In three days I’ll be off to Lincoln Nebraska for the 2012 Tirerack SCCA Solo National Championships with my co-driver, Emanuel Martin. It has been a busy week of preparation. The new graphics package was installed. Checklists of critical equipment were made and travel arrangements arranged. Granola bars, beef jerky, and energy drinks were purchased. A few final issues with the car were addressed, including replacement of the fuel evaporation canister which was leaking and triggering a “check engine” light. All the driver and car preparation for the first leg of the 3-4-Three challenge is done, all that is left is to get to the event and compete.
The Solo Nationals has been called the largest annual amateur motors event in the world. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but there’s no denying it’s huge; this years event has a record 1161 entrants in 80 different classes. To accommodate all the drivers, the event is essentially split in half, then split in half again. Two courses are laid out on the tarmac of the Lincoln Airport. On Tuesday ~1/4 of the competitors will get three chances to drive one course, and ~1/4 will drive the other. Wednesday they switch courses. The competitors’ best single times from each day are combined for scoring and the champions from the first 4o or so classes are crowned Wednesday night. Thursday the other half of the competitors compete, split amongst the two courses. Friday they switch courses and the second round of champions are crowned that evening. I’ve been to the Nationals five times in the past, but not since 2005. Emanuel will be making his second consecutive trip. Many of our friends from the Champaign County Sports Car Club will be there as well, including my best friend and five-time previous Solo Nationals co-driver Dan Marx. We will all be paddocked together and it should be a festive atmosphere.
Emanual and I will be competing the RTA class on Thursday and Friday. We run the first heat both days, tackling the West Course Thursday and the East Course on Friday. If you’re so inclined, you can follow the action at http://sololive.scca.com/ at 9:00 am Central time both days. My goal is to finish in the top 10 in the class while Emanuel is shooting for the top 5. Since Emanuel has a better chance to earn a trophy for the team, I will drive the car first and let him drive second. As the first driver, my first run each day will be on cold tires and cold brakes. Grip and braking will be less than optimal in the early part of the run, and chances are it will be a “throw away.” One run should be enough to get both up to temp, however, giving Emanuel full grip and full braking for all three of his runs.
There’s a slight chance of rain on Thursday and a bit more of a chance on Friday. The likelihood of it raining in the narrow window of time we’ll be competing is remote, but I’m actually hoping for it. Most of our competitors will be driving 2011 or 2012 Subaru WRX’s which have more power, stiffer suspension, and wider tires. A wet surface would neutralize those advantages, putting us on a more level playing field. My natural tendency to drive with minimal aggression, which is a liability in the dry, is actually an asset in the rain. Rain or shine, I’ll be giving it my best and soaking in the experience.
Tuesday we’re on our way west, look for daily updates to this blog starting Wednesday.