I’m writing this after landing in Atlanta less than 24 hours after pulling into my driveway from Lincoln. That sort of summarizes 2019: It’s been a long and winding road.
A Successful Trial and Away We Go
After a few co-drives in my SSC FR-S with Chris and JJ in 2018, JJ asked if I wanted to hop in with them for 2019. Our car setups had pretty much merged. Towing to events affords both JJ and I the opportunity to work on the road. Having shared data and video from the same car on the same day off the same course made it a no brainer to say, “Yes.”
There’s also the impossibly aligned and ridiculous sense of humor in play for all three of us.
There are some concerns about JJ and Chris engaging in collective bargaining for 2020, but I remain optimistic about negotiating a mutual beneficial agreement.
A Bunch of Enablers
I can’t remember the last time I made it to five Pro Solos in one season. This included some firsts for me: Grenada and Oscoda. Not to mention the first time I’ve made it to Spring Nats in quite a while. It was a generous portion of autocross in 2019. The whole F-Bomb Troop is so good at making sure we’re all properly gridded for MSR Registration Heats.
On top of a full season of autocross, I managed to get out to Dirtfish for a day to play during a family vacation in Seattle. That was a riot and while little of it is directly applicable to slinging a car on concrete around cones, getting even more comfortable with slip angel is a good thing.
I’d always said that if the Track Night in America made it to VIR I’d have to go—and I did. Track time is great for slowing down your hands and getting lots of reps on corners bigger than what we see locally.
The Frustration Plateau
I bought the FR-S to get my head around RWD after having some success in FWD. Never got around to campaigning it regularly in either Street Class configuration. SSC seemed like the right time to make a run at it. (As some who’s run an Integra Type R against WRXes at Pros, a spec class had strong appeal.)
The first year in SSC, I caught some early FWD bad habits and felt like there was progress in my driving. Occasionally, I’d see a glimpse of light on how to get the thing working. I knew, going in, that the combination of these cars on the Azeris would be demanding. You have few (no?) options for mixing errors.
That’s fine. It’s a great way to become a better driver. That’s why I got the car.
SCCA was optimistic with “After the Flood” for 2019 Nationals. So many wet events made it tough to get consistent shots at the Pro courses. As the season went on, my competitiveness felt like it had plateaued. With spectacularly mediocre points going into the Finale, it was a glorified test and tune.
In spite of, or because of, that mindset, I realized I was that clichéd definition of insanity and needed to revisit how I was working to improve as a driver.
Get Back to Basics
What’s good? We’d gotten a handle on setup. My line selections should be serviceable. Good enough car control to be aggressive. I started watching the videos from the Pro. Then going back a little further.
My working theory, as embarrassing as it was, turned out to be getting the wheel unwound. In a FWD car you can hack your way around a course by standing not he throttle and pointing the steering wheel where you want to go.
I was, consistently, getting oversteer on corner exit. All season, all three of us had been focused on early and smooth steering on corner entry. I must have figured, “It’s RWD, some oversteer is going to happen.” Said another way, “I’m at least 40% blunt instrument.” All that correction is also going to be slow. Literally went out on my last course walks repeating “Open the wheel” like a cult member.
In the Mix
In shocking twist, I was able to execute on improving that part of my driving for the Championship. At least part of the time.
To get out and Day 1 and have a time that was reasonably in the right ZIP code—even dirty was great. To go out and drop, any time, and clean it up was even better. Then, back to form, I managed to kill my chance for improvement on the right handler exiting the showcase. Still, finished in seventh for the day.
Less important than the finishing position was the fact that I felt like I had a handle on how to get back to improving as a driver which was the point in buying the car back in 2016.
Day 2 course would be a challenge to string a great run together. Ended up standing on my first.
To be in the trophies in this ridiculously competitive class is straight-up bonkers. In less than 36 hours, I went from thinking I needed to reconsider my entire approach in 2020, to being cautiously optimistic that I could pickup from here and get to that next plateau.
Unpossible Without. . . .
The F-Bomb Troop is an amazing crew of like-minded knuckleheads. I can say that without some how finding my way into this company, I’d probably not still be autocrossing—certainly not at this level or regularity.
My team back at Registered Creative, lucky to work with such capable, professional badasses.
Laura, so patient and supportive of this ridiculous racing around cones on runways and parking lots across the country.