Category Archives: Eric, Contributing Blogger

Eric is a serious autocross competitor friend of mine. He has a greater commitment to the sport & has a fun car (a yellow Corvette he calls Sunshine) to compete with. In addition, he is a great writer, with his own distinct style. His posts lend a good overview & he shares his various competitive trials & tribulations, holding nothing back. Eric’s blog posts make for a great read!

Tadpole Jumping to Froggy at AutoX, by Eric: Part 2

Continuing from Eric’s previous post, here in Part 2 of his ongoing Froggy exploits, we are introduced to a variation of  HPDE (high performance driver education) at Harris Hill Road (H2R).  As Eric describes, there is more than autocrossing that you can do with your daily driver or weekend racer.  As a bonus, this is all less than an hour from San Antonio, Texas!

Taking a break from autocross, new SASCA president Chris, who’s also a member of Harris Hill Road, organized an impromptu track day on doomsday, 12/21/12.  Because I want to save my A6s for autocross, I ran the Mustang on the OEM Pirelli P Zeros.  Surprisingly, I didn’t hate them, and a video from one of my sessions is below.  They did start getting greasy towards the end, hence I backed off once I caught Chris’ Miata, since we were already five laps in at the beginning of the video.

Jay also debuted my former E36 track day car, and since he’d never driven H2R before, I was in the driver’s seat of “LittleE’s” first ever track laps showing him the line.  The car ran great until the right front corner light popped out!  Nothing that some painter’s tape couldn’t fix though.

Between the two of us, we also got some on-track shots:

Eric's former E36 track day car

Eric's Mustang exiting the H2R Mustang turn

Chris' Miata going into the H2R front straight

Eric & his Mustang setting up for a H2R hairpin turn

And in true apocalyptic fashion, my odometer hit 666 miles!

Apocalyptic odometer hits 666 miles

Which brings us to the first SASCA event of 2013.  Despite the fact we close registration at 9:30, there were so many people in line we didn’t finish processing everyone until 9:45, when we ended up with 132 registered drivers.  You could tell it was a big event by the size of the driver’s meeting.

SASCA crowded drivers meeting

First time course designer Jason set up a fast layout, and since Jay is to co-drive my car at the SCCA Championship Tour in College Station next month, we decided to put him in the car to make sure he was comfortable.  Once again, F-stock was in the course cleanup first heat.  Jay improved every run until his fourth, a 33.11.  Unfortunately, I forgot to hit record before that run, so here’s his third, a 33.31 +2.

Meanwhile, I started with a 33.45 and would have my best clean time on the second run, a 32.94.  Again, I forgot to hit record before my second run, so here’s my fifth, a slightly faster, but dirty, 32.84 +1.

As an experiment, I tried running ¼ tank of gas at this event, having run previous events at ½.  This proved to make the car a little on the loose side, and having two drivers in the car with little downtime between runs made her looser still.  Adjusting rear tire pressures lower helped, but despite spraying with water, the tires would still get greasy towards the end of the run, as you can see when I come out of the bus stop in the above video.  The fact that I had to stop for a corner worker on course and took a rerun without any downtime didn’t help either.

Eric poised to start an autocross run... wonder if that's the Stig

In any case, with the new SASCA mandate of not showing double driver results in the final event listings, I finished 14th in raw time and seventh in pax, with Jay 17th in raw and 11th in pax, a pretty good outing for his first time in the car.  This time, both Nathan and Camaro driver Mike captured some external shots.  Check out the dust trail from Froggy’s right front wheel in the pic below!

Note the dust trail from Froggy’s right front wheel...

In the meantime, a lot of newcomers have been showing up with various iterations of the new 5.0 Mustang, including the Boss.  Some people would be very surprised by how good these latest S197s are.

Boss 302 Mustang in school bus yellow

Pair of Mustangs - a dark grey 5.0 & a white Boss 302

Another Mustang, a black 5.0, ready to autocross

And some not so new-comers, as the 2012 GT below is owned by Brian, a Nationals trophy winner in ESP.  This car is gonna be quick once he gets his new Hoosiers mounted!

Brian's 2012 GT, a Nationals trophy winner in ESP

We have a few more local events before Froggy makes her SCCA debut.  By then, the Koni sport shocks I ordered from Matthew at WLTS Auto Sports should be installed, and lighter Forgestar wheels will replace the 31lb Ford Racing bricks currently wearing the Hoosiers.  With the positive results we’ve had so far, I’m really looking forward to this coming season!

Eric's Froggy anticipating further upgrades for autocross improvement

We at Racing Ready continue to enjoy sharing Eric’s refreshing point of view of his autocross exploits.  He also gave us a peak into the world of amateur HPDE (high performance driving eduction) with his visit to Harris Hill Road.

This coming summer I look forward to fixing Karlino‘s catalytic converter issue & getting back into some autocross action – it has been more than 1 year.  I am more than overdue!

Dan

Tadpole Jumping to Froggy at AutoX, by Eric: Part 1

Over the past few months Eric has been starting to get a handle on his new Froggy (a sweet, in-your-face Gotta Have It Green 2013 Ford Mustang 5.0 GT model).  Below is Part 1 of the process.  Eric has nicely documented his getting familiar with the Mustang’s autocross abilities & what he is modifying to improve its capabilities.

It’s been a long time since my promised update to Froggy’s autocross adventures.  So, to make up for it, here’s my quad event report, with a bit of the Mustang’s first track day thrown in for good measure.

ATE Super Blue high temp brake fluid

As mentioned in my last post, I decided that a swap to high temp brake fluid was in order, so I broke out my trusty vacuum pump and replaced the OEM stuff with ATE Super Blue.  My car, being a track pack, came with Performance Friction pads from the factory, which I felt would work well for autocross.  On went the MBRP axle back exhaust I’d ordered earlier, saving some 20lb of weight over the stockers.

MBRP axle back exhaust

With fresh Hoosiers mounted, I attended SASCA’s 11th event of 2012 at Retama Park, which was a fair sized event with 104 entries.  F-Stock was in the first run group, and my first ever pass was a tentative 34.19, with announcer, “douchebag,” and all around good guy John making fun of me the whole way.  Watch videos in 720p for better quality.

Fortunately the car, even with stock alignment, had good balance and put power down well, and I learned to trust her after just a few runs.  My fifth pass, below, was a much better 32.64.

Later, while helping to load the timing trailer at the end of the day, I read the timesheet.  My time held up for 15th in raw time and eighth in pax, tying my best ever pax result in four years of autocrossing the Corvette.  Once double entries were filtered out, I received fifth place pax points.  As a bonus, FR-S driver Nathan was on hand and came up with some great action shots.

Froggy's debut at SASCA's 11th AutoX of 2012 (photo courtesy of FR-S driver Nathan)

Unfortunately, the heavy Mustang has brutal tire edge wear, wearing some of the sidewall lettering right off!  Immediately I had them flipped by my local Discount Tire, hence the outside edge of my right front is shown on the inside of the rim.

Worn right front Hoosier on Froggy after AutoX

Fortunately, there is an SCCA stock class legal procedure for gaining more negative camber using Ford crash bolts.  So, it was off to Federico’s shop to get them installed.

More negative camber using Ford crash bolts on Froggy

We ended up with -1.8* left and -2.4* right camber once the bolts were maxed out.  Since I’m planning on replacing the shocks anyway, I left the camber as it was and had the toe set to zero, and it was in this state that we attended the last Spokes event of 2012.  After working registration and getting tire changing help from John K., Froggy was ready to run.

Froggy ready for 12th SASCA AutoX of 2012

D-prepared national champion Drew set up a tight, challenging course in the low-50 second range in a lot where most layouts are in the 40s.  The alignment change netted an immediate improvement in turn-in but I found myself struggling, often late and not getting on the power soon enough.  I wasn’t using all the track, nor all the capabilities of the car.  As a result, my best run, a 55.08, was only good for 23rd raw and 19th pax time out of 72 entries.

After the disappointment, I didn’t have to wait long to try and improve, as SASCA event #12 of 2012 was the very next weekend.  84 cars were in attendance, and this time F-stock was in the last run group.  Due to a mishap involving an S2K, we were limited to five runs, but as you could see, the course was an open layout my car loved.  This time I saved the best for last, a 42.06.  I’d wanted 41s so bad, but it wasn’t to be.

