This past Saturday marked my most recent auto-x. This one was held up at Harry Grove Stadium in Frederick, MD. Home of the Frederick Keys minor league baseball team.
Since my car won't be running till (hopefully) Friday I was forced to use another car. This weekends exploits were to be taken in a 1991 Mazda Miata owned by my friend Kyle Bowker. Thanks Kyle!
Saturday started very early, 530am to be exact! 1 cup of OJ, 2 bowls of cereal and 2 cups of coffee later, Kyle and I were on our way. My job as an organizer at this auto-x was to do tech and instruct new drivers.
There was a strong chance of rain so we only had about half the scheduled cars show up, 42 to be exact. Among them: the k20a powered Hoosier equiped Civic, Pete's s2000, Clayton's MR on R compounds, Mike Moran in his Hoosiered Subbie RS AWD, Jake Moran driving the k20 Civic, a Hoosier shod Miata on full coilovers, Charles' M3, Denny Mitts in his R compound SE-r, Francois in his tuned WRX, Gonz in his capable WRX and of course the British sports cars and various other Miata's and M3s.
The course was wet with runoff water from rain the day before and there are a lot of spots where water can stand for long periods of time. This made for a very interesting morning session to say the least.
I was really curious today, because I regard the Moran Bros as two of the best drivers in the club, and Jake is driving the Civic. I had never thought of Brian Karwan (the civic owner) as a good driver, I always thought he placed well because of his car. So with a good driver in the car I expected Jake to take FTD by a lot.
The course was fast without too many tight turns. This course definetly favored the short or quick powerband cars with good grip, this was Evo territory!
From the start gate you turn right and mash the gas grabbing 2nd as you head to the first gate. Flick back to the left for gate two the back right and straight for 70'. Then its a tap on the brakes to load the front end and make a flick left. Careful here because these ends in a hairpin left. Stay tight on your exit of the hairpin to set up for the right hand 270degree sweeper. The right hand sweeper straightens out for a second only to tighten back up and then open up again. The good drivers were able to keep their foots down in 2nd gear through here. This then lead to two easy flicks of the wheel balls out and into the stop garage. Some of the real fast cars had to brake before the timing beam or then would have run out of the stop box. Running out of the stop garage means you DNF'd or did not finish. Basically its a disqualified run.
Kyle drove his Miata in the morning session, his best of 3 runs was a slip sliding 35.3. Turns out Falken Azenis and wet roads don't make friends. I was in the 4th heat. My whole goal in the morning session was to break into the 33s. The fastest time at this point was Clayton with a 30.55 in his MR followed by the Civic at a low 31 and Mike with a mid 31.
I adjust the seat to my likings and get a feel for the car and how everything is falling into place for me. In my first run, I feel the car out with a 34.6, no where near pushing myself or the car. The track is trying up and the air is nice and cool. This is where the fast times will be made. I had much better track conditions than Kyle had hence the already faster time. My 2nd run put me at 34.1. Hmm getting really close to that goal I had set for myself. By the time I'm up for my 3rd run I have the car and course figured out. I zig and zag, and try not flat spotting the tires coming into the super fast stop garage. I was able to reel out a 33.88 in my 3rd run. I was happy with that. I might have another .5 seconds in the car in the afternoon, but its gonna be tough. I'm really lookign forward to Kyle jumping back in and seeing what he can't pull off.
Meanwhile the slicked Miata has run a low 33. The driver pulls in and has a talk with Kyle. Them Miata owners.....
I'm getting the cars gridded for afternoon runs an I come across Kyles ticket. Instead of his car being there, its the white Miata I had just mentioned. WTF!!!!!!! I'm never going to beat him if he drives that!! Well to back up my statement, Kyle goes out on his first run with the car and runs a 33.1 tail flailing out like you trying to waive down a taxi in NYC. His next run he drops to a 32 something. Then his last run he scrapes off a few more tenths. He ends up running a low 32. There is no way I'm going to be able to come close to that in a basically stock Miata.
