Monday, September 8, 2014

SCCA SOLO National Championship 2014

It was finally time for the big show...the big race we've all been practicing and testing for the entire season. I left Bumblestook loaded on the trailer at SJF Performance after the alignment so I could easily just hook up the trailer to make the drive out to Lincoln.

Ready to head to Lincoln - SJF Performance- 9/1/2014
In general, the 1500 mile drive out was uneventful except for that one fuel stop where a pickup truck almost backed into the Touareg and missed it by two inches (NY reflexes FTW). We arrived there on Tuesday early evening just as the sun was setting, perfect for quick unload before heading to the hotel for some much needed grub and shut eye.

Arriving at Lincoln - 9/2/2014
The next day I finished registering and picked up the sweet 2014 Nationals jacket you could pre-order. I thought it was funny ordering a jacket considering how hot Lincoln gets this time of year but it would come in very useful a few days later when the temps dipped drastically into the mid-50s/low-60s. We also got tech inspection out of the way before heading out to the practice course to check for the car's balance on the Lincoln concrete. She felt a tad pushy so I cranked the rear bar up to about 50% and she was much more neutral.

2014 SCCA SOLO Nationals jacket - 9/3/2014
Tech inspection complete - Lincoln, NE - 9/3/20214
Practice Course - Linconln, NE - 9/3/2014
Photo By: Tomomi Uetani
We then went out for dinner and came back as the sun was setting before doing the course walks. Mostly, this was to escape the heat but with most people out to attend the banquet from the previous two days of racing, there weren't a lot of people to contend with to get a nice look at the course which made it extra nice.

Sunset course walk - Lincoln, NE - 9/3/2014
Photo By: Tomomi Uetani
The next day was day 1 of competition. The east course had some very fast sections and I knew I'd run out of gearing. I decided to try 3rd gear in a few spots but I really lost to much time bobbling the downshifts so I opted to just stay in 2nd for my last run to put in my fastest time. I definitely need to address this gearing issue next year. I also just put on the sticker Hoosiers and on the first run the mold release was really affecting grip. I wish I had scrubbed them in at the test course the day before. She was also very pushy and I had to crank up the rear bar to full stiff and decrease the front pressures by 1 PSI to get better balance. After day 1, we had toppled in the rankings just shy of the last trophy spot but with the west course looking like a much better course for Bumblestook's gearing, I was hopeful to jump a few spots on day 2. It was also a blistering hot 94 degrees that day but clear skies all around.

BSP Day 1 Grid - East Course - Lincoln, NE - 9/4/2014
On day 2, the temps had dropped overnight to the low 50s and just above 60 before our first runs. I put in a decent first run but coned it away then the bad news came. I blew sound at 103dB so I popped in the silencer I had put together in Wilmington to try and quiet her down. On the next run, I pushed harder, a bit too hard and spun out. I decided to stay off the throttle passing the sound station this time since I didn't want to use up my last warning in an otherwise throw away run. Before the last run, the skies had opened up and it started to rain. The ground was getting damp. I went out for the last run and lifted slightly by sound just to be sure. I went a tad slower and hit 2 cones anyway in the process and unfortunately was later told I still blew sound at 101dB. My understanding is that if I had tried to go full speed I would had the run disqualified anyway so in the end there really wasn't anything I could do in day 2 to move up and we found ourselves all the way down in 10th spot without a single clean run. Regardless of this though, I have to say the Lee Piccione designed West Course was by far the most fun SOLO course I had ever driven to date!

BSP Day 2 Grid - West Course - Lincoln, NE - 9/5/2014
Bumblestook on West Course - Lincoln, NE - 9/5/2014
Photo By: Tomomi Uetani
When all was said and done, I still had a great time at this year's Nationals. It's unfortunate we couldn't do better but my take away is that I plan on addressing these issues next season:
  • The old exhaust is going back in. Not dealing with sound issues any further.
  • AP1 Transmission is going in. We need the gearing..stop being stubborn!!!
  • I need to stop hitting cones
2014 SCCA SOLO Nationals Done - Lincoln, NE - 9/6/2014

SCCA SOLO National Champsionship 2014
Lincoln, NE - 9/4-9/5/2014

She's a great car with lots of potential and as a driver I have plenty left to grow before I can deem myself worthy of such a beast. Now that the season is over I want to thank everyone who supported me this seasons. Evans Tuning for making this dream of a car a reality over the winter, Steve Farkas at SJF Performance for the countless alignments and suspension advice all season long, Dave Corsaro (now the new 2014 SCCA F-Street Champion) for his superb corner balancing work, Karcepts for the diff and suspension parts, ANZE suspension for the shock rebuild and setup, JoeFis Racing for the aero, Hoosier Racing Tire for the purple crack, Honda for what will always be in my mind the most amazing roadster ever built, my NESTR peeps for making racing more about the people than the cars and lastly to my girlfriend Tomomi for convincing me to stay with it and see the season through to the end when I was mentally just stretched to the limit and on the verge of throwing in the towel. Racing is far from being a single person sport and we wouldn't have accomplished what have we to date without such awesome people supporting us in our endeavors. Looking forward to what 2015 will have in store and hopefully bring home more hardware.