Archive for March, 2010

Guess We’ll Find Out

Posted in Uncategorized on March 25, 2010 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

Looks like you went to the races tonight! Twitter is fun for catching little glimpses of everybody’s goings on. I haven’t really gotten set up for Twitter in terms of posting updates and photos. New phone will help! Lordy this is geeky. Yeah.

Anyway. Tonight I went to dinner with one of my autocross friends and competitors – one of the handful of women who drive. She picked me up in her Miata, and we drove topless through a gorgeous evening to a downtown hotspot to have dinner and catch up a bit. You know, it’d been years and years since I rode in a convertible. What’s up with that??

The Irish half of me has the rest of the story down pat and this is how it goes: I bought her drinks, then as any friend would, took custody of her car keys and insisted on driving back home. Hee! It was awesome!!!!!

OK OK I didn’t really scam my way into the driver’s seat. Actually, the real story is probably better. She had a cognac after dinner. When she’d finished it, a waiter brought her another, and said, “Gentleman at the bar sends you a drink.” She had recognized a friend who came in earlier, but no, it wasn’t him. “Grey shirt, end of the bar.” So, of course, it only took my friend a minute to catch the guy’s eye, and he comes over and chats her up a bit. Well, sort of. He mostly just tried really hard to speak a tiny bit of English – with a very Austrian accent. He was very attractive (!!). He asked if we spoke German. “Nein!” we answered together.

Yeah, yeah, cuteness overload! The point of all this is that the last drink put her into the buzz zone, and she handed me her keys without a word when we got up to go. I happily took them, and made THE MOST of the drive back, taking a favorite route that flies around a curve and shoots up a big hill. You have to catch the lights juuuust right, and we did. Wheee!

Obviously, the best part of the evening to me was zipping around downtown Birmingham in the Miata. What a fun, tight little car! We have an autocross event this Saturday, and we are swapping cars for a few runs. I’ve always been curious whether I’d be more competitive in a car that was “easier” to drive. I guess we’ll find out!

My friends in NC were doing a Supercar Sensations thing today. That’s a whole nother subject for a whole nother day, but in a word? FUN.

Late. Must go. Be well!
VroomGrrl

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Holding Course

Posted in Pat's Races on March 20, 2010 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

You guys are doing an incredible job staying in the top 3 for all of the race from what I can tell. I’ve not had time to just sit and watch. I have both Radio Lemans and FL Team Radio streaming audio going at the same time, and the video on the TV in the other room, the only TV that gets SpeedTV. Love hearing the radio. Marc is in the car, holding P3, a little light-hearted ribbing and laughter.

So my 911 is packed to the gills and I’m about to shut down this computer and take off for Atlanta. A big nasty weather front is heading this way, so I’m driving out a couple of hours ahead of it. I’ve got a cheapo room to crash for the night, a pocket full of quarters for the air machine at the gas station in the morning, plenty of energy beverage & water, and I’m outta here.

I can’t wait to get to my next stop and fire up the rest of the race. God-willing, I’ll have Speed at the hotel. If not, I’ve got the internets. Cookies baked for hubby, cat litter changed, rain gear packed, off I go.

Yall keep up the good work on track!!

VroomGrrl

Several hours later…..random thoughts

Horrid traffic jams on the way here, just stupid flukey stuff. I’m tucked into my little motel for the night, with the race on TV, and Lizard team radio streaming on the computer. #45 is P4, you are at the wheel. #44 is P5. Just a few laps to the final pit stop. Races are won and lost in the pits. Go Crew! GO LIZARDS!

“Richard is getting dressed right now.” I guess he’s getting into the #44 at their pit stop. I wonder if there’ll be a driver change in your car. I can probably tell reading the FLMS blog. Or, well, there you are being interviewed on Radio Le Mans so you are out, and timing & scoring shows Marc Lieb in the car. Sounds like you guys are resigned to 4th. “The racing gods were not with us today,” is how you put it. T&S says 30 minutes remain. Hey, anything can happen. Let’s see what does….

“Well we finished fourth last year and we won the championship so that’s a good omen. Good job, guys…” I don’t know who that was, but I love it. SOunded like the 90 or 92 spun in the last lap, I thought the Radio Le Mans announcer said that they gave up 2nd place doing so but it doesn’t look that way from the final results. Last minute drama…..eh OK I think the BMWs just switched places.

