Wednesday, April 30, 2008

So What is 'Autocrossing'?

I've had a few questions about 'autocrossing', the kind of racing Annie and I do so I thought it was high time I explained it better.

Technically and legally speaking, it's not racing. There's only one car on the track (aka 'course') at a time. The track is usually a big parking lot or airplane runway and the turns and straights are marked with regular traffic cones. The object is to get around the course in the shortest elapsed time possible without hitting any cones. If you happen to punt a cone 2 seconds is added to your time. If you hit 4 cones that +8 seconds.

(This is a friend's lightly-modified Honda Civic from the event we did a couple weekends ago. It's not uncommon for some cars to life the inside rear tire off the ground during really hard cornering. It's harmless and the driver can't even feel it come up or down.)

Cars are categorized into classes so that similar cars compete against each other. That's partially for fairness but it also makes for closer competition which really multiplies the fun. There are classes for completely stock cars like you're probably driving right now and there are classes for non-street legal full-on race cars with tens of thousands of dollars of modifications that go really, really fast.

(Here's a pic of a highly modified BMW in action. Pretty cool, huh?)

So who runs these events? A little known nation-wide club called the Sports Car Club of America which was formed shortly after WWII. There are clubs regionally all over the US and they offer more than just autocrossing. There's also road racing at dedicated race tracks, time-distance rallys (public roads, not actual racing), stage rallying (high speed racing on dirt roads and etc), and even hill climbs which involve racing up a mountain road against the clock. Anyway, at an autocross event the drivers also volunteer to run the event while they're not driving. Someone has to reset cones after they are sent flying, run the timer computer, flag the cars at the starting line, and so on. Those are all drivers waiting for their driving heat to come around.

The cost for a typical event is $20 if you're an SCCA member ($70/year). It's $35 for non-members. Annie and I generally arrive at 9:00 or so to get registered and get our car and helmets inspected. Cars usually start running at 10:00 or 10:30 and heats last for 1-2 hours. You have to be there for 2 heats; one to drive and one to volunteer. We usually make a day out of it and volunteer for extra heats just for fun.

So after all that explaining, here's a video for your enjoyment. This footage was taken with a roof-mounted camcorder on my friend's 1994 Corvette from an event at the Wichita Greyhound Park last summer. I've actually posted faster times than this guy in our family station wagon but didn't at this particular event because it had too many straights. I haven't explained anything about how to read where the cones are telling you to go but that is a vital aspect. If you take the wrong route around the course you are disqualified. It's easy to them with practice. One last thing: Here's a link to our Wichita SCCA club's website. There's a lot more info there. If anyone would like to meet us or drive at an event, just shoot me an email at jmr302 gmail com.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Back by Popular Demand... Benny Lava

Note: I should have put my usual disclaimer on this video. If you show this to the kiddos you might have some explaining to do.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Speed Racer Family

Here are some pics of Annie and I racing our station wagon last weekend. We were in KC at Arrowhead Stadium in one of the satellite lots (Lot L, for you sports fans).

I'm #27. The stickers in the window are from the event sponsors. I actually have a full set of sponsor magnets that we stick on the car but I had left them at home. It doesn't look NASCAR-ish when fully decked out but is funny nonetheless.

Believe it or not we were actually sliding around a lot more than I wanted. No, that's not a good thing. I don't have any photos, but on a grippy concrete surface we're probably lifting that inside rear wheel off the ground while cornering hard.

Here's super-speedy Ann Christine, #72, your 2008 Midwest Division Kansas City H-Stock Ladies Class Champion driver. So far she has not demanded that I address her by her full title. Note the 'L' made of masking tape. I didn't have time to make a magnetic 'L' to match the numbers and letters I already had.

Another pic of the 'The Champ'. She really improved this weekend and learned a few new techniques. I suggested a front shock damping adjustment between runs and she was readily able to feel the difference in how the car responded. For a little while we were like a successful driver/engineer pair, like the big leagues. Like Jeff Gordon and whoever his crew chief is. Yeah, like that.

How did I do? Well there were 4 other experienced drivers in my class and 3 of them had actual race tires and cars more suited to the class so they beat my times handily. There was one other car/driver combination I thought I could beat but I was consistently 2 seconds slower both days. Really what I've found is this car/tire combo is extremely lousy on smooth asphalt. It was much, much more competitive a few weeks ago at the last event on concrete. I was able to beat several Honda S2000's and Chevy Corvettes, believe it or not.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Alicia Keys' Conspiracy

Alicia Keys: Great voice, great looks, dumb as a sack of hammers?

Alicia was recently quoted in an interview with Blender magazine as saying the government invented Gangsta Rap so that black people would try to kill each other. A casual analysis of that statement reveals that Alica believes a race of people are so gullible and violent that the right song lyrics or beat will cause them to kill their fellow people for little or no reason. After all, they were told to do it. No thinking is involved.

At first I was skeptical, but after mulling it over a little more, I think she's right.

Just look at all the other conspiracies the Gubbermint has been involved with; the moon landing, the JFK assassination, Elvis, the theory that Pontiacs are sporty cars, Big Foot, Area 51, and more. So I wouldn't be surprised if they weren't pulling the strings in the music industry. We've all been duped. But it's not just black people they're after. Look at what they've done to Country Music. I think the Gubbermint uses Top 40 Country to pacify rebellious white people! How else can you explain how every Top 40 Country song appears to have the same blandness? Why do all the instruments seem to come from the same limited sound effects library? Why is there no portion of the song without vocals? Why is the tempo so formulaic? Why do they all look like Michael Boltons with cowboy hats?

Yeah, Kenny's got "No Problems". That's because he's an agent of the Gubbermint sent to pacify rebellious white people. That's right, Whitey, ignore your deteriorating rural schools and communities and just smoke dope and be cool. No problems. Just stay in the trailer and drink Budweiser.

If I'm wrong then how can you explain how Johnny Cash was assassinated recently? That's right, I said it. Johnny finally crossed the line after so many years and they had to smack him down. I'm sure Bush tried to protect him for as long as possible but in the end had to give in to his evil minions Karl Rove and Dick Cheney. Those bastards!

The only way to fight this hugely successful campaign to control our minds is to form a unified front; an army of informed citizens who only kill each other for more legitimate reasons. An army that actually puts their shirts on before being arrested in the trailer park. I'm willing to lead that army, as the first person to bust this conspiracy wide open, but I need your help. Without your monetary support I cannot reach the communities who so desperately need to be informed. Please consider making a credit card, cash, or paypal donation to the cause today. Together we'll unify the races against the evil Bush administration and end this insanity!

Thank you, Alicia Keys for your insight! YOU HAVE SET US FREE!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Danger of Bathing Toddlers

FOD = Foreign Object Debris.

Sad, sad Bella.

Who, me? Yes you, Tub Pooper.

Watch It

Friday, April 11, 2008

Self Explanatory

Supposedly this rally car was going 136 mph.

Friday, April 4, 2008

In Memory Of

I don't think this applies to anyone I know, so time to talk about it Seinfeld-style.

What is it with these "In Memory of..." stickers on peoples' cars? What exactly is in memory of the deceased person, thing, or pet? Is the sticker itself in memory of whatever? Is the 1986 Honda Accord? Is it the crappy purple window tinting? Oblivious/negligent driving? If you have multiple people, pets, or things (yeah, I know) die are you going to have multiple "In Memory of" stickers or will it become a list?

Normally at a fo-reals monument site it's pretty clear what the monument part is so all that's needed is the statement "In Memory of". But here I'm not getting it. I need more hints.