WDMS - Chapter 213 - October 2013

SCCA RALLYCROSS NATIONALS

( Links to more pics and vids at the bottom of the page)

 

The SCCA's 2013 RallyCross (Rx) Nationals were recently held in Tulsa and we scooted up there with ResQ to play in the dirt. This came about after having dinner with some friends (Matt n Misty) and they mentioned some folks prepping for it. I had thought the event had already happened but upon checking I found out that it was the Rx National Challenge (for ax drivers think 'national tour') that was a few months back and the RxNats was coming up the next weekend. Plenty of time...

Well, we had a car that was built to play in the dirt so we decided to see how it would do. We had several sets of tires that came with the car and although they were very old, they had deep tread and held air. What more could we ask? Knowing only one actual rx-er, I ring her up. Brianne Corn won her class last year and has a rx playground at her house near San Marcos (aptly named Brianne Corn Raceway...go figure). We've been meaning to go play there, but schedules just have not worked out. Brianne answers and we have a nice chat where she tells me the basics and urges me to come on up and play. She'll be driving a borrowed bright blue Subaru BRZ on snow tires in Stock Rear wheel drive class. It doesn't take much and we decide to go. I checked online and found that rx has 3 main classes that consist of stock vehicles (with only a few changes legal), prepared vehicles (a few more changes), and modified vehicles (lots of changes). For each of the three main classes, there are subclasses for front wheel drive, rear wheel drive and all wheel drive. 9 classes total and so SF is Stock Front wheel drive. PA is Prepared All wheel drive and MR is Modified Rear wheel drive. ResQ fell into MR and we had 7 entrants including me. I was virtually assured of a top 10 finish! Heh. As you look at pics, the SF, SA, SR, PF, PA, PR and MF, MR, MA should make sense now.

The event started Friday at noon with registration and tech inspection. The spectacle actually started hours before that as the sun came up on our commute and random cars flocked to the side of the trailer to check out ResQ. I had borrowed an open trailer (thanks James!!!) because I wasn't taking much and meeting the other Texas Rx-ers to paddock with and to also save on fuel/space. With this bright white and red MkIV Supra raised up and on aggressive rally tires perched for all the world to see, the common reaction seemed to be to...well...come and see it! In the Dallas area particularly, cars would slice across lanes of traffic to slide up next to ResQ and I could see phones lifted to snap pics. Several ricers import drivers gave us enthusiastic 'thumbs up' motions as they grinned and passed on by.

Above: This car was stupid fast, made really good noises, but sadly broke during the first set of runs

So we arrive to the site and it is the Tulsa Dragstrip and we get to play in a huge field that is adjoining. We paddock in another grass field, but get to grid on pavement and have real bathrooms. Pretty slick. After unloading ResQ, I putt on over to registration and as I'm checking in lots of folks are noticing the car. After chatting a bit, I take the car back to the paddock and put on all the required stickers for tech inspection and then head over there. Severaly more folks come to check the car out and ask questions. Tech goes smoothly and ResQ gets the sticker that says she can play. Back to the paddock and I check the lugs, clean out the car and grab my helmet and head over to the other side of the site where the local region has setup a short practice course. I find a lot of the Texas folks playing and Brianne introduces me to a lot of them. I buy a handful of tickets (1 practice run costs 1 ticket) and line up. The course has been open an hour and is easy to see in the tall grass. In my first ever run in ResQ I am treated to the dynamic that all drivers hate: understeer. Indeed, not putting down power (and it didn't) was second and the two prevalent traits had me not so happy. I finish and scoot over near the end of the line and check air pressures. Not knowing what works I do my typical radical change just to see if anything happens. Tire pressures were set for transport and were at about 38psi so I dropped 10 pounds all the way around to 28. Lined up and went again. I could tell on the first little corner that the change was indeed good as the front end actually went where I wanted and the back tires dug in a lot more to the soft dry earth. I had seen a few cars in my class run and my time was now within 2 seconds of theirs now that I had dropped 6 seconds off my first run. I decided to leave the car alone the next two runs and just try lines and see where the car stuck. While watching I could see some folks taking the sweeper right in the middle, drifting, throwing massive dirt....while others were hugging the inside in a more tidy line. The next two runs saw me drop some time, but the other MR cars did as well so I was still a second or so back on this 30 second course.  Brianne was dialing in the BRZ (SR) she was driving and we chatted a bit and for my next run she hopped in and rode with me. She pointed out places where I was doing just fine (slaloms and some lane changes) and areas where I was 'too tidy' (sweeper) and needed to be more aggressive. After her ride, I had one more run and I really pushed it pretty hard and was rewarded with a time that was right alongside the other MR cars I'd seen run. I was pretty happy. <cue ominous music>

Note: I've now got a handful of rx runs under my belt. I'm sure I can go faster because I've never rx'd before and I've never driven this car in anger before. Lots of room to improve, but one thing will remain the exact same: This is a stupid fun sport. I mean, moronically insanely stupidly fun. I'd take a corner not quite how I wanted and be upset with myself, but still be grinning like a kid in a candy store. Seriously. Stupid. Fun. Don't get me wrong, love taking Scratcher to the track, still love autocrossing when I can, but this is a seriously fun sport. 

