Saturday marked a monumental day for me. I’ve spent nearly 50% of my life being able to legally drive – from the early days of thinking several hundred pounds of car audio was a wise use of money (sorry to any audiophiles), to thinking an off the shelf generic air filter was going to generate noticeable horsepower gains, to finally getting to the point I am today.
And where is that? Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about it. Like many mediums, cars are a discipline where the only real cause for concern should happen when you believe you’ve arrived at the place where you can’t possibly learn any more. When you reach that place you’ve either become too set in your ways that you’re blinded, or you perhaps lost the passion that once drove you to always pursue the next level.
I feel like I’m only scratching the surface. And I’m perfectly okay with that. Saturday represented an opportunity to get on the track, personally, for the first time in my life. That realization that its taken me this long is pretty astounding considering how involved I find myself in every realm of the auto world. I’ve been to track days, shot media and attended countless shows, wrenched on almost every genre of car in nearly every level of difficulty, and never once myself been behind the wheel with the clock running against me. This wasn’t an opportunity I was going to miss, and I can safely say it’s opened a whole new chapter for me. Find a track near you and get out there and race, trust me.
So at 7:30 am on a rainy Saturday…which I will simply quote:
Will wake for car stuff…
…I picked up my cousin. After a brief bite and meeting up with a friend who was also racing his 2008 Subaru STi hatch, we headed to Midland Barstow airport. The Saginaw Valley sector of the SCCA was organizing and running the event and except for a slight delay with their equipment van, the day proceeded without much drama. Rain was still falling at this point.
Registration put me into SSM – Super Street Modified. I’d like to credit the turbo setup, coilovers, full exhaust, etc for putting me into a class that is probably not the first stop for most first time drivers. Meh, whatever…I just wanted them to let me get behind the wheel and see what I got. Still raining. Tech inspection went smoothly, and it was nice to know the Miata in fact wasn’t going to try and kill me mechanically. If anything was going to go south, it would have to be driver induced and I wasn’t planning on getting to that point. Next we had a brief driver meeting and walked the course. Lots of slalom, and 180 turn that would give me fits dropping out of boost all day, and a questionable turn 4 setup which ended up getting modified so cars didn’t go off course into a $1000 light box. Hey guess what? Still raining.
My class ran with the first grouping of classes. Originally we were told to expect 6 runs but with the delay of the morning van drama we would end up actually getting 5. Bummer, would have really liked that 6th run….more to come on that.
They positioned us on the grid, in a way where we could follow each other to the starting line in sets, leaving room for the cars with multiple drivers which would cycle in between the single driver sets. Looking back, I should have paid for two people and ran my car 10 times…again lesson learned. Rain stopped, score. Now if it would just stay that way.
Run #1: Have to admit there were some butterflies. Walking the course is one thing, running it in a turbo rear wheel drive car on a wet course is another thing. I’d be following a 1968 Camaro with a full Hotchkis suspension setup onto the track. After he rounded the 180 and came back down straight 1, the starter flagged us off. Wasn’t really ready, didn’t get any sort of launch. Ripped through first gear and grabbed second before turn one. Into first set of slaloms at a very cautious speed. Ripped to top of second and stayed there the whole run. Felt the course out, no spinouts or hit cones. Felt pretty fast….turns out it just felt fast. Slowest time of the day, first run ever:
Run #2: Ran top up this time, rain subsided halfway through the run. Carried more speed through the slaloms and chicago boxes, but bogged coming out of first 180 turn. This would be an issue that presented itself throughout the day, trying to stay in boost coming out of that turn and not losing time to lag. Shaved some decent time:
Run #3: Top back down, rain would pretty much be done for the day by this point and track was beginning to dry. Was running harder than #2 until last turn 4, where a wet patch sent me as close as I’d get to spinning off track all day. Lost a few seconds on that final turn, but managed to correct out of it. Even with the close call, ran faster:
Run #4: Finally launched good off the starting box. Bogged coming out of the 180 again, man I hate that turn. Found myself being a bit slower through the chicago boxes this time around. Launch and first slaloms helped, ran:
Run #5: Best launch of the day. Blipped the clutch around the 180 and stayed in the power band better, although far from optimal. Ran hard through the rest of the track but could have carried a lot more speed through that first chicago box and lost a bit of time around the second to last set of slaloms with some tail slide. Best time of the day:
I wish I had that 6th run so bad. With the (now) completely dry track and lessons learned from the first 5 passes, my goal of a 55 was very attainable. Oh well, looks like I’ll have to save that for next time.
Being the only car in the SSM class, I ended up taking home a trophy mug and a hat with my 58.1 – Chris in his STi beat his competition in STX class and took home the hardware with a 56.1.
Not a bad day for the cars wearing the Origins Garage banner if I do say so myself.