After the debacle that was my first SCCA Solo Nationals, I decided to use the SASCA/Spokes combined autocross #9 as a sort of test and tune session, to play with my shock settings and tire pressures . As a bonus, the weather remained under 100 degrees. I remembered to bring sun block and my codriver, Jay, made it out with Vader, his 2003 Z06. The result was Super Stock wouldn’t be a one car show.
Due to an at-work incident, I was late in arriving at the event. Jerry from Spokes and Hubert filled the registration chairs, with me substituting for Tom, normally our Membership Chairman, who got pressed into service as our coursemaster. Though this event took place at Retama Park, our usual lot was unavailable due to a horse that may or may not get spooked by the noise participating in a $250,000 race, so we were shuffled into a smaller corner lot that had neither been run on nor cleaned.
Because of the shortness of the course, each of us would receive eight runs, with my group going off in the second of two heats. After riding with everyone’s favorite announcer, Troy, in his white SSM Corvette, I had a fair idea of the course layout.
But what I wasn’t expecting was my car’s reaction as I entered the first offset. Despite driving at what I thought was 9/10ths, the car got completely sideways, almost turned around, and I only managed to save it thanks to a little luck and a little following of the old maxim, “when in doubt, both feet out.” Chalking the run up to cold tires, I tried the same thing the next run with pretty much the same result. In the meantime, Jay was navigating the course fine, without any undue weirdness with the handling of his car. Because he was running much older tires than I was, we’d decided to keep the setup of his car on the soft side, with pressures in the low-30s and the shocks at around their middle settings.
Was car setup making all the difference on this virgin surface, despite our difference in tires? The “Slalom City” Nationals west course setup was still on my car, and I decided to find out by dropping my rear tires two psi and taking two clicks out of the rear shock. Up until that point, due in part to my sideways antics, Jay was faster than me by over 1.2 seconds. So back in the crowded pits, I laid on my back and got to adjusting, taking two clicks out of the rear shocks and two pounds out of the rear tires. Watching my power application a bit reduced the difference in our times to a tenth and a half, as you can see from my third run below.
For the next run, I decided to take two more clicks out of all four shocks. The next run was a spin, but I felt things were headed in the right direction, so I lowered the pressures in all four tires by two pounds each. At last, the car was driveable, and I managed to sneak into the lead with a 29.0. Two more clicks out of all four shocks resulted in a 28.8, for a half-second margin over my friend. I tried lowering the rear one more click for the next run to see if I could hit the transitions a little harder without losing the car, but the car picked up a push and slowed down. Adding the click back in the rear and lowering the front tires by an additional pound gave me a car I was happy with, and my time that final run was a faster 28.8, despite getting behind in the offsets leading up to the finish. You can see the progression in my times from this snapshot of the results, found on the Axware site. (Click to enlarge)
So what does all this mean? Even if, like me, you’re not a National level driver, you can still pick up time by experimenting until the car feels the most comfortable to you. There’s no sense in fighting the car and yourself if you’re not happy with the way it’s set up. I learned that about six months ago, when Federico finally got the corner weights on my car all sorted out and the car became much easier to drive. Though after speaking with that other Erik, you know, the one who is fast and a multi-time national champion, he suggested that lowering the rear of my Corvette could result in a more stable platform. Something to try in the future. I’m sure Robert’s four-legged friend, were he able to speak, would agree.
In the meantime, next month (thanks to William) I could be behind the wheel of a different Corvette – one that makes a full 150 horses more than the ones I’m used to. Best of all, my Hoosiers will be taking the place of the intermediate tires he’s currently running. Like our host, I’m always eager to try something new. We’ll see what happens!
Well, it looks like Eric’s car handling woes are on there way to the past. I’m glad he was able to have an autocross event with many consecutive runs. Eric’s experimentation paid off!
Racing Ready continues to appreciate Eric’s continuous improvement & submissions here – keep up the great work!