Eric Not Tired of Corvette Autocrossing

A change to cooler weather has brought a change to Eric’s ride at SASCA‘s latest autocross, on October 16th, 2011.  Here’s Eric’s (our great Contributing Blogger Extraordinaire) latest autocross contribution to learning to successfully autocross a barely streetable friend’s Corvette!

Sometimes, the best laid plans run into problems that can’t be overcome with what’s at hand.  Such was the case with the plan that William and I came up with for this past weekend’s SASCA autocross #10.  As some of you may know, William is the owner of a red 2002 Z06 with, well, let’s just say significant engine mods that puts it in the Super Street Modified class.  But up until now, he’s competed on an “intermediate” tire, the Nitto NT555R2.  One day, we decided that it would be a great idea to throw my Hoosiers on his 470rwhp killer and codrive it.  So I loaded up the wheels, a jack and some tools into my trusty E46 and headed down to Blossom Athletic Park, where I met an enthusiastic William, who was looking forward to running my slicks on his car as much as I was.

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Unfortunately, my CCWs have a lip at the back surface of the wheel.  Which, combined with the Baer Eradispeed +2 rotors on the rear of his car, caused the rear calipers to hit.  Even with a ¼” spacer, there still was not enough clearance, so we reluctantly put his wheels and tires back on the car.

Due to the thrash of trying to get everything together, we almost didn’t get to walk the course, not finishing until the driver’s meeting had already started.  But because I worked registration and SSM was running in heat 2, I was able to go back to the pits and put our numbers on while the car owner was shagging cones out on course.  Check out the glorious taped class letters next to Jay’s number 42, which goes quite well with the red car I think, and my inadvertent capture of most of the SSM field, with Federico’s epic Boxster and Craig’s ballistic Teal Turd in the background.

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Before our runs, I took the opportunity to drive William’s car around the parking lot at slow speed.  I knew the car had a SPEC Stage 3 clutch, but what I wasn’t expecting was the effort required to get the car into first gear, or reverse for that matter.  Launching was extremely difficult for me because the clutch was like a heavy on/off switch, but once moving I was surprised by the speed and ease with which I could shift into second.  Still, I managed to pull the car into line without stalling.

William would go first, since I’d never even ridden in his car, let alone driven it.  Even though I knew it would be a lot faster than my Super Stock Z06, the acceleration still blew me away.  The car felt responsive thanks to a set of Pfadt sway bars, and the 555R2s were similar to the RA1s I use as wet tires.  Still, I had a hard time getting off the line my first run, but once going the shift to second was like butter.  One thing I noticed right away was the car’s immediate reaction to my right foot, and the tendency for the rear tires to break away at anything more than part throttle.  The car wasn’t as planted under braking as my car on Hoosiers, and as a result I tiptoed around the course to a time that was 1.4 seconds slower than the car owner.

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I spent the rest of the runs trying to get used to the car.  In the meantime, William was manhandling the car around the course, putting down every ounce of power he could and slinging the car sideways at every opportunity.  Here’s a video of him launching his bright red beast, and the first half of his third or fourth run (I forget which).  470rwhp has never sounded better.

We would receive six runs, and it took me until my very last pass to finally launch the car better than someone who’s never driven a manual before.  In the end, my times were about 8/10ths off the pace of the car owner, who was about a half second off the pace set by everyone’s favorite announcer, Troy, and Federico, in their Hoosier shod bright yellow Boxster.  Though next time, since my fat ass sits in front of the registration computer in the a.m., remind me to change my car classification to the correct one!

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Afterwards, Shayne, who was watching us compete from a corner, commented on how drastically different the driving styles were between my car owner and myself.  He said I was smoother and seemed to carry more momentum in some places, but William was much faster because he was utilizing his car’s massive power to its fullest, while I was puttering along afraid to blow the rear tires away.

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What a difference it would’ve been in my Hoosiers had fit on his car!  As it was, the SSM class Corvette with its massive power was massive fun to drive, though I feel I would need at least a couple more events behind the wheel before being able to utilize it.  Many thanks to car owner William for giving me the opportunity to get behind the wheel of his monster.  Next month, it’ll be back to familiar territory, as I attempt to maximize Sunshine’s shock settings for Retama Park.

Racing Ready has been AWOL from autocrosses of late, but Eric inspires me to re-consider co-driving again.  Eric thank you SO much for keeping the autocross faith!

Dan

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