Back to the Track

The Oregon Region SCCA series came to an end last week and I made it to 6 of the 9 events, along the way meeting a number of people I look forward to seeing again next year and learning more than I had anticipated about SCCA and the people involved. I learned many things about my driving and the Speed3, both of which have room for improvement.

Most importantly I had a great time and I helped support the folks that run the tracks as well as a few of the clubs that sponsor these events. The fewer people that are willing to pay to play diminish the options or up the price for those of us that love motorsports. If you are interested in getting into motorsports, improving your driving skills, or are even just curious about it I strongly encourage you to participate.

You can learn a lot from watching the competition, and watching other people run is also an important part of improving your skills as a driver. Both locally and nationally, Solo and Pro Solo, there were some amazingly skilled drivers present. It was less surprising but still interesting to see how close some cars perform compared to others, classification aside.

For people wanting to get out and try a relatively inexpensive and safe afternoon of racing AutoX is a great option with a wide variety of cars competing at local levels. A few weeks ago some fellow Mazda owners came down from Seattle to play at PIR with a few locals and I would venture a bet that a few of these guys will be back, at least occasionally, or progress on to different venues including track days. In fact a few of us are planning for next year already.

The racing bug takes hold slowly for some and moves others from zero to obsessed in a mere few hours of play. My class (DSP) was an interesting story and not uncommon. Three was the average number of competitors in the DSP class I ran in and the two other gentlemen that show up regularly have been racing for a few years. I ended up finishing second overall. Second place is not bad for simply showing up and giving AutoX a go, so I am definitely OK with the results, I may even go get myself that 2nd place trophy (or plaque) if I remember to attend the year end banquet.

I would encourage anyone that reads this to take your car out, stock or not and have a good time learning your limits and those of your car or just practice and enjoy the company of some friendly folks. There is plenty of encouragement and the potential for an award if you make it out at least a few times a year. At the very least you help support racing in a safe, constructive venue.

AutoX runs rain or shine. Wet sucks, big time, but it exaggerated the limits of my skill and the limits of the car which gave me plenty to think about. Dry days are amazing, and I especially enjoyed the dry weather we had up at Packwood. I fought the street tires all summer while most folks around me had dedicated racing tire/wheel combinations, a nice guy in a BMW that regularly plagued me (the way locusts devour crops) being one of those.

The biggest thing I got out of this season was finding a line, looking ahead and knowing where I had to be. Navigating a sea of little orange cones by ones self takes a bit of practice even when you think you know where you’re going. I watched plenty of folks miss cones, or gates, time and time again as well as people that just get lost mid course. Funny as it is to watch folks get lost I do not laugh too hard as I have been in that position. Other factors like tire pressure and suspension set up are also quite important, and I spent time exploring variations to assist with turn in and produce some modicum of over-steer. The problem I have with second gear has yet to be resolved and I encountered a couple people who experienced the same issue in Speed 3’s. The gas pedal, when to be on or off the gas and how to keep boost up with some finesse. I am not consistent enough yet to be able to use the pedal they way the car wants me to yet, unexpected lines or jerky driving throw me into my “drive angry” mode.

If people have to get their exercise chasing the cones I’ve mowed down in order for me to get better then I say practicing will be a win-win situation (as long as you’re not the cone). All in all there’s still lots of good stuff to learn and anything fun to learn should be practiced regularly.

I plan to run one last AutoX this year with the local Porsche club and after that more mods for the car and wait as patiently as I am able for next year. I feel some HPDE’s, track days, will be in order as well.

In closing I would like to give a big “thank you” to our good friends Bob and Randal for the pointers and getting me headed in the right direction, and to all the other folks along the way that helped or just hung out. I had no trouble finding someone willing to offer advice or share experiences with at the events along the way. Ride alongs are also fun I discovered, my favorite being a new Porsche Cayman S driven by a very aggressive but friendly fellow. What an awesome ride!

So, for those of you that are still unsure, come on out, get a ride along, or two or three, and decide if you want to be behind the wheel.

You’ll never regret it.

– Travis

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