The Midfield Report: Observations
from an Autocross Apprentice
Hinton, Redwood Region Secretary, June 2012
Ah, the income tax due date
finally came and went, which means that some of the pressure is off at
work. That gives me more time to fiddle around with cars, and to prepare
for the many Redwood Region events. For me, the autocrosses are the most
important, and soon enough, it was time to prepare for the third event
of the season, which was on May 19.
I was truly looking forward to the May event, for a couple of reasons.
First, a good friend of mine, Bob Werle, drove his 1971 911T Sportomatic
all the way from Manhattan Beach to participate in our event! It seems
that his region down South doesn't sponsor any autocross events, and he
was anxious to try it for himself. Second, the May event would be the
first 2012 event where Chris Harrell and I could renew our "fierce"
midfield rivalry. This time, I had my not-so-secret weapon - Barney!
Chris was able to counter with nice new, sticky tires for his 1973 hot
rod, aka The Beast. Let the fun begin!
Grady Carter, one of our instructors, volunteered (I think!) to design
our course. His course featured a "Chicago Box", which essentially is a
very narrow lane preceded and followed by very sharp turns, with plenty
of cones to massacre. It looked fiendish enough on the track walk, and
would prove to be quite challenging at speed, with "speed" being a
relative term - the entrance and exit had to be taken fairly gingerly.
At first, I didn't care for the Box, but as the day continued, I warmed
up to it, because it gave great satisfaction if driven properly. The
remainder of the course was reasonably straightforward, and we noticed
that the gaping pothole in the "go-kart" section of the track had been
repaired (thank you ESCA!) since our April 14 event.
Due to some unforeseen scheduling conflicts, the number of drivers was
less than we had had for our previous events, which meant that everyone
would have to work both shifts, and we would only have one course worker
per station. The good news was that with smaller run groups, everyone
gets to make more runs than usual. After getting our worker assignments
and instructions at the drivers' meeting, it was time to give Grady's
course a try.
Immediately, it became apparent that the Chicago Box was challenging for
most drivers. It seemed like during every run, the drivers were knocking
down cones at the entry to the Box, or on the exit (or both!). I felt
sorry for the folks that patrolled Stations 2 and 3, as they were
constantly replacing deranged cones. In fact, we had to re-chalk one of
the cone locations because so many cars ran over it! Otherwise, the runs
proceeded without incident, and quickly enough that we were able to fit
in 8 runs before lunch! I've attended autocross events where I've only
made 8 runs in an entire day! I could hardly wait to get out there....
Since this event is only my third event with Barney, it still takes some
time to remember exactly how the car behaves. One thing I forgot was
that the tires need at least one run to develop useful grip. On my first
run of the day, I felt like a rally driver as the car slid around
seemingly at will. Fortunately, by the third run or so, the grip
returns, reducing the "white-knuckle" factor. My times gradually
improved throughout the morning, and I managed to dodge all of the
cones! We'd see about the afternoon...
The afternoon played out much the same as the morning through 7
additional runs, but I did flatten at least a couple of cones in the
afternoon. As the t-shirt says: "No cones, no glory!" The weather warmed
up, which seemed to make the course a little more slippery, and made it
difficult to improve my times. All too soon, we were done for the day.
Chris and I compared our times and...you'll have to check the results to
see where we landed. Let's just say that it was close!
My friend Bob had a fantastic time at his first autocross. Here's an
excerpt from the e-mail he sent me after he got home: "What a
blast. Please pass my thanks and appreciation for accommodating my
participation to all of your colleagues in the PCA Redwood Region; and
thanks for encouraging me to take the trek up north in one of my
sportos." So thanks to all of you who helped my friend have a good
experience. We have the best members in our Region!
Our next event is the Zone 7 event on June 23 and June 24. The Zone
events are perhaps a bit more serious than our normal events, but are
great fun as well. Again, if you haven't already done so, please follow
the link on the autocross page of the Redwood Region's website to
classify your car. Doing so will make you eligible to participate in the
"hard-fought" battles for bragging rights!
here for detailed results from all Redwood Region autocross events.