2008-06-11

Triad event 4: Dixie Classic Fair


Regardless of how bad I think I drove, I managed not to be last, so I guess I am learning.

The event was in Winston-Salem, about one and a half hours drive from home. I set the alarm clock for 6 am when I went to bed the night before, to make sure I had enough time to change tires and walk the course when I get there.

I woke up before the alarm went off--at 7:13 am! Stupid twelve-hour clock! Stupid me! I scrambled to throw on some clothes and brush my teeth and was out the door in under 10 minutes, with just enough time to get there before the registration and tech closed.

I got to the site with 20 minutes to spare before registration closed, and 50 minutes before end of tech. The fair grounds was a bit hard to navigate for the first-timer, with trees and buildings obscuring the view, and while looking for a place to pit, I ended up in the tech line. My car still brim-full with tires and equipment, I asked them if I should back out and come back when I have changed into the right tires. They said I can pop the hood and they'll have a quick look-over and I'll be good with my annual tech sticker from the Tarheels.

So that saved me a lot of time right there. I looped back to the pit area and found a nice spot in the shade where I could spread out my stuff and leave the car for when I was not running. That's a great perk, because the forecast was for a +40C day!

In general, this site was quite luxurious compared to what I am used to from autocrossing at airport runways: Shady spot to pit (at least for small cars like Miatae), bleachers for spectators, and--get this--real bathrooms with running water!

So I dropped off my car and ran to register. I paid my registration fee and picked up the dash plaque. Tried to sign up for work, but was told this will be decided after the registration closes and announced at the driver meeting. I thought "Whatever" and went to walk the course. The paved area was in a figure-eight and there was a small section of the course one had to pass twice. The pavement was not particularly even, and there were a lot of marbles scattered on it, none of which was working in yours truly's favour. Triad club also seemed to use a different set of conventions to mark the course, so that some pointer cones were upright, looking like an impossibly tight slalom (see map).

I walked the course twice before going to unload the car and change the tires. A few males stopped to gawk, but thankfully did not comment.

Some folks were passing me as I was changing tires, asked me if I have registered yet. I said Yes, and they looked surprised.

I finished up with the tires and went to walk the course another time, and they started the drivers' meeting just as I was getting done with the final course walk.

They announced the run/work groups, and that was different from what I knew from the Tarheels as well: At Triad, one runs in one out of four run groups, completes all the runs in that time, and works once. My class was running second, and I was working fourth, so I decided to go climb up the bleachers to watch the first run group.

I managed to find a seat next to the guy I was pitting next to, who was also running in my class. No doubt I was no competition for him (or anyone in my class), and he did not seem to be concerned, so we enjoyed making fun of some slow drivers with really cool cars, and when the first run group was beginning the fourth and final round of runs, we went to our cars.

There was no line A or B, so everybody had to wait a full round till they could run again. This gave me a chance to talk with a few people waiting in the grid with me.

My first run was not all too bad, but I was coming out too hot from the unusual triangular element in the final third of the course and could not turn into the first of the two gates anymore, so it was a DNF. The second run, I spun out approaching the "fork" for a second time, after completing the loop on the right, and they seem to have given me a DNF for that.

The third and fourth run, I simply tried to carry more speed through all the elements, to brake harder, and to be more aggressive, but did not do particularly well as you see.

Here are the results:

After completing all my runs, I had a full heat to change back into street tires and pack the car, and also just relax before going to work the course.

So here I am, changing the tires, using my manual torque wrench. A guy comes by and says with a mock shock in his voice: "What?!? You only got manual tools?"

I say: "Yes, I do. The manual tools work for me. I'm fine."

"Oh, I can see that," says he.

I am not sure if this is meant sarcastically, in view of multiple drops of sweat on the pavement, as I am working on the tires in the 40C heat, or rather as an observation of my physical appeal to him, so I stand up and face him. "If you're going to just stand here and watch and run your mouth, you might as well help me change the tires," I say.

"She's feisty," he says, addressing the guy pitting next to me, also busy changing his tires.

"Oh yeah, she's feisty," I retort, "because she has to put up with guys like you a lot."

"Guys like me?"

"Yeah, the kind that would talk about her in third person in her presence," I say as I torque the lug nuts on my right rear wheel.

"Well, I didn't know your name... Was the next thing I was going to ask," he says sheepishly, "Didn't mean to offend." Then disappears.

I go about jacking the right front corner of the car up to get that tire off, but before I am finished changing it, he's back, wearing blue latex gloves, with a torque gun in his hand.

On one hand, I am pretty pissed at his uncouth attempt at a flirt and would rather tell him to go to hell, latex gloves and all... But on the other hand, it's +40C, and I think if he really wants to do the work for me, the smart thing to do would be to let him.

So I do.

His torque gun only torques to about 20 foot pounds (27.1 N m), and I usually torque my lug nuts to 75 foot pounds, so he had to use my torque wrench to actually tighten the lug nuts to specification.

I exercised all the willpower I got (as a matter of fact, it is still sore), but I did not say a word about how much help the so-called power tool actually was. He finished torquing the tire I started, and did the remaining two as I was standing by silently, watching.

He finished, we exchanged thanks and names and then it was my turn to go work the course.

I got assigned to the corner where hardly anything was happening: the last couple gates and offsets before the end of the first loop. My two "colleagues" were a novice driver and his underage son. I had the radio, the other driver held the flag, and the kid ran to pick up the cones. At first I felt bad for him picking all of the cones, but after the first two cones down, nothing was hit in our area until the end of the event, so he actually was saying he hoped someone hit a cone so he had something to do.

I got to call the two cones and a couple DNFs (all the novices were running in the fourth heat), and then it was time to go home.

I did not stay for the fun runs or the trophies. Went straight home and crashed on the sofa for at least an hour before moving again. Then slowly schlepped the tires and the rest of equipment to my storage shed on the balcony and vegged out watching House on hulu.

A good day, all in all.