The Midfield Report: Observations
from an Autocross Apprentice
Redwood AX-ers line up in
front of a beautiful Sonoma County backdrop
(photo by Randy Wentzel Photography)
Hinton, Redwood Region Mem
Zone 7 Rep Sharon Neidel blurring
(not killing) cones in her 914
(photo by Randy Wentzel Photography)
ber, April 2012
At precisely 6:29 a.m., my eyes snapped open. Finally, after what seemed
like an eternity, the big day arrived - the first Redwood Region
autocross of 2012! On Friday night, I tried to take my own advice, and
gathered my driving clothes and helmet in one place. It would be
embarrassing to show up at the first event and have to use a loaner
Because I live 45+ minutes from the course, there wasn't much time to
get ready and still arrive shortly after 8:00. As I've noted previously,
it's much less stressful to arrive early, and early arrival gives you
the opportunity to walk the course, catch up with friends, and relax a
bit before the serious work of driving begins. I was especially excited
for this first autocross, as it was going to be the debut of my new (to
me) 1972 911T on the autocross course. The 911T, affectionately known as
"Barney" (it's purple, and a dinosaur), was driven in autocross and
track events by its previous owner, and it has a modified (very, ahem,
firm) suspension. Over the winter, I had installed new rear brake
calipers and brake pads, and had a transmission issue repaired. I had
driven the car about 1,000 miles on the road (including the annual
Members' Meeting drive in October), and was anxious to see how the car
felt in competition. Barney was ready to go, with the exception of
needing a bit of fuel to ensure that I wouldn't run out at the course.
Doing so would ruin the day, so I planned a quick "splash and go" in
Santa Rosa on my way over.
After loading the car with a lounge chair, numbers, and driving gear, we
were off! The morning was cool and overcast, which is a good thing for
old oil-cooled Porsche engines. I drove leisurely over the hill to Santa
Rosa from the Napa Valley, and decided to put $20 worth of fuel (4.5
gallons or so) on my way, which would be plenty for the driving and the
trip home. Right on schedule, I rolled into the 76 station at Old
Redwood Highway and River Road, and hopped out to add fuel. There was a
slight problem, though. In my haste to leave, I left my wallet at home!
That meant no cash, no credit cards, no driver's license, no AOA badge,
nothing! I was furious with myself and hoped that this twist wasn't an
omen of things to come. Oh well, I continued on to the course (slowly,
of course) and busied myself with the tech inspection and registration.
I also sent a text to my wife, asking her if she could bring me $20 so
that I could make it home. She had already left the house too, so she
couldn't bring my wallet, but said she'd stop by later with my "bailout"
After I completed tech inspection and registration, I took a walk around
the course. As I gain experience, it's easier to visualize how the
course will flow while walking it, and it was apparent immediately that
the course had very few slow corners. If I had known the course would be
like this, I would have driven my '87 Carrera, which has about 100 more
horsepower than Barney. Too late for that now! I was in the second run
group, so I had a good idea of the times that other drivers were
setting. The format in the morning was to complete a warm-up lap,
followed by a timed lap. The first group did two cycles, then it was our
On my first run, I honestly thought that my warm-up lap was better than
the timed lap, but that's how it goes! As I rolled up to pick up my
timing slip, I thought that Barney felt good around the corners, but a
bit breathless on the "straights," so I wasn't expecting a particularly
fast time. I almost fainted when I got the first slip, because it was
about 3 seconds FASTER than I expected! My second run was 1 second
faster yet! Barney was doing great!
For the afternoon session, Autocross Director David Bunch decided to go
back to single timed laps, and each group got 8 runs instead of 4
(including the warmups) in the morning. Good stuff, because more runs =
more fun! My wife Brenda showed up with my bailout money and helped me
shag cones for the afternoon session. Then, it was time to drive again.
Naturally, on my first run, with my wife watching, I made a huge error
exiting the fast part of the course, and nearly spun! I didn't hit any
cones though, and made it back in one piece. The rest of the afternoon
was a blur - it seemed that you started a run about 2 minutes after
finishing the previous one. That sure beats waiting....
So, how did Barney and I do? Well, you'll have to check the results to
get the answer, but here's a clue: we were solidly in the midfield,
which is a happy place for both of us. I had a blast driving Barney, and
can't wait for the next event. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who had
fun; check out Tom Markovich's article about his first Redwood Region
So, mark your calendar for April 14! I plan to attend, even though it's
the last weekend before the tax deadline of April 17. Barney and I hope
to see you out there!
here for detailed results from all Redwood Region autocross events.