GTS that had two drivers in my MR class

At this point, let me share with you a few things you need to know. First off, I did not win this event. I am a competitive person and I've had a great run of results this year, but this event was not in the cards. Actually, at the end of day 2, I was fighting as hard as I ever have to not finish last! Second off, rx is just incredibly, moronically stupid fun. Yes, I know I just covered that, but I'm reinforcing a point. Stupid. Fun. Third, the folks who I met were all top notch and great and we had a really fun time. Fourth, and this is important, rx is scored cumulative. That is, each run you take adds those seconds to your 'total time'. At the end of your runs ALL your times are added together and the lowest time wins. A spin, a did-not-finish, a tire that de-beads from the rim...all these things are killers, on top of a normal cone penalty of 2 seconds. In normal autocross (ax) your best time is what counts. Here, consistency and always being clean and quick are rewarded. For the rxnats we have a SAT AM course (course 1, or C1), a SAT PM course (C2) and then a SUN AM course (C3). We are scheduled to get 3-5 runs per course and, as stated, lowest time over all the courses and runs wins each class.

Turbo miata, well setup and well driven with lots of experience....and it showed

Next up, let's chat about tires. I bring this up because it was brought up to me quite painfully, although the person who brought it up didn't even know it.

So after the practice runs we all head back to the paddock to get the cars ready for the next day. I pull the pax seat (extra weight not needed) and begin to setup the vid cam and get my stuff ready to go to grid in the morning. LOTS of folks came up to the car at the practice and moreso are coming at the end of the day. Several folks knew the car when it was pro-rallied and I get to visit with people and hear their stories and such. One of the photographers at the event had actually seen the car run back in the day. So, the forecast is for MASSIVE rain overnight and then clear weather on Saturday and Sunday. This is common knowledge and everyone is talking about it. A guy walks up and says 'Cool car, do you have other tires?'. To which I point to the full set in the back of the truck that happen to be identical to the ones on the car. He smiles and says 'no (light laugh), do you have anything besides gravel tires?'. Uh. Wait. What?

I knew my tires were different than the other folks in Modified class, but they seemed to do fine earlier in the day. I looked closer at the turbo miata, the e36 bmw and then the vw bug (bored/stroked to 2.1L, megasquirt injected, etc), the e30 and the corolla GTS. They all had either snow tires or very open-treaded rally tires. Their tread blocks were soft, you could grab them and twist them...and their tread pattern had a lot of void area. Hmmm...with so much going on to get ready for the event and get to the event I never really thought much about it. Our Pirelli PZero K40 Rally tires had deep tread, but not nearly as soft and the tread pattern was pretty tight with little void area comparatively. Well, perhaps the rain will miss us and I can stay competitive in the dry. 

Yeah. No.

At the hotel (with an incredible huge whirlpool tub with jets powerful enough to spin our daughter in circles!!) late that night my hopes were taken outside and drowned in the massive downpour that hit the area. Well, perhaps the tires would still be almost kinda decent. In the mud. In a few hours. 

Yeah. No.

Like any autocross format, the drivers are broken up into groups and with Stock, Prep and Mod being the divisors, we used those. Stock would run first while Prep worked. Then Prep ran while Mod worked and then Mod ran while Stock worked. So first session, I had nothing to do so I shot a lot of pics of the stock class cars. The rain had stopped at daybreak with occasional sputters but the ground was soaked. Several Stock cars were on all-seasons and they were painfully slower than the ones on snow tires. The grass was quickly shredded and the mud was thick and sticky. While snapping pics, I hoped my tires would provide some level of stick. In a surprise move, the organizers made the decision that the Sat AM course would only get TWO runs. With the thick mud it was taking a LOT longer and they wanted to try and get back on schedule for the afternoon runs. For my work assignment I picked 'course' so I could watch the drivers and see how they attacked the course. I watched the Prep cars and thankfully could see timing display to see who was fast and who was not. I learned a good deal from taking pictures of the stock class and working the Mod class and it was time to see what I learned.

