Solo event #5 – Just spinning in the rain

Yes, this is the only picture we got from this weekend thanks to photo bug Ethan Connor and his phone!

The most adverse weather that local autocrossers have had to deal with this year was a few scorching hot days at Pittsburgh International Raceway.  But on August 5th, the sky’s opened and at times dumped almost biblical rains on the VDA.  The unfortunate weather, combined with the Peru national tour which several SCR members were attending, would result in a low turnout for event #5 with a mere 33 entries.  However this in no way impacted what was a exciting multiple driver chase for FTD as the day progressed.

The course, designed by Frank Gaus, was fairly simple and open with the finish of the course being skewed more towards the center of the VDA than off to the side.  The fast & flowing design was nothing unusual and even offered a bit of openness to drivers wanting to drive different lines.  This was key since the first heat drivers dealt with bucket loads of standing water.  Tire index went out first in a feeble attempt to establish a driving line.  In true miata owner fashion, Bill Schaefer lowered his top before taking his first runs on the course.  However shortly after leaving the line, the little red Miata pitched sideward in the famous “sandbox” turn where much of the water had gathered to drain off the VDA.  Bill’s slide sent a plume of water several feet into the air, but thankfully avoided coming back down in his interior!  The sandbox was the bane of many drivers up until the end of the day.  However there was hope.  Tim Ward was fresh off the SCR autocross school and had traded his WRX up for a STI.  Tim’s new Subaru made short work of the course running several times down into the 42 second range.  Other drivers in front wheel drive platforms made good on their times as well.  Greg Maloy’s CRX with its light weight and Toyo tires pounded hard though the rain to reel in a 43.844 and put himself near the top of the PAX chart.  In SMF Pete Kowalik is possibly nearing the end of his run with his trusty Pontiac Vibe since he’s rumored to move over to a new Golf R.  While the world’s fastest Vibe will be missed, this didn’t stop Pete from bringing down a smoking 42.894 to also send him to the top of the morning standings.  At the end of the morning runs, the junior karts were sent out to complete their full set of runs.  You have to give it to the kids as their karts offer no protection from the elements.   It was quite a sight to see the tiny karts throwing off four rooster tails from the tires much like F1 cars in the rain.  One noteworthy sight was number 24 Garrett Hill who was managing to do complete 360’s on the course and continue as if nothing had happened.  It was about to get weirder.  A flash of lighting forced a event shut down as the karts finished their final runs.  A decision was made to start the lunch break while waiting out the storm

Following lunch some of the excess water had left the course, allowing for faster times than the morning heat.  Much of SCR’s bigger horsepower cars took to the course, often with comical results.  The SS class was reduced to nothing more than tip toeing around the course or spin off into the abyss.  One would think that Mark Andy’s choice of all season tires would have been a good one in such conditions.  But the overall speed of the vette was down compared to the other cars who stayed on race tires.  Randy Pearson managed a 41.711 in his big Z06.  Only bested in the morning by Chris Carlisle who luckily got a 41.598 out of the Jay Gyger GT3.  Ethan Connor managed to upstage the SS class in raw time with a 41.387 out of his D street prepared BMW.  Mike Ferchak took a stab at PAX with a 43.953 while drifting along in his 2.5 RS Subaru.  And the F125 kart of Greg & Tim Vincent made a splash (literally) with 36.277 from Greg and a 36.938 from Tim.  However the big news was the return of the rejuvenated Gaus Evo.  While still running a bit out of tune, the AWD monster stretched its legs in the rain and ran away to the top of the PAX index.  But the real story was the first driver to do it was not Frank with his 38.906, but rather Kristi who would walk away from the first heat with a 38.357 which was PAX lead.

With the early lunch break things rolled right back around to the first morning group taking shots at a now drying course.  The tire index class had a massive shaking up as drivers looked for emerging dry spots.  Usual tire index stalwart Alex Artayet was regulated back to 4th place in class with a series of cones on his last runs.  Taking advantage of the situation was newcomer Matthew Shuble in his bright green Porsche Cayman R into 3rd.  Another student of SCR’s first drivers school, John Fink put his skills to good use and brought his C6 Corvette up to take the 2nd place position.  However, it would be Bill Schaefer who would emerge victorious with his first overall win for 2012 in the index class.  Pete Kowalik would go ahead to take the win in SMF over Dennis Witt.  Will this be the last hurrah for the Vibe or will it appear once more at SCR #6?  Another very odd battle was brewing over in the XP class.  Trevor Hill found himself strapped into the V8 Spongebob Miata of all around good guy Don Fezekas.  Despite not being a good day to learn a short wheelbase, high horsepower V8 car.  Trevor took the fight to the Charnesky Z06 with a 37.286 to Chester Jr’s 37.718 thus letting Trevor take home the win.  Despite the last heat having the driest course, this wouldn’t stop Mike Ferchek from pushing his Subaru to a 5th place PAX finish with a 38.120 for the day.

The grand finale loomed as SS, ASP, and DSP all returned to do battle.  The course was mostly dry at this point, aside from spots were water had maybe dried and left a bit of excess dirt on the line.  Giving drivers something to think about as the grip varied along the course.  What happened next was a dizzying account of rapidly falling times.  The opening volley from many of the SS cars was met with spins and cones due to the unpredictable grip in spots.  Frank Gaus came out of the gate with a 36.881 and took the early lead.  What happened after that became a race down to the wire.  With the line clearing off Ethan Connor pushed his BMW down to a 36.596 much to the awe of a small gallery of spectators who had gathered to watch.  But the drops in time was far from over as the SS cars now gained their footing.  Randy Pearson’s 35.263 was followed by Mark Andy’s 35.531 as the Corvette’s were no longer traction hungry.  Kristi Gaus cracked off a 35.972 but just one cone tarnished the effort.  As the SS group prepared for their final runs, Randy pushed the corvette down to 35.236 which was a minimal improvement over his fastest run, but good enough for the win in SS.  Mark Andy coned early in his last run, but still had the time for 2nd in SS with a 35.531.  Followed by Jay Gyger bringing the Porsche GT3 in with a 36.757 to hold down 3rd in SS.  Ethan’s final run in the BMW would be no faster, but still good enough for a 5th place overall PAX finish.  Just ahead of Ethan would be Kristi with a 35.894 which placed her 4th in PAX.  Randy & Mark would round out the 2nd & 3rd place positions respectively.  So who won all this madness?  On his final run Frank Gaus pulled out 34.835 to take the PAX win for event #5.

When event 6 rolls around on August 12th and PIRC, many of the competitors will hit the required six events to trophy in a class.  But at this point in the year no single person has won PAX more than once.  Driver of the year is still anybody’s game.  Hopefully the weather is more kind out next event and we hope to see you out there!

SCR Solo would also like to acknowledge several SCR members who went to Peru this same weekend to represent the region.  Cory Robb, Brian Huber, Mike Figilolia, and Joe Montuoro.  And we would like to extend a big congratulations to Dan Ireland to getting his first trophy in his Grand Sport Corvette, nice work Dan!

The course from Randy Pearson’s Z06

And a bit of sliding fun from Mike Ferchek!