Friday, June 27, 2014

Stiff Competition

At our latest autocross we had some stiff competition in both classes, so without great fanfare, here's the final results RESULTS LINK.   Drivers were allowed 4 runs, the best one time is the only one that counts.  You'll see some "+1" marks that signify the driver hit a cone (and got a 2 second time penalty), and for the REALLY GOOD drivers, even a "+5" for taking out FIVE cones (like my last run!  Aren't you glad I did that just to demonstrate how to get a 10 second penalty?).

DNF= Did Not Finish, and that driver got off course somehow. (like my FIRST run---again, just so that you can see one in action!)

Overall, I had fun and learned a lot by watching all these faster pilots, but managed to at least finish ahead of one Focus and one Fiesta.  Since the Ford folks took the first six positions in GS, I'm thinking they've got a pretty good car there.  Certainly it's not because I'm a slower driver.  (hope you're laughing by this point)

You can see the season over-all points on our results page, which in GS currently has Justin Robinett in first by one point over both Robert and Michael Arnold. Stiff competition!

GS - 'G Stock' - Total Entries: 10 Trophies: 4 Times Total Diff.
1Tm GS 78 Doggett, Clark Black 14 Ford Fiesta -922.203 67.607 66.735 68.060+1 67.590 66.735 [-]1.591
2T GS 13 Armstrong, Luke Black 14 Ford Focus ST 75.526+DNF 69.408 68.759 68.326 68.326 +1.591
3Tm GS 781 Baltazar, David Black 14 Ford Fiesta ST 69.291+DNF 71.404+2 69.987 68.871 68.871 +0.545
4Tm GS 65 Harris, Will Orange 14 Ford Fiesta ST 71.765 70.370 70.597 68.928 68.928 +0.057
5 m GS 17 Arnold, Michael Black 14 Ford Focus ST 69.808 68.569+1 68.483+1 69.057 69.057 +0.129
6 m GS 26 Robinett, Justin Race Red 13 Ford Focus ST 70.102 69.909 72.260+5 79.540+DNF 69.909 +0.852
7 m GS 77 Nixon, Robert Red 13 Fiat 500 Abarth 72.590+DNF 72.803 71.281 72.793+5 71.281 +1.372
8 m GS 87 Bury, Kenneth White 13 Ford Focus ST 71.853 71.853 +0.572
9 GS 56 Furr, Trent Orange 14 Ford Fiesta ST 91.001 75.030+1 73.703 73.234 73.234 +1.381
10 m GS 46 Solesbee, Robert Red 04 Ford Mustang 81.162+DNF 96.216+DNF 77.213+2 90.677+DNF 81.213 +7.979

Over in ES, all but one driver was sitting in a Miata, so the fine rear wheel drive Mazda product (now in it's 25th year of production) is the king of the class.  After the 2nd run Brian was holding on to first place, but then a run by Kyle Ray-Smith bumped Brian into an also excellent 2nd place on the day against all this Mazda madness. Kyle is now leading the class for the season, and Brian is sitting in 3rd overall and closing on 2nd place

ES - 'E Stock' - Total Entries: 7 Trophies: 3 Times Total Diff.
1Tm ES 89 Ray-Smith, Kyle Blue 01 Mazda Miata 70.170 69.563 68.336 69.193+DNF 68.336 [-]1.087
2Tm ES 86 Nixon, Brian Red 04 Mazda Mazdaspeed MX-5 70.289 69.423 69.758+1 77.232 69.423 +1.087
3Tm ES 57 Humphries, Dan Garnet 03 Mazda Miata 72.218 71.275 69.773 88.557 69.773 +0.350
4 m ES 16 DeGennaro, Kyle Silver 02 Mazda Miata 75.831+DNF 72.615 72.273 70.691 70.691 +0.918
5 ES 159 Brown, Jason Black 01 Mazda Miata 76.913+1 72.859 72.757 70.791 70.791 +0.100
6 m ES 59 Hidde, Schuyler Black 00 Mazda Miata 8685.732+DNF 72.584 76.058 71.253 71.253 +0.462
7 m ES 17 Smith, Zach Red 88 Mazda Rx7 76.164 74.190 75.957+1 73.866 73.866 +2.613

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Behold, Corner Captain!

Driving is the most fun part of autocross, make no mistake!  In return for driving at most autocross events, drivers also have to perform a work assignment while the other driving groups compete, so today let's take a look at one small part of autocrossing,  the all powerful, amazing, super-powered volunteer worker known as CORNER CAPTAIN!

