I'm going to be driving with team Premier Auto Service as I have been all year. My co drivers are going to be my team-mate Dave Allen, Joe Kalinowski and Jeff Annison. Car owner Ed Railton is also going to hop in for a stint.
It's going to be a tough race. 25 hours straight. We are entered in the E3 class with a new enduro-spec 1991 Mazda Miata with a brand new engine made specially for this race. It's got a big fuel cell for double the capacity, so the car should be able to race for 3 hours before needing refueling. We drivers are going to have to make the same distance in a stint. The good news is, it's got the manual steering rack. In the 78, the car I had for the season this year, had the power-assisted rack. Ed disables the power-assist and that makes for nice and heavy steering. The manual rack should be lighter, so that will make it easier to last the distance.
The other trouble is the driver size discrepancy. Joe is over 6 feet with long legs, I'm a little under 5' 8". I'm going to need a monster seat cushion.
Since the race is going to go through the night, the car has also been fitted with a rack of lights. This is going to be a new challenge for me, as I've never raced in the dark before. And Thunderhill isn't exactly known for being well lit. Fortunately we get some dusk-time practice. Maybe I can get dibs on the evening-into-night shift and the night-into-dawn shift.
Another new thing is going to be the tires. We are unrestricted in terms of tires, so we're going to choose something that's race-bred, like Goodyear or Hankook. Whatever we choose, we'll need five or six sets to make it through the race.
I'll be sure to write all about it next week! I probably won't get any actual racing footage, but I will be able to grab many pictures and hopefully some night-time practice onboards so you can see what it's like in the dark!
In other automotive adventures, I checked out the San Francisco auto show on Sunday. Most of this year's new cars seem to be hatchbacks. In particular I liked the Fiat 500, the Ford Focus, the Hyundai Veloster, and the Mini Cooper Coupe John Cooper Works edition. I think I want to test drive all of these cars. It seems this is the year of the hatches.
I've already gone out and test-driven the Ford Focus - good car, pretty decent handling, but could use more power (I'm sure the upcoming hotted-up ST version will alleviate that). Not unforgettable but very good. It certainly doesn't hurt that Ford gave me $50 for taking the drive! That'll pay for about 5% of one of the aforementioned sets of tires...
In other new car news, my dad has bought himself a brand new sports car - a 2012 Subaru WRX Sedan.
The car is amazing. He got it with the SPT performance exhaust which sounds absolutely killer. The other improvement was the short-throw 5 speed shifter and a beefed up shifter bushing. This vastly improves the main fault of the car which is a slack feeling shifter.
The car handles very well and has plenty of grip. The vehicle stability control system is pretty conservative and you can feel it working the all-wheel drive system most of the time during hard cornering, although it can be completely disabled. Subaru calls it "stuck mode" - sometimes the computer gets confused when one wheel is off the ground or has really reduced grip, like when you get stuck in a snow drift. With the system off, torque is applied to all four wheels equally.
The centerpiece is the motor. It doesn't make crazy horsepower, but it makes plenty (270). The nice part is the torque. You wouldn't expect a 2.5 liter with a turbo to make great torque, but this car will haul itself up the speedo with surprising gusto even in 5th gear at 3,000 rpm.
Those are only preliminary impressions though. I have done less than 80 miles in the car. My dad plans to take it to an autocross after the break-in period in order to really put it through it's paces.