Saturday, August 3, 2013


Episode VII in this road trip! For previous installments : 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

I'm not sure which I dislike more -- running in the first run group like I did the previous week at Packwood, or working in the first run group like I would at Toledo. I do know that working grid in the regular competition rounds isn't high on my list either, but I've been doing ProSolos long enough that I could figure it out pretty well. In fact, at NJ, I just sort of started working grid because Howard had taken over start (since the lights were misbehaving at that event). The problem with doing a job well though is that it suddenly becomes expected of you...

Anyway, Pat and I arrived on site around 6:30 so that he could help Learic change her tires. I'd changed tires on the WRX the night before, so for me, it would just be a matter of checking pressures and such before I ran. I went to walk courses and think about some things that Tony Savini had noted the previous evening, and then it was off to grid with Marc Pfannenschmidt for the next hour or so. We were praised for our smooth operation, setting a high precedent for the rest of the heats when we left.

ESP Grid, Saturday morning. Photo by Jen Merideth
While Pat struggled with getting clean runs in the 370Z (Him : "It doesn't handle like an ESP Camaro!" Me : "Duh! I told you it would be like an FS Camaro!!"), I started off with mid 0.6s RTs and decent enough times, except for my first run where I got seriously lost as I turned into the right hand sweeper. On my third run, however, the time was delayed, and as I pulled over to the left side for my last run, I see my running partner hasn't made it off course. In fact, people are starting to walk out on course, and then the SCCA truck rolls out. That can't be good.

Turns out that the brake caliper bracket on the ex-Merideth Mustang had snapped -- not for the first time, either! Fortunately, the damage was minimal, and they had enough parts with them to be able to fix it, just not in time for the co-driver to get runs in. In any event, clouds began to roll in towards the end of our session, and with our group's grid workers slacking at keeping classes together, ESP second drivers barely got two dry runs before the first of several deluges hit.

Very serious bizness.
I was sitting in fourth after the morning runs, with Shawn Alexander  in the lead, Dave Heinrich second and Dave Feighner less than a tenth ahead of me. I was only 0.4 back from Shawn. If it could stay dry in the afternoon, I was hoping I could make up the time.

With some timing issues (equipment malfunctions and the like) caused by the downpour, we ended up with no lunch break, so after taking the car over to paddock, it was almost immediately time to go back to work. However, there was a dilemma for another of the DC area ESP drivers... Evidently, something in the rear end of Sam Vassallo's Mustang broke during Adam George's runs. The initial diagnosis was the Watts link. Adam asked about driving the WRX for the afternoon session, but I pointed out that during a ProSolo, once you switch cars, you can't go back to your original vehicle. I didn't want him to be stuck in the WRX if the Mustang was fixable.

Sam went out to get some bolts from the local mom-and-pop hardware store, after Marcus pointed out that the broken bolt Adam removed wasn't the correct bolt.
He didn't buy out the store, but he brought back myriad bolts in the hopes one would work.
Meanwhile, Marc and I were whipping grid into shape in order to bust through classes as quickly as possible in order to avoid getting caught in the Toledo Tsunami II. While we may have come across as a bit irritable, I hope the competitors in groups 1 and 2 understood that we were trying to help them out by getting dry(ish) runs in.

As we turned the reins to grid over, another batch of storm clouds was building to the west. Marc and I had been checking the radar on his phone, and it looked like it could possibly miss the airport (going just barely to the north of us).
Pat vs. EricK. One time co-drivers, now mortal enemies. ;)
I'm sure the competitors of S5 weren't happy they'd been moved to the back of their grid, but with a few competitors working shift A, it was only fair they had time to get ready to run. The unfortunate thing was that the rain hit right when they were going out for their afternoon runs. Pat took one part-run in Learic's car, and came in, fearing he'd do something damaging in the wet on A6s. There was always Sunday morning, right?

The rain stopped before ESP was ready to go, though there were plenty of wet spots still on course. It was doubtful that any of us first drivers would improve, though the second drivers may have a chance, depending on when grid decided to send them this time.
Too. Many. Mustangs. Where all my F-bodies at??
As Dave and I pulled to the line, I realized that, yes, the course was going to be too damp for improvement. The airport doesn't drain particularly well since it's so flat. So, these runs were going to be for fun.

