Autocross Shake Down on the Triple Skid Pad

It was a beautiful day on Saturday the 18th. The sun was out, no clouds in sight. Capital Driving Club was holding their first autocross on the newly acquired Summit Point Triple Skid Pad(TSP) and RFD was in full attendance. OK fine, so it was just Brian and I from RFD. Half attendance but who’s counting? The Triple Skid Pad is the same as used by local drifters, and it’s my understanding that there is a chemical layer of some sort on the surface that makes it slicker than a normal race track. Somebody correct me if I’m wrong.

The aerial photo shows how large the course actually is. To walk from one end to the other takes minutes — probably close to a 1/4 mile long. The course for the day, as designed by the Capital Driving Club, or one of it’s super best friend members, was(going by the photo) to start near the bottom right corner and while driving around the perimeter, create the largest slalom in existence. Chances are they did not break any records but it sure as hell was a lot of fun to drive!

We setup our tent just after 9AM, attended the driver’s meeting and watched Heat 1 make their rounds. Finally after what felt like an eternity it was Heat 2. The way CDC works is that they split each heat into two groups, A and B. Your group is determined by which of the two lines of cars you pulled in to. Group A would drive while group B was working the course. Brian was in group A during the morning session and I was in group B. Brian was kind enough to let me ride along with him for two of his three morning runs. To say it was fun was an understatement. The course was slick. Putting the power down in a stock S2000 on Bridgestone RE01-R’s was a chore. That’s how slick this place was. And sum bitch it was AWESOME! Seems like it’s been years since I had a rear wheel drive car with a limited slip and the feeling was so good I was overcome with giddy. F!

But drifting isn’t the fast way around. Yea, yea, sure it isn’t. But like I said, it was mad fun. Every time the S2000’s rear end broke loose I’d egg Brian on, yelling through my helmet for him to keep the right foot down. After the 50’some odd seconds we pulled through the stop gate and as expected, the announced elapsed time wasn’t too exciting, though still a quick time overall. With RFD, if you ain’t first, you’re last.

Heat 1, group B. Hellllsss yes! When I’m sitting on grid in my car with the helmet on I always get the shakes. Like bad shakes. My heart beats out of my chest and I sweat profusely. I don’t know why, it just happens. Always has. Getting closer to the front of the grid I begin to do the checks. Seat belt pulled tight? Traction control off? Seat in the right driving position? Check, check and check.

“Go!” The car ahead of me rockets out of the starting gate. The start gate course worker signals me to pull up. “And stop.” My electric blue Mini Cooper S is now in position to launch out of the box with optimal angle for turn 1. On the opposite side of the announcement tent I see a car braking hard for the stop gate. We’re now seconds away. I hold the revs upward of 2,500 RPM’s. I hear the walkie-talkie of the start corner worker buzz. “Send ’em”. The green flag drops(they didn’t actually have a green flag) and the Dunlop Z1 Star Specs give all they can to hold traction but it’s no use. The passenger side tire is on fire. Feather the throttle and get back in it. Here’s turn one, a quick right. I shift up to second gear just before I turn in and pull out of the corner strong, straightening up and preparing for the upcoming series of sweeping left and right turns. The course is level and the turns are deceiving. As you enter the turn you realize that you’ve gone in too hot. There’s no banking to assist. Luckily the short wheel base Mini Cooper rotated nicely, thanks in part to the additional camber in the front. At 11AM the course was still slippery, putting power down in the corner resulted in understeer. The trick on this course was definitely to be as smooth as possible.

Tripping the sensor in the stop gate I awaited the announced time. Fifty point eight one? Is that what he said? Nice!

I won’t bore you all with the rest of my day but I’m quite pleased with the results. The car really needs some good springs, dampers and a good limited slip differential. But most importantly, I need to improve the driver.


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