VroomGrrl Takes the Wheel

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!


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