Saturday, August 29, 2009

One Week

In one week, the ProSolo Finale will be 2/3rds of the way over. In one week, my WRX will likely be starting the trek out to the newest home of the SCCA Solo Nationals, Lincoln, Nebraska. In one week, the first five days of the new school year will be over, and I'll have a three day weekend to recover.

One week. So much to get done. So much time, yet so little.

The rear Cusco diff showed up at IAG on Thursday. Pete and I had dropped the car off on Wednesday, as that was the only day I really had the time to do so. The work to install the front and rear diffs commenced on Friday, and I'd hoped that the install would go smoothly enough that I could pick the car up Friday night.

No such luck. Pete came over around 5PM, and I called to see if the car was ready. JJ said, no, and it probably wouldn't be, but he'd call me back around 7 to update me on what was going on. True to his word, he called back around 7, and the work to install the diffs hadn't gone nearly as well as it could have. The front diff was needing to be shimmed in order to get acceptable backlash, and they didn't have enough shims to do the job in house. They couldn't get any more until Monday. :(

Since I wasn't going to be driving the car on Sunday at all, I decided to drop the rims off today to get the sticker Hoosier A6s mounted up. The next event would be Nationals, so they were needed. My poor car was stranded on a lift, with the transmission cracked open in the clean room. Boris is sure it'll be done on Monday.

I do want to drive it around a bit on the street just to get somewhat acclimated to the car. I also would like to get the diffs broken in before Nationals.

Oh, yeah, getting the car to Nationals. Eesh.... When I got home from dropping the car off Wednesday evening, there was an email message from Gabe, starting off with :
"I have to miss nationals..."

I had to reread that part a couple of times before it sank in. My initial thought was simply, "Shit." I continued to read.
"I crashed my bike last night and landed on my chin."

Okay, all selfish thoughts out the window. Mark Bettin, a longtime member of Corner-Carvers, recently passed away due to a bicycling accident, so the dangers of biking are very fresh in my mind. Even as I finish reading the email, I'm hitting dial on the cell.

He's okay, just really banged up, and buzzing nicely on Percocet. He was wearing a helmet, but landed squarely on his chin when the chain on his bike "jumped" as he was switching gears during a ride with his girlfriend. Thankfully Mary was there with him, as he said a couple of riders not too far behind them just rode on by without offering assistance. :( He tore up his chin bad enough to need around twenty stitches (he says it looks like a goatee right now), and one tooth was cracked badly enough that it needed extraction on Wednesday afternoon. Five or six others will need to be fixed with screws and/or crowns over the next month. Between the multiple dental surgeries and the fact that he used up all of his accumulated leave for the "sick time" instead of hanging onto it for the trip to Nebraska, he just can't afford to go to Nationals right now. The real kicker is that he hasn't been at his new job long enough for the dental plan to kick in. :(

So, I did put out a plea to see if anyone else in the area might be able to take the car out for me. Billy Brooks offered to fly out to Maryland and drive the car to Lincoln, but local RX8 driver Shawn Roberts has also offered to take it out. Thankfully, I wasn't planning to do the ProSolo Finale this year (thanks to skewed index numbers, I couldn't justify the wear and tear on the car and tires when I figured my chances of making the Challenge were between slim and none, not to mention how impossible it would be for me to win L2). I shouldn't have to drive it myself.

So, in one week... the latest chapter in Nationals autocross will begin. The action will be broadcast all over the web -- Twitter updates will be available on @CamaroWRX (me), @patred48 (Pat), @AutocrossersInc (AI), @AtlRegionSCCA (Atlanta Region), @WDCRSoloNats (DC Region at Nationals), and @WDCR (DC Region), among others. WDCRSoloNats also will have a blog page to follow, and I'm sure the amusing aspect will be documented at SoloLOL too.

It's a new venue, I'm in a new car with new diffs that I haven't even competed on yet.... and it's all in one week.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Kill Bill

Autocrossers, Inc. is supposed to be running the fifth event of the Yokohama/Radial Tire series tomorrow at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf. It's pouring down rain outside right now. Pat is snug on the sofa, watching Formula One practice, and I'm thinking I might not drive anything tomorrow.

The Subaru is laid up for the week with a leaky strut. Brian Hanchey at Vorshlag feels it's a loss of nitrogen pressure resulting in an improper oil seal.

It was okay before the last event, and it's not leaking bad enough to leave a puddle or anything, so I'm going to wait for JJ at IAG to get their shop's nitrogen tank fixed, and then let him refill the nitrogen charge. If it's still leaking... then we have a problem. But Vorshlag is supposed to have their repair stuff on site at Nationals, so I'm not too concerned.