Oh well, so much for being the fastest Miata driver today. As I'm gridding the 2nd heat I'm talking Brian about the day and cars and how Kyle got to drive that Miata. Now mind you, I do not know Brian. I know him as the Civic owner. I couldn't even tell you how old he was or where he was from. I only know his name because of the car. During our chat of how Kyle got to drive the Miata, Brian asks how I would feel about driving a FWD car. I say it wouldn't that great. I like RWD or AWD. I would only drive one that was prepared. He then asks if I would like to drive his car. I stammer and stutter to make sure I heard him correctly. "I'm sorry, did you ask if I wanted to drive your car?" "Yes, would you?" "Man I don't know, I feel bad cause my car isn't here to return the favor." Brian replies, "Don't worry, I'm letting Jake drive it, you drive pretty well, lets see what you can do." Sweet, I just got hooked up to drive a car that has taken 3 FTDs this year so far.
In the afternoon, Clayton is unable to drop his time. Granted he did take people out in his first 3 afternoon passes. Brian on the other hand is able to drop to a 30.77, still not quite good enough to catch Clayton.
Jake, again drives Brian's car in the afternoon. Mike, his brother, tells him I'll be driving in the car also in my heat. I had beaten Mike about a month back at Freedom HS driving Ed Chan's TR6. Now I was gonna have a chance to beat Jake. Jake was only able to bust out a 31.6 in the Civic. Credit his bad day with him having a pinched nerve in his back from the auto-x the week before.
Before I line the car up I get list of times of who is up top. Clayton is #1 with a 30.55, Brian is 2nd 30.77, Mike 3rd with a 31.10. I don't know where Pete was, Jake was up there with a 31.7.
I sttrap my self into the Sparco racing seat and 4pt harness and I take off for my first pass with the car. The car spins its Hoosiers off the line. I grab 2nd at 9000rpm then quickly tap the brakes to load the front for the left hander and turn the wheel. The car responds, but the wheel doesnt' fall back place upon acceleration!!!! I wrestle with the car on my first lap and run a 32.2. As I'm lining back up, I play with the steering on the car and realize there is no power steering. Hey thats a good reason why I have to fight the wheel and turn it back to center.
My 2nd pass I pull a 31.72. Whether I was ahead of Jake at this time I don't know. I just know I am getting a better handle on the car.
Mike is workign the start garage. He mentions to me that it looks like I am getting a quick handle on the car. He also doesn't forget to mention that he ran a 31.1 and I'm am still off his time. My 3rd run in the afternoon I start using the gas and realizing this thing will stick!!! This car has gumballs for tires and solid steel beams for suspension. I lock up the tires and use human ABS as I run a 31.3. I'm happy I beat Jake, but now my sights are set on Mike.
Let me catch you up to speed here incase I went too fast. I'm driving a car I've never sat in before. Heck I've never driven a Honda before this day. The seat doesnt' adjust, so I'm sitting too far away from my comfort zone. And I've never driven anything on slicks before. You don't realize the potential of slick tires until you drive on them.
I tear outta the gate for my 4th and final run. I'm hittin my marks and being a lot smoother. Fortunately my brain is caught up with the car so I'm able to plan ahead instead of making adjustments along the way. Human ABS stops me in time to hear I pull a 31.10. Tied for 3rd on the day! I'm happy I was able to tie Mike in his own car and get within .3 of the owner. Brian comes up and congratulates me afterwords. This car was a real handful to drive and I commend him for being able to handle it. I'm sure had I driven the car in the mornign I could have contested for FTD. I definetly could have tightend up my line. I just never realized how much these tires would stick. I was stayign way outside entering the hairpin when I could have been in 10' closer and carried more speed, I figure thats .15 right there. Plus I was just figuring out how to cope with inititial understeer on acceleration. I easily had .4 left in it, I just didn't have enough time. Oh well.
After Saturday my list of people that I need to let drive my car when its back and ready consists of:
Ed Chan, Kyle, Charles, Mike, Jake, Brian, and Joe Seward. These are the guys that have helped me out the most with letting me use their cars or giving me pointers throughout the day. Many thanks go out to them.
Point standings are not up yet. I was 14th or so going into this event. I will definetly be moving up after this showing. And because there were not a lot of cars there, my index time shouldn't increase badly making it that much better for me in the future.