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Narrative - 2002

  • Kettle Morraine Double Regional - 8/24-25, 2002

    Friday: - Got to Elkhart around 5:00 p.m., earlier than expected! Me in the RX, the family in the Passat. The earlier plans to tow the car in a friend's camper washed out with a call from him that the camper engine had blown. Bummer. Glad it did a week before rather than during the weekend though. Went ahead and checked into Seibkens and then headed back to the track.

    One of the best moments of the weekend happened at registration that night. As I'm waiting in line, a couple of the "older" officials stopped by the car and were exclaiming how it was neat to see a race car actually driven to the track. Quips such as "Wow, I didn't think anybody did that any more", and "THAT'S what club racing is!". Well I naturally had to stop over and own up to it. One of the guys excitedly blurted out "You're my hero! Let me shake your hand!". I gladly did. The other guy was the chief steward from my driver ed weekend, who, during that weekend had stopped over for an official chat about running race engines too early. I had explained to him that it is street legal, and I was just driving into the track! I took this opportunity to mention that fact again if he heard any complaints about running a race engine.

    We talked a little more, more like reminiscing about days gone by. But I felt good that someone else remembered and recognized the effort, restraint on track and everthing else that can complicate a race weekend when the preferred tranport home is to drive the race car back.

    Picked out a spot just below the hill going into the north paddock area with a great view of turns 5 and 14 and right on the street so visitors would be able to easily find us. Turned out to be a nice spot, not so loud for the kids, yet near both viewing and race functions, and easy in & out with the race car (no backing up required. Set up "camp", first time with a canopy (a $7 12x12 dinner canopy) which provided a nice retreat during the coming days. Packed the car back up AND LEFT IT THERE! That's a first too. Nice. But another change in the task list, so had to make sure I had everything in the right car.

    Back to Seibkens to grab a bite. Met up with the Brunners in the (sandwich) bar and had a good time eating, drinking and talking for the rest of the night. Up to the adjoining rooms (sharing a bathroom in this vintage 1916 B&B/Hotel, remember), for more eating, drinking and trying to get the kids to bed.

    Saturday: - Up early. Dan and I head out to the track to prep the car. Change tires, bleed brakes, check fluids, set video, and otherwise "de-street" the car. Dan was a big help in the tire changing, brake bleeding dance. Get done in good time, even had some time to double-check and wind down a bit.

    9:50: Qualifying. - The rest of the Jacobsons and Brunners show up as I'm getting in the car. First time on track in four months. It might as well have been winter all summer. Lots of cobwebs to work out. Mentally I'm set to take it fairly easy, and work back up to speed. But on track I'm further off the rythym than I expected. Feel very "out of synch", turning in early, braking early, and other horrendous-feeling mistakes. By the end of the session, I'm feeling better, but having serious doubts about this. Qualify 30 out of 40. Better than I expected, being in the slowest class in SCCA, and how crappy I was driving. More down-time until 3:00 to reflect and try to pull together.

    We do some wandering aroung the track, eat a wonderful lunch prepared by the ladies, and generally camp. Three Pinnows arrive around noon. Wow, spectators! Randy brought his dry-erase board for use as a pit board to flash times versus the magic three minute mark, 3:01:8 being the track record for SRX7. +3 would be 3:03, etc. As I climb into the car, I truly wonder if I should be doing this in light of how crappy I felt I drove in qualifying. But hey, we got people watching. Oh yeah, it's why I'm here too.

    3:30: Race. - Lots of carnage in each of the earlier races. GT1 race is called after 4 laps. Seems the boys aren't behaving too well. Long wait on grid. That's always a test of patience and endurance. It gets hot. But we finally get going. To me, the pace lap is always a nice finalization of the day's activities, and a proper crescendo to the ensuing battle. Someone blows the start, and we do another pace lap. This one's clean.

    Once again, the primary thought is to keep it cool, no screw-ups. But I stay up with the pack this time, and even gain a spot or so down the front stretch.

    More to come.....
  • Drivers School & Race - 4/26 - 4/28, 2002
    Took Thursday and Friday off to get a couple last minute items squared away on the car and to get everything packed up and loaded in. And of course do some needed work around the house too. I had decided not to take the motor home and tow dolly route which was available through some friends as I thought it would be a hassle to get everything lined up and set the car up for towing. This decision proved less than optimum as I had a lot to cram in the car as rain and cold was expected. But it was soooo nice on Friday, the weather forecast has been wrong before, right? WRONG!!

    Friday: Got out to the track on time Friday evening, registered and made it through tech. Then went to the classroom session. This turned out to be little more than some fun racing stories, basic expectations and basic flag descriptions. Back to the hotel, did some homework (GCR questions) for the next day, and made sure I had everything in place and ready for Saturday. The family had come out while I was at the track and did some swimming and supper. They had snacks ready for me when I came in which was really nice. Late night, finally fell asleep about 1:00.

    Saturday: Up at 5:30, once again didn't even need the alarm. That tends to happen on these weekends. At the track by 7:00 to start the final prep for the day. Raining, periods of sleet/snow. Dang, didn't bring snow tires ;-) 7:30 roll call, 8:00 on track with the instructor driving their car. In this case he had to borrow a first gen Dodge Dakota with plow mount installed. Wooo hoo! Curt (ex-RX-7 racer buddy) comes out to lend a hand on the car. Thankfully, not much had to be done, but it was good moral support. Then on to the real track sessions consisting of two groups (open wheel and closed wheel) alternating track time in 20 minutes sessions. After the on-track session, check in with the instructor. These were totally open sessions, do what you want after the first lap or two of double yellow. Good track time, was able to re-familiarize myself with the course. Of course the rain line was needed, and I had never really driven that before. Found out something that worked and let it rip. My tires must have been really working, cuz I was really fast compared to others. Got a number of compliments on great speeds and smooth driving both from other participants and officials. The family stopped out about 10:00 or so after doing some shopping. They leave after having lunch around 1:00 to get back for a benefit that evening. Last session of the day was a series of test starts, then a final one for a 20 minute or so "race". Ahhhh, the first feeding frenzy. Tried a lot of passing in different areas. Very helpful. (and amazing that I was ABLE to pass someone!). After it was over, had a beer and talked shop for awhile. Back to the hotel early, but again, not to sleep until late. Couldn't find my pic ID with gate entry sticker on it. That upset me, but I'd figure out something.

