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.

No comments: