There really is nothing like sliding sideways in a controlled environment, with clouds of snow billowing past your rear window. The rallycross crowd truly enjoys driving off road, especially in bad weather. The group was larger than our average attendance for all of 2009. The winds were fierce at times, but occasionally the sun would come out.
My ninja photographer was present, covered up but not exactly blending in with the surroundings (dressed in black in a white-out environment). I had a co-driver, who proved to be exceptionally good his first time out. I also took out a new vehicle for the first time. The 98 Legacy had her first snow-cross outing. (I say first snowcross outing, because I know she’s rallycrossed before, at least one time with a previous owner.)
The ice proved a formidable foe to our all-season tires. Patience was needed around corners, making sure that at least one tire was on the powdery snow to the inside of the turn before getting on the throttle. Lessons from Team O’neil Rally School were used in full-force. Left-foot braking was a necessity!
If you have never tried rallycross before, I urge you to come out and at least watch. Check your local region SCCA web page for local events, or the national site for regional/national info. For me personally, it was one of the best Valentine’s days I’ve ever had.
I know I know I live in Nebraska winter is supposed to last a while, but this is getting ridiculous (Christy!). For all your non daily driver cars this is a great time to spend on the car checking fluids or “nut and bolting” your cars suspension. All to often these things are left till there is a problem to work on. If you regularly check things and keep threads clean and free changes or repairs down the line will be much easier. This is especially true for daily driver weekend racers. I have worked on MANY members cars with frozen suspension parts and know how much time and added expense can be caused by rusted rotted hardware.
With all the wet stuff on the roads and salt in some of your areas it is worth your time to jack up the car and spray a little penetrating oil on the nuts and bolts that are so exposed to the harsh elements. Does not take any real time and you can look for problems while your in there. We all take our types of racing pretty seriously even though the reward is purely excitement. Keeping your car in the best maintained state will make it last longer and your performance stay top notch!
Since none of us, or at least most of us, don’t have unlimited funds for ‘upgrading’ our cars, saving money is always a plus. While shopping for upgrades for my car this offseason I have found a few opportunities out there for saving money. A great place to start your shopping is to find some of the more popular forums/websites that are primarily about your car. Undoubtedly there are other enthusiasts on the internet who also share your passion for whatever vehicle it is that you have. These sites are great ways to find out about an array of new, existing and future products for your car. As well as a place to read about others experiences with these products and get advice on what might be best for you in particular. There may even be instructions and walk-throughs on how to install the products yourself, which can definitely save you some big money on installation costs if you are willing to dig in and maybe get a bit dirty.
Another great resource that can be found on these sites is the For Sale section. There are always people trying to unload parts that they either don’t want, need or can’t afford any longer. Most of these products will be discounted sometimes heavily, even for new or like new items. This can result in great opportunities for savings for you if you can find the right deal. Usually this will take some patience and maybe even a little luck if you are looking for something specifically. The other drawback to this is you have to usually deal with someone you don’t know and who may live clear across the country. Make sure you are comfortable with the terms of the sale before you send anyone any money. PayPal is a good payment choice as it offers some kind of protection for you as a buyer if you happen to have any issues.
Since you have managed to find a community with lots of people who have a shared interest, this can be used as an advantage to save money by ordering in quantity. This is usually referred to as a ‘group buy’ and you would be surprised as to how many vendors are willing to give a substantial discount for getting as few as 5 orders at once. Group buys are regularly set up by manufacturers and vendors for new or existing products that they want to create extra buzz for, but group buys can also be set up by community members by contacting a manufacturer or vendor and checking what kind of deals that can be given for a certain level of committed buyers.
The internet is a great resource, not only for information, but for saving money as well! If anyone has any added advice on ways to save dollars please share it in the comments below.
This winter I have been working on preparing my car for the class I was running in last year and will be again this year. This is my first attempt at really preparing a car, so a lot of my articles here will be about my experiences as a n00b to car set up.
The first thing that came up for me and I am sure comes up for others is “Where Do I Start?” There are so many possibilities of modifications to be done to a car, it’s really hard to know where to start. A great place to start is to read The Rules, even if this is not your first time preparing a car or if you already have a car it is a good idea to read the rules every year to make sure a rule change does not affect you. I know that seems very simple and possibly boring, but the rules are a great resource to get you started on your journey.
If you do not have a car yet or have not decided which car you want to drive or set up, the rules can guide you through the class eligibility of the car. This can be very important in the decisions you make, as you don’t want to get stuck in a class where either the car itself doesn’t have any kind of competitive chance or the upgrades that you plan to do (or have already been made) don’t put you some place you would rather not be.
The rules can also help you choose the class you want to prepare your car for. Most of us have limited budgets when it comes to our cars, so knowing what upgrades (or other costs) it will take to be competitive can really help out in the decision making process.
If you have a car and know what class you want to be in, as was in my case, the rules can still be a very useful place to start.
For starters, reading the rules can keep you out of trouble by making sure you don’t do something you can’t do. One thing to remember is that if the rules don’t explicitly state you can do something, you can’t do it, no matter how small or trivial it is. So make sure to check out everything before you do it, because the last thing you want to do is to spend money or time on something that you may have to undo later on.
While you are reading the rules it is good to make a list of things that you can do and some things to watch out for when you are making decisions on which parts to buy, etc. Without a thorough understanding of the rules it can be very easy to do something that crosses the line and doesn’t make your car legal for the class anymore. The rules are very specific on what and how things should be done, so it is somewhat easy to do something you are not supposed to do because you would not have even thought about it being a big deal.
