Meadowlands SCCA Autocross 4-29-2018

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Originally Tim, Zig and Scott had both signed on to do the Northern New Jersey SCCA Solo event #4 at Metlife Stadium.  But Zig bagged out due to a Boy Scout camping mud festival. Then Tim had family troubles and had to bag out. Then Scott tore a hole in the sidewall of one of his tires (DAMN you, NJ Winter potholes!), and he had to bag out. This was unacceptable, so I offered Scott a co-driver seat in my car. Actually he took Tims because Tim had already griped about naving to run Autocross in an Acura quasiwagon.

one benefit of this arrangement is that I would need to transport Scott to the race, which gave me an excuse for a kitchen pass to go to lovely Bay Head NJ and hang out at the shore on the first truly springlike evening of the year. Plus we got to have dinner & drinks at The Ark in Point Pleasant. That place used to be our hang out in the Summer before kids and mortgages.

The downside was that we heeded to get up 45 minutes earlier than we would have in Morris County. Not a bad trade off.

so we woke at 5:30 for a quick hit of gacon and eggs and caffeine and hit the road. It was still drizzling rain from the night before which would have forced us to ride with the soft top on (and thus crawl in and out of the Lotus like  contortionist lizards), except we would have had to put the top on regardless because with helmets and cameras and my overnight bag there was no room to stow the roof.

plus it had gotten cold. Very cold.

so we rode the Turnpike all buttoned up but watched the skies slowly clear. It was shaping up to be good racing weather! Around Exit 15 we came across a caravan of Nissan 370Zs with… interesting paint jobs. At first I figured they were going to the same place we were for the same reason. And then I noticed that they were in varying degrees of “stanced” customization. Hmmmm… no self respecting SCCA Autocross nerd would EVER do that to a dar. This turned out to be an indication of trouble to come. Because…

When we arrived at the Stadium, the normal entrance to the D-Lot, where NNJ runs its events, was blocked off with cones. Odd. Also no sign if the crowd of cars that should be getting ready to race. Double odd. There was a pickup truck woth car-type guys parked on the shoulder. So Inasked where the race was and the pointed ne to Lot J. We drove there and were greeted with a lot full of cones and a bunch of cars that looked like the right kind. But after wriggling out of my car and signing the initial waivers I got blocked trying to get my run groupnassignment.They had no record of ne or my car number. Moment of panic, and then…

”Is this the SCCA?”

”Nope. Thise guys are in Lot D”

SHIT!

scramble back into the car (drawing blood), rush gack to Lot D and look at it better. They had set up on the OPPOSITE side. Mad dash to register, sign waivers, get rungroups and job assignments, get the car oast tech inspection, and an abbreviated walk of the course gefor the jandatory drivers meeting.

And here is where Bing and Zig will eat their hearts out. Look at the track. Do you seeit?

How about here? See it yet?

 

 

Yes, the course is wide ooen sweeping turns. Not a single hairpin, box turn, or slalom. This course was going to be fast (for an autocross). No, I am referring to the chalk lines. The glorious and geautiful chalk lines. This is a feature every autocrosser has wished for. A big part of the challenge for dilletante racers like us is getting lost among the sea of cones. With a chalk line defining the route, the risk of going off course is drastically reduced and you can concentrate more fully on the racing aspects (line, theottle, brake, and traction)

Hallelujah!

scott and I were assigned to work the first heat and race in the third. He got corner work, out in the cold wind with inadequate insulation. I got van duty, marking down the car number and racing class of each car at the staging area and listening on the radio to mark down any Kone Killah penalties. Not to organizers: are you sure you want the guy with a dead soot in his central vision squinting at car numbers? Actually, the car niumbers were fine for me to see. It was theracing class that is usually skimped on and a problem to read. I hold a soecial place of hatred for the bastards who used tone-on-tone numbers. Grey numbers on a grey car suck.

But I did love the guy in the Fiat Abarth who had wnat we thought were NO numbers… until it was discovered that his number was 500. Get it? He had his number direct from the factory, albeit too small for even the eagle-eyed to read.

After the first heat, we had the second heat off and I took some videos. We were positioned near the finish box:

 

 

Then it came our time to run. Here is Scott staging for his first oass:

Here is my third oass, cockpit view. I was exoerimenting with putting the GoPro on my helmet. Hence tge awesome view of my windshield frame.

Isteadily improved my time in runs one, two, and three. Then I got cocky in run 4 and spun out;>:

This made ne jittery for runs five and six. I blame that for not improving my time firther:

There were some interesting cars running that day. Like this Frankenstang (an LS engine swapped Mustang):

 

And this Nissan GTR with an epic wing:

 

 

And the 2013-2015 SCCA Solo national champion in his heavily worked RX7:

 

oh, one final thing: besides the TWO autocross events at t Metlife Stadium there was also the “Ckean Car Culture” event, That was where thise stanced 370Zs were giing. Saw a lot of loud oaint jobs and susoension abominations that day, but the announcers for our race were oarticularly salty. They reoeatedly slammed and made fun of the Clean Car Culture guys. Truthfully, they didn’t bother with us so it may have been a bit cruel.

 

Went home satisfied and sore from a long racing day. Looking for Bing to host an autocross event real soon now :-).

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll see your “Adventure Bike” and raise you an honest-to-God Adventure

And by “adventure” I mean “a disaster that happened to someone else”

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start at the beginning, more or less:

Pre-Ride

The very day before this saga begins, S# had acquired his very own new-to-him BMW R1200GS. S# being S#, he was super-eager to take his new toy out on a Real Ride. Meanwhile, Josh (nickname pending), being a year into his life as a motorcycle rider, needed to do a more serious rode. Something beyond the one-hour loops that he has been doing for practice. So on Saturday afternoon I met Josh for lunch and then helped him wake up his bike from Winter storage.

