After a year and a half of many disappointments and issues, I finally got to drive the Jeep again yesterday.
I was VERY pleased at how well the car ran today, and even more pleased as to how well I drove. After a year and a half layoff and not autocrossing anything at all (driving a Honda Pilot for my daily driver), I was more than a little concerned about how rusty I might be, and I certainly didn't want to go out and make a fool out of myself and drive like a newbie! But by my 4th run, I was starting to get very comfortable with the car again, and that alone was a big relief for me. :-)
Run# 1 - DNF
During my first run, the car just turned off in the middle of the run which led me to think "crap". I finally got it restarted and back on course and completed my run. But fortunately, Dan discovered that we had overloaded some type of breaker/relay with too much current. Over the last year and a half while the car was being fixed, Dan had gone through and reworked all the electrical wiring in the car and consolidated many of the "power" wires down to 2 on the distribution panel (and he is going to go back to redistribute the load). Luckily that was an easy temporary fix and we were ready for run number 2.
Run# 2 - 32.293
Run two was my first complete run in that year and a half period, and I was finally glad to get one in the books. I did push a little in a couple of turns (especially the one in the center of the course), but a 1/2 turn on the rear panhard rod adjustment seemed to take care of that problem on run 3. I was slower this run than I wanted to be, but the car and I started feeling a little more comfortable. The old Avon's were getting some heat and starting to grip, so I headed out for the third run.
Run# 3 - 30.272
Run three felt good, I was a little behind on my steering inputs for the final slalom and it cost me some time, but up to that point I felt like I did pretty well and dropped two seconds off my time.
Run# 4 - 29.974
The last run was my best and it also felt the smoothest. The car turned in well and the front felt very planted. In the past I always had issues in the consistency in how the car felt... but that uncertain feeling is no longer there. I still left time out there, but considering all of the changes and my big layoff, I consider this event a BIG success in more ways than one. My final run was a pretty good one and my goal was to break into the 29's, so I was a happy camper. :-) I ended up being one of three vehicles to break into the 29's, one was a BM car that only beat me by 0.090 seconds, and Matt Glagola's SSM Lotus with both of those drivers dipping into the 29's (29.167 and 29.324)
So, what left? Plenty! The car was running on a basic throw it together suspension tune. Other than a few tweaks on the panhhard rod adjustment, no tuning at all has been done to the suspension and we haven't even corner weighed the car yet. How well the car handled out of the box is a great testimony as to how well Dan fixed everything, and I can't say enough about Dan's knowledge of cars and suspensions. I wish he could be with us at every event!
We aren't close to the final power output that we will eventually have, and I understand that we are now making about 18 psi boost, well down from the 28 psi we will eventually have. Our initial timing is also a little low now and that hurt me coming out of the two slow corners, the one just after the start and the one in the center of the course. Much more tuning to come!
Overall it was a great and promising day! Can't wait to get it back out again and thrash it around!
Once again Speedway Motors brings us the compilation video from the 2015 SCCA Solo National Championships held last September in Lincoln Nebraska.
This Nationals post is in reverse order, newest post at the top, oldest toward the bottom.
We're already planning changes to the car and preparing for next year! :-)
Update: Friday PM
Just some additional thoughts...
It was close again this year. I was 0.360 seconds out of the 2nd place spot that Matthew had, I was 0.245 seconds out the previous year. Three 3rd place finishes in a row, and the last two by a total of 0.605 seconds.
Here are the official results from the event. The first row of times for each driver were from the longer and faster east course, the second row of times are from the shorter and tighter west course. I've also created a sortable spreadsheet that gives you different options for viewing.
E Modified 2014 SCCA Solo National Championship
I have uploaded all of our videos from both courses and this will take you to the playlist for all of those videos. Enjoy!
Update: Thursday AM
Well, headed home right now while Jim sleeps and Matthew drives. We're cruising through one of the worst sections of the whole trip... Missouri.
Yesterday was an awesome day. Wednesday was a hotter day than Tuesday which we thought might create some issues for us. The Avons we were running were A15's which are the softest compound. The Kiesel's were running A11's which are a little harder and also take the heat better. We went through two water bottles plus some, just to cool the tires, radiator, and intercooler.
Matthew started the day in 2nd place and his first run just solidified that spot, he came out blazing on his first run and was the first EM car into the 54's. Me... I charged out and had a good run, it was also a 54.xxx but I also had a cone. After the first two runs, Jeff Kiesel was in first, Matthew 2nd, and Jeff Christianson and Mark Kiesel in 3rd and 4th. I got pushed back to 5th after I took an easy 2nd run just to get a clean time. So it all came down to a clean 3rd run. Mark Kiesel made his last run and stayed in the 55's. Matthew came up next and pretty much solidified his 2nd place finish. I was the last car in the class to run and I had to go for it or I was out of the trophy's (only 4 trophy spots). The last run just felt good. The first two runs I felt like I was behind in my hand movements, but this run I was on it. The car worked, I stayed ahead, and came back in with a 54.5xx. Now, I knew that was a time that might have moved me back into 3rd place but I didn't know. EM has to hit the scales to weigh so I waited in line not knowing where I stood. It wasn't until I got back to grid that I found out. AND... my time was actually a hair faster than Matthew's (by 0.021 seconds) which I couldn't believe! But in the end, Matthew finished in 2nd place while I ended up in 3rd for the third year in a row. Gotta tell you, I was one very proud dad for what he accomplished.
Prior to this event, Matthew had only driven the car once. Obviously he didn't need to much more time to get comfortable with it.
