Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fall Sprints

The last SCCA race of the year is usually a single Regional race spanning two days in October. This race is also usually worth double points, so the maximum number of points possible is 28 instead of 14. With a 30 point lead going in, I could have stayed home and watched Bob Hall take all 28 points and still won the championship. But where’s the fun in that? Several other people seemed to agree with that thought, so we had a good field of 5 CFFs and 23 cars in the group.

I had to get new tires for this race, but new race tires live longer if they are run through one heat cycle and then allowed to rest for 24 hours before being run again. That meant that I would also need a new set of old tires. Pete Wood came through with a set of tires that had a lot of tread, but they were so old that he playfully called them “rim protectors” rather than race tires. They were round, they were black, and they held air. That was all I needed.

Saturday morning was wet and chilly. Not as wet as Road America (did I mention it rained there?), but the track was damp in a few spots. The worst was corner 2. Normally flat-out, this corner becomes a brake-and-downshift corner in the rain, and it’s the last to dry out because of a thick canopy of trees overhead. I had a few tense moments there, but still managed to turn a 1:23 lap or two, and everybody made it though safely.

I put the new tires on for qualifying and tried my best to bring them up to temperature gently. Unfortunately, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to run a few hard laps behind Alan Murray. We turned a 1:19.9 before I passed him and got down to a 1:19.5, which was good enough for the second CFF grid position. Alan would be two cars behind me, with Gunnar Lindstrom (who hauled his Lola all the way from California! ) between us. The three of us had qualified within half a second of each other, and the entire Club Ford field was within 3.5 seconds.

I was very disappointed to hear that Alan had broken a stub axle during qualifying and wouldn’t make the race. The same thing happened in July, and he had to search to find the very last replacement stub axle in the country. That meant he didn’t have a spare when the other one broke, and nobody had another to send to him by air freight. I may not have been as disappointed as he was, but I think I was a close second. I was hoping to either enjoy a fun drafting session with him and Gunnar while Bob Hall drove away… or to work together with Alan and Gunnar to chase down and pass Bob. Alan said his goal for the weekend had been to turn a 1:18 lap, but that it was now up to me to do it for him.

Sunday was dry and sunny, but windy enough to be somewhat chilly. The morning races went quickly, and cleanup between sessions was done so efficiently that by lunchtime the races were running a full hour ahead of schedule. I had originally planned to sleep in on Sunday and just show up around 1pm, which would have been an hour early by the printed schedule… and would have been too late in reality. It’s great that things ran so smoothly, but they never made a single call to the grid for our race. Gunnar and William Cobb, the F500 gridded second overall, were both paddocked away from the rest of us, so they never saw us when we started pushing our cars to the grid around 12:30. Gunnar told me later that his first warning was when he heard our engines start at the 5 minute signal on grid. He rushed to get to the grid just in time to see us pulling away without him.

We all tried desperately to get some heat in our tires and engines during the pace lap. I was in the left row, with Bob Hall lined up directly in front of me and Allen Wheatcroft in front of him. Pete Wood was a row back from me. When the green flag dropped, my engine coughed as I stood on the gas, but I didn’t lose much ground. I started to catch up to Bob a little as we approached corner 1, but he was trying to pass Allen on the left edge of the track. Allen hadn’t left any room on that side though, so Bob ended up dropping his left rear wheel off the track surface just as he hit the brakes, snapping his car into a spin and sending it backwards across the track in front of me. I thanked myself for being too chicken to follow him any closer than I had (I had left at least a full car length between us), but then I saw a yellow blur come up from behind me. Cobb had decided to try to slice his way through the entire pack all at once and get back to second overall in just one move. He had a huge head of steam going when Bob’s car suddenly appeared in front of him. The yellow F500 bounced off of Bob’s black Crossle and started heading back toward me. I actually had to get back on the throttle to try to get out of the way. Two cars out, and we’re not even through the first turn.

Entering corner 6 on the same lap, Brad Ellingson tried to pass Dan Johnson’s Van Diemen FF on the right. Unfortunately, Dan was already trying to pass another car. There isn’t quite room there for three cars, especially when one is a car as wide as Brad’s Swift DB1 FF. Brad hit the curbing, which made his left front wheel hit Dan’s right front wheel. That impact catapulted Brad up into the air, vaulting over Dan’s car and landing on Rick Eskola’s F500. Three more cars out, and we still hadn’t completed a single lap. The pace car came out, and we crawled around for four laps under full course yellow while the safety crews tried to untangle all the cars. It took me a couple of laps to realize how few cars were in front of me. There was one F500, two FFs, and then me. I was suddenly 4th overall and leading CFF!