While packing up his gear, he started his Moto Guzzi to make sure that the battery and fuel were fresh, and because the day was still chilly he left it running to warm up. After a minute or so of running, the bike suddenly started emitting a screech. It was troubling enough to cause him to shut it down immediately. We poked at the bike, and then used the Software Engineer’s troubleshooting technique: Restart it and see if it happens again :-).

It did not recur. To me, it sounded like a sticky clutch plate (hey, I ride Ducatis… I’m used to that kind of sound). After letting the bike run for a few minutes it was decided that the noise was not anything to worry about and we rode off for the 40 mile trip to my house with no further incidents.

This may have been a mistake.

Later that evening I hosted a pre-ride bonfire in my back yard. Attendees included myself, Josh, S# (he lives a mile away from me), and Special Guest Maggot Thynk3r. Thynk3r had rode out to Sussex County to retrieve his riding pants from George, after last weekend’s BMW GS maintenance festival, and he was not going to pass up on an evening of bike talk, fire, and whiskey. In a shocking display of maturity, we mostly retired before midnight and without having set ourselves up for a group hangover the next morning, which is good because…

Sunday morning: Today, We Ride! (apologies to TC)

If you are too lazy to read, you can watch S#’s video synopsis of the day’s ride here:

Josh, S# and I started on time (sHoCkeR!), with bikes packed and running before 8 AM. Then we spent 30 minutes doing the “sena dance” trying to get our 3 bluetooth helmet intercoms to pair with each other. S# actually had the Sena user manuals up on his phone and we followed the instructions to the letter. Eventually all the helmets were able to talk to each other, but what made that happen is a mystery to us. It didn’t seem to have anything to do with the written instructions; in the end it devolved into mashing buttons on the intercoms until we could all hear each other. Given that we have (I think) 5 engineering degrees between us, I have no idea how normal humans can get these intercoms to work. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: The Sena UI is awful!

We were not on the road more than 15 minutes before we experienced our first Biker Miracle of the day. Just after merging onto Route 80, S# said over the intercom: “Looks like another motorcycle rider has joined up with us.” (once you get them working, motorcycle helmet intercoms are the coolest riding accessory you can have if you do group rides!). I checked my mirror… That BMW GS behind us with the giant silverback gorilla perched on top looked familiar… It looked like… Thynk3r? It WAS Thynk3r! He had gone home the night before rather than staying at my house, and we had made no coordinated effort to meet on the road. He was just going to meet us at the same spot we planned to meet Konrad Urban. So joining up on the road was a pleasant surprise.

Meeting up at The Chatterbox, April 22 2018

…and we rode on to the SSMMP (Standard Sunday Motorcycle Meeting Point): The Chatterbox on Route 15. As most North Jersey bike & car enthusiasts know, we won’t have long to enjoy the venerable Chatterbox. It is being demolished later this year to make way for a Cumberland Farms or WaWa or something. Shame. Though on the bright side, we can still meet at the WaWa and at least they will be OPEN on Sunday mornings and serving coffee.

Again we did the Sena dance, trying to get the intercoms to connect up all five riders: S#, Josh, Thynk3r, Konrad Urban, and myself. I have never been able to get more than 4 helmets connected at once, but in the second Biker Miracle of the day, by randomly pushing buttons and re-pairing we were able to get everyone talking together. It helped the Konrad has had more large-group Sena experience and knew the trick that half of the riders would go on one bluetooth channel and the other half would go on a second channel.

Stoked for Stokes

Today’s ride captain was Konrad Urban, because he knows Sussex County NJ, a.k.a. “Little Kentucky.” His route took us cross country via back roads and into Stokes State Forest, a place the maggots visit often enough. Ride pace was set a little slower than usual to accommodate Josh as a new rider, but not so slow as to detract from the gorgeous scenery and perfect weather.

In Stokes we followed the one-way goat path that is the only road in the park, winding between campsites and over hill and dale. Because S# had never been there before we made a stop on Sunrise Mountain to enjoy the view and snap some pictures:

SCIENCE does his Captain Morgan impression at Sunrise Mountain, Stokes State Forest NJ

 

Left to right: Konrad, Josh, SCIENCE, Thynk3r, and S# on top of Sunrise Mountian

 

S# ignoring the beauty of nature in favor of his cell phone

 

After Sunrise Mountain we continued on to High Point park. Just as we hit the main road there was a minor mishap, with Josh dropping his bike at a standstill due to short legs and a crowned road surface. No harm, no foul… at least I think not…

Josh fell here

High Points of the Trip

Since it is before Memorial Day, they were not charging the usual park entry fee. So we made a stop at High Point State Park. Again, the pictures speak for themselves:

Group shot at High Point

 

The Obelisk at High Point NJ: Why don’t we build monuments like this to nothing in particular nowadays?

 

After we had enough perfect sky at High Point, we planned to head off to Greenwood Lake and the Emerald Point restaurant – a major biker hang out on days like today. But when I turned the key on my Buell, the guages did their normal dance for a fraction of a second, then went dead. The expected sound of the fuel pump pressurizing did not happen. Ruh-roh, Shaggy! I tried again… completely dead. I tried again… Bingo! fuel pump on and starter motor engages. But I have a bad feeling about this.

Within a quarter mile going down the road from the Obelisk, my guages and engine go dead again. I coast to the bottom and let the other riders know there was trouble. Luckily there was a parking lot that I could just glide into. Although I had a faint concern that this might be something serious, I was pretty sure it was a loose battery terminal. Luckily, riding with all these BMWs guaranteed that toolkits would abound. Right? RIGHT? Turns out S#’s bike was not delivered with the toolkit, Konrad was on a KTM Duke (toolkit? HAH!). Thynk3r to the rescue! He had his BMW toolkit, but suggested I use my teeth so he wouldn’t have to dig for it.

Two terrific twists of a philips head (plus a suggestion by S# to re-orient the battery cable) and the Buell is reliably juiced up. At least until the next time it shakes the battery connection loose. During my mini-repair, Josh indicated that he was starving and would not make it 90 minutes ride to the Emerald Point and so could we please find something closer. He’s been on a paleo diet and thus was short on fuel reserves, unlike your faithful narrator who (like the arctic walrus) carries enough spare fuel and insulation to last TWO winters. So we consult local wisdom (Konrad) and re-vector off to the Elias Cole diner. “This is a TRUE greasy spoon” says Konrad.

Anti-Paleo Dieting

The Elias Cole is only about 15 minutes away, but Josh is clearly fading. He is complaining about having trouble making gear shifts, and we fall behind the group even on this short stint.

On arrival we note that we are not the only biker group. This is to be expected on a beautiful Sunday, and we get to sit next to the other riders, whereupon S# becomes Mr. Gregarious and quizzes the other riders on all of their personal details.

Obligatory pre-prandial group selfie

 

Food is typical NJ diner. But their cinnamon buns and corned beef has were particularly good!

After fat, sugar, and caffeine it is time to split up. Josh and I decide that discretion is the better part of valor and we will take Route 23 home. Konrad, S#, and Thynk3r will ride more back roads. And so the fellowship is broken. I guess that makes Josh and I Frodo and Samwise, with the other guys being Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. I leave it to them to decide who is who.

And now the adventure REALLY begins

Things did not go well for Josh after lunch. Even on a full stomach, he was lagging. Over the intercom there was much grunting and cursing about gear shifts. This was not the case before. I was beginning to think that maybe it was not just a fatigued n00B rider. Somewhere South of Hamburg he started falling way behind, and I started looking for a place to pull over and check his bike out. By the time a safe spot was found, it was David Cronenburg time:

 

I see yer problem right there

 

Yes, that is Josh’s alternator cover MELTING OFF. Mr. Obvious says “I think there was a short in there.” We both have a strong suspicion that the noise the bike made on Saturday afternoon was whatever broke off in the alternator housing that eventually shorted it out.Say what you will about BMW Adventure bikes and their reliability… This Moto Guzzi was giving us a REAL adventure, just like Ewan!

This bike was not going anywhere further under it’s own power. Time to call Rider Insurance and draw on their free roadside assistance. It turns out Josh’s policy includes towing! Yay! There is some confusion in explaining to Rider where exactly we are (“Route 23 just North of Stockholm… Stockholm… STOCKHOLM. Not Sweden, New Jersey!”). Eventually Josh made it clear and we settled down to wait for the flatbed. Rider gave us a 45 minute ETA.

 

And it got to us in 30. Nice! The driver Dorrell (spelling? rhymes with squirrel) knew his bikes. He recognized a Guzzi V7 straightaway, and did a good job of strapping it down for the short journey to Wayne.

Did I say short journey? If you are going to break down riding a Moto Guzzi in NJ, this was not a bad place to do it. We were about 15-20 miles North of one of the only Moto Guzzi dealers in the region. They are actually on Route 23!

And so I followed Josh and Dorrell (and his unnamed extremely large… girlfriend?) down to the Indian/Moto Guzzi/Zero/Motus dealer. Of course they were closed, but I live close enough that I would be able to bring the keys to them on Monday morning.

From Wayne I put Josh on the pillion and headed home to my house. I added preload to the rear suspension to handle the weight of two grown men, but even after losing 40 pounds Josh was still a much bigger passenger than I was used to. I normally ride with my daughter as passenger, and she is just a little wisp of a thing. With Josh on board the Ulysses wallowed like a pig. At one point on Route 80, in the Route 287 access spur it started to porpoise, and I had to hunt for a speed where the road undulations did not excite a resonant frequency in the suspension., No big deal really, and we got home safely. Text messages indicated that the other riders did as well,

The rest of the saga will have to wait until Josh gets an estimate from the Guzzi mechanic. Hopefully this is just an alternator swap with minimal labor. It will probably take some time as the factory workers in Mandello del Lario are scheduled to have a May Day holiday, and they are just coming off of their late Winter scheduled work stoppage. I will make an addendum to this ride report once the damage is known.

 

 

 

S# Gets A Bike (for realz this time!)

Wednesday, April 18 2016

i get a call from S#. “What are you doing around 3:00?”

“Ummm… working from home” I tell him.

”Could you drive to Newark to buy a BMW R1200GS?”

”Sure!”

And so at 2:55 I wrap up a Webex and hop in the car. I knew this purchase was in the works because S# had discussed the potentially dodgy nature of the sale several days before. The bike was listed on Craigslist as a “GS1200”, and so it had zero buyers. It was listed at a price that was a bit on the low end for a 2005 model with only 16,000 miles, but the incorrect listing kept it from being snatched up by the hungry GS zombies that roam the Citibeemers zone. Additionally  it was also “owned” by a used car dealer, and there was going to be some weirdness in the transaction due to that. The owner, named Mario, swore that it was his bike but he kept his bikes registered to his friend the used car dealer so he never had to pay tax or regustration fees. Riiiight.

