Our First Real Autocross Wrap-up

by Alan J. Claffie

I'm sitting at a desk at work a little less than twelve hours after our first taste at a real, legit, organized autocross and if I had to sum up how the day left me in just three words, they'd me sore, sunburned, and enthusiastic.

We showed up having some sort of idea of what was going to go on, thanks to our recon mission last week. The process of signing in was easy and once we stuck numbers on the doors we sailed through inspection. And the wait to run began.

We walked the course twice, once on our own and once with an instructor giving pointers along the way. Kate was going to run in the second of three groups and I was in the third. Being in the third group, my work assignment was the first so I headed out before things got started. I was stationed near the end of the course with orders to run and stand up any cones that were knocked over by competitors. This is where I realized it had been some time since I'd really run, especially running short bursts at what passed for top speed. But we got through fine, didn't fall down, didn't get run over, and didn't cause the program to slow down.

Kate's adventure in the second heat started with an off-course run, meaning she missed a part of the course. The second run was clean and the rest were too, and she picked up time each run. At the end of her group she headed out to work the course while I strapped in for my chance.

The first run wasn't too good. First time out on the Azenis, I didn't know how much they'd differ from the Kuhmos. And at first, the difference didn't seem that great. They were faster off the line but still slid around some on the tighter corners. One of those corners was near the end and despite my watching that corner all through the first session, I still blew the exit and that got me an off-course DNF for that run.

Next time out, I invited the guy who did the novice course walk along for the ride and his coaching through the run not only resulted in a clean run but some lessons to keep in mind for the rest of the day. Most importantly I needed to back off on the tighter sections, go lighter on the brakes, and run the slalom sections tighter.

With this in mind, future runs went fairly well. We went from a 75-second lap to the point where I was shooting for breaking 70 seconds on my last run. That didn't happen, but the results were still encouraging. There were spots on the course where I knew I could go faster, and on that last run I spend far more foot-on-floor time than in previous tries without needing panic stops to make the next turn. I probably just needed one more shot to break 70 seconds, on course where the exerienced Miata guys on more serious tires were hovering around 65 seconds.

We ran as C Street Prepared Novice, and were running against the other novices with our times indexed by what class we were in. This didn't get us into the top three and we'll have to wait for the results to be posted to see how we stacked up against other street tire cars.

We'll definitely do more of these. The next time Autocrossers Inc. runs is in August, with the bonus being that they'll be running in Waldorf's Blue Crabs Stadium. Not only is that closer to home - not that Fedex Field is a long haul - but it's newer, grippier pavement. I'd like to take the '90 to play so the search is on for a stock steering wheel for the car so it can be run in a street tire class.

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