Friday, July 26, 2013

Ayer Match Tour 2013 - Day 1

National Tour time! Last year the championship tour came to Devens, this year it was one of the new Match Tours sponsored by Evoloution Performance Driving school. It was a two day event. The first day was like the first day of a regular championship tour with two exceptions.  The first exception was that you get 4 runs instead of three. The second is that the top 32 drivers by PAX, and the top 8 ladies by PAX get a free pass into the "match" part of the event which runs Sunday afternoon.

It was unsurprising that me, (a second tier driver on a good day) and my under-prepared car (at least 3% slower than it should be, possibly more) did not qualify. My times vs the top pax of the day were a fairly typical. They work out to a .916 PAX rating. "PAX rating" is the best pax time for the event (run by Billy Davis on that day in his CSP miata) divided by your own pax time. 1.0 is perfect, and means you were the fastest driver. Thus In relative terms, me and my car were about 8.4% slower than the best time, about 4-5% of that is my driving, the rest is the car.

I placed 4th out of 8 competitors in my class, missing the trophies by one spot, although the margin was not very close. I did however beat Russ Sigglekoe for the first time ever. He did not have a good day, but my day was only a mildly good performance. My best day ever was a .925 at a local event last year, but the pax for SSM this year is .003 harder so this year that would be a 0.922. Last year, at the national level event I had a pax rating of 0.903, and in relative terms that means I was about a second slower.

Last year at the national level event I went off course twice and I lamented my final run where I hit several cones and ruined an otherwise very good run. This year was a nice improvement besides going faster, I only hit one cone during the entire event. I had much better control of my driving in general. Although I did not run my best times ever, I did run good times and ended up mid-pack in overall PAX rather in the bottom quartile like last year. Another difference may also be that the top cars are a bit faster this year too. I know Billy changed his Aero on the CSP car and has now driven it for over a year. By all reports Panda continues to improve and is faster this year than last.

So that was the first day. I didn't finish in the top 32, so I needed to be in the top 16 on the next day. Not very likely given my 82nd of 139 result, but I definitely felt there was a lot more time in the car, so it was worth a shot.

Season Points

This day also counted as an NER points event. The presence of Nate and Tom O'Gorman in the first and second spots helped me retain my present lead.  and Leafy took third earning 4 ponts vs my 3 for 4th. The closest two drivers in the season standings are Mat Nieman and Jonathan Lieth (Leafy).  I am 10 points ahead of Matt and 13 points ahead of Leafy. My lead however is still tenuous. Leafy's car is definitely faster than mine now that it is running well, so it's entirely possible that he will beat me the remaining 4 races. I've had good luck against Matt the last few events, but consistent victory over him is far from certain. To tie my season points, Matt has to take first 3 times and place 1 point ahead of me the one time he doesn't win. I don't consider that very likely given my slightly better than 50-50 record against him for the last 2 years, but I also think it's fairly likely that he will beat me at least once.

Then there's Jenna in the Panda... Maybe. She is 14 points back and the Panda is a stupid-fast car. It is clearly the fastest car of the field, but she has had issues with cones lately. When she has a good day, she can win it all, but she is not very consistent lately.

To lock in a season win, I need to place second or better in every race.

But given the field, that is a very diffucult task. Let's imagine a more likely scenario... Imagine that they each win one event for the next 3 events and, I place one behind Leafy every time. Leafy may have the hottest car/driver combination at this point, so lets also imagine that Leafy is 2nd or 1st every time. Matt's car probably shines a bit better in the small parking lot in New Hampshire so we'll imagine that he wins there, though him taking 1st is probably the least likely part of this scenario. In a case like this the standings going into the final event might look something like this:

Gus - 30 + 4, +6, +4= 44
Leafy - 17 + 6 + 9 + 6 = 38
Matt - 20 + 9 + 3/4 + 3 = 35 or 36
Jena - 16 + 3 + 4/3  + 9 = 31 or 32

So, if nobody dominates the field, and I grab 3rd twice and a 2nd once, I'll walk away with the season. What I can't do is start placing 4th or worse. My lead won't support that. If we flip mat and Leafy in New Hampshire, then I have to make 2nd in the final event to win, and if Leafy takes all 3, then he will have 43 points and I have to beat him, unless he's in 3rd or lower in the last event. If Nate Whipple, Todd Kean, or some other alien were to show up in the panda, they would probably take first, but since I have the lead, that benefits me by reducing the points others can earn.

With 5 events done, I have a non-trivial chance of winning the season. That would earn a spiffy jacket, Instructor status and my first chance to compete for the Sterling Moss trophy.

The other variable of course is my co-driver who has beaten me several times in the past. If I let him beat me, I'm not very likely to win. The flip side, is if I can put together one more win in the last 4 events, my chances improve greatly. But that's the point isn't it? You have to win to win. If I can't win, I don't deserve the season championship.

With season points out of the way, the second day is for fun and for pride, and for the off chance that I find 3+ seconds and make it into the match tour... I'll detail that in the next post.

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