2008-07-20

Adjusting the nut behind the steering wheel

There's an old autocross joke that goes: The most effective modification you can do to improve your results is to adjust the nut behind the steering wheel. And I did. Not like the results are that great yet, but I think I had my first real breakthrough.

My main problem so far was driving a good line and having consistent, mostly clean slow runs. Most of my instructors would tell me that I wouldn't go fast enough, wouldn't push the car to the limit.

I think I got that one at last!

The course was really long and complex, with some very fast sections, followed by slow elements requiring you to drop a lot of speed. Have a look at the results:

I know I don't look all too great in the final standings, but have a look at class results, because this table lists all the runs. I am really proud to say that, no matter how many cones I hit in the first run, time-wise it was pretty damn fast, faster than times I would usually drive. I rode with three really fast drivers in the first heat before I ran, two out of three runs ending up spinning out of control and off-course, so by the time I ran, my adrenaline level was high and also my fear of losing control of the car was diminished, because I just have experienced it twice. So I gunned it.

At this point I want to give credit to Chris Petersen, who rode with me on my first run and was pushing me to go faster. I ended up with a pretty impressive (for my standards) 76.252 seconds run. Yes I coned it all away with +9, but I am just very glad that I found the edge and the aggressive driving style I was lacking in the past.

Now of course, with me going faster that I used to, the inputs need to get adjusted as well, and that will take some work. However, that will be good work, since I have not had as much fun driving autocross ever since my very first run on this same airport runway last year. Getting the car just to the limit of traction and teetering on the verge of losing control is really exciting, and doing it right (which I am not yet doing) will be just great.

It rained in the afternoon, and I have not yet run in the rain, so my third run was slow, albeit clean, while I was figuring out the traction. Fourth run, I got a little more confident, and confidently coned away any chances at a good final time. :) But for some reason, that does not seem to matter as much as the new feel I got for the car, and the new confidence in it and in myself.

In the fourth run, I was sliding and drifting halfway down the runway after coming out of the sweeper, but somehow always catching the car before it would spin out of control. Every tenth of a second I thought it was going to be it, the tires would lose what little traction they had and I would go spinning off course. And somehow, this thought did not frighten or even concern me, but made me want to prevail, and don't ask me how, but I made it to the finish line, each time riding the rev-limiter at about 60 mph (in second gear).

Also, softening the front shocks just a touch made the popping noise from the front end go away, so I think I will keep it like that until I get the new Racing Beat sway bar and the RB adjustable end links in. Hopefully with a more substantial sway bar as well as all-new bushings, plus some tweaking of the end links, I will be able to autocross on front shocks on full-hard.