Pat will actually be in his SE-R tomorrow, codriving with Pete, and Gabe might be driving a DS WRX Limited. We'll see how it works out.

Oh, me?

I might be driving a blast from the past..... we'll see.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Keep It On The Up

The WDCR points 5 event this past weekend was going to be hot and nasty. Fortunately, ESP was running first heat, so we could get out of there pretty quickly.

Except that I had three people signed up in my car, so one of us would have to run out of class. :(

I opted to be that person, and ran second heat while Gabe and Pat worked. This allowed me to work third heat while they changed tires and packed the car up. Score! Pat and I were home by 2 (with a stop at the store). I think Gabe was long home and deep into his nap by then. ;)

Pat at the line; photo by Danny Kao

First off, the course was another "meh" setup that Craig Garfield had described as "flowing" on the DC mailing list. Lots of offsets, and a three cone slalom into the finish. With part of the course being on the newly sealed section of the A lot, I was shocked to hear a lot of tire squeal from my Hoosiers on the opening turns, and then pretty much silence from them the rest of the way. Still , the course was okay until to the "yump" about three-fourths of the way through the course, where Gabe described the car as feeling "airborne" and I actually yelled "holy shit!" the first time through. My subsequent runs weren't nearly as hard through that section as they could have been for fear of breaking the car. :(

Gabe checks the tire pressures; photo by Danny Kao

So, Pat and Gabe ran first heat with about 17 karters (no exaggeration), and unfortunately the heat was a bit on the small side. This meant that they were fighting with keeping the tires and intercooler sprayed down enough, and there wasn't a lot of time to discuss runs or what the car was doing.

Pat was getting decent times, but was having cone issues, especially in the finishing slalom. I know his 42s were on par with the times Brian Burdette was turning in his Camaro.

Gabe wasn't feeling well, and his driving really showed it. In fact, by his last run, I was just happy he didn't lose his breakfast in the car.

Still, even unhappy with the conage on his runs, Pat found time to be silly.

The unfortunate thing about the above video is that when he put the camera back in the rear window, he mounted it just fractionally higher than before, so when we hit the inevitable bumps on course, the W/T switch rubbed against the roof. This resulted in both Pat's and Gabe's fourth runs being useless, and for some dynamic camera zooming during my runs.

The car leaving the line ahead of me is the CS Lotus 7 that a lot of people are yammering about online, as it will be in Lincoln. I overheard the car owner talking about his expectations of being protested. Reminds me of several years ago when a TVR ran stock class, and there was talk then of a "sunset rule" for stock cars. I saw a request for member comment on a sunset rule in a recent Fastrack, and I wonder if this Lotus was the impetus for the rule being put out there.

Like Pat, I was having cone issues. I knew I'd hit a cone on my second run (it's the second slalom cone heading into the finish, and pretty obvious even over the stereo), but it was news to me that I'd hit a cone on my first and last runs as well. The third run, being clean, stood as my best, and since Pat coned all of his runs, I was the "fastest" in the car. He had better raw times than mine (42.6 vs. my 43.4), and I know where I was losing some of the time (the "jump", for instance, I was taking easy, as I mentioned before).

Me, getting air under both right side tires over the bump; photo by Danny Kao

I was 17th on index, even with the poor showing (cones), so I guess I didn't drive too awfully, despite how I felt. Pat and Gabe were in the 30s on index. The off-camber offsets really exacerbated the lack of diffs, and it's nice to know that the new MFactory front helical is sitting at IAG right now (though it won't be installed until next week). I'm just waiting for the Cusco rear to arrive.

The fifth event in the Autocrossers, Inc. season is this coming Saturday, and then it's a Corner-Carvers DC Party on Sunday. Just unwinding a little before I go back to work next Monday. :(

Thursday, August 13, 2009


It was going to be miserable no matter how I looked at it -- either spend the weekend at home, where weathermen were calling for the hottest, most humid day of the summer so far, or go to Atlanta for a points event so that I could get four of them in before their autumn Champion of Champions event.

I opted to go to Atlanta. The more interesting thing is that Pat decided to join me for the first time ever. Yeah, he's done National Tours and ProSolos down there, but not one of the regional events.

After skating class on Friday, neither of us particularly wanted to be in the car for a few hours, so we left early on Saturday morning. We were going to hang out with some of the Grassroots Motorsports Challenge guys for a cookout, and then head to Turner Field in the morning so we could get our work assignments out of the way early.

