Once again, Eric, my Contributing Blogger Extraordinaire, has come through with his honest & humble musings of SCCA Nationals SOLO competition notes & pix from Lincoln, NE.
Last week, my codriver Jay and I made our first trip to Lincoln, NE for the 2011 SCCA Solo National Championships. Unfortunately, the long tow was made even longer by the fact that our usual trailer was unavailable, so we made due with a U-Haul 16 footer that the car barely fit on, and it tended to sway at any speed past 62mph! The fact that both of our schedules forced us to leave at 1 a.m. Monday morning and pull an all nighter for the drive up didn’t help.
At last, we made it, and thanks to special arrangements made with the SCCA we were able to complete registration on Tuesday morning. Messing with our heads even more, however, was the fact that we were woken at 5:30 a.m. by a deluge of rain, thunder and lightning that left us wondering if we would be able to run at all. Then the lightning stopped, and we were able to register and make it through tech.
Super Stock was originally scheduled to run in Heat 1, but we were moved to Heat 2, which was both a blessing and a curse. It stopped raining right as the first cars took to the course at 8:30 a.m., but by the time we were scheduled to run conditions were still damp, and there was standing water in the “Tickets Please” part of the East Course, which also happened to be the tightest element. Many competitors had their rain tires at the ready, but 2/3rds of the field, us included, gambled that it would dry out fast.
The course was still slick when we made our first runs, with Jay taking a pylon and me taking, ahem, five cones on my first run. Our second runs in drying conditions weren’t any better, as we had a combination of extremely grippy concrete, well above what we are used to running on locally at Retama Park and Blossom, and still slick sections, such as the aforementioned “Tickets Please.” Both of us ended up with two pylons apiece.
Third and final runs were even worse, as Jay hit a wet patch and oversteered, almost spinning the car and going on the wrong side of a gate after taking out most of a cone wall, while I managed to destroy a good portion of “Tickets Please.” Here are videos of both my and Jay’s “best” runs, evidence of how slow we were.
Here’s Jay’s third run, Day 1, East course:
My third run, Day 1, East course:
After committing the previous atrocities against the Autocross Gods and defaming the Church of the Cone, it was no surprise that Jay was 38th and I was dead last in a field of 43 Super Stock competitors. Though at least we looked almost fast, as evidenced by these photos I stole from GotCone.com.
Day 2, at least, was dry, though the course was a whole bunch of slaloms followed by offsets and more slaloms, with a couple of sweepers thrown in for good measure. It was quite a workout, and my first run left me breathless and trembling, with bruises on both sides of my legs from the G forces of slicing back and forth. Worst of all, getting behind, misreading a sweeper exit, and driving below the car’s limits left me still in last place. Jay fared worse, as he almost spun the car again and took out another cone. We did a little better on our second runs, with Jay recording his fastest raw time of 70.32, and my 71.51 was still faster than my first run, even with a cone. And yes, we hit a lot of them, leaving gems like this mark on Sunshine’s right rear quarter panel.
At last, it was time for our third and final runs. I knew I was faster, if not cleaner, than the driver above me in 42nd, and that a pass without a pylon would prevent me from continuing my stigma of finishing last at national level SCCA events. Jay would tell me later that the announcer told the world that I would need a 72.8 to not finish in last as I rounded the final sweeper, and the result of my run was a very conservative but clean 72.1. Afterwards, I remember telling my codriver that it was the hardest I’d ever worked to not finish DFL. This artwork, left by Lord Alarcon on my rear bumper, pretty much sums up the event.
Of course, this blog wouldn’t be complete without a picture of 2011 Super Stock national champion Matthew Braun in his Lotus Elise. To eliminate the effect of Other People’s Rubber on his times, he had THREE SETS of new tires, one for each of his runs, on day 2. It worked, as his third run was his fastest, and he walked away with the jacket. Check out the air under the left front, now that’s maximizing your available grip. Hope GotCone.com doesn’t mind me stealing their snaps.
With that, our first nationals experience was over, and it was time to load up the sexy U-Haul trailer and head home. Sunshine went on a lot easier that evening than she did at 1:30 a.m. in the middle of my street with neither of us having had any sleep! And there’s nothing like a 15 hour long drive to think about all the mistakes we made and the future cars we would like to build. My Super Stock car’s not going anywhere, but there may be a blog about DSP in the future…
Many thanks to my codriver, who made the arrangements for the trailer and whose “Rhino” made it possible for us to get the car to Lincoln in the first place. Hopefully, next year, with some practice and coaching from my fellow SASCAers, including President Ricky who finished 3rd in B Stock and John in the “67 WHP” AE86, our results will improve!
You have to say about Eric’s persistence at his Nationals SOLO level of competition, he doesn’t quit! He’ll be needing more work on the “nut” behind the wheel. But Eric is getting GREAT experience. Learn me some autocross technique. Racing Ready is way behind in autocross experience!