A few things worth noting before I jump into the event reviews: the MINI is running great on the Pennzoil Ultra so far – oil analysis will let me know just how good it does, but feels great – smoother than OEM MINI oil for sure. I hit a solid 43mpg at one point with the MINI for my road trip to Chicago, probably at or around the best I’ve gotten any MINI to. Finally, the new alignment feels very good, more on that below.
This was one of the best autox days weather-wise I’ve seen – high mid 70s, low at 60. A bit windy out but not bad aside from that. Got to Rantoul the night before to avoid the early morning drive, and drove in the second heat. I had two major goals this event: PAX in the top 20, and win my class. What was interesting about this event, was that the person I considered my biggest competition in St. Louis in HS/biggest question mark, and his father were going to be driving their HS car at Rantoul. No idea why they came, maybe just to get some seat time before the first event at home – regardless, was happy to see them before the “main event” to see just how fast they were in their Mazda3 as opposed to their S2000.
Anyway, I started the day with a 58.8, and was able to whittle that down to a 57.743 by the end. Not really a big improvement there, a lot of little things to work on. I’m still working on my steering input, being smoother overall, and running tighter, better lines. Just need more seat time for that. The camera position that shows what I’m doing with the steering wheel has really helped so far. I should mention that the new alignment has put the car at a balance that I am extremely comfortable with. I think it just has a touch more toward oversteer, and for now that is perfect for me. I really have no complaints about the car, as it has been running ceaselessly without complaint. Should also mention here that I was able to stay flat out through the entire back sweeper until I had to slow down for the turn at the end. There was a solid hard bump in the middle of the sweeper, and the dampers took it with ease – no trouble in that department, and very thankful still that FCM tuned my dampers.
I did win my class, but it was a bit of a hollow victory, as it seems my rivals in STL HS had some kind of engine failure or something. Best of luck to them, as I was genuinely excited for the competition in STL in HS. Hopefully they are able to get the car up and running again. That said, I’m happy to earn my very first kill cone from CCSCC!
At the end of the event I wasn’t sure if I had made the cut for top 20 index, and as it turned out I indexed 21st overall. There were a couple of other fast STL guys who were there, and I’m not sure if my buddy Mark in his CTR would have paxed where he did, had Adam not codriven with him, but regardless, it was all me in the end, all up to me, and really it was mine for the taking. I needed to run a a 47.664 to crack into the top 20, about a tenth of a second quicker than what I did. From some feedback I’ve gotten so far, as mentioned, I’m still yanking the steering wheel, I need to have slower hands, and finally I need to do a better job looking ahead – I’ll write more about this later. I know there’s a lot of little things to work on, but I’m pleased with how I did. While I missed my goal of indexing in the top 20, 21st in PAX is my record driving alone at Rantoul. Video below, constructive feedback always welcome.
Rantoul Pax: 21 (+7)
Chi Solo 4/13/2014
I don’t know if I ever made this explicit, but the reason I’m running in Chicago events, aside from the seat time, is that I’d like to win the class championship there. This essentially amounts to winning my class in half the events, and Sunday 4/13 was my first venture with the Chicago region.
To begin with, we (Mark and I) had been watching the weather the entire week prior to the event for a big t-storm front that looked to be incoming. Even until the night before, we genuinely were not sure if it was going to be okay or not. We woke up around 3am when a t-storm hit our area, and the weather was still 90% thunderstorms all morning. 6am, we got up and STILL – 90% chance of rain all morning long, from 9am on. At this point we had to make the call, and we decided to just go for it – if it rained, it rained, and if there were lightning we’d go back – simple as that. As it turned out, AS we were driving to the event, the forecast for the morning COMPLETELY cleared – 0% precip from 9am to 2pm – perfect!
It’s worth noting here that Google Maps completely failed us regarding the location of the event. We were completely running out of time, completely baffled, and had no idea where we were actually supposed to go. I had to call the SCCA Chicago Solo Secretary to find the place (thank God he picked up a stranger’s call) and he was able to navigate us the rest of the way, and also get us registered before we got there. Pic below of where we were, and where we were supposed to be:
As soon as we got there, we basically RAN to prep our cars to be ready, and then RAN to get a single, running walkthrough of the course.
