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DMCC Round 4 Recap

Category : Events

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This weekend I drove in round 4 of DMCC in Montmagny again, same track as round 1. They decided to change the layout, and it made the course more challenging and interesting. But tandems weren’t as good as usual because of people making mistakes and the track being so long. I got to the track Saturday morning. Practice was supposed to start at 3pm, but there was a ridiculous rain storm right at that time that delayed things. It was raining horizontally and everyone/everything got soaked even though we were under tents. The rain stopped after about an hour, and the sun came out. People started practicing, but I waited another hour for the track to completely dry out.

So I got out on track for the first time at around 5pm and did a few runs to feel it out. I tried to drive as much as possible to get comfortable with the new layout. The difficult thing about this track was finding the right speed/line to get on the highest lane in both banked turns. It’s pretty easy to fly off the track here and destroy your car. One bank has no wall and some boulders to hit if you fly off far enough. The other side has a random mix of concrete/steel guard rails to stop you if you go off. So I slowly increased my speed and experimented with different lines to know where I’d need to be to get high on the bank for qualifying. I had changed to softer rear springs and more toe in for this event, so I was getting awesome grip through the turns. I could floor it all the way through the banks, which felt awesome and reminded me of how the car used to drive with the LS1 last year. I kept the tire pressues pretty high to make the car easier to drive for qualifying.

We qualified at around 8pm. I wanted to do a safe run for my first pass, but I did it too safe, and it was a pretty weak run. With the amount of grip I had, I needed to be more aggressive to get the car on the high line. I went 100% on the second run and entered high in the first turn. I was 99.8% sure I was flying off the track, but I stayed on. My transition on the straight was perfect, and I got the car right on the high line in the second bank. I left it in fourth gear even through the last slow section so I could get some smoke going. It felt pretty decent but I didn’t do anything amazing. My crew guy, Kevin, said it was top 5, the crowd reaction was great, and I was pouring smoke at the end. The top 3 had nearly identical scores, but I qualified first! Like last round, only 14 drivers put up scores in qualifying, so I automatically went to the top 8, which was good because I was lacking tires.

In top 8, I went against Carl Nadeau in a LS-powered BMW thing. Carl’s been struggling this year, but he was looking the best he had all year at this event. I led first and did a pretty solid run. He dropped low in the second bank to catch me, so I thought I’d have the advantage since I had a nice high line. I underestimated his speed a bit following him and gave him too much of a gap. When he e-braked on entry, it threw up a shower of sparks for some reason, and I kind of hesitated getting into the first turn. He had broken an axle/rear suspension in his top 16 battle, so I immediately thought something broke again. He also went pretty low on the bank, which was not the proper line, so I had to turn the car down to follow him after initially throwing the car high. Because of all that crap, there was a decent gap between us, and we ended up getting a one-more-time.

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He switched to brand new BFGs, but I had to save tires, so just dropped air pressure. The track seemed to lose a lot of grip because I couldn’t floor it at this point like I could earlier in the day, but I still had adequate grip. I did a real solid lead run, and he dropped low on the bank again. On my follow run, I really wanted to end it, so I was determined to follow him close. I came off the first bank right behind but his slowness at that point caught me off, and I had a correction to avoid hitting the clipping point on the straight. I was pissed and stupidly charged in at full speed on the exit of the second bank. I ended up locking the brakes to keep from hitting him and straightened. I was almost sure he had the win at this point. But we got a OMT I guess since his line was not what the judges were looking for or maybe they felt he was slowing down excessively.

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He put on new tires again, and I was still on the same set of tires. I was seriously pissed at myself at this point for driving sloppy and having to do another OMT on these tires. Time to drive angry. Again, my lead run was good. On the follow run, I came off the first bank pretty close to him and just kept it floored even though he was going slow through there. I was probably a few inches away from his bumper on that transition. He went really low on the bank, and I had to change my line to follow him. He got a bit of a gap. Then, for the last clipping point, I could see from where he transitioned that there was no way he was going to go around the cone. I wasn’t sure if I should follow him or try to take the right line around the clip. He ended up just plowing through the clip cone, and I slowed down to go around it, so he got some more gap. Anyway, I ended up getting the win. My lead runs were all good, but I had trouble following him because his driving was inconsistent and line was off.