When the green flag came out again, I charged hard to try to keep the lead. After two laps, my crew showed me that I had a 3 second lead over Pete Wood in second place. A few laps later, I realized that I was still hot on the tail of John Luxon’s Piper FF. John has been to the Runoffs a few times, and I was determined to stay with him for as long as I could. I turned a 1:18.7 (there you go, Alan! ) before losing him in lapped traffic. I tried to chase him down again, but I reminded myself that I didn’t need to push so hard. I just needed to stay in front of Pete, who was now 26 seconds back, and Gunnar, who was trying to pass Pete for second place. Actually, I didn’t need to stay in front of anyone. I didn’t even need a finish. I just wanted to have fun and bring the car home in one piece. The championship had already been locked before the weekend even started. Still, I couldn't help being a little disappointed with myself for giving up 4th overall. I thought I was being lapped by the overall leader, but it turned out to be Darrel Greening, who was running 2nd in F500.

The TRO Manufacturing Central Division Regional Championship requires each participant to run a minimum of 4 races to be eligible for the championship. Although 14 drivers earned points in CFF this year, only four qualified for the championship. I ran all 9 events (the last counted double, so it is considered to be two events), Bob Hall ran 6, and Pete Wood and Alan Murray each ran 5.

At first I felt that I had won the championship by racing (and winning) the first three races that the runner-up did not attend. That gave me an “automatic” 42-point advantage. But take out those three events and that still leaves me with a 12-point lead and the championship.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Catching Up Part 2: All Tired Out

Although my 2008 season has been all about SCCA, it was easy to talk me into running the Midwestern Council 50th anniversary race at Blackhawk on September 21. Unfortunately, I had committed to that event long before running the Double Regional at Road America the week before. I came down with a cold after spending the weekend outside in the cold and the rain (did I mention I was wet?), and I was seriously considering sleeping in when Sunday came around.

The title of the event was “All Tired Out,” so it was fitting that I had to drag myself out of bed at oh-dark-thirty and spend two hours trying to pick my way through a pea soup fog to get to the track. The fog lifted by the time I got to the track, but it was still cool and humid when we hit the track. I got out of the car after the practice session and realized that I was blowing a lot of fog around. I was breathing heavy, and the cool air turned my breath into quite a cloud every time I exhaled. I tried to calm my breathing a bit, but I was still engulfed in steam. Finally I realized that the steam was coming off my body! My slight fever combined with the exertion raised my body temperature, and the perspiration was all but sizzling off of me. Yes, I was hot.

I couldn’t hook up with anyone during qualifying. I was balked by sports racers nearly every lap, and it seemed that nobody was turning the same lap times that I was. I settled for a 1:22 and 3rd in CFF. Several DSRs had come to test for the Runoffs, so the field was large and fast. Third in CFF was 21st overall on the grid.

The race started off very badly. On lap 2, a Runoffs-bound DSR broke and stopped at the side of the track. On lap 3, an S2000 hit the wall, and an FC broke and stopped. On lap 7, another FC and another DSR both stopped. There were not enough wreckers available to get all of the broken cars to safety, so the officials had no choice but to stop the race until the track could be cleared.

When we lined up for the restart, I was directly behind Scott Reif, who was running 2nd in CFF. I thought I could get a jump on him at the start, and I was right. By the next lap, he was almost a straightaway behind me, balked by a sports racer. I did my best to deal with increasing understeer, but I could only manage a 1:21. Meanwhile Scott had passed the sports racer and was turning 1:19s in pursuit of me. He passed me with only a few laps to go, and I finished 3rd, just 5 seconds behind him.

After the race it became clear why the car had been understeering. The left front tire had just about shredded, losing a significant portion of its tread. But this wasn’t an entirely bad thing. While it was happening, I felt as though I learned (or re-learned) a lot about driving the car. I tried to compensate for the loss of traction by turning in to the corner a little earlier, so I could turn the wheel a little less abruptly. That not only made the car turn better, it also made the car handle much more neutrally than it had been doing. The back end was finally sliding as much as the front, which is what I had been struggling to make happen since 2006. I was probably as spent as that tire, but I felt so much better about everything that nothing really seemed to matter.

That would have been a terrifically high note to end the season, but there was still one more race to go.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Catching Up in 3 Parts

Amazing thing, inertia. You can keep a thing going with so little effort, but take a brief break and it’s like pulling teeth to get going again. Once you’re rolling, you wonder why you stopped in the first place.

After the Firecracker in July, we had a two-month layoff before the Kettle Moraine Double Regional at Road America. It was an agonizing two months. The car was begging to be worked on, and I was itching to get back out. Of course, I didn’t touch the car at all for seven and a half weeks. Thursday night before the race, I finally got out to the garage to at least look at the car.

It rained Friday night, so I waited until Saturday morning to load the car. Of course, it was still raining in the morning, so the car and I got wet anyway. I got to the track bright and early (and wet) to find a line of cars waiting for Tech Inspection. Several people were milling about inside the Tech shelter, drinking coffee and not doing a whole lot of anything else. One car sat at the front of the line with nobody looking at it for nearly an hour. The next car in line was being inspected by two or three people for well over an hour. The owner of the CFF in front of me finally pointed out to the coffee drinking people that he and I were in group 2 and would miss our session if someone didn’t put down their coffee and help us soon. About ten minutes later, an inspector came over to look at his car. When he was done, he left. I then watched as two other inspectors began to check the Corvette in line behind me. When an inspector finally came back to me some fifteen minutes later, I informed him that I was now definitely going to miss my qualifying session because I had been waiting for so long while everyone stood around not inspecting my car. He finally handed me my tech sticker as my group was hitting the track. Thanks. That was a great way to start the weekend.

With my qualifying session wasted, all I could do was wait for the race and watch everything get wet. My clothes were all so completely soaked that I had to call my girlfriend to bring me something dry to wear. Fortunately, she did. And she didn’t even make me buy her breakfast.

The weather was a bit chilly, so I decided to wear my old three-layer driver’s suit rather than my newer, lighter-weight, breathable suit. That turned out to be a bad choice. When I got in the car, I couldn’t even buckle the lap belt! The old suit was so much bulkier than the new one that the belts were about an inch away from each other. So we each grabbed a belt and pulled… and as soon as my back popped, the belts snapped into place. Ouch.

As we lined up on the grid, a fog descended that was so thick the corner workers could not see from one corner to the next. We had to sit on the grid for several minutes (getting wet) until the fog lifted enough that the workers were confident that they would not lose any cars in the mist. I appreciated their caution, even though I got wetter because of the wait.

Because I had never raced in the rain at Road America, and I had no practice session in the morning, I had no idea what to expect. I started very conservatively and tried to gradually bring my lap times down from the 4-minute range to something approaching 3:30. I watched as my position marker counted down: 23… 19… 17… I hadn’t passed a single car, but people were having a tough time staying on the track. Finally I passed a pair of more modern Formula Fords. The newer cars are sprung so stiff that they can’t get much traction in the rain. The older Club Fords have much more compliant suspensions, so they can deal with reduced traction much more effectively. I finished 12th overall and 5th in CFF, mostly due to attrition and spins in front of me. All that mattered to me was that I had brought my car back in one piece, without ever leaving the track.

Sunday was more of the same, though thankfully without the Tech scene or the belt drama. I got a little more used to the RA rain line, which holds a couple of surprises. Corner 7, the Kink, and corner 13 (all flat out in the dry) require some braking in the rain. The entrance to the Carousel has a very slick patch, followed by a lot of traction. The tricky part is that there is no visual indication where one ends and the other begins. If you turn the wheel too early, the front wheels lose traction and slide straight ahead until they hit the grippy bit, which suddenly throws the front end of the car sideways. The rear tires are still on the slippery part, so they start sliding the other way, which is very exciting. The car goes from pure understeer to scary oversteer in a heartbeat. The exit of the Carousel is almost as bad, but the track goes from having almost as much traction as in the dry to a bit of a slippery patch. The transition is much more gradual, so you just start to become aware that the car is starting to slide. You can modulate the throttle to keep it from getting away from you, or you can plan for it and leave yourself a car width of track at the exit.

