Thursday, May 11, 2006

Pylon fiesta!

As mentioned in my last post, this past Sunday (May 7) I participated in my first official Solo2/Autocross event. This was a Western Ontario Sports Car Association (a.k.a. WOSCA) club event. Entry fee is $20 ($15 if you're a WOSCA member). For those that don't know what autocrossing is, I'll try to give a brief explanation:

Autocrossing involves driving a car through a race course designated by red pylons (cones), usually located in a big parking lot. In an event, depending how many participants there are, you should usually get a minimum of 4 runs, but usually more. These "runs" are timed using electronics with a cross beam at the start & finish line. If you hit a cone during your run, it's a 2 second penalty. If you go off course, it's a DNF (did not finish). Some clubs will give you a 200 second penalty instead, that way you can still see what your time would have been. They also nail you for a DNF or 200 seconds if you fail to completly stop in the stop box at the end of your run. There is a reason I mention that, which you will see later.

Registration for the event closed at 10:30 AM. Their were a total of 28 registered participant, which included 8 rookies. Based on the CASC rulebook, my car is classed in ESP - Class E Street Prepared because of the heavy modifications to the engine and suspension. At this event, there was 4 others in ESP; 2 Mustangs (mid 80s), a 79 TransAm, and an All-Wheel-Drive(AWD) Subaru WRX. Don't ask me why an AWD car is classed with heavy rear-wheel-drive cars.

After I registered, I started prepping the car which basically involves removing the T-Roofs, unloading any objects that can poke my eyes out while I'm doing my runs, and checking engine fluids. Well, everything looked fine, until I checked the oil. I was a quart short....of oil that is. ;)
I ran to the gas station across the street and got violated for $4.00 for a litre of oil. Maybe I'll remember to do that before leaving home the next time.

I had already raised my tire pressures at a gas station before arriving to the event so I was set there, but I did double check them. They were still fine at 42 PSI front, 40 PSI back. After I was done, I noticed that the course was finally layed out, and people were walking the course. I decided to do so also since being a novice, I needed all the knowledge I could get.

When you walk the course, the objective is to learn the layout, plan how you will run it, try to determine a "line" through the course. You should walk it a minimum of 3 times, and after that, if you can't draw the course on a piece of paper while not looking at it, then you need to walk it again until you can. The more you know the course, the better prepared you are to drive it.

After a brief drivers meeting, they asked for the first cars to line up at the start line. Well, since I had taken the #15, and starting order was determined by car number, I was the 3rd car in line. Yea, my nerves were starting to get a little shaky. After watching the first 2 "regular" guys go through the course and knocking down a few cones, I felt a little better, then it was my turn.

Start marshall tells me I can go anytime; I sat there for about 5 seconds trying to remember everything I had learned at the school. Then I dropped the clutch at 2000 RPM having traction issues obviously. The first section of the course involved a slalom, followed by a hairpin corner, short slalom, long sweeper left turn, followed by sharp left turn, then another slalom, sharp right turn back into the hairpin, short slalom, and finally the stop box. You can see the general layout HERE. Well, I got nailed for hitting 3 cones (6 secs), and also, not comming to a complete stop in the stop box (200 secs). Not the greatest start, but it was after all, my "cherry popper" run. Without the penalties, my run would have been 48.04 seconds.

Then I waited approx. 25 mins for my next run. In the meantime, I observed everyone else that was running, trying to pick up on things. I ran through the course in my mind again trying to think where I could improve and pick up some time.

Run 2 - It felt a little better than the first run, but I still managed to hit 3 cones (another 6 secs) although I only remember hitting 2 because they made noise. The other must ahve been a really minor hit. This time, I made sure to stop completely in the stop box. Time: 45.423 without cone penalties. Picked up almost 3 seconds on that run alone. (Tom - I ran in 2nd gear on this run vs 1st gear on the first run. :) )

Run 3 - This one felt about the same as the 2nd run, accept I only hit 1 cone this time. Sure enough; time (without 2 sec penalty): 44.807 I was still struggling with the one cone in the short slalom after the hairpin.

Run 4 - This one felt the best. I managed to control wheel spin out of the hairpin, but still hit the one cone in the short slalom. Time without 2 sec penalty: 43.857. One sec faster than the previous run, and over 5 secs faster than 1st run. Now we're getting somewhere.

Run 5 - Overall, it felt the same except this time I spun a little too much out of the hairpin, but nailed the long sweeper. Again, 1 cone hit except this time it was in the 2nd slalom in lap 2. Time without cone penalty: 43.812. Almost identical to Run 4.

Run 6 - FINALLY...A clean run, no cones were hurt in this 6th run. Time: 44.003. Lost 0.3 secs but it was clean, and that's a good thing.

Run 7 - This was the last official run of the day. Again, clean run without any penalties. Time: 44.305. Lost another 0.3 secs, and I know where. I think the rear diff posi was getting a little tired as I was losing traction on fast turns where one of the rear wheel would unload.

For the complete results CLICK HERE.

As you can see, I managed to finish 3rd in my class, 15th on the Fast Time of Day, and 21st overall. I was happy with this considering it was my first time. Not only that, I managed to beat the TransAm and one of the Mustangs, both seasoned drivers in this sport. The Mustang was also running race compound tires, while I was on my street tires. But best of all, I had a blast and can't wait to do another one of these, and many more throughout the summer.

Unfortunately, the regular photographer for WOSCA was not at this event, so to this point, no pictures available. :(

Next WOSCA event is May 21st, then HADA has one on May 27th.

Now, with a better front end alignment which will include -1 deg. of camber, this should help a little. The alignment is being done by Can-Alignment in Milton this Saturday. He specialzies in custom alignment for street cars, and race cars.

Till next time, have a good one.

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