Targa Miata
September 14, 2011 - A great start to day 3: two fast, simple and fairly short stages.
They were fairly easy zeros for us, although we were moving pretty fast to do it. Fast enough that a new problem with the car manifested itself. The hood was lifting dramatically at 200 km/h. Some of the adhesive holding the remaining underhood bracing had let go. The temporary fix was some hockey tape holding the lip down, which worked. The more permanent fix was a few more rivets. Hey, race cars like rivets, right?
We did have a bit of a problem. This area of Newfoundland doesn't have a lot of gas stations that carry premium fuel. And those that do, didn't have any. We ended up pumping regular fuel into the tank and topping it up with octane enhancer. Not ideal, but Steve at V8R Spec anticipated this and our engine is slightly lower compression than his usual motor.
On to Musgrave Harbour. And our first penalties of the day. It's a fairly smooth run through town (new pavement since last time) with a quick detour around a school. I made a navigational error and misjudged the entrance to the detour, but luckily I misjudged it early so it only cost us a short moment of indecision before I spotted the right spot and leapt towards it. The detour was fun with lots of gravel and we danced around it pretty well. By the end of the stage, we'd picked up 5 seconds. Not bad, really. Especially in retrospect.
Here's what I said about Musgrave Harbour in 2008:
"Terrible. Rough and bouncy with a speed bump in the middle. Very hard on the car, and on our penalties. 31 seconds late. Not fun at all. We finished on the Corvette's butt."
It's been repaved! The roads are generally much better this year. What's missing is that one stage every day that had me fearing for the safety of the car. The suspension's also working extremely well. The skid plates have come in to play a couple of times, but very rarely. They've done their job well.
entry 973 - tags: 2011 race, day 3, Main Point, Fredrickton, Musgrave Harbour
September 14, 2011 - Now, Valleyfield.
Shortly after we started, I recognized this as being a portion of a much longer stage from 2008, called New-Wes-Valley in that form. It was a stage on which we took substantial penalties as well. Here's what I said before:
"A great stage. All of the square corners were actually fairly fast and it would be possible to carry more speed. Still, it was a fun one. Part of the fun of a first-time Targa run is seeing all these stages for the first time. Would it be as thrilling if I could recognize things? We were 43 seconds late so there was obviously a lot more speed available. Still, what a blast. "
Now, I've always had a pretty good memory for corners. It might be from autocross, it might just be the way I'm wired. And I DID recognize things. With the call "Over blind crest into square left at T" and a few visual cues, I was able to recognize one particular junction that got a lot wider. That let me carry more speed over the crest, set up for the expected gravel in the road and come out much faster than before. Janel was also doing a spectacular job of calling the corners and crests, and I had just enough visibility to really let the car romp. We came up on this 911 with an unbelievable closing speed and just tore past him. We'd been given a very aggressive 130 km/h target speed and we beat it. I started just howling with laughter after we crossed the line. It was exhilarating.
The next stage was Wesleyville, the continuation of the same stage. Not quite as fast and certainly more complex and tighter, but we managed to zero it.
entry 974 - tags: 2011 race, day 3, Valleyfield, Wesleyville
September 14, 2011 - On to Greenspond.
This is one of the classic Targa stages, and one that we didn't get to run in 2008 due to a funeral. I'd been looking forward to it with a mix of fear and anticipation, as it's narrow, exposed and has the craziest corners. Last night, I watched a video of a car running through the stage to get an idea of how it worked.
Good plan. I was able to recognize every corner - including the real weirdos - and this made a big difference to our time. What also made a big difference was the fact that we're driving one of the smallest cars in the race. There's one spot in Greenspond where you have to ascent a steep grade that's only about 3/4 of a lane wide, and it has a grass bank on one side with a guardrail on the other. Oh, and gravel on the road that's been kicked up. Not a place for wheelspin or a wayward tail, so I had to judge the throttle just right. This spot is so steep I was really wondering if I should be in first gear instead of second when I approached it.
There was one car off on the outside of a sharp corner (and displaying an OK sign), but I also recognized it as the effective end of the hard part, with a full two lanes running up a hill out of town. Well, this car doesn't care about hills so the big hammer went down and we thundered away. We came across the line with a 7 second penalty. That's pretty darn good for Greenspond, even the supercharged Exige with Stan Hartling driving took a penalty there.
The big green Challenger driven by Rob Pacione was the first place Open car on Day 1, and we only got ahead on Day 2 after he was a bit slower around Gander. I asked him how he dealt with Greenspond, and he said it was like walking a tightrope. He also really liked the V8 Miata, although his well-known Dodge sure gets a lot of attention from kids.
Next up was Port Blandford. On a 5 km, 130 km/h stage, we had one instruction: "jump into medium left". Obviously, this was one left to the drivers. About two turns in, I recognized the stage as one we ran in 2008 with no instructions - and in the other direction. In fact, there was one crest on that stage that I particularly remembered, as it was one I came over thinking "this would be an easy place to get off if you lifted..." and saw a set of tracks going into the woods with a Targa car at the end of them. I realized that the jump would be that crest. We pedaled down the stage pretty quick, but thanks to a bit of tentativeness on my part over the jump (wouldn't you?) we came across the line 1 second late. Still, not bad. And quick.
entry 975 - tags: 2011 race, day 3, Greenspond, Port Blandford
September 14, 2011 - Time for yet another of the classics.
Clarenville. We got some attention on this stage last time as we caught a Corvette, giving a nice David and Goliath story for the TV crews. It's a quick town stage with some really odd sections. Again, my memory served me well. The course has changed slightly since last time, but I was able to recognize the two main sections that had been stitched together, giving an added dimension to Janel's pace notes.
The first time through, we were going pretty well until right near the end. We came over a crest into a left turn at an intersection, and we were too fast. I locked up the wheels and had a brief episode of target fixation on the oncoming curb before coming to my senses and getting the car rotated. First gear and a V8 will let you do that, and we came tearing across the line about 6 seconds early. Perfect.
For the second run, I knew where I could pick up a bit more speed and I definitely knew where I should get rid of a bit more. Our target time was about 7 seconds faster, but between more speed in the opening section and a lack of drama at that one corner I was able to come in 5 seconds early. The car's set up with a bit of extra rear brake bias to make it really easy to rotate into a corner (all rally drivers hate understeer) and that helped me set up for the narrow, tight corner. That plus the knowledge it was there the second time!
So there's a mistake, but not one with any consequences. We've had a couple of little moments at various points, but nothing has bitten us yet. Overall, we're still running fast but conservatively.
entry 976 - tags: 2011 race, day 3, Clarenville
September 14, 2011 - The results are posted!
Janel and I knew we'd taken 13 seconds in penalties, and we were 13 seconds ahead of the Challenger last night. So even if he'd zeroed everything, we'd be tied. Well, he didn't. We were the fastest Open Class car through Greenspond, and the stages that bit us also bit others. The end result is that we extended our lead to 21 seconds ahead of Rob's Challenger. There was much rejoicing. It's still a long couple of days to go with many opportunities to either take penalties or worse. Rob's got a long history in the event at the top level, and experience is worth a lot. But no matter what, we're overjoyed with how things stand right now. We'll keep driving to our level and hope that this awe-inspiring little car has what it takes to stay ahead.
Into the Clarenville arena nice and early, and time for a car wash first. There's basically a car show every night as we work on the cars and talk to the locals, and we always make sure the cars are nice and clean.
The forecast for tomorrow looks like it could be wet. There are some tight little stages that will do us well, but also some very fast open ones with aggressive times as the competition ramps up. As always, it's more important to get home than it is to avoid penalties!
entry 977 - tags: 2011 race, day 3, results
September 14, 2011 - Up on the stands in Clarenville for an inspection, I found a nick in one of my front brake lines.
I cut part of the plastic cover off and was able to determine that the stainless sheath was untouched - the only damage was to the plastic. That's not a structural part of the line, so I'll leave it alone. I wrapped the area in tape to give it another dose of initial protection. Based on the damage, I think it was a passing encounter with a rock.
entry 978 - tags: 2011 race, day 3, brakes
September 14, 2011 - Brandon and Zach have extended their streak and are in a three-way tie for first.
We're going to send Zach home smarter than we got him, as he's monitoring about nineteen different things at once. We had no idea what we were doing to him when we invited him to take the right seat in this car. It's a difficult, non-stop job, and very different from a Targa-class navigator. There, the work is less complex but mistakes carry much higher consequences.
Here, Brandon poses for the camera as Zach tries to make him pay attention to something important.
entry 980 - tags: 2011 race, Brandon, Zach, day 3
September 30, 2011 - Stampeding through Greenspond.
This was a remarkable stage, and we're just coming up through the most remarkable part of it. I've got my head lifted as high as I can, trying to see over the hood of the Miata as we come out of a steep climb and get ready for a hard right turn.
The car looks so industrial in this shot. The black tape is holding the hood down at higher speeds, and you can see some of the undercar skid protection silhouetted against the dust.
entry 1000 - tags: 2011 race, day 3, Greenspond