Lead photo courtesy of Meghan A.

Yay! Grissom Air Force Base! I’d always been told that this was a fun surface to run on, but never managed to make it down here the one time a year that TSSCC does so, as it is 3 hours south of Chicago and I always had schedule conflicts. Not that I picked the best weather to finally attend the event. It was basically raining most of the time, though the course did dry out enough for me to get a whopping TWO dry runs in out of 8 total runs. I won my class, though that isn’t saying much as there were only three competitors due to the distance, and the weather. I’m sure next weekend’s event will be more challenging.

Date: Sunday, April 30, 2017
SCCA Chapter: n/a (TSSCC is unaffiliated)
Location: Grissom Air Force Base, Bunker Kill, IN
Weather: Overcast, Rainy (dried up for a very short period, then rained again), 10-20 MPH winds, 60-65 degrees F
Car: 2015 Subaru BRZ
Class: 345 STX
Wheels/Tires: 949 Racing 6UL (17×9)/Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R (245/40R17)
Brakes: Hawk 5.0
Suspension: KW V3 coilovers, Raceseng Cas/Cam plates, Velox LCAs
Exhaust: Fujitsubo Authorize R Catback
Raw: 51.027 (1st of 3 in Class)
PAX: 41.944 (19th of 44 Overall)

A Fun, Smooth Surface!

So the main reason for my wanting to come down here was because I was told this is a really cool surface to run on. This turned out to be absolutely true. This is an older section of the airfield that appears to be no longer used. It’s a concrete surface, and I assume it’s still smooth because it was constructed to bear the weight of very heavy aircraft, and is therefore more resilient to degrading over time. Whatever the reason, it’s a lot of fun. You can see the layout below:

The smoothness can introduce some challenges too, though. As you can see from the lead photo, it was a rather wet day. This concrete surface actually offered a lot of grip, but it was still very easy to kick the tail out. However, the smoothness of the concrete surface meant that when the rear end did step out, it was smooth and graceful… and hard to anticipate. There wasn’t much warning between grip, and no grip, which definitely made it hard to push the car hard in the wet – especially since this was my first experience auto-crossing on a properly wet surface.

RE71Rs On Wet Pavement

One of the main reasons I was excited for this event, even with the rain, was that I was very interested in trying out these RE71Rs in properly wet conditions; something I’d never experienced before. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the result was definitely unexpected. There’s a lot more grip than I thought there would be! I’m not saying you can be anywhere near as fast as you can be in the dry, but you can be a lot faster than you’d think you could be as long as you’re somewhat smooth with your inputs and careful not to break traction. I love a good challenge, and the car wiggling around and stepping out now and then is a load of fun. Overall, I’m quite impressed with the tires’ ability to stick to a wet surface. Granted, I am still waiting for a day where it’s actually raining decently during my run, which will mean a lot more water (and more standing water – there wasn’t much of that here), and presumably make things much more difficult, and much slower, but this was still a good taste of wet autocross. It’s a different kind of challenge, but it’s fun.

Dry Runs, and Room for Improvement

I ran in Heats 2 and 4. This didn’t help me gain a good PAX position, because Heats 1 and 3 got to run their entire 3rd heat in the dry. Heat 4 only managed two runs on a dry surface before it rained again and ruined things. This means I only got two runs to figure things out. My first run started out well, but quickly deteriorated, as you can see below. This actually marks my first complete spin ever at an autocross. Not a fast run, but quite fun!

So with that run out, and with the rain visibly approaching, I just did what I could to try to get one clean run in. It was good enough to outpace my two STX competitors, but I wasn’t too terribly happy with it. You can see quite a few things in the video. First off, I botched the start, bouncing off the limiter, and then wiggling the hips when I finally decided to grab another gear. I wasn’t particularly tight around a lot of the cones, and I was a bit late in my steering inputs in the slalom. I think I was still used to the morning’s slower slalom speeds and hadn’t adjusted to the faster pace of the dry surface. I also could NOT for the life of me figure out how to get around the last cone to the finish line in a manner that satisfied me.

Lots of room for improvement, but I did only get two dry runs to figure things out, so that definitely didn’t help. Anyway, here it is!