Saturday Morning San Antonio Cars and Coffee

This past Saturday, Karlino started a new tradition to cause his owner, me, to get an earlier start on Saturday activities: Coffee & Cars.  I wasn’t awake enough to think about bringing my regular camera, sorry, these are 3MP camera pix…as usual, click to enlarge.
[This was located at Panera’s, outside 1604 & Blanco, in San Antonio, TX]

Coffee & Cars panorama at Panera's parking lot

I happened to stumble across this local event after I forum-posted about an older couple autocrossing their BMW 325i.  What I had done was shoot that post out to the Strictly European Autosports forum, & then I read a few recent postings out there.  Apparently, some of the folks & a SEA administrator, Harold, had done this last month & was drumming up more support for others to go out there.  Of note, this was similar, but different than the Biff’s Burgers Cruise Night gathering…

Karlina in the midst of a motley crew...

A Karlino closeup moment, shining clean this Saturday morning!

It was a success for Canada to US trucking in my eyes.  After I had done a quick wash & dry of Karlino, I showed up about 9:15am and there were at least 60 cars – a great turnout!  The variety was good.  The majority of marques were European based, but their was a fair representation of Japanese & American iron (even a 4-door Avanti)!.  There was only one other Miata besides Karlino, it was Diane’s sweet 10AE.  We’ll have to get more of a Miata representation at the next one!

A European mix

Fast America Road Iron & others...

A high-end Honda & Lotus mix

A luscious Porsche mix, with a 4-door Avanti in the back!

I even met John, a former co-worker from some jobs ago that I hadn’t seen in over 18 years.  He was driving an awesome metallic blue Dodge Viper GTS Coupe (SWEET!), with at least 600HP & the suspension had been set up by Tommy Archer.  Here’s a couple of pix of John’s car I “borrowed” from SEA participant, Gabriel’s (gabe2222222), photobucket account…

Under the hood, V-10 Viper power - image 1

Under the hood, V-10 Viper power - image #2

John has been the owner of this velvet beast for the last 8 months & it has never been raced or see any rain.  He is being tempted to run it at Harris Hill Road, but for some reason he’s holding himself back.  C’mon John, go for it!

A grand marque variety; John's Viper is in the middle of the action!

Karlino & I plan to participate in the next one.  Racing Ready wants to know, do you have any sort of these impromptu, casual car meetups where you hail from?


No Limits In AutoX, With A Stock BMW 325i

I met an Austin-based couple, Mary Ann & Steve,  at the SASCA 2009 AutoX #6.  I had heard somebody mention that these folks were autocrossing their stock 2007 BMW 325i – that I ought to seek them out. Both husband & wife were competing, and they are at or near retirement age.  Unfortunately, I was only just able to visit with them just as they were leaving.

The stock 325i BMW still looking good after a day of autocrossing

One of the comments they both shared was this.  In learning how their car responds at its extreme limits tested in autocross, this has helped them in their day to day driving on the street.  Steve said he was able to avoid hitting a deer with his newfound car control skills – that convinced Mary Ann & certainly makes a strong case for the practicality of doing autocross!

Homeward bound, San Antonio to Austin, after autocrossing

This just goes to show you that you can drive whatever your daily driver is  & be at whatever age.  You can come in at whatever experience level and still enjoy the autocross experience.  So, if you haven’t gotten out to autocross, you still have a lot to look forward to.

325i BMW cockpit

Their BMW is completely stock.  Even more interesting is that they are making use of ContitProContact SSR  run flat street tires by Continental, all around.

These are the stock Continental run flat tires!

Mary Ann was quoted in an Austin America-Statesman online article a few months ago, saying:

It’s more about finesse than speed,” she says “That’s what I like about autocross. It’s something fun and keeps the mind engaged, and it’s something I get to do with my husband, Steve, who also races.

The stock 325i BMW engine bay got the best service for BMW Repair.

Racing Ready continues to be happily surprised (& pleased) at the variety of people & cars that show up at autocross events!


How To & What Is Autocross Tech Inspection?

Earlier this year, SASCA had a self-tech get-together & cruise.  The intent was to do a Sunday morning mini-Hill Country jaunt, have everyone do an Annual Technical Inspection (so they could qualify as “self-teched” for the remainder of this year) & then eat burgers.  Well, it was too damn cold to do the tech inspection, so we all got the handout below & then ate.

IndyCar Tech Inspection

Here are the contents of that handout (this is a good reference):

2009 SASCA Self Tech Inspection for Members

Self tech does not mean no tech!

