Hinton, Redwood Region Secretary, November 2012
October 20 was the
date of the Redwood Region's final autocross event for the 2012 season.
Aside from being the last event of the year, the event was special in
that it incorporated an "enduro" component for the afternoon session. In
Redwood Region parlance, an "enduro" event is one in which the
participants complete multiple circuits of the course (usually four) at
a time, as opposed to the single-lap runs that we typically do.
For me, the enduro
events are the most eagerly-anticipated events of the year, for several
reasons. First, and most important, is the fact that completing
four circuits of the course in succession gives me the opportunity to
truly learn the course, and allows more "real-time" fine-tuning in
search of the fastest way around the course. Secondly, because of the
multiple lap approach, the courses themselves are usually more
free-flowing, which allows a driver to establish a rhythm, and drive
more smoothly. Finally, the intense concentration associated with 3+
minutes of flat-out driving is simply invigorating.
This event's course
was designed by our intrepid Autocross Director, David Bunch. David's
design featured the typical slalom, and twisty ride through the go-kart
section, as well as a fast, sweeping section through a series of cone
walls that was similar to a long slalom. The course didn't feature any
truly slow elements, which meant that the faster cars would be able to
stretch their legs a bit, and less-powerful cars like 914s and my 911T
would probably run out of breath in second gear on the fast sections.
From a pedestrian's point of view, the course looked like a lot of fun,
but the "wall element" would severely punish any untidy driving through
the long sweepers.
The weather started
off cool and damp. In fact, the fog was so thick that the far end of the
course wasn't visible from the starting grid. The weather forecasters
had promised warm and sunny weather for the day, but you know how
accurate Northern California weather
forecasts can be. Weather forecasting seems to be the only job (except
for that of a major league batter) where you can be wrong 70% of the
time, and still get paid! As all of the participants shivered in the
mist prior to the driver's meeting, we all hoped that the sunny skies
would eventually arrive.
By the time the
morning runs began, the fog began to lift, and it appeared that the sun
would shine after all. The format of the morning session differed from
the usual practice of one timed lap per run. Instead, for the first run,
drivers completed an untimed warm-up lap, followed by a timed flying lap
for the first run. For the second and third runs of the morning, the
drivers started at a different spot on the course, and then completed
two consecutive timed laps. This format was excellent preparation for
the big four-lap enduro that would constitute the afternoon session.
Our group was the
first to tackle the course, and given the chilly weather and lack of
sun, it was no surprise to discover that grip proved to be elusive on
the first untimed lap. However, conditions seemed a bit better on the
second lap, and I was optimistic that times would improve in the second
and third runs of the morning. During the bench-racing session that
occurs between runs, everyone I talked to felt that conditions would
improve as the course warmed up. Sure enough, the sun finally
overpowered the clouds and fog, and my times improved steadily - about
0.2 to 0.3 seconds per lap, which was gratifying. The course was
outstanding, technical enough to be challenging, but not so tight to be
frustrating. Great job, David!!
With the exception
of one off-course incident involving a new driver, the morning session
for the second run group ran smoothly. Working as the starter, I was
able to watch all of the competitors, and noted that very few cones were
being sacrificed on the altar of speed. Soon enough, the lunch break was
over, and it was time for the main event.
As you know, an
autocross event is designed to reward fast, precise driving.
Ordinarily, I'd say that my personal bias is towards the "fast" aspect.
After all, driving Porsches fast is fun! I hate hitting cones, but with
up to 14 or 15 runs available at an event, a fallen cone or botched run
won't ruin your entire day. Enduro events are different - they're more
like qualifying for the Indy 500: you basically get one chance to drive
four near-perfect laps. With that in mind, I decided to switch my
approach to "precise" and (relatively) smooth. The actual four laps were
somewhat of a blur, and I think I remembered to breathe at least once
per lap! When the dust settled, I managed to keep the car on the course,
and avoided all of the cones, meaning that the outcome was a success. My
times were a bit slower than in the morning, but my laps were much
smoother. Next year's task: combine smoothness with more speed!
On behalf of the
Redwood Region, I'd like to say thanks to all of the drivers,
spectators, and volunteers who participated in the 2012 events. I hope
to see all of you again in 2013. I would also encourage any
non-participants to come out and give autocross a try. Short of being on
an actual race track, I believe that autocrossing is the most fun
activity available to Porsche drivers. Hope to see you next year!