Above and below: Mud Runs on C1 (note top of VW)

So I slide in the car and I'm greeted with another rx oddity: the pace lap. We all line up and slowly drive the course to 'see' it. I had walked it early that morning, and boy had it changed. While the layout was the same the actual course was now completely dug in and thick with black mud which stood out in stark contrast to the lush green that was adjacent. On the pace lap, I tried to 'clear' my rear tires by spinning them. Hey, I'm from Texas, I had a Chevy Z71 and I've thrown a piece of mud or two. So as the course bends to the left a bit I look in the drivers' side door mirror and romp on the gas pedal. The tach swings toward the red zone as the rear tires spin up and virtually nothing comes off the tires. My forward velocity barely changes. This is where my imagination takes over and I can clearly hear the voice of my father in the imaginary seat next to me say "Son, this is going to be a character building day". "Yes dad...yes it is".

The BEAST! Sad to see it break, but the car was incredible!

I will not bore you with the details, but after the first two (and thankfully ONLY) two runs on the mud-infested-Saturday-AM-track, I was 17 (yes....seventeen!) seconds off the leader. "Why yes, I'd like a huge order of character, with a small side of character and a 44 ounce character drink please!" No biggie really, I've been racing a long time and know that sometimes you're the bug and sometimes you're the windshield. Might as well buckle down and learn something. 

I could see the rear wheels of other cars throwing huge pieces of mud and clawing their way forward while my futile attempts at moving forward resulted in tire spin and packing more mud into the tight tread pattern that is very clearly and plainly a non-self-clearing type of pattern. Sigh.

Run 1 on C2 and I instituted the weight savings change of beginning to remove the front urethane lip! 

So lunch time...yeah...hung with the fam and enjoyed the warming and drying day. I silently hoped that it was drying fast enough that I could begin to claw my way out of last. I found out that the little e30 that ran so well in practice broke and the drivers had jumped to other co-drives. Our little class of nine was now a class of seven. Sadly, I was still in last. After only two runs the times looked pretty bad, but IF the track dried and IF I kept pushing I could maybe get 6th.

After TWO RUNS:

Miata 103.9

Miata 106.6

E36 109.1

Bug 113.7

GTS 115.9

GTS 119.5

ResQ 120.7

E30 (both) DNF!

So, after two runs the miata looked unmatchable. It was light, it scooted across the top of the muck and it threw massive chunks of mud out the back. The e36 looked good, and perhaps it could split the miata drivers and move up? I was only a second behind one of the GTS drivers and hopefully I could claw my way forward. Two entrants had dropped, and I was still last. Hahaha.

Most of the cars in MR. Tough to get a more difference set of cars! Everyone was friendly and we had a great time!

So after lunch, we watched Stock class run. Brianne had a first run like mine (traction control didnt...so she killed TC it for run 2...I had no such option) and was massively behind and she was driving hard to make up time.  I worked second heat and then got on my game face for the afternoon course. We'd get three shots at this course and it was fairly tight like the first one. But it was drying. Rapidly.

I dropped more air pressure out of the tires, but didn't want to go too far and chance a tire de-beading off the rim. However, when you're at the bottom the only place to go is up, so I bled them down to 25 and strapped in. The run was pretty good, I was a bit timid in a few places but hung it out pretty well in others (A text from Brianne as I was putting back to grid: "more aggression"). With live timing on the SCCA site, I reloaded the page as I pulled into grid and OMG I RAN A FASTER TIME THAN TWO OTHER CARS!! Yes. This was what I needed. I decided to leave the tires alone and simply push harder and be smoother for run 2 and was rewarded with another second lopped off my time. The course was drying fast and another text "great, but more aggression" signaled a final run that I really needed to do well on. I left the tires alone again and visualized the track a few more times and then went and lined up. I dropped another two seconds just by looking more ahead, being smoother and even more aggressive ( text: "great job!!"). My final run for the day was a 61.5, beating the GTS drivers (65.3, 64.2), the bug (61.8) and one of the miatas (62.4), but still lagging behind the e36 (59.5!!) and the other miata driver (58.7!!!). I was stoked after that run. I knew I still had work to do and I just hoped that I would get enough runs tomorrow to make a difference.

During the first run on C2, I heard a loud bang and I dove into a left hand turn with a lot of ruts and thought I'd popped a tire or blew the bead off the rim. Car drove fine and I didn't back of...only to get to grid and see that the MVP Motorsports supplied urethane lip was held on by only a few bolts on one side. I removed the bolts and the lip, which has a few scratches, but none the worse for the joyride under the car. At least I was taking weight off the end of the car that needed it most!!

Big. Bag. O. Fun!

