Monday, March 23, 2009

AutoX


Yesterday, I attended another SCCA autocross school. This one was the Level 2 school, which I've taken twice before.


I haven't autocrossed since last Autumn, so I was quite rusty. In fact, I was very frustrated with the lack of progress over the last time I took the class. I had trouble with the figure-8 drill, which is designed to teach the student to steer with the throttle, to direct the car with over- andundersteer. I felt OK with my performance on the slalom drill. The sample autocross course, which is about half the length of one you might find at a competition, gave me the most trouble. I had trouble equalling my previous best time of 36.4 seconds.  

I did reach an important conclusion, however. I tried shifting into third gear for the fastest part of the course, where I have previously been bouncing off the he rev limiter in second. You might think it's a no-brainer to upshift under circumstances like that, but downshifting in an autocross course can be time-consuming. I managed to fit the downshift into the next braking zone without too much loss of time. In fact, since I was shifting anyway, I went all the way down to first, to pull away from what was the slowest point on the course. The ensuing upshift to second wasn't too time-consuming and was probably compensated for by the superior acceleration in first. With this approach, I was able to post a few funs below 36 seconds. My best time was about 35.4, which is a substantial improvement for such a small course. Sadly, I can't say that my reduced time was due to improved skill---I was still struggling with car control---rather than tactics.


Here are some assorted notes about the cars and drivers in attendance at the school:
  • The cars were fairly typical of autocross schools and autocrosses in general---at least based on my experience---except for the number of Miatas; there were 5 first- and second-generation MX-5s among the 16 student cars.
  • The fastest car there was an Apex Blue S2000 CR, just like the one I reviewed recently. Its owner was not very skilled, but, in the hands of an instructor, I saw it post a time of 29.9 seconds. And that was on the stock tires.
  • The second fastest car was a previous-generation STI. I saw its owner consistently post times of 32 seconds and change.
  • I spent most of my course-working time---when I wasn't chasing cones, anyway---talking with the owner of a current-gen Mini Cooper S---that's the one with a turbocharger, front-mounted intercooler, and a nonfunctional hood scoop, not the one with the supercharger, top-mounted IC, and functional hood scoop. He had a lot of experience in his Boxter but was new to autocrossing with front-wheel-drive. He had R-compound on his Cooper andconsistently turned in times of 33.2 and 33.3 seconds. I think that's a pretty impressive performance for that vehicle.


I'm sure that's more than you wanted to read on this subject, I'm sure. Please return to whatever you where doing.

Update: I've added some photos taken by Danny Kao.

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