Thursday, June 29, 2023

June Autocross Report: VICTORY!

Light weight painter's tape, but will it improve performance?

On my last day in New York, I headed out to autocross with the Metro NY Region of the Porsche Club of America. Despite having turned into summer, we were greeted by fog early in the day, but it quickly burned off and the sunscreen came out before driving started. This marks my 3rd year with this club, and I've really enjoyed competing at events in NY and up in MA with the PCA crew. My goal in these events has been to finish in the top 10 of PAX time, and that was my goal for this last event before moving to South Carolina. Unknown to anyone else, I had a secret weapon that was guaranteed to improve my performance in this event too. One way to go faster is to make your car weigh less, so my secret weapon of only having 1 South Carolina license plate instead of 2 New York plates effectively cut my license plate weight by 50% and would surely help me go faster! On top of that, I replaced my magnetic numbers with plain old painter's tape, so there's another huge weight loss secret!


During the first half of the field's driving, I was working on the timing computer, so that kept me busy entering car numbers into the system, then monitoring the radio for any cone penalties to enter, or if a driver went off course entering that info, and staying on top of keeping things in order with the computer system. Thanks to autocross head Dan Fishkind and timing expert Christine Perry for showing me the ropes on the computer and fixing my mistakes. After that grueling work (sitting on a chair in the shade as the day heated up) it was time to drive. 

Rear engine Corvair at autocross!

In my first four runs (with 5 more to come in the afternoon) I managed to get into a groove and drop my time on the first 3 runs, which sent me up into the top 10 on PAX, so I was pretty happy with that. On my last run of the morning though I pushed too fast at the end of the turnaround sweeper and failed to improve. Not a big deal, because with all the drivers having finished their first 4 runs, I was sitting in 4th on PAX. I was very happy with that, so it was time for a quick peanut butter sandwich for lunch before returning to the timing computer. Brian developed this "secret" of NMS performance, that the right mixture of peanut butter AND jelly, strategically placed IN BETWEEN two slices of bread leads to improved autocross performance. Yes, there was a lot of trial and error with just peanut butter, just jelly, no bread, PBJ on the outside of the bread, etc, but eventually we've hit on this secret, so don't share this info with anyone. 

Michael Kane #18 kicks off the 2nd run group. 

Five runs in the afternoon was a great chance to go faster, and from the computer timing I could see that the "other" run group had done well and dropped me from 4th to 6th on PAX. When it was time for me to drive again, I could see that if I only dropped another two tenths of a second, I could move up 1 spot, maybe 2 and get back to 4th on PAX. Let's drive!

Mitch Hackett is the starter and Andre Cerqueira is ready to drive

First afternoon run was only a tenth off my best time, so it looked like I was picking up where I left off and ready to drop some time. Second run was another tenth SLOWER, so this was no good at all. In between runs I was going over the course in my head and identified two spots where I wanted to brake LESS and try to gain time. Third run, well, I sure braked less into a tight left hander and slid into 5 cones knocking them all over. No faster with that 10 second penalty, but now I knew NOT to do that particular corner that way! 

Christine Perry #144 getting ready to launch

Also, I knew my tire pressures were rising a bit, and since I'd wasted 3 runs with only 2 more to go, I tried a different strategy, and lowered my pressures below where they'd been all day. On top of that I was still going to try to drive faster (another secret of autocross: "make the car go faster.") So, long story short, in this next to last run I somehow dropped about 0.8 of a second, which was a huge improvement and got me up to 2nd on PAX. That really surprised me, since 2nd on the day is the best I've ever done. I kept waiting to hear if I'd knocked over a cone or gone off course and therefore the time wouldn't count. Nothing bad like that happened, so that meant that I had one final run to try and go faster. 

Dan Fishkind #641

On my final run I tried to brake even less and go faster, and it worked, with dropping another 0.2 off my time and somehow going into 1st place! Believe it or not, there were no penalties on this run, no one else beat my PAX time, and for the first time ever in 10 years of NMS autocross, I finished in 1st PAX for the day! That was out of 25 Porsche cars and includes 1st in my class of only 3 cars.  I'm out of words to describe how much fun that was, so I'll quote my autocross guru Mitch Hacket who said: "Super-human driving! And you can quote me in your Nixon Racing blog if you like." How about that?! Here's the top 8: 


Fastest PAX of the day. 

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