothing compared to my pit crew – they had to handle all of the pit stops for both mine and Marc’s cars, so I don’t think they ever got a break.

The sun and heat were pretty relentless on race day too, so that didn’t make it easy for anyone. Here is a video showing my #19 leaving pit road after one of our many pit stops:

As the race progressed, we were continually making adjustments and making the car faster. Unfortunately, around the halfway point I felt something going wrong with the car. Luckily we caught a break and the caution came out in time for us to pit and discover that the RR was going flat.

After changing RS tires, we were ready to make another charge from the back of the field. However, as we were working our way back up, we had to come in for another round of pit stops where we got hit on pit road in the LF tire by another car pulling out of its pit stall. We made several more stops under the caution to repair the damage, but didn’t have time to reset the toe (direction the wheels are pointing) before we had to go back to green.

The crew did a great job making sure everything else was ok, and we focused on trying to have the best race possible and nurse the car home as best we could. Needless to say, we were very happy to bring the car home in 7th after the 3 ½ hour race.

As a team, everyone gave it their all and we were able to make the best of what could have been an unfortunate situation. Marc also had a great day, bringing home the 3rd place trophy!

I think Marc’s dad, Harry, would have been proud of us, and it was very nice of ASA and the other competitors to dedicate the race to him.

I can’t believe this whole adventure started with a phone call from Harry Davis, and then progressed to borrowing parts from Earnhardt Ganassi Racing and D’Hondt Motorsports just in time for Spraker Racing to prepare the cars and ship them two months ago to a country we had never seen.

I have to thank ASA and Marc & Harry Davis for the opportunity, and for their support, and our whole team Mike Herman Jr., Lou Sipolt, Kyle Harvey, Scott Goyer, Rodney Shearer, Josh Edwards, Cliff Daniels, Devyn Sitler, Charlie & Wanda Daniels, Patrick Molesworth, Steve Edelen, Justin Ervin, and Demi Knight Clark.

While we were at the track, I met some awesome people - fans, competitors, teams, ASA officials, Bobby Hartslief and his track staff, etc. It was an amazing experience, which I will go into more detail about in my next blog.

For more pictures, links and video, check out my Facebook site at , my web site , or follow me on Twitter

Please note that arrangements have been announced for the funeral of Harry Davis, which will be held on Saturday, February 13th, with the wake at 10:00 am and the funeral at 11:00 am at the Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church, 12319 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20904.

The family has asked that in lieu of flowers that memorial contributions be made to support Marc Davis Motorsports to support Harry's son's racing career.  Contributions may be sent to:  Supporting Harry's Dream, to Marc Davis Motorsports, c/o Lisa Davis Johnson (Marc's aunt); 14903 Nashua Lane, Bowie, MD 20716.