Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Of course...

When you are most interested in the results, of course that's when things go wrong. Today I received this in my inbox...

Good morning all!

Sorry for yet another mass mailing, but I felt a sense of duty to inform you of the whereabouts of the event 3 results from Sunday. As you know, our illustrious timing guru Scott usually has the results out the evening of the event. For this event, that did not happen, obviously. The reason for this is that the timing results file got corrupted, and it's been a very manual process that Scott has been undertaking.

Luckily, we have the file that is readable, but not processable via the normal Access channels. We also have paper back-up that we always make during the event (in case any of you who had that job assigned in the past, thinking it was a useless position - this is the exact reasoning for that job).

We're working on a couple different solutions, and there will be results, but the ETA could be anywhere from this evening through a week or more. Scott's the go-to guy for this (though we are reaching out to assist), but he has a more important priority now of an overdue and very pregnant wife (Congrats, Scott!!!). If this hasn't affected the results posting, it likely will.

Anyway, just wanted to catch everybody up to speed, apologize, and say that all is not lost.. results will be posted, it is just a matter of time.

Thanks in advance for your patience!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pins and Needles

Last Sunday I ran with the Boston BMWCCA. They don't do on-site results/awards, but I asked folks in the tent what they thought the fastest time of the day was. I was shocked to hear that it was possibly only less than 2 seconds faster than me. That's a lot closer than ever before... If it is real. Pardon me while I go refresh their on-line results page... Again...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Urewarded Success

The June 12 event was a success for sure. I ran faster than any previous event except one and I consider that one event to be a fluke, due to a conflicting national level competition drawing off top competitors. Last Sunday, I was in the top 50% of PAX standings, but even that is not really reflective of the improvement in my driving. It was a tough day weather-wise. The first 3 runs of the day were on wet pavement. The afternoon runs were dry, but there were only 3 of them, so in many ways the morning only helped with learning the layout of the course, the driving feel changed completely in the afternoon. I had to actively forget the way I drove it in the morning. The weather was also cold and in the 50's with a good breeze. In other words, stone cold tires at the start of every run.

Events with conditions like this have typically been bad for me, and previously I wound up 10-20% off my pace because I couldn't work out the kinks in my driving and figure out the course in only limited runs. Also days with cold tires have been generally bad for me. My car is light, and the tires just don't build up enough heat in cold weather to make the sticky rubber work like it should.

However, this past Sunday, I overcame these factors and put in my second best performance ever. I adjusted to the changing conditions reasonably, and each afternoon run was faster than the previous. As you may recall, I am also driving a car that is not on par with the kind of power and equipment allowed in my racing class, so I also track numbers relating to the stock class, into which my car almost, but doesn't quite fit. Certainly I don't have any significant advantages over a properly prepared stock class car, even if the rules won't let me in. Using the stock class adjustment, my time would have been in the top 40% of PAX standings.

But it gets better! My official best time for the day was 51.388 seconds. That was my second to last run, but my final run was much faster at 49.753 seconds. Unfortunately, I nicked a cone and got a 2 second penalty, so officially it only counts as 51.753. If I had missed the cone, it probably would have only slowed me by a tenth or so, and my PAX time would have been in the top 35%, or with the stock factor, the top 25%.

Me?!?! driving better than 75% of NER SCCA drivers? Unheard of!! But alas it didn't actually happen, so you won't hear of it just yet. Not for a couple more inches...

Also, this event marked the first time when I had a real chance to beat Russ, who drives the green Elise in stock class. That stat however must be taken with a grain of salt Russ hit one or more cones on all 3 afternoon runs. However, if you pit my +1 run against his best +1 run, I'm within a half second of his time. That's beginning to almost look competitive.

Here's my graphs, including a line for "what if I missed that $#!@& cone"...

So with all this success surely I gained some position in the season standings, right?

Nope. Even though I was only 3.6% slower than the fastest car in the class I was 4th of 5 drivers. First gets 9 points, second 6 points, third 4 points and fourth only gets me 3 points. It's a tough competitive class this year. That's actually a good thing. When I do find success I won't feel like it's a paper victory, and the competition is part of the fun. If I hadn't hit that cone I would have been less than .2 seconds behind first, and taken second. I'm certainly in the hunt.

