2003 Peru ProSolo

Back to Peru again, this time for the Peru ProSolo.

This event was going to be interesting, for two reasons:

Firstly, I haven't finished this event in my own car in three years. Two years ago, the car didn't make it through practice starts, and last year, it didn't even make it to practice starts (I broke it right off the trailer)

Secondly, Bob Tunnell was here from Colorado.

So we had our work cut out for us.

The course was tight and really, really busy and the start straight was on the short side - not particularly turbo friendly at all. But neither were there a lot of the medium-high speed offsets that Bob's M3 really likes, so the course didn't really play to anybody's strengths - which was good. I wanted nothing more than a straight-up fight, with neither team getting an Unfair Advantage. Dry weather, no broken cars, no extenuating circumstances.

The thing about Bob is that prepping and driving autocross cars is his business. He's one of the best drivers in the sport, he has tons of experience, connections to BMW Motorsport, and his car is probably the best prepared and best sorted car in the country. He and that M3 have dominated every class it has ever entered, and the M3 has been reclassed time and again based on the strengths of Bob's performances. The general buzz in Street Modified this year has been that, now that Bob has joined the party, everybody else is running for second place.

Well, as impressive as Bob's track record is, I'm in no particular hurry to just roll over and die, and the attitude out of some of my peers that it wasn't even worth trying was really starting to piss me off. The performance bar is always going to be raised, and just because it gets a little higher is no reason to give up trying. That which does not grow is dead.

But by the same token, Bob is really, really good. He has won every major event he entered this year - including crushing us in Oscoda. It's not like beating Bob is ever going to be a cakewalk. Hell, I'm not even sure if it's possible.

So anyway, we lined up for the first heat, and no sooner were we in grid than (true to form this season) the skies opened up and we got drenched. We took the opportunity to play with the limits of the car in the wet, but we knew that none of these runs would count for anything. Pro events very, very rarely get 3 wet heats, so a wet heat normally has no effect on the overall results. The only interesting thing to come out of this heat was that I did a little bouncing off the rev limiter at launch, and I subsequently heard a rumour in the paddock that I had traction control in the car. Heh.

The second heat was warm and dry, and the race was on. The car was PERFECT. All the suspension work has delivered a car that is so much easier to drive, is so much more responsive, and yet is so much more forgiving, that I can really lean on it HARD. And knowing how hard Bob was going to be pushing, I came out of the gate completely committed. There was no sense trying to hold back.

And I got rewarded for it. I put down a really quick 37.9 on the left, and a decent 38.7 on the right (although I coned it - the car turns in much better now). Bob ran similar times, but just a tick slower, and then redlit on the left and nearly spun on the right - he wasn't holding back either.

We were both carrying cones on one side, but I was a tenth quicker on the day, and so finished up Saturday on pole. Holy crap! We're leading!

Sunday morning arrives, and it's warm and dry again. With both Bob and I carrying cones, all one of us has to do is clean it up and that's an instant two second lead. But at the same time, you can't stop pushing because Bob sure won't.

First run on the left, and it's a tick slower than my fast time - but at least it's on pace. Over to the right, and it's fast and CLEAN, a 38.2, and that pulls a HUGE chunk of time out of Bob - but Bob cleaned up his cone too (although the time is a little slower than my time on that side) so the last two runs are going to be balls-out for glory.

Start on the right, and I've got a good one going, but two turns before the finish my foot slips off the brake pedal (note to engineer, put wider pedals on the car) and I clip a cone and shut the car down rather than overheat the tires.

Over to the left for the last run, and it's the hardest I have ever pushed on any run. The car is just FLYING and I'm on a tear. Two turns before the finish I overcook it a little and scrub off some time recovering, but when I cross the line I've managed a 37.8 and actually dropped my time a tenth. Bob has gone faster too, but not enough. Holy crap, we got him! We win! We beat him on merit!

Bob was very gracious and sportsmanlike about his defeat, and I think he rather enjoyed having some close competition. As scary as he is, we're very lucky to have him racing with us in Street Modified. He really is a hell of a guy.

That qualified us for the Show, but we got knocked out in the first round. Bleah.

So at the end of the day, we had both missions accomplished - a class win against the most formidable competitor in the sport today, and the car didn't break either - in fact, we had the hardest launches we've ever had at a Pro, and the car held up like a champ. This bodes well for the Pro Finale in Topeka.

We should be able to put on one hell of a show.