Sunday, July 7, 2013

Flagging Autobahn (2013)

Working my club's event at Autobahn Country Club is how I compensate for not working the vintage sports car races I posted about in June.  My conscience-clearing deal with myself is that working the former allows me to wander the paddock and take snapshots and chat up owner/drivers at the latter. So I worked two solid days this weekend, corner flagging.  A 20-something may be able to spend 9+ hours a day on his feet and feel fine, but my ancien legs are aching as I type this.

Turn 6 on ACC's South Loop was the spectating "find" of the weekend.  The actual corner
station is on the outside of the turn, not the inside as shown here.  Which makes for more
interesting viewing--and a higher likelihood that an errant race car will head your way.
Fortunately for us, most of the drama involving the exit of Turn 5 involved spinouts.

The "find" of this weekend was Corner 6 on ACC's South Loop.  I liked it so much on Saturday that Hotshoe and I requested it again on Sunday.  On the track map, it appears to be a double apex turn.  Until you look closer: the second apex is tighter, so in reality 6 is a medium speed decreasing-radius bend.  Which makes for some fascinating spectating.  On entry, it looks wide enough for two cars if they're heads-up and giving each other room.  It's not: "two-into-one won't go" at the second apex. Slower cars were trying to let faster ones by, sometimes, on the inside or the outside.  But the overtaking rate is a finely-judged thing.  The faster car must be clearly "through" by the second apex.  If it's not, and on the inside, the passee on the outside is inevitably forced into "two wheels off, driver's left."  If the faster car is on the outside, the passee runs out of road, must hit the brakes, blow the turn, and again run wide on driver's left.  Or go straight off, or spin, if he puts late rotation into the car to try to make the corner.

A related learning experience for me was the quicker vs. the slower line, arising from the same mis-reading of Turn 6.  It's illustrated below.  A lot of drivers (including me, in wannabe conga lines, until now) take the pink line--which is slower, even though the illustration suggests a wider, smoother arc. The quick line is shown in black.  Even though it's a tighter arc, your braking is completed sooner, without trail-braking (or the temptation thereof) and you're back on the power sooner.

The two basic options for a line through Turn 6 at ACC.  Competitors use both, but the black one is
quicker than the pink one.  This illustration is "upside down" from the track map above because it is
easier to orient yourself in a direction of travel that's "up."  The "power down" points are closer to each
other than shown here, but the point is that you can get back into the gas sooner using the black line,
without giving up significant cornering velocity.  This is important because Turn 6 feeds onto the
long straight with a dogleg in it.

Well, enough of that: on to the "race report."  ACC is where the rich play with their toys, so I include a picture of their Garage Mahals.  Enlarge it by clicking if you want to see how the other half lives.  I was amused to be told by an ACC employee that most members have Spec Miatas for beater cars.  Beater in the sense that they beat on the Miatas all day long for track fun.  The rare and valuable stuff stays in the garages except on special occasions.

Turn 6 flag station on the South Loop, "Garage Mahals" in background.  Some are three stories.  Some have basements!
The dent in the guardrail shows that an errant car can hit the Armco even at Station 6.  I'd have thought that to be very
unlikely, if not impossible.  Maybe a right front suspension or brake failure...

Both HSAX and W2W entries for this event were rather small.  Holiday weekend?  The "find" of the HSAX entry was the Nissan GT-R.  I had not seen one in the flesh until now.  Its an awesomely fast street car, which I suppose is not news.  The revelation, to me, was that a GT-R can pound a Corvette to dust in HSAX.  Any Corvette: big-block 454 C3, C5, C6, Z-06--doesn't matter.  The GT-R we watched upshifted three times between Turn 6 and and braking for Turn 8.  Lightning fast paddle shifts, of course.  It may have been a modified car, with more turbo boost, because the driver was into the pop-off valve all the time.  (I was unable to find out if it was trick or not.)   But there was another, less well-driven GT-R, that looked to be just as fast as the Corvettes too (as opposed to stomping them).

My favorite wheel-to-wheel entry: a Mustang squareback prepared to vintage (SCCA B Production) specs.  The X on
the hood signifies novice status.  He didn't drive like a novice.  This is the short straight between Turns 5 and 6.

On Sunday morning a Porsche 944 did a "ka-BLAM-o" on the short straight between Turns 5 and 6.  To our astonishment, he managed to limp around the course on three cylinders, thoroughly oiling it from 6 all the way to 11.  This is a no-no, of course.  Drivers' Meetings include a standard reminder to switch off and pull off the racing surface ASAP if your engine blows.  But people forget in the heat of battle, or they want to get back to the pits to see if the day can be salvaged.  So the ACC staff spent 40 minutes laying down buckets and buckets of Oil Dri, and sweeping it up.  There was far too much oil for us to handle, even in our own little corner of the world at Turn 6.  We retrieved the pieces in the second picture before the ACC crew went to work.

The 944 driver would easily have won a Least Popular Driver Of The Weekend Award.  There was much cutting-and-
pasting of Sunday's schedule, including 10 minutes for lunch for corner workers, to get everything in.

Aluminum no longer part of the oil sump on the plywood floor of our corner station.  And a fragment of rod-bearing.
And a small piece (bottom) we couldn't identify.  One corner workers' duty is to police the course after an "event" to
make sure debris like this doesn't wind up in other competitors' tires.

Well-to-do Garage Mahal types are not the only people who beat on Miatas.  "The Miatia race" is a well-worn butt of club racing jokes.  There always seems to be a 30-car field which subscribes to the NASCAR proposition that rubbin' is racin' (some more, some less).  From a worker's viewpoint, and often from the drivers', these races can be predicable mini-disasters.  This time, the race was relatively clean with more "oops" spinouts than avoidable contact.  We saw some two-wheels-off, but the Miata race was surprisingly and gratifyingly boring.

To finish up what seems to have become a Miata-themed post, I followed two Miata racers out of ACC onto the public roads in my street car.  They were obviously street-legal, if a bit loud.  (I suspect some parts are changed-out to pass the Illinois Emission Test.)  They made me smile: throwbacks to that mythical era in the 1950's when you were supposed to be able to drive your sports car to the track, race, and drive home.  It happened rarely, of course.  Even then, most cars were race-prepared and trailered in.  But, if you just want to race for hits and giggles, it's still possible to run a Miata with a license plate in wheel-to-wheel racing.

A good time was had by all.  Except maybe the owners of some bent cars, the ACC track maintenance crew, and the 944 driver who doubtless got a talking-to by the Chief Steward to add insult to the injury of his, for now, door-stop of a race car.

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