Let’s itemize the red flags:

  • Mis-identified model… check!
  • unusually low price… check!
  • strangely titled… check!
  • Sold out of Newark, NJ… What, you couldn’t find one in Camden? Check and double-check!

Still, S# had run the VIN and it checked out all proper-like. And he had gotten a test ride, plus a test ride of a known-good GS from a BMW dealer, so I pronounced it “safe.”

When we arrived at the used car dealer, neither the bike owner nor the dealership owner was there. Well… that’s not quite true. The true owner of the dealership was there, but he was an older gentleman who smiled too much and mumbled incomprehensible things in what I think was Portugese while standing just a BIT too close. It was his *son* who really ran the place, and ge was at a car auction.

S# called Mario who arrived (on the bike) in 5 minutes. He informed us that Mike (the used car guy) would meet us in an hour. So S# and I headed to a Portugese restaurant to have a snack and a beerwhile we waited.

oh, and we called Thynk3r since he lives in Jersey City. Thynk3r showed up lickity-split, before we were even halfway through our first beer. We had Portugese appetizers (as is typical, a huge portion that is bigger than most meals) and another beer before Mario called to say that Mike was ready.

Negotiations were completed and the sake consummated in short order. Mike turned out to be very nice and exceedingly helpful. But it also turned out that dealer tags for the bike would cost another $150. Rather than make a fuss and have Mike do more paperwork, Mario offered to ride it to S#’s house if he could get a ride back. Of course we’d do that! And Thynk3r chose to ride along for the hell of it (on his own R1200GS).

Surprisingly, no further shenanigans occurred. In the car I did note to S# that Mario was now in possession of the bike AND the money, and if this thing was in any way shady or stolen (rendering the signed tirle moot), now would be when we find out. But Mario was on the up-and-up, and all went well.

here we all are, happily talking bikes at S#’s house:

S# new-used R1200GS

S#’s new R1200GS. Left to right: S#, Thynk3r, and previous owner Mario

 

I believe many miles of fun will be had on this new ride. This makes FOUR R1200GSs amongst the Maggots. What is this? A BMW Adventure Touring club?

 

BOTA not hit by boat in front of his own bar

Maybe Fred Lasagna, Insurance Executive, might be able to riddle out this one: what is the insurance implication of being struck by a boat while driving on a county road?

S# and I had a free afternoon this past Saturday. Sadly, neither Mr. Furious, Konrad Urban, nor any of the other Maggots were free. But we know that BOTA is always free on weekends… to host people at BOTA’s Crossroads bar.

So S# and I set up for a quick ride to Tafton PA to enjoy the nice roads, foliage, and for me to collect on Clown Rule #1 wherein S# would buy me lunch because I drove him to pickup his “sister’s” M696 Monster a few weeks ago.

So…

Blah blah blah ride report blah blah blah perfect weather blah blah blah a bit of traffic due to leaf-peepers blah blah blah PA Route 739 is a great motorcycle road.

We got to BOTA’s Crossroads, said “hi” to BOTA and Annie, and ordered our pizza. We did not have much time to hang out, so the plan was the BOTA and Annie would escort us back to Dingman’s Ferry, and BOTA went to the bar garage to get Lucifer (or was it Chernobog?) out. we heard the bike start up, rev a bit and then…

A sickening crash. A big one.

Holy Saints Dunlop, Hailwood, and Nixon! BOTA’s dead!

…at least that is what S#, Annie, me, and most of the other people in the bar thought.

One person immediately piped in: “Boat fell off a trailer.”

Wait, wut?

From inside of BOTA’s Crossroads, you cannot see the intersection that it is named for. We heard the noise, but there was no view of the accident. But in Pike County PA, apparently boats fall off of trailers on the road often enough that at least ONE gap-toothed redneck could immediately identify the sound.

We ran outside. It took a moment for the brain to register the scene as we scanned for a smooshed Electra Glide Ultra.

What am I seeing? No BOTA, as far as I can tell. There is a pickup truck jacknifed with an empty trailer, and waaaay down the road is a… boat? Pinning a Nissan to a tree?

Note the long chalky streak in the road. That is boat gel coat, about 30 yards long.

Closer look at the car and boat:

What kind of momentum did that?

Closer look at the impact spot on the truck:

Definitely no BOTA. He was still in the back of the bar when this happened, safe and sound. Also no serious injuries among the participants of the accident. There was an eye-witness in a car right behind the pickup truck.

From the geometry of the accident, none of us could figure out what had really happened. The truck was facing the wrong way and had smashed into a telephone pole fairly hard. Passenger side of the front bumper was badly damaged. You can see the impact on the passenger side just in front of the rear wheel as well. It was totally jacknifed.

A streak of boat fiberglass led straight from the jacknifed trailer to a spot well down the road where the boat pinned a Nissan to a tree in the ditch. The Nissan front end plastic was gone, sitting in the road somewhere.

The witness said that the Nissan ran the stop sign on the crossroad (PA 412?) and slammed the pickup and boat trailer that was going North on PA 390 pretty hard. Complicated crash geometry ensued.

911 was called. Accident victims were calmed and commiserated with. Pizza was eaten.

Blah blah blah ride home with BOTA and Annie blah blah perfect weather blah blah made it back with time to spare to pick up my kid from High School Marching Band open house.

If there’s gotta be an accident, then it’s best for it to be somebody else’s accident.

