Patience

Dear Patrick,  

I have some big excitement (and some big expectations?) about driving in an autocross event this Sunday. This will be my first autocross of the season and I’m stoked! Since I got started last Fall, I’ve been taking baby steps. For real, when I started out, I had no clue what I was getting into! It’s been such an incredible process so far. I have made progress, and I am having a blast! But at this point, I am getting impatient bringing up the back of every pack.  

And as I type that word, impatient, I can actually hear your voice – intoning in a video of a lap you rode with an apparently newish driver at Barber, “Patient…wait…wait…wait….”  

There was this image in my mind about what it would be like, race car driving, and I am so far from it! Granny-fied! Slow, slow, and slow. Last. Dead last.

The good news is, when it comes to AX, I’ve managed to get my head pretty well around navigating the “sea of cones.” That was my big fear before my first autocross. Let’s just say that I am not known for my sense of direction. That I made it through my first outing without getting lost was HUGE for me. I blew the same gate twice in my first event, so I did get 2 DNFs. But I wasn’t lost! Same in my second outing last year – I didn’t get lost once. So yeah, that’s something.  

And then there’s the damned mini-van. Can I tell you how embarrassing it was to be owned on the course time after time by a freaking MINI-VAN? OK so it was a completely race-prepped H0nda-funded 0ne Lap of America mini-van. But still – in the battle of Porsche 911 vs. H0nda 0dyssey, who would you pick? RIGHT. THE PORSCHE. Damn it.  

I’m laughing as I type. I have been smack-talking with the mini-van guys. Budget issues at H0nda have cut their insurance coverage and they haven’t been out yet this year. But rumor has it they will be back soon. If nothing else, I just do not want to come in behind the damned mini-van!  

After doing some work between last Fall and now, and especially after my first outing at Barber a couple of weeks ago, I am just itching to get out there and tear it up! I know my handling has improved, as has my familiarity with driving closer to the limits. I’ve learned a few tricks, but I know that most of what there is for me to learn is still ahead of me. I have yet to smoothly master heel-toe downshifting. And I really want and need to get out on a skid pad and spend some quality time working in and around my car’s traction limits.  

With several really skilled drivers there, I will be paying attention. My last time out, one of the guys who took me on a run in my car demonstrated some ways of using the throttle and brakes to both control the car, and put on speed, through slaloms, maximizing on the car’s natural rear-heavy weight distribution. My next time out, I made my own clumsy attempt at what he’d done, and I immediately reaped some benefit in both precision and speed. So much fun. So much to learn.

I’m signed up as a Novice, so I will have all the help I could want from some truly excellent drivers. Will it be different this time? Will I actually be better? Will I be faster? I don’t expect to be on the podium at the end of the day (though depending who shows up in my class, you never know – I took 1st in class at my first outing haha!) – I just don’t want to be last. I know in any contest somebody always has to come in last, but it’s somebody else’s turn now. My goal for the event is to come in ahead of one other car. I’ll let you know what happens!  

Sincerely,

VroomGrrl

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