Saturday, November 26, 2016

NMS-North 2016 Season Wrap Up

In the wet!
With the final event in the books for 2016, let's take a quick look at the autocross year driving the NMS FIAT Abarth. This year I focused on the monthly events with the Tidewater Sports Car Club, and just like in 2015 had a blast at every event. For the first time in my short experience I had to drive in wet conditions in the rain a few times, and to tell the truth, that was a lot of fun too! Probably no one really wants to go out and be in the rain all day, but on the other hand, once you're soaking wet, well, you just can't get any wetter so it isn't so bad. At two of our TSCC events I was co-driving the FIAT with my friend Michael Moore, so he had a great first time experience in the driver's seat and showed some good speed out on the course. In addition to the events below I managed to drive some events with other clubs in Virginia (the Old Dominion Region SCCA, North Carolina Region SCCA), and down in Charleston South Carolina with Brian and the South Carolina Region SCCA. Speaking of Brian, while he and Jason Rucker had a great year, competed at several major regional events and the big SCCA Nationals in Nebraska, along with some 1st places at their events, I was mostly shooting for improvement in the TSCC points over last year.

Thanks Tony Mester and the #267 Mazda 2

Our season ran from March to November, and included one autocross event per month. Several events were held on the small Pungo course, one was at the gigantic North Carolina Center for Automotive Research, and most were at the Naval Base on Little Creek. Before the season started my goal was to win the G Street class, and to place in the top 20 for the entire club. In 2015 I had won GS and finished 29th overall, so moving up 10 spots or more would require a bit of improving on my driving skill. The GS title wasn't quite such a big deal, and I always point out that usually there aren't many other entries in this class, but it still is fun to say 1st place even if it's out of just one car! To compete for the club or class title, drivers had to compete in a minimum number of 5 events this year. In 2015 I won 8 events in GS, and in 2016 it turned out to be 7 events.

In the dry!

March brought a wet start to the season at Pungo, and in the first event of the season the NMS FIAT placed 12th out of 64 drivers. It was very early in the nine event season, but that 12th place would be a big help in cracking the top 20 overall at  the end of the year. Hey why not, I dream of winning the lottery every week too! 12 divided by 64 put me in the top 18% of drivers, so tracking that percentage is another way I'll talk about my performance relative to everyone else.

Thanks for the photo from Monica Moore
April was a total change of pace and venue (and weather, dry) as we competed at the North Carolina Center for Automotive Research. While most autocross events take place on a square or rectangular parking lot, NCCAR added about half a race course to the usual set up! This meant a higher overall speed, and I admit that I was mashing on the loud pedal and going for broke, which means I slid all four wheels off the track and into the grass on my final run! That ruined my time, but it was so much fun I'm willing to do it again! That left me in 34th on the day out of 72 drivers, so not as great as March, but still in the top 47%, and ahead of half the field. The other reason this was a blast was having a co-driver in the FIAT, when Michael Moore made this his first ever autocross event. It was a treat to have another driver with NMS, and always worth a lot of smiles from someone experiencing autocross the first time.

Brian and Robert Nixon
May was our first event on the Navy base at Little Creek in 2016, so this made it three locations in three events.  Without the high speed of the track, I took 40th out of 111 drivers (36%). Not to make excuses, but just maybe the drivers that got to drive on dry pavement had a bit of an advantage over those of us that drove in the wet. These things happen, and who knows, maybe later in the year I'll get to drive in the dry and then others will get wet! Michael also drove the FIAT and was making big improvements on every run. 

In the helmet!

June was another event at Little Creek, and after placing 33rd out of 92 entries (35%) it looked like I was placed around 20th overall for the year. That put me right on track for my season goal, but there was still a lot of driving to do! So far I was enjoying the new Bridgestone tires that I had for this year, so who says money doesn't buy happiness?
Michael Moore driving the FIAT
July brought us some hotter weather, (no surprise there!) and my driving was 31st out of 99 drivers, so in the top 31%. Finishing in the 30s for two months in a row was getting kind of frustrating, and wouldn't help get me in the top 20, but the driving was still very fun!


August turned out to be a big day behind the wheel, and maybe it was the heat or maybe the rain that slowed down some other drivers, but I managed to end up 18th out of 83 drivers. That felt pretty good, and in the overall standings I was now up to 9th place overall. That made me happy, but after looking at the standings I realized that some of the faster drivers had missed an event or two. Translated, that means that at the end of the season I'd be dropping down a few places.  Even though there are nine events, only the top seven count for points. Oh well, it still looked like I had a good shot at the top 20, so the only thing I could do is keep driving and trying to make the car go faster.

