Road tripping

It’s been a busy few weeks and feels like I’ve spent most of the time driving.  Not that that’s a particularly bad thing as I do like driving.  Handy given my main hobby.

The last two weekends have seen us covering around 1200km in touring, firstly to TECT All Terrain Park just north of Rotorua.  This was where Motorsport Bay Of Plenty were holding the rescheduled day/night gravel sprint event.  Quite lucky really.  The original date clashed with the final round of the Trentham Autocross series and the rescheduled date was conveniently on a weekend that we had no other events planned.
Staying in Taupo made the race day commute a painless 1.5 hours via Rotorua to top up with 98 fuel as always.
It was the second time I’ve been to TECT Park but the first time I’ve actually competed there.  I was definitely looking forward to the Day/Night aspect though as I love racing at night.  Some might say it was typical of me to like doing everything the hard way but I just love challenging conditions.  Probably why I like racing in the rain and am part of a rescue team who tend to be out in the more challenging weather conditions.

Once the formalities of Doco and briefing were over, time for recce to go try to make some usable notes.  We’re slowly learning how to do this.  Takes time to figure it all out and it was the first time we’d attempted making them in one pass on recce.  Previous events I’d used videos I’d found online to make initial notes from.  This can prove tricky if someone is using a wide angle camera as it makes the corner look a lot more open than they really are.
On to the practice run and only a few tweaks were needed so that was a promising start.  The course itself was a lot of fun and testament to the countless hours put in by the club and supporters to create, build and maintain the tracks.  It’s a nice 4km loop that has some fast stuff, tight stuff, ups and downs and everything in between.  Even found a place to get some air miles.  Not sure the suspension liked that a whole lot.

Looking at the timesheets after the first couple of runs and I was pottering around near the back of the field as I’d pretty much expected being one of two non locals entered.  Dave Loughlin who owns PF Automotive where I got my upgrade work done last month was share driving his wife’s WRX and as I walked past gestured for me to come for a ride.  Now, I’m not usually found in the silly seat but figured I might as well make the most of the opportunity and see if I could learn something.

I did.  Turns out that hydraulic handbrakes can lock on if you’re not careful.  That meant that a “5 right into hairpin left” unexpectedly became a “5 right, you might want to stop before the bank” as the car decided that it definitely did not want to go left.  Dave stopped it in time, backed up and carried on to complete the course with no further incidents that I noticed.  Checking the timesheets and found that he was still a good 10 seconds faster than me, even with a spin, three point turn and recover.  Hmm, clearly and unsurprisingly, my driving still needs work.
With one more run to go and conscious of the “copycat” factor that often happens after going for a ride with someone a lot quicker than yourself I went out to see if I could push the grip more than I had been as there was clearly a lot more of it that I wasn’t making use of.
With a nice clean run we took 9.5 seconds off our previous best to be very close to matching Dave’s spin run.  I was happy with that, and to celebrate, suggested that Sarah went for a ride with Dave on his final daytime run.  She came back with a grin and effectively had a much faster time around the course than I did.

Dinner break happened while the course was reversed from the day time.  Same loop, but in the opposite direction for the night runs.  Interesting concept, but why not?  Another recce to make some notes for this loop while it was still daylight.  Then a practice run was suggested given that it was still going to be light-ish for a while longer.  Not too many tweaks needed to the notes this time.
Finally on to the actual night race runs.  Running the extra rally lighting is always fun.  It means that there’s plenty of light where they are pointing but not a whole lot anywhere else, so you do get a bit of a tunnel effect.
First run was not as fast as I’d like but the second and final one we pulled back a decent chunk of time and got to within 3 seconds of the daylight (opposite direction) time.  Happy with that.
Rapid pack up in the dark and after the goodbyes, headed back to Taupo for the night and the decision to hit the road early the following morning in order to miss the expected traffic as it was the last day of the school holidays.  Six hours sleep is enough right?

The second event was the second and final round of the Hawkes Bay Car Club rallysprint series.  Held at Tangoio Settlement Rd about 35 mins north of central Napier.  We turned up and found not many people present.  Then found we were one of the last ones they were looking for to do doco.  Not huge numbers.  At briefing it was noted that we should all make the top 16 run (8 4WD and 8 2WD) as there was only 11 entries in total.  Given there were only 4 4WD’s, that meant automatic qualification into the top 8 (4 of each) run also.

We were once again making notes on the day so on recce I called out something that seemed relatively convincing and we tried that out in practice.  Wasn’t too bad though a couple of corner sequences had both of us confused as there was a couple of sections of corners with no gaps between them.  Made a couple of refinements on the next run and started pulling some time out on the practice time.  With four in the class it was fairly clear early on how the order was going to be.  Clint Cunningham well clear in the lead.  Bruce Baird sitting about 5 seconds ahead of me with Andrew Lowe in the Legacy sitting about 4 seconds behind me.

First elimination run and suddenly Andrew is 0.2 seconds behind me.  Whoops, that’s going to be challenging.  But still, just fighting over 3rd and 4th really.
Second elimination run and the 4 of us are all still in, but this run will cull out the bottom two and leave the fastest two.  Not really expecting much to change, but when we get back to the pits Bruce stops and says that he was playing pinball down the stage and was out of the running.  Both Andrew and I had gone faster but it was Andrew who just pipped me for the Top 2 spot by 0.7 seconds.  Close battle for sure.

End result was 2nd in class (post 1996 4wd), 3rd 4WD, and 3rd 4WD for the series.
Gotta say that I’m pretty pleased to have got that sort of result, especially given a blown turbo in the first round, but helped considerably by only 3 4wd’s actually doing both rounds.  As they say, gotta be in it to win it.

Spent most of the day watching the weather from the top of the hill we were on.  Could see a decent thunderstorm hammering Napier with the odd shower coming over us but mostly fine right up until it was time to pack up.  Couple of big booms, then with a gust of wind we got hammered by a torrential downpour with added hail for good measure.  Sunny Hawkes Bay.  Good times.

Today the old girl got a wash down and this week I’ll be swapping her back to tarmac settings for Port Road this coming weekend.