In case you weren’t aware, being on the road at 4 am sort of blows.
Friday morning, the alarm went off at 3 am and I made the gametime decision to trek to FedEx field in Landover, MD for the first national race of the year: The DC Pro Solo. Pro Solos are a bit interesting to explain – it’s an autocross race, but it has a drag race start, complete with the tree and everything. Once you launch, you are hurled into a short autocross course, and immediately upon completion, you switch sides with your opponent. Once on the other side, you have the drag racing start again, and the autocross portion is the mirrored version of what you just drove. There are three sessions: Saturday AM, Saturday PM, and Sunday AM. You get four runs per session, two on each side, and your fastest left and right side times are added together, and the shortest time wins. The video below has some highlights from the weekend (I’m the cover clip! Watch me getting SMOKED by the Porsche, #98…and I apologize for the horrendous karaoke).
As I’ve been obligated to attend baby and bridal showers over the past few weekends, I’ve not done so much racing lately. This was my first event on dry pavement and over 40 degrees, so I was hoping for something good. I am actually a pretty decent driver (no female qualifier required), so I figured it was like riding a bike. You know, you wobble around at first, but after a minute or so, you’re cycling like Lance. You know, without the whole steroid thing.
This was my usual ride for races: Panda. And this car was magical, though I had never driven it at a Pro Solo. I’m afraid of the drag-style start with that clutch, and the fact that Panda likes to blow fire out of its ass when it gets mad at you:
In the past, I’ve been in an Infiniti G35, and a Chevrolet Corvette. But since all three of those cars have gone the way of the dodo bird, my ride for the weekend would be something I’d never even sat in before. We call it the Smurf, because the class it’s legal for is called SMF (Street Modified Front, for the front-wheel drivetrain). Smurf is insane, and is the complete opposite of everything I’ve ever really driven before: Honda. Short wheel-base. Tons of power in front-wheel drive. And BLUE!
Well, you say. She’ll be able to handle it, you say. She’s a good driver, you say. One of the fastest ladies in the country (ok maybe I just try to think that part). But when switching from rear-wheel, to front-wheel drive, you have to switch your entire way of thinking about racing. Theories are backwards, it’s spacially backwards, the opposite wheels are doing all the work…. I’ve been in RWD for so long that it was a huge challenge to change my instincts and even my approach to racing. I could barely even get used to a shorter, lighter car with with insane acceleration and SUPER FAT FRONT TIRES.
The first session, my first four runs in the car, started out all right. I was in third place after the morning session on Saturday. But after that, it all went to shit. I dropped to sixth in the second session, and then was 7th by the end of the weekend. I hit lots of cones (+2 second penalty) for a lot of different reasons, but the end result is that I have a crappy points finish (4 or 5 of a possible 20) and am pretty disheartened about the entire Pro Solo season.
Don’t get me wrong, the car was insanely fun, and my result is because of me – not the Smurf. I couldn’t adapt as quickly as I had hoped, and my performance suffered. I was a wreck with a four-day migraine that didn’t subside till a fellow racer who is also an NP gave me some Floricet, so my social aspect sort of suffered as well – plus the anxiety of seeing a former best friend that publicly turned on me to all the other drivers. It was overall a disappointing weekend, but at least I’ve got a bit more of a tan now.