Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mia Goes Out to Play

Today, I re-took the SCCA Level 2 Autocross School. I took the same class previously back-to-back with the Level 1 school. In the morning, I felt that I did a pretty poor job of internalizing the throttle-steering lessons of the figure-8 drill, but I made some progress with the slalom drill. In the afternoon, I improved my performance on the actual autocross course compared to 2 months ago. Then, my best time was 36.7 s, but I was very inconsistent, and most of my times were in the high 37s. Today, my best time was 35.6s, and I was much more consistent; I turned several times between 36.0 and 36.2. So, I consider the class a success.

I must say that I feel surprisingly fatigued at the moment. I got a little bit of exercise in today; I spent almost half of the 7 hours of the class working the course; either standing, watching for cones to be knocked out of position, or running after displaced cones. However, that amount of exertion can't explain my current level of tiredness. I think what wore me out was being in direct sunlight for essentially the entire day, whether working the course or driving. (I kept to top down for maximum visibility and ventilation.) Like Stingray, I picked up a sunburn today. Heat may have played a role as well. The ambient temperature wasn't too high today, but it was quite warm in the car, especially since I ran the heater to help keep the engine cool.

Just like last time, part of the fun for me was seeing all the cars that showed up. There were 4 Miatas in attendance, 5 if you count an instructor's car. Coincidentally, all the Miatas were NBs, and all but Mia were pre-face-lift NBs from model year 1999 or 2000. There were also 4 civics, 2 Mistubishi EVo IXs, a BMW 3-series, a Subaru WRX, and a Mini Cooper S, and 3---count 'em---Corvettes.

The 'Vettes were the most interesting cars there. One was a silver late-60s Stingray convertible. Its owner had a lot of experience and clearly knew how to drive, but he was held back by the car. The steering ratio was so slow that I could clearly see him working the wheel in big arcs, even during the slalom. The best time I saw him turn in was about equal to my best time, and I'm far from a skilled driver.

The next oldest Corvette was a burgundy C5 convertible, which had been fitted with a supercharger. That car was clearly putting out some serious power, but its owner wasn't a great driver.

The last 'Vette was a yellow 2006 (C6) Z06. It was easily the best looking car at the event, and it turned in the fastest times, too. Actually, its best times---in the low 32s---were about tied for fastest with those of the modified Evo I saw last time. The Z06 had far more power, but couldn't really use it on that small a course. The Evo, with it's sophisticated AWD sytsem and giant wing, was in a much better position to put power down and control its direction.

Anyway, the class was entertaining and educational. Now my plan is to attend a high-performance driver's education class at a road course. With my recent addition of a rollbar to the car---more on that soon---that plan can move forward.

By the way, I'd like to publicly acknowledge Charles, who helped me bleed Mia's brakes and clutch yesterday, so I could be completely confident in my braking and shifting on the course. Thanks, Charles.


  1. Mia looks good with the rollbar; very race-y.

    Those 60's Stingrays are just beautiful cars, much prettier, to my mind, than any 'Vette before or since. I'm not surprised, though, that they don't do all that well in autocross. Oh, and they ain't cheap. (At the time of posting, eBay had a '67 Stingray auction at k$83 with a "Reserve Not Yet Met" tag on it.)

  2. Nick,

    Mia thanks you for the complement. I'm sure she feels like a true race car with the new bar in place. Actually, now that the bar is there, I fell like I'm in a race car every time I look in the rearview mirror.

    Those old 'Vettes are indeed good-looking, but I'm really liking the looks of the C6, especially the Z06 and the ZR1 Uber-Vette. FOr 83 grand, you could easily buy a 2008 Z06, which has more power, more sophisticated suspension, better fuel economy, cleaner emissions, and improved safety.

  3. By the way, you may be interested to know that the owner of the Z06 was about 6'3" tall. So, if you are looking for a 2-seater into which you can fit, at least one exists.

    Interestingly, the owner was a German. When I jokingly suggested he should be driving a BMW or Porsche, he told me you could get a lot more performance per dollar from a Corvette. That's certainly true.

  4. I'll make sure to keep the 'Vette in mind if I ever decide to trade in my house for a car.

  5. Nick,

    If you are planning to trade in your home, you might want something with room for the dogs and the cats. Can I interest you in a Nissan GT-R?