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There is absolutely no better way to wake up than to the smell of open exhausts and the smell of race gas. That’s what woke me up Sunday morning April 2nd, my most recent BRR-SCCA auto-x. Since the race was about 4hrs away, I decided I would drive down the night before and throw up my tent to sleep in. I really didn’t want to wake up at 330am to leave at 4am. So I packed the tent, sleeping bags and some water for my one night stay.

The girl friend ran out to McDonalds to get some coffee and breakfast as I changed over to my R compounds. I parked behind David in his Corvair. David and I have become good acquaintances over the past couple of weeks. Mostly because I keep beating him, he even offered me his place to stay at the night before.

As I’m breaking lose my lug nuts on my left front, one of them is still really tight. I have to get my R comps on so I continue going at it. I end up breaking a wheel stud, not good. But I still have 4 more. I’m able to get the other 19 lug nuts off with no problems. I throw the R comps on and go walk the course. Then look over my competition. David is obviously here in his Corvair, Lynn in his Z06, Joel brought out his SM class and FTD capable Datusn 510, Chuck will be driving it also, the highly prepped Neon is present and Dustin is also present in his POS Rabbit. The 06 z06 didn’t make it out.

I got out to get race gas just to quell some knock issues I’m having. On my way back I turn the boost up and there isn’t much difference in total boost. So I pull over and turn it up some more. Again, there is little difference. So this time I crank it down, the boost controller bottoms out. I do another pull and I’m only at 1.9bar. Far off from where a Hallman Pro is supposed to be when turned all the way up. Also it’s off from where I got tuned at, 2.1bar. I have a major boost leak somewhere. Once back, I pop the hood and tighten down all the intercooler clamps that I have easy access too. I head out and do another pull with the same result. Hmmm not good. I don’t have time to take off my bumper and go through the rest of the clamps. So I come back in and pop the hood to tighten down even more of what I can get to. Upon looking through the engine, I see oil seeping through my exhaust manifold gasket. I also have some oil coming from between the head and block on the cam angle sensor side. This has me very worried. I check my oil level and its fine. I do the best I can to dry up the oil and head out to drive around again. I make sure to get into boost to build pressure in the motor. I come back and there is very minor oil seeping out through the exhaust gasket. I let the car sit and debate about whether I should run or not. Even if I don’t run I’ll stay and work.

The course has a decent start, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to launch because there is a left hand bend that leads to 3 ess turns. The ess turns then lead into a slightly off camber 140degree left hander. After the left hander you a straight for about 60ft before you stab the breaks for the Chicago box. You shoot out of the Chicago then brake hard for a decreasing radius left hander. After the left hander its hard right then left again which leads you back to the esses. This time at the end of the esses you go right to a very off camber 110degree right hand turn. The right hander ends with you switching back over to the left for a triangular skid pad. You do one lap around the skid pad which switches from on camber to off camber back to on camber. After the skid pad you are straight for about 40ft then it’s a decreasing radius right hander to the finish line.

As I finish walking the course I mention to David this course is really going to suit him. He asks why I think this. The car that will win today will have lots of camber to offset for the off camber turns. I don’t have any camber, so these off camber turns are going to hurt me.

After the drivers meeting I sign up to work station 1. The first group of cars out are the street cars and such. Lynn Combs is in this group. I pay particular attention to him as he almost beat me last time. Lynn seems to have a little trouble with all his HP in the tight turns. He can’t come out as hard as he wants. But he is fast through the Chicago box. The Chicago box is made to slow cars down my making a quick turn in the middle of a straightaway. It doesn’t slow them down by making the turn slow, it slows them down by throwing them off balance. The key to the Chicago box is to load the front end to make a quick turn in, then use the cars pitch to throw it back the other way to make a quick exit. Cars with stiff suspension work well because the excess body roll from stock suspension cars makes for tons of counter pitch over steer. Lynn’s best of 4 runs is a 52.9xx. At the time, he is FTD.

The next class of cars out are the Prepared cars. These are cars with stripped interiors and suspension work. Some of them can get quite fast. At my auto-x about 2 or 3 weeks ago, there was the white Neon with blue flames that I said was pretty quick. This course is really set up for his type of car. He and his wife (I think) are driving the car today. Watching his car through the ess turns is amazing. The front end rolls to were the tires are level and then she just grips and goes. This was an amazing car to see go. I was literally able to see the set up working for him. I really got a good perspective as to why I need to upgrade my suspension from stock. Anthony’s 4th run in his Neon nets him FTD at a 51.512. That’s going to be a very very difficult time to beat.

