After Race4Time, I came back to Dayton with a renewed sense of urgency. I now understood how much better I needed to be behind the wheel. Just in time for another autocross with MVSCC. This time, it was a night event under the lights at Kil-Kare Raceway.
I'd never autocrossed here, and somehow Ashley was trusting enough to get into the car with me. As you can imagine, there are walls everywhere and speeds at the start and finish can pick up pretty quick. This may be the only time she been in car with me during a run. Looking back at these pictures, she's was either smiling or gritting her teeth the whole time. I think she might have enjoyed it, but she probably won't ever admit it. That event, I ended up finishing 9th in my class of 15 cars. Definitely not a performance worth writing home over.
In August, I did something I didn't think would be possible. I worked for hours writing up a letter requesting sponsorship from South Bend Clutch. I had purchased parts from them in the past for my WRX, and was really happy with how that unit performed. I sat at the computer, wrote a draft, then re-wrote it. In total, I proofed it probably a dozen times. I wanted to make sure that I clearly communicated what I was trying to do and why I wanted them to be involved. Amazingly, Jon from SBC got back to me after a couple of days, and said he'd be happy to work with me. The fact that I grew up just down the road from their HQ probably didn't hurt, but I'd picked up my first sponsorship. Me, an absolute nobody. The fact that someone was willing to help me accomplish my goals was incredible. I had pitched my grand idea, and I had gotten their support. It helped me understand the scope of the challenge that I had chosen to undertake. One Lap is one of the marquee events for amateur racers. I was trying to tackle a racer's bucket list item, having only just started racing. One Lap was now only 18 months away. What I was intending to do was difficult. I knew that in order to be successful, I was going to need this kind of support and expertise from dozens of people just like Jon.
About a week later, I convinced James that it would be a great idea to compete in a TSD rally in Michigan with some weird guy he barely knew (me). I'd done one in Illinois in my Subaru, and really enjoyed it. Regrettably, one event is hardly enough to consider yourself experienced. Both of us being novices to TSD would put us at a major disadvantage. We left early, and booked it up to the Detroit area from Dayton to make it to registration in time. We get through registration, and set out doing our calculations. Instead of trying to figure out the duration of each leg, I thought it would be slick to use a Scan Gauge to try to estimate average speed. In principle, it was a good idea. In practice, we worked our butts off just to finish dead last for the event. After spending 20 stressful hours in the car with someone, you get to know them pretty well. At the time, I didn't know that James was going to be my OLOA co-driver. The fact that we didn't kill each other was a good sign regardless. OLOA takes days like this, and lines up 8 of them in a row.
Once we got back, things really got out of hand. I added fancy new custom plate. I spent a lot of time thinking about what would be funny, without making me sound like a total douche. The fact that I was a Dr. made it too perfect. I mean, I didn't spend all those years in evil graduate school to be called "mister".
Less than a week after we got back from the TSD, James convinced me that I needed to do my first HPDE. Mid-Ohio was close, and he had a 20% off coupon for the Labor Day event with AutoInterests. As I was in the novice group and James was in advanced, he and I didn't get the chance to interact too much during the day. I was busy in the classroom sessions, trying to learn how to not be a dummy on track and kill myself. The first few sessions were a little slow, with an organized lead follows for 20 minutes. In the afternoon, they let us loose and I was ready to rip. During a session, they let James ride passenger instead of my instructor. I was following a Focus ST into turn 12, and I came into the corner faster than I should have. I also turned in too early (still a bad habit I have). The result was a 4 wheel slide that scared the bejeezus out of me. On video, it doesn't look like anything crazy but it was the first real pucker moment that I had while I was driving the car. Neither of us made a sound while I was dealing with the situation in car. Afterward, he said that he knew that I was going to screw up that corner. He told me I did a good job with car control, and staying composed. I'm glad it looked that way on the outside.
The rest of the event with on without incident, and I definitely got more comfortable in the car as the day progressed. I wasn't fast by any means, but I had at least done my first HPDE and managed to avoid killing myself or destroying my car. Overall, I'd consider that a victory. My tires on the other hand, looked pretty rough. Apparently my Continental All-Season tires didn't like sliding sideways, or being overheated. The shoulders of all four tires had dozens quarter inch chunks of rubber missing in them. These all-seasons were only going to see street use from this point forward. These weren't going to make it another day on track. If I was was going to go back out next spring, I needed to have some tires that could handle that kind of driving.