Saturday, March 6, 2010

Next up? Stock class or "other".

So, Ford recently announced that the 2011 Mustang GT is gonna pack 412HP and a 5.0L V8. Ultimately someone's gonna build one of these monsters for E-Street Prepared (the class I run my Camaro in). On a great day my car is pushing 300hp, and if I upgrade to an LT4 I'm probably looking at 330-340 tops. I'm not sure what the 2011 is going to weigh, but I think it'll be in the vicinity of my car, maybe 100lbs more. Having owned a 2007 Mustang GT I can tell you it puts power down better than my Camaro ever will, all else being equal.

So, the sum total of the above is the feeling that the end of my Camaro's competitive life is on the horizon. I'm fairly certain that plans are already underway to build a 2011 Mustang for ESP, so that horizon may not be far off at all. It's OK, I've had a great time running my car since I bought it in 1998. Most cars don't have such a competitive shelf life. I could gut my car, modify it extensively, and run C-Prepared. I like to think that someday I'll be able to "restore" my car to a fun street vehicle and finally have something to take to car shows and to cruise around in on the weekends. CP is out, then.

So, I'm in the early stages of looking for a replacement. I really don't want to buy anything right now, but as my wife will tell you I can be obsessive about these sorts of things. I guess the first question is whether I'll go back to stock class (I ran F-stock 1998-2002 and had a great time), go to another street prepared car, or will I completely go bonkers and pick up some sort of mod car? Right now my thought process is leaning toward stock class. Using the Camaro as a street/autox car used to be great, but once I went ESP it became less and less practical as it got faster and faster. For some reason I'm back to thinking of ponycars, though. There's something fun about making a car do stuff that it wasn't necessarily made to do.

Right now the ponycar to have (in F-stock) is still the Shelby GT, but that's not attractive to me because frankly I haven't missed that '07 I had one minute. I do like most of what they did to the 2011, especially the much improved interior, and the power is likely to be just what the doctor ordered. Hopefully Ford decides to do something with a suspension package that will at least level the playing field with the Shelby GTs. I really hope they don't let that blowhard profiteer Texan get his grubby mitts on it, though. Why Ford lets him charge a fortune to bolt on Ford Racing parts I'll never know.

Other than that I'm not really enamored with much that is competitive. I'm a RWD guy at heart, but a Cobalt SS seems to have all the credentials. It's a *Cobalt*, though. 370Z is kinda cool, but damn Nissan would you please fire the guy who designs your steering wheels! Corvettes are great, but spendy. Maybe I can low-ball a 2010 Grand Sport in a year or two? Doubt it. Dark-horse pick is a STX BMW, but while the purchase price of a car is attractive I'd probably double my investment in wheels and suspension, and I'd be daily driving a 15 year old car.

Any big ideas on this one are welcome. I have time, so maybe the right answer will present itself. My Camaro found me, and maybe this next car will, too.

Friday, January 29, 2010

DC Auto Show

I've always wondered why auto shows draw such big crowds. For the most part, you can go to your local dealers and see just about everything you can see at an auto show and they won't charge admission for the privilege. Sure, there's a little pressure from salespeople at these dealers, and you'll have to drive around some. OK, maybe I can see why. Oh, and did I mention that I go to a local auto show just about every year?

This year was special, though. The Washington DC Region SCCA sent out a request for "non-econobox" cars to feature at their motorsports display. Thinking that few cars are farther from "econobox" than a Camaro I offered up my car and they accepted. So, last weekend I cleaned the car, put it on the trailer and down to DC I went.

This is not just for my selfish reasons of wanting to display my car at an auto show, but I must admit it's pretty cool seeing your pride and joy being ogled by passers-by. Nah, this is great for my sponsors, Horsepower Collector Car Storage and Mid-Atlantic Hotrods, who have just signed on with me for another year!

Last night I made it down to the show and I had a great time. First of all, the new convention center down in DC is amazing. I went to the Baltimore show last year so this is my first time seeing it. It's easy to get to, spacious, and quite a looker. The DC SCCA did a great job (Thanks Ian, Karen, and all the others who contributed!) with their display, and shows the different facets of what we do, and especially that motorsports can be done on a budget (even a small one).

As far as the new cars go, Ford seems to have embraced it's newfound mojo and had a very nice display of the vehicles they currently offer and the ones they'll be offering soon. They also had cutaways, interactive displays, cool LED spotlighting, and even a 2011 Mustang GT on its side (it's not often that a company wants to show you the bottom of its car). GM definitely won the concept/pre-production car battle with the Granite, Converj, Regal GS (love it!), Cruze, and Volt.

BMW was disappointing. No M-cars at all and no 5-series sedans either. The 135i I sat in was fantastic, though (I'll take mine silver with red interior, please!). VW had their typical display, but the cars looked great and I really like the 2010 GTI. Audi also had the cool LED spotlighting in their display, but went one better with almost all their cars in bright white! It was a pretty cool effect that set them apart with minimal effort required. The new Jaguars were there and mostly open to sample. Fantastic. It's hard to believe how far they've come in the last few years especially with their sedans.

So, if you haven't already done so, head down to the show. Don't forget to check out the SCCA display (bottom floor, not far from BMW), and say "hi" to my baby while you are there (#75 ESP Camaro).

Saturday, January 2, 2010

German cars.

Everything was fine. I liked American cars. Visions of CTS-Vs filled my dreams, I lamented that if I could just get a G8 GT with a manual I'd be in sedan heaven, and I thought a new Camaro SS would just be the best toy to find under the tree this Christmas. I still like American cars. I still think all the vehicles I just listed are swell indeed, but my wife just sent my life careening down a path that is really nothing new to me. We went to buy a BMW.

