2002 SCCA Peru National Tour
Off to Peru for the Peru National Tour.
This is one of the most popular events on the National Solo calendar. They limit the number of entries to 365, and on race day they had over 100 people on the entry list. Last year, I was one of those poor bastards on the waiting list, and only made it in by the skin of my teeth, so this year I got smart and entered the event in July.
365 entrants is a LOT of cars.
It helps that National Tours use the Nationals format (in fact, the Tours are considered "practice runs" for the National Championship) so that we're only doing 3 runs per day instead of 8 runs per day like we do at Pros. But even that isn't going to help run 365 people through all their runs.
In the interests of getting the event finished at a reasonable time, the course was dumbed down quite a bit. Two dinky little slaloms, and the rest of the course was balls-out fast. In a nutshell, we just followed the stair-step outline of the Peru event site. Lots of big straights and fast 90 degree turns. Not a lot in the way of transitions, but instead a lot of steady-state cornering and how-brave-are-you? high speed sections.
Tours are a bit of a bugbear for us, because we don't get the standing-start, long straight dragstrip launch that we get at the Pros. That is a tremendous amount of advantage that just vanishes. So traditionally, we don't do as well at Tours as we do at Pros. But with Nationals using the Tour format, if we ever want the National Championship jacket, we're going to have to learn to adapt.
It helps that we were on fresh tires, and it helps too that Peru is our "home" track. All our test sessions are at Peru, and we have a really good Peru dry setup.
This race was supposed to be the big debut for Eric Stemler's SM Talon, but he popped an oil plug the day before, and so he didn't show. Instead, we got the surprise debut of the Honda American Racing Team and their Vortech-supercharged Civic. Yup, that's right, the first OEM-supported team has started playing in Street Modified. Also in attendance was the Supra of "Hollywood" Kent Rafferty, and the big-bore Neon of Aaron "spin or win" Miller. Not many other big names, caught behind the entry cap no doubt. But Kent has shown that he is very much on pace, and Aaron can always surprise you.
Saturday, and by the time our heat rolls around, it is HOT. Hot hot hot hot. But hot concrete means sticky tires, and we've never had an overheating problem, so it looked pretty good for us.
The first run is fast, and - following the procedure that has worked so well for us this season - I concentrate on identifying portions of the run that could have been done better. It works. The time starts dropping, and the last run is a screamer that puts me a solid tenth and a half in the lead, over Kent. Aaron is 4 tenths back of Kent, and the rest of the class is in a different time zone. The HART car in particular seems to be having handling issues.
I'm happy with those runs. I feel like I still left some time out there on course, but I didn't choke, and I found time when I needed to. The car feels great, and I'm leading.
Sunday is even hotter, and I wind up using a lot of our inter-run intercooler sprayer on me instead of the intercooler - did I mention it was hot? My performance is pretty well a repeat of the previous day - fast, then faster. The last run would have been even faster than it was, but coming out of the turnaround on the far end of the course the car shuts off for a second or so - either fuel slosh on a too-low gas tank, or an occurrence of an obscure (known) bug in the fuel computer.
Kent... does not have a good day. He initially shows promise, but doesn't execute, and it bothers him a lot. Autocrossers tend to be their own worst critics, and I sure know how Kent feels, having been there myself many times. But not this weekend. This weekend we drove a solid race, and we won handily.
This bodes REALLY REALLY well for Nationals - if you ignore the fact that the course was totally non-representative of what Nationals' courses are supposed to look like. Car ran well, I drove well, and nothing broke. Overall, a pretty good weekend.
Next up is the DSM Shootout - and the first drag race I've done in two years.