Targa Miata
September 12, 2011 - Time to start the race.
After an early start, we hit Holyrood for our first stage. It's not a long one, but it was quick enough in spots to give us a good workout. I'm still getting used to just how quickly the car will power down the straights, and it's sometimes a conscious effort to push that throttle all the way down. Still, it worked out well as we zeroed the stage.
The car felt a bit floaty at speed over the rougher pavement. So at the first service stop, I added a few clicks of rebound damping both front and rear.
Then it was on to Conception Harbour. We pulled up to the start line to find that it was marked as Condition 2 under clear skies. Odd. There was also a report of gravel on the road for 2 km in the middle. In retrospect, that explains the condition downgrade. I recognized a good portion of the stage as the old Conception/Colliers stage that we ran on the last day in 2008. That time, it was memorable due to a short stretch of oddly cratered pavement. We skipped that this time, but it was still enough to confirm that the shocks were working much better and the car felt good on the narrow uneven pavement. It's almost a point-and-squirt driving style, as I can't carry the speed through the corners I could last time due to the downgraded tire requirements and I carry a lot more speed on the straights.
We did see our first off. I came around a corner to see a triangle, followed quickly by the crew brandishing the OK sign. Shortly after was a corner covered in gravel, then skidmarks, then the back of a Subaru far off in the woods. Oops. We found out later the car has just a bent wheel, so everything's good for future stages. We did end up taking 5 seconds of penalties on the stage unfortunately. We were not the only ones.
entry 953 - tags: 2011 race, day 1, Holyrood, Conception Harbour
September 12, 2011 - Yes, we're shooting video.
This should give some pretty good visuals! You may have to wait for that, sleep is more important than uploading video.
After a short break, we took on Marysvale. This is a rough stage in the second half with lots of crests - typical of the roads in this area, it seems. There's a notorious jump/compression combo that claimed a Porsche fairly dramatically years ago, so I treat it with respect. Before we got there, though, we hit a dip hard enough to bottom out the chassis on the pavement hard. The actual "Porsche killer" (that's what we called it in the pace notes) seems to have been replaced with 30 meters of gravel, which was exciting in itself. We zeroed it.
After a short stop, it was on to Southern Harbour In. This was fairly quick and cresty (that's what it was called in the route books!) and it kept me working fairly hard. On some medium left-right-left sweepers, I was able to work the car's balance quite nicely - it's a good, friendly tool, which is exactly what we need. The car feels great. A bit more familiarity with the stages would make it easier to carry a bit more speed through the stage, but it was good enough to let us zero. And that's all that matters.
Then we stopped for lunch with some absolutely fantastic cod. Mmm.
entry 955 - tags: 2011 race, day 1, Southern Harbour, Marysvale
September 12, 2011 - Now for North West Brook.
When we drove this stage in 2008, it was fast, rough enough to be interesting and we hit a lot of traffic. Unfortunately, a funeral service meant that 10 km had to be trimmed off the end, but we still got 20 km of some very high speeds. The Targa class has a 200 km/h overall speed limit, and we did manage to kiss it and have to lift off. Did I mention it's a FAST stage?
And what a great stage. Big long sections without any instructions, so it's just the driver and the road. This makes Janel a bit nervous, and she made the mistake of looking up as we approached a crest at 200 km/h. That got her attention.
Due to the high speeds, she can feel a difference in how I'm driving the car. The acceleration is much stronger, and when I'm approaching something unknown such as a crest I'll lift. With the older engine, I wouldn't have to drop as much speed to get comfortable with the upcoming challenge because I wasn't going as fast. So she's noticing a lot more acceleration and deceleration, and she's still getting comfortable with the sensations.
At 200 km/h (120 mph), stuff is happening pretty fast. On a racetrack, that doesn't really sound like a whole lot. But throw in a road with a lot of patches on patches and bumps and dips and blind corners, and it's very fast.
At the end, we were treated with absolutely gorgeous views. Wow.
entry 957 - tags: 2011 race, day 1, North West Brook
September 12, 2011 - Time for a long transit to Gander, where we parked for the night.
The transit headsets I put together are a godsend, making life much better in a loud car.