The signs had been there for months. My wife would lament that she never drove a car anymore (we had recently become a two-truck family), and she'd lament the passing of our dearly departed 330xi that gave its life to save hers. She'd hear the sound of a BMW straight-six start up and her heart would go all aflutter with glee. I can't say I was unaffected, but I was enjoying our newfound automotive simplicity too much to care.

Finally, it all came crashing down with the latest, end-of-year blowout, ad blitz by car companies. The BMW one seems to haunt us, invade all the shows we actually watch live (vs. DVR). How do they know? Well, it worked, and we went BMW shopping earlier this week. I went along because she needed me to sign stuff, and I figured I'd get dinner out as part of the package. Great.

Funny thing happened while we were there; I drove some BMWs. For those who don't know, I started my driving life with a German car. It was a VW GTI which, while a far cry from a BMW, is still a car that captures the sporty, teutonic driving experience. I loved that car, and even as it got old and worn-out would still put a smile on my face when I got behind the wheel. The 335i I drove on Monday was like all that GTI goodness (along with me) strapped to a scud missile. Fast, fun, and had a service history a mile long and no warranty. Next! We drove an automatic 335i, flappy paddles and all. Funny how the wrong transmission can ruin things. Next! Salesman asked if we had considered a 5-series. We hadn't ruled it out, and sure enough just like the story of the three bears, this one was juuuuust right.

It's a 530i with a manual trans., sport package, leather, navigation, and they are installing satellite radio for us. They gave us a nearly-identical car to drive while they prepare ours, and I've been trying to think of excuses to drive it (and buy it). I know prices, renewed my bimmerforums account, researched curb-weights on edmunds, and traded my cole slaw for sauerkraut.

I'm hooked, again.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Rallycross, anyone?

The DC region SCCA calendar and my facebook friends are trying to tell me something. Something I already knew, which is that I really need to figure out a way to try rallycrossing. If I had a car that would work I'd have been there years ago, but I just never seem to have anything lying around that would be appropriate. Right now I have my Camaro, which is a complete non-starter. There is no way I'm taking that car rallycrossing, even though I could dial in some ride height and it would be hilariously fun. I also have my tow vehicle/daily-driver Silverado. It would be fun, too, and it has plenty of ride height. Something tells me that a 3/4 ton, 4wd truck is a little bit of a tip hazard, and I need to go to work on Monday. That leaves the wife's Tahoe. I value my life and my ability to walk far too much to attempt that little stunt. Yes, she's break my legs, one by one, and then kill me.

So, does anyone have a rallycross car I can drive?! Bonus points if it's turbocharged and AWD!

Monday, November 2, 2009

2009 season is toast.

OK, so I haven't blogged as much as I'd hoped, but things happen. The 2009 season is a wrap for me, and for most local autocrossing in general.

First of all, I'd like to say that, once again, WDCR-SCCA has done a great job putting on their series. It's to the point now where it's easy to take for granted all the things they do well, but as a member of a different club that hosts events, I'm constantly reminded of how difficult it can be. Great job!

Autocrossers Inc. is "my" club. Of course the club isn't "mine," but it's the one I've belonged to for a long time. I'd like to also thank all of my fellow A.I. members for another great year of hosting events. Hopefully we can refine our schedule a bit next year, and avoid all the late-season stadium issues at FedEx field.

For me, I had a great season. I picked up the E Street Prepared championship for the DC Region SCCA, and I ended the year with a couple of top-10 PAX finishes. I feel like I could have done better at Nationals, but the surface really is going to take some tuning on my part. The car needs to lose a few lbs. as does its owner/driver/crewchief.

The most important thing I'll take away from the 2009 season is what I feel is the next step in my evolution as a driver. On more than one occasion this year, including once in Nebraska, I found myself running an extremely competitive time on my first run, but then unable to improve upon that time. For years I've generally needed a run or two before I really had a good plan in place and executed that plan in an acceptable way. More and more I find I'm able to go out and execute on the first run, but then what? The answer so far has been to overdrive my subsequent runs and go slower. When presented with this, my friend Dave Newman summed it up thusly: "Now you need to learn to go out and drive smarter." Sounds easy, but I don't think it's going to be.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

When it rains...

So the 2nd Autocrossers Inc. event was a washout. Initially it looked like we could expect the weather to clear around noon, but ultimately Mother Nature decided that a dry autocross wasn't on the to-do list for Saturday.

Don't get me wrong, I want it to rain. I like it when crops grow, reservoirs fill, and all the other great things that precipitation brings. If I had my way, though, it would only rain while I was not in danger of being cold and wet.

I like autocrossing more than I hate rain, though, so out the door I went at a very early hour.

Truth be told, even after working in the rain for a few hours I really wasn't wet. A few years ago I began assembling a killer raingear setup. Marmot pants, North Face jacket, REI brim hat (I hate hoods), and these great NEOS overboots.

One interesting phenomenon about a rainy autocross is to see who shows up. Who else is hardcore enough to brave the elements, often standing in the cold rain for hours just for 4 minutes or so of driving? You know who you are. And for those who didn't come out, it was a lot of fun. I was even feeling warm again sometime on Sunday afternoon!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hello world.

So, I'm an Autocrosser. If you aren't familiar with autocrossing, it can be difficult to explain, but I'll give it a try. You take a bunch of cones, mark out a course in a gigantic parking lot or airfield, and try to drive around the course as fast as you can. That really doesn't adequately convey the experience. It's some combination of roller coaster ride, speed reading, road rage, and dancing. It is also one of the most fun things you can do in the front seat of a car.

This blog is about me and my motorsports addiction. It'll probably focus mainly on autocrossing, especially since I'm having more fun doing than watching. Formula 1, sportscar racing, and MotoGP will also worm their way in from time to time (and sadly I don't participate in any of those).