Since you now have a list of legal modifications you can do, it will be much easier to pick out the items you want to do to get started and quickly eliminate any ideas that you had previously, that don’t make sense any more, giving you a great place to get started.
There will be mud…
Switch supermarkets. Eat cardboard. Do whatever it takes to find a few extra quid a month. Because Prodrive has just launched this Impreza Group N rally car and for the first time ever, you can have it on a monthly lease plan. Then, after two years when you’re the new Seb Loeb, it will be yours (after one final and probably rather fat payment).
Or if you’ve got a spare £120,000, you can buy it upfront. Prodrive reckons it’s almost as quick as next year’s WRC cars (when the championship switches to less ballistic regs), while costing half as much.
The key, we’re told, is the air restrictor – its diameter has increased by, erm, a whole millimetre. With the new set of lungs, some high-flow fuel injectors and a tickled ECU, you get 20bhp more than the old car. It also gets new dampers with more travel.
And if you go for the lease-plan option, Prodrive will throw in free insurance, which is useful when you hit trees and goats and stuff.
One of the first things to realize when it comes to car control and attending your first event is that things need to be linked together. You are not shooting down a straight, going through the braking area and then turning the corner. You need to imagine the entire course as a fluid trip and find the fast way from one element to the next. It is always easier to start out slow and learn to speed up then to develop habits that you need to “unlearn” later. This is not to say the Solo racing is not aggressive because it is, and once you “get it” meaning the flow of it you will ramp up the energy to combine fury with smooth.
A common mistake for beginners is to make the car extremely stiff right off the start. This places far more pressure on you as a novice because the car will react faster than you know how to. In this situation you will always be behind the car (slower) and take much longer to get it right. The softer set up will be slower than a properly driven set up car, but a poorly driven stiff car will always be slower than a well driven soft car. The tires will not have as much time to communicate with you before loosing traction when a car is stiff, and they will take a “set” faster making the available slip angle (steering angle or sliding angle of the tire) much smaller thus the window of grip will be reduced for you to “learn”.
Check tires often so you can see how the changing temps affect the pressures. This will help you learn how to “tune” the cars handling without having to change parts right away. You will also be able to optimize overall grip of the existing suspension. Don’t mistake the markings on the sidewalls (scuff marks onto the sidewall of the tire after a run) as always the need to add air. Ask yourself if you caused it or the tire did. Over steering when you have lost grip will cause this and the hardest thing to learn is that you are are causing it and not always the car. You need to get the feel for when you have lost grip and “stop” turning the wheel, this is the way you let the grip catch up. This is one of the absolute hardest things to learn about car control and when you master it you will be amazed what can be done with a car.
Welcome to the all new GotCone.com blog, which will hopefully provide some tips and discussion of ways to make you and your car better. And we all want that don’t we? I am hoping the blog will become a great resource for all things autocross, rallycross and racing in general.
If you don’t know yet who I am, my name is David and I am the one who has taken the majority of the photos you can find in the photo gallery. I also drove a 2008 BMW 135i in STU last year and will be doing so again this year.
Mark is currently the Performance Auto Manager at Woodhouse Auto Family. Mark competes in SCCA Solo, where he currently drives a Dodge Viper and has finished as high as 2nd at SCCA Solo Nationals (in ESP).
Jon has been participating in autocross since 2000 and has driven a wide variety of vehicles. Jon has trophied twice at Solo Nationals, 12th in STX (2009 Solo Nationals E30 BMW M3) and 12th in STS (Subaru 2.5 RS). He has also competed in rallycross on a somewhat regular basis. He is very knowledgeable when it comes to car set up and has recently started his own business (Tarsust).
Christy drives a 2006 Subaru STi in STU(L). She placed 3rd at 2009 SCCA Solo Nationals and 2nd at the 2006 SCCA Rallycross Nationals and has been participating in autocross and rallycross since 2005.
Hopefully some of you will find the information that will be provided in this blog useful. If you have a topic you would like addressed please feel free to let us know.
If you would like to contribute to the blog please let me know, as I would like to add a few more people to the blog.
For autocrossers living north of 40 degrees, winter can be an excruciating time. The season has ended, a new one doesn’t start until mother nature decides. We’re stuck with our cars in the garage and our tires in the basement. (You know, because our garages are never insulated as well as we wish they were.) So how is it possible to stay in top-autox shape with snow on the ground? Here are a few ideas that are helping us through the dark months.
1. Invest in a good game console, wheel, pedals, and that HD LCD TV you’ve been dreaming about for a while now. I highly recommend the XBOX 360 with Forza 3. This year, we purchased a gaming seat from playseats.com to suppliment this experience. It was well worth the investment. Practice daily to keep your eye-hand coordination in tip-top shape.
2. Make a ‘wish list’ of items to get for the car. If you are doing a new build for a new class, this is essential. Start getting parts now for fast fitting, in case you need to make adjustments. Its better to make those adjustments early in the season instead of the week of nationals. Figure out your budget and race schedule.
3. Focus on the fitness of the driver. Are you in the best shape you can be? Could you lose a few pounds? Focus on stamina and dropping weight safely. Remember, weight off of you is also weight off the car.
While we may not be able to drive every weekend, we can still prepare for the upcoming season, even with snow on the ground!