Points standings look like this:

Don Kuehl (Blue Supercharged CRX)(3 events)24 points
Brian Kuehl (Blue Supercharged CRX)(1 events)9 points
Camron Bosnic (Flamed Turbo 240SX)(2 events)9 points
Bill Sallie(Blue Corvette with engine swap)(2 event)8 points
Gus Heck (Black N/A Lotus Elise)(2 events)7 points
Matt Neiman (Blue Turbo/Stroked Miata)(1 event)4 points

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Good practice

Over a month between SCCA races and what to do? Run with other clubs of course!

On May 14, I ran with the New England SVT Mustang/Cobra club. This club caters to muscle cars, in an area where muscle cars are just not as common as other areas of the country. Since they can't rely on Mustangs, and Factory 5 Cobras to fill out the ranks, other cars are welcome to race with them as well. They are a friendly, easy going bunch which is good for the enjoyment, but perhaps carries over into safety a bit too much.

My performance in the SVT event was pretty decent. I was running pretty fast, and I'm pleased to say that even with some fairly high speed elements on the course, I stayed agressive and on the second run of the afternoon (6th of the day) I put in a blistering performance. I had almost no major regrets about how I handled any of the elements. It was smooth, and clean and I had no cones through the entire run. But...

As I set up for my final blast to the finish I noticed that there was a spun out porsche that had gone out of the stop box and into the grass. It was about to pull back into the finish area.


I came to a full stop about 10 feet from the finish (and probably 50 ft from the porsche). After 10-15 seconds the porsche exited the stop box and I proceded across the finish line. My time was only 9 seconds slower than my best time of the day despite the full stop and wait. I'm sure I would have gained AT LEAST a second on my fastest scratch time. I know for a fact that I drove several sections substantially faster than any other run that day. I did ok on the turn around, didn't hesitate on the cone that caused so many people to go off course, took the second big corner in awesome form. I was fast through the slaloms, and on the gas early for the bigest straightest area. I slowed down less than any time before exiting that fast area, and still put myself in good position for the finish. Things just clicked on that run. Perhaps it was 103.6? perhaps even less?.

In another "Arggh, ALMOST" type moment, I also had a run that was 1.9 seconds faster but + 1 cone. The cone was at the finish, and there was no good reason to hit it, I just gave it gas a little too soon and based the cone on the way by. That run would have been a 104.6, or maybe I gained a 10th, hitting the cone, so say 104.7?

Perhaps the best part was when timing told the starter "Give him some extra space, he's a fast one." Nice to be called fast :). I also beat Barb Seger, although she wasn't on race tires, so it doesn't really count. In terms of numbers I was the 22nd fastest car out of 60. Imagining that I had not clipped the cone I would have been 14th fastest car, or if I not had to stop for the porsche, and my guess at the time is accurate I would have been 12th, or maybe 11th. So the top 20 out of 60 is clearly within reach, and the top 10 is probably still a bit tough to find.

On May 28, I ran with the renegade Miata club. In past events this is a club that I have tended to be somewhere between 20th and 30th fastest car out of about 65 cars. The course was tight and challenging, but the day was warm, and if there's one thing that old worn out hoosiers prefer, it's a warmer day. I ran fast, and consistently fast. One of the nice things about this event and the previous event was that my fastest official time was not a fluke. However in both events there was also a much faster time that got away. On the score sheet it says I had an 80.404 and my second best was 80.912.

The dirty secret however is that 80.912 was actually 78.912 + a 2 second penalty for hitting a cone. Just a little care and I probably could have finished with a 79.0 or so. That would have made me the 12th fastest car. As it was, I was the 16th fastest car, which is still a good improvement. However, it is worth noting that Renegade Miata doesn't attract quite as many high power cars, and their courses are more suited to small light cars. On the flip side they attract some very good miata drivers that don't go to the other clubs. Even so, I should do better there than SCCA or SVT.

All and all, I'm beginning to feel like there may come a day soon, when I stop hitting the cone at the finish, or a mystery cone on course, and take another step forward in the level of my driving. Once I do that, I will begin the hunt for fractions of a second. To date, I still hunt whole seconds.

And all of the above is on tires with 150+ runs. Based on the expressions of ghastly surprise when I told people how old the tires are and some durometer readings, I decided to mount the new set. Not a lot of excuses for next weekend now. Be interesting to see how i do on new tires. It's entirely possible that it will change enough about the car that I may have some adjusting to do. One interesting question is whether or not the tire pressures will need to change, I've been running 19 front, 21 rear (cold pressure). With my current setup, this leaves me relatively neutral. Only racing well tell us the answer.