SASCA 03/2012 Novice School & AutoX, by Eric

Once again, my contributing blogger Eric, has done a very nice job of autocross journalism.  Here he reports the trials & tribulations of SASCA‘s March 2012 Autocross Novice School & Event.  These both took place on the same weekend, March 3rd & 4th, 2012.

(I apologize for the delay in getting this posted.  I had been busy coordinating efforts initiating the SAF1C Formula 1 race watch parties.  For details regarding our first successful F1 race watch party here in San Antonio, TX, click here!)

After feeling like my autocross performances have been stuck at a certain level (and, in some cases, worsening), I decided to participate in the annual SASCA novice school this past weekend.  The school attracted a wide range of participants, ranging from rank novices who’d never even autocrossed before to drivers who were in the hunt for trophies at last year’s SCCA SOLO National Championships.

SASCA AutoX #3 - Sunshine awaiting autocross fate - 2012-MAR-04

One of those hardware hunters, John, along with regular Honda CRZ hybrid racer Jeff and I were teamed with multi-time national champion and Grassroots Motorsports Magazine contributor Andy Hollis.  From the moment we embarked on our course walk I knew we were in for some serious learning, as Andy pointed out some visual cues that would aid us in navigating the course as fast as possible, not the least of which was waiting for slaloms to “open up” before turning into them, and beginning the slalom as early as possible to maintain speed and smoothness, and to keep from getting behind.

Autocross cone confusion... ya think !?!

Once we took the wheel, the focus became looking ahead.  My first couple runs were jerky, and then Andy took the wheel and had me look at least one element ahead while he drove.  All the time spent aligning, weighting and adjusting shocks and tire pressures must’ve paid off, because his only response when I asked him what he thought of the car was “don’t change a thing.”  When we switched back, he talked my eyes through the course, and I was amazed at how much slower everything became just by changing where I looked.  I was driving the course instead of reacting, and naturally staying closer to the cones without even trying.  The result was the following 28.9 on the morning course, which was more than 1.4 seconds faster than my first runs.

Sunday’s regular event brought yet another large turnout, with 109 drivers taking to the course, which made for quite the sprawling crowd during the driver’s meeting.  Vivek came up with a design that was both challenging and fun, with a long slalom broken into two offset halves, some sweepers and several tight turns leading into an even tighter finish.  Unfortunately, due to a complaint about noise, first car out on course was pushed back to 11 a.m., but no one seemed to mind.

SASCA AutoX #3 - Drivers Meeting - 2012-MAR-04

Jay would once again be my co-driver, and as we were the only Super Stock car on R-comps, he would be my main barometer, along with club president Ricky and his new “smurf blue” S2000CR, picked up in his relentless pursuit of a jacket (and some free tires!).  There was plenty of other fast machinery on hand as well, as you can tell by this snapshot I stole from Jon of his fully built 914 next to Federico’s super 3.2L Boxster.

SASCA AutoX #3 - Autocross preparation on grid - 2012-MAR-04

Right away, I knew the instruction I received was paying off when Jay’s iPhone mount, which was never an issue in the past, was restricting my ability to look down the course.  After running a 38.16 and picking up a cone, I asked him to remove it for my runs and clicked off a 37.45 and then the following, a 37.21 on my third, and fastest, run.

Meanwhile, Jay was stuck with his first run, a 37.55.  He would also run the slightly slower 37.55 below on his fifth, and final, pass.  Our times were pretty close, but if you look carefully he got a little behind on the slalom, which enabled me to eek ahead of him by a nose.

Just as telling were our relative times compared to Ricky who, on tires with a similar number of runs, posted a 36.89.  Why is this telling?  Because while I was about .3 slower than he was this month, last month I was over a second off his pace, and I was on relatively fresher tires to boot.  Hats off to Andy and his instruction, cause pretty soon I’ll be able to run with the B-Stock cars and take the (virtual) N for Novice off my car – LOL!

SASCA AutoX #3 - Eric enroute from grid to his autocross start - 2012-MAR-04

We’ll see what happens in two weeks at the SCCA Solo National Tour, where we’re all gonna be on fresh rubber.  And if Dan lets me, I’ll write all about it right here.

Racing Ready is thankful for Eric’s candor & style in blogging about our shared autocross passion – hope you enjoyed the read as much as I did!  I look forward to his next post.  GO RACE!

Dan

 

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