Jason Saini, winner of the Houston National Tour Event, takes us on a tour
of the Roger Johnson designed course. Please refer to the track map
pictures below as Jason describes his line. Jason gives excellent insight
into how you should approach this "National" style course. Clicking on
the course map thumbnail will bring up a detailed PDF of the course which has
cone #'s that Jason will refer to.
National Tour Course Description
by Jason Saini
Course Map PDF
Starting was a little tricky due to the 90 degree turn immediately after
launch, but at least it was easy on the clutch. I was launching from about
4.5k RPM and getting moderate wheel spin that would rotate the car around
the first turn.
The 90 degree turn after the start
I made sure to rotate pointed on the backside (late apex)
of cone #17. Second gear hit just past that cone, and then it was a matter
of getting around cone #20, which in typical Roger Johnson course fashion
was right where I wanted to place the car! He has a way with pinching off
corner entries, and this is no exception. Braking relatively early, I tried
to only scrub off a little speed and carry my arc out to the wall of cones
#31-34. From there it was a pretty straight acceleration zone through the
2-cone slalom and up to cone #39. Just after that cone, I did some early
braking and was on even throttle up to the 'chute' where I began to lift
to rotate the car around the second half of 'Greyhound Gulch.' This was aptly
named because the corner was very off-camber on exit.
The left hand sweeper exit around Greyhound Gulch
The lot at Gulf Greyhound Park has a ton of elevation change, adding an element
not usually seen at a Solo2. Exiting the 'Gulch' it was very important to
be patient with the throttle until fully rotated around cones #54 and 60.
Once pointed the right way, I squeezed the throttle to the floor and tried
to visualize the next sweeper. It was uphill and over a crest, so the shape
of the turn was very hard to pick up by looking ahead. You had to sort of
'trust' that the corner was where you remembered it to be in the course walk!
I took a relatively wide entry to be sure I was on a wide enough arc to get
on the backside of the first 'wall' slalom. If done right, you could carry
a boatload of speed through the sweeper and into the walls.
Apply the brake slightly for the walls, then you're back on the power for
a very short time before the next sweeper. This was a double-apex left hander
that descended back down the hill we just climbed. It was off camber, and
again visually deceiving. You needed to let the car 'breathe' between the
two apexes by unwinding the wheel slightly so that you were on the backside
of cone #109. From there, it was flat out into 'Seagull Paradise.' Don't
ask why it was called that... let's just say it was slipperier there than
in other places on the site. This was a really fast entry, and I used trail
braking to maximize my entry speed and lengthen the preceding straightaway.
This was actually ill-advised, because the slower, neater tight line that
I ran on my opening run stood as my fastest raw time. Each run, I tried to
carry a little more speed into here, and it put me offline in the marbles,
which were plentiful on this surface as the race tires broke up the pavement.
A tight line paid here, but I didn't realize that until it was too late!
The right hand sweeper around Seagull Paradise
The next slalom was a bit tricky due to the elevation changes and offset
spacing, but it was a classic slalom in the sense that it was all part-throttle-modulation-finesse
driving....also known as keep-the-car-from-spinning driving! The entry to
the next right hander was again pinched off by Roger, and it was down hill
after the 'jump.' Just before cone #151, there was a huge drop in elevation.
The resulting downhill braking zone was a bit hairy. Braking while fighting
to keep control at the top of 2nd gear in an S2000 isn't what I'd call the
most comfortable situation, but I somehow kept the car pointing one way.
So braking downhill, I waited and did some late braking trying to carry as
much speed into the 'banking' as possible. The 'banking' was an on-camber
section in the last 3/4 of the turn. This was a definite 'faith' corner.
You had to commit to a high entry speed and hope for the camber to catch
you. The camber caught in just the right spot to get on the gas on the backside
of cones #159 and 160. From there it was back to the keep-the-car-from-spinning
mode of driving until crossing the lights. If done right, I was tapping the
rev limiter just as I crossed the lights. When I didn't do it right, I crossed
the finish line backwards! (oops!)
Course Map PDF
Some of the same course elements were used for the second day. The biggest
changes were in the start and finish sections. The 'Greyhound Gulch' crossover
and sweeper were eliminated in favor of a 90 degree turn and straightaway
to the first turn, which was now the uphill, blind, off-camber left hander
that led into the wall slalom aptly named the Walls of Jericho. The damp conditions made it a little tricky
as there were some puddles, but overall the lot had remarkable grip for being
wet in places. The entry to that first sweeper was the same as yesterday,
although it was now even more important to get on the backside of the walls
as they were now 'angled' to make things tougher. These now required more
braking to successfully negotiate.
Approaching the Walls of Jericho
The following straightaway had a cone removed, so it was now possible to
flat-foot the trip through 'Rio Grande' which was a combination dip and right
hander. This led to an unchanged 'Seagull Paradise.' My adrenaline got the
best of me here, and I overcooked this sweeper again several times. The penalty
for that was even more severe, as it was now more important to get on the
backside of cone #146. From there, it was flat out across the top of the
lot and back into the downhill braking zone. I was staying flat out over
the rise and the car would get light and hit the limiter just as I crested.
The finish chute was again changed, and was a fun combination of offsets.
No more dramatics at the finish today, luckily. Again, getting on the backside
of #159 and 160 put you in the right place to carry a ton of speed across
the finish line.
Overall the course on Saturday was a bit faster in places, but more technical
in others. Roger Johnson of the Houston SCCA Region did a fantastic job (as usual)
of transforming 180 orange rubber pylons into a technically challenging yet
fun and flowing course. Houston Region put on a great party for both Friday
and Saturday evenings, and overall it was a great weekend despite the rain
misting Sunday morning and the constantly changing track conditions. Thanks
for all their hard work in putting on the event, in addition to the hard
work of the SCCA field staff.
As a final thanks, King Motorsports deserves all the credit for setting our
car up. From alignment settings to getting us onto Moton shocks, King has
done us right. The switch to Moton shocks this season has been extremely
beneficial to the handling of the car. Instead of the typical S2000 twitch,
we are getting stability and consistency. Add in the torque-bolstering Mugen
exhaust and Pagid brake pads, and King has provided us with one potent autocross