Every sticker makes you faster!

September was another good month, with a 20th place out of 87 drivers, which at top 21% was my  2nd best event of the year so far. Like the month before, the total points were looking good, and I was in 6th place! That was the good news, but the bad news was that starting in October the "drops" would start for those of us that had driven in all eight events as we would have to drop our lowest score while drivers that missed an event earlier in the year would suddenly start catching up. Buckle up for the last two months, hang on, and keep driving faster! Oh yeah, and watch out for rain!

Autocross at ACU-4, Little Creek
October: Back at Pungo, my day took a bit of an unexpected turn, but it ended up being awesome! I arrived in plenty of time to set up the FIAT with air pressures where I wanted them. After that I walked the course a few times and got the road map in my head, and headed back to the car to double check that everything was ready. Right about then my friend Tony Mester asked me if I wanted to co-drive his Mazda 2. To tell the truth, I had already locked up the GS points race, so driving with someone else in their car sounded like fun! It also helps to know that Tony has really prepped his car and done some custom spring and suspension work on it, so I knew that he was a fast driver in a quick car. Riding and driving with a better driver is a great way to learn how to go faster, so we had a great day co-driving his Mazda. Thanks to Tony and the "SLO-DOS" (his license plate for the 2), I managed my best ever PAX finish in 10th on the day out of 74 drivers! Percentage wise this was almost as good as March, and in the top 13% on the day. Of course Tony was even faster with 8th on the day, but man it was a blast driving his car, and finishing only 0.088 seconds slower than him. Thanks Tony!

Indoor karting

November's event was also held at Pungo, and looking at the points standings, I knew that about 5 other drivers were right on my tail, and they were mostly likely to move up some points due to the points dropping. At the end of the day, well, I was out of town and didn't drive in November! With the changes caused by dropping two low scoring events and only counting the top 7 of 9 events, I  ended the season in 19th place, just ahead of my target of 20th for the year! This was also 10 spots better than last year, so I'll take it, and try to do even better in 2017! Points wise, finishing with 644.71 is ahead of last year's 632.53 to the tune of 1.74 more points per event. Average points per event = 92.10. 

For the tiny G Street class you can see not many drivers competed, but that's still 1st place in GS too:
gs - 'G Street'Total PointsPoints W/DropsE-1E-2E-3E-4E-5E-6E-7E-8E-9
1Robert Nixon677.85677.8590.0090.00100.00100.0097.85100.00100.00
John Skiba90.0090.0090.00

Here's the final club PAX points standings for members with at least 5 events:
Pos.DriverPax PointsPax W/DropsEx-1Ex-2Ex-3Ex-4Ex-5Ex-6Ex-7Ex-8Ex-9
1Thomas Bleh694.74694.74100.00100.0096.67100.00100.0099.9098.17
2Doug Keiler776.58689.7786.8195.7798.2997.99100.0098.8298.90100.00
3Jeff Schmidt865.15683.2388.2295.3299.1599.5797.4699.2796.3096.1693.70
4Stephen Fehr679.53679.5396.5198.5691.50100.0097.0598.2797.64
5Anthony Mester759.92675.3295.4094.6197.5697.9595.5997.8696.3584.60
6Keith Kasmire859.23672.7392.7993.7195.8897.2794.1795.9797.1195.2797.06
7Chris Parsons666.66666.6692.8694.4296.3494.8895.1596.4296.59
8Peter Florance748.76664.2984.4794.0488.4194.5198.2995.6595.8997.50
9Melissa Fehr841.92662.1194.5294.6387.9493.8491.8793.7993.9395.7595.65
10Logan Stillman743.50660.4083.1084.6099.1596.4493.5797.3393.5995.72
11Neal Davis751.66659.7193.1391.9595.4993.2794.6696.0394.1992.94
12Jim Ewing657.11657.1181.3893.6194.8899.1096.8498.2593.05
13Brian Wells656.00656.0094.1794.0296.2093.0393.1093.4392.05
14Keith Maples831.12652.2693.8889.2692.2795.6392.0496.5190.9690.9789.60
15Charlie Ardolino647.09647.0991.3896.9592.8292.7391.7583.3498.12
16Scott Brubaker646.29646.2990.0290.3793.5492.7094.7891.6093.28
17Mike Thorpe816.40645.9090.4087.0283.4895.2091.0193.3791.7992.1292.01
18Brendan Long730.40645.7086.1094.0593.6698.5688.5594.5284.7090.26
19Robert Nixon733.02644.7191.3288.3188.9590.3290.5195.8391.6596.13

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