 

I Can’t Drive 55 – an opinion from 1984

New Maggot S# takes the MSF course

Preparing for the (hopfully) upcoming ride to the Grand Re-opening of BOTA’s Crossroads Tavern, S# takes the MSF course. With any luck both he and SurrealChemist will be riding with the Maggots in a few weeks.

Very nice bike that the MSF foundation so graciously provides, complete with real word dents and the finest in 1960’s brake technology (drums on both ends!)

The dewey-eyed riders get their instructions from seasoned professionals (note dopey grin on S#’s face! This must be fun!):

Staging for one of the MSF’s complicated drills:

And away we go!

One full lap:

Looking very good! Clearly he has not forgotten the motorcycle skills from his yoof.

 

 

Bike Shopping with the man formerly known as SSNJ

He was SSNJ in my Autocross post, but I am informed that he prefers S#. Scheduled to take the MSF course in September, so it is now open season to shop for bikes.

See if you can name the modles…

Autocross at Giants Stadium Aug. 6

I asked Bing and Zig to accompany me to the 6th Autocross run by the Northern New Jersey Region (NNJR) SCCA at Giants Stadium this past weekend. Sure, it was short notice and Bing was unable to swing a kitchen pass. Zig lives locally, but since President Trump was in Bedminster they had declared a 50-mile radius no-drone zone, and Zig won’t do no race event if he can’t get aerial footage.

So I asked a friend from town (the father of one of my younger daughter’s friends). He immediately upgraded me from “friend” to “good friend” and agreed to drive with me. We don’t use real names on this site, so I was planning to use his initials: SS. But we already have an SS so I was figuring that he could be “The Other SS”. But that produces the acronym “TOSS” and this guy has roots in the British Commonwealth, so that would be rude. So let’s go with NJSS to distinguish him from Maryland SS.

And so after helmet fitting from my spare lid supply, a shot trianing drive on Friday to make sure he was OK with the quirks of my car, and minimal preparation (mostly consisting of charging the batteries on my GoPro), we were ready.

NNJR tech opens at 8:30 and we live about 25 minutes from Giants Stadium, so I was at NJSS’s house at the crack of 7:30 AM. His last Lotus training was to drive to the “track” so that I could nap. Weather report was perfect: 0% chance of rain and a high of 78 degrees, so I didn’t even bother to bring the roof. Nothing but a baseball cap and sunscreen between me and the burning orb of the sun today!

Our confirmation email had said that we hit the Autocross jackpot. There would be 3 heats, we would race in heat #1 and do corner work in heat #2. That meant that we would be able to head home early and appease our wives. Upon checking the race officials revoked the joy. Too many corner workers in heat #2, so they moved us to 3. We would have to stay until the bitter end. A True Racer is happy to suffer for his speed.

Tech was a breeze (they don’t even make me open the trunk/engine lid on the Lotus – they just took my word for it that my battery was tightly affixed). Pumped an extra 10 PSI into the tyres and it was time to walk the course.

NJSS is resourceful and had a runner’s GPS app on his phone, so he was able to record a GPX file of the track. Here it is for your edification

Total distance: 1060 m
Total Time: 00:13:32
Download

Normally I would walk the course 3 times or more, but for some reason time got tight. I blame NJSS for spending too much time ogling the course as a first-time Autocrosser. The course itself was pretty large, and seemed like it should be easy to follow; no crossovers, no double-baks. Mostly a series of 3 slaloms connected by 180-degree turns and gates. It seemed like it would be pretty fast, but pretty easy to follow.

Or so I thought…

When it came time to run our heat (which is to say immediately after the obligatory driver meeting), I learned differently. I took my first THREE runs with an instructor because I discovered that the simplicity of the track was deceptive. There were several gates near the end of the course which just did not compute in my mind. I expect an Autocross to be made of twisty little turns, and so the last 180 kept fooling me. I would run inside or outside of the entry gate and DNF. Bastardos!

But I was right… it was a very fast course. Here are our first two runs:

My first run

NJSS’s first run:

My second run:

NJSS’s second run… sort of. Watch what happens in the first 10 seconds:

I spend a lot of energy telling friends that Autocross is safe. Nobody ever gets hurt. There is almost (almost) nothing to hit. Why, I have only every personally witnessed ONE car get damaged (err… ummm… totalled) at an autocross event. I had to go through this speech twice with NJSS.

Now I have witnessed TWO cars get totalled racing Autocross.

If you watch that video closely, when NJSS pulls back into the grid you can see the carnage. Just to the right there is a vehicle wrapped around the concrete base of the light pole. An, light poles… nemesis of overconfident Autocrossers. I don’t think I’m violating the “no social media” rules of Autocross accidents because A) I am not mentioning the car or date, and B) nobody reads this blog. But I saw it happen, and it was just like two years ago. The driver lost control, and instead of just giving up and going “two feet in” (slam the clutch and brake hard), he tried to control it and recover. The result was the same: he drove straight into the only object in 100 yards that could damage his car.

The car was nice one too. A particular model that is very rare and in huge demand. Shockingly, there were FIVE of them at this event. Well, now there were four.

Oh, also this crash cannot be a secret because a fire truck, two ambulances, and an NJ State Police car all attended to the crash.

If this was the Potomac Area PCA (Porsche Club of America), they would have hurried to pack up the cones and run like the cur that they are. But this is New-fookin’-Jersey. Rare car totalled in a crash? Just pour the goddamned kitty litter, sweep it up, and continue racing!

