July 14, 2010

SCCA Tire Rack National Tour 2010 - Fingerlakes New York

Over the weekend I took part in the 3-day National Tour event down in Romulus, New York. Drove with Brian, Don, and Ben on Thursday afternoon and stayed at the Sampson State Park campground. Plenty of rest before each day with some good camp food that we cooked up, what an experience! But you're here for the racing, not about my camping tales!

I got to co-drive with Ben in his 1991 STS (Street Touring) Miata, while Brian and Don were in their monster 1991 SMF (Street Mod Front) K20A/Super Charged CRX. I want to give him, Brian and Don a big ups for letting me come along and especially to Ben for letting me co-drive with him for the weekend.

Friday was pretty slow, but I'm still glad we got there early. We unloaded the cars onto the site, got all of our stuff prepped, and ensured the cars were properly setup. By 12 we were able to tech our cars for the weekend, and then check out a 30 second "test & tune" course setup by the Evolution Autocross School. I got to test out Ben's miata on the course there, getting a feel for it as I could but it drove very different than my own car. Without much room for adjustments, I had to work with what I had! Registration and course walk opened up around 4pm. I got a neat little sticker with my name on it and a barcode for my helmet, as I guess they scan helmets for these type of events. The course was a really good size, with some good pavement. Not like Deven's, but certainly not bad by any means. After some course walks, we went back to the camp site to rest up for Saturday.

Saturday-So the course averaged out as a 80 second course, with the fastest drivers getting mid 70's. As you can see in the videos, it was a lot about lines and not too much about power. I was having a hard time with the car, as controlling it was getting harder and harder per run, as opposed to easier and easier. I wasn't focusing on my lines (which you can clearly see in the videos too), and only got more and more frustrated. I felt that if I was able to play with tire pressures I may have been able to make the car more balanced but I unfortunately didn't have the option to. I came last place out of 13, having no clean runs unfortunately. Good job to Ben for getting 5th place as he tried really hard for it. Ran some fast lines and is used to his setup, enabling him to tame the Miata easily. First three are my runs, then two of Ben's runs. (I got lost on my first run at the end somehow, I felt awkward or something.)

Sunday-The map is slightly different than what was actually run on Sunday, as they modified it last minute apparently. There was unfortunately a problem during the first two runs in where a gate and pointer cone was taken out, confusing many drivers on where they were supposed to go. They had fixed this after the fact and replaced the cones, but that mean't I had only one run to try and work with the course. After finally getting to change tire pressures, I found something that the car behaved with, and took a solid 85' run for my last run. Granted I still came 12th overall, I was happy to see that changing the pressures did such a drastic change in performance. Ben came 5th place overall. For these runs I took Bill Gendron's advice on driving the car at 80% and focusing more on my line as opposed to driving aggressively. That really helped me out for the day. First three movies are me, followed by Ben again.

All in all, the whole event was a different experience than one of the local events. It was very fun, with a lot of pressure. I got to catch up with some people I haven't seen since Divisionals last year, while also meeting some new people. Competing in STS was different than what I was used to, where as everyone had either a Miata or a CRX. Though I was fighting the car on Saturday, and trying to take it easy on Sunday, I still had a great time and enjoyed seeing what I could do outside of my car. The final results are located here, over at SCCA.com.
Another good thing I'm glad I got to see was all of the SM cars that were at the event. It showed me a lot regarding how you build an SM car, what to expect and aim for. The only true SM car in my region would have to be G-Fab's 240 (blog listed in links), but it is hard to get examples from just one car. It taught me a lot about the class and gave me some ideas of things I can do to be more competitive in the class (besides getting R comps). I guess we'll have to see where the car goes as time goes on, but for now, I can only wait for it to come back from Small Fortune Racing with it's new exhaust system and some other goodies. More pictures of the event located here! Until next weekend, stayed tuned.

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