1997 Detroit SCCA "How the Other Side Does It"

(As originally posted to the Talon Digest)

This weekend past was the SCCA Detroit "How the Other Side Does It" event at the Waterford Hills road course. It's a combination Road / Rally / Solo event that allows people who compete in one of the three types of racing to observe a competition that they might not otherwise have had a chance to see. Thus the name for the event.

The Solo took place on Sat and Sun in the afternoon. The best times from each day for each competitor were added together, and the overall class results were based on these times.

Unlike the Corvette Club solo the preceding weekend, the SCCA did not use the entire course. Instead, we started just after turn 2, went up the hill, through a short (and fast!) series of gates before Big Bend, and then through a nasty hairpin created by cutting off the back straight at the Big Bend escape road, rejoining the main course at the entry to Swamp Corner. The course ended shortly before the normal start/finish line.

This is what driver-induced understeer looks like

Saturday I drove my ass off, posting a 54.3 second time that was good enough for 4th. 1st and 2cd belonged to Kevin and Mike Royce in their 96 TSi AWD - on race tires. (I hate 2 driver cars. It's bad enough that I have to beat that car once, never mind twice. It's made even worse by the fact that both of them are really nice guys.) 3rd went to a Probe - also on race tires. Then there was a 3 second gap to me, then a .8 second gap, then the rest of my fellow stock-tired herd.

Sunday I decided to try a few different experiments, as this is supposed to be my test season anyway, and it was obvious I'd never be able to touch the cars on race tires. The good news is that I eventually found the setup my car likes, and the fast way through Hilltop, the slalom, and Big Bend. The bad news is that I found the limit of adhesion in the hairpin that run too - I was carrying so much speed from my successes up-track that I couldn't slow down enough at my normal braking point, and when I turned the wheel at the hairpin, the car turned not. :( I got it stopped before I played Pac-Man with the wall of cones that marked the outer edge of the turn, but a stop, no matter how quick, is not the fast way around the course. Result for that run: 54.7. Doh! That would have been a 53 second run. Damn.

What's more, while I was playing with my setup, the guy behind me was concentrating on going fast, and he was pretty successful, beating my best time of the day (54.4 - I had a 54.1, but I clipped a cone) by .85 seconds, enough to nudge me out of 4th overall. Oh well. At least he was in a Talon too. :)

The overall results for G-Stock looked like: Talon, Talon, Probe (gap) Talon, Talon, (gap) Firebird, (a bunch of other non-Talons)

Looking Cool

Overall, I'm pretty happy. I'm starting to run up against the limits of my tires, instead of the limits of my ability. Now all (all!) I have to do is learn to run at the limit consistently, instead of at the limit in 5 corners and over the limit in 1.

And another bonus on the day was talking to all the road race guys. I got to sit in a Formula Mazda, talk to a bunch of Spec Racer Ford and Formula Vee guys, and help a Formula Atlantic (who was there all by himself with no crew!) move his car around. It was a real education on the differences between racing street cars and purpose built race cars. How does 0.5" of ground clearance grab ya?