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article details
Author Tuan
Categories Motorsports
Create Date April 30, 2003 23:58
Last Update August 15, 2003 03:25
National Tour Event

Autocross Report: 04/05-06/03 National Tour Event
by Tuan Nguyen


I've been competing with my S2000 in local autocrosses with the Texas Spokes Sports Car Club since the summer of 2000. I have lots of fun competing against the handful of local racers in the B-Stock class, which comprise of the S2000, 350Z, and E36 M3 for example. I decided for the year 2003 I wanted to take the next step up and compete at a larger level against more competitors. I would at first try my hand at regional events then possibly at the Nationals in Topeka, KS where racers from all across the nation congregate to test their skills against one another. Last year, there were 46 drivers alone in the B-stock class.

pimped1.jpg (99832 bytes)
My car all pimped up with magnetics required for the race

My first practice on a Nationals level type course was at the National Tour on April 5th and 6th at the Gulf Greyhound Center south of Houston, TX. With 17 drivers competing in the B-Stock class, it was the largest class at the event. There were 9 S2000 drivers alone! The other cars consist of an '01 Boxster (2 drivers), an '03 Z4 3.0, '93 Porsche 968, '03 Nissan 350Z, '97 BMW M3, and '98 BMW M3. It was a very good amount of diversity, but the S2000 was obviously the popular car for good reason. However, would it be able to hold off the new Z4 with its strong 6 cylinder engine, or the 350Z with its low end torque, or the Boxster with its great predictability? Competitors ranged from local club autocrossers such as myself, to former National Champion Mark Sipe in his Z4, to one of the top S2000 Solo drivers, Jason Saini, in his awesome King Motorsports prepared S2000. Normally, I rarely ever have to touch my S2000 in preparation for an autocross. That's part of the draw of autocrossing. I just hook up my tire trailer to my trailer hitch on the S2000 and then drive to the event. Two weeks before the event while changing out my front pads, I discovered that my passenger side brake piston dust boot had partly disintegrated, most likely due to excessive heat. (See picture) At this time, I also decided to take my car in to get the clutch buzz TSB done at a dealership in Austin. I asked them to take a look at the dust boot while they were at it.

bad_dust_boot.jpg (75609 bytes)
Disintegrated dust boot

A few days later, they called back and said that they would not fix the dust boot because I had damaged it while replacing my brake pads. The service advisor also told me that they often damaged the boot themselves while changing brake pads! That didn't give me much confidence in their ability and I just shook my head in disbelief that they would think their customer was that incompetent and to automatically think the worst of them. Obviously, I take very good care of my cars and am very meticulous about critical items such as brake pads. I would have been fine if they simply said that the part was considered a wear item and so would not be covered under warranty. However, their distrust in me from their implication that I was trying to pull a fast one on them left a very bad taste in my mouth. They would gladly do the rebuild for me though at a charge of over $200. Needless to say, I went straight to the parts counter and ordered a rebuild kit to do the rebuild myself. At least the clutch buzz was gone. However, I don't think I'll be going back there again.

A week later I called them and asked if my kit arrived yet. They said yes so I drove to the dealership, only to be handed a brake piston! Apparently they ordered the wrong part! By this time, I was getting irked because I thought I would be able to have the pads installed and bedded in, the brake fluid bled, and the caliper rebuilt in plenty of time before the event. Well it would have to come down to the last minute as the part came in only 2 days before I was to leave for Houston. After a late night, I was able to complete the work and was now ready. I'll have an article on how to rebuild the S2000 caliper later on. Hopefully my article will save you some time. I ended up having to bleed my brakes twice and wasting a bottle of Motul 600!

Racers have known about the usefulness of duct tape long before government officials sought to popularize it. I carry a roll in my tool chest at all times and it came in very handy for the weekend! With the tires strapped down on the trailer, I headed off for Houston. I pulled into a gas station half-way and noticed that the wood support brace holding the wheels in place had split in half! Luckily my safety straps were still holding the wheels onto the trailer or otherwise it could have been catastrophic! I pull out the duct tape and do an emergency repair on the wood support brace. It would be good enough to last the weekend.

repair.jpg (35639 bytes)
It's ugly, but it held up. :-)