    Sunday: Flash a credit card as I do a rolling stop at the gate and I'm in. Not raining now, but everything still wet from overnight rain. Cloudy and cold. Again at the track early. Just me, the track, my car and about 30 others. I'm in group 1, so qualifying starts at 8:00. Clean out the car, get suited up. Qualifying was a bit more wild than the school sessions. More cars, faster cars. Really had to be aware. My goal is to not cause any problems for myself or others, so I'm taking it easy. Still slippery on track. Second qualifying session is a little more wild as more cars arrive and need to get a good time in. I'm still running rains as the track still has some wet sections and standing water. At the exit of 3d a Golf dives inside which puts him on the outside through the next chicane. I move over a bit too far, not realizing there is an Opel Manta inside my rear tire. He goes off, and as I'm setting up for turn 4 notice him coming across the grass toward the corner exit. I slow way down and let him in (the least I could do). We had a discussion after the session. Apology accepted. I went back to the stock inside mirror as the wink mirror was too high up and couldn't be lowered far enough below the cage. Lost some periphery, but I can at least see further back.

    Race Time: Switched to the dry tires. This is what it's all about. Keep calm, no heroics. Out to grid, pace lap starts, warm things up, tires, brakes, check mirrors. The cars wind around the track like a disjointed snake, bobbing, weaving, sometimes together, sometimes holding back, then sprinting forward. Around the last corner, the pace picks up. The field packs in. Green flag. The din rises to a roar. Cars poking and prodding trying to get the best spot down the stretch. I stay put, keep up, but not too close to the pack. Around the outside of turn 1. Things are sorting out. Pick up a spot or so into turn 2. Hold on around the outside of the carousel to let some faster guys through the inside. Again, no heroics. Survive. The field spreads out and a certain rhythm can set in. For a while I'm fairly alone, with some cars behind a good distance, most in front.

    Get sight of a Rabbit GTI and 510 up ahead. Looks like a target. Start reeling 'em in. Concentrate on smooth, brake, turn, accelerate through the corner. Accelerate earlier, brake a touch later, track out under power. After a few corners of that I'm on their tails. Lap traffic comes into play (those lapping me!) This takes away a certain chunk of concentration, but doing well. A couple times I get beat to the apex, throwing off my rhythm. But I recover and get back to work.... brake, turn, accelerate through the corner, keep it smooth, play a tune with the car. Accelerate earlier, brake a touch later, track out under power. After a few corners of that I'm back on their tails again. Overtake and start putting some distance between us.

    A different Golf dives inside on corner 6a. He shouldn't have done it, he didn't have the corner plus less room due to an exhaust pipe at the apex. I move over so he doesn't run over the pipe, but that tracks me off into the grass. I keep going along and get back on the track down a ways, but it was enough to watch the GTI and 510 go by again. But not by much.

    Next lap is next to last. I pass the 510 going into 7, overcook a bit and get wide. He's able to get back by me. The GTI's in front of him. Last lap. I'm on their tails again, waiting to spring the trap. A BMW is now in the mix. 510 cuts the Beem off in turn 6. I'm right with 'em. Hang back a little into 7 to set up a run. 510 smokes the tires under braking again, goes a bit wide. Perfect! I'm in the right spot for the slingshot into the apex. But wait. The Beem decides he doesn't want to get cut off again so he brakes just before the apex. I'm already on the power, closing fast toward the apex and the Beem's trunk. Damn rookies! (LOL) Got to get out of it. Throught the corner, I'm now slower than planned. The Beem pulls away down the stretch (a 525i), but I'm in a drag race with the 510 as we've both lost momentum. I'm closing, but come up about a car length short at the finish. Bummer. Bimmer!

    Summary: "Lost" the battle, but much good came out of the day; Set a new class track record. Goal #1 accomplished. I survived with no damage, and didn't cause damage to anyone else. Goal #2 accomplished. Had a lot of fun, got into the mix and fired up the adrenaline pump. Goal #3 accomplished. Overall, a very good day.

  • Preparation
    It's been a long (but nice) winter. Kept busy looking for stuff, cross-checking lists and rules to make sure everything will be in order come driver's school. Got most of the personal safety equipment, transponder on order, etc., but still need some (easy) stuff. Finally got club apps in, still waiting on some SCCA goodies though (like a GCR!). Next up is the license apps, which I have lined up except for some of the doctor's stuff. Being diabetic, there are some extra hoops to jump through. Hopefully I haven't waited too long, but I think I'm OK.

    Found a cool older Sony 8mm video editing deck (#EVC-8, same as a EVO-210 but black) with hard wired remote, 12v adapter and repair manual. A buddy gave me his not-recording Hi-8 handycam, but it provides good video (cam #1). Cam #2 will be a X10 wired (Anaconda) cam. This should be the fun one to move around to different locations. I'll be using an older cable switch to select cameras, will run audio from one location until I can pick up on a full audio/video switcher. Some mounting complications and lots of wiring to do yet to get power and video cables in the right spots, but should be easy once I get started. Setting it up is lower on the priority list, but it should be fun.