So – 4th place – congrats, Lizards! Great race!

From post-race interviews, Risi – “It was like qualifying, every lap!” Balls to the wall for 12 hours. Fantastic racing!
They’ve been saying Leh Keen would be the man to watch, and indeed he was. Juan Gonzales was precious in the post-race interview. This was his 20th Sebring! Leh was born of the PCA club race scene. Boy does he look massively tall on TV!

Risi and the BMWs were impressive. The Corvettes would have been if they’d not taken each other out. One thing that’s amazing to watch is the traffic with the LMP/LMPC and GTC cars.

Finally checked back to see some of the details I missed. Saw video of the #45 tire incident. OUCH. So much of it comes down to luck in the end. I know that you always go out to win, and that not getting on the podium can be a bummer. But as the man said, you started last year taking 4th here, and went on to take the class championship. Re-peat! Now off to Long Beach for you. And to a big coned-off parking lot in the morning for me!

x0x0x
VroomGrrl

Season Starter

Posted in Autocross, Pat's Races on March 19, 2010 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

Well all of a sudden, it’s here! In the dead of winter, it seemed like this day would never arrive. Tomorrow, it begins, the 2010 ALMS season. I’m so proud of you guys for putting the #45 on the pole! I wasn’t able to keep up with the goings-on today since I was busy at work, but I checked the blog for results, and I’m listening to the Radio Le Mans podcast as I type. So exciting! You came in behind the BMW, but they were disqualified in post-race tech, so you’re up front! Drive it like you stole it, guys!!

As for me, I have a lot to do tomorrow. It was a seriously busy week at work, with lots of travel. Tomorrow I need to get my car ready for my autocross school on Sunday. I’m looking forward to trying out my top secret tire pressure tricks recommended by FBR guys! I’ve got to check the weather to figure out when to head for Atlanta. The event starts at 9am Sunday. To drive over the same day, I’ll have to be up and out by 4:30am local time (I lose an hour going east). Or I can spend the night. I was thinking that if the weather was lousy for the morning and better Saturday night, I’d head over and get a hotel Saturday night. But I would actually save some precious tire tread driving in the rain so….undecided! Oh, the drama! Ha!

One way or another, I’ll have a busy Saturday and a fun Sunday. In between it all, I’ll be watching SpeedTV to see how you guys are doing, and listening to Flying Lizard Team Radio and Radio Le Mans to fill in the gaps. I am curious if any rivalries have developed during testing and practice, on the track, or off. I heard some commentary suggesting the Corvettes were sandbagging. I’ve heard that said about you guys, too. Tomorrow will tell the tale!

GOOD LUCK!!!!!
VroomGrrl

Patience, Grasshopper

Posted in Me on March 13, 2010 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

Wow it’s been a busy couple of weeks. As a new officer on my local PCA board, my involvement in our Spring DE last week took on a whole new dimension. Driving took a backseat, and I spent most of my time working registration, troubleshooting all manner of little things, and making sure every participant was welcomed with the true Southern hospitality they have come to expect here. Doing so at Barber makes it sooooo easy. What a fantastic facility!

I did get to drive on Sunday. And I felt like I rather sucked. Overall I know from objective sources that I am improving. I’m maintaining smoothness and increasing speed. I needed much more 4th gear this time out than I ever have before at Barber. My 2nd gear slotting-in problem reappeared, but only once, until I remembered the micro-hesitation technique my buddy Paul showed me. Just a lot to remember in the corkscrew (Charlotte’s web, the Museum turn) at Barber.

Speaking of which, that is not the place one wants to have a lapse in concentration, otherwise known as a brain fart. Which I did on Sunday. The end result was just a seriously stupid line through there, and a “WTF?” from my instructor. And a rather shaken up driver, I have to say. It was immediately apparent the potential very high cost of a brain fart anywhere on Barber, most of all in that spot. Lesson learned.

