2001 SCCA CENDIV Divisional Championship

Back to the concrete at Peru, Indiana, for the 2001 Central Division Championship.

We're the defending Street Modified Divisional Champions, but this year's race stood to pose a much greater challenge than last year. The number of cars running in SM has exploded, and the number of good cars driven by good drivers has risen accordingly. This year, I'd be facing off against the Raffertys in their monster Supra, Aaron Miller in his 2.4l Neon, Raleigh Boreen in his ex-ESP-Nationals-champion Camaro, and Mike Jolie's ex-CSP Civic - any of whom had a decent shot at the win.

And of course, this was the first time that the new turbo, new clutch, new flywheel, new engine mounts, and rebuilt transmission would be driven in anger - not to mention, this would be our second event on Hoosiers. Fun!

We arrived early on Friday, so as to have time to check over the car after all the recent work, and to put a tune on the EFI computer. We knew we had been running the previous T28 pretty rich, and if the new "Big 28" we had now was working correctly, it should lean out the car somewhat (the Stemler test). We made a few roll-on second gear pulls, and sure enough, the A/F ratio was pulled down from obscenely rich to right about where it should be, at about 12:1. A little bit of tweaking evened out the fuel curve, and we were golden. The first impressions were that it pulled like a monster in the midrange. I've found though, that impressions formed during tuning don't always reflect actual race performance, so I withheld judgement until after the race proper.

The course was open and fast - just the place for a more powerful turbo. Things were looking pretty good.

Saturday comes, but Aaron Miller is MIA, so there's one less contender. Kent Rafferty reveals that he has swapped out his rear end for a 3.77 version from the automatic Supra TT, and he's eager to give it a whirl.

First run. Next weekend is the Peru Pro, and I want to break in the new ClutchMasters Stage 4 before I start doing full-on clutch drop launches, so I ease into the clutch and then hammer the gas once the clutch is engaged. I make it through the first turn, but when I go back to the gas, something "pops" and I've got NO power to speak of. I drive the course staring at the boost gauge, and it's reading 10 PSI at full throttle. Given that I normally run on the order of 22 PSI, and given as well that I haven't tuned the fuel maps for 5000 RPM and 10 PSI, we're not exactly laying the smack down. Luckily, with the ProEFI being a speed/density computer, at least the car still runs, but the time is slow, a good 3 seconds off the pace.

With only 10 PSI, no wastegate noise, and a hot lower intercooler section, it seems I have a boost leak, but there's nothing obvious leaking. Using the stutterbox, I can make 6 PSI to pressurize the intake, but there's so much noise I can't pinpoint the leak. I do manage to test the BOV though, and it's fine. Before I can do any more tests, it's time for my second run.

This time I'm ready for the lack of power, and I drive the car accordingly, never lifting and only using the brakes when I absolutely have to. The car is moving in slow motion compared to normal, so I'm able to hit all my marks and drive the exact line I want. The result is a pretty good G Stock time, but nothing close to what I need to win.

Back in the pits, I pull off every single hose and connection, inspecting for rips, tears, and whatnot. I can't find *anything* wrong, and I manage to burn my forearm on the exhaust heatshield. I put everything back together, run the stutterbox - and get 15 PSI! It's fixed!

Last run, and my only chance at running a competitive time, and my first time with the car at full strength. The car is UNGODLY fast in a straight line, doesn't seem laggy at all, and is really well balanced. However, I really need a clean time if I'm going to stay in the hunt, so I keep it a little conservative, just to stay away from the cones. The time is much better, over 2 seconds faster, but still back a bit from the lead.

And then, for the first time in a very, very long time, the Autocross Gods decide to give me some good luck for once. I get a rerun! It seems that there was a timer problem just prior to my run, and T&S isn't sure the time is legit, so they're going to make me rerun it. I push a little harder (although I'm still pretty conservative - coning away my rerun would be pretty tragic) and I find almost another full second.

But things aren't going well in the Rafferty pit either. They have broken their Torsen diff and are fighting wheelspin, and Kent has coned away his fastest run - I'm in the lead!

It's me, then a couple tenths, then Mike, then the Raffertys, then Raleigh, with the rest of the pack fighting it out for 6th place.

Sunday. The course is being run the same direction (counter to normal practice) with a few key cones removed to speed it up (and help the event finish sooner) This means we'll be going even FASTER than before. The Rafferys have bowed out over their broken diff, and Raleigh is over a second behind, so it's going to be a battle between me and Mike's Honda.

The course now features a long second straight, that feeds into a slight left-hand kink, which in turn feeds into a slow 270 loop. I watched ESP go through that kink flat out earlier that morning, so I give it a try. As it turns out, I'm moving about 10 MPH faster than they are at corner entry, and with the rears being a little cold, the kink turns into a full-bore struggle to keep from spinning the car into the grass - nope, can't do that! The time reflects my moment of drama, and Mike puts down a fast one to take the lead.

My next run though is a little less harrowing, and I pull ahead of Mike, who does no better on his second run.

Despite the hot day, I have my tire insulators on - the Kumhos liked a lot of heat. Well, it turns out that Hoosiers get greasy over a certain temperature, and my last run is an exercise in understeer and wide turns. Even so, I manage to find a couple more tenths. Mike's run is a little faster than mine though, and the differential is too close to call. It's going to take a calculator to work it out.

Gee, where have I seen this before?

But once again, the Autocross Gods are smiling, and for once I'm on the happy side of a narrow margin. I win by a staggering 0.035!

We're the Divisional Champions! A repeat!

The new Forced Performance "Big 28" turbo, the ClutchMasters gear, and the TRE rebuilt transmission all held up great, and I'm looking forward to next weekend's Pro. Things are looking good!