The last autocross of the season before the SCCA Solo Nationals was August 19th at the Rantoul Aviation Center. I had been fishing the local club for a potential co-driver for the big event. The first to reply was Emanuel Martin. Emanuel also campaigned a WRX for most of the season and has been one of my principal bench marks for assessing my progress. While he doesn’t have much Nationals experience, he has proven to be one the best local drivers. In fact he was the overall autocross champion of the Champaign County Sports Car Club in 2011.
We agreed to do a trial run at the August event to see how we worked together and how Emanuel like the set-up of my car. The weather was beautiful and the course was a challenging mix of fast and slow elements. I had a bit of a rough day, hitting cones on every run but one. Emanuel was running times about 1.5 seconds faster than me but was having a little cone trouble too. Once he finally got a clean run under his belt I rode with him on the next run. It was immediately clear that I was not using all the available grip of the tires. I had been backing off at any sign of slip angle or aural feedback. Emanuel, on the other hand, was pushing much harder and the tires were still gripping. I made a mental note to press a little harder. I was rewarded on my next run with a fairly substantial drop in scratch time, but still managed to hit a couple cones. If I had been clean, it would have been a very competitive run. I was still a second back of Emanuel, but closer than I’d been to him all season. Emanuel then laid down a blazing fast lap on his last run, but suffered a cone penalty again. It was just that kind of day for us both. Still, I came away encouraged. I’m inching closer, finding a little speed every event. If I can just stop hitting cones I feel I can lay down respectable, if not necessarily competitive, times at Nationals.
Emanuel was quite satisfied with the car. His WRX is a 2005 and has a smaller engine. The horsepower ratings are approximately the same, but my 2006 has much more mid-range torque. He said the 2006 is only a little faster overall, but much easier to drive fast. The additional torque means there’s no need to downshift to 1st in the slower turns. Launching from the start is easier too. It just takes less effort to get a maximum performance run. In the end, we decided to partner up for Nationals. We discussed a few potential changes to the car, but eventually settled on driving it with the exact set-up we had that day.
Check back Sunday for one last update before we head out West to run against the best in the country. I just picked the car up from the graphics place and will reveal the final design choice.