2001 SCCA Peru National Tour

Here we are with half the season over already. From this point onward, it's all about getting ready for Nationals in September. Everything else is secondary.

So I fixed the shock we damaged earlier in the month, put it back on the car, and drove down to Peru for a test session before the race on the weekend.

The test session went really well. We got the front shocks adjusted, and did some work with the tire pressures and the pyrometer that helped hook up the front of the car some. The car never felt better. There was just one small problem.

It's too slow.

With the current rate of development in this sport, if you stand still, you're actually going backwards. So we've been doing a TON of developmental work to keep abreast (and maybe even pull out front a little) The car is unquestionably much faster then before, but over the last couple of months it seems like we've been falling farther and farther off the pace. It's been really frustrating, and I had been starting to wonder if maybe it was me who was off the pace, not the car.

And here we were, at a test session, with the car feeling as good as it ever has, and me nearly two full seconds off Sam Strano's ESP car. Convinced that I was just missing an essential element of the course, I put Sam in my car - and he was a hair slower than I was. Going to the data revealed very little difference in the way were were driving the car - I was faster in most places, he had me a little in the big slalom - but overall, we were pretty well doing the same thing. It's the car, not me.

Saturday comes, and it's time to race. The first run is decent, but my boost gauge has loosened up and is wobbling around on the dash, which I find distracting, so I don't really attack the course as hard as I could. That gets fixed, and my second run I get a little greedy on a slow turn, overcook the entry, and while I don't hit anything it blows the run. The third run is about halfway between my first run and full banzai, and I get a little faster.

I'm sitting third, but I'm two seconds off the lead (Kent, in the Supra) and 1.2 seconds off second (Karen, co-driving Kent's Supra) I'm also about a second and a half off the lead time in ESP.

Come on! Even if I do suck, I don't suck THAT badly! No WAY am I driving the car 2 seconds off the pace. That's just not possible.

So back to the data, and stare at it some more. Eventually, I come to the conclusion that it's the tires; it has to be the tires. Everyone else is on Hoosiers, I'm on Kumhos. Chris Lindburg lends me a set of Hoosiers, and I put them on the car.

Sunday comes. Saturday had been blazing hot, today it's much cooler, and we're getting the odd brief sprinkling of rain. Hoosiers don't like the cold and the wet, and here I am, sitting on Hoosiers... can I not get a break here?

First run on the new tires. The car is slithering around for the first couple of turns, then all of a sudden the tires heat up enough and I turn into Superman. It turns in better. It carves through corners, instead of sliding through them. The slalom becomes a total non-issue - bang, bang, bang and I'm through it like it wasn't even there. The car is amazing! I get out after the run with my eyes the size of saucers and shaking all over.

Karen runs, and she's slower Kent runs, and he's a small tick faster; a tenth or two.

Holy crap! I'm back in the hunt again! It wasn't me, it was the tires!

My second and third runs are more of the same. I keep getting faster and faster, the car feeling better and better. I'm making tons of little mistakes, because the car feels SO different, but it's like the mistakes don't even matter - I'm still fast. Kent steps it up, but he's only a couple of tenths ahead of me on the day, not the monstrous 2 seconds he had the previous day. And I beat Karen. The rest of the pack is a second and a half back of me.

As it turns out, the lead from the previous day was just too big to overcome, so I finish third overall, but I don't care - I'm back on the pace! I've got my mojo back! I'm really, really pissed I didn't switch tire brands earlier, but so what? I'm on them now. Bye-bye Kumho, hello Hoosier.

When we run the numbers, it turns out that I'm roughly a second and a half faster on the Hoosiers.

Our Nationals prospects just got a whole lot sunnier. This, plus some of the other deals I've got in the works, might just add up to a National Championship.