Another thing: I seriously forget what proper threshhold braking feels like! I hate this. I don’t get out often enough as a passenger or driver to really get this ingrained, second nature. In fact, I drove home Sunday feeling seriously discouraged, all WTF am I doing this for? It’s humbling to suck, and something I am not generally accustomed to. I’m much more used to picking things up very quickly and excelling. This? Not so much. But that is seriously OK. I love a challenge. I love being nearly 50 years old and feeling the youthful excitement of doing something physically challenging and thrilling. I wasn’t born into this car stuff, didn’t spend my childhood around it, didn’t race karts, never did much beyond watch and drool for my first 45 years. But I’m here to tell you that old dogs can learn new tricks. I have the desire, and I firmly believe that with persistence and practice, I CAN DO THIS.

In the “Uh oh!” department, at pre-tech for this event, it was pronounced that my tires barely passed, and my wheels were declared “signed off for the last time.” Very long story there, but suffice it to say, my season has taken on a whole new look. I have a couple of autocross days coming up, but beyond that, I will be lucky to get anything else out of these tires. I have a line on a great deal for the wheels, but la cash flow, elle n’est pas supportif! My husband’s new venture is starting out very slowly, as in, he has been working since January with no pay. This was not ze plan, shall we say.

So we roll with it. Other than my AX school next Saturday, and maybe my first AX points competition the week after, my car is parked for the purposes of competition until further notice. I’ll have to forego driving the next club DE in June, but I’m OK with that. I have pre-paid to do a private track day at the end of April. Not sure if that date is even going to fill up as needed to pay for the track rental.

Meanwhile, I have been doing a little studying on tire pressures. Amazing the difference adjustments there can make! I had no clue. I mentioned something about reaping some reward from minor adjustments in an email to a certain race engineer (YOURS in the #45 car), and he actually put one of the guys in his shop to work on researching and coming up with a recommendation for me. I swear, I could not ask for better friends in this sport. For a newcomer like me, at least one who does not present any possible threat of competition, people are so kind and eager to help, it just blows my mind. So I have the incredible Flying Lizard #45 brain trust at work for me in this small way. I now have a new strategy and very specific instructions for handling tire pressures at my next AX event, and I cannot WAIT to try them out.

While I have no help to give in terms of cars and driving, there are other ways to help folks along. I have made a new friend of a newcomer to the club, and have made it my business to encourage him and do what I can to bring him into the fold. He is a fantastic guy, his car is GORGEOUS, and as I suspected he would be, he is a good driver! He signed up in DE1 and was signed off to drive solo by the end of the weekend. He made a few new friends, which I was tickled to see, and was absolutely over-the-moon exuberent in his appreciation of my attention. He passed me a couple of times on Sunday, and at my instructor’s suggestion, I gave him the super-special middle-finger point-by. HE LOVED IT and insisted I replicate it in this photo:

Looking back, it’s clear my hesitation to commit to a big season calendar of events comes from all the uncertainty I’m dealing with. So let’s own that: Contrary to prior pronouncements, I will not be posting a big, ambitious schedule of events after all! I’m just going to have to be patient, and see how things come together over the next few weeks and months.

There is certainly plenty of good racing to watch! I’m looking forward to Sebring next weekend! I realize lately if I am curious where you are and what you’re up to, there’s Twitter! I kind of hate all these “social networking” things, there are so many to keep up with, but I have to admit they are great for keeping up with friends.

Happy driving!
VroomGrrl

VroomGrrl Takes the Wheel

Posted in Autocross on March 1, 2010 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

Well it’s finally my turn at the wheel! Since spending the weekend at Daytona, I have had the itch to just get out there and get going! Saturday was the test and tune day for my local club autocross. It was pretty cold and windy, but nice as the day warmed up. It was so great to see everybody again – hugs all over the place!

I was not quite as organized in my prep as I could have been, and I really did not like how it affected my performance. I finally figured this out at the last event of last year. When I made the effort to prepare in every detail, wow – it made a big difference! I’m a little disappointed with myself that I let go of something within my control that could have made that difference.

Click to see video of Kathy driving Alabama SCCA Autocross 2/27/10 from Chuck Schultz on Vimeo.

But I was prepared enough to come out pretty well. We had a short course, and a practice slalom. On my first two runs, the front end of my car drove like a cow, and OK there you go, I should just go back and read what I said last year about my tire pressures. The front end is so much easier to handle with 5-8 lbs more pressure than “normal”. I bailed out of that session because I was hearing a really high-pitched whine intermittently. WTF?