Chicago SCCA does an interesting format for their solo events – I’m not sure if it was this event in particular, or they always do this, but they ran a 4 heat format. Essentially, you work one, rest one, run half of one, and run your other half at another. I’m not an expert on this, and it did flow fairly well, but it seemed unnecessarily complicated. I’m also not exactly a fan of this format, as your tires get completely cold between heats you run. On top of that, it feels like, just as you start to sink your teeth into the course, you don’t drive any more until the afternoon.
My goals here with Chicago are the same as any other – win the class, PAX top 20. There was not much to speak of class-competition wise, as I believe most of the drivers were new – save for a 99 Honda Civic. Upon closer inspection it turned out that the car was a Civic SI – which I mistakenly assumed should have been in GS, and embarrassed myself by saying so to the driver – who turned out to be the region executive of all of Chicago SCCA! Oops. I think it’s safe to assume that he’ll be my main rival for Chicago SCCA’s HS class championship
The course was very unique to me. It was the first time that I had run in the Chicago region, and the style was very different. It was long, complex, and to me, not quite flowing. In comparison, Rantoul is fairly similar each event – a slalom part of the way up, a sweeper, a couple of turn arounds, tight corners, offset gates, a slalom back, etc. St Louis region runs very simple courses – simple, but hard to master – and they usually flow very well. Regardless, I think that being my first Chicago event, with one very fast running walkthrough, I did decently. There were a few elements of the course I wasn’t thrilled about – namely a curving slalom on the first stretch, and a very offset slalom on the way back, but that said, it drove better than it walked. Watching drivers run it during the first heat while I worked, it really looked like a front tire torture test. Anyway, I need to learn to drive whatever is out there – this all just prep for nats.
The actual results were a bit of a nail biter. All the HS cars basically ran in a row, and I wasn’t really focused on anyone’s times during my first run – just that I knew I should pay attention to the red civic si (he had a harness – hardcore). He ran first, with a 64.795. Because we were all bunched so closely together though, I had no idea. I ran my first run, all over the place, barely remembering the course, and I came out with a 64.372. The next run, the SI ran a 64.595, besting his first time by two tenths – after him, I ran a 63.462, furthering me in first place for HS. However, at the third run, the SI managed to run a 63.303 – ultimately his fastest time of the day. I had a lot to clean up even after my second run, so I was pretty confident I could get into the 62s – however, I scrubbed really badly at one of the back sections, and I knew I was done as far as the morning heat – and came up with a 63.808 – the error in the back probably cost me the victory for Saturday.
During the break, I had been watching my videos over and over and reviewing what I was doing wrong, and I knew exactly what it was. I was ready to come back with the mind to take the win, and then disaster struck – it had started raining during the break, all but sealing my fate in 2nd place. As it turns out, it was juuuust starting to dry out a little before my 4th run – it was still damp and very slippery out, but I had enough traction + fixing my previous error to knock out my fastest time of the day – in the damp – with a 63.459, .003s faster than my fastest dry time in the morning. Unfortunately, it started raining again between the 4th and 5th run, and that was all the MINI had in it. I will say though, I beat his wet times handily – he ran a 66.636 for his 4th run and a 65.368 for his 5th, compared to my 63.459 & 64.874 respectively. Again, it was mine for the taking – this time early on, but I just didn’t have a good handle on the course in the morning.
So, again, I missed my target of paxing top 20, and this time also missed first in class – by 0.15s. I’m encouraged by my run in the wet, and the fact that it was my first Chicago event, super hectic being late, and only one unfocused walkthrough. I’m confident that I can do this. This is just bench racing now, but if I ran a 63.459 in the damp, I could definitely have ran at least a second faster in the dry had I driven well. 1s faster alone rockets me from 42nd in pax to 24th in pax, well near my target. Like I said, I’m encouraged by the results – and ready to go get it for the next Chicago event.
Chicago Pax: 42 (+0)
Overall I feel like I’m slowly starting to gain confidence in the car, and thus improve. The offset gates just before the turn around in the Chicago event were WOT the whole way – even on the damp run (cringed as i did it though) – never would have been able to do that last year. Starting to learn, just a little bit, where to push the car. Now I need to learn how to control my inputs to create max traction (and lose traction) through various elements of the course. That said, when I look at the video from the CCSCC event, it’s a frustrating effort to come up with exactly what I need to do to drop times.
Can’t wait for the St. Louis home opener!
Run Count: 50 (6 CCSCC, 5 ChiSolo)