…but it still took 90 minutes to clear the course. That meant that they reduced us from 8 runs to 6, and we were going to be there very, very late even with the truncated schedule. (for non-Autocrossers: 6 runs is normal, 7 is good, and 8 runs in a day a phenomenal).

And so we went on to finish the rest of our six runs.

NJSS’s re-run of his second run:

NJSS run 4:

My 4th run:

NJSS run 5:

My run 5:

NJSS 6th and final run:

My 6th and final:

What happened to our third runs? I blame the user interface on GoPro cameras. It sucks, and it’s easy to get out of sync. So for those runs I got the talky-talk part with our instructors, not the actual racing. For an idea of what that looks like, you can watch it if you have a high tolerance for boredom:

After that we had heat #2 free. NJSS had packed some sandwiches, and I had packed Gatorade. That amused us for 15 minutes. Then we watched the other racers and… oh my God! Heat 2 was packed with Pros! In fact, one of the racers was the USA National SCCA Solo Champion from 2015! The big Kahuna. And he didn’t even come in first! There were a half dozen nationally-ranked pros racing that day!

So of course NJSS had to pester them until one of them let him ride along as a passenger 🙂

This is him in grid, waiting for the run to start:

And this is the pro on the course, with NJSS holding on for dear life:

And Perry (the Pro driver) was kind enough to share his video from that lap:

Here is the RX7 of the 2015 National Champion (heavily modified! Look at that intercooler!):

And here is what he puts in the gas tank along with 5 gallons of race fuel. Yes, that is two gallons of Xylene:

The rest of the day? Corner work. The course was huge, so there was the potential for a lot of running to reset cones. Also, because of the delays they are running on a very tight 20-second interval between cars. It made for great spectating, but when a cone did get punted, you had to move fast if you didn’t want to cause a red flag or get run over. Luckily, the section I was working on was a loose slalom and 180-degree turn, so drivers mostly kept the cones in place (except for these three Mustangs who did what Mustangs do and got a bit sideways on almost every run).

We did not finish until 5:30 PM. Very late for an Autocross. Luckily our wives are understanding (and we treated them to dinner at Arthur’s for being so generous).

 

 

Motomaggot larva ride report June 17, 2017

If we are ever to get the larval maggot Josh elevated to full biker status, he is going to have to get more comfortable in the saddle. As his mentor, I have been very busy this Spring and thus delinquent in forcing his training regimen.

Both Josh and I were free this past Saturday morning, so during the week we locked in a plan to do some ride coaching from 9:30 to 11:00. I did not look at the weather report.

On Saturday morning, I got up and prepped the Buell to meet josh. I did look at the weather report, and it showed a slight chance of rain (10%) up until Noon, then a Very Serious Chance of rain after that (like 80%).

So I says to myself “If I get there by 9:30 and we ride for an hour, I’ll be able to make it home before the deluge.”

I did not look at the weather radar.

Got to Josh’s garage early, maybe 9:10. This time, the bike had a fresh battery and his Sena helmet communicator was fully charged. We were set to go with no delays.

But…

There was something funny with the self-storage garage unit where he keeps the bike. The roll-up door seemed stuck, and once it was up it was not stowing properly. It was flopping down inside the garage unit.

Being brilliant engineers, we decided to go inside the garage and pull the door down so we could get a look at the mechanism. We did not bother to remember whether this door had an automatic latch which would lock in place once the door was closed.

So we close the door, using the headlight of the running Moto-Guzzi for illumination. “I see yer problem right here… the coil spring which is used to operate the spool that helps lift and store the roll-up door is broken.”

Okay, let’s open the door and tell the storage company they need to fix it.

Lift… nothing.

Yank… nothing.

Grrrr, *strain* *grunt*… no budge.

Is… this… door… latched now? Neither Josh nor I can recall.

Are we locked in a garage with a running motorcycle breathing carbon monoxide? Ummmm, yes.

Shut the bike. Pitch darkness.

Well, at least we have cellphones and we can use Google to get the phone number of the office for the storage company so they can walk 50 yards to let us out.

But one last try to lift the door, with both of us this time. THIS time it budges. Of course! No recoil spring = no assistance lifting the door, so it only felt like it was latched.

We breathe the outdoor air as Free Men once again.

Now, what to do for a training ride? This storage unit is on the corner of a pretty nasty pair of roads in Metuchen, just across from Cross Country BMW. I suggest we start by going there and doing some parking lot practice. Josh is not so keen on that. Uh-oh. That’s like 100 yards away, with a traffic light. If that is too scary, then where else can we go?

I suggest an alternative: we can make a right turn out of the storage lot, head to Route 287, ride for 5 minutes on the highway and then hit the extremely large parking lot of Telcordia on Centennial Road in Piscataway. I figure this will also be vetoed because it is much farther and involves highway riding.

However, with minimal encouragement, Josh agrees. So I coach him through the turns and de-rusting his clutch skills, and we make it to Telcordia lickity-split.

This turns out to be a brilliant plan. The Telcordia parking lot is MASSIVE and empty, and has a private ring road connecting the front and the back of the building. We practice clutch work first, then move to left and right turns withing the markings of the parking spaces, then circulating the ring road to run up and down the gears, and finally figure 8’s and tighter turns.

we do not look at our watches

We do not look at the sky.

In our defense, Josh was having a huge amount of fun. This was working out well.

Until the first drops of rain hit. Then we decide to head back. Before we even get half way to 287 is is coming down like Bangkok in September (or whenever it rains like a mofo in Southeast Asia). In 30 seconds everything not warded by Gore-Tex is soaked through. For me that means my pants and gloves. For Josh, that means everything except his helmet and boots, but they fill up from water dripping off his pants.