A friend of mine was was car-less and I agreed to share my car with him for the day. We neglected to switch the numbers when he ran, and they only retained times for the first ten runs in the results, so it’s a clusterfuck! Ha! We each know which runs were ours, but my best run of the day was not recorded at all. Instead, my friend’s best time, two seconds faster than my fastest, was credited to me in the results! Oops! Well that’s why they call it test and tune – we were checking out new timing equipment, a new PA system, and a new computer program for the scoring. The other downside of this was that I did the first hour, and he did the second, and then they changed the schedule! So I was cut a little short. I did get a good ten runs or so, plus some time on the slalom.

So with all that introduction, how did I do? Well it’s hard to tell by the results so I’ll start with the subjective. I did pretty well! I was much more aggressive starting out than I was last year. I realized early on that had I hard work to do mentally to stay “ON” and remember to keep my attention focused on going as fast as possible through each feature and then off to the next. I quickly got into the zone, and during the time waiting in the long queue for my next run, I thought carefully about exactly what I waned to do differently each time out. One of my champion buddies hopped in with me for a ride-along, and when I asked him for feedback, he said he was impressed with my smoothness, and with some work, could shave off the few seconds to be competitive (!). He was one of the first to ever ride with me, so he is in a good place to speak to my progress.

What I know about the results is that my first run was a 48 when the first runs of the best folks were in the low 40’s. I improved each time with two exceptions – I pushed too hard a couple of times, and lost time to a few spins and slides. The next run after each of those was successively my fastest of the day. The friend who shared my car was the Rookie of the Year last year, and in my car, his best was only two seconds better than mine; the fastest time of the day five seconds better than my 40.xxx. As the day went on, I listened to the times being called, and right through to the end of the day, my times were competitive with several truly decent drivers. If I work my real best time into the final raw results, I’m about five from the bottom, with at least two very good drivers just behind me.

Who knows what any of this means going forward, but I’ll take it for a start – NOT THE SLOWEST TIME OF THE DAY! WOOHOO!

Next up? PCA DE at Barber! I won’t be driving this one. As a club officer, I’ll be working. My responsibility will be Registration for all of Friday night and Saturday. I will go ahead and tech my car, because I’m promised some drive time on Sunday. I need to start asking for check-rides. I’m getting funny looks signing up for DEs as a “novice” with as many as I have under my belt at this point. And speaking of teching my car – I had arranged with my Real Driving Coach to finish the work on my brakes, in particular the fluid flush and bleed. My car has been outside in the rain all winter, and all the clubs I drive with require a flush or at least bleed of the brakes with a few weeks of each event.

I don’t know what’s going on with My Real Driving Coach, but we have had some communication problems lately. Or something. I’m not really sure. I just know that I made clear I had to have this done, and if he couldn’t work it in to just let me know because, well, I had to get it done one way or another. I should not have made arrangements to meet with him at a time after which there was no way I could get anybody else to do the work in time for the test & tune. Because it didn’t happen. And I couldn’t reach him on the phone. Basically, he made an appointment with me, then totally blew me off. I’d extend him the benefit of the doubt, but you know, I did that the last time. This is not the first time we’ve made an appointment and when the time came, he was nowhere to be found. I am a very forgiving person, and I have already forgiven him this one. But I am not a totally stupid person. I will not count on him for stuff like this again. Lesson learned!

No harm done, either. The tech guys all know my car and have been under the hood. I was honest with them about that line on the tech form. I have no symptoms of brake issues, and they got in and stomped the pedal to assess the travel and feel. They went ahead and not only passed me for the event tech, but approved my request for the annual tech sticker. This is great because I won’t have to wait in the tech line at any other event all year long.

Wow. As usual I’m way long-winded. It was a fantastic day. I had a great time. My car was spot-on! My friend heard the same high pitched whine I did a couple of times – it comes under power at high revs, hard to explain or describe except to imitate. I’ll follow up on it. No driving events now until my autocross school on March 21, then my first AX event that’ll count for points on March 27. I’m still working on my schedule of events. More on that another time.

Long, long day tomorrow. I’m on the road for work, sitting up too late in a strange but nicer-than-usual hotel room, tapping away as a way to wind down.

Be well & happy, wherever you are!
VroomGrrl