The Chicago Region SCCA AutoCross Championship which I participated religiously is now finished, and I couldn’t be happier with the results.
I entered the championship highly skeptical. The first race of the championship (of the 6 I participated) was with my then bone stock 2001 Miata (The Molina Special) on a C-Stock index, so I got 85.38 points out of that. On my second and third races I switched from the CS index to the much more handicapping C Street Prepared index due to some mods done to the car. (I am preparing a build post, but don’t expect it to reveal much of my secrets. There’s a reason why my hood only opened for tech inspection on the last 3 races of the season.) The rear tires were stock Goodyear Eagle F1 AS, 195/50 r15. The fronts were BFGoodrich G-Force Sports, same size. The rear left tires were bald, and I could never get the race pressure settings right. On the first of those two races I placed an 84.99, not too far away from my last points and still ahead in raw time of Robert Wadowsky and his WRX, my greatest “frienemy.”
On the way to my third autocross, just on the exit ramp of I-90 towards the track I hit with the right front tire what probably was the biggest pothole I have ever seen. It sounded like the engine exploded and the whole car was shaking to pieces. I stop the car and all tires look normal, but on the paddock a bent and probably cracked rim was identified. I was afraid of the vibrations throwing something important out of the car, like an entire axle or the driver (YES, the vibrations were THAT bad.) I finished all 6 runs after DNF’ing the first 3 due to an aggressive cone attack on my car. The 82.41 points reflect my affliction with the wheel problem.
Tried to get the wheel fixed, when it cracked even more. Time for new tires and wheels. Much lighter and wider wheels with a lower offset made me 700 bucks shorter, but gave me a wider track by 30mm wheel to wheel and a fantastic flush finish, and the new Kumho ECSTA were all season, but wider and stickier then the stock Eagle F1s. The choice of all season tires over UHP summers was on purpose, sticking to my street tire philosophy. (More on that later.) Still getting used to the newly found grip, different tire pressures and car dynamics, I posted an 81.28 and Robert flew past me like I was standing still. Yet, I’ve learned the new limits for the car on the next race (And found the perfect tire pressures and setup.) and recovered on my last 2 races of the season for the fantastic finish you see in the picture.
Credit Andy Seipos
The Molina Special is a fantastic car. My objective for the Special was to design the car so it could be comfortable on the street, still be able to drive all year long with no tire changes, and be able to perform very well on the autocross in all season tires. (Hopefully battling for a few mid pack finishes.) It more than met my expectations: It was the only Miata in the Street Tire top 20, the only CSP car in the Street Tire top 20, 19th car (& driver) out of 148 participating. I drove it home after every event, and I commuted in it every day of the week.
Next year the Special will see a lot less races due to a much reduced budget and other places where I’ll rather spend my money. Call it a temporary retirement. But I am looking towards participating in a few “more exotic” events. Maybe a few rallycross or prosolo races, who knows. 🙂 No track racing yet, from that I am retired until I can find the funds and time to build a dedicated track car. (Which pretty much means permanently retired, since that will likely never happen.)