The race would have been called uneventful except that I picked up two positions on the last lap. Ian Lenhart was leading in CFF, with Garey Guzman in second place. Ian went off and got stuck in the gravel trap at corner 3, and Garey spun in the Carousel (apparently a victim of the slippery/grippy surprise). I finished 4th in CFF, which was good enough for a trophy.

TRO Manufacturing Central Division Championship Series points:

John Haydon - 70
R. Hall - 40
P. Kingham - 28
A. Murray - 25
D. Harmison - 24
S. Beeler - 20
P. Wood - 18
J. Tovo - 18
G. Guzman - 18
I. Lenhart 17
M. Green - 16
C. Smith - 11
C. Rehder - 7

With only 28 more points left to earn, that would seem to be a wrap for the season! But we can't let it end like that. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Firecracker Double

July 12-13 was a double Regional race at Blackhawk known as the "Firecracker". Saturday morning was very damp from soaking rains overnight (which created a fun little moat in my paddock space), but most of us went out on dry tires for the first session. I still don't know why any of us thought that was a good idea. None of us turned a respectable lap time in that session, and a few of us came perilously close to writing off our cars completely. Yes, my hand is raised.

The track was dry for the afternoon qualifying session, so all of us dropped our times dramatically. I qualified toward the back of the pack, but I'll need to check my excuse file to tell you why. Here we go: I was having an off weekend, the weather was hot, the sun was in my eyes, and the goldfish ate my homework. I certainly can't blame the car. It was begging to go faster.

During Saturday's race I tried to keep up with Pete Wood while he tried to pressure Bob Hall into making a mistake. Neither of us succeeded. Pete was in much better shape than I was, so it was all I could do to keep him in sight while the leaders drove off into the distance. For some reason, Pete slowed down towards the end of the race. That only made me drive faster (and beat my qualifying time by 2 seconds), but I still couldn't catch him until just after the finish line.

Pete had somewhere else to be on Sunday, so I had to find another rabbit to chase that day. Fortunately, Tom Stillwell fit the bill very well. I chased his white Swift for several laps, and he helped me to come within a half second of my fast time from Saturday. I had a lot of fun that session. I always think it's a lot more fun to chase a quick car than to just run laps alone, even if the car you’re chasing is too aerodynamic to give you much of a tow.

I got a fairly good start in the race, and on the second lap I was right on Bob Hall's gearbox through corner 5. Unfortunately, his off-track excursions during qualifying had damaged the fasteners on the nose cone of his car, and the nose actually came off as we exited corner 6. It was an amazing sight. The nose seemed to dance in the air, climbing and tumbling high enough and long enough that three of us drove under it before it came back down. The trouble was, I was completely mesmerized by it. By the time I finally peeled my eyes off of it, Bob had opened up a lead of at least five car lengths. I might have been able to stay with him (yes, that's a stretch, but humor me), but after that mistake there was no way for me to catch him. I had to settle for a 5th and a 4th for the weekend.

This was the first weekend that had more than two CFF competitors, and the standings for the TRO Manufacturing Central Division Regional Championship suddenly had a lot more depth than before.

John Haydon - 56
P. Kingham - 28
A. Murray - 25
D. Harmison - 24
R. Hall - 20
M. Green - 16
C. Smith - 11
P. Wood - 8

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Road America Video

Here is a quick (24 minute) video from the Road America race on May 31. For some reason, the camera cut out a couple of laps from the end... just as I was beginning to catch Bill Bonow.

I also have video from the double Regional race at Blackhawk on July 12 & 13, but that's another post.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Results, I've Had a Few

The first race weekend at Blackhawk in April was a two-day drivers' school followed by a Regional race on Sunday. Only one other CFF showed, and he qualified two spots behind me. I think he got caught up in traffic on the start because I didn't see him for most of the race. But around the halfway point, just when I was starting to curse myself for never actually getting around to exercising like I had planned, I noticed a distant speck in my mirror. The speck was getting closer, gaining a little on me every lap. After a few more laps I could see that it was a red car like the other CFF. I tried to calculate how many laps he would need to overtake me, and if there was any way I could hold him off long enough. At the start of the last lap, it was clear that it would be a close finish. I tried to put the other car out of my mind so I could concentrate on driving as well as I possibly could. Finally, coming into the last corner, he was close enough that I could see the car more clearly. It was not the other CFF, but Jeff Primm, a student of mine driving an FF. I had been coaching him throughout the day, and he was doing a great job of putting my advice into practice! We drag-raced to the finish, and he got me by a quarter of a second. The other CFF finished about 16 seconds behind me. But once again, the big story was Bruce Lindstrand. He test-drove a customer's 1998 Van Diemen FF, starting at the back of the pack after the green flag, and worked his way up to second overall, winning FF and lapping everyone up to 4th place.