The next class of cars up are the SM, SM2 and STS cars. I’m in SM as usual. When the announcer makes the call for SM cars he exact words are, “…and we have some heavy hitters in SM and SM2 today.” In these two classes alone, there are 5 cars and 6 drivers that can walk away with FTD. The Corvair has 2 other drivers in it besides David. I watch the Corvair go through its first run and post a time. Nothing too exciting as the driver has never driven it before in an auto-x. I’m one of the last ones to go, on my first run I carry Chike as my passenger, I go easy feeling out what the car is going to do and get my shift points down. I post a 53.7xx Just going easy figuring it out. Chike doesn’t say much but is surprised as to how ‘fast’ I was going. I receive my timeslip and see that I’m 2nd in class. Chuck is driving the 510, and has posted a pretty quick time already with Joel still to run. I watch the 510 again and he is able to drop to a 51.957. I’m really gonna have my work cut out for me to get this going. I head out for my 2nd run and my girlfriend jumps in with me. This time I’m gonna push it a little bit. When I’m given the go signal I launch the piss out of the car. I launch so hard I spin all four R compounds and I can literally hear someone yell HOLY SHIT!!! At my launch. I go through the esses easy and make my way through the Chicago box trying to pick up my entry speed. I down shift to 1st after the Chicago box and make my way through the left hander. I upshift to 2nd upon exit but see that I’m off the boost. I keep it in 2nd realizing next time out to use 2st gear. I go back through the esses and hit the off camber right hander. I come in easy but I still get tons of under steer. I negotiate around the skid pad and shoot for the right hand finish. I cross with a 52.8xx. Still off the 510s time. My girlfriend gets out and I add air pressure (2psi) to the left front and 1psi to the right front. The rear I keep where they are at as the wear marks look good.

David jumps in the Corvair at this point and heads out for his first run. You can really see the difference in driving styles. The rear is sliding around a lot and he is fast. His first pass is a 52.7xx. Already faster than me I’m realizing my job just got harder.

Ok now its time to get down to business, no more playing around and figuring things out, its time to run. I’m in the start box and the light goes green. I slip the clutch just slightly at 6000rpm. Once fully engaged the tires throw up dirt and pebbles like a dog digging for a bone. As I start the left hander leading to the esses, the rear end swings out to the right. I countersteer keeping my foot in it. I grab 2nd and release a loud bark as they struggle to find grip. I fly through the esses and set up wide for the left hander. I power out and head to the Chicago box, I stab the brakes to load the front end. I steer in then get back on the gas to power out. Instead of powering out, the rear end starts sliding to the left, NOT the direction I want it to go. I stay steady with the throttle and apply countersteer. The rear tires are struggling to find good traction to keep me from going around. Suddenly I hear a pop! Like I hit a cone. The swings back straight and I fly into the tight left hander. I downshift to 1st and keep it there till I make my way to the esses again. Once past the first ess cone I shift back to 2nd. Through the esses again and into the off camber right hander. I downshift to 1st again and use it power out to the skid pad, I still leave it in first to have good power coming out. I shoot out of the skid pad and make the tight right hander to the finish. 52.2xx Good I beat David’s time, but I’m still 2nd in class! Joel is unable to beat Chuck’s time but finished up with a 53.459. A few of the people watching come up to me and tell me how close I got to knockin over the cones with my rear end out like that. They say they have never seen and AWD car with race tires get so loose before.

In the mean time, David heads out again in his Corvair. On his 2nd run he grabbed 2 cones so his 3rd run is important. He is tail happy through the esses. He powers through the finish with a 51.9xx Damn it!! But he is still 2nd in class behind Chuck in the 510. Because there were multiple drivers in the Corvair and 510, both David and Chuck make their final runs before me. I turn the radio to 103.1 to hear what the announcer is saying. I’m unable to watch, but I hear the excitement in the announcers voice as David slides his car through the course. Just as David is about to pass through the finish you see him slow down like he lost power. The time is close, 51.651, JUST missing FTD. But he has jumped up to first in SM class. The car after David takes off and I still have the radio on. I hear the announcer come over, “…and at the starting line ready to take off for his last run and hoping to claim his 3rd FTD this year is the Evo. Watching this car take off is amazing as Liam really has figured out how to launch his car.” I turn the radio off because I don’t want to hear what he has to say while I’m driving. I know I pushed too hard through the Chicago box last time, but didn’t quite push hard enough through the skid pad or esses.

I launch hard again and grab 2nd during my tail slide. I snake through the esses and make my way through the left hander. As I power out I set myself up tight (not out wide) for the Chicago box. This time I come in a little bit softer and try to make a straighter line. I’m a lot smoother but it feels like I’m a bit slower though. I downshift to 1st for the left hander and making my way back to the esses. I shift to 2nd in the esses and make my way to the off camber right hander and downshift to 1st again. Around the skid pad I concentrate on steering with the throttle letting off to tighten up and getting back on it to drift out. I swing out wide on the right hander crossing the line almost taking out a cone. I can see people awing and oohing as I cross the line. 51.604. ahhhhh!!!! I just missed FTD but I was barely able to knick David. This is the first race this year I haven’t gotten FTD but I still won my class. I lost FTD by .092 seconds and won my class by .047. The top 3 cars were withing .150 seconds of each other. Now that’s close racing.

My car was able to hold up on the way home. I have since bought two new wheel studs and will be getting those fixed next week. I haven’t had a chance to re torque my exhaust studs and head studs but that will be done also. The car was down on power but this wasn’t a power course so it didn’t matter too much.

Points are now up, I’m 1st in class by 12 pts. Had I gotten 2nd I’d be first by only 4pts. I’m going to miss the next SCCA auto-x. So I’ll lose the points lead. Hopefully I can make a few more events and post good finishes. I’d really like to try and win the SM class this year. I think its attainable if I can attain a few more races.

I don’t have many pics but I’ll post what I can.
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