Corner Captain has immeasurable super powers such as being able to prevent serious incidents BEFORE THEY HAPPEN!  He merely has to vigorously wave his RED FLAG and utter the magic words of "RED FLAG, RED FLAG" into his race radio, and instantly, all other red flags on course will wave, and ALL drivers will immediately come to a full and complete STOP!  On the rare occasion that a car stalls out or breaks down on course, Corner Captain makes full use of his super powers to ensure that safety and tranquility exist throughout the realm!

Another super power held by Corner Captain is the all important race radio, which he uses to communicate with even higher powers, (and if he deems them worthy) share information with his lowly minions, the subservient corner workers whose sole task on this planet is to replace cones  displaced by wayward drivers.  As his minions scurry to replace cones before the next competitor passes his post, Corner Captain calmly cues his radio and calls in the cone penalty for the offending transgressor, with a gritty and steely tone of voice:  "number 22 HS, plus one", and then, like thunder and lightning appearing from on high, the official scorer will annotate a penalty of plus one cone to the driver of chariot number 22 in HS class, thereby doling out a 2 second run time penalty thanks to the keen and ever observant abilities of Corner Captain. 

In addition to these super powers, Corner Captain is normally found in his natural habitat adorned in a shade rendering helmet of cloth, as well as ocular shields that prevent mere mortals from feeling the wrath of his detached yet superior gaze.  In extreme cases, if need be, Corner Captain may even resort to using yon extinguisher of fire in order to save a valuable chariot. It is not known if Corner Captain would use the extinguisher on a minion that was on fire, but it is widely held that Corner Captain would surely rescue a competitors valuable engine before rendering assistance to a lowly cone jockey.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Friday, June 20, 2014

Fathers' Day Autocross 2014 Breakdown (Pt. 2)

In Part 1 of the series, we examined a turn by turn look as we walk the course before the event to get a feel for the layout.  In Part 2 we'll examine the side by side video of how everything actually went down:

The differences between the two drivers is very subtle in these videos, but there are a few key items that were done better on either side of the frame.  If this was wheel to wheel racing it would get pretty dramatic and there would most likely be more body damage than the team would like to pay for, so we've voted to keep autocrossing for now!
Let's reference the top-down map again and follow on through the video...

Off the line we see both drivers get a good start through the timing lights (1), but Brian holds off shifting into 2nd gear slightly longer to gain and carry more speed through the quick left (2), right hand sweeper (3) and down through to the first hard braking zone (4). We're at 15 seconds in now and though Brian is applying the brakes harder, he's still too late and runs wide through the tight right hander (4) where Bob is more smooth and comes around the corner (5) quicker and on a better line allowing him to start accelerating sooner than Brian as they come down to the tight left hand hairpin together at 23 seconds (6).

Coming out of the hairpin (6), Brian again struggles with understeer from braking too late and runs wide.  Bob runs a better line around the corner but Brian refuses to let up on the throttle and muscles the car around the right hander (7) and finally catches Bob again as they plunge down hill (8) into a big sweeping left hand turn (9).

Heading back up the hill through the sweeping left turn still (9), Brian carries a little more speed but predictably cannot slow the car early enough in the tight right hand corner (10) at 38 seconds.  Bob accelerates out of the corner more quickly and continues to more smoothly carry speed as the drivers round the final left hand turn (11) which delivers more speed and launches the #77 car up the hill (12) and across the line 0.2 seconds before Brian (and without touching a single cone).

The NMS team hasn't yet cracked a way to clone the two drivers into one and steal the strengths of both, so we will continue to analyze videos and learn what we can from each other the old fashioned way.  Coming up this weekend the team travels to Laurens, SC and the Michelin Proving Grounds for the second time this season to duke it out with the combined driving talent of the SCR and CCR groups.

Check back next week when we try out the #86 POV camera for a few runs to get a better sense of what the course looks like from the actual driver's perspective.  This should be a good way to see just how much we have to keep looking around.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fathers' Day Autocross 2014 Breakdown (Pt. 1)

On this basic map, we've numbered the key points of this autocross lay out in one of  the parking lots at the LJVM Coliseum in Winston Salem NC that was held on June 15th.  Starting at #1 and working thru the finish at #12, let's join the track walk and discuss some basics on how to get around the course.  We'll look at some right hand turns, left hand turns, a few elevation changes, and try to make sense of how they all flow together as you plan on how to attack this particular course.

1.  We're lined up at the starting cone, looking at the yellow boxes that house the timing beams, so we're going to try and get a clean quick launch and make the first left hand corner while looking ahead to that first cone out there to the left. Walking the course is how we can anticipate how best to do this first maneuver, based on what is coming after it.
Now we're rolling and we're turning left thru the timing lights (in the yellow box here), and looking ahead to the next cone. You can see one upright cone that we don't want to hit, and the "pointer" cone next to it that tells us to pass the upright on the right side. After that, we'll pass to the left of the next cone, since it has a pointer also.  GAS GAS GAS!
2.  So we're up to the first pointer in the foreground, and looking ahead to the next pointer cone. These are not too close and since we've just started our speed probably will let us go flat out thru here.  After that 2nd pointer, you should be able to see a series of cones that will make up a sweeping right hand turn.
3.  Coming into the right hand sweeper, we'll try to drive a smooth line arcing around to get past that 3rd cone in the upper right, which will set us up for the next section.  Ideally, as we're driving we aren't focusing on each cone as we come to it, but looking ahead to the most important one coming up.
3.  Now we've reached that last pointer in the sweeper, and looking ahead to a bit of a straight shot that leads to a hard right hand turn. If we've got the car pointed in the right direction here, it's back on the gas!

4. As we approach the closest cone with the pointer, we are HARD BRAKING in an effort to go slow enough to get around the cone without hitting all those other ones, but also to make the turn smoothly as the weight of the car shifts, so that when we get back on the gas we won't slide all over  the place. Smooth is fast.
 4.  OK, we just got around that right hander, and have come to the longest section (so far) that we'll be on the gas, so we're trying to look ahead to see what is coming up, remembering the layout from the course walks. The next move will go to the left up ahead, but it's a gentle turn so we'll be staying on the gas here. Off to the right a bit, you might be able to see the starting point and the yellow timing boxes. Don't go that way!
5.  Still on the gas here, and we're heading to where those two other folks are walking straight ahead. GAS GAS GAS!

Now we're getting close to a tight left hand hairpin, so it's probably time to really get on the brakes, and slow the car before the corner so that we can get back on the gas sooner. For me, I think of hard braking as the opposite of every day driving where I'm trying to be smooth and very safe, so I have to remind myself to really get on the brakes. The two folks walking have made the turn so you can see it's a tight one.
6.  Just after the hairpin, still turning the wheel but now on the gas, here comes a fast section of the course. It might be hard to see from the photo, but live and in person as you walk it (more than once), you can easily figure out WHERE to go, and then start figuring out the details of HOW to do it!.  Here, we're speeding up to make a right hand sweeper that goes into a downhill part, so it's getting faster! We'll split those two trees and then go right!
7.  Just past those two trees now, and we're turning right, gently curving to the right some more down to the bottom of this section.This part should be fun since the corners aren't too tight, so we'll be trying to get the maximum speed while keeping the car under control.
8.  This is at the lowest section, and we're now shifting from the gradual right turn to get here, to now start a long and fast left turning sweeper that will start going back up the small hill.  Some autocross courses are very flat, and that's fine, so this extra added attraction with just a little elevation change mades it very challenging. Now that we've gotten around this corner cone (and pointer), we are really on the gas and headed for fun in a long left hander.
10.  At the tail end of  the long fast sweeper, now we're going up hill and headed for about a 90 degree right hand turn, so this is some hard braking.  On this corner they've marked it with TWO pointer cones, and you certainly don't want to miss this one! If you go straight here, (instead of turning) you can see that you'll hit that row of cones. Ever upright cone you knock over adds 2 seconds to your time, so you really don't want to hit them! I think the photo is taken from where I'll want the car to be, so I'm not sure what the other guy walking is doing over there.  Maybe he thinks that will be the fastest place to be?  After the first run thru there in the car we should be able to figure that out.  After this turn, only one more left hander before the finish, so don't blow it here!
Whew!  Just made that evil right hander, and now it's back on the gas on a short downhill to the final left hand corner. I don't know how many different ways there would be to drive even one part of a course like this, but hopefully we're figuring out some of the key points and how to get around a bit faster every time we drive. Here we go, down the hill, thru the two rows of cones, and then to the last corner!
11.  After that short straight, we're now turning left past this pointer, and headed up hill just a bit to the finish. Trying to carry a lot of speed thru here will pay off in being able to add the power all the way to timers at the end.

OK, the finish line is dead ahead, those yellow boxes with the timers are up there, trust me!  Just keep the speed up thru the finish and then come to a safe slow down to go make another run.  We'll get 4 runs on this course, so after each one we'll be thinking thru what sections we could do better and gain more time.

This was just a short version of some of the thinking that goes into driving an autocross, so I hope if you enjoyed walking thru the course that you'll tune in next time when we'll show the video of driving it at speed. Brian has a cool way of lining up our two fastest drives, and we can see different sections where we each were faster or slower than the other at different times. I don't know what Brian thinks of that, but my plan is to steal all his speed secrets!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

June 15th Autocross Results

Today Brian and I headed up to Winston Salem and had a great time with the Triad Sports Car Club at their autocross. We both drove the FIAT Abarth in G Street, and in a field of 5 drivers took 2nd and 4th. Out of a field of 103 total drivers, my best adjusted PAX time was 22nd, so that is pretty good for me.  We'll put more results up later, but here's a few photos of the day and a link to my 4 runs thanks to Brian's GoPro camera.  The 4th run was my fastest:      (VIDEO LINK)

                                         Cars lined up for one of the run groups outside the LJVM Coliseum
                                                         Here's my 2nd place in GS class hardware!

Here are the results for GS, showing raw times for all 4 runs, then the fastest run for each driver, and the last column shows the time gap between each driver.  Since I was in my own car, I managed to stay just ahead of Brian who is used to his rear wheel drive Miata, although I could state that this shows that front wheel drive is the way to go like in my FIAT. Brian's last run would have bumped him up to 3rd place but he hit one cone (+1), which officially adds two seconds to his 4th run time of 42.396 shown here.

I was happy to not hit any cones, and drop my first 43.676 into the 42.5s for the next two runs, and really happy to drop more time on the 4th run and get the 42.251 to just get into 2nd place.

Will Harris
Robert Nixon
Brian Nixon
Will Birchfield

You can find more results and see what the TRIAD Sports Car Club is up to on their forum at this LINK

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

24 Hours of LeMans VS 60 Seconds of Autocross!

This weekend is the running of probably the most famous auto race in the world, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, from France. Sure, the Indy 500, Daytona 500, or Formula 1 in Monaco are pretty well known, but none of them inspired a classic Steve McQueen movie like Le Mans!

While it would be fun to share driving duties with a team of drivers, supported by a full pit crew of mechanics and engineers, driving an awesome car from Porsche, Audi, or any other factory,  and do your part to keep your super duper fast race car running at high speed non-stop for a full 24 hours, some of us will be driving a little less than that at a slower speed, and back in autocross competition this Sunday.

If you don't know what a 24 hour race looks like, this is your lucky year to catch it on Fox Sports. Between both Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2, and the Fox Sports App, they will be broadcasting ALL 24 HOURS! You can check your local listings, or go to our favorite website for motor sports TV listings, TV RACER.  For more specifics on Fox, you can read more about their race coverage at their page, FOX.

NMS may be catching a bit of the race on Saturday, but on Sunday will be going head to head with both Brian and Robert in the Abarth, autocrossing with the Triad Sports Car Club in Winston Salem NC. Brian is likely to also conclude a deal for a cool new Miata part on Sunday, so I imagine he'll be telling us more about that in the near future.

Don't forget that Sunday is also Father's Day, so you have plenty of time to buy your favorite Dad the greatest gift in the world, take him for a drive, or just give him a call.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Coming June 19th = Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

Another season (the fourth) of Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" (let's give that an acronym too, CICGC) web TV show will kick off on June 19th at this website (CICGC).  

Scheduled to appear in different episodes this time around are George Wallace, Aziz Ansari, Sarah Jessica Parker, Robert Klein, and Jon Stewart of the "Daily Show".

Let's see now, how to describe this show. Well, there's this comedian, and he gets in a different cool car every show, and he drives to pick up some other comedian, and then they, uh, get in the car, and go to, uh, well, get a coffee and sit around and talk. Just a little bit of car stuff, but mostly it works because Jerry and his guest have a normal conversation, and usually it ends up being funny.  Kind of like a late night talk show, but without the studio, audience, chairs, and it all takes place in a car and a diner or restaurant.  Last year, one added bonus was some funny and original ads for Acura, so maybe we'll get treated to some more this time around.

If you didn't know anything about Jerry Seinfeld, other than maybe seeing his long running TV series that ended in 1998, you might have noticed the Skip Barber sticker or magnet on his refrigerator on the set. Skip is the famous racer who now runs the also famous Skip Barber Racing School. If you need more info on that or want to learn who he is or learn to go racing, check out the Skip Barber website at SKIPBARBER.

Or just go watch a re-run of Seinfeld, it's a free country!  But please, don't watch videos while driving!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Columbia Cars and Coffee, May 2014

Well, we headed over to Cars and Coffee here in Columbia again (last Saturday of the month at the Village of Sandhill) and guess what????   We saw some cars!!!!  EXCELLENT!

Lucky for me, my driving valet picked me up, and since it wasn't raining or hailing we rode with the top down.
After parking with some other Miatas, it was time to take a look around and see what other motoring mayhem was mesmerizing members of the car community, beside the old Chevy hot rod in front of the Miata. They call it cars and coffee, and yes, I was drinking coffee.
                                                                A new Jaguar XK-R, nice!

                                                                                 VW Beetle
                                                 This BMW M3, with the colors on the grille gives me some ideas!
                                                                    Under the hood of the Chevy hot rod!
                                                                                      Rat Rod!
                                                                Not sure of the make, so we'll say a Cobra replica!
                                                           That's it for this month, see you next time!