[Author Prev][Author Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Author Index][Thread Index]

cheap thrills - aka rallycross (long)

paul sez (last week):
>This weekend was the first rallycross in the southwest.  This is a
>new format from SCCA, which is a cross between Solo and Rally.  We
>had a fairgrounds parking lot in Ridgecrest California for the site.
>Ridgecrest is the company town for China Lakes Naval Weapons lab.
>It is out in the Mohave, about 2.5 hours from LA.
>  Of special interest, was the fastest wagon (sic, avant
>of the day (FWOTD).  Frank Bauer proved that with center diff locked, he cou
>waltz his big audi station around the track with great finnese, to the delig
>of all.  The whole scene was much better than watching some downtown GP wher
>you can see only one corner.

i've been meaning to add my thoughts to this, but was waiting until
final results were posted.  if you are interested, these can be found at

this rallycross was my first entry in a sanctioned contest of speed in
any vehicle, so i wasn't sure what to expect.  my main goals were:
1) have fun
2) avoid penalties (don't knock over any two-second cones)
3) try not to make a fool of myself
4) learn some things about driving the tqw sideways
i decided the best way to achieve #3 was to do #'s 1 & 2.  hopefully #4
would occur naturally.

my rallycross prep consisted of removing the child safety seat and
putting a 36" duffel in the car so that once i arrived, i could fill it (!)
with the various and sundry loose items i have stashed in the footwells and
compartments.  the "race vehicle" was a basically stock 1986 type 44q
turbo wagon with a lowered suspension and 153K on the clock.  tires were
essentially new d40m2's in stock size on fuchs 7x15's.  none of this
(wagon, lowered, wide wheels) seemed like the hot setup for racing in
the dirt, but i was there to have some fun.

i was one of the early arrivals, following an early 60's dart/valiant-type of
vehicle into the lot.  is he running that thing or just spectating?
when he jumped out and immediately pried off his hubcaps, i had my
answer.  i was also confident of not getting the slowest time of the
day.  =8)  soon there were arrivals from the rally seminar earlier and
elsewhere.  ron wood came over immediately upon his arrival to make me
feel welcome.  paul was not far behind.  paul spent most of the day
shooing away both of the previous owners/preparers of his 323gtx.
apparently they have each subsequently regretted selling this car to the
next owner.  one of them actually flew in from eastern asia to
"co" drive in the event.  there were many borrowed seats being raced in
this event.  dennis chizma showed up in leathers on two wheels and still
won 3 classes and had ftod.

upon registering, i learned i would be placed in the street stock 4wd class.
of the 47 driver entries, there were about 10 ss4wd and a dozen or so ss2wd
entries, the other half of the field being one of 4 rally-tire equipped
classes.  the other ss4wd entires included an urq (tom juliani, a qlist
archive surfer who is preparing his urq for eventually running the prescott
forest rally), a celica all-trac or two, a couple of chevy s10's, a
couple of miss piggy's (3000gtvr4) and at least one well-prepared
diamond-star rally car with street tires (eclipse/talon? - henceforth
referred to as DSRCWST.)  this car was putting out 300+hp (turbo,
exhaust, blowoff valve, etc), had the interior stripped, onboard fire
extinguisher (with the big red "fire" knob on the console), and with a
few hundred dollars in rally tires added would have certainly been assigned
to 4wd open class.  the only other q competing was ron wood's hybrid
rally car that could best be described as a coupe turbo gti quattro.
freedom of expression through rules interpretation is apparently
encourage on scca 4wd open.  there were a couple of other audiste spectating,
but the owners didn't make themselves known to me.

tech was brief, consisting of brake pedal and throttle return checks, basic
safety equipment (seat, belt, 85 or better helmet - thanks, paul!), 4 wheels
attached, etc.  i got in line toward the end of the first (street stock) run
group along with the other 4wd's.  having never driven my tqw (or any turbo,
for that matter) on a low coefficient surface, a was looking at a steep
learning curve.  for those who haven't auto/rallycrossed, there are no practice
runs.  judging by the early times, i figured anything under a minute was
respectable.  by the time i ran the first stage, the course was fairly chewed
up and rutted.  i was happy to learn i had 4th fastest time in ss4wd
with a 59.18 , which was eventually just 4.5 seconds off the overall 1st
stage fast time.  there were three of us within 1 second and the DSRCWST about
4 seconds faster (and .2 off the fastest time).
the water truck was employed between each stage to keep the dust down and make
things interesting.  by the second stage, it seemed like a different course.
i improved my time to 58.59 which was still 4th in class and the similar
grouping of several within 1 second and the DSRCWST about 4.5 sec faster.
i managed to get back-to-back rides in paul's 323gtx.  first steve went out
but had to use reverse when he nearly went off the course.  then paul
drove it to the fastest CW time by a half second, a 52.02.  it felt like it
from the passenger seat!
by the third stage it WAS a different course.  the direction was changed from
CW to CCW, the course was widened to allow more "cowboying" (organiser's term)
and the water truck was given extra track time.  it was quite slick for
this stage and the 2wds had a tough time getting traction anywhere.  i managed
to complete this stage in 53.27, which was the fastest time on street
tires for stage 3!  my DSRCWST buddy must have hit a few cones since he was
more than 4 seconds back.  i got to ride in ron wood's rally q during the
3rd stage - impressive braking and acceleration!
by this point, i was running all the way around the big turns at both ends of
the course at redline, so i had figured out how to balance throttle and
steering to keep it on line.  i was feeling fairly confident and was getting
used to setting it up for the turns and then catching things before they got
out of hand coming out of the turn, despite the extra weight and length
of the subject vehicle.  my biggest problem was upon exiting the
turn, where my front wheels would hit the berms and ruts (at opposite
lock) and crash up into the fender lip (remember lower & wider?)
my 4th stage time was 47.18 (within 3 seconds of ftod, 9th fastest time in the
final stage, bested only by 3 guys named dennis chizma, 3 (other) 4wd
open class (including paul), a performance stock class car, and the
DSRCWST.  i even had ron wood by .04, but he must have hit a cone  =8)

after 4 stages, the times were added to determine class winners.
i came in 2nd in ss4wd, just over 6 seconds down on the DSRCWST.
overall i was in 15th place, 18 seconds off the overall winner, with the
DSRCWST and a bunch of "pro" racers ahead of me.
i guess clean living pays off (no penalties.)  not bad for a family wagon with
a full tank of gas.  i wonder how well it would go with rally tires and
some suspension travel?  i can't wait until the next one...


ps - i really wish i had done steamboat this year...