[The BMW is still in pieces so we used the Mazda this weekend]
Dad and I survived the weekend!FRIDAY
We drove to Napanee Friday night after loading up the two cars. Yes two cars – every race team has a support vehicle
The $55/night motel certainly wasn’t the Hilton but it was clean and the floor didn’t crawl (*shudder)SATURDAY
Saturday was a pro-solo (think drag race through an autocross course) at the Picton Airport. Two “identical” tracks were setup on intersecting runways. We spent the morning doing runs on alternating tracks and setting qualifying times. In total everyone did 6 runs in the morning. Average running times ranged from 45-60+ seconds. In the afternoon, everyone was seeded based on the times they set in the morning. The race then became an elimination event beginning with the two slowest drivers facing off and the winner of each battle moving up the list. It felt like an episode of PINKS. We had a “line judge” at the start doing the whole arm drop scenario. Unfortunately Dad was the slowest (it was his first time after all) and hit a cone in his second heat which eliminated him. From there the battles went back and forth with winners changing constantly. Finally it got to me. I was one of the first ones to establish a streak and managed to eliminate 3 cars ( 80’s civic hatchback, race-prepped CRX, and a Honda S2000) before going three rounds with an Eclipse where I eventually spun and was eliminated. I got a nice round of applause from the group and it was pretty nice to do well in front of my Dad.SUNDAY
Sunday’s Regional autocross event was also held at the Picton Airport but this time the course used all three runways (~3km)
The course wasn’t as “flowy” and fast as it had been in previous years but it was still fun.
Dad and I started the day on our used 205/55 14 R888 tires. I was told they would last at least 1 full lapping day and then it would be touch and go from there.
After doing the pro-solo on Saturday, the tires were getting pretty low. I had done 15 runs on the day which means 15 burn outs ON TOP of Dad’s runs.
We managed to get through the morning on the R888’s but they didn’t make it much further than that. After completing my first run in the afternoon, I was inspecting the tires while dad rolled through the staging area. I thought we were in good shape until I noticed the belts on the outer perimeter of one of the tires. I didn’t feel comfortable sending dad out so we franticly drove back into the pits and it was a full 4 wheel swap. I broke torque, jacked the car and got the first two wheels done, then I jacked the passenger side of the car while Pat torqued the driver’s side. Dad took care of bringing the tires back and forth. Within 10 minutes four brand new 225/ 55 15 Nitto NT01 R-Comps were on the car and we were back in the staging lanes. Of course it was only as I was belting in that I realized these tires had been sitting in my basement since last May and I hadn’t checked the pressures. Thankfully they had been overfilled to 38psi and just needed some air bled out. The grip was ridiculous. It was also a big change going from the dead R888s which are basically a glorified street tire to the r-comps. The street tires make noise and yell at you when you push them. The r-comps only make noise when you are flirting with the edge of disaster. I loved them.
We got 6 runs in total with an average time of around 2 minutes. The fastest lap was a 1:54. My fastest lap was a 2:02 which was good for second place in my class. Another year another podium. That’s 5 podiums in 5 events. My regional points streak is ridiculous!
There was no time to relax after the event though. We quickly swapped my streets back on the car, packed up the two vehicles, and drove straight to Shannonville Motorsports Park for a 2 hour lapping evening with Midnight Runs.
This would be Dad’s first lapping day ever and my first lapping day in over a year since bouncing off the wall at Calabogie. Switching gears mentally from auto-x to lapping was a little difficult. Auto-x can be very harsh with quick sudden inputs. Lapping is smoother and requires a more calculated approach. I took dad out for a few laps to show him the track and the set out on my own for a few laps to shake off the cobwebs. It was really frustrating remembering how fast I used to be on that course and how foreign it felt to me now.
Dad went out for a handful of sessions too and aside from needing constant reminders to keep both hands on the wheel and to pay attention to my slipping clutch, he did pretty well.
After starting the day at 6:30 am, we hit the sack around 11 pm knowing we’d be doing it all over the next day.
6:30 hits (again) and we’re awake and getting ready. We check out of the motel, grabbed some food and head to the track. The driver’s meeting is at 8:45 and you cannot run if you miss it.
Unfortunately, our demeanors were the only sunny part of our morning as we were met with thunderstorms on our drive to the track. Of course, this had me nervous. 1) My intake is open to the environment right now and the engine cuts out when it’s wet out and 2) The last time I lapped in the rain I did a 360 at >120 km/h before going down the track backwards and into a guard rail. Cue the butterflies :$.
The MCO lapping instructors were down for the day doing a certification exercise and graciously offered to provide “Free” instruction to anyone who wanted it. I got dad paired up with Steve F. and sent him out first in the morning. Dad was put in the beginner class and I volunteered for the intermediate class as I don’t have the ponies to run with the big boys. By the time dad finished his 20 minute heat, the track had started to dry up and I set out to test my limits. After a few warm up laps to get the tires going and to get my confidence up, I put the hammer down. Shannonville is an awesome track because it’s flat and allows you to see the majority of the track from any location. The downside to being flat is that it’s very much a “straight line” or “point and shoot” track. Hard acceleration and even harder braking. The Hawk pads held up though and fade was minimal.
We spent the morning rolling through the 3 run groups in 20 minute heats. The afternoon was a little more interesting. The run groups were decreased to two: Fast and Less-Fast and the heats were increased to 30 minutes. The “Less-Fast” group was also given permission to pass anywhere on track (with a point –by) compared to the morning where we were only allowed to pass on the two straight aways. This made for a really fun afternoon. While the protégé doesn’t have much in the form of straight-line speed, it makes up a lot of ground in the corners. I had an E46 M3 and a 2009-2010 Mustang both point me by in corners. I won’t lie – it felt pretty good.
By 4pm Dad and I were both toast. I actually ended up taking a short nap on the wall separating pit lane from the paddock area. We decided to pack up early and ended up heading for home around 5pm.
The drive home was very relaxing compared to the drive down. On the drive down, I had just finished spending 4 days bolting the car together and while I have faith in my own work, you never know what can happen. After spending 4 days racing and 2 of the 4 at speeds >120 km/h, my faith never wavered. I spent the drive home letting the experience set in. It was a great weekend in general and an amazing way to spend my birthday but being able to spend it with my Dad made it that much more special.
Our first local event is Sunday June 3rd and our next lapping day is June 22 at Calabogie. I’ve now gone back to working on the BMW.
Stay tuned for more.