Tuesday, May 22, 2012

(172) Don't run through the lights

The 7th round of the SFR SCCA autocross series was last weekend and it was another good result!

It was absolutely perfect weather for our morning runs. Thankfully, Oakland Coliseum is only about half an hour's drive away, and we get going early enough to beat the commute traffic that heads to the Bay Bridge and into San Francisco.

The first run of the day felt pretty solid, but I smacked a cone in the final section. The course started out by leading straight into a long slalom. This is new to me. We've had slaloms before, but those were all unevenly spaced and irregular. This slalom was consistently spaced from start to finish. I found it fun, and dare I say it I started doing it very well in the later runs. There was a strange shift point prior to it, but it wasn't too bad.

The last section, where I smacked the cone on the first run, was a series of chicanes with uneven pacing. It was challenging and very entertaining to thread the car through it smoothly.

 Scott takes the first slalom. Photo credit Mark Mervich.

Scott started off at a good aggression level (it seems to be very critical to get a good mindset and focus at the start, and carry it through the rest of the runs in autocross), but the mistakes kind of snowballed and he was having trouble recovering in the last two runs. The good news was that since he started off well, he got up to a reasonable speed quicker and was able to set a time that landed him in 2nd for the day.

In my 3rd run I spotted a cone that was knocked over. The cone spots are marked, and any cone that is misplaced on a run entitles the driver to a re-run. The idea is that everyone competes on the same track, and if a cone is not where it should be, that is not the same track. Besides this, track workers could get confused when a car zooms by an already knocked over cone. They may call in a penalty when it wasn't warranted, which is an understandable mistake. There are lots of cones out there to keep track of. I made the most of my rerun and set a new best time. My final run went even better and I felt really good about most of the corners, especially the first slalom. That run earned me the win.

Then we worked. I was running for cones, but this time I signed up for the station near the finish because I thought the chicane section would be fun to watch. It was, and someone nearly spun and took out a few cones. So I ran to set them back up, but after a shout from the grid area, I realized that my path was going to take me through the timing lights which track the lap times of the cars on course! I tried to jump over the beam, but I failed and I ruined a couple of in-progress runs. Whoops. I started paying much more attention to which cones were being hit and whether they were after the lights or not, so I would remember to run around them instead of through them.

Round 7 helmet cam footage.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

(171) A little bit of motivation

It's been a while since I've been to an American Le Mans race, which is weird because I watch all the races on TV and ultimately it is my racing dream to end up there!

So I took the opportunity to go to the Monterey race this time. The day started out very foggy, and the racing was delayed by an hour.

Saturday started off with the Playboy MX-5 Cup and Skip Barber Mazdaspeed Challenge cars taking the green flag for a 45 minute event as the damp fog was lifting. Kenton Koch, one of my friends from the 2010 Skip Barber Karting Scholarship Shootout, ended up winning the Challenge class in both races in only his 2nd sports car race weekend. Another up and coming Mazda driver, Elliott Skeer, took his first professional win in the Cup class on Friday, but unfortunately slipped down to 6th yesterday due to the damp conditions. Elliott was invited to, and won, the 2011 Mazdaspeed Shootout after winning the 2011 NASA Teen Spec Miata Challenge West and is the newest driver on the sports car side of the Mazda Motorsports Development ladder.

The next cars on track in anger were the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites. Two classes again, L1 and L2. Another of my Skippy friends, Tristan Nunez, was driving his L1 car and utterly dominated the weekend with back to back poles and wins. Tristan was awarded part of the scholarship from the Skip Barber Karting Shootout in 2010.

Tristan Nunez leads the Lites field through turn 3.

The IMSA GT3 Challenge cars were next, and I was impressed by the size of the field of 28 cars. Madison Snow ended up winning the race on Saturday. His mom, Melanie Snow races with him in the GT3 series, which is really cool (it is Mother's Day, after all).

The IMSA GT3 cars scream into turn 10 near the camp grounds.

And then came the feature event. The 6 hour race with the American Le Mans series cars.

The race start was very exciting. The P1 class was completely dominated by the Muscle Milk car, and the LMPC and GT classes both had amazing battles in the first half of the race. The Aston Martin lead the field for the first few laps until they had a botched pit stop during the first caution. Once the Aston was out of the way the Porsches, Corvettes and BMWs went berserk.

 The ALMS cars take to the track for the race start.

The only really big incident of the race (that I know of) was the crash between the Level 5 Motorsports P2 entry and the 17 Flex Box GTC car near the pit entry. The Porsche had heavy impact with the wall and the P2 car took a good hit on the rear corner. The Porsche eventually took back to the track, sans hood and front bumper. Porsche's rear-engine layout triumphs again!

Races like that make me want to race even more, and it motivates me to keep reaching for my dreams.

Anyway, it was a fantastic day and I got to meet up with a bunch of friends I haven't seen in a while. Here are some more pictures!

The 17 Flex Box entry before (wonderful paint job)...

... and after. Ouch. But the engine is safe!

The GT battle was intense!

My favorite place to watch at turn 6.