Monday, September 16, 2013

2013 Solo Nationals Recap

The 2013 SCCA Solo Nationals are in the books. Man, it was a long week in felt like I didn't have a moment during the week to just relax and enjoy the car show and party that is the Solo Nationals paddock. As I reported in the ProSolo Finale recap, the first part of the week was spent racing, sleeping, and working on the car. There didn't seem to be time for much else. On the Monday after the Finale, a new master cylinder was swapped in with the help of Courtney Cormier, we did two test n' tune sessions, and then we immediately drove to Omaha so I could catch a flight back to San Angelo. Given that ESP ran on Thursday/Friday of the Solo Nats week, I didn't have enough vacation to hang out in Lincoln for the two days in between, so I flew back to work for two days. It was really weird not being there while my friends were racing and competing for jackets, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

In Grid on the West Course (photo credit Vitek Boruvka)
On to the results, ESP ran 2nd heat on Thursday on the West Course. This was a medium-speed single-track 0.8mi course that didn't have any sections that were too quick or too slow. It was all about speed maintenance and not making any big mistakes. Unfortunately, it turned out to be one of my most frustrating days of autocrossing at the National level. Two-time B-Stock champion Jadrice Toussaint set the pace early with a 54.002s run which ended up being the fastest time of the day. Every driver, including myself, really struggled to match their first run pace on the 2nd the 3rd tries. My first run was on pace with a 54.015s time, but I hit the 2nd cone of the 1st slalom. I got a little bit of understeer passed the first cone and didn't make enough of an adjustment as I passed he 2nd cone which I hit with the right front tire. This time would have put me in 2nd place by 0.013s, but instead I had to sit on my 54.927 3rd run. At the time, I was really surprised that I couldn't gain pace on the last two runs; they both felt good but the time was not there. We were running in sunny mid-90s conditions and the track got greasy during our heat so it was not to be.

West Course On-Board Video:

That night, it was a little tough to deal with the fact that I thought I had already thrown away my opportunity to win my first ESP jacket. 0.013s is a lot easier to overcome than 9 tenths! It turns out than none of the RWD cars would have an answer for the Greg McCance's pace in his 2002 Subaru WRX on Day 2's East Course. He dropped in a ridiculously fast 72.285s run on his final run to take the win over the ESP King Mark Madarash who held a 0.019 lead (or something like that) after his 73.057s 3rd run. I finished with a 73.826s run on the Sam Strano designed East Course. This was good enough for 3rd quickest on the day and moved me into 4th place overall. The cone on the West Course cost me 3rd place, but I was happy with my pace on the East Course and to be one of only four cars running sub-74s times.

East Course Onboard Video:

My Dad had his best finish at Nationals with 19th place out of the 34 ESP drivers. He was only 1.5s out of the trophies and capped off a season of big improvements with his best event. He continues to get better and better with each event. Trouble is he only gets to drive the Camaro at a few events per year and then drives his STX Mini Cooper at locals back home in Virginia. We are looking to correct this with co-drives in RWD cars for locals next year. So those of you out there in the VMSC with RWD Mustangs, Vettes, etc., please help a brother out and offer a co-drive!

Full Final Results Here
Final ESP Results
My 3rd Trophy at Nationals out of 4 trips to Lincoln

Ali ran her first autocross ever in STSL class at the Solo Nationals co-driving with Kim Whitener who won her third consecutive STSL National Championship. Ali had practiced twice before in the Whitener CRX. She did really really well her first event - she didn't get lost, only spun once, and came home in 4th place.
Racecar Driver!

And now for the most important part, I have many people to thank:
  • My parents for continuing to support me and for an epic last second drive to Kansas City for a new master cylinder.
  • Ali for always helping out and keeping things fun even with the stress of running her first autocross. She always makes sure I don't forget the most important part of racing....Fun.
  • Sam Strano for the continued support of my racing, talking shop between sessions, and for the private trackwalk on the East Course.
  • Courtney Cormier for helping with the master cylinder swap and for continuing to be the nicest guy I've met in racing.
  • Mark Madarash for helping me troubleshoot my braking issue
  • Lane Borg and Josh Pu'u for helping make the Camaro faster throughout this season.