In the end, while waiting in impound, Dave and I talked about the few things we were able to learn in the dry areas on course, especially the finish slaloms. It was funny that we both were trying to do the same thing -- recon in the dry sections -- and despite vastly different cars, we were able to conclude the same thing; we weren't driving fast enough in several areas.
The rain was at least good for some striking photos. This one was taken by Craig Wilcox.

Some of the second drivers were able to improve, primarily due to getting a clean run on one side or another, but the top four remained the same going into Sunday's runs. Upon release from impound, I changed to the street tires -- I did not want to be caught in the rain Saturday night nor Sunday morning on the A6s -- then we headed over to Smokey Bones to hang out with some Ohio peeps for dinner before calling it a night, despite their best attempts to get us to go karting.
My phone is tethered to my pocket so that it doesn't magically disappear during dinner. Blurry photo by Sean O'Gorman.
Who's idea was it to start Sunday morning ProSolo runs an hour earlier than Saturday? It's like they hate night owls like myself. ;) Still, Pat and I got on site around 6:45, and I walked each course again. It's not like I didn't know what I needed to do, but walking helps me remember where I need to place the car.

The forecast was for no precipitation until later in the afternoon, and the early groups showed that the Saturday deluges had evidently wiped the slow off the course. Some of the ladies class competitors were dropping 1-2 seconds out there, and while that raised my spirits regarding ESP, it also scared me. I could drop 1.5s, but what about everyone else?

I watched and monitored Pat's progress while changing back to my A6s in paddock. His first two runs were fast, and put him momentarily into the S5 lead, but Joe Barbato dropped the hammer on his last two runs while Pat red lit and went slower. Still he held on to the second spot, 0.349 back from Barbato, in a car he'd never driven before.

It wasn't too long until it was my turn again.
Sunday's grid looks a lot like Saturday afternoon grid.
Pat went to turn on the camera, and it was dead. I was sad, but it meant I would definitely set my fastest times, since I couldn't record them. And, yes, first runs were fast, as expected, though I definitely left something on the table as I realized I'd left the AC/defrost on for my first run. :o I dropped another 0.5s on my first left side run, but my right side runs were killing me. I needed to step it up. I managed to barely nick the 30s on my last right, with a 30.9, and my subsequent 30.2 on the left was at that time only eclipsed by Dave Heinrich. It was good enough for third at that point, but with second drivers coming up, I wasn't hopeful to stay there.

Sure enough, Dave's son, Josh, came out of nowhere to grab second spot, only 0.1 off his dad, and running an impressive 30.2 on the right. Adam finally capitalized on the warm tires that Sam gave him and took fourth, a mere 0.006 behind Feighner. I would stay in the final trophy position, just a smidge over 0.7s back from the lead, knowing I left at least that much time on the table, and consoling myself with the fact that I was driving by myself on seriously old tires while everyone who finished ahead of me had been on stickers for the weekend.

I put the car in paddock, my name in for the bonus challenge and then started gridding up the Ladies Challenge to try to beat the rain. I didn't get lucky enough to be drawn for the bonus two weeks in a row (though Sam Krauss was drawn and could have driven my car, but he'd already left). The third epic flood (or was it the fourth? or fifth?) hit during the first round of the Super Challenge, making things very interesting, especially for matchups of R-comp vs. R-comp or R-comp vs. slick.
Voted least desirable umbrella girls for the event. ;) Alex says he only had one dry shirt, hence running shirtless here. Yes, he cleared it with the Chief of Safety.
The final came down to an ST car and an F125 on rain tires. The STC car, driven by Jason Frank, took the win.
Final round matchup
Pat had graciously changed my tires and loaded up my car during the Challenges, so all I had to do after we collected our trophies (and those of some friends who'd left already) was say our goodbyes. He'd ridden out with Adam, Sam and Mike Kline, so they left about an hour before me. Once I got on the road, I realized I was dead tired -- working in the rain probably didn't help -- and I only got as far as Youngstown before I grabbed a hotel for the night.

Toledo ProSolo Results

The rest of the trip was pretty easy. I stopped in Hancock to explore that part of the C&O Canal for a while, then rolled up to the house in the late afternoon. And sadly, the trip was over, marking what is the for me, essentially the end of summer.

Looking down the Potomac River
Abandoned structure near Lock 52. Probably the lock master's home.
Watch where you're slithering!
Tonoloway Aqueduct
Any place can be a rest stop.

Until next year, oh western frontier!

All photos that I took

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Post Title Origins
The Beers that Came Back

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