I recently read this article on the
Rennlist and thought it was worth printing on the site. John Hammer's
Autocross (AX) experience in his '85 S Euro. - Leonard, Webmaster
Damn the boulders! Full speed ahead!
30 Jul 2003
Local (European) sports car club, of which I'm one of the founding
members, recently celebrated it's 1st anniversary with an Autocross and
Car Show at a site up in midcoast Maine, USA.
This course was set up at a new
high school/sports complex, out in the woodlands, including a large
secondary parking area not close to any buildings. The Club president was
able to get the facility (based on a modest donation and all vending
proceeds to the school's athletic fund, for an 'advanced driver
training and car handling course'.
Very cleverly worded wouldn't you say? The key word being 'course'.
We had invited the
SCCA sanctioned Cumberland Sports Car Club to join in the
occasion and (thank goodness!) they agreed to participate.
We had purchased cones, a
couple of helmets, hay bales, and the Pres. and VP had some experience or at least instant access to
Autocross information through their British car
club connections, to set up an AX event.
When they arrived at 7am the SCCA guys had a 'helpful suggestion'.
Reverse the course and have the finish line aimed out into the
woods, instead of
towards the periphery of large 1 to 2 ton boulders around 95% of the site!
(Plus a little other tweaking.)
What the heck were the landscape
designers thinking when they boulder-bordered this lot? Obviously none
of them were thinking 'Solo Racing' :-) !!!
Oh, by the way, my '85 Euro was the only car among our local
European Car Club entries, about twenty five or so that ran in the AX, to finish
with a trophy.
In fact it was first place, in whatever they call the 'A-S' (super-stock?) division. I think that means they
consider the 928 in the same class as Corvettes, Mustang SVO's
and such, if what I read later is accurate, however there were none of
those there. So I think they just lumped the 928, a regular 5.0 Mustang,
BMW M3, and a couple other entries, into this class.
The SCCA folks did
all the class grouping, stock vs. modified, etc. I did not put
myself down as 'novice' because I'd run one SCCA AX before
and years ago ran 'semi-organised' events in a 260-Z and a
modified Ford EXP/V-6 Capri.
On the other hand, I'm hardly you would
call AX experienced mainly because it's not an event suited for 3500 lb GT
style cars .. usually.
- The '85 S seems to be much more competitive than
I thought it would be in what I would call a 'mid-size' AX
event. The average time, if you remove some of the 'classic'
sports cars' (60's Healeys, a Morgan, MGBs, and what not) would be about
49 seconds from among the usual cast of characters: the modified and
turbo'd Hondas, Nissans, V6 Jettas, Passats, a couple of Toyotas, Nissan
6-bangers and about six Subaru AWD - WRX Turbos, including one
My first run was 49+. My last was 45.20 - and that was
with a passenger (photographer) in the car.
The best time of the day was
42.96 from one of the Subaru STi guys.... on sticky tires. He runs these
events just about every week, of course, always in top 3 position. In
other words, a little less than 3 seconds between my best time and the
AX-prepped Sti /WRX and best time of the day.
- The Euro was in 1st
gear all the way; there was no 'room' for 2nd. Everyone else
was in second, of course but I'm not sure about the pro team Sti or
overall winner as they were in my run group ahead of me. So I never
caught their acts when I was close enough to listen for gear changes.
When I ran the '84 Grey Shark (5 Spd/US) on an SCCA course very similar
in distance and best times, I couldn't run the 'long'
(relatively speaking) straight right off the start line without
going briefly into 2nd, then lock up the wheels to get into non-synchro
1st to take the first 90+ degree turn and a couple others.
With the '85 Euro, which ironically is synchro'd down to 1st, it was a straight
'set it and forget it' 1st gear run all the way, starting
with the rip from 0 - 80 kph close to the the 6k mark,
according to another club member passenger who checked the gauges for
me. It was slam-braking and controlled burnouts at all but a couple
turns, from start to finish. Rear end breaking loose under full power ..
yes! .. but under control and I was cutting at least a second off the
previous run every time except one.
Someone told me the SCCA guy 'calling' the race and explaining various tactics and
describing some of the regular performers' cars over the PA system, had
this to say during my third 'unorthodox' run, cutting over three seconds off the first one:
'Folks... now that's a different breed
of cat from any Porsche I've seen run before. Usually the tyre-smokers
are all-noise, no numbers.... and cone eaters! He hasn't hit one cone
Never hit one all day as it turned out! Doesn't seem
possible with the rpms and torque I was throwing into that tiny little
course. I might have cut as much as a second off each run but after the
'debut' launch, the 928 was suddenly a crowd favourite.
Seems that I forgot that the timing doesn't start until the nose passes
the starting line beam. Starter just dropped the flag with a little flip and I'm still sitting there looking at him, wondering what THAT
move was supposed to signify. When the other group was running and I
was working the course and taking some photos, the starter was giving
each driver the 5-4-3- (etc) count and then very obviously whipping
down the green flag. So, I'm looking at the starter guy who gave me this
little limp-wristed flag flip, and he verbally says .. 'OK, go .. GO!' I'm
annoyed (thinking this has already cost me two seconds) and
just stomped on it and dumped the clutch and left a cloud of white smoke
and 50 feet of my 245/45 Yoko's behind.
Well, from there on, the staging
guy and the starter (who happened to be the No.1 and No.2 overall
finishers of the day .. WRX-turbo/SCCA club guys) were just all grins
and all-excited when I came up to the line again telling me about
the 'egging on' that the announcer was doing with the 5.0
Mustang guy and a very jazzed up Jetta that must have showed up with its
smokin' tires on.
Anyway, I had to produce burnouts and burnouts I did and the new sound of the tuned RMB exhaust was REALLY awesome.
small film crew from the Maine Photographic Workshops showed up and
they got permission to enter the course to film one of my
Maybe I'm crazy but I think I could have cut down the gap between
the 928 Euro and the overall winning turbo WRX to under two seconds!! But
even at just under three seconds, that seems pretty competitive for the
hefty, street-tyre shod 928.
My '85 Euro is
continuing to be one hell of an amazing series of discoveries! There's
a very interesting beast in there. I seem to have only tapped into a bit
of its alter-ego personality! - John Hammer, '85 928S Euro