We looked for a parking lot to stop in, found a company lot and then discovered they had absolutely zero awnings or overhangs, so we took partial refuge under a tree.

THEN we checked our watches and the weather radar. The storm had not come early; we had lost track of time while riding, and it was in fact 11:45, right up against the predicted deluge. Weather radar shows no mercy, so we Cowboy Up and ride in blinding rain back to the storage unit. It’s only about 10 minutes, and even the cars on the highway were creeping along at under 40 mph so while I would not do this for fun, it was not life-threatening.

Of course we were super drenched by the time we parked. Weather radar showed that the downpour would be over in maybe an hour, so we decided to go grab lunch. After checking out some places, we settled on a Taiwanese street food place in Edison. This area is very asian, and you can count on Chinese restaurants that cater to real immigrant Chinese people. Places where they don’t even speak much English. In this one, the waitresses were accent free, but the food was absolutely native. Meaning not a single item you’ve ever seen on your local Chinese restaurant menu. Good stuff, but best not to think about the ingredients too much.

By the time we were done, the rain was over. My ride home was saved by the heated grips which kept my hands from seizing up from the wind blast on soaking wet gloves. My torso was fine (thanks, Aerostitch!) but my legs were also coated in sopping-wet denim exposed to 70 mph wind. I’ve had worse rides, and I’ve had better rides.

But the key thing is Josh got in some major practice. If we can do this again (minus soaking) next Saturday, I think he should be able to do it alone without and escort. A little bit more after that and he should be safe to ride in a Maggot palaton.

 

Speed Week Lite: real car maggots like to go racing!

June 2, 2017

SWL 2017 group photo

Only the hardest hardcore drivers who stand erect among the wilted car maggots attend Speed Week Lite 2017… and here they are.

Bing put out the call. Since many of the car maggots complain about having to get up early and go racing at Speed Week Classic (the one that happens in the fall), he was going to host a Speed Week Lite for the express purpose of going racing at the Chesapeake Region Porsche Club of America (PCA) Autocross event in Easton MD on June 3, 2017. This was originally to be held at the Easton municipal airport, but it got moved to a disused Black & Decker factory parking lot when someone forgot to file the paperwork with the FAA.

The course was to look like this:

Easton Industrial Info

Turnout for SW Lite was… lite. Scott, Josh, and I met up at Noon-ish on Friday to drive down., Scott in his MB SLK, me in my Lotus Elise, and Josh in the passenger seat of the Elise. This arrangement made for some significant cargo problems. We all packed extremely lite, but there were still 2 full face helmets, plus camera gear, plus duffels, plus gifts of liquor and tobacco for our host. The weather was perfect, and I wanted to take off my roof, but on the Lotus that comes completely off and stows in the area that Lotus jokingly calls a “boot,” leaving no room for any other luggage. So normally I put any cargo on the passenger seat. Except that would be occupied by Josh. Luckily, Scott is a good sport and offered to take some of the gear so Josh would not have to sit with it on his lap for the four hour ride from NJ to MD.

Oh, and why was Josh a passenger and not a driver? Was it because Josh drives a car that sucks for Autocross?

No, that is Scrounger‘s excuse.

Is it because Josh can’t read cones and is afraid he will DNF?

No, that is Zig’s excuse.

Is it because he flew in from Florida and has no vehicle?

No, Andy does that and just rents a Hertz V6 Camaro and drives it anyway, and devil take the rental agreement.

It was because Josh’s perfect-for-autocross Volkswagen GTI was overdue for an oil change and he didn’t want to risk damage.

Fine. We accept your excuse. Take your passenger seat and prepare to be our errand boy and valet for the rest of this trip.

For me the ride was a bit nerve wracking because I was technically still “at work” in the afternoon and had 2 hours of conference calls to take. I used Josh as my phone valet because there is no hands-free kit in the Lotus. He would dial the numbers and operate the mute button while I used a headset and kept two hands on the wheel. Still, the Lotus is a twitchy little beast on the highway, and microphone management sent us wobbling in our lane every once in a while.

we were fully fueled up from the start, so we only made one stop on 95 in Delawhere for caffeine (both in and out). At the same time we hit a spot of traffic which is torture on a roofless manual transmission no-compromises sports car. 20 minutes of stop-and-go had me cursing my decision not to cut the corner onto Route 13.

We arrived by 4:15 PM, greeted by Bing, Brenda, Kayla, SHelby, and Olive. Bing informed us that there was only one other potential SW Lite attendee: Carl Spackler, and we weren’t even confirmed on that. Fine. Who cares. Fewer whiners to bitch about the early start or the fact that we would have to drive cars fast.

Deer plus Lotus and SLK

Wildlife like to join in on the wild life of the drivers of Speed Week Lite 2017

 

Pizza was ordered and consumed with drink valet Josh’s newly created drink on Bing’s brand-new dock bar. BTW, the as-yet-unnamed drink is constructed thusly:

  • 1.5 ounces Patron Mocha Tequila
  • 1.5 ounces some brand of Chocolate infused Vodka
  • 4 dashes of Mole bitters

Yeah, that sounds kind of gurlie but it’s basically pure alcohol at about 75 proof. It drinks like a silk rope hangman’s noose. A few of those helped us agree on a respectable yet sane bedtime of midnite, with alarms set for 6:45 AM to allow a 7:15 departure for Easton.

In the morning we found that Carl Spackler was waiting for us in the driveway as we pulled on our pilotis and fireproof suits. So at least ONE other car maggot has some guts.

