And my story...
I got into the modding scene in 1997 when I paid off my '90 Talon TSi AWD, and was trying to decide whether to sell it in order to buy a new '97 TSi or not. When I found out about staged upgrades, I began the quest. I quickly got into drag racing and ran a 12.9x on my first ever 1/4 with that pesky little DSM. I even started up a local car club on base down at Camp LeJeune and had a great time, but my real goal was not to keep drag racing, but to progress through the levels of racing until I got into all-out rallying. Well, I considered the next step to be Auto-X, but my DSMs never had any suspension mods or handling ability with over 100k miles and worn stock suspension. I sort of put the racing goal in the back of my head until I finally decided to get an Evo after finding out about the 2005 MR. I sat on the waiting list for 6 months, then snagged it the day after it came off the truck. Even then, though, at such a price and as my daily driver, I was hesitant to do any racing. After 6 months of babying and doing no mods, I finally got started. I took 2 trips to the drag strip to see what I could do in stock/near-stock form and was quite pleased. Then, I met this guy ldstang50 and found out about an upcoming, local auto-x. I was a bit scared, because I though you had to have some sort of training or racing knowledge to even compete, or at least to do well. I had on experience whatsoever, but I signed up anyway. This is where the real fun began...
Woke up at 7am, saw the weather was nice, and then started the 30min drive to the auto-x. Stopped at the nearby gas station, raised my tire pressure to 38 all around, got some coffee, and showed up right on time at 8am. I was impressed by the large number of cars already there at 8am, but little did I know this wasn't even HALF of what WOULD show up. By the time we started, there were far more cars than I ever expected. When the cones were laid out, I went and took my first ever walk-through to get an idea of the layout. 20 mins later, they had a driver's meeting, then took us through an official walk-through. I did this one with ldstang50 so that he could give me tips on what to do at each gate. It was tough to remember/understand, since I had no idea what my car would feel like in these situations, nor how to properly brake/throttle/shift.
Well, the time came to start, but I was only in heat 4 (of 4 total), so I decided to work one of the cone stations to get a better understanding of the track as well as an idea of how experienced drivers navigated the course. Strangely enough, I ended up manning a station alongside the eventual FTD driver (Civic hatch w/K20 engine and 4 slicks). I saw many mistakes and several excellent maneuvers from which I was able to formulate a plan in my head. I also learned a lot from the FTD guy who commented on why certain people were losing speed when it wasn't necessarily obvious to the untrained eye.
After a few hours of waiting for the first 3 heats, I was convinced that I needed ldstang50 to ride with me, since it was my first try ever, and most of the other newbies had gone off course at least once or made really bad mistakes while trying to go fast on the first try. I just planned on taking it easy so that I could learn the course and get some pointers while an experienced driver assisted me. Well, it came time to line up and when I did, ldstang50 had to suddenly run out onto the course to work a cone station. Uh oh, now what do I do? I have been told I need to have someone ride with me on my first try, but I don't know anyone else except FTD guy. I look for him, but he's nowhere to be found and it's almost my turn. Eek. Oh well, I feel confident after 3 hours of watching that I will not go off course, so here we go. I line up and immediately realize that the launch I had intended to do (oyes AWD owns) was not going to be so easy, since the first gate was about 45-degrees to the left and not far away. How the hell do I launch straight ahead with a gate 45-degrees to my left??? Hmm, they won't let me line up at an angle either...damn. Ok, I launch anyway, and HOLY SHIZA, the gate is there immediately...crap, bank hard right...oh crap, still in first gear, hard bank left...wtf, I haven't even hit the gas again, but here's an even HARDER right hand turn...ok, I come around without sliding, but before I straighten out, I absolutely HAMMER it in first. Oops, 4-wheel spin even on those sticky Advans...and I spin all the way through the next gate and hit the rev limiter, but I can't shift to 2nd, because loookie here, I'm already at the double-coned right-hander. Holy crap, wtf is this...it's over 90degrees, so I have to come full lock back to the right, straighten out, but then bank hard back to the left to hit the next gate...still in 1st and hammer it again...crap, 4-wheel spin, since I nailed it too early...1st gear 1st gear still 1st gear spinning but moving forward fast...oops hit rev limiter, but am too close AGAIN to the next gate to hit 2nd, so I bank right then brake hard for the hairpin. I guess I hit it right, but wtf do I know...by now I'm not thinking, I'm just driving like a maniac. I come around the hairpin, and before I straighten out, I again think I can hammer it, but instead of sticking and shooting forward, all 4 light up again (notice a trend?). I spin all the way through the next gate, but for the 3rd time I'm unable to hit 2nd ,since I'm too close to the hard-left double cone. Well, I saw guys do this banana thing, so I try it...hey, it worked...wow, I'm perfectly in line to hit 3 straight gates without turning or braking...oh crap, because of this, I have too much speed for the last hard left, so I understeer and skid a little. I hit the next gate slow while banking back to the right. Time for the esses...these are fun, and I blip 1st through each S, then nail the brakes in the stop zone. Well, I hit no cones, my heart is racing, and my tires aren't as sticky as I thought, haha.
Helmet is on, so I don't hear the time, but I knew that the FTD guy ran a 41.0 on his first try before eventually hitting a 38.x. Of the 1st heat, the best time was in the 41s, so I know where I want to be. I drive back to go for run #2 and several Evo guys come up to me with big smiles. "Hey man, nice driving, you got a 39.8!! Holy cow, all I did was spin my tires like crazy and drive like a crazy man. I didn't actually have a clue, despite the good run, so on my next 2, I was still spinning like crazy en route to a 40.x and then a 39.0, but both were wasted by cone hits.
So, after another 3 hour wait in the afternoon, I got my chance, but this time I had a better feel for it, especially after watching how others were adapting. It seemed that I need to be in much more control instead of spinning wildly all the time, so I tried it. Run #4 got me a 39.1 plus one cone (2s), but I now felt like I had it down pat, so when I did run #5, BHAM, 38.5. Dropped a half second off my best time and with NO cone hits...almost flawless. Oh wait...what's this? I did the whole run with my A/C turned on from the cooldown between runs. Damn, ok, maybe I can drive just as well but with a little more power on tap? Ok, so I do run 6 and it feels awesome. I hit no cones and improved on some of my turns...but oh crap, they tell me the timer messed up, so I got no time, bah. Oh well, I got another free run, but I chose not do it, since I was already extremely happy, and I didn't feel like beating on the car again.
All in all, an incredible experience, so now I'm hooked!