The course was designed by Jay Parcon, who has been doing most of the courses in the region of late. The start was similar to the last Turner event I was at, but instead of the slalom dumping into a tight 180, this one opened up and went all the way the length of the lot to the "Taco Bell turn". That 180 was open enough to stay in second gear, dumping the car into a long section that was essentially straight (one small kink to the left). The next 180 was even more open, into a three cone slalom that I never got right, then some off camber stuff leading into the finish.

I chose to run first, and Pat didn't want to ride with me. I guess he figured he'd driven "enough" Subarus to know what he was doing. That's fine. I launched, and drove too tentatively through the course, but it was clean, and as usual, Pat's first run was not.

Since only the first three runs are looked at for Pro class, I decided to push my luck on the second run. The problem with Turner is the wall -- I don't want to get too out of shape and damage the car, but I don't want to be a total wuss either. I bog on the start, and manage to be late in a lot of places, costing me tenths here and there. Then I smack a cone in the offsets near the finish, and a second one coming through the end. Oh well. Pat ended up coning his second run too, so I was still ahead.

I didn't have a game plan before the third run, and I guess that's where my problem was. I hadn't really thought about where I was losing time to Pat (who had much faster raw times), or even where I could improve. I knew I was bogging on the start, but that was really pretty low priority for improving overall.

I still bogged on the launch for the third run, and then when I went to shift, I got crunch. Not a good feeling, but on the second try, it went in. Amazingly, I didn't cone further into the course, but I was certainly still late in the fast sections, costing me valuable tenths.

Even with the bad start and the missed shift, it would stand as my fastest run. The fourth run was marginally better, but suffered from the same sort of mistakes, only without the missed shift, which alone could count for the few tenths improvement.

The car was definitely spinning inside tires. I could see Pat lifting the inside rear through the second 180, about 1-2 inches. I can't wait to get the differentials from Billy and installed. Billy ordered them last Friday, and I have a time scheduled next Wednesday at IAG to get them installed. I hope they arrive before then. I will have an MFactory helical front and a Cusco Type RS 1.5 way rear.

There is a DC event this weekend that Gabe and Pat are both signed up for, but I'm finding motivation difficult. Pat has decided to drive my car at Nationals. I'm excited about the diffs, and I'm looking forward to driving my car once they are installed. I am not excited about driving this weekend, mostly because of fallout from two weeks ago. Eh, we'll see.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Today, I have a special treat -- a guest blog from Pat! He was toying with bringing his B13 Sentra SE-R out to Nationals this year, but pretty much gave up after the rain at the last DC Region event. He also owns "Barney," a 1982 Chevy Camaro Z28 that's won multiple ESP National Championships. He also has run a plethora of V8 powered machinery in F Stock, including my green Camaro, my black Camaro, and two vehicles he's since sold -- an LS1 Camaro Z28 and an F150 Lightning. At the last minute, he decided to come to Atlanta with me for Points 8, and, more importantly, he even drove the WRX. And, without further ado :

Pat's Perspective

I hadn’t driven the car since one fun run last year when it was in D Stock. Having never driven it in ESP trim, I was trying to remember how I drove the STi I drove a couple years ago in the Subaru Challenge at Ripken Stadium, which was fairly stock with minor suspension stuff.

The course was kinda “meh” – really a point and shoot type of course with an opening slalom where the cones were offset the right way, a short straight, a 180, then a full throttle “straight” down the middle of the course, another 180, a big sweeper into a “bus stop” then another sweeper into the finish. I was hoping for some more offsets and/or slaloms to see how the car was in transitions.

My first run, I went out and hit a cone pretty good in the opening slalom. The time was a 44.4, which was announced as leading the Pro class, and then the announcer corrected himself after the cone call went up on the screen.

My next run felt pretty good but I hit two minor cones (unlike the major one on my first run). Raw time was a 44.7.

Karen told me after the first run that in the Pro class in Atlanta, only the first three runs count, so my third run would be it for the final standings. I did a Tin Cup-style lay up and backed off a bit to get a clean run in. Also didn’t help grinding the 1-2 shift. I ended up with a 45.374, which put me about a tenth behind Karen and 11th overall in the Pro class.

