May 6 - Day 1 - Wet Skid Pad + Autocross
Dad thought we needed to get up at 530am to make it to Tire Rack’s headquarters in time for the first event of the day: the wet skidpad.
I thought 630am would be fine, so we settled on 630. We got up and had everyone ready with everything packed in the car and driving out of the parking lot in 30 minutes- nice! A huge improvement over the 2 hours it took on Thursday.
We stopped by McDonald’s to pick up breakfast to go and drove the 10 minutes to Tire Rack.
Once there, we unhooked the trailer and unpacked the car to prepare for the first competitive event of One Lap- a wet skidpad test. This test is to measure how much grip the car has while going around a 200-ft diameter circle. Knowing the exact size of the circle, then measuring your fastest time around the circle, you can math your way into the amount of lateral acceleration the car can generate. The faster and grippier your car is, the higher your score.
We were assigned parking according to our number, 58. Car number 57 next to us is a blue Ford Focus RS, a 400hp AWD car that has some serious potential. Car 59 on the other side of us is 2 young Asian brothers named Chris and Mike in an older Toyota MR2 Spyder. This is their first One Lap. They’re really cool.
Everyone was unpacking and visiting. The weather was a bit chilly, but sunny. Spirits were high. Nobody had blown up yet.
A large number of locals had shown up to watch and send us off, so there was a good energy around as the skid pad event got started. The order was by number, so we had a bit of time to wait and watch. Taylor and I walked around a bit while we ate our McD’s, scoping out some of the really neat cars. We also visited with a really nice guy named Melvin, who contacted us via the Volvo forum. He lived about an hour away and had come over to watch the first couple events and hang out. It was great to meet him and pick his brain for tips on the car. Thanks for coming out, Melvin!
Dad was to do our driving in both events for the day. We’re just playing it by ear on who is driving what, seeing how we’re all feeling about the event as the week progresses. We all watched as some of the wild and fast cars went around in their circles. It was a wet skid pad event, so they had turned on the sprinklers to soak the racing surface. It doesn’t look like much to the spectator, but it can be a bit hairy trying to control the car.
Dad got in line, and I mounted up an action camera to the inside of the front passenger side window to capture the in-car action. Taylor and Dad figured out how to disable the traction control to keep the car from interfering with itself. I sat in the passenger seat as Dad waited to go.
There was an announcer talking about the competitors, their cars and their scores, so I decided to roll down the window to hear what was happening.
BAM! SLAM! CRASH! SMASH!
Dad: “What on Earth?!”
I furiously fumbled at the window switch, but it was too late. I’d forgotten that I’d used an industrial strength suction cup to mount acamera to that window, so when I rolled it down, the suction cup got caught on the door and something in the electric window mechanism broke very badly. The window fell down into the door and couldn’t be rolled back up.
Dad was less than 3 minutes from his event start that had him driving through sprinklers. The interior of the car would get soaked! And what did that mean for the rest of the week?! I was panicked and mortified. How insanely embarrassing! I frantically jerked the window around in the door to try and pull it up into the opening.
Dad was saying we should skip this event so we didn’t soak the interior of the car. What a way to start! I felt awful. We had about 2 minutes to make a decision.
Luckily, I was able to pull the window up and into place. But if I let go, it would fall back into the door. Someone held it up while I sprinted back to our parking spot to get some duct tape. I made it back and put 3 pieces of duct tape around the top of the door to hold the window in place so Dad could compete in the event.
At least he was able to go, but I felt just horrible. What a bone-headed move. Ugh. The duct tape would come to be known as my “Ribbons of Shame!”
Taylor and I positioned ourselves to watch Dad go around. Around and around he went, first 2 laps clockwise, then 2 laps counter-clockwise. He did an excellent job- we finished 34th (0.692g for those familiar with skidpad measurements)! Way to go Dad! What a polarizing start: a truly dumbass move followed by a super solid score!
We hustled back to our parking spot to pack up for the drive to our next event; an autocross at Grissom Airforce Reserve Base some 82 miles away. Our packing was quick and efficient. We were on our way by 920am.
We drove south from South Bend to Grissom ARB near Kokomo, Indiana. Melvin came down as well. It was cool to see all the One Lap cars on the road. We were officially on our way!
An autocross is a small race track that is setup with cones in large parking lots. The turns are normally very tight, and max speeds are typically below 70mph. Laps last around 60 seconds and each car is released one at a time. Autocross cars are usually small, light, and very darty. Autocrossing is a very specific skill in the racing world. Most of the One Lap cars are designed for big road courses, so this would be interesting. This would be the only autocross event of the week. Sort of like an appetizer.
