Sandpanther (sandpanther) wrote,

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Adventures in Autocross - Slippy, Maybe

I joked that this time was the first time in many months that I actually had to sign the release form at the gate. Usually I'm helping with setup so I get there early enough that there isn't anyone on the gate.

Despite that, I still ended up helping set up the course. I think it's some kind of a karmic balance that I help set up all the cones, since I then go and knock so many of them down. For some reason we ran short of workers, and they were calling the driver's meeting about 10 minutes after we started chalking the course. Three people cannot chalk all those cones that fast, so stuff got started a little late.

Stiff, tired, and a little out of breath from speed chalking, I arrived at my work station. (Normally doing course setup counts as your work assignment. But I figured since I hadn't specifically signed up for doing setup that I should probably just count it as my good deed for the day and still chase knocked cones.) It was very weird... The guy at the next station over came to chat about where his station's coverage would end and mine would begin. Guy At The Next Station was cool. We talked about which cones were likely to get creamed, and which cones in the slalom we were likely to cream ourselves. As we were chatting, about five other folks wandered up. Oh, my. Usually we have three, maybe four people working at each station. This time we had six.

As it turns out, I think we had five newbies and me. For at least one guy this was his first event. For some reason he decided that he wanted to be on the radio. Okay, who am I to argue? I gave him a quick brief on the proper etiquette for calling in issues and sketched out what our coverage area was. It turns out that he has been a flagger on a variety of road races, including things like the Long Beach Grand Prix. He spent quite a while being boggled at the differences on the way things ran at our autocross vs. at professional open-wheel racing events.

I think most of this group were a bunch of newbies. For some reason I ended up designated the Adult In Charge. It really boggled me. But I was the one making the calls on whether someone DNF'd, and I was the one making the call on flagging people (which we ended up doing, twice. Ironically I had commented early on that we wouldn't end up flagging anyone since the starter wouldn't let the next car start until after cars cleared our area, since we were in the middle of a crossover.)

This particular run group didn't hit cones, but they did a great job of losing track of where they were going. I don't think I've seen so many DNF's before. A couple of them went off course and go so badly lost that they were heading directly toward my station, with a VERY confused look on their faces. We had at least three cars that we had to stop and point out that the course was going the other direction. And we had one person who seemed to have lost a belt mid-course. It can't have been the timing belt (since the noise it made wasn't that awful), but it couldn't have been good.

Once the workers for the next work group started appearing, Guy At The Next Station came over and traded information about how the cars were driving his part of the course, and how the course was drying out.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention. It had rained overnight, so the course was wet. Setting up I had also noticed at least one point where there was a massive amount of oil lingering around, a broken beer bottle directly on the driving line, and a horde of rusty nails. I think we got the sharp things picked up well enough, but there were still a couple of spots with a lovely oil/water mixture glistening on the surface.

Anyway, Guy At The Next Station and I finished exchanging information, and eventually all my newbies got replaced and I decided I could leave the station to the next work group with a clear conscience. I jogged over, grabbed my car, got it teched, then took my place on grid. I did manage to witness an almost-accident at the crossover (something I had not thought would be possible.) The person going through the crossover slide sideways and stalled. Unfortunately, the starter had started the next car just before the first car wiped out, so there were two cars active on the same part of the course. Weirdly, I had thought that wouldn't happen either.

I hung out on grid and chatted with New Guy. He told me stories about working for various races and having famous drivers like John Villeneuve and Arton Senna stop mid-race to give the flaggers a "way to go" wave. It sounded cool. It almost sounded fun. I think I'm still more interested in volunteering to help out at rallies.

Speaking of rallies, while hanging out on grid Guy From The Next Station asked if I had seen the guy whose car was all tricked out like a rally car. I had just seen a Scoob come in with the Subaru star whorl on the door (in white on silver -- very sharp looking), but Guy From Next Station went on to comment that the car had air vents just like a rally car. *perk* Why, no. I hadn't spotted that car. Must go track it down after the run.

The course this time was special, but a lot of fun to drive. There was a huge crossover that took about half the total run to drive. The best part of it was the section that crossed. It basically cut a diagonal from one corner of the course to the other, and could be taken flat-out. During the course walk many people muttered about maybe needing to shift to third. At the time I gave the course a Dubious Piggy Stare, thinking that it overly favoured high-horsepower cars. After I drove it, I stopped caring. When driving it, there were a couple of bits that faked you out and made it look worse than it was. But no, the entire thing was flat-out, pedal-to-the-metal. By the end of it I was doing probably 65, 70 MPH. It was a total kick to drive.

I'm pleased with my times, though they were not exactly competative. Raw times were all within a second of each other. Unfortunately I employed the "hit fewer cones" method of getting two seconds off, so the actual times kind of sucked. Still, I'm encouraged that all the times were so close together. It indicates that maybe I'm starting to get over my tendancy to start slow then work my way up to having decent runs by the fifth or sixth run. (Considering that we only get three, that method isn't the best...) Next up, I need to stop it with the coneage. It's just laziness that I keep hitting them, and it Needs. To. Stop.

What also needs to stop is hitting the brakes when I'm intending to shift. I did that on my third run, and it cost me breaking the 60-second barrier. The positive side is that I had automatically moved my left foot to be set on the brakes (which I've been trying to get to be automatic for autocrosses for some time now.) The down side is that I'm on the brakes at a point when I should be accelerating.

At least the last run was clean.

After my runs I prowled the parking lot in search of the rumored rally car. It took a little prowling. (One Subaru no longer stands out amidst the horde of WRX's and STis.) On the side it had a placard from the Ramada Express International Rally. Inside... it had a roll cage. And a codriver trip computer. And not a lot else. Yeah, that's a REAL rally car.

I hung out for a while hoping that the driver would come back and I could chat with him. While hanging, I played around with taking pictures of cars in motion. After Wales I was really frustrated that a lot of my pictures didn't come out very well. I figure practicing at autocross would be a good place to start. (I'm also looking into getting a better camera since mine is rather old, and hence low on the features and pixellage. I figure I might as well go to the limits of my current camera before I switch up, though.) The last run group for the morning finished up with no rally car driver, so I checked which run group he was going to be in. OSP -- work five, run seven. Shoot. He won't be showing up to move the car for at least two more hours. I decided that I didn't really feel like hanging out that long, so I took off for home. *sniff*

Notes for myself:

New guy: GS-N, black Civic Si
Guy From Next Station: GS, black Del Sol.

I have a feeling that the stress of autocross combined with the week I just had is going to end up giving me a cold. *sigh* At least it was a whole bunch of fun.
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