To get an idea of the enormity of the parking lot used for this event, please have a look at an aerial picture of the lot! It's an incredible autocrossing venue. It's quite different from the small runway strip we have available to the Spokes club in Austin. While walking the course to familiarize myself, I noticed that the dips, crests, and camber of the course were very significant. Also, since this is a Roger Johnson designed course, it would involve lots of reward/punishment type of driving lines and high speed sweepers. This means you have to give up some speed here if you want to go faster over there etc. The dips, crests, and high speed sweepers would prove to be very challenging for me since I did not have experience with these features in the courses we run at Spokes. Braking points and driving lines would have to be vary depending on the slope and camber of the course you were negotiating. On the next page, there is an excellent description of the course written by Jason Saini.

gulf_air_view.jpg (124738 bytes)
An aerial view of the huge Gulf Greyhound lot

Unfortunately, on the first day I got into cone trouble early. I was having problems with the car's tail getting too light when going over a sharp crest and bottoming the suspension on the dips. My car control left something to be desired as I was having a difficult time adjusting to these conditions. I think some manner of frustration was causing me to not do well, so I just needed to calm down and just drive normally and react better to what the car was doing under the situation. The mental role in autocrossing is as important as car setup and execution of the driving line.

sp01.jpg (47669 bytes)
sp02.jpg (48074 bytes)sp03.jpg (49071 bytes)sp04.jpg (49255 bytes)
sp05.jpg (47738 bytes)sp06.jpg (47879 bytes)sp07.jpg (49394 bytes)
sp08.jpg (48460 bytes)sp09.jpg (48368 bytes)sp10.jpg (48164 bytes)
Jason lets Cliff Rosenburg borrow the King Motorsports S2000 to also run in ASP and Cliff gives it a spin. :-)

On Jason Saini's second run, he was able to set a blistering pace of 56.830, which no one could match. Juliann Pokorny, co-driver to the King Motorsports S2000, had a bit of cone trouble too on her first run, but was able to secure an excellent time of 57.830 and was in 3rd place at the end of Day 1. Roger Johnson, course designer extraordinaire and fellow S2000 driver, was right behind Juliann and was in 4th place. I had trouble controlling my car's rear on some of the crests and nipped some cones with the rear tire on my first two runs. I focused on getting a clean run for my last run and was able to settle for 6th place, just one spot out of a trophy position. The S2000 contingent was doing well, with 6 of the top 10 positions belonging to S2000 drivers.

On the Day 2, Jason continued to set the pace. The only person challenging Jason was David H. in his Boxster and he was still 0.7 seconds behind Jason in the end. So it became a battle for best of the rest. Juliann P., Mark S. in his Z4, and Roger J. were battling for 3rd place. Roger put in an inspired final run and beat Juliann and Mark's fastest Day2 time. However, it was not enough to make up the deficit he had from the first day. Juliann pulled her fastest run at the end too and was able to hold off Mark. After 2 days, these three were only 0.25 seconds apart. It was indeed a close battle. Comfortably in the lead, Jason decides to go for broke on the last run. He was blazing through the cones, but on the last transition to the finish lights, he corrects a little too much and ends up going backwards through the lights, while almost beating his previous best time!

I didn't do as well and slipped a spot into 7th place, but at least I beat my goal of getting mid-pack in the field of 17 drivers. It has been encouraging and I hope to be able to go to more events with this same style of course design in preparation for Nationals in Topeka, Kansas. Full results are here.

After all the cars in your class run on the final day, the cars go into impound which allows your competitors to check out your car. You lift up your hood and trunk and allow people to look at it. Well, I did this and went off to check on the results of my friends' times. I then walk back to my car only to have a bunch of people surrounding it and peering at my hood! I thought I had done something wrong! I arrive and find out that the wind had lifted the aluminum hood and slammed it against my windshield! Witnesses said it made a horrific sound. After very careful inspection, the only damage that occurred was a slight nick on the edge of the hood which contacted the wiper blade. Apparently the wiper blade cushioned the blow just enough. I was very lucky to not have a mangled aluminum hood and cracked windshield. Note to self: Don't leave light aluminum hood propped up when it's windy. ;-)

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  backside of cones?
kevbh 0
  post your write up on www.s2ki.com
Squeezer 3
  awesome write up
Da Hapa 1
  Super2K
onecrx 1
  Great Article
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