homearticles > damn the boulders! full speed ahead!

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!

Wed, 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.

Two observations:

  1. 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 pro-rally STi. 

    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.

  2. 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 yet today!'

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.

A small film crew from the Maine Photographic Workshops showed up and they got permission to enter the course to film one of my runs.

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