2000 Club DSM Shootout

(As originally posted to the Talon Digest)

So Thursday we load the rig, and we're off to Shootout 2000, the fourth DSM Shootout we've attended - well, my fourth, the first for the Crew Chief, who got back from her course the night before. Discovered that the rig had cracked the exhaust pipe between the muffler and the cat; some jury-rigging with coathanger wire and some left over dryer duct sufficed to repair it. I've now come to expect at least one tow vehicle problem per event. Stayed at the Days Inn, on North 250 just off the expressway. A little pricey, beds a little small, but the AC worked, it had a pool, and it was clean and quiet.

Friday AM, drag race day. Cleaned and prepped the car, which is much less work than the autocross setup, much to the relief of the crew chief. Weather was alternating cool/overcast with hot/sunny, as clouds blew overhead. The average temperature was quite a bit warmer than the temperature when I put the 12.7 on the car last month, so I was a little worried about backing it up, even though this time I had 103 unleaded race gas in the car. I had heard some minor rumblings that that 12.7 was considered by some to be bogus - although I had the timeslip with me, putting down a similar (or faster) pass in front of the whole Talon world would silence any remaining doubters.

Time trials opened, and the first pass was a 12.8 @ 104, 1.700 60'. Mission accomplished. Graphic demonstration that the T28/28 is a 12 second turbo.

I let the car sit for an hour, then went out again. The first run, I had slightly short-shifted 3rd and 4th, so this time I was going to try running it out to about 7200 or so. Pass was 13.0 @ 102, 1.795 60'. Ooops. That didn't work. Pulled the data, had a look, noticed that the accel G was falling off rather abruptly at about 6500, so I reprogrammed the shift light for 6500. Also noticed that I was only making about 21 lbs at the turbo, so I turned the boost up a half-turn. Let the car sit for an hour, and then seriously bogged the launch - 13.1 @ 102. Dammit.

So now we had a problem. By all rights, the dial-in should be set at 13.05-ish for best chance of success, but with all the cameras around, and with sponsor prestige on the line, I really didn't want a 13 on the car, even a 13.000. So we went with a 12.90 dial, and hoped that the weather (and my launch technique) would support it.

Eliminations start. The first guy is asleep at the lights, and despite the .7 second head start, I catch him before the 330' and run away from him. He's a few car lengths behind at the finish, so I stand on the brakes to make sure I don't break out. Time is a 13.04 @ 83, but up to the 1000' the timeslip is a little faster than the 12.8 we did that morning. So the dial comes down to 12.8, and I feel a lot better about the dial choice.

Next guy is a little faster on the lights, but I'm asleep this time - .707. He's got a 2 second head start, but I take him by the 330'. He either breaks or shuts down; when I look back for him at the finish he's half a track back, so I slam the brakes again to prevent a breakout. Time is a 13.1 @ 84, and the slip shows about a tenth slower than the previous, so the dial goes back up to 12.9. He crosses at 23.3 - car #1261, whoever you are, I hope you didn't break, and if you did, I hope it wasn't serious.

Next run, I bog the launch, but I cut a decent r/t compared to the napper in the other lane, making up .43 seconds on r/t alone. Once again, I'm way ahead at the finish, so on the brakes we go - and it's a 13.4 at 83. Yow! Bogging the launch bites this car really hard! I flirt with bumping the dial to 13.1 to counter the possibility of another bog, but once again, marketing concerns override - we're getting close to the finals (the next round is the pre-semi) and that means our visibility is up. So it stays at 12.9.

Next run. I'm not only slow on the launch (.670 vs his .761) I bog the launch again. However, for the first time today I'm the rabbit instead of the fox - my dial is 12.9 vs his 12.75. I streak off, peddling as hard as I can, but at the brake decision point he's at my back bumper and coming on fast - so no braking this time, we're going for it! He runs a 13.085 @ 109 vs my 13.370 @ 102, nipping me out by 0.044. A little quicker on the light, or a 12.95 dial, and I would have had him... Ah well. I understand he went on to win. Nice drive car 1150.

I think if I were to start doing bracket racing seriously again, I'd put in a stutterbox to prevent launch bogs, and a nitrous bottle for a top-end save, when needed.

That night, I go over the data, and find that my top-end AFC settings were too rich by about 3%, which may explain the loss of power over 6500. Grrrr. We don't do enough drag racing to be able to recognise this stuff in the pits, and I don't have enough AFC tuning experience to know how much a given setting affects things like timing, knock, and a/f ratio. Well, it's not going to matter much longer, as we're putting in a ProEFI ECU next week (from John Shepherd, their newest dealer) and that puppy will tell us everything - and should make a bag more power as well. Even so, we go 4 rounds in the biggest class, and the car does a on-the-scoreboard 12.8. Robert seems happy, and keeping sponsors happy is the name of the game. John wins the Quick 8, so it's a victory for "our team" I guess.