On Memorial Day weekend, we went to Grattan for a double Regional. This weekend was the first two rounds of the 2008 East-West FF/CFF Challenge, but turnout was surprisingly light. Four FFs and 7 CFFs entered. I blame the long drive for my 5th place (8th overall) finish on Saturday. This weekend also had a little twist. Usually the race grid is determined by the fastest lap time turned during qualifying, but this time the Sunday morning qualifying session was a 7-lap sprint race, and the finishing order would determine the grid for the race. I managed to get a great start, passing two CFFs and lining up behind Bruce Lindstrand in the LMI Tiga (the car had stickier tires than are allowed in CFF, so he ran in FF). Steve Beeler in a Lola and Joe Marcinski in another Tiga were right behind me for a couple of laps, but when I failed to capitalize on a (rare) misstep by Lindstrand, Beeler took advantage of my error and passed us both. Lindstrand passed him back before Marcinski passed both me and Beeler for third. I finished 5th again, but that sprint was so much fun I didn't care. I was also testing a new video camera that weekend, and fortunately the one session I managed to make it work was the qualifying sprint.

The race was a bit weird. Beeler shot up the middle at the start and ran away with the two leaders. I tried to keep up with Marcinski but I couldn't keep up the pace and finally let him go. When I realized I had nobody to chase or to defend against, I slowed a little bit and just waited for the last lap. Suddenly, the last corner on the last lap was showing a waving yellow flag. I lifted off the throttle slightly in case I had to stop or avoid a spinning car, but when I crested the hill I saw Beeler coasting, out of gas. I put my foot down and passed him for 4th. In impound, I learned that Dave Harmison's Royale had overheated and dropped out after 3 laps, which would have given me 3rd place. But the results sheet showed Beeler in 3rd and me in 4th. I couldn't understand it. I had passed Beeler well before the flag stand, so why did the results show that he had crossed the finish line a full second before I had? Cindy Lindstrand investigated and was reminded that at Grattan, the finish line is actually about 100 yards before the starter's stand. Beeler had crossed the line before me. I only beat him to the starter's stand.

One quick turnaround later, and it was time for a double Regional at Road America. We had a fair group, with 23 cars total, but again only 2 CFFs. Alan Murray was having a hard time getting back in the groove in his Crossle, and he started the weekend in bad shape: registration mishaps, a late start (he got to the track just as we were about to start the qualifying session), and a misfire above 4000 rpm -- and that was all before lunch on Saturday, so he would start the race at the back of the grid. Saturday's qualifying session was tough. The track was wet in some places and dry in others. You could come full-bore up the front straight, through 1 and 3, then full-bore down the back straight, but the braking zone for corner 5 was wet. Tiptoe through 5, and you could blast up the hill for 6, full throttle through 7, plenty of traction in 8 and through the carousel -- but the track was wet from the Kink through corner 12. That's a very fast section, so losing traction there was a scary prospect. I managed to turn a 2:47, which was fast enough to grid 10th overall.
I spent most of the race trying to chase down Bill Bonow in an FST and Dan Johnson in an FF as they traded 7th place back and forth for several laps. Suddenly Johnson slowed, and as I passed him I could hear that his engine didn't sound right. Neither did mine, though. It sounded like a diesel truck was tailgating me, which either meant horribly misadjusted valves or a blown exhaust header gasket. I concentrated on chasing down Bonow, whittling down the gap until he also slowed and let me pass, which gave me 7th overall. Sunday's qualifying started off poorly. Murray was ahead of me, but we were stuck in a pack of cars for a few laps. Once traffic cleared, I passed Murray on the front straight and he followed me as I passed a F500 coming into corner 1. He stuck with me through corner 3 and fell back a bit coming into 5. I didn't see him again through the carousel, but I just assumed I had lost him (the Tiga is amazingly stable and quick through the carousel). The next lap, corner 4 was waving yellow. As I crested the hill, I could see two wreckers at the side of the track near the braking zone for 5... pulling Murray's Crossle off the wall. Fortunately, it looked a lot worse than it was. The car had a bent tie rod and four flat-spotted tires, but no other damage, and Alan was unhurt. He told me later he had just jumped on the brakes a little too hard, locking the wheels. Before he had a chance to react, the car was backwards in the wall. I gridded 12th for the race and spent the first few laps playing with Carl Middelegge in an FST. He would draft me on the straights (using my horsepower for a tow) and I would let him pass before the corner, because I knew he could corner much faster than I could. We repeated that trick until he had a solid lead over Bonow in the other FST, when he let me go. I tried to chase down Dan Johnson again, but his car was running much better than it had on Saturday. I cruised to a 6th overall and another win. While Carl and I were playing and trying to chase down the faster cars, I managed to beat my qualifying time by almost 3 seconds (2:39.9), getting me to within 2 seconds of my best time ever. And that's only 7 seconds off the track record. I think I can make that up just in the braking zone for corner 5.

