Monday, August 29, 2016

Busy Summer!

I've had almost no time to maintain this blog lately. 50 hours has become my easy week, with multiple recent 70 hour weeks. However, I have manged (just barely) to sustain racing as well. The good news is that things have been improving nicely through the season. Highlights since the last blog entry...


Won Jeff Gordon Trophy,  got top 10 at NER, FTD @ BMW, went to a pro solo,  Did well at other events, video of top ten run here.

SCCA 6/19 (Points Event #4)

This event was a redux of the first event's co-drive with Brian Levesque. Every thing about this event was fabulous. The course was fun and fast, Brian's advice was helpful and the car was working well. Brian drove the car to 6th in PAX finally providing evidence that the car is solidly capable of a top 10 finish.  (Ben took it to a 9th previously, but 9th and 10th are the bottom edge, and one can never know if it was a fluke or not, perhaps something only Ben can achieve...). Both Ben and Brian are fabulous drivers, but at 6th however, at least half the "regulars" in the top 10 had to have screwed up for it to be a fluke. I also had a very good result, with my best SCCA finish to date. 1.5 Seconds off of top PAX for 15th in overall PAX.

NE-SVT 7/16

Another excellent event, I managed to eventually find the 2nd fastest time of the day. The only car I couldn't catch was an E-modified Lotus 7 with a v6 engine... So I was the fastest production car of the day, but not quite able to truely say "FTD". Still, a crazy fun event. I got a second place prize shirt that says "Autocross, where the difference between winning and loosing can be 0.001."

SCCA 7/17 (Points Event #5, Racing against Leukemia)

This was a day of mixed results. My Co driver was Jeff Seeger who had driven last year, but this was his first time on the new wider tires. My results for the main competition were rather blah, a second or so off of the previous SCCA event, which punted me from 15th to 50th in PAX!! Holy stiff competition Batman! But that's just life in NER :). As nice as the previous course was, the course at this event unfortunately had one spot that really hit a weak spot in my setup. The big turn into the bus-stop 200 degree left-hander had it's braking zone on a series of bumpy cracks, and this set off my ABS on all but 2 runs. One of my worse runs was when it unexpectedly didn't ABS and I wound up stopping way too early and having to let off and re-brake (which then of course did proceed to activate the ABS and take me long anyway...).

As it turned out I was one of the top 4 fund raisers for the Race Against Leukemia again (other folks need to up their game!), so I got to race for the Jeff Gordon challenge for a second year in a row. This time I got to race first against Bob Lang, who was driving a B Modified formula car. So once again formula car vs Lotus (PAX/RTP time scoring). My run started with a big ABS and overshoot at the troublesome spot and an additional mistake on the main run way, probably with a cone or two. I knew I probably blew it, but I just kept going, stayed on course, and finished strong anyway. Always finish the race. As I began to pack up my stuff disconsolately I was amazed to learn that Bob had gone off course! ... ALWAYS finish the race. Never give up.

Next up was someone in an Street class car who's name I have unfortunately lost track of, but my vague memory is that he and his previous opponent were good fund raisers, but fairly new to the sport. None the less, I resolved that I was NOT going to screw up this run... And I did finally put down a fairly decent run, which was faster than my fastest run of the day in class competition. The result: I won! So for a year I get to keep this huge trophy on my mantle! 

Wilmington Summer Pro Solo

I had originally hoped to get my car down to this event, but transport options turned out to be unavailable. So, I wound up getting my first taste of Pro Solo competition in Sam's STS Honda CRX. It was a lot of fun, but Given that it was FWD (not RWD), street tire (not Hoosier), on concrete (not asphalt), with no abs (vs abs in my car)... I had a bit of trouble getting a handle on it, so the big accomplishments were to A) actually get my butt out to a pro solo, and B) not screw up any of the starts ( I had 3 starts in the .5xx 6 starts in the .6xx range and no red lights). We won't talk about my times... You can go look those up if you feel a strong need to be underwhelmed :)

BMW club 8/6 

Having just spent a bunch of time fudging around on a totally foreign setup I figured it would be a good idea to get re-acquainted with my car. The day was fabulous, and I discovered that I really really like Hoosiers better than street tires... so much so that I scored my first ever FTD (fastest time of the day). This was the real deal. I actually went faster than everyone else, within competition runs, and no * or "but" about it.