It was a good day. We didn't get through it without penalties, which is usually a requirement for a good finish. But as it turns out, none of the Open cars did manage to clear it. Our 6 seconds of penalties put us in fourth in the division. The big Challenger that showed up in 2008 is leading with two seconds, followed by a BMW M3 (3 seconds) and the Civic (5 seconds). We're in a good place. We're being cautious and not taking big risks, and we're only 4 seconds behind the division leader.
Attrition is taking its toll already. The Audi is running, but it's not healthy and has 28 minutes of penalties. The Subaru with the blown head gasket was involved in another mishap after the head gasket failure and will not be returning. Jim Kenzie in his MINI is suffering from electrical problems and missed a stage today, which will give him approximately 8 minutes of penalties.
Our car is holding up well. The fuel economy is much better when we're not idling constantly. The skid plates did their job on the big hit in Marysvale. I can see skid marks on them, but nothing is damaged underneath. Perfect. There's a bit of oil consumption but nothing that can't be managed. And the weather is so far, so good. So it's been a good day.
entry 959 - tags: 2011 race, day 1, results
September 12, 2011 - Zach and his homework.
He's got a lot more of it to do, and the surprising change to Condition 2 for the second stage today really messed with his calculations. He's learning fast, but it's been a challenging and frustrating few days. This isn't quite what he expected! However, despite the learning curve, he and Brandon are currently penalty-free and tied for first with two other teams. It doesn't get any better than that.
Brandon reports that the pace is good - fast enough to be fun, but without the risk of a Miata/tree incident.
entry 961 - tags: 2011 race, day 1, Nancy, Zach, Brandon
September 13, 2011 - Brandon, hard at work.
This shot is from Gordon the official event photographer, and he's pretty good at posting daily updates. You can see them here: http://www.gordonsleigh.com/v/Motorsports/Targa/Daily2011/.
There's one new rule this year: anyone spotted cutting corners and throwing gravel on to the road gets a 30 second penalty. On the second stage yesterday, it was pretty hard to tell where the road started on some corners thanks to the gravel present when we went through, but I believe that was a pre-existing condition!
I forgot to mention some extra drama for our team yesterday. As we pulled up to the start line for Southern Harbour In, my intercom cut out. 20 seconds of frantic messing about followed to fix the intermittent connection and I managed to get it sorted, but it got Janel all tense. Looking at the video, I was distracted as well. We took some steps to secure the wires to prevent it from happening again, but it sure wasn't a good way to start a stage.
entry 962 - tags: 2011 race, day 1, Southern Harbour In, Brandon, gravel
September 13, 2011 - Talking over strategy.
Janel's is fairly simple: don't crash. Mine's not far off that. 80 cars were originally entered in the event. 66 made it to the start line of the Prologue for various reasons, including blown engines long before the race started. Unfortunately, Paul Horton's delicious Mk1 Escort was amongst those. Tomorrow, 60 cars are listed for start. A couple are back from the dead, such as the Audi 80 Avant that had such a bad start at the school. But others are gone, and a few of the remaining ones are looking a bit rocky.
The supercars are not part of the competition. They're running in a new class called "Hot Tour". It's a bit of an experiment on the part of the organizers, and is basically a group of cars escorted through the closed stages before the Touring class goes out. They're not just crawling through, but the speeds are kept in check somewhat by the lead car. They haven't done every stage either, but I'm not sure whose decision that was. Most notably, they missed the long, fast, bumpy North West Brook stage. The Saleen S7 is refusing to run properly so it's been put on the trailer. Still, you can't miss the Enzo as it goes whooping by.
I know Jim Kenzie's crew was working hard on resurrecting the MINI last night. Jim reported to us that the security system was now starting to give problems as part of his cascading failures, and he seems to be longing for the days of points and condensers while using satellite phones to download wiring diagrams off the internet. The not-inconsiderable resources of a factory-backed team are being thrown at the recalcitrant little car.
Both he and Stan Hartling with the Lotus Exige got lucky when the last stage was scratched yesterday, as they won't take any penalties. The Lotus is suffering some sort of electrical bug (no, really!) that's affecting the drive-by-wire throttle. Stan managed to zero all the stages we ran yesterday, but celebrated loudly when that last one was cut.
entry 963 - tags: 2011 race, day 1, MINI, attrition