Monday, May 16, 2016

NMS Bristol Match Tour Wrap Up

This weekend the NMS Miata saw over 600 miles and 38 autocross runs with 2 drivers and 8 tires.  That's a lot of numbers, but here's how it went down (grab some popcorn, this is a long one):
Attempted a panoramic view of the site from the finish line.  Very cool spot between the NASCAR oval on the left and the drag strip on the right.

Friday the team trekked up the mountains into Bristol, Tennessee for the Test and Tune sessions for the Thunder Vally Match Tour.  The site for the weekend was a large parking lot for one of the smallest, if not the smallest NASCAR oval track.  The target for Friday was to evaluate the new Kumho Ecsta V720 tire against the previous favorite, the Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R and have the car set up for competition on Saturday and Sunday.
Car approved from tech, time to add another sticker.

After each driver took 3 runs on each tire, it was concluded that both have extremely similar levels of grip.  The Kumho liked to launch the car faster but tended to under-steer more than the Bridgestones. Knowing that the Kumho option had a lot of potential but needed even more time to dial in the suspension for the tire change, the team decided to stick with a known quantity and run the Bridgestones for the remainder of the weekend. Further evaluation is planned at the SCR Test n Tune on June 11th.
This weekend a brand new state-of-the-art phone mount for telemetry data was tested.

The Match Tour format is really two competitions in one weekend.  Saturday each driver gets three runs in the morning and three runs in the afternoon.  The best time of the morning and the best of the afternoon are added together for a final result to determine class winners. Both Brian and Jason managed to continuously improve all day as the shocks and air pressure settings were fine tuned.
Kyle and Jason talking strategy between runs. Brian slacking off between runs, taking pictures.

At the Dixie National Tour, the team mostly had the goal of "Don't Finish Last!" and succeeded.  This time around, Jason was hunting for a trophy position and Brian wanted to finish closer to mid-pack.  Again, the NMS team came in right on target with Jason taking home the final trophy position in 5th place (of 15) and Brian moved on up to 12th in class. Though the end result of 12th felt a little lower than desired, the afternoon runs were faster than the next 4 drivers in the final standings.  Solid improvements, but too little too late.
Jason sporting his newly-won Match Tour hat for his trophy on Saturday!

Sunday's format now changes to a morning qualifying session to determine the top 8 from each heat (4 heats total) go on to the Top Dog Shootout in the afternoon and the 9th-16th place from each heat move on to the Under Dog Shootout.  Jason handily picked up a qualifying run for the Top Dog Shoot out and Brian again improved significantly out of the gate, even on cold tires Sunday morning to pull in a qualifying run for the Under Dog Shootout.  Kyle from Team Too Tall also landed a Top Dog spot, securing the afternoon fate of the red and blue Miatas from SCR.
Jason and Luke in grid, ready to race.

None of us expected to find ourselves making it into the shootout rounds and had not topped off the gas tanks Saturday night and now had to put down more competitive runs that afternoon.  The catch was, we were now required to keep our cars parked in the impound lot so that the officials can verify no modifications are made between qualifying and the shootout session.  Luckily we managed to borrow a gas can (Thanks Geoff!) and a Fiesta ST (Thanks Will!) to make gas and lunch runs into town.  Just another reason why racing with the SCCA is so awesome!  People will always help out when they can.
Don't let this sunny starting line fool you, Sunday was FA REE ZING cold!

First up in the afternoon was the Top Dog shootout.  Drivers (32 total) are paired up bracket style and must show the most improvement to their fastest qualifying run from the morning.  The driver of the pair that shows the most improvement or is closest to the qualifier baseline run moves on to the next round.  Single elimination. I was working the very far end of the course for the Top Dogs and waited anxiously to see the little blue car of Team Too Tall and the little red car pop over the hill of the starting line to see if they advanced to the next round.
More grid glamour shots. 

Unfortunately the Kyle was knocked out in the first round, but then, in the distance, a spec of red rolled up to the starting line for round 2!  After that field of 16 completed runs I waited again.  And again!  The red car took the hill!  Jason knocked out another competitor! Bam, top 16. A few more cars went by and we paused for the next session.  Red Miata! Top 8!!! By now my fellow corner workers thought I was nuts cheering for my own car being driven faster than I can drive it.
Jason at the starting line, at the crest of the hill between the grid on the right of the photo and course to the left.

Now the orange Mazdaspeed Miata (ES class winner from Saturday) was paired up against Jason. Both cars looked pretty good through the course, this could be the end of the NMS rally for Top Dog. There was an excruciating long pause as we waited to see who would remain for the top 4.  Would it be an orange or a red car?
The lone Miata making a solid run to eventually take down the Mazdaspeed.

The heat haze of the afternoon was building off of the black top and colors were a little distorted at first, but then, it was undeniable, the mighty #186 rose to the top of the starting line hill and faced down the course for a final time in the top 4!  It was awesome. In the end Jason put down a heroic run but just couldn't quite edge out the next guy and finished with a solid 4th place overall for Sunday. Huge congrats on the great driving.
The NMS / Team Too Tall tool dump in grid.

I took the course next and in a much less dramatic fashion just couldn't find the lightning fast time I put down Sunday morning and was knocked out in the first round.  Oh well, I guess that makes me a true Red Wings fan...maybe I can make it to the playoffs consistently but I'll just get knocked out in the first round.
Green wheels and numbers in the future for the NMS Fiesta?

In the end we met all of our goals for the weekend: test tires, improve the suspension adjustments, and beat more people than we did down at the Dixie Tour earlier this year. Oh yeah, and have a great time with all our racing friends!  We're now under 4 months until the big trip to Lincoln and we've got more work to do, but the NMS Miata is coming along and we're gunning for some trophies at Nationals.

Another one of my favorite car design schemes from the weekend.

If you're still here I highly recommend checking out an SCCA Match Tour.  They are a ton of fun, you get a lot of seat time and get a feel for the bigger autocross events while still feeling more relaxed like a local event.

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