My Second Autocross Season

Today, the last autocross event of 2018, was incredible.  Allow me to tell the story.  It was a dark and stormy night.  Well, actually it was a dark and stormy morning.  It had been pouring rain for what felt like forever and when I woke up at 5:30 AM, it was still pouring. Drove down to the event in said pouring rain and darkness.  The weather forecast indicated rain until around 11 and then strong winds in the afternoon.

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At this event, I was co-driving my car (two drivers, same car).  We were in run group 1, which meant driving first.  The course was covered in water.  During my co-driver’s first run, he proceeded to spin out in my car, twice.  During my second run, I spun out once.  While not fast runs, they were fun!  More importantly, I had never spun out my car before during autocross!  And while that may seem like a bad thing to have spun out, I learned that I could do it and recover and not die.  This is a big deal.  Not being afraid gets you (or at least me) faster.

The rain finally stopped and the wind came out in full force.  We had to double up the cones so they didn’t blow away.  The timing antenna fell over.  A port-a-potty fell over.  Good times.

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The good news is that the wind dried up the pavement.  My co-driver was and is faster than me, which was really great to see how he drove my car on that course.  Between that and the fear I had shed about spinning out, I was free to push it a lot harder than I normally do.  I came within 3/10ths of a second for first place in my class today. (For a chronic second placer, this was HUGE.  Also, my co-driver is the one I’m trying to beat in first place.)

At some point this year, I realized I wasn’t going to get first place, so I wanted to just work on getting better.  I chose the slalom element to focus on.  After one of my runs, my co-driver turned to me (not knowing my goal of improving the slalom) and said, “That slalom was really good!”.

The final icing on today’s amazing autocross day was after.  A guy walked up and was checking out my MINI.  He said my MINI looked fast out on the course.  Then at the bar after the event, another driver walked up and said my MINI looked fast.

To recap, it was pouring, I spun out, I was THIS CLOSE to first place, I improved the thing I wanted to improve, and two people complimented my car.

Now to the actual year-end round up and stats

In last year’s roundup I gave stats about my times, relative to each other.  While I knew that was not the best indicator, it was still useful to me.  (Not the best idea since courses can vary by length or complexity, and weather can be a factor).  This year I’d like to give a better indicator of performance: ranking.  Ranking allows me to see how I did relative to people driving the same course in the same weather conditions (clearly pointed out to me today).

A little explanation:  autocross is classed by vehicle (including modifications).  That way my stock MINI Cooper isn’t competing with a completely modified Corvette.  Classes try to level the playing field.  However, my class only had three to four people in it all year.  So while I was consistently in second place, it’s hard to feel amazing about that and even harder to glean any sort of progress or lack there of from those rankings.

So I went ahead and grabbed the stats from last year and this year and combined my class (F), with the two classes above me (E and D).  This does indeed mean I am comparing myself with cars that may have more horsepower, better tires, better suspension, etc.  But it also gives me a much larger group to see how I ranked.

1st event 2017:  23rd out of 24

Last event 2017: 22nd out of 28

A nice improvement here, which I felt as you can see in my round up from last year.

1st event 2018: 15th out of 20

Still improving over last year, not amazing, but better.  One interesting note, I think I did better right away this year because I had new tires.  I think my improvement came 50% from the actual tires and 50% from my CONFIDENCE in my tires.  See above where less fear == more faster.

Last event 2018: 8th out of 15!

I’m almost in the top half!

Really pleased with all that I learned this year.  So excited to learn more next year!

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