We arrived, unloaded, and got in line. The event wasn’t going to start for a little bit, so the competitors were out doing a “track walk”: walking around the track to get a feel for it. Dad went out to do the track walk while Taylor and I hunted down some cheeseburgers that came with a pile of pulled pork and BBQ sauce on top: the 944 burger. Gluttonous.
The order was again by car number, so we were near the back; 58 out of 68 cars. The top 10 - 20 cars or so are known to be the really fast cars, and the event organizers take a random guess at speed based on the car entered for the rest. So roughly the cars get slower as the numbers go up. There are definitely exceptions, especially when a car is heavily modified or the driver is particularly talented. We’re low on talent in a 4,000lb family wagon. Thus, car #58 / 68.
The fast cars were completing the lap in about 49 seconds. As everyone went, times naturally got a bit longer as we progressed through. The hand controls on the Volvo that Taylor uses were designed for street driving, not racing. He has a hard time getting the car quickly around tight turns just because of the design of the controls, so the autocross wasn’t a good fit for him. While I certainly could have done it, I really wanted Dad to race. He hasn’t been able to participate in any racing for a long time and he really misses it. I wanted him to drive as much as possible as I’ve had a ton of track time in the last few years. He agreed.
Having not been on the track in so long, plus the fact that he’d never raced the Volvo, Dad took it pretty easy on his first lap, just to get a feel for everything and not go overboard. We had 3 runs. His first lap was around 61 seconds. I got some good in-car video, which I obviously won’t post right now because I haven’t had any time to edit or even watch the whole thing. Sorry.
Our new friends Mike and Chris Lin, car 59, went for their first run.
That was a top 10 time!!
Chris claimed that he had done some auto crossing before, but we smelled some b.s. We would find out much later, using some Google-fu, that Chris is a National Championship level autocross all-star. The ultimate sandbagger. How funny! Great driving out there, Chris!
Dad was excited for his second run because he knew the car and course better, and was ready to push harder. Taylor and I meandered about, talking with fellow One Lappers and checking out cars. Not a bad way to spend a day.
Dad was ready to go for his second run, and I had relocated the camera to the front bumper to get some action shots. However, because I’m a 6-time All-Star and undefeated People’s Champion of Morons, I didn’t turn the camera on. Classic.
Dad ran a 59! Very nice! We were moving up the standings. At this point, Dad had me pull up the video from his first run to see where he could make up time. I popped the card from the camera into the laptop and he did some observing.
The third run came up quickly. I wouldn’t forget to turn on the camera this time! Good to my word, I went to turn on the camera right before Dad went out. The camera beeped at me and flashed the memory card light. Remember the last time we saw the camera card? Yes, folks, back in the pits in the laptop. My legendary ass-hattery was growing at a prodigious rate. No footage from the third run.
However, Dad ran a 57.6, good for 60/68! He was improving at a wild rate, but unfortunately we only got 3 runs. Good work, Dad!
We packed up, said our goodbye’s to Melvin and his own sweet Volvo V70R, who had joined us for the autocross. He gave us some excellent parting tips on the car, as well as his number. He’s a valuable resource that I hope we don’t have to use! The drive to Memphis was 547 miles away, about 9 hours with stops. We left around 2pm.
We jammed our way south, stopping a couple times, including once for dinner at Panda Express. Normally, these sort of longer stops are very ill-advised for One Lap. Your stop time comes directly out of your sleep time, and we’re short on sleep all week already. However, it’s absolutely critical that we get Taylor out of the car for some period of time during the drives to make sure his skin stays happy. You and I can shift around in the seat quite easily, so nothing falls asleep and the blood flow is good. He can’t. We knew going into this that our stop time would be longer, but I don’t care. We want him along, so we’re doing it. That’s that.
One of our gas stops had a restroom door that was so narrow, Taylor couldn't fit in the door. They recommended going across the street to the stop that had a bigger bathroom. Taylor didn't feel like piling back into the car, just to go across the street, then pile out again, so he went to wheel across the street. Dad went with him, dodging semi-trucks. It wasn't as risky as it sounds.
We arrived at the hotel in Memphis at 1140pm. A great arrival time by One Lap standards! That will seem pretty early compared to other times later in the week.
We were staying at a Double-Tree, a Hilton property, and because Dad stays with them so much for work, we had no problem getting the room we requested. VIP! Others were not so lucky and were having trouble getting their rooms.
We said hello, goodbye, and goodnight to some fellow competitors that had arrived at a similar time, and we piled into bed just before 1am for a 5.5 hour sleep.
Memphis International Raceway in the morning- the first full road course event!