– Mike Roberts, former SASCA President

You are responsible for the condition and safety of your vehicle.
Prior to every event you will check the following:

Safety Helmet:  If you bring your own safety helmet, it must be DOT approved at a minimum.  The club provides loaner helmets for people who do not have one.

Safety Belts:  Original safety belts, at a minimum are required.  Shoulder belts are not required, if your car did not come with them, but you must have a lap belt.  Belts must be firmly attached.

Solidly Mounted Battery:  The battery must be held down properly.  If it can be moved at all, it will not pass.  There are some additional battery requirements which may affect you if you have modified your car.  The Tech Inspector will help you out with them.  No bungee cords.  Zip ties are not a permanent solution.

Legal Tires:  In Stock and Street Prepared categories, the tires must have measurable tread, and must be in good condition.  Excessive weather check or visible cord/plies will fail inspection.

Brakes:  The brake pedal must be firm, with no loss of pressure when held down.

Steering/Suspension:  The steering must be tight, with no excessive play.  Wheel bearings cannot have excessive play.

Hub Caps and Trim Rings:  Hub caps, trim rings and wheel covers must be removed for competition, unless they are bolted to the wheel.

Lug Nuts:  You must ensure that all lug nuts are present and secure.  It is also a good idea to check their torque.

Loose Items in Car:  All loose items must be removed from the passenger compartment and trunk.  This includes floor-mats.  You may remove the spare tire and jack, but you are not required to if they are properly secured.  (This includes sub boxes and other AV equipment – if not solidly mounted it needs to be removed.)

Fluid Leaks:  Excessive fluid leaks will not pass inspection.

Numbers and Class Markings:  The car numbers and class markings should be prominently displayed on both sides of the car in colors that contrast with the paint, and should be large enough to be seen from the timing trailer.  Numbers must be on both car sides and not on the windows.  Painters tape is available for people who don’t have magnetic or paper numbers.

Adequate Muffler:  Your car must be quieter than 95 dbA (RLS) measured 50 feet from the course at a place where you are under full throttle.  Due to the possibility of losing sites for noise problems, this rule is strictly enforced. (If your car is quiet enough to avoid attracting Police attention, it will most likely pass the noise requirement.)

Throttle:  Accelerator pedal (and/or under hood cable) must have a return spring and operate freely.

A tech in time saves stitches.

– Benjamin Goodwrench Franklin

These are good, no-nonsense rules to follow & will prevent a number of possible mishaps that could occur on the autocross course, if adhered to.

Racing Ready supports proper autocross & general safety preparation.


Inconsistant IndyCar Racing Lines @ Infineon

Infineon Raceway logo

I enjoyed those action packed last few laps of this past Sunday’s Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway (the 2.303-mile, 12-turn course formerly known as Sears Point).  This is one of my favorite road courses, regardless of what racing series plays there (Spec Miata, Indy Car & even NASCAR).

Dario Franchitti on the Infineon Raceway course

Dario Franchitti lead from pole to pole, garnering the maximum amount of points, including most laps lead – all 200 75 of them!  It was interesting to watch the action packed variety of approaches that different drivers took at different turns.  It was as if the apex of each curve seemed to move at each lap of the race progressed.

Infineon Raceway - long configuration

Racing Ready was awed by the variety of different drivers attempts at creative passing attempts.  But they REALLY screwed things in the first moments of the first lap…

First lap melee on the first corner - what a mess!

Say what you will about the “push to pass button” concept, it does make for some variety & lack of ho-hum racing.  I wonder if this is something Formula 1 might want to consider…?


Future Fate Of Affordable Roadsters?

What’s the future of affordable 2 seater convertible roadsters?  Just recently I read about the demise of the Honda S2000 – it was a good 10 year run…

Last of the S2000's, front view...

The 2009 model will be the last year that the Honda S2000 will be offered for sale.  Honda is throwing in the towel, what with the car sales choices skewing to a different paradigm.  Too bad!!!  Here’s the link to the article.

Last of the S2000's, rear view...

There are quite a few of the S2000’s out there, being driven enthusiastically – in autocross, road racing and, I’m sure, in other venues.  I have yet to drive one ( I might consider an autocross co-drive, if someone will have me…hint-hint).

As to the future of the Mazda MX-5 (Miata)?  Well, they are considering a smaller (?) version, tentatively named the MX-2.  I can’t imagine this car getting any smaller, but the prototype sure looks sharp!

