|September 14, 2008 - If Janel looks happy, things must have gone well.|
And they did. The second Prologue stage was Torbay, a tight one that tweaks up and down through narrow streets in a neighbourhood. It wasn't as fast as Flatrock and I felt more comfortable. It was basically a big, blind autocross! The Miata's perfect for this, and I laughed out loud on one corner - as we entered it, I could see how it was going to tighten up. The car tucked right in and the back end smeared around the corner just enough to exit me perfectly down the next straight. It was exactly what I expected it to do and I was able to use it just as I needed it. That's the benefit of years of racing and autocrossing the same kind of car as well as all the development time. There was also one piece of the road covered in gravel kicked up by earlier cars that I was able to set up for nicely.
It wasn't perfect, though. At one point, the back end felt loose on braking and the car was bobbing around too much on the battered roads. Janel had trouble with how quickly the instructions were coming up although she was able to communicate everything important to me. I had to come to grip with the level of speed on very narrow streets and little visibility. There's a lot of trust involved!
We then went to a short "meet and greet" which was really to ease congestion at stage start, as we were running the same stage again. And once again, everyone bolted early and caused a traffic jam. Nice to see we can all learn from our mistakes! I took the time at the stop to stiffen up the rebound damping to keep things under control a bit more.
The second time through the stage, Janel was more comfortable with the pace. She realized that she had to simply run off the notes and the odometer, instead of looking up to see how I dealt with whatever she'd just called. We launched off fairly hard and were working pretty well together, but found out there was a whole lot more gravel on the roads. We'd been followed through the stage by the Open class cars, mostly piloted by very competitive rally drivers. I did get the tail out enough to get a little squeak out of Janel, but overall it went very well. We cut some time off and finished the stage in sight of the car that had started 30 seconds in front of us. More importantly, we had better communication in terms of accuracy and timing. The pre-race navigation school said that the navigator had to paint an "accurate and unambiguous picture in the driver's head", and we're getting better at that. I'm definitely more comfortable in the tight confines of the street stages than in the high-speed open ones, but I'll get that sorted. The car was much better in terms of suspension control and didn't get upset by the bumps at all.
So that's all good then. Janel and I were really happy with how things had gone, and I'd had a whole lot of fun. Time to head back to the arena for the car show.