 

the following pictures courtesy of photo valet Josh:

 

SCIENCE affixes his numbers with trusty blue painters tape. Look for it flapping in the breeze in the videos…

 

Scott putting on his numbers

 

SCIENCE tech inspection: “Where is your frunk?”

 

Scott tech inspection

 

Walking the course is good. Walking the course is your friend. It prevents the dreaded DNF and reduces cone dragging.

Note the dude with the epic beard on the left… he was driving an MGB with a Chevy V8 motor, but he never once actually finished the course. He missed the last cone just before the right turn into the skidpad every single time. While we were walking the course he commented several times that he would never remember the proper path. I guess he was right on that!

 

Bing in full racing regalia. There is no way for a human male to be any more virile than by being behind the wheel of a racing car on a racing track while racing. Gaze upon him, and weep for your miniscule manhood!

 

 

SWL 2017 staging from Bing

There were some lesser cars at the Porsche Club of America event. We tried not to make them feel to pathetic.

 

 

 

 

Here are four of my five runs:

Run #1, with an instructor because of all the DNFs we witnessed during Heat One. I wanted to be abso-fucking-lutely sure I knew the course

Run #2, putting in the real speed

Third run, experimenting with the tricky upshift in the slow first box-turn

Fifth and final run

Full race results found here, in case you want to know who among us was fastest:

http://live.axti.me/results/41HB3N3Z7

The racing was over by about 1:00 PM and we were hungry and thirsty, so we voted to accept Bing’s suggestion that we go to the “best Chili’s in the state” just down the street. To this I must note that the very concept of “best Chilis” of any type seemed weird, but it turns out that maybe this chain joint has gotten just a smidge better since the last time I set foot in one over 15 years ago.

After lunch I got ambitious and decided to rig the GoPro on the roof arch of my car and set it to time lapse mode. With shots spaced one second apart, the 30 minute drive back to Bing’s house should take just over a minute on video. This has always worked well as part or Mr. Furious‘ highlight reels from motorcycle trips, so I figured I’d give it a shot. But the car had been sitting in the sun for over an hour. And it is black. So it was hot, too hot to touch, and I felt the GoPro suction cup mount go kinda squishy as I affixed it to the car. This worried me enough to have me reach up and check that the camera was still in place every few minutes.

Like an old gypsy woman, my premonition was correct. About 15 minutes into the drive on Route 50 I reached up to check and found nothing but bare metal. FUUUUUUUUUuUuUuUuUuuuuuuuck! $300 of camera and mount were surely crushed on the road behind us. I had flashbacks to Mr. Furious earning his nickname on the ride back from Deal’s Gap in 2008. I was last in line behind Bing, Scott, and Carl, and I pulled over to the shoulder to decide whether I should circle back and look for the wreckage.

But Josh looked back first, and… Miracle of Miracles, the camera and suction cup mount had hooked themselves on the louvers of the Lotus’ engine cover! So I asked my camera retrieval valet to grab it toute de suite, which he did. This kind of thing could have ruined my SW, but instead I was giddy. But the Camera Gods were not to let me off that easily. It turns out that I hadn’t set the GoPro up correctly, and it was not in time lapse mode. It was in normal video mode, and I will post the final 20 seconds of the huge 15 minute file here, once I get a round tuit.

Surprisingly, I caught up with the rest of the SW crew in short order even in the heavy-ish Route 50 traffic. It’s good to have a small car that can zip in and out of traffic gaps. It’s also good for making left turns across highways with feet… no YARDS to spare before oncoming death. I really don’t see what all the fuss and horn blaring was about. Ignore Bing if he claims I did that with only inches of safety margin.

Since we were back by around 4:00 and there was nobody to bitch about it, we declared a 45 minute siesta and set smartphone alarms. After a refreshing power nap, we hit the Pontoon Boat to meet Brenda at the Redeye Dock Bar where she was holding a raffle for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I once again tried to set the camera up for time lapse to capture the boat ride, and once again it failed me.

Drinks… live music… sunset over Kent Island… really the best kind of finish to a day of racing.

Bing captained the pontoon boat back to his house and fed us home grilled wings, and we emptied bottles of rye and bourbon that I had left at his house on previous trips. And we burned the gifts of tobacco, sending aromatic smoke rings up to the Gods of Motorsports, who had smiled upon us well that day.

Sunday morning we got up fairly early again, around 7:00 for some of us. 8:00 for others. We were in no hurry, and somehow the discussion came to questions about the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quattrofoglio. Someone remembered that they had reviewed it on The Grand Tour, so we fired up Netflix and watched that episode on Bing’s massive 78-inch TV. After the show we were feeling peckish, so we fired up the pontoon boat again, collected Olive in her doggie life vest (she’s a sinker) and headed to The Jetty near Kent Narrows for Bloody Marys and brunch.

Bing and Olive SWL 2017

I hear tell that dog owners and their dogs tend to start looking like each other.

 

Bking and Olive side view on a pontoon boat

French Bulldogs make good boat pilots

 

After boating back to Bing’s house, we bid farewell and headed for home ourselves. One last motorsports experience was listening to the NASCAR race being held in nearby Dover Speedway on the local country music station. The weather continued to be almost perfect, with only a small bit of drizzle hitting us around halfway up the NJ Turnpike. Josh was dropped off back at his apartment, and I made it home just after my wife & kids got back from a weekend at the Alpine Club (famed location of the Catskillcades).

If you were not there, you should be very jealous and have a heightened sense of FOMO for next time.