SCCA SOLO II National Tour, Devens, MA
A Big Heapin' Helpin' of Humble Pie...
It was a dark and stormy night…
Yes folks, I finally get to use that line. It was dark and storming as I landed in Boston about 15 minutes late (already 1230) Friday night (really Saturday morning) and then we sat on the ramp with a broken airplane at our gate. I won’t bore you with details, but I didn’t leave the rental car place until 0200. Ug. Then, of course, downtown Boston is under construction and you can’t get on 93 North. Great. Clipping off another great laugh-a-minute thriller full of closed ramps and overturned 18 wheelers we fast forward to me arriving at the hotel at 0415. I told the clerk to please set an 0630 wakeup call and she looked at me crazy and said ‘THIS morning?’ to which I was already walking down the hall and said ‘yes’. Slept on the bed in my clothes, woke up 2 hours later, showered, changed, and headed out.
Our trusty steed: An 01 Z28.
Met Mark and Lisa in the rain that morning and got busy swapping tires, sway bar bracket and general prep. We (mostly me) decided on 710s over half-worn streets. I have run 710s in dampness on concrete with good results. This was, however asphalt and we were hopelessly outgunned. This was a case of the ‘haves’ (radial wets / dirt stockers) and the ‘have nots’ (streets or 710s), and we were decidedly in the latter. While mounting up the 710s in the morning I took the time to put the rear shocks and full soft and we found that the front slots to adjust the koni’s were inaccessible and they were on full stiff. In the rain. On streets. Full stiff. Ug. After two runs Strano set the bar at a 68.1 (on sticker radial wets) with Martynuska in the 69s and the next 3 folks in the 70.Xs. Mark had a 74 and I had a 75. This was ugly. A fast change to streets on grid netted Mark another second drop to a 73 and I dropped to a 71. We should have run streets the whole time, and it was my advice that put us behind. With another run I probably could have dropped a bit more time (a 70.X was fully possible, a 69.X was probably dreaming), but this was the hand I dealt us and it was about as enjoyable as the wet socks and shoes I had on. After three runs I was in 6th and Mark was in 8th out of a total of 11 folks. We prayed for sunshine and dry pavement for day #2. It had rained the entire day all the way up till I was almost at the hotel. <sigh>
Above: Radial Wets...if you could only 'see' the softness...and Dirt Stockers (equally soft but less stiff a sidewall).
Above : Our 'rain' tires (aka: 'streets').
Day #2 (and a full 9 hours of sleep for me!) dawned clear and bright. We were at the event early and Mark and Lisa had already put the car on 710s the afternoon before and we were ready. First thing Strano said to me on grid that morning was ‘Don’t go and embarrass me today!’ and we laughed. I was hopeful for some redemption but it wasn’t going to happen. I coned first run trying to get the car to turn in and Mark did too. Second run saw Mark put down a clean run and I put down a very fast (2nd fastest time of day) only to have timing tell me that I would have to take a re-run. My 50.2 evaporated and I coned on the re-run. Mark blistered his third run to a 50.3 and was the second fastest official run on Sunday (only .1 behind my tossed run, and ahead of everybody else in the field except for Strano). In the middle of my 2nd (and rerun) run the brakes dropped to the floor and I got killed on two fast corners by going entirely too deep and then it also happened to Mark but not quite as bad. My third run was the same (brakes brakes BRAKES!!!) and I had to make do with a 51.6 for 7th best time of Sunday (love those guys in T&S). Mark and I both had posi issues and agreed that a fluid flush and switch would help a lot too as the three big RH turns both produced lots of inside rear wheelspin. Strano ended up first with Ron Bistrais (fast driver and overall really nice guy) second. Martynuska was third and Wiker took the last trophy spot (car owner of the car Strano drove). Congrats guys!
Day two. Sun, non-rain, light winds.....ahhhhh
On one hand Mark and I were terribly disappointed in our finishes and on the other we were actually pretty happy (crazy, I know, but run with me here). First off, Mark had never beaten Ron at an event. Ever. In fact he is usually a second or so back. He beat him on Sunday in a very ill-optimized car by three tenths. Furthermore my quick (tossed) run included two places of evilABSbraking™ that really hurt my time. With adjusted Koni’s and some new rear pads and a little more posi I think Mark’s car is definitely, solidly in the hunt. I don’t want to take anything away from the folks who finished in front of us (I was 7th, Mark was 8th) as they did an awesome job and I congratulate them all, but I feel VERY good about going to Milwaukee in Mark’s car with the items rectified. We have eaten enough humble pie and hopefully we will get to serve some.
The FS lineup in Devens
I can’t say enough about the FS crowd. There is no other stock class that is even close to FS in terms of friendliness, helpfulness and general camaraderie. I hugely appreciate the acceptance from everyone and we all had a good time. When Mark and I thrashed to change to streets in the middle of the heat several FS drivers all pitched in to help (thanks to ALL of you!!!) to make sure we were done in plenty of time. The only other class that I know of that is like that is CP (which is kinda the big brother to FS….loud cars that go fast and really smell like autocross!!). It was great meeting the frrax brethren and fellow pony car folks. Bistrais, Strano, Petrucci, the Jeffs (Grinavic + Martynuska), Wiker, etc. are all great and I hope to battle again with them all soon.
Lisa ready for battle in FSL.
While Lisa was dominating FSL a civic exploded while crossing the finish line. Fire all the way under the car, out the back, up the hatch and blowing a good 6’ behind the car (he was going ~45mph). It was an incredible sight and I had just put my camera away. Sorry.
Mark found a cracked sway bar bracket (you 4th genners know this one!) and had trouble locating another. I brought two from Texas and let me tell you what, the metal in those things is the kind that really REALLY sets off the metal detectors and will make the TSA security guys take apart your bags pretty darn quick. With GM stickers still on them it was an easy explanation though.
I hauled Dirt Stockers to Walnut Ridge (didn't use them) and Houston (didn't use them). Shoulda put them on the plane with me to Devens!
While calling in penalties and such, the Northeast guys say ‘car #45, STX is off course’. I was working start and would immediately turn and look for a car deep in the trees. Actually they just mean ‘DNF’. Took me a while to get used to that. Additionally they call in ‘pylons’ and not ‘cones’. Same thing, but it just sounds odd to me. Now, we did have one car go off into the weeds but the workers pushed him out and he limped to grid.
I've done mas research on the 'falling brake pedal' thing and Nick has had to deal with it too (along with TONS of other autocrossers/open lappers). Changing to better rear pads and good fluid is the first step and Mark will do that and run the DC Pro to make sure it is fixed before the haul to Milwaukee. I'm crossing my fingers!
I make it a point to be non-descript in airports. I don’t usually wear anything logo’d at all, but leaving Devens I had on my TAMU windbreaker as I accidentally left my sweatshirt in the pits (thanks for saving it Mark, bring it to Milwaukee!!). In the Boston and Chicago airports both, a few folks would give me a thumbs up and say ‘Gig’Em!’ to which I replied in kind. Very cool.
HUGE thanks to Mark and Lisa for letting me drive their car. I am WAY looking forward to the next event with them (Milwaukee) and we'll see if we can do better.
Above: The entrance gate. Two below: Ron's pimpy stripes!
Below: Mark doing some coaching before Lisa launches on another run.
Above: That monkey went for some serious rides...