 For another inside look at the Solo Nationals, check out the Oversteer Garage recap of their efforts in CP:

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Solo Nats Day 1 in the books - On to Day 2

Day 1 for ESP started on the West Course. I finished in 6th place 0.9s out of 1st which is not where I wanted to be headed into the 2nd day. I coned my first and fastest raw time run in one of the opening slaloms. This 54.015 run would have put me in 2nd only 0.013 out of 1st....but there's nothing I can do now but push push push and have a killer time tomorrow. My Dad and I reviewed data, tweaked the car and are ready to rock tomorrow.

You can follow along live tomorrow here:

Video & Audio: 

We run in the 2nd heat which should start around 9:30 AM. On to tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My First ProSolo Season is in the Books + Updates from Lincoln

Our Pit Setup for the Pro Finale and Solo Nationals
The whole team arrived in Lincoln safely last Friday. The ProSolo Finale was up first. This is the season-ending event where ProSolo National Champions will be crowned in each class. I needed to win to have a realistic shot at winning the title. Unfortunately, brake issues would keep this from happening (probably not just brakes, but I'll run with it being the brakes fault.....). I replaced the front hubs before my two test days in College Station in August, but I was getting severe pad knock-back during the first heat to the point where the pedal would basically go to the floor in each corner. I coned both runs on the right side during Heat 1 which put me back in 5th. I bled the system thoroughly before Heat 2 and ordered front hubs so that I could get fresh ones in the car and fix the pad knockback problem before Heat 3 on Sunday morning. The brake bleeding did not make much of an improvement so Heat 2 was basically a wash. I was able to clean up the right side which put me in 4th behind McCance, Madarash and Krauss.

I replaced the hubs Saturday night and also discovered that I had a master cylinder on the way out thanks to some diagnostic help form Mr. Madarash. Thanks Mark! It rained overnight but we luckily had dry running on Sunday for Heat 3. The pad knockback issue was fixed but the brakes were still inconsistent due to the MC problem which made it difficult to properly manage weight transfer with the middle pedal. Amazingly, I was not able to improve my times during Heat 3. I did manage a 45.8s red-light lap on the left side which would have kept me in 4th, but put me much closer to Krauss in 3rd. The Goodyear tires really like heat and running as the 2nd driver in Heat 1 gives me a big advantage. Being the first driver in Heats 2 and 3 really only gives me one shot at a good lap on each side because the tires are still coming in for the first lap on each side. I have struggled with improving my pace in Heats 2 and 3 all year and this weekend was no different.

My fourth place finish in the Finale put me in 3rd for the season in ESP. I was a bit disappointed to be so far back at the Finale but am happy to pick up 3rd in class for my first season of ProSolo competition.

3rd Place Trophy for the season in ESP

Sunday night while I was at the ProSolo banquet, my parents made a hero trek to Kansas City to get a new master cylinder for the car. With the help of Courtney Cormier, we got the new MC installed Monday morning in time to run two test and tune sessions. The car felt much better and my Dad and I are both optimistic coming into the Solo Nationals later this week.

I flew out of Omaha back to San Angelo Monday afternoon so I could work today and tomorrow. To cap a busy week, I fly back to Nebraska tomorrow for the 2013 Tire Rack SCCA Solo Nationals. With two good days, I think I have a chance to bring home my second jacket but there is stiff competition in ESP with a variety of cars so it will be very difficult. I will send out live timing and video links tomorrow so you can follow the ESP action live on Thursday and Friday!

Ali getting ready to hit the test track
In other news, Ali will be making her Solo Nationals debut this weekend. She is helping some friends meet numbers in STSL class by co-driving the championship winning Whitener CRX. She is doing great so far and learning a lot each day.

One final photo..........
Lane's car sure does look prettier with Orange and Blue!!!