The crowning moment was when I got to walk on the podium with Matthew. It's pretty cool to remember when Matthew started out in the Formula Junior karts, and now this. Am I unhappy because Matthew took my 2nd place finish? Are you kidding? Happy as I could be! :-)
I'll be posting pictures after I get back. Some pictures will be a few weeks off, we purchased a boat load of photos but we have to wait until they send us link to download them. I'll also have all the results, but in the meantime, here they are.
Update: Tuesday PM
A long day...
We run last on both days and it's tough when you've been in the heat all day. so how did today go?
Matthew drives first in the Jeep, and he took off just hauled arse today. After the first run he was 1.697 seconds in front of me, and that run put him in 2nd place. Me..., it wasn't until my last run that I managed a decent run and good enough for 4th place and the last trophy spot. I would post the results here but it doesn't paste very well so here is the link to our results. Tomorrow is another day and the course may be better suited to our car. Today's course was fast and open and we rode the rev-limiter all over the course, so we lost a decent amount of time. Tomorrow's course is more transition intensive and suit the smaller cars more.
So... as it stands today, Matthew is in 2nd place, 2.357 seconds out of 1st, and I'm in 4th place, .381 seconds behind Matthew. We are both behind the Kiesel's Mean Green Machine and that is the only car ahead of us.
Update: Monday PM
Yesterday was a LONG day. After leaving at 7pm Saturday, we arrived about 11am Sunday. The trip didn't go without a hitch, as the trailer blew a tire 20 minutes into the journey. 20 minutes later we were back on the road to Lincoln.
The days become a blur, we're up at 5am every day, and don't get back to the room until almost 8 at night. Today we had practice. The car was absolutely terrible until we put on the new tires... and it then became a totally different car. In one word... AWESOME. Under hard acceleration we're picking the front tires off the ground.
Matthew has got this car figured out. I can't wait until tomorrow to see how he stacks up.
Jeep Jr. was there today, so we got them side by side and took some pictures. Jeep Jr. is not quite finished but it is running and will compete.
The first National Championship that I attended seems so long ago. Actually, it was a LONG time ago, all the way back to 1980 as a matter of fact. Back then we didn't have computers to write about our exploits, or post pictures and videos. But here we are in 2014 and we have all kinds of fancy tools to let the world know what we're doing.
This will be the first year for me to chronicle my trip to the National Championships. In the past I've done it as an after thought, but this year I'm going to try to do a little better job. Also, from the menu at the top of the page, there is a link to a whole page about what the Jeep really is. Thanks again this year to Jim Murphy (the car owner) and Del Long, the car builder. Also thanks to Dan McMahan who has spend countless hours working and tweaking the car, and Chequered Flag Automotive for the work they've done.
This year will be the third year that I've driven the Jeep in Lincoln, and the first two times I was crushed by the Jeff Kiesel juggernaut Mean Green Machine, his KFR Turbo Sprite. And of course, it's not just the car. After watching and talking to Jeff the last few years, I'm come to see a competitor that is probably the most intense and dedicated person I've ever seen autocross. Jeff is great, his car is great, and it will take the same effort from anyone that believes they have a chance to beat him. So all the other competitors in the class have to be realistic about their chances of winning a National Championship, and maybe hope for a podium in 2nd or 3rd.
Last year I managed a 3rd place finish again (two 3rd's now in the Jeep), just 0.245 seconds out of 2nd place. The 2nd place finisher? Jeff's dad of course, driving the Sprite. Looking back (hindsight is always the best...) at the videos and re-running the courses in my head, I probably found enough time to beat Jeff... but again, that's only in my head. :-) But I did leave a lot of time on the course, and with some of the excellent competition in this class, you can't afford to do that.
One person I personally worry about the most is Bob Tunnell, with (if I counted correctly) 6 National Championships under his belt. But it doesn't stop with Bob, we also have Ron Ver Mulm with 2 National Championships (plus a brand new HOT Camaro), Sam Platt with 4 National Championships, and of course, the reining champion Jeff Kiesel, with 7 straight EM Solo Championships, not to mention all of his Pro Solo Championships. So you can see why I felt pretty good about third place the last couple of years... just not good enough. This year needs to be different... Mark Kiesel, I'm coming after you! :-) I'd start talking smack to Mark but he's much too nice to do that to. Changes have been made to the Jeep this year and hopefully those changes will help to whittle down some of the time between me and Jeff. Also keep in mind, Jeff's dad (Mark) has finished in 2nd in front of me for the last two years... time to put an end to that Mark! There are other talented drivers in the class and many can be right near the top on any given day. Everyone brings their "A" game to this event.
Going with me and Jim this year is my 24 year old son Matthew. Matthew started autocrossing in karts when he was 12 (back then that was the earliest you could start) and has autocrossed on and off since then. He was pretty fast as a kid and qualified twice for the Semi-Finals for the Red Bull Driver Search. But he's been mostly "off" for the last few years, as he has focused on track days with his iTrackMotorsports track business instead of autocross events. He's driven the Jeep one time back in July and that's it, so it should be interesting. The higher speeds of the Nationals courses will suit him well though, and with some uncanny car control, I expect him to do very well, and I think that he is going to surprise a lot of the EM regulars. He's NOT going to do as well as myself of course, but he maybe right behind me. :-) Of course if you ask him, it's the other way around, so this is going to be very interesting and fun! This is also his first trip to the Nationals.
We hit the road about 7pm Saturday night and are driving straight through (about 15 hours) to Lincoln. So please check back, we're going to have a blast no matter what!
Just a few of the cars in our class this year
Just some thoughts about driving the "Jeep", a SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) E Modified car that remotely looks like a Jeep. The Jeep is owned by Jim Murphy, so I just show up and drive it!