1997 Oscoda CENDIV Solo

(As originally posted to the Talon Digest)

I attended a SCCA Divisional race in Oscoda, MI 2 weekends ago. Oscoda is an old Air Force base with a big bejeesus concrete pad on it, very similar to the race surface in Topeka. The course was last year's Nationals South Course, run forwards on Saturday, and backwards on Sunday.

Yes, I'm still on the stock tires, and it looks like I will be until next season. Not surprisingly, everybody else in class was on race tires. Even more ominous, the level of competition was much higher than at the regional level... ...and so I was pretty sure I would be in for an education. :(

Saturday, I had me head so far up my own ass I could watch my own digestion. I drove a sloppy, poorly thought out race that put me 1.6 seconds behind the second-to-last place finisher, and a whopping 11 seconds behind the leader. Ouch.

Needless to say, I was feeling pretty down on myself after that performance.

However, I wasn't about to waste the entire weekend. I tracked down the class leader (Dick Topping), and asked to walk the course with him, and compare notes. He agreed, and we spent the next 2 hours dissecting our runs, and how we were going to run the next day.

It was an interesting experience. His line wasn't all that different than mine, except for a few sections here and there. Where we did differ, I'd explain my reasoning, he'd explain his, and I could see right away why his was faster. I picked up a lot about course reading that night. It's not the same skill as reading a road course.

Later on, I walked the course again in the dark a few times to confirm my visualization of the track. It was nice to walk towards where I thought my next reference point should be, and find that it really was there. :)

The result of all this course study was that the next day I had a complete map of the entire track and where I wanted to be at each section of the track in my head, unlike the previous day where I only had select sections in memory.

My first run pulled a whole 4 seconds off my previous day's best time. The next 2 runs went even faster, with run #3 being 1.5 seconds faster than the guy who had beat me the day before! The final run was a full second faster than that, but I tried to carry a little too much speed through the last turn, and I spun it, Cale Yarborough style, through the timing lights - collecting 4 cones in the process. Doh!

Bottom line: I finished last on Sat, second last on Sun and last overall ~ by a margin of .1 second. Had I not spun that last run, I would have actually beaten a Race Tire Guy for the overall second-last spot!

The weekend was a tremendous learning experience, and my last run I was running at least 9/10ths on every corner (11/10ths on the last turn :) I pulled the interval between me and the leader from 11 seconds to 6 - and he would have taken 3rd overall in F Stock!

Easily the single best performance of my career to date.

I also got a ride in John Tak's SS RX-7 and... wow. There is no comparison between the grip levels between the 2 types of tire. It turns so much harder, and you can really feel how the tires are working. It's night and day. I've known this academically for a while, but it took experiencing it to really show me the difference. Wow.