On a HOT (how hot was it?....it was July-In-Virginia-Beach-HOT!) HOT day, the TSCC returned to the Pungo Autocross Center of Excellence (PACE), with 62 drivers competing. When the dust settled, it was still really HOT! Along with the heat, NMS grabbed another first in HS class (ok, so there weren't any other HS drivers, I can't help that!) and fastest Italian of the day, along with 21st out of all 62 on PAX. This moves the FIAT up to 14th in the club championship for the year, so the NMS team remains right on schedule for their targeted finish in the top 15.
With the field split into two run groups, we headed out to work on course for the first run group. Drinking plenty of water, there weren't too many cones being hit, so it was great to be able to observe how the first half of the field attacked the Pungo layout. One of the challenges of Pungo in a fairly small area is to set up a course that has some unexpected or new elements, which makes autocross so challenging. The other way to do it I suppose would be to run all your club events at the same location and set the course up the same all year...boy does that sound boring! So, with a new challenge at each different event, it's important to arrive early and walk the course to learn the path, and then figure out how best to attack, where to brake, where to get back on the gas, etc.
Once the first group finished their five runs, it was time to swap places, get the motors running, and line up to drive. Over five runs of the same course, my day started bad, for some reason I hit a cone on the first run when I normally am going at less than 100%, just to make sure I've got the course in my head and not going too fast. Oh well, with five runs, losing the first one is no big deal, since only the one fastest run counts.
Run two, I knew where I'd hit that one cone the first time, so this should be easy to get a clean run! That's what I was thinking to myself, but sure enough, in the middle of a slalom section my brain disengaged and I went on the wrong side of a cone. This gave me a big fat DNF (did not finish) to go with my 1 cone two second penalty on the first run. After two runs, I'd normally be focused on my time, and thinking of where on course to go faster and gain a few tenths of a second, but with the cone and DNF, I didn't even know what my times had been...and it didn't matter! The only thing that matters is getting a clean run as fast as you can, so I just tried to not think of the first two runs, and concentrated on the next one.
Finally on run three, no penalties, no cones, no thunder and locusts, just a clean run at 37.764 seconds. After watching the first run group and hearing some of the times from the announcer, I was pretty happy to be under 40 seconds at least, but of course the fastest drivers are several seconds ahead of me, so the odds of me being in IndyCars next year are still being calculated. In between runs, time to check tire pressures, walk around and shoot a few photos of all the cars on grid, and then sit down in the shady car for a few minutes. Put the helmet back on, fire up the GoPro camera, and get ready for two more runs.
Fourth run, and nothing good to report. I dropped about a tenth of a second from the previous run, and hit another cone for a two second penalty, so this run was officially a 39.898. Only one good run so far, so it was time to drop some more time. My plan was to go faster on the long stretches before the sweepers, and also to try and go faster in the slalom section. I'm not sure about everyone else, but I try to find at least one spot on the course where I know I can drive faster for each run, so when this strategy works it feels good to see every run get faster. Hopefully, you're thinking to yourself, "Well hey Mr. Brainiac, why don't you just skip all that and start faster?" That's a great question, and I'm still trying to figure out how good drivers do that!
Final run, so before hopping in the car I was chatting with David Smallridge. He asked me my plan, and I told him that I thought I would try and go faster. To quote Dave's reply "I agree", so we both got ready for the final run. Honest, David said I could quote him on it!
At the end of my fifth drive, the timing system said 37.354, so at least I ended the day on a good note by dropping 0.41 of a second from my previous best. Maybe five more runs and I could have kept gaining faster times, but five runs was the limit for today. Given the heat, that was fine with me...did I mention it was HOT? Let's go to the video of that last run, so you can see how the course was set up this month.
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