At the awards ceremony, I find that a lot of autocrossers made it to the 4th round or higher, including Fedja, who was runner-up. Hmmm, coincidence? There also seems to be a lot of buzz over the autocross the next day. Maybe I'm biased, or have selective hearing, but it almost seemed that the autocross was generating more excitement than the drag race...

Saturday AM, the autocross. We get the car set up and teched, and I do the annual Novice Walk & Comedy Show. NRP had the audacity to build a grandstand on part of our usual track, so the course is a lot shorter this year, but limited by the site as he is, Chad does a good job laying out a track. I'm also the Safety Guy, so I have to check and see that the layout is safe - Chad's getting good at this, I find nothing wrong with the layout. There's a couple of really fast sections - faster than I think he realizes - and I can see some spins happening in the slalom, but they should spin in a straight line, more or less down the track, and if they do get agricultural the grass is smooth and unrutted, so the risk of rollover should be slim. Still, I wish that NRP would just pave the whole lot - it'd make for a more interesting (and more typical) autocross.

Twingles-the-smacktalker, who had been (jokingly) boasting that he was going to beat the race tire guys in his street tire car, wins the fastest street tire class with a low 40. At least one of the race tire Stock class cars turns a 39 (dirty) so I figure we'll be running 37-38. Fedja isn't a happy camper - his car is about a second and a half slower in the quarter than the rest of the class, and half the course is a flat-out drag race. He's right to be worried, power is going to help a lot here.

But he gets lucky. My first run, I go blazing through the slalom flat-out in 3rd, and the cold tires break loose and I start sliding. I have a sudden flashback to the year before, when I left the track at about 50 MPH, and I start fighting the car to keep it on the grey stuff. Thank you, Kumho! I have a bunch of wiggles and tankslaps, and I nail a cone in the process, but all 4 wheels stay out of the dirt. I have, however, managed to give myself a really good scare.

The next couple of runs are exercises in confidence-building. With the tires warmed up, the grip is back, but knowing and trusting are two different things. I'm turning 39s, but Fedja and Ian are well into the 38s. I'm in trouble.

Robert is there watching, along with the rest of the DSM world, and I'm starting to feel the pressure. I put Robert in the passenger seat as a motivating factor (and to give him a chance to see what it is we do from the inside) It works - I go flying through the first section much faster than before, and I carry way more speed through the turnaround than I had previously. After I bang the shift to third, I have time to glance over at Robert, and he's bracing himself as if his life depends on it, and he's staring quite fixedly at the wall of cones we are streaking towards at 90 MPH. Heh. The one thing I had been doing really well was walking the brake point from the straight section progressively deeper, and by this, the fourth run, I was going pretty damn deep. Racing pads plus 275 series tires makes for some impressive braking. However, I got greedy in the final S turn, swung way wide of the last apex, and had to hit the apex cone to stay on course - and then I plowed through the next wall. Time was a 39.0 - Dammit! With at least a second lost in that little cock-up, that may well have been a winning run.

Robert got out of the car, legs shaking and a big-ass grin on his face. Well, at least someone enjoyed that run.

Last run. Time to make some hay. I howl up the hill, flash through the turnaround - this one is going to be FAST! And then I see waving red flags. The course workers didn't get the course set back up in time after the last car mowed down a row of cones. DAMMIT!

Back in line. Fedja has made his last run, and it's a super-quick 37.5. Ian has had cone trouble, and is standing on a 38.8. I'm on a 39.5. Last chance for glory - and up the hill even faster than before, and - another red flag. Oh, you have got to be kidding me... that's the second super-fast run killed before its time. Back in line for you!

But now I'm all flustered and frustrated, and my focus is gone. Up the hill I go, but I lift a little bit in the slalom, where before I was flat out. The turnaround is good, the braking for the slow section deep, no cones yet, and I remember to give it up early for the last S. I come on the power, and it feels too slow, so I make a snap decision to go to first gear ~ and it won't go in. It takes 3 mighty gear-grinding shoves on the shifter before the shift takes, and then I catapult across the finish.

It's a 38.4 Good enough for second place. But if that shift had gone in...

Ah well, that there is racin' son. "Woulda, coulda" means exactly squat. And hey, we've got a long streak of second places going here, why break a good thing?

So we finish Shootout 2000 with almost exactly the same result as last year ~ a strong showing in the drag race, and a second place in the fastest autocross class.

Big, big thanks to Chad Grey (for running the autocross <- This is a TON of work, we're VERY lucky to have Chad doing this) David Buschur, Robert Young, John Shepherd, and especially those who sponsored autocross prizes: RRE, Jumptronix, and especially Kumho.

We had a great weekend, and can't wait 'till next year.