2008-06-02

Jimmy V Charity Autocross

Last weekend's autocross was a little different from the rest. Firstly, I ran in open class for the first time. Secondly, I was co-driving a car for part of the event. Thirdly, it was not my car. And finally, I managed not to be in the bottom 3, so it looks like the skills learned during chick school and novice school earlier this year actually stuck.

First day, 31 May, was a non-points event, and not as many people showed up. We got three runs in the morning and two in the afternoon. As usual, I was running second and fourth heat, working third, and catching rides in the first.

I got there early, already on my Azenis, so I had time to walk the course three or four times before the drivers' meeting. Right after that, Mo, who in the past weeks has worked on convincing me to switch to open class from Novice, immediately seized the opportunity and paired me up with a novice chick to ride with and instruct. On one hand, that was flattering. On the other, pretty damn intimidating. I mean, I can't go fast yet myself, how am I supposed to help the novice go faster?

In the end, it turned out fine for her, she shaved off a couple seconds from her first time, and when it was time for me to run in the second, she rode with me and I drove just half a second faster than she did! That was pretty embarrassing. She was pretty gracious about it though.

Here are the first day's results. You will see that I was quite sloppy all day:

On day two, the course was very different, more along the lines of what I do well: subtle smooth inputs and throttle steering. There was only one slalom, where I lost some time and picked up quite a few cones, and a turnaround, where I lost a whole ton of time.

I was co-driving a first-gen Miata with a friend that day. His car, my tires. We swapped them in the pits before the drivers' meeting and were ready to go. His covette was out of commission, and he had no racing rubber for his Miata, hence the complexity. That's how the results ended up listing me as driving a "yellow Corvette". I wish.

My friend was running in X and I in CSP, which put him in the first and third heat to run, and me in second and fourth. It was quite lucky, because this way there was enough time for the tires to cool a bit between our runs. The forecast was for a 36C day, and tarmac gets very hot in direct sun, so tire overheating is a real concern.

Note to self: Buy and start bringing a water sprayer for the tires, as it will only get hotter as the summer progresses.

In the first heat, our car was in line B, so I went to hitch some rides from line A first. I ended up with no less (and likely more) than seven rides in the morning. All of them with experienced drivers, unlike the day before. By the time it was my turn to run, I had the course memorized and had a pretty good idea what to do out there.

My very first run was pretty good time-wise, but I botched up the slalom and picked off three cones. During the course of the day, I continued to work on the slalom and the turnaround entry, and the one run where I got them both acceptably well, was my best run of the day.

Here are the second day's resutls:

On the second day again, we had three runs in the morning and two in the afternoon. After that, there were fun runs and I wanted to see whether my car was handling much different from the spiff Miata I drove during the day. The spiff car has Bilstein shocks with coilovers, upgraded front and rear sway bars, and a torsen diff. So I fully expected my car to suck in comparison.

Imagine my surprise when I beat my own best raw time from the competition doing a fun run in my own car!

So now, I decided to help my baby along to become a really spiff autocross car. I am planning two phases of upgrades:

  • In the first phase, I will replace my open diff with a torsen, and install performance sway bars;
  • in the second phase, I'll swap out the engine (which has began burning oil recently) and while we're at it, install a lightweight flywheel and a performance clutch.

Will keep you posted on the mods.