Gulf Coast Autocrossers Event 7, 2012.
Gulf Coast Autocrossers hold 10 events per year, one per month with a 2 month break for the summer. The events are split up into 2 days, Saturday has a 2 courses set up, a Novice school in the morning for new drivers (I’m one of the instructors), then the Test and Tune track which is open all day for everyone and the new drivers race there in the afternoon. This was the first week back to autocross after a long summer in Florida, most clubs don’t run to avoid the excess heat.
Saturday Novice School & Test and Tune
It is always an early start when I go Autocrossing, I was up before 6, then made the 1 hour 15 minute drive to Ft Myers from Sarasota. When I arrive its time to unload the car, place the car numbers on the doors and pump up the tires (40psi Front and 37psi in the rear). Once that is complete I go through Tech inspection, where someone checks the car over to make sure it is safe to run, then pay my registration and I’m good to race. We then socialize, talk about cars and how our summer went before we have the mandatory drivers meeting. Once that is complete I head up to the Novice School to teach the new drivers.
I am one of the instructors at the Novice School so once all the new drivers have been through a briefing to explain the format we jump in the cars and get started. This week we split up into 3 groups so I had 3 students rather than the usual 2. The first 2 were driving my friends white Miata and the last one was driving a 400HP Cadillac. Part of the instruction involves us driving the students car so I usually get a rear wheel drive car and the lighter the better.
The format of the school is each student does 5 laps getting progressively faster until they are going as fast as they can. Then the instructors jump in the car and show them how to really drive it. After that the students then do about another 5 runs trying to get faster and faster. Every run is with an instructor so they get constant feedback and tips on how to drive cleaner and faster.
The Cadillac was a lot of fun, it is really heavy car but very powerful. The driver was having fun but not going nearly as fast as the car could go so I really wanted to show him how to use the power of the car and took it on a pretty quick lap. He then got in the car and really started to use the power and managed a nice doh-nut when exiting the hard braking zone. He then proceeded to get faster and faster as the day went on. His smile was amazing I don’t think he had ever been so happy.
After we have done the instruction we take the new drivers out in our cars, which is always fun because we all have fast cars that are setup for autocross. I think I must have take 10 different student for a ride in my Mazda Rx8. After the fun runs we break for lunch and it is time to head down to the test and tune course.
Test and Tune
The test and tune course is the same course each week which gives you the opportunity to come back each month and tweak your car to see how the setup and modifications affects the cars handling and if it improves your times. As the name suggest you can test and tune, trying different tire pressures and suspension settings. I also enjoy car swapping where I will let people drive my car so that I can take theirs out for a spin.
The 1st video is me driving Eric’s beast, which is basically a Miata with everything non essential removed and up to 250HP at the rear wheels. The second video is Eric driving my Mazda Rx8.
The Gulf Coast Autocrossers test and tune track is always a fun day out where you get to spend a lot of the time socializing and talking about cars and everything else that is going on in peoples lives.
Sunday – Race Day
Sunday at Gulf Coast Autocrossers is race day, no more bragging about how fast you are and how powerful your car is it is time to prove how quick you are on the track. Typically the drivers are divided into 3 groups, the early birds get to decide which group they want to run in and the people who arrive later get stuck with what ever spots are available. We usually have 4 to 6 runs, typically 6. We run in 2 sessions and work for one. This is one of my favorite formats from the multiple venues that I visit.
Hurricane Isac looming
This Sunday Hurricane Isac was looming on the horizon and scheduled to arrive around 1pm, so we changed the run schedule up a little bit. This time just having 2 quickfire run groups where we would run twice, then work twice and hopefully repeat the whole process to get a total of 4 runs each. As it turns out everything worked out well and we all managed to get 4 runs and although it was raining most of the day it was a light rain and didn’t get the ground wet so the track was in good shape until we finished when it started to rain heavily.
My Mazda Rx8 was feeling great, over the summer I installed some Hotchkis Sway Bars and they have really stiffened up the car making it feel much crisper during the turns. The car currently has a tendency to over-steer a little bit when pushed hard so I still have some tuning to do. The Hotchkis Sway bars are 3 way adjustable front and rear so I will be able to tune the car to get it close to neutral with just a touch over over-steer, this is the ideal setup for racing especially for a Mazda Rx8.
The track way a really fast layout which doesn’t favor the Mazda Rx8 and gave the high power cars like the Corvettes, Imprezza and Evolutions a huge advantage. The Mazda Rx8 is not overly powerful but what it lacks in HP it makes up for in handling and drive-ability. My first run was clean with a time of 59.090 and I really felt that I was losing a lot of time in the tighter elements so I knew there was lots of room to improve. The second run was a 58.328 which was a much better time but unfortunately I clipped a cone which comes with a 2 second penalty. Then it was time to work.
During the work session at Gulf Coast Autocrossers one person has a radio to call in cones and Off Course (OC) and a red flag to warn drivers of danger on the course ahead such as a spin car that is still on the track. Everyone else working just runs to pick up cones that get knocked down and call out the car number to the radio man who calls in any cones and OC as the cars drive past. Working is a great opportunity to meet new people and talk to them about there car and get tips on how to drive fast. It is also a time to watch and learn from other drivers as they navigate the difficult parts of the track, if you pay close attention to the fast drivers you can usually learn how to shave a few tenths off your time. Once everyone had there two runs it was out turn to drive again.
Time to take my last two runs, typically just as I was on the line to take my first run phone, which I use to record the run start playing up so I end up sitting a few seconds while its green and had to rush to get started which is never a good thing. My time was not only my slowest at 59.168 but I also hit a whopping 3 cones giving me a 6 second penalty. I parked the car after the run, checked my tire pressures and let out a little air to get back to 40 front and 37 rear and lined back up. This time I composed myself and managed a fast clean run of 57.168 I was really happy with my time and ended up finishing in the top 10 and also beat the other Mazda Rx8 which is going to Nationals in a couple of weeks.
Gulf Coast Autocrossers Results
Here is a screen shot of the first 15 positions from the 7th Gulf Coast Autocrossers event of 2012. All in all a very good weekend out which gave me the fastest time in all the Touring classes which is basically all the cars on street tires and my highest overall finishing position of 8th with the Gulf Coast Autocrossers. Not bad considering I drive my 2007 Mazda Rx8 to work every day.
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