For my fourth run, Bill Bounds wanted to ride along since Joel Fehrman was selling “Stompy,” and he never got a chance to ride in or drive Stompy, and Karen’s car is probably a good clone of the car’s setup, albeit not an STi. I wanted to get a clean run in and at least backup the fast raw times. I was a little late with the throttle coming out of the first 180, then I pushed a little too much in the 180 after the long “straight.” I still ended up with a 44.7 which was clean and put me 7th overall in the overall PAX standings. Probably could have gotten a low 44 or high 43 without mistakes and without Bill in the car (although he probably weighs 0.9 DiSimos).

The car felt pretty good. It has some issues with wheel spin which you can really hear in my videos going across the brick section of the first-base side of the old Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. Karen has front and rear differentials on the way, which should help. But it didn't seem to push too bad in the sweepers, although the two tight 180s are where I had the most issues.

Now, there might be some ESP pony car drivers who say my finishing top 10 overall in PAX the first time really driving the car is a good indication that the car doesn’t belong in ESP. However, I could think of at least two times where I’ve driven a car the first time and finished top 10 in PAX: the Subaru Challenge in 2007 driving an under-prepared Street Mod WRX STi and last year driving John Crouse’s ESP Camaro at an Autocrossers, Inc., autocross at FedEx Field.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

New Sensation

What did I do to my car?
the day I brought it home

A year after I came to the conclusion that I was actually going to own a car that I had, for years, foresworn even driving, I dropped it off at IAG Performance and picked it up a month later, subtly transformed.
the day I brought it home from IAG

Why on earth did I do such a thing? Some of the work that's been done to the car can't be reversed without replacing body panels. It's also been a lot of money in a tight economy.

I did it because I wanted to. I did it because I had three cars that were not competitive in stock trim, and one of them had to go to ESP. I did it because, yes, I wanted to have the overdog car for once, and not the outclassed also-ran.

In other words, "Yes, I did it because I wanted to **** ESP."

I was reminded of this by some friends after my last blog entry. I was reminded that I got exactly what I wanted -- people crying that my car was too fast for the class, and that it needed to be moved. Shouldn't I be happy?

And, to some extent, yes, I am. The car has gotten a ton of notice whereever it goes. It's mean-looking, it's aggressive, it's "hellaflush." But the one thing I haven't been able to do with it is show that it's an overdog in ESP. I've improved on the consistency of my launches, but I haven't been driving it anywhere near its potential. I'm giving the cones too much space in the slaloms, I'm on the brakes too soon or too late, and I'm definitely not on the gas soon enough coming out of turns. You can see any of that in the videos I've posted, especially if you compare my Toledo left side runs to the one run that Greg McCance takes in my car.

I'm ordering differentials. That'll help (somewhat) with getting on the gas coming out of turns, since I won't be afraid of spinning an inside rear. And I'm getting race seats, either Sparco or Corbeau, so I can shed some weight from the car (at nearly 3100lbs, it's about 150lbs more than McCance's bug-eye). And then, in five weeks, there's the National Championships in Lincoln, Nebraska. Let the best driver win.

And to all the haters out there, who think that AWD and turbo can't be beat?
photo by Paul Magee

It feels great to actually get that off my chest, and to reaffirm just why I converted the car to an ESP monster. I may never love the WRX as much as I love my green Camaro, but it's actually somewhat fun to drive now, and I'm not going to let the hypocrites keep me down.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Gloomy Forecast

"Gloomy" didn't just describe the weather at the DC points event today. After hearing several versions of the "OMG your AWD is going to dominate today," I was ready to leave even before the event was temporarily suspended due to lightning.

Gabe showed up during the downtime, and after much discussion, we decided to bag it. He didn't feel like hanging around all day to see if we'd even be able to run (SCCA safety regulations mandate a certain wait time after the last lightning strike), and I had come to the conclusion that, like at Toledo the previous week, I couldn't win.

In this case, the despondency stemmed not from a literally inability to win. Once I found out that, yes, my rain tires actually were on site, I could have bolted them up and run. But I wasn't wasting my Hoosier radial rain tires on a local event.

No, my despair was at the fact that no matter how I did, I "lost." It was like the complete opposite of running Mark Davis's car last month in Atlanta, where if I didn't do well, it's because I wasn't used to running an MR2, but if I did do well, it was in spite of it. Here, if I did well, it would be said that I did so simply because of the WRX's AWD and the wet course conditions. If I didn't finish well, it would be said that I must not be a very good driver if I couldn't use the AWD to my advantage.

So, I decided to go FTW and pack up my car and leave. Yeah, the fact that I wasted all morning and the entry fee doesn't sit well with me. But it's better than having to listen to yet more belittling and borderline cruel comments. :(