2008-11-16

Bronc riding; or How to break 100 new horses at once

So just as I thought I was getting better at going fast, placing almost in the middle of the pack in my Miata last Sunday, my new car taught me some humility at the CCR-SCCA autocross in Charlotte today. It was like trying to ride a horse that has never been ridden before.

The hundred extra horses underhood made their presence known to me about five seconds into my first run: Shifting into second in a curve, accelerating, I was a little too "happy" on the gas and as soon as the clutch engaged, the rear end came around in a snap--wheee!

The second and third runs I managed not to spin the car, but was barely confident, lagging more than 15 seconds behind class leaders. On my fourth run, one of the best S2000 drivers I know--Mr. Jay--rode with me and gave me some pointers, helping me shave off another two seconds and bringing my time down to still lackluster 65.xxx.

I wish there were more runs in the event, so I could learn the car a little better and improve my times a little more.

Of course not all of the challenges are due to my lack of experience with the car. Some of the difficulty came from the fact that the car is not aligned for autocross. As a matter of fact, I think it is out of alignment altogether, as it was ever so slightly pulling to one side on the way to and from the event. Another great S2000 driver--Karl--has kindly shared his alignment specs, so in the next couple of days I'll be taking my new car to Hubcap Heaven.

Everybody who I spoke to who knows their S2Ks, says that a massive front sway bar upgrade is a must for taming the natural tendency to tail-happiness. That will be the project for the winter.

I have also been looking for a second set of wheels for the car, to mount autocross tires on. Not sure yet whether I will go for full-blown R-compounds or start out with less-forgiving performance street tires, so that I can learn to control the car faster. That of course will kill whatever nano-chance I have at getting a trophy, but judging on this season's results, it will be a while till I win one either way. Might as well not kid myself.

This could have been the last event of the year, but I have heard rumours of another one here in Raleigh next month, so maybe I will get to try out the new alignment without the upgraded sway bar. I would prefer it this way, so I can tell which adjustment to the setup does what.

If that December event does not materialize, I'll have to wait until February for the test-and-tune to try out the all-new setup.