May 24/25 1998: CHAMP event and Memorial Day Solo

Wow, a busy weekend.

Sunday AM was the second Michigan Council of Sports Car Clubs CHAMP series event, an AutoX series run by a conglomeration of marque clubs too small to hold events on their own. They use the SCCA rules (although not the heat format) and they tend to get access to smaller, dirtier lots than the SCCA events. Because the following day was the big SCCA Detroit Memorial Day Solo, I was using this event to do some testing - mostly mucking about with tire pressures.

Not much interesting play-by-play on this one. The car started out loose (spinning with no warning whatsoever in my third run) but dropping the rear tire pressures balanced that out. I'm now running 30 PSI front, 29 rear, on 235X17 BFG R1's on the stock Eclipse wheels, and it seems to work.

Finished the day in 3rd, .5 seconds off the lead, and a tenth back from 2cd - an Integra R on R1s. ( The MCSSC classes them as GS, much like the SCCA is supposed to next year)

A note on the Integra R: There were 2 of these things out there, one running race rubber, the other on street tires. I really don't think these cars are as scary as some seem to think. The fact that they weigh about a thousand pounds less than me is a little... disconcerting, but those engines don't seem to make a whole lot of torque. Not only that, they don't seem to have a lot of rubber on the road either. (205X15) To be honest, a 2600lb Mazda MX-6 with a V6 and 245X16 tires is a whole lot scarier. I (at this point at least) don't have any problems with them in GS.

Monday morning was the Memorial Day Solo, a big day for me. Not only is this one of the two really big events every year that attracts all the Big Dogs, but *I* was running the event! (That's what I get for attending a planning meeting...) We had 185 cars show up, and myself, my co-chair, my Worker Chief, all the people in Registration, and the Safety Steward were all first-timers in their positions. A disaster waiting to happen.

However, the event went really well, thanks to all he help we got from experienced people. The course layout was the best I've ever seen (the course designer - Al Chan - is a real artist) and aside from one car fire, one track oildown, and a couple of scared corner workers, went off without a hitch. Whew!

In GS, the class was a Who's Who of Big Dogs. A former National Champion. A 3 time Divisional Champion. A Pro who drives to each of the ProSolos in a motorhome the size of Prince Edward Island. In fact, 90% of the class were National competitors, and of those, all of them who were not me finished in the upper half of the field last year. Sheesh. If you like driving against tough competition, GS in Detroit is the class to be in.

My first 2 runs, I had my head so far up my own ass that I could see my tonsils. Just out for a Sunday (well, Monday) drive, and 2.5 seconds off the pace. Then my crew chief came out, smacked me upside the head, and got me focused.

The next run, it was like a light came on in my head. All of a sudden, for the first time since I got the R1s, I could really _feel_ the tires underneath me, and what they were doing. Suddenly, I'm only .6 seconds off the lead. Not the "usual" lead though - I'm ahead of him - I'm .6 seconds off the pros!

The last run comes up, and it's even better. I'm not reacting to the car, I'm _driving_ it, and I pull another 4 tenths out of my time, 3 tenths off the lead! I'm .109 back from the guy who beat me by over six seconds at Nationals last year! Yahoo!

The overall result - 5th. Wow. The pro somehow found another 6 tenths in his time (that run was _flawless_), and from 2cd to 5th was a spread of .3 seconds. From 5th back to my two arch-nemisi (who I've been chasing for a year and a half) was .4 seconds.

Needless to say, I was pretty happy.

Best of all, though, there's a Pro Solo in a couple of weeks, and the pro who won today's event asked me to be his tire warmer. It seems that the pros normally have a second driver for the car who runs first to put some heat into the tires so that the pro does better. His usual tire warmer can't go to this event, and he was impressed enough by my performance to ask me to take his place. Sure, it's like being the 3rd string goalie, but it's a great way to learn more - and that's what this is all about.