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In top 4, I’d be going against Tanner. I’ve been telling him all year to come up to Canada, so it was good to see him doing well and to go against a Club Loose guy. We high-5′ed each other and said “let’s do this” simultaneously. Haha. I only had two sets of (very) used tires at this point and some 255-wide Nitto NT05s, which I had never run before. We decided to go with the NT05s, left the pressure a bit on the high side because I expected them to be super grippy. I did a donut as I went out on track to warm up the tires, and the car spun around super easily, so I was kind of worried we made a mistake with putting these tires on at the pressure we had them. My worries were confirmed because I was ice skating leading against Tanner. I came off the first bank slower than he expected, and he got all screwed up on the transition, so I had the advantage. The tires were seriously done at this point after just one run. He got a huge lead on me on the straight on my follow run because I spun the tires literally in all four gears. Somehow, I managed to catch him by the second bank and finish somewhere close to him. I ended up getting the win. So those Nittos were a bad idea. We should have tried them in practice and experimented with tire pressure, but we didn’t have time. It was at least nice to drive on tires that smoke a bit!

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So now I was against Briggs in the finals. This is when I needed the most grip, and all we had were some terrible NT05s with 25% tread left and some Federals with about the same tread. I told Kevin to drop the Nitto pressures really low. Then, after he was done, I decided to change to the Federals instead… haha. Having a crew guy is awesome. Thanks Kevin! I led Briggs first and surprisingly got a big gap on him. His car had a lot of grip, and they loosened it up earlier in the competition to go against the slower guys. They just left it like that for the finals. On my follow run, I had to make sure there was no OMT because we seriously had no more tires. I jumped the start and entered right on him. I came off the bank too low and ended up making the transition on the straightaway in the grass. Dave got a gap on me because grass has less traction than asphalt. (Also, sorry to all the people in the pits that I showered with crap!) I charged into the second bank really fast and closed the gap. The rest of the follow run was decent, and I was within a car length of him. I got the win! Then we sprayed some NOS champagne and had poutine at 4am. It was good!

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With the bad tire decisions and some sloppy driving, I was lucky to win. But after looking at the videos of everyone else’s runs, I feel like overall I was driving as good or better than anyone and made the fewest mistakes. All my lead runs were flawless too. I can’t thank Kevin enough this weekend. I literally didn’t have to do anything except drive and sit at driver’s meetings. It was awesome!

HTL ProAm Round 2 Recap

Category : Events

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Last weekend, I finally got a bit of a break from traveling and went drifting at Englishtown for HTL ProAm Round 2. We ran the back course, which is basically a right turn, going up over a hill blind, then a left sweeper, and slow right hairpin to finish off the course. The challenge here is extending your drift from the first right turn to the left sweeper without straightening since there is a long distance between the two turns. You’re also coming out of the first turn blind, so you have to know where to transition to be able to link the course without seeing the next turn.

I’ve driven this course before but never with this latest iteration of the car, so it took a few runs to get used to it. After trying to upshift to fourth gear going uphill after the first turn and flying halfway off the track, I decided to keep it in third since the track was too slow to be in the powerband in fourth. I was comfortable with the track after a few more runs. We had the normal qualifying session with two runs. I took it easy on the first run and put up a score. My second run was feeling pretty good, but I overshot the last turn and hit some cones and crap with the back of the car. That was probably a zero. Federals don’t really smoke unless you melt them, so I’m always trying to stand on the throttle for as long as I can before braking for turns to get the tires to smoke. Unfortunately, I stood on it too long and couldn’t slow down enough. So qualifying didn’t go so great, and I ended up in 12th place.

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I underestimated the competition for this event, and decided to just bring a bunch of crap used tires and give the car a lot more toe-in to compensate. The competition ended up being really good/fast, so I thought I might be screwed. In top 16, I went against Lee Alexander with a KA-T S14. He’s a great driver in tandem, and he “brought it” for this competition. We had pretty identical runs and got a OMT after the first set. He was initiating slower than me, so it was tough to enter close to him and still keep enough speed so as not to straighten out. The retarded amount of toe-in was also probably making it more difficult to keep from straightening off throttle. On the OMT follow run, he got a bit of a gap on me coming over the hill after the first turn, but I got right on his door going into the left sweeper, and stayed right on him the rest of the way. My tires were pretty much toast at this point after 3 consecutive runs, and I had no grip to pull away from him on my lead run, so he was on my door also. We got a second OMT! I followed him as aggressively as I could this time and got even closer. There wasn’t much else I could do but hit him. I was expecting him to follow me just as close, and we would just keep getting OMTs until one of us made a mistake or our engines blew up. He ended up making a mistake following me though, and I got the win.

