1997 SCCA Solo2 National Championships

(As originally posted to the Talon Digest)

What a week.

Got up at 04:00 Tuesday AM to start the 1450 km drive to Topeka, and 14 construction-clogged, rain-soaked hours later, pulled up in front of our home for the week, the Topeka Airport Hotel, a 4-cockroach place if I ever saw one. At least it's cheap.

Wed AM - up at 05:00 so we can be the first in line at the BFG tire truck. Have just enough money to buy 2 235-45R17 R1's, eat, and make it home. No wheels though, so have to dismount street tires from front wheels, and remount them on Friday. Have a nervous moment watching Tire Guy struggle to get those tires onto stock wheels, but they fit! Whoo-hoo!

Wed PM - Other DSM's start to straggle in. Ross Fortini has an extra set of used 205-50R17 R1's he's brought as backups to his mounted 235's, and when he sees that I'm running street tires on the rears, he GIVES them to me, no questions asked. A SERIOUSLY cool and much appreciated move. Race tires on all 4 corners! My list of excuses is getting shorter. Thanks Ross.

Spend the rest of the evening walking the course until I know it completely. Spend the night dreaming about walking the course.

Thursday - Work first, run third, and I'm the starter. No shagging cones! Course is tough, a series of interconnected long sweepers on the front half, and a long series of offset gates and slaloms on the back half. 39 cars in the field, and a lot of really good drivers.

My runs - The R1's make it a whole new car. The car turns much, MUCH harder, and is sticking where before it would slide all over. I'm really fast on the back half of the course, but I'm having a lot of trouble in those front half sweepers - I can't find the limit in a repeatable way. The R1's don't scream like the stock tires do, and they seem to break away a lot more suddenly with little to no warning. After 3 runs, I'm 3 seconds off the pace, 5 seconds off the leader. Horrible. (But better than my first day at the Divisional, where I was 11 seconds off the lead!)

Pissed at myself, I spend the rest of the day walking the North course, skipping the talent show that night.

Friday - North course is more to my liking, a couple of sweepers at the start, but soon turning into relatively straight sections joined by short sweepers and hairpins, and ending with more offset gates and slaloms.

Weather is again perfect.

My runs - Still having trouble with the sweepers right at the start, I'm sliding all over the place. After 2 runs, I'm a second off the pace, 3 seconds off the leader. Before my third run, I have a discussion with the current 5th place driver about tire pressure, and discover I'm running way to much air in the tires. Make a massive pressure correction that takes the push out of the car. No more slide! Blast through the front side much faster and smoother than before, with just 1 big sweeper left before the happy part of the course. Unfortunately, the narrower rears aren't up to the job, and they break loose in a tearing slide that gets me slightly sideways, scrubs off a bushel of speed, and totally destroys my entry to the next turn.

I'm convinced that a 4th run would have put me on the pace - but we only get 3. My event is done. Final result: 37th on 39 cars. Not last!

Ross drives great on his first run, and winds up trophying. Way to go Ross!

I Race back to the BFG truck after impound, and remount the street tires. Anyone got a set of 97 Eclipse or Talon 97 17" wheels they want to sell?

Good points for the week:

  1. No cones, drove the whole event clean.
  2. Got much faster, ending up only 3 seconds off the lead on my final day (at the National level!) Compare that to 11 and 7 seconds at the Divisional on street tires.
  3. I have R1's! Real tires at last!

Not so good points:

  1. Didn't come up to speed on the new tires fast enough, and still can't drive at the limit reliably on them. Going to take a bunch more practice.
  2. My damage control/disaster recovery skills suck. Must learn to recover from over the limit excursions much faster and in a more positive manner. Practice will help.
  3. 37th. *sigh*
  4. Really tough to feel the tires, probably due to mushy stock shocks. Have a picture of the outside front completely compressed, and the inside rear completely off the ground! Gotta fix that before next year.

Overall - I laughed, I cried, it was much better than "Cats" Just wait till next year...