Sandpanther (sandpanther) wrote,

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Autocross Diary

Yesterday was another event down at Marina. I really like the Marina site. I am a little bit less fond of the long drive; Marina is about two hours away from where I live. This was even more of an issue this time, since I was not only in the morning run group, I was in run group #1.

My first event I ran in run group #1. The experience scarred me for life. Okay, I'm mostly joking. It did leave a lasting feeling that things get really frantic and difficult when in the first run group, and that it's best to get there early. Which lead me to try and get to Marina at 7 AM.

Driving down, I had an option of taking the (theoretically) more direct route down 101, or taking Hwy 17 across to Hwy 1. This is a much prettier route, but involves lower speed limits. (It also involves deep-fried artichokes, a concept which still horrifies me.) I decided that 17 at 6 AM on a weekend sounded a lot more appealing, even though I was running a little late, due to opting at the last minute for a heavy fuel strategy. (No, that comment is not supposed to make sense to anyone other than llamabitchyo. Suffice it to say that I stopped to get gas.)

17 proved to be less fun than expected, largely due to a speed trap at the beginning. I didn't get caught (they were all busy when I went through, and I was warned by the person ahead of me slowing down anyway.) Still, I went through a lot slower than I would have liked, out of fear of speeding tickets.

It was hugely foggy all down Hwy 1. Since it had been hot over the hill when I left, it hadn't occurred to me that it might be chilly on the coast. Oh well, at least it will help keep the temperatures down.

I arrived at the site right about on my projected ETA, and was surprised to see that nothing was set up. There were a few people around who were obviously there to run, but no one official was there, not even the timing trailer. This was not a good sign for starting on time...

I unloaded the car in one of the copious numbers of available parking spots (bliss!) rhylar appeared not long after, as did the timing trailer. We finished cleaning out our cars, then moved over onto grid, and waited until either someone came to tech the cars, or until the course opened for walking. A trailer with a Lotus on it drove in. We drooled, and looked forward to seeing it run.

Eventually we went to start the course walk. As we were going along, we caught up with a gentleman who had a young girl with him who couldn't have been over twelve. After a moment, I realized that he was telling the girl where to be looking and the line to be driving. Surely she's too young to be driving a car, I thought. But then I remembered that we have a couple of youngsters driving karts.

Realizing that this would be a good opportunity to get some advice on driving the course from someone more experienced than me, I asked the guy if he minded us tagging along and listening. He was happy to give advice. ^_^ He pointed out spots to start braking, which cone to look at/aim for, how long a line out to take around a turn, and showed a couple of points that looked like they required turning/braking, but actually a car could scoot straight through if it was lined up correctly. It was excellent advice -- which I was quite positive I would never manage to remember once I got driving. *sigh*

Since there was time, we started the course walk over again. The novice course walk had started a little before we finished our first one, so we jumped over and tagged along with that. I was somewhat surprised to realized that I did actually remember the pointers the nice man had given on our first course walk. Interestingly, the course got a lot easier to memorize once it was broken down into key cones and braking zones. I shall have to keep that in mind for the future.

It's late, so I shall spare the gory details of each run. We got four runs (I love Marina!), and I managed to better my time on each run except the last one. That one I did do a better time, but also creamed two cones. Ah well.

This was a learning event for me on several different points. Breaking the course down into key cones really was a marvellous way to memorize the whole thing. That is the happy, easy lesson for the day.

The trickier lesson has to do with motivation, and pushing hard enough. The first lap through I absolutely did not push hard enough -- even considering that I try to take the first lap relatively easy. There were several points where I would remember that I needed to start braking, but then immediately realized that I was going so slowly that there was no point, just coasting a little would do fine. The second lap went a little faster, but I still had several points where I had to give myself a mental shake and remember to step harder on the gas. For some reason I just wasn't as totally focused as I could have been.

I think there are a couple of things that contributed to this. First, I was in the first run group, so I had no idea what everyone else's times were. As such, I didn't sit down and pick a time to shoot for. So basically for the first run I had no time goal. For the second run, my goal was to take two seconds off. I achieved that, but somehow it just didn't have the same sort of satisfaction as coming up with a goal that I didn't think I could reach, and then making it.

I think the other factor is that I'm fairly tired these days. I've had several weeks of being on the go constantly, and it is taking its toll more than I care to think about. This weekend was the first "relaxed" weekend I've had in a while (though the "relaxed" part is really relative to the weeks previous, and has still been very on the go). I think mentally I was sort of in the mode of taking it easy.

Oh, and remember the Lotus we saw driving in? The nice guy who gave us pointers on the course walk drove it. He set some rather nice times (third in his group, IIRC). Though something about his car smelled very, very odd.

Speaking of smelling odd, we stuck around to watch the last of the morning run groups, since that was the group with the Lotus in it. It also had a yellow '71 Corolla that I remember being very, very good in it. (This is a heavily modified class, for those wondering how a Corolla is setting better times than a Lotus and two Shelby's.) This was a very small group, and featured two Shelbys. One of them really wanted to see if they could destroy their tires after only one event, and so left a smokey haze in the car's wake. The other one also smoked their tires, but not to the same extent. The odd smells coming off of the cars in this group were enough to make my allergies act up.

For those following at home, the next event will be at Golden Gate Fields in two weeks, on August 3. I don't know what time I'm going to run at, since I believe this is the event that Turbo lined up a ride for me. I will have to check with her to confirm.

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