There wasn’t much time to change tires, and I didn’t have any better tires mounted anyway, so I was worried for top 8. I went up against Landers next. I remember right before I got in my car, I checked the tires, and they were still smoking from top 16. Landers was having some issues with his car running out of fuel. I followed him first, entered close to him, and was closing in coming out of the first turn over the hill. He must have lost power because he straightened coming over the hill. I just missed his back bumper and threw the car inside of him with more angle to slow down and keep from hitting him. He kicked it back out again, and I held a major e-brake extendo to make it to the next left turn. We got there at about the same time, and I stayed close to him for the rest of the course. He may have also had problems when following me because I got a gap on him and got the win.

In top 4, I went against Nick. Brad Carlton told me not to get caught up on the entry because Nick was pacing himself. But when I followed him, he took off and entered super fast… haha. Unfortunately, he entered a bit too fast and ended up spinning out in front of me. I did a safe lead run and got the win.

In the final, I went against Tanner. I thought I was really done at this point since I now had 10 runs on these crappy used tires, and they weren’t doing much of anything. Tanner was on RT615s… lol. I led first and entered right behind him. I remember it being a pretty sweet entry. He got maybe a car length gap on me coming over the hill, but I got on his door under braking going into the left sweeper. I had to stay on a bit of a shallower line, but I managed to follow him really well. On my lead run, I think I slowed down more than he was expecting because I wanted to get a late apex on the first turn to be able to get as much speed as possible going up the hill. Not sure if he had a correction or not, but I could see in the mirror at the end of the course that there was a bit of a gap between us anyway. We came back to the start line, and I got the win!

Some videos from the event:

DMCC Round 3 Videos

Category : Events

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2nd Place at DMCC Round 3!

Category : Events

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This past weekend, I went back up to Canada for DMCC Round 3 in Victoriaville. This was a relatively small parking lot course but we were still getting up to speeds close to 70 mph on the entry. The judges wanted to see wall-riding, so of course, a bunch of people ended up in the wall. Other than riding the wall, there was a huge dip in the ground after the outside wall clipping zone which was sending a bunch of cars flying. Getting grip on the straightaway was also a big problem for me. The pavement was “wavy” on the straight, so I would have to time my throttle input with the bumps/dips to get the most speed on the entry and not light up the tires going down the straight. There was a layer of dust/dirt on the ground, so that made getting traction even harder.

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On Saturday, we had two one-hour practice sessions and then qualifying. We didn’t get as much track time as usual because the Pro and Pro-Am events were on the same days this time, so we were sharing the track with the Pro-Am drivers. The event was also being held inside the city, so we weren’t allowed to start engines/make noise before 10am or in the evening. I kept my driving conservative in practice and basically just worked on getting the right entry speed to be able to make it out to the wall. The track was kind of crappy for my gearing. I was right on the limiter in third gear at the initiation, so I didn’t have much room to go faster. But if I went to fourth gear, I would have to downshift immediately after initiating because the first turn was relatively slow. Making that downshift on entry would be pretty sketchy. I tried it both ways and decided I’d do the first qualifying run in third and go to fourth gear for the second qualifying run if I had a solid score from the first.

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I put down a safe first qualifying run, which would have put me in 5th or 6th position. My second run got pretty exciting. I lined up as far back as the starter would let me, and tried to go really fast. I was about to shift into fourth but realized I’d be going way too fast at that point to make the turn, so I just floored it in third, barely touched the limiter, and initiated for the first turn. I hit full lock and almost pooped my pants, did a bunch of sketcky stuff, managed not to spin, but was still going straight for the wall pretty fast. Somehow I gave it just the right amount of throttle to ride the wall and not crash into it. I didn’t think it was that great because it felt so sketcky from inside the car. But the judges were stoked about it, and everyone who saw it was telling me I would be top qualifier for sure. I ended up scoring a 90-something, and the rest of the top 5 cars had scores of 70-75. I also got the fastest entry speed of 108 kph, tied with Jonathan Thiffault. It wasn’t fast, but it was fast for that track.

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On Sunday, we had a one-hour practice session before tandem. I was feeling confident that I could keep up with everyone, and the only thing that was worrying me was getting left behind on the straight. I think almost everyone was struggling with traction, but there were a couple of cars that were getting over the bumps really well and accelerating faster than everyone else. Also, during the practice session, I noticed my clutch was engaging with the pedal like 1-inch higher than where it usually engages, so I was worried about that. I stopped practicing about 3/4 of the way through the session to give the clutch the best chance of lasting in case there was something wrong with it.

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I got an automatic pass into the top 16 because only 15 cars were able to put down qualