Every second year, the Nationals come to this side of the country (you know the side where Ralph Klein isn’t considered a role-model). So, its encumbent on every committed autocrosser to take advantage of the geography and support the event, as well as compete in it to see how one stacks-up against the most committed, if not the best, Canada has to offer.
Fortunately for me and other MCOers, the 2010 event was being held about two hours away in Ste. Eustache, Quebec and it was being organized and promoted by MCO sponsor, uber-fast driver, and all-around good guy, Carl Wener of AISA and Perry Performance. How could we possibly not attend?
The event was to be two days, with each day providing four attempts to set one’s best time. The course would be run in one direction on Day 1 and in the opposite direction on Day 2. Scoring would be based on the sum of each driver’s best time from each of the two days. As in any autocross the event, the number of trophy-winning spots in a given class would depend on the number of entries in that class. Lastly, there would be overall winners based on PAX factors, a set of correction factors that are meant to eliminate the differences in vehicles, thus allowing drivers of very different cars to be compared against each other. PAX has its supporters and detractors, but we won’t get into that. On to how things went…
Day 1 – August 6, 2010 – The Most Unproductive Day in History
I woke-up bleary eyed at 5:30AM on Friday, stumbled to the shower, tossed my stuff into the car and went in search of fuel and my morning latte before meeting the Pat, Shawn, Jamie, Greg, and Chris at Timmy’s in Orleans. We grabbed some food and chatted a bit before setting sail for Ste. Moustache with Greg mentioning that a stop in Hawkesbury would be a good idea. Pat, not known for rest stops, took the lead, followed by Shawn in the truck, Chris and I. Jamie and Greg brought up the rear. We stayed in this order as we drove by the Hawkesbury Timmy’s that Greg had envisioned as his bladder break spot.
As we crossed the bridge into Quebec, Greg, realizing that Pat wasn’t going to pull over, shot up to the front of the convoy and guided us all of the road into the first gas station he could find. Virtually everyone took advantage of the stop and grabbed some fluids or deposited some fluids — white guys and their tiny bladders.
The rest of the trip was uneventful as we followed highways 50 and 148 to the the track. Oddly, Pat pulled us off the road to verify our location (he was driving from memory) when we were quite literally 600m from the track gates, something verified by GPS units in my car and in Jamie’s car. We rolled in to the track just before 9:30AM and started unloading the cars and prepping them for a day of tuning runs on a small test course, just to get the cars set-up for what turned out to be a very slick surface. As usual, we were the first ones there.
As more cars arrived we began to size-up some of our competition. In particular, a New Yorker in a first generation Miata that was in my class arrived and started running some laps. His times were a good 0.5+ seconds behind me, so I felt confident about my competitive chances against him. Little did I know…
Of course, the day was full of the fun jokes and teasing that permeates any autocross event. For example, when Pat smacked a few cones on the edge of the track and I ran to reset them, I found piece of plastic from some previous incident at the track. I sensed an opportunity to make Pat engage in senseless labour! I told Shawn to take the plastic to the paddock and tell Pat that it came off of his car. The poor kid then spent the next 45 minutes or so searching under his car for where it might have originated and searching his brain for what its function might have been. I eventually came clean, but we all enjoyed watching him fret about it. We eventually wrapped up our test runs, which resulted in my moving my rear anti-roll bar to its softest setting, which seemed to settle the rear end a bit. Thanks to Shawn for putting his ramps in the truck.
The rest of the afternoon was spent watching other cars run, chatting, and welcoming our friends from MCO, St. LAC, and CADL as they rolled in. Obviously, we stuck around for the BBQ supper of hot dogs and corn supplied by Perry Performance and Toyo Tires before sorting out which cars would make the trip to the motel in Laval, who would ride in which of them, and how we would fit the luggage. In the end, I drove Ginger with Greg in the passenger seat and the rest of the guys piled in to the truck with Shawn. Our St. LAC partners in crime, Rob, Beth, Bill, and Bill, piled into Rob’s M3 along with the Physk.
After showers and clean clothing, we walked about 2.5km (just what we needed after a day on our feet) to the traditional Nationals “Drivers’ Meeting”. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. ‘Nuff said.
Physk and I, left around 12:30AM and began the walk back. About half a block in, Physk saw a pizza place and offered to buy me a slice. I agreed, but he proceed to buy an entire large pepperoni pizza. I ate two pieces as we walked. He at the rest. It wasn’t enough though. Noticing A&W lights in the distance he proclaimed, “If the A&W is open, I’m getting two Mozza Burgers.” Turns out it was open and yes, he got the burgers. I joined in with some onion rings and as we sat down, Rob, Beth, Bill, and Bill strolled in and ordered their food. We completed the journey to the Econolodge together and were confronted with what seemed to be an insurmountable challenge.
You see, our A&W mates were in one room. Physk and I were in another room that was adjoining to the room where Shawn, Chris, Pat, and Jamie would sleep, once they got back from the bar. When we left that evening, we left through the the adjoining room’s door, not our own, which resulted in my failing to remove the chain from our door, the only door for which we had a key. I think you see where this is going? Luckily the rest of the guys arrived just as I was trying to explain my predicament to guy at the front desk. If not for Physk’s stomach, we would have had to wait much longer for them to arrive. By now, it was 2:30AM and we climbed into bed. Physk bunked with me and discovered that I have one mean snore. For my part, I discovered that he’s significantly heavier than me, forcing me to move farther to the edge of the bed in order to avoid the cavity he create. Greg, he just suffered through the night as Physk and I snored. Still, he had his own bed.
