The regular autocross season ended at the end of August, and I finished a close third, just out of trophies in A Stock Novice. In August I attended Evolution Performance Driving School in Seattle, an intensive autocross school taught by some of the best autocrossers in the country. It was definitely worth the trip as the school really helped to iron out some of the bad habits I’d formed, and beyond that helped to develop my driving skills.
In the coming year I have some ambitious plans with regards to motorsports:
- Develop my roadracing (track) skills by participating in more track events and HPDEs (high-performance driving events);
- Begin developing a Performance Rally car and use rallycross, autocross and track events to test the car and familiarize myself with its performance characteristics;
- Continue autocrossing though less intensively than this year, in order to accommodate other motorsports activities.
However I’ve hardly been resting in the “off”-season; since I’m running in a different car class in the SCCA’s winter autocross series, I’ve taken the opportunity to begin making upgrades to the Evo:
- Installed teflon-kevlar-stainless steel brake lines from WORKS and DS2500 brake pads from Ferodo to improve braking;
- Installed my first “real” power upgrade in the form of a cat-back exhaust system from Buschur Racing which should (in theory) yield an additional 10-15 horsepower at the wheels;
- Installed a rear sway bar from Hotchkis Tuning to reduce body roll and make the car a bit more neutral in its handling;
- Replaced my car’s battery with a lightweight Hawker Odyssey PC-680 sealed lead-acid (SLA) unit, reducing weight by about 20 pounds;
- Installed Kartboy polyurethane shifter bushings that came compliments of my friend and autocross mentor Joe Harrison;
- Put in a Mitsubishi rear trunk strut bar—standard in the Evo RS model—to stiffen up the back of the car slightly;
- Installed an Evo MR “vortex generator”: little air diffuser “fins” on top of the roof to reduce lift and improve downforce at high speeds (but mainly because I thought it looks cool);
- Removed the paint from my factory wing to give it that all-carbon-fiber look;
- Installed a T-Sport Rev-Lite Formula One-style shift light so I’d know when I need to shift (one rarely has the time to look at the tachometer while on the track or autocross course);
- Bolted on some Mitsubishi brake air guides to improve brake cooling;
- Wore out the original clutch on my car after 20,000 miles; Monday it will be replaced with a WORKS CK2 clutch featuring a heavy-duty carbon-kevlar disc.
Running in Street Tire indexed class at the local autocross events, I’ve been doing reasonably well, placing about mid-pack in the highly competitive class. One thing is obvious is that my driving has substantially improved from earlier this year; although I’ve yet to be as consistent as I’d like to be, I’m now putting down times that are competitive with people behind whom I lagged much farther during the regular season.
A few weeks ago I attended a performance rally school run by the SCCA and California Rally Series. I learned a lot about performance rallying and got to drive the Evo on dirt and gravel for the first time. I participated in my first rallycross that weekend and placed in the middle of the pack, not bad considering it was my first time and I had probably the least competitive tire setup of the day: almost-bald Falken Azenis Sport tires intended strictly for dry tarmac use.
I also finally participated in my first track event with the Northern California Racing Club at Thunderhill Park. I felt fairly at ease driving on the track; taking those corners as fast as I could and zooming down the straightaway at 120 miles per hour still felt much safer than my typical commute to work. Due to schedule and budget limitations I probably won’t make it out to the track again until next year, but I hope do be doing this on a fairly regular basis in the future. Driving on a road-race course, getting almost an hour and a half of seat time (not to mention thrilling rides in instructors’ cars) in a day makes it so much more satisfying than autocross.