Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rockin' in the Land of Red

It's been three weeks now since I've returned from the 2010 SCCA TireRack Solo Nationals, bitterly disappointed in my tenth place finish in ESP. The car is back at IAG Performance to fix its current ills, and I contemplate what I want to do going forth.

The trek began five weeks ago when Eric Kriemelmeyer, Josh Luster and Shane Chinonn-Rhoden showed up to caravan out. Eric and Pat were trailering the BS Solstice GXP, Josh and Shane were trailering the STU STi, and I was driving the ESP WRX. Yeah, the Street Prepared car was being driven to the event, while the Street Touring and the Stock classed cars were being trailered. Since Eric needed to replace a steering stabilizer on his truck, we didn't leave until close to 2PM instead of the noon we'd originally been striving for.

Twenty-three hours later, we pulled into the paddock area for the Nationals and carved out our spaces; Pat, Eric, Josh and Shane in the WDCR paddock, and myself hanging with the ATL crowd by "the tent."

For the rest of the story, I'm just going to post what I did on NASIOC. I'm still quite bummed about the experience this year, and I will likely expand on my journey later, when I'm not quite so bitter about how I did.

from a post on NASIOC

Hard to believe that the SCCA Solo Nationals were three weeks ago, and we're now in the unofficial "off season" of autocross.

I ran ESP open this year, after winning the ESPL National Championship in 2009. I'd done well enough the week before at a local event in Toledo (8/29) and at a local DC event (8/15) that I figured I'd have a good chance at my long-sought goal of an open class trophy at Nationals. I'd hoped to have a co-driver, even though we were running fourth heat, but the stars didn't align for that. I almost ended up with Sam Krauss in my car after Charles Moss's Talon blew a turbo on the practice course on Monday, but they did a banzai run to Omaha to pick up a junkyard turbo and managed to get the car in grid just seconds before Tuesday runs started.

My first run on Tuesday was on sticker Hoosiers, and I managed to nearly miss second gear when I shifted. It ended up being my fastest run after I completely boned my second run and then got all tentative on my third.

After the first day, I'd be 0.019s out of trophies in 9th spot. Mark Madarash was leading by a good bit, over Sam Krauss in the Talon. McCance and Brooks would be in solid trophy spots, though Madarash's lead was certainly intimidating.

I was upset with myself though. I'd left a lot of time out there on my first run, only to throw it all away on the subsequent two. Hearing the hated, "You'll do it tomorrow," only made me feel worse. I always heard that when I ran FS, and I never did do it the next day.

I walked the West Course in the dark on Tuesday night. I needed to be alone to think about driving.

Tentatively hopeful on Wednesday, I started off with a moderate run to feel the course out (much like I did on the East Course). Like the day before, the car felt good, even on cold tires. I actually remembered to put the tire covers Terry Baker had lent to me on the tires right after my run (unlike the day before), and I sat in the car and thought about where to improve.

Getting ready to head out for my second run, the car decides to throw a misfire code just as the grid worker gestures to me to pull up to the staging line. I call for a mechanical time out, pull out the Cobb AP and look at the codes. Misfire on cylinders 2 and 4. :huh: I clear them, wait about 30 seconds and then start the car up again. It's running like crap, obviously misfiring. I pull codes again -- misfires on 2 and 3 this time. Billy's taken his second run at this point, so he comes over and looks at some stuff with the AP. His unofficial diagnosis is a coil pack going bad. I'm just mad at the car at this point, and I really don't have any options since most of the cars in the class are two-driver cars. I decide to go out and take my run anyway.

The motor didn't let go, and I dropped about 0.6s on the run. The car is still running terribly at this point, and pulling codes a third time gives misfires on cylinders 1 and 2.

I go and take my third run, dropping a little more (about a half second), and sitting in the eighth spot at that moment. It was short lived. Despite Drew Little also having issues with his car (starter, codes, etc.), he managed to get past me on his last run, and Jason Kolk got by us both. Kolk took the last trophy while Drew finished 0.019s back (yep, the same margin I had the day before). I was another 0.27 behind Drew, in tenth.

I was bitterly disappointed with my finish, and despite the fact that I know they mean well by it, hearing people tell me, "You'll get it next year" actually brought me to tears before I even left impound. I've heard that so many times -- just as many times as I've heard "You'll do it tomorrow" after the first day -- that I just don't believe it any more.

Of course, the car had one last little surprise for me later that day, as Pat and I headed over to the awards ceremony that neither of us really wanted to attend, but had to go to since he was one of the announcers. As I merged onto I-80 towards downtown Lincoln, the clutch slipped. By the time we were ready to head home on Friday, it was almost insufferable to drive in the higher gears. Two years of ProSolos and regular autocrosses was always the limit with the stock Camaro clutches, so I guess I shouldn't be too surprised.

So, the car's back at the shop, getting the clutch replaced and the misfires diagnosed. Where do I go from here? Good question. If the 2011 National Championships are indeed the week before Labor Day, I don't think I can go, as it'll be the first week of school. If I do go, I'll have to fly out and likely back, and that means I need a more reliable codriver who isn't going to leave me wondering how to get the car out there. Maybe I just need to drive something else and not worry about my own car. I don't know right now. :(

It's still early in the off-season.

At least it's almost the NHL season, so I can take my mind off things.

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