Next stop: Blackhawk, July 12 & 13 for the "Firecracker" double Regional (rounds 3 & 4 of the East-West Challenge series)

Monday, March 10, 2008


After several months of wondering and waiting for schedules to be published, and after a few more weeks of planning and nail-biting and revising plans, I finally posted a tentative schedule, thinking that all of the events had been confirmed. Silly me. Two days after posting it, races were cancelled and race series changed. Next year I'll post my plans in November and see if the "last-minute" changes happen any sooner.

Now I'm down to just 10 races over 6 weekends:

April 27: SCCA Regional, Blackhawk Farms Raceway, South Beloit, IL (TRO Champ Series)
May 24-25: SCCA Double Regional, Grattan Raceway, Belding, MI (East-West Challenge Series)
May 31-June 1: SCCA Double Regional, Road America, Elkhart Lake, WI (TRO Champ Series)
July 12-13: SCCA Double Regional, Blackhawk Farms Raceway, So. Beloit, IL (EWC and TRO)
Sept 13-14: SCCA Double Regional, Road America, Elkhart Lake, WI (EWC and TRO)
Oct 18-19: SCCA Regional, Blackhawk Farms, So. Beloit, WI (TRO Champ Series)

I wish I could run more events at Road America or Grattan, but neither track has any more SCCA Regional or Midwestern Council events scheduled. I'm also very disappointed that neither series will be stopping at GingerMan or the Milwaukee Mile. There are a half-dozen racetracks within 100 miles of Chicago, yet each sanctioning body is only running two of them! What gives??

Friday, February 22, 2008


Have I mentioned that I am not a fan of winter? I'm not. Especially winters where the snowfall total is more than I am tall, the windchills are below zero for days at a time, and even the plow trucks get stuck. Winter Wonderland? Sure, if by "wonder" you mean “I wonder if I’ll make it to work today… I wonder when I’ll feel my toes again… I wonder if I should buy a few more sets of long underwear... I wonder if I still have ears...”

Our one-year-old snowblower is going to need a major overhaul if summer ever comes, because it has seen some very hard use this winter. I think the racecar has seen less abuse in 30 years than the snowblower has seen in 3 months. I should be thankful that snowblowers don’t have logbooks. That would be an embarrassing read: “Crashed into ice-packed snowbank; repair auger hood damage before next snowfall… Stalled by choking on heavy snow; check engine case for cracks before next storm… Rolled, total damage to everything, tech sticker pulled…”

Last Sunday was a refreshing change. Instead of shoveling ice and snow, I spent the day shoveling ice and water. The mercury finally poked its head up over the 30 degree mark as a warm (storm) front came through town. For the first time in months, we got rain instead of snow. It was a terrific opportunity to get the two-inch layer of ice off the driveway, but underneath the ice was a lot of water. The rain and melting snow combined to make some epic puddles (which couldn’t get past the snowbanks on either side of the driveway into the soil which was frozen anyway), so I basically worked on corralling the water from the garage to the street, which was also flooded and iced over. I was thrilled with the rain, but I also wasn’t sad when it finally changed to snow in the afternoon.

