Autocrossing
Autocrossing

Well not really.  But sort of.  A couple of weeks ago I took the “Saturn Rocket” out to the local SCCA Autocross.  For those that may not know, an Autocross is where they use traffic cones to set up a track in a large parking lot.  The cars run the track one at a time and are timed with electronic timing lights.  You get several attempts and cones that are run over add to your time.  If you go completely off course the try does not count and you loose that chance.

Drivers are split up in classes depending on what type of car you have.  There are everthing from Corvettes to Camrys to racing go-carts that compete.  I used to do this a lot back when I had Miatas, they are quite competitive and perfect for autocrossing.  I knew that I would be in the slowest class, called “H Stock”.  Unfortunately that class also includes first generation Integras and new MINIs, so I knew I had no chance of actually winning my class.  Considering the bone-stock condition of my old beater Saturn, I would be lucky to not finish in last place overall, not just in my class!

The weather was good, although a little hot.  The pavement condition where the event is held is terrible, which is not a good thing considering that I had cheap highway tires that needed all the grip they could get.  It was almost like driving on a wet street.  I had no problem spinning both front wheels, not just in first gear but in second also, which is impossible in this car on “normal” street pavement.  I also got it completely sideways numerous times.  The car was just begging for some traction.  I wish I had video of it, it had to be funny.

We had 6 runs to try to get our best time.  As usual, I did not go off course any and I did not hit any cones.  This is quite suprising considering how out of control the car was most of the time.  Some would say that if you don’t hit any cones you aren’t trying hard enough, but I think anyone who saw my runs will verify that I was probably driving the car too hard, not the opposite.  In the end I achieved my goal of not coming in last place overall.  I actually beat two other cars, plus three that somehow blew all six of their runs and didn’t get a time.  Using raw times alone I came in 74th out of 79 cars.  They also score using an adjustment factor to help equalize times between different cars.  If you factor those in I came in 69th out of 79!  I still came in last in my class either way, but not by much.

Overall it was loads of fun and a great way to spend a Sunday.  Of course I also spent most of Saturday night prepping the car.  This means taking everthing out of the inside that is loose, including stuff in the glovebox and the floormats.  As you would expect I also checked all the fluids, checked tire pressures (I should have added a few p.s.i.), removed the hubcaps (required for safety), re-torqued the lug nuts, and removed the spare tire & jack.  I also intentionally ran on less than a quarter tank of gas to help keep the weight down.  As it turned out I probably should have left the spare tire in and filled up with gas to help keep the rear end planted.  I don’t know if it would have helped but it couldn’t have hurt.

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