St. Louis Event #1 – Home Opener

St Louis region is where I have the most data from last year and what I’ve been most looking forward to as far as competing. Despite my best efforts last year in the old car, I ended the year 38th in PAX overall. No doubt this has a lot to do with me racing in HS, instead of THS (where you get a 0.975) multiplier – it was assumed that if you ran in HS you were on rcomps, which I was not. That multiplier would have bumped me up a few spots to say the least. This year, with the new rules changing to street tires only for stock classes, that won’t be an issue, and I’ll have nothing to blame but myself (and less than favorable street tire paxing for the first year). The HS PAX for street tires is now 0.797, as opposed to 0.804 for HSR. This means you have to be only half a second faster on a 45s course to outpax your street tire equivalent, which doesn’t exactly make sense – but it is what it is.

In addition to the overall more favorable PAX, we’ve got improvements with the car: Starting with the car’s options, or lack thereof, I’ve pulled off one main one from the old car – no dual panoramic sunroof. I’ve no idea exactly how much that thing weighed, but the estimates are about 60 pounds – for both windows and motors (rear one opens as well, but doesn’t slide back) all at the very top of the car. Not only was it bad from a weight/handling perspective, it killed about an inch of headroom that was crucial for the helmet, and I’m therefore a little more comfortable thanks to that as well. The rest of the options are insignificant as far as weight goes – seat heaters, which are inserts that weigh nearly nothing, and fog lights in the front and rear, which are actually still included on the cars options without them – just not given the toggle switch to turn them on and off. I have xenon lights, which should be fairly insignificant, and the old car had as well anyway, though the new car does not have the headlight washers in addition. I also optioned for cloth seats instead of leatherette. I think that does it as far as options. All else equal, I assume that that’s worth 2 to 3 tenths of time per event for the weight & handling savings alone.

Then we can look at modifications I’ve made to the car. The 2008 model was completely stock, with factory sport suspension. Starting with the most important piece, I’m moving from racing on 195/55-15 ZII’s which were absolutely pinched on the factory 15×5.5 wheels to 205/50-16s on 16×7 Enkei RPF1s. While the setup is of course a little heavier, I’m gaining 1.5″s of width at every corner. This setup should generate much, much more grip than the old one. While the ZIIs aren’t as sensitive to being pinched as other tires, it is wheel width that largely determines how much contact patch there is. So regardless of what tire width I choose, there will be more of it touching the ground on a 7″ wide wheel than a 5.5″ wheel. So that’s the first thing. In addition to the wheels, I’m running the stiffer JCW springs, thicker JCW front sway bar, and Hsport Competition Rear Sway Bar. Not only that, I have Fat Cat Motorsports custom valved Bilsteins keeping everything nice and controlled, and are playing a big part in keeping the body, suspension, and tires happy. I have the JCW strut tower brace, but I don’t think that does anything. Last but not least, I have the Schroth harness, keeping me in place and more focused on driving. This may sound like a lot, but considering the increased wheel with, stiffer and much improved suspension, I’m willing to bet it’s worth a full 1s over the old car. And total, perhaps 1.2 seconds faster overall. For example, at the last event, that would move me from 36th in PAX to 18th in PAX, assuming the same 0.804 index – it’s crowded at the top. Overall it looks like I did quite poorly pax-wise last year in the beginning of the year (I didn’t remember it that way). I think it’s safe to assume that I’m at about the same skill level I was at the end of last year, making me good for mid 20s PAX-wise – until I get better. There are other factors as well – a lot of people were using the street tire index (0.975) and it was really bumping them up in PAX – now that the playing field is more even, it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out. Still though, I think I can expect mid 20s in PAX to start, though I don’t want to limit myself 🙂

So, how accurate was I?

Event & Results:

One of the new things the St Louis region is trying this year is choose-your-own-heats. This is good in that you can run whichever heat you want, but bad in that you don’t necessarily run with people in your class. Another side effect is that, once u are preregistered in the heat you want to be in, you’re stuck. This being St. Louis, we had the threat of thunderstorms coming for the event day the entire weekend. I had decided to run 3rd heat, and we were looking at 30-40% chance of rain by noon, to 90% chance of rain by 2pm – fortunately, we got absolutely zero rain for the entire event. A lot of guys had moved to 1st heat before pre-reg ended watching the forecast, but I figured this should be my worst St Louis region event this year, and it shouldn’t matter anyway if it rains or not, since only the fastest 6 events count for index and class championships. Fortunately enough though it did not rain. It was also my first event at Gateway Motorsports Park, which uses sealed asphalt – low, low grip. Gas started at 8/9, down to 7/9 by the end of the day.

With much of HS already being done by the time I was coming up to drive, I had a solid target to aim for. My two main competitors, an ’03 Mini Cooper (which isn’t technically stock legal) and an ’07 Mazda3, had been duking it on in the morning, with the Mini Cooper winning by just 0.023s, getting a 52.041. Not sure what kind of time I’d be running, I went out and ran a sloppy 52.642 to start. This was a good baseline, though I’ve been known not to improve too much over the course of an event, so I stayed cautiously optimistic. However, the times kept falling. I ran a 51.259 on my next run, getting a mystery cone somewhere. Then a 50.698, followed by my fastest raw run of the day – a 49.973. However, I was hit with a cone call, but again, no idea when or where I hit it. My 5th run was my fastest counted run of the day, 50.283. I think this run was actually potentially my fastest, but I horribly screwed up the final corner, probably lost a solid half second. Overall though, this was the best I’ve ever done in the St. Louis region. I crushed my class by nearly 1.8s, and even greater if my fast run was clean. I also placed 20th in PAX. I’m still a little bummed, as my fast run would have put me at 16th in PAX.

Overall though, pleased with my performance, and about where I was expecting to be at the start of the season. To be clear though, my lines were pretty bad throughout, still working on getting that right, setting up the corner correctly, steering inputs, etc. all that. We’ll see if I’ll be able to improve on it as the year goes on. I’m hoping so. 1 second faster on this course would move me from 20th to 6th – and it’s definitely out there and doable, I just need to keep working on it. Videos below:

Fastest raw run:

Fastest counted run:

St. Louis Solo PAX: 20th (+0, Record)

Final results here.
Class Championship results here.
Index Championship results here.

Things to work on for next event:

  • Attack the slalom, backside the cones
  • Visualize the line, look ahead and be proactive in taking it

Run Count: 55

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