Fortunately, the warm weather (well, relatively warm) gave me an opportunity to finally get the car up on stands, and just in time too. All that water in the garage has now frozen into a fascinating display of freeze expansion. Depending on your point of view, the garage floor looks either like a 3-D map of the glaciers during the ice age, or like a snapshot of the tide coming in. The ice actually sits up so high that it just touches one of the rear wheels, which is hanging 2 inches off the floor.

That’s enough talk about winter. I’m getting cold.

I mentioned before that this is the first time that I’ve had a running car in my garage during the off-season. I’m used to panicking with a three-page to-do list a couple of weeks before the first event, so this is an unusual situation for me to say the least. I do have a brief list of projects to keep me busy, like fixing some stripped threads on the gearbox and re-doing a hasty exhaust repair, but the car is essentially ready to run. So what do I do now?

My other big area of indecision is in planning the 2008 season. I have a list of events I really want to run, but they don’t really add up to a season. I’m looking at an SCCA Regional here and a Midwestern Council race there, but I’m not leaning towards a commitment to any one series right now. Each group has at least one event that I'm willing to miss the other group's race for, so I won't be running a full season with either group.

Another question mark on the horizon is my license renewal. Because of my abbreviated 2007 season, I ran enough races to renew an SCCA Regional license, but not enough to automatically renew my National license*. For an extra fee I can apply for a waiver to renew my National license, and for another extra fee I can also apply for a waiver to renew my Midwestern Council license. MC will let me run on an SCCA license, but I won’t be awarded any points (which won’t be a big deal if I’m not running the full MC schedule anyway, since I won’t be in the running for a championship).

Here are the not-quite-set-in-concrete, definite maybe events that I’m considering, possibly:

April 19-20 Driver’s School & Race, MC, Blackhawk Farms
April 27 SCCA Regional Race, Blackhawk Farms
May 24-25 SCCA Double Regional, Grattan (MI)
May 31-June 1 SCCA Double Regional, Road America
June 29 MC Race, Blackhawk Farms
July 12-13 SCCA Double Regional, Blackhawk Farms
July 19-20 Driver’s School & Race, MC, Blackhawk Farms
August 9-10 (a busy weekend) MC Race, Blackhawk
(or) SCCA National, Grattan
(or) SCCA Double Regional, Mid-Ohio
August 30-31 SCCA Double Regional, State Fair Park
Sept 13-14 SCCA Double Regional, Road America
Sept 21 MC Race, Blackhawk Farms
Oct 18-19 SCCA Regional, Blackhawk Farms
Oct 25-26 MC Race, Blackhawk Farms

Whoops, that’s 13. Not that I’m superstitious, but let’s put the June 8 MC Race at Autobahn Country Club on the list too.

My only complaint about that calendar is the same as in many other years: The events are clustered, with back-to-back events separated by long gaps. The back-to-back events at Blackhawk are not too tough because the setup doesn’t need to be changed, but going from Grattan to Road America to Autobahn can be tough. In addition to the major wallet strain, you have to schedule a gear change during the week. That isn’t a big deal for some people named Nicole Temple who can change gears in 15 minutes, but when it takes you an entire evening (hi, that’s me), the week gets pretty hectic. Unload the car Sunday night (if it’s not too late), clean the car and get the tools back together Monday night, nut & bolt Tuesday, change gears Wednesday, load the truck Thursday so you can take the car along Friday morning so you can leave from work Friday afternoon. That doesn’t leave much room for actually fixing problems.

But thinking about it again, the first back-to-back like that is the Memorial Day weekend at Grattan followed by a Road America event. RA is so close to home that I wouldn’t have to load the car until Friday night after work, or even Saturday morning (plus we have a holiday on Monday which will help). The trip back home from RA Sunday night will get us home early enough to get everything unloaded and cleaned up so we can start working on the car on Monday. And the next event (MC at Autobahn) is Sunday only, so I could drive down Saturday night or (ungodly early) Sunday morning, so that’s another half-day on my side at least. The other nasty back-to-back is the September Road America event followed by an MC Race at Blackhawk. The MC race is also a one-day (Sunday) event, which gives me Saturday to finish the car, after an early evening the Sunday before. So what am I worried about?

*To renew an SCCA Regional license, SCCA requires completing 2 Regional races. To renew an SCCA National license, SCCA requires 4 Regionals, or 2 Nationals and 1 Regional, or 3 Nationals. I ran 2 Regionals plus 2 MC events which are not officially recognized by SCCA for licensing purposes.