What surprised me the most was that the time was not only good enough for 9th in raw time, but 3rd in pax, less than five tenths away from multi-time national champion Dr. Erik in his 3-rotor RX7, seen in this awesome pic by Perry Bennett at Nationals last year.

Dr. Erik in his 3-rotor RX7 at 2012 Nationals (photo courtesy of Perry Bennett)

In Part 2 of Eric’s Froggy adventures, Racing Ready follows his green Mustang’s exploits of autocross with some rewarding on-track action.  Sometime this year I will experience a ride-along in Froggy to truly enjoy Eric’s Ford Mustang’s capabilities.

Dan

Autocrosser Forced Ride Change: Not By Choice

We have not heard from fellow autocrosser & esteemed Contributing Editor Eric for a spell.  Well, a couple of months ago, upon his return from an autocross event, his trusty steed Sunshine took a turn for the worse.  I will let Eric explain:

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged, so I felt I should go back a couple months to September’s Spokes event at San Antonio Raceway, and what would turn out to be my last competitive event with Sunshine, my yellow C5 Z06 Corvette.  As you can tell by the pictures, it was a typical Spokes watercross, but still some 82 participants braved the rain.

Spokes wet 'Watercross' at San Antonio Raceway - staging on the grid - SEP 2012

As you can tell from the picture, at the beginning of the event, the rain was light, and remained that way throughout the first heat.  However, as the day wore on, it began to pick up until it was difficult to remain outside of the car between heats.  I lucked out that my work assignment was inside the trailer doing registration, and I can only imagine what it was like for the corner workers.

Eric's Sunshine's last autocross - Spokes SEP 2012, at San Antonio Raceway

Once again, Super Stock was made up of me, and Ray and his son Peter in Ray’s grey Lotus Elise.  The increasing rain made for some interesting challenges, including deep puddles that would send geysers of water over the hood and windshield of the car, making it almost impossible to know where you were going unless you looked far enough ahead in advance.  Unfortunately, my GoPro battery had died and thus I was unable to record any of my runs, and I left my spare at home.

Spokes wet 'Watercross' - not ideal weather, but makes you learn faster to drive well, or not!

Peter complained too that his Lotus, which was running Toyo R888s, was pushing badly, while I felt the Corvette’s balance, on fresh Nitto NT555R2s, was spot on.  In the end, it showed in the results.  I managed to pull a 56.20 on my third run, edging Peter’s 56.44 on what seemed to be a Lotus beneficial course.

All was fine until, during my drive home, the unthinkable happened.  The car snapped sideways for no reason while I was driving 60mph in a straight line on the highway, with all traction aids on.  The result was this:

Eric's Sunshine meets its final fate...

Fortunately, a number of my SASCA brothers and sisters stopped by to make sure I was still in one piece, and one of them, John T, let me sit in his car for an hour while we waited for a tow truck.  For that, and not minding the pieces of glass raining off me and onto his seats and carpet, I will be forever in his debt.

The insurance company decided, with every body panel and every window blown out of the car, and a big dent punched into the bottom of the frame from the wire barrier, that the car was a total loss.

Out a ride and with check in hand, I began searching for another autocross car.  Several I examined, including the GT-R and C6 Z06, would be expensive to buy and expensive to prepare, while several others, like the 996 chassis 911 Carrera, had the potential to become money pits.  Much as I loved her, after 7 years I didn’t want another C5, which brought me to a local Ford dealership, where I found myself behind the wheel of a steed similar to the one pictured below.

Candy Red Mustang 5.0 teaser ad

One test drive, which left salesperson Lee a little white faced, convinced me that the new Mustang was an improvement over the ponies of yore.  The Coyote 5.0 was powerful, flexible and responsive, while the chassis was very well balanced up to and beyond its limits.  The suspension was a little soft but I figured shocks would fix it, so I went trolling for quotes on the Internet and received the best one from Ted at Mac Haik Ford in Georgetown, Texas, who was able to sell me a custom ordered GT for just $600 over invoice.

Eric's new Ford Mustang 5.0, & the last you'll see of the Mac Haik name...

