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March 16, 2002

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Currently playing: Paul Oakenfold - At Home in Space in Ibiza, Part I
Sophia/Grace/Carley's potluck last night was fun... more on that later though, too tired... on to today's news...

SCCA Solo II Novice School...

Feels so much better to be able to drive fast for once... and not for an insane-risky-0-to-50-blast down an empty city street, but to drive in circles really fast all day. :)

California Sports Car Club (CSCC) is SCCA's SoCal division... 50 students in the school in 4 groups. Not everyone showed up... I was in blue group (4 groups total) with 9 students and three instructors. They set up 4 sections, 60~75 minutes of time per section.

Section 1 was a really short auto-x. Gentle sweeper (180, I think) into a right hand hairpin, then a left hand hairpin, then a gentle 90 degree right hand turn, the STOMP the brakes 'cause the course is over. Not sure how long, can't be more than 12~15 seconds. Set up properly you don't have to lift much if at all the entire course... First lap around... I went really, really, really slowly. Didn't realize how much higher the limit was than my Saturn. = Instructor then drove my car... all I heard was "squeal squeal squeal squeal" the entire course. =) Subsequent laps... uhh... about 35~40 minutes worth (maybe 15~20 laps?) got pretty fast, but all day you never left 2nd gear. Stayed to the left, stayed to the left, setup for the hairpins... =) Worked 20 minutes, ran 40 minutes.

Lunchtime was next. Met up with the buyer (sucker?) of Cheston's old stock GXE steel wheels, Kevin (whose last name I've forgotton). Has a stock `97 I30 auto. Uses his stock 15" alloys on 205/65/15 Michelin Energy MXV4's for auto-x and the steel wheels for street use. Car is totally stock. HELLO body roll. =) He had a pretty nice 4-point harness though; not at all suited for serious race use, but it could be easily removed/hidden when not in use. Borrowed his air pump... was running 32/30... didn't have time to get it as high as I'd like but got it up to 35.5/30. Felt a lot better...

Next section after lunch... a small oval skidpad and then a tight kidney-shaped course. Skidpad was best taken in 2nd gear, the kidney-shaped course in 1st and 2nd; it was just long enough for me to blast to 6k in 2nd before having to stomp the brakes and make the turn if going CCW. We ran both courses three laps at a time, then switched directions and repeated... and repeated again. Ran the whole time... all I can say is that modulating the throttle and looking ahead on the skidpad was a neat thing to do, but it was absolute hell on tires... squealing away for lap after lap after lap. =)

Third section was a slalom. Initially 4 cones separated every 50 feet... we'd run it one direction, hang a u-turn, then run it the other direction. 4 cones was impossible to learn anything... so the instructors started screwing with the setup. First to three cones... then they started varying the location and spacing of the three cones. That got evil. I managed not to miss any gates or spin, and point my car in position for the next gate in time most of the time...

Fourth and final section was another auto-x course.

270 degree turn, increasing radius to a left-hand tight turn... which got tricky because the braking section was on a strip of dirt that had been deposited in the parking lot. Eeek. Then angle to the left, gentle sweep to the right and stomp the brakes again. I worked the first 10 minutes of the hour. Watching cars go through the 270 was no big deal, but the course narrowed, then aimed for the left-hand turn... basically every car would shift ALL the weight to the outside wheels. When you're on dirt and a weenie like me, it looked kinda scary. I was wishing really hard for a Quaife. :) My turn... and it's actually not that bad. You need to be REAL disciplined when braking before the left hand turn, but you tap the brakes firmly, aim left, then straight, then curve to the right and it's over before you know it... maybe 15 seconds. I don't even have time to be scared by the fact that I've got an open differential on dirt... or that the inside rear wheel is lifting about 4" off the ground on the 270 turn.

(I look on shocked at the instructors... "wha? my car isn't set THAT stiff." <big grin> Stillen RSB is set 1" behind the rear beam.)

Stay to the outside the entire 270... tap brakes, point car, turn left/apex in the middle of the turn, stay to outside then turn right... phew!

Then for the next 30 minutes, we run the course from the opposite direction. It's a nice charge from the start, angle left... tap the brakes while on dirt to make the right turn (which was left before)... then a decreasing radius 270 turn. Mmmmmmmmmmm smooth... the difference is now, the exit of the 270 is very tight and abrupt, so you have to hit the brakes hard to scrub off enough speed to make it through the narrow exit gate. Again I worked the first 10 minutes to watch everyone. Most did pretty well- the exit gate cones didn't get crunched more than twice- except one guy in a WRX who kept missing the right hand turn. I'd hit 4k~5k in first, shift to second and let off the gas, point the car left, hit the gas, tap the brakes, then hit the gas alllll the way through the 270 turn. Maybe 30~50 feet before the end, hit the brakes, turn a hard left, and shoot through the exit. Fun. =)

Each student was randomly red-flagged once on this course too, just to make sure we'd react properly. I think that's the first time my Porterfields got up to operating temperature. :p "CRAP! Red flag! Umm course is clear I can stop... STOMP!"

It was LOTS of fun... bargain too, at $50. Brake pedal was nice and firm the entire day. I guess the new Porterfield R4S's, SS lines, and Motul 600 barely noticed the abuse... unlike my poor 'ol Saturn the one and only time I auto-x'ed it. heh...

Oh, yeah. The other cars in my group:

Race-prepped CRX... nice little car.

Two (relatively new) Audi A4 1.8T's... one quattro, one not sure. AWD is a nice thing... two hairpins in the first course, if I wasn't setup for the 2nd one I'd slide a bit, point, and go... the AWD cars would slide and GO!

One Subaru 2.5RS, driver had done 1 rallycross but no auto-x. Just had his car tuned by a Vishnu Performance dealer... so he was running a turbo, fat top-mount IC, TEC-II, 17" 215/40 Toyo Proxies T-1S on OZ Superleggras, suspension work. NICE car... but it sounded like a cross between a lawnmower and a tractor. :p

One Subaru WRX wagon with 17" wheels and little else. The slow guy who kept going off course... but wow, when an instructor drove... mmmm... potential...

One brand-new BMW 330Ci. Sounded a lot better than the turbo 2.5RS. :) Nothing too spectacular though... needs experience!

One current Celica GT-S with race tires. Sounded fast, but the lousy gearing had to suck. Big cam vs. small cam on the course was really audible.

One Acura Integra Type R on stock wheels and Kumho 712's. Very nice handling. Didn't plow like my 3000lb dust magnet did. ITR vs. WRX though. WRX please!

Ok... back to reality. Like finals week. =(

But I feel much, much better. =)

Posted by brian at March 16, 2002 10:33 PM

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