Day 2 – August 7, 2010 – What was I thinking last night?
My Blackberry woke me at 7:00AM, earlier than my room mates. I was pretty wiped, but a shower, which was followed by the complimentary cold hotel breakfast, helped wake me up. The St. LAC crowd was leaving the hotel as I went for breakfast, which meant the truck would be a little more crowded on the way to the track, but we mitigated that by sticking slender Greg in the truck to make room for Physk with me in Ginger. Everyone looked tired… not as tired as I would have expected, but tired nonetheless. Arriving at the track, we did a couple course walks and prepped our cars before the mandatory drivers’ meeting. After that, Pat and I unpacked the MCO timing system in case it was needed as a back-up. Thankfully, we weren’t called upon all weekend. The first heat completed their first two runs with Shawn, Ralf, Phil, Bill, and Kevin all looking competitive in their respective classes. Poor Bryan was having a hard time avoiding the cones, but was otherwise flying.
Then it was time for Jamie, Chris, Jordan, Rob, Beth, and Physk to run. Aside from Rob and Beth, who were in a class of two, the rest of us seemed to struggle a bit. I knew I was leaving a lot of time on the table, but couldn’t get myself to push in the right places and back-off where appropriate. Physk managed the first of two spins on the day. It wasn’t looking good for me in STE as the Miata from New York was finally showing his hand, setting some blistering times and making me look like a complete noob. I was relieved to learn he had been doing this for about eight years. I believe I was sitting 7th in class when we stopped for lunch, after our two morning runs.
The afternoon was better with most of us putting down our best runs of the day. Bryan in particular, in his stock Honda S2000 on Toyo R888 tires, laid down a scorching time that was 100% clean. I think there was actual applause when he came in. Day 1 of competition was a ton of fun, but was at the same time frustrating. I knew I could go faster, but couldn’t execute. The result, Joe T. from Toronto was beating me… in his Subaru.
This time, the post-event BBQ was followed by the traditional Olympic Competitions. First was a 75m sprint run in elimination format (top 6 advance, then top 2). Being fat, I was eliminated in round 1 (I wasn’t disappointed). Bill R. (who seems ready to compete at anything) took the win. Next was my personal brain child: the cone toss. Various techniques were used — under hand, discuss spins, etc. — but the win went to one of the staff from Perry Performance. Physk’s best toss nearly hit me!
The evening was a little tamer than the night before. Aside from Pat and Physk who went out with the St. LAC crew, the rest of us stayed in to watch our run videos, TV, and hit the sack early. That was a good plan as Greg reported that I was out… and snoring… instantly.
Day 3 – August 8, 2010 – The Angry Lion and the Octopus
As we all got up and prepared for the final day of competition, Physk commented that my snore sounded like an angry lion. Greg chimed-in that Physk’s snore was that of an octopus. For the rest of the day, I was known as “The Angry Lion” and Physk was “The Octopus”.
We packed up our gear, including the dozen muffins Jamie and Chris grabbed from the hotel breakfast area, and headed for the track where we would run yesterday’s course, with some minor tweaks, in reverse. The course proved faster and my second run of the morning proved to be my fastest. Unfortunately, Lady Consistency still had not found me and I floundered about on my other three runs, managing a totally mindless “off course” on my third run of the day. Luckily, the rest of the boys were doing better…
In fact, MCO’s haul of trophy hardware was significant:
Eric: 1st in BSP (fastest PAX in Street Prepared) – Subaru Impreza
Phil: 1st in DSP – BMW 3-series
Shawn: 2nd in DSP – BMW 3-series
Ralf: 1st in DMOD (fastest PAX in MOD) – BMW 3-Series
Klaus: 3rd in DMOD – BMW 3-Series
Alain: 4th in DMOD – Subaru Impreza
Me: 5th in STE – Mazda MX-5 (Miata)
Bill: 2nd in CSP – Mazda Miata
Bryan: 2nd in AS – Honda S2000
Pat: 2nd in FSS – Mazda 3
Jamie: 1st in CSS – Acrua RSX
Rob: 1st in BSS – BMW M3
Beth: 2nd in BSS – BMW M3
Bruce: 3rd in CMOD – Nissan NX2000
Greg: 3rd in ES – Mazda Miata
Chris: 6th in DSS – Subaru Impreza
Kevin: 7th in DMOD (would have one DSP, but moved to DMOD to let Phil and Shawn battle. What a guy, eh?) – Nissan 240ZX
Just as the trophy presentations wound-down, the rain started. We all scrambled to get cars packed. Pedwar and her mom had come for the afternoon of Day 2, so packing was simpler with the Scully’s ability to swallow cargo, so we managed to get out before getting too wet.
It was one hell of a fun weekend, full of great times with great friends. I could have driven better and come home with a better finishing position, but hey, that’s life. What is more rewarding though is the times shared with good friends, the funny stories we’ve written together, and the bonds forged and reinforced. Since I got into this back in 2008, I’ve been extremely fortunate to meet some great people and make some wonderful friends (you know who you are). The Angry Lion wonders where the 2012 Nationals will be held…