Friday, July 26, 2013

Ayer Match Tour 2013 - Day 2

On the second day, the top 32 and top 8 ladies spend the morning feeling cool, and staying cool (except when they are assigned to work the course). They get to watch the rest of us contend in the "last chance qualifier" (LCQ). The LCQ gives you just 2 runs to prove your worth, and after the LCQ is complete the top 16 and 8 randomly selected drivers get to participate in the afternoon festivities.

My first run I was focused on driving a good line. I was relatively smooth with what I felt were nice lines, but evidently I sacrificed a bit too much and didn't push hard enough. I wound up a second slower than the previous. Awaiting my last run of the LCQ, I was haunted by the ghost of last year's final run. Last year I was on a near perfect run that was very fast and was fouled by a missed breaking point resulting in 3 cones.

For my final run I left the line in good shape I beleive I shifted slightly better and gained a little more speed than the previous run. I had been given some advice that perhaps I shouldn't let up on the gas at the end of the starting segment, but as I went into the first hard turn on the course, I could feel that if I didn't lift, the car was going to push and I would be in bad shape for the next element so I lifted to help the car turn in as before.

I carried more speed than ever before around the next element however and made a good entry and exit on the following slalom. This set me up for a good run to the hairpin turn onto the taxiway. I ran hard, braked hard and got the car to turn nicely, but it felt as if I sacrificed a little to much speed. I was not slow, but it felt like it had been a bit better on other runs. I instantly converted that feeling to a conviction that there was absolutely no excuse for me not to have a perfect entry into the next element, and so I ran the taxiway slalom as hard as I could, and close to the cones, quickly getting back up to speed.

My big mission for this final run was to be faster on the section after the taxiway. I broke as late as I dared, turned  and found myself looping a bit wide on the exit from the taxiway but also carrying a lot more speed than before. Since my car is underpowered relative to some of the monsters out there I was not entirely unhappy with this result. I immediately gave it as much gas as possible and I'm sure that although there was still room for improvement I was faster than previous runs.

The other big adjustment I had been struggling with through my previous runs was finding the breaking point at the end of the very fast section after the end of the taxiway. I had chickened out on several earlier runs and applied the breaks too soon. I was determined not to do that this time. Unfortunately I slightly overshot and the car threatened to spin. I wound up partly sideways, had to counter-steer and I lost significant speed, almost coming to a complete stop. For sure, I dipped under 20mph, but I did prevent the spin.

For a fraction of a millisecond my heart sank. Loosing speed there preceding the transitional section where my car should be faster than many other cars, was almost certainly the nail in the coffin for any attempt to get into the match portion of the event. Then experience kicked in. Runs where you get a little bit wild and off line are often runs where you've carried more speed than previous. So as long as you haven't actually spun out or hit cones there is always the chance that you only gave up what you gained, and you can still gain through the rest of the course.

With that thought, I once again parlayed the lost speed into a determination to translate my "velocity deficit" into "excess control" and perfectly place the car for the next section. The result was, I finally got a really really good result on the next big hairpin turn that preceded the next taxiway. I had watched the top drivers run that turn and noted that they often seemed to negotiate it by turning, easing up just slightly and then turning harder. I managed to do that for the first time. This worked very well and I was perfectly set up for the next section with good speed.

The remainder of the course was 2 iterations of essentially the same maneuver An S-curve leading into a nearly straight section followed by a turn. I ran both of them better than either of the previous runs. I'm fairly certain I was around a second faster in the final segments of the course and lined up for my fastest finish of the event. The net result, I gained a second over my first run, despite almost spinning and loosing tons of speed. My improvements exceeded my errors. The time was still 4 tenths less than my best time the previous day, but it was clear that had I put together a very good recovery, and landed myself 55th for the LCQ. If you add back the 32 qualifiers and perhaps a few of the women qualifiers who might beat me that''s similar to ending up 89-90th across all competitors. Just a few places worse than the previous day, but not very different. I did not get lucky and get picked as one of the 8 randomly selected drivers.

I'm still no threat to the winner's circle, but I've clearly improved over last year. And that's something of a victory.

Oh yeah, and the Match competition that I didn't get to participate in... That was fun to watch. Tom O'Gorman managed to run 58.5 - a full 7 seconds faster than me in the panda which is an SM car... and the ignition was misfiring on his run. His time was faster than Stacey Strout in her A-Modifed car! Truely incredible. You can see one of his runs on You Tube. Notice how he is always close to the important cones. 1ft away from the cone appears to be a long distance for him!

By the final Four it was all NER drivers, Billy Davis, PJ Corales, Brian Kuehl, and Dave Gott. Dave in his STX car faced PJ in the Panda, first and lost by a slim margin. Then Billy Beat Brian. Brian took the 3rd place run-off. This left a single run to determine the winner. Both cars had undergone repairs *during* the match competition, but in the end, it was Billy Davis by 0.1 second for the win.

Congratulations to Billy and the other winners, and thanks to the National Office for putting on a un event! Can't wait for next year!

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