Event #2 for the St. Louis Region Solo took place at the Family Arena, where all the events were last year. With the big mulch pile gone, we had a lot more useable space for this event, though the asphalt is really starting to break up now here..
I had just come back from a wedding in Chicago that morning and arrived late, with no chance to walk the course. Shouldn’t have really mattered though, as I did get one ride along before I drove it, and should have seen it enough times after that. While I’m comfortable with the site, this course was definitely the fastest I’ve ever driven – there were two spots on the course where I should have gone into 3rd. The first was in the early stretch of the course, right after the Chicago box through the offset gates and before the sweeper, and the second time coming back the other way through the high speed walloms. However, I only went into 3rd going back through the walloms. I sat on the rev limiter for probably a full 1-1.5s going up though, probably hurt me a little there. I’ve hardly ever had to go into 3rd, definitely not in the MINI and even maybe only once or twice in the Evo, so that was quite an experience.
The bar was set high for the event, with my main competition, an ’07 Mazda3, setting a very decent time in the 2nd heat – a 51.533, which put him pretty high in PAX at the time. My first run was a total DNF – I just hadn’t seen the course enough times, and got lost coming down through the offset gates and skipped a few of them before the sweeper. Still, the 52.727 was promising, just 1.2s off pace of the Mazda3’s fast time. Next run I cleaned it up and ran a 51.912. Still not familiar with the course, but more promise. My 3rd run was my fastest raw of the day – somehow coming up with a blistering 50.136 – but I hit 3 cones. The aggravating part is, I don’t think I even “needed” to hit the cones – sometimes I just get a little lazy as far as moving out of the way or off my line if a cone is in the way. Anyway, had this run counted, I would have torched the class again, as well as gotten 10th in PAX. Very good sign. I just needed to back off a little and get a fast, clean run in. Sadly though, this was not to be. I think subconsciously I backed way, way off due to all the cones I hit that 3rd run. My 4th run, which still would have won my class, was a 51.399 – over a second slower than my fast run, and I still hit 3 cones! With the pressure mounting, I had one run to go. I put down a solid effort and came up with just a 51.585 – clean, but 0.052 seconds too slow, losing the class and winding up 21st in PAX.
As I watch the runs I can tell that I’m way more hesitant about everything, partly because of how much I was coning, and partly because I really needed to get a faster clean run in. I’m also really hesitant on braking – I really need to put it on its nose, but because of the “ice mode” issues I ran into the last event, I’m scared that I’ll run into that if I brake too hard. I don’t think this is the case though – I started braking a little harder for my last run, and all of the big braking zones I actually ended up slowing down too much for.
So, while the final results are disappointing, I am starting to show little flashes of brilliance (lol). Nowhere near at a level to compete for a trophy at nats, but I no longer feel plateau’d, as I did in the old MINI near the end of last year. For example, at my last event in the old MINI last year, my runs were (save for a DNF the first run) 44.092, 44.479, 43.866, 44.016, 44.068. I just felt like I hit a wall where I couldn’t find any more time. In the new MINI, perhaps thanks to all the runs in such a short period of time (getting close to passing the total runs I did ALL of last year), I’m starting to see gaps where I can pick up more time. I have yet to really have a clean run this year that I’m really proud of. I no longer feel like there is any wall, just tons to work on as a driver.
3rd run: fastest + 3 cones
5th run: fastest counted. I have backed way off at this point
St. Louis Solo PAX: 21st (+1)
Things to work on for next event:
- Attack the entire course harder
- Visualize the line, look ahead and be proactive in taking it
- Brake harder/more aggressively
Run Count: 60