Rendered Mazda MX-2 prototype - hmmm

MX-2 prototype, rear view - Again... hmmm

What other 2 seater affordable roadsters are out there?  To me affordable is quantified by an about $25K ceiling, so the only other car models available within that criteria are the Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky “twins” (I think that Sky got the better styling out of that deal…).

What’s your opinion – do you concur?  Of course, if you consider used, that might increase the options of choice.

Racing Ready is looking forward to some pleasant banter about this…


Autocrossing As Eventmaster

This past Sunday I was in the dual role as both Eventmaster & autocross event participant.  This autocross was the last event SASCA put on at the AT&T Center parking lot.  We lost our contract & are in the process of looking for a new autocross home.

Karlino, my “new ” 1999 Mazda Miata did okay, more of less.  I was proud of 2 things:

  1. I improved my times on each successive run
  2. I didn’t hit any cones – yeah!

On the autocross grid

There were over 70 competitors at this autocross!

Unfortunately, run #4 was very poor.  Something happened to the fuel management – it was as if Karlino had the hiccups, I could not get full power.  This condition disappeared as mysteriously as it appeared.  Oh well…

Below is an overview of the AXWare Systems printout of my runs – click to enlarge:

Karlino Results - SASCA 2009 AutoX #8

At this event I was 10th out of 21 Novice competitors, no improvement from the last autocross, but not really worse, either.  In July’s event I was 8th of 18 Novices.

Karlino, my Miata, posing alongside other autocrossing Miatas...

The next autocross will be a co-event with the SPOKES Club at the San Antonio Raceway, on Sunday, September 27th, 2009.  Racing Ready continues to learn what I can do with my bone stock Miata to improve course times.


Last AT&T AutoX – Frustration Of Constraints

WOW, what a long & thorough day as Eventmaster at yesterday’s SASCA 2009 AutoX #8!

Seems to be some definite posing going on this autocross grid.

Here’s the “Reader’s Digest” version: It started early & ended late – much happened…

Here’s the FULL story.  No matter what you design down on paper, it really doesn’t come to life till you drive the lot with the truck packed with cones.  Basically you drive the way the course was drawn & yell out the back window the number of cones you want dropped.  Then you walk around, set the cones in their relative positions & discuss/debate racing lines & curve/slalom apexes.  There’s a lot to think about & to take into account.  As an Eventmaster you have to have a thick skin, as all will critique the course & have their own opinion.

But the person whose opinion I trusted the most was Steve, the SASCA Safety Steward.  He provide much good insight & autocross sense.  Based on years of experience in autocross, he helped make my course both safe & with a good momentum flow.  He’s also a very competitive autocross driver with his 2008 Mazdaspeed3.

A field of cones...

Over the course of the morning, most of the comments I got related that it was a tight course, but challenging and fun nonetheless.  The raw course times ranged in the 44 to 54 second range, depending on the car & who was driving it.  Not bad since we were reduced to a smaller lot size to work with.

After lunch, the real challenge occurred.  After only about the 4th car or so, the runs stopped.  Karlino & I were oblivious, “hiding out” in the Miata-produced AC, trying to put a dent in the oppressive over 100 degree heat.  I finally ventured out to see what happened.  I noticed a yellow Honda S2000 had stopped at the far end of the lot, 1/2 way through the course.  Apparently Hisham has lost a bolt or broke a hose & left an 18″ wide trail of lightly sprayed engine oil all along the first half of autocross course racing line!

Steve conferred with me, advising that as Eventmaster I had to make a decision:

  1. Call it a day, and stop the autocross event
  2. Sprinkle kitty litter, absorb the oil as best as possible & sweep it up
  3. Move & redo the course by about 40′ plus

I went with option #3.  In moving the course, and removing a couple of gates & superfluous cones, the racing line was a little faster & the course shorter by about 6 or more seconds.  Since this was at least a 1/2 different course, the decision was made to make this a “Divisional In A Day” course.  That is, the morning heat times would be considered the “Day 1” times & the afternoon heat would be those of “Day 2”.  Thank goodness for AXWare Systems software to make all the variety of numbers (event results)more manageable.

SASCA 2009 AutoX #8 - 1st heat grid

Being Eventmaster requires you to stay till the end & assist (delegate) clean up.  Once again, with the use of Craig’s Tundra 4X4, we went out to retrieve the now stacked cones, radios, fire extinguishers & safety flags.  The last thing to do is consolidate all the “stuff” into the timing trailer, lock it up & hitch to the truck.  We finally got out of there by about 5:30pm – an 11 hour day on site – Phew!

Racing Ready may consider doing more autocross Eventmaster stints…but when it’s cooler.