At the end of the day lots of folks came by to see the car again and comment on the last run and how good it looked. That was nice to hear and I was grinning a whole lot as we ran the checklist to line out everything for Sunday.

At the end of the day the miata co-drivers still were dominant

Miata 285.1

Miata 286.2

E36 288.9

Bug 303.9

GTS 307.3

ResQ 310.2

GTS 320.4

E30 (both) withdrawn at this point

So we left to go have a nice dinner and I wasn't in last anymore. In fact, if the course the next day was more dry perhaps I could make up those 3 seconds to catch the other GTS driver. The miata guys seem to have a lock on the top spots, but maybe the e36 would have something for them. The bug seemed to have the 4th position locked.

Just a normal bored/stroked vw to 2.1l, with megasquirt fuel injection!

Now, a spin, a few cones, or a missed gate (10 sec penalty) or even a de-beaded tire would really rattle the standings, so there would be no letting up. We'd all push for all we are worth to keep clocking as a low a time as possible.

After a nice calm night outside (but spinning kiddo whirlpool tub inside!!!!) it dawned clear and bright and every moment that passed before group 3 ran was another moment that the glorious sun could keep drying the dirt.

Bug struggled with such little weight on the nose it required an interesting driving style to get it to turn! Looked and sounded great!

First session went well, I snapped more pics and Brianne clawed her way to a podium after starting with a massive deficit. She posted fastest time on the final course for her class by a decent margin. The course kept drying as the sun stayed bright. YES!

Clean little e30 headed back to grid after a run

I worked for the prepared run group again and watched the lines of the PR class as I had watched the SR class in the first session. Soon, it was time to head over to grid and get ready to play. The tires seemed to like the lower pressure so I started them out at 24 for this heat. We knew we were going to get 5 runs since Stock and Prep did, and I was hopeful that 5 runs would be enough to make up the 3 seconds to get past the other GTS driver.

This guy (and co-driver) was supposed to be in MR, but broke. Sharp looking car and sounded good. Maybe next year!!

First off, the Sunday course (C3) was physically as big as the first two courses on Saturday, but much more open and according to the S and P runs, the average speed was much higher. Some big fast corners and some widely spaced offsets promised a completely different challenge than the ones we saw on C1 and C2. Plus, it was now dry. Totally completely dry. Oh yes.

Turbo miata power....light weight, good build, good tires....just not quite enough....

C3 was the big equalizer. The e36 was at home on this course and chipped away at the miata's lead every single run, overtaking the top miata by .8 seconds with one run to go and then putting another 1.1 seconds on the miata the final run. The second miata had a cone from C2 and another on C3 and finished some 3 seconds behind his co-driver. Sadly, without those two cones he would have beat his co-driver, but it would still not have been enough to catch the e36.

Clean E36 in MR on stout tires, great setup and driven really well

Further down the pack, I gained time on the bug for C3, but nowhere near enough to catch him. I did reel in the fastest GTS driver and was .1 behind him going into the final run. He actually had a faster raw time for the last run, but clipped a cone and ultimately finished .8 or so behind me. I ended the competition in 5th out of 9 (which got revised to 5th out of 7 after DNFs) some 4 seconds behind the Bug overall. The mud C1 killed me and the mucky C2 was not much better.

Hard to put down power with a rear tire in the air, but I'm still trying!!!!

In the end, I'm damn happy, and I'll tell you why. The spring rates are not right for this type of thing and the tires are horrendously bad. Experienced rx-ers have said that good tires would be worth a few seconds on C3 and even if they are only worth 1.5 seconds that puts us very nicely in the hunt.

Mostly though, if we look at the five runs in C3 alone, the e36 averaged a 59.6 second time, the miatas averaged a 60.7 and 61.1 second time, ResQ averaged a 61.6 and the Bug averaged a 62.1. I'm very encouraged.

 

Color coordinated cheerleader FTW!!!

As for work on the car, I brought bins of spares and never opened a one of them. I checked the torque on the wheels each day, added a splash of fuel Friday night, played with air pressure (which got down to 22 on C3 and it kept feeling better!) and wiped down the windows. The only time I went digging for tools was to remove the passenger seat Friday night and then on Sunday to loan them to another competitor as they didn't have any.

Google "rally fighter". If you have to ask how much it is....

 

Link to a LOT of pics of the event: Ch214

Link to the WDMS index where you'll find a lot of other racing and family stories: WDMS News

Video links:  Front Suspension Cam: https://vimeo.com/77093633   Inside cam: https://vimeo.com/77095339   Rear Cam GoProHD: https://vimeo.com/77099693

STILL PROCESSING VIDEO AND I'LL BE ADDING MORE SOON.