This past Friday, I took delivery!  Of course, because every day with Jay is an adventure, while giving me a ride to the dealership in his new C6, this happened…..

Dealer bound for Eric's new Ford Mustang 5.0, former class competitor Jay has to change a tire

…..but by leaving his Corvette by the side of the road and going back for it later, we made it to the dealership on time.

The Mustang is a Gotta Have It Green base model with tech package, 6-speed manual, Recaro seats and the track package that my wife’s nicknamed “Froggy.”  Some pics are below.

Eric's new Ford Mustang 5.0, in all its green Froggy glory

Eric's new Ford Mustang 5.0, here's the heart of the matter!

Just so she has some grip, my buddies at Discount Tire on 281 mounted up a set of Hoosier A6s on a second set of Ford Racing black Brembo package wheels.  At over 30lb each, the wheels are on the heavy side, and will likely become street wheels while I source more lightweight competition shoes.

Mods so far are limited to the wheels and tires, and a replacement of the stock brake fluid with some ATE Super Blue.  The car’s stock mufflers are quiet and heavy, so I ordered an MBRP Pro-Series axle back exhaust from Dan B. at AmericanMuscle.com, which should be worth about 5hp.  I can’t speak enough about his customer service, so if you need anything for your late model Mustang I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them!  Some stock-legal Ford camber bolts are also in the works, though they may not be installed until the shocks are replaced.

Her debut event will be this coming Sunday’s (11-NOV-2012) SASCA autocross, I’ll let you know how we do!

Well, Eric’s debut was actually yesterday & so we will have to wait & see how Froggy behaved.  It looks to me that he was in a class of his own; there was no one else in his FS (F Stock) class.  🙁  On the bright side, Eric was able to PAX in 8th out of 104 entries (with only 1 cone).  I’m impressed!  But oh well, Racing Ready anticipates good things for Eric’s new ride!

Dan

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

 

Ready for 2012 for Racing? I Wannabe!

2011 was a relatively lackluster year here at RacingReady.com… I will admit I lacked speed passion!  It was also a tough year for motorsports…

Dan Wheldon - 1978 - 2011 - Rest In Peace...

I DO have some plans for 2012.  I hadn’t participated in actual autocross running since this past summer when I co-drove my Contributing Blogger’s hot, yellow Corvette – that was FUN!  Thanks again, Eric!!!

This past weekend, my good friend Brianne Corn has brought RallyCross competition to South/Central Texas.  I was there, & will blog about it.  For now, I will say it was VERY interesting!

TexasRallySport logo

Next, I’ve volunteered to be the SASCA January 2012 autocross course designer at Retama Park.  I’ve done a few courses at the previous AT&T Center parking lot (3 years ago) & more recently at the NEISD parking lot.  This is my first time creating a course at Retama Park.  As usual, it will be an interesting challenge & I may have a surprise, or 2.

Skyview of Retama Park lot, 2012 SASCA Autocross Venue

Although I will still keep my 1999 Mazda Miata, Karlino, in the stock CS class, I may be able to make some upgrades to Karlino that could make it more competitive, later in the year.  We shall see…

Karlino getting unexpected tire(s) replaced! [December 2011]

There will be other new & exciting events I don’t know about yet, but we ALL know about the Austin Formula 1 USGP, scheduled for next November 18, 2012!!!  WooHoo – WOOT!

Racing Ready is getting ready for a new & VERY interesting New Year.  May it be a HAPPY one for you all!

Dan

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.

sasca 11 10 16 1

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.

sasca 11 10 16 2

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.

sasca 11 10 16 5

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!

sasca 11 10 16 4

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.

sasca 11 10 16 3

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

Eric’s AutoX Improvement at 2011 AutoX #9

Eric participated at the September 2011 Autocross #9, which was a co-event with both SASCA & SPOKES.  In this event, Eric made many turns for the better:

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.

The Corvette, Jay & Eric, Autocross 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.

Cars on grid, waiting to autocross on the smaller Retama parking lot course...

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.

Troy's autocross steed

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)

AXWare SS Results from SASCA-SPOKES Points Co-Event Autocross #9, September 18, 2011

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.

Robert's four-legged friend...

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!

Dan