SCCA 8/7 (points Event #6)

I went into this one with a new motto of "no slow runs." This is an exhortation to myself to not allow my self an early safety run, or "motor course walk" but to go full tilt from the start. I did my best to put up a decent time in the first 3 and wound up 2.8 off of top PAX at the half way mark. On my first run of the afternoon I found 1.5 seconds which would have been enough to replicate my 15th place finish from 6/19, except somewhere I apparently acquired a mystery cone. I never found out where, but the next run was only 1.0 second pick up, and top PAX moved by .9 sec, so I wound up 2.7 sec back from top PAX, and 24th place. This was, however, good enough to win the class.

Renegade 8/13

Had a very good day, and came very very close (again) to beating Sam Creasy on PAX, but coned it away. Sam has been hard to beat because he reliably puts up consistently decent runs. I clearly can run faster, but I have trouble doing so consistently. This time my fastest run was 69.3 seconds and my second fastest was 68.1 + 1 cone... for a net time of 70.1. Again I fell victim to a mystery cone that I probably just barely based. Without that cone, I would have been almost a second ahead of Sam and would have had a second "true" FTD ... and Renegade is a much harder club than BMW. But a cone there was. FTD there was not. Such is autocross. Close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades.

SCCA 8/28 (Points Event #7)

Absolutely picture perfect day for Autox. Mid 80's not too humid, tires worked well and not too hot. Also was on sticker A7's which Alan was helping me scrub in. First run was trash, the release compound was not fully scrubbed off. Second run, I *was* looking ahead, but I picked up the wrong cone, and my line was all wrong resulting in massive Conage. Third run I was thinking about not making the same mistake, and made another mistake on the element before, not paying attention to the present, I tried to drive the taxiway exit in a similar fashion to the last 3 taxiway exits in that direction... but brake late and sweep was not the recipe for this one and I spun. 11 cones in the morning. Stupid mental mistakes.

In the afternoon I finally settled in, had a mediocre first run, and then a really good second run. The third run I actually lost grip in the rear in front of the tower and drove really well thereafter. I made up the lost time and was slightly ahead of the previous run, but got slightly late in the finish, and then the car pushed under acceleration. I was headed straight for the outside row of cones in the finish, and that could damage the car if I center-punched them all. So I tried to lift just a bit to get my nose inside the cone wall, and I did, but unfortunately that was also enough to spin the car. But standing on my 2nd afternoon run I won the class by 0.1 seconds and got my first top 10 finish at NER. Granted it was on a day with 132 registrants, and panda was breaking. My comments about 9th/10th being a possible fluke apply here too, but I did beat every raw time Panda did put up before it broke, so it's still a pretty good day.

Here are videos of Alan an my best runs:

Going into this event, I had a virtual lock on SSM class because none of the other competitors put in a consistent effort this year. This leaves me extremely likely to get a jacket that says NER class champion, but with the first half of the year having been a string of 2nd places, I've been feeling like it's the jacket I didn't want... one for attendance only. With that in mind, I've been pretty intent on showing some sort of improvement in my PAX rankings. In 2014 when I missed the season championship by 0.051 seconds, the competition for season PAX was not nearly as strong as this year. If I equal or exceed my 19th place finish from that year, I will feel like I have earned the jacket anyway. This result, a 96.82 (out of 100 possible) in PAX points definitely helps with that. I should now move up from 24th to something like 20th. One more really good day so I can shed my 92.80 and gain another 3-4 points will probably do the trick. Definitely looking forward to Leafy's return next year.

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