Last month, I reported on Redwood Region's first July autocross
event, which was held on July 7, and was designated as a "Ladies Day"
event. This report will cover the second event, which was held on July
21. As I indicated earlier, July was a busy month! Unfortunately, I was
out of town for the August 11 event, but participants assured me that a
good time was had by all!
In contrast to our previous event, most of our normal autocross crew
would be attending, so I didn't have to arrive particularly early. Once
I arrived, I was happy to see that attendance was greatly improved over
our July 7 event, which meant that we would have plenty of people to man
the various duties that go with conducting an autocross event.
This event's course was designed by our Zone 7 Representative, Sharon
Neidel, and it differed significantly from the fast, flowing course at
the July 7 event. The course featured the usual slalom sections, and the
typically bumpy ride through the go-kart section, with a couple of
interesting additions: the first major difference was that there was a
180-degree right-hand exit out of the go-kart section, which would be a
very slow turn. The second interesting feature was a very fast set of
gates near the finish line. The brave drivers felt that this last
section could be taken without braking, or even lifting the throttle!
We'd see about that....
The weather started off relatively cool, but the absence of cloud cover
meant that the temperatures would warm quickly. As our course tends to
get slippery in the afternoon, there would be great emphasis on trying
to set quick times during the morning runs. Personally, I've always
found that it takes me several runs to find the quickest way around an
autocross course, so I usually post my fastest times in the afternoon,
even if the track surface is more slippery. It could be that the
slightly-reduced traction enables me to rotate the car more easily into
the tighter corners, which leads to faster times. That's my theory, and
it seems to work, so I'm sticking with it!
My archrival Chris wasn't able to attend this time, so my direct
competition would be another 914, driven by Bob Schoenherr, one of our
talented instructors. Bob has participated in a few (dozen) more
autocross events than I have, and he always seems to extract the maximum
performance from his 914. He is also a very knowledgeable instructor, so
if you get the chance to get him in your car, take it! I was anxious to
see how we'd match up. After the obligatory tire-warming runs, it was
time to try and tame the course. As anticipated, the exit out of the
go-kart was excruciatingly slow, and I found it very difficult to exit
at the correct point to be properly set up for the following turn. Also,
the set of gates at the end of the course was quite fast, but I couldn't
quite get up the nerve to take the section flat out. If you ran too wide
out of the penultimate gate, you'd wind up in the dirt, and the last
gate would require a very quick right/left flick in order to avoid
knocking down cones. Bob was comfortably ahead of me. There was work to
be done after the lunch break....
As anticipated, the temperature had increased significantly by the time
our lunch break ended. Accordingly, we decided to have fewer runs than
in the morning, which would allow everyone to get home a bit earlier.
After discussing the go-kart section with other drivers, and adjusting
tire pressures, it was time for the afternoon session. I was still not
very happy with my performance in the go-kart section, but I seemed to
be going just a bit faster. On my second run, I was almost able to take
the last section flat out, but I chickened out at the last minute, just
lifting the throttle before the last gate. Finally, on my third run, I
successfully negotiated the last section without slowing. The car just
drifted through the last gate, right on the edge of control. I thought
that better have been faster, because that was a bit scary! Fortunately,
that run was over half a second better than my previous best. I pulled
off the same trick on the following run, and improved a bit more. The
last time I tried that approach, the track (or my tires) had lost just a
wee bit of grip, and the car fishtailed into a spin after the last gate.
Part of the good news was that the spin happened after the finish line,
and I didn't hit any cones, so there was no time penalty. The other part
of the good news is that I didn't try to repeat that approach on my last
run, so no more spinning! Who says dinosaurs can't learn?! After the
event, I compared my times with Bob's and found that he had gone about
0.6 seconds faster than I had. I'll have to try again in September!
Speaking of September, I will report on the September 22 event in our
next newsletter. Although I was unable to attend the August event, I was
encouraged by the level of participation. Be sure to come out to the
September event - you'll want to practice up for the grand finale (the
"enduro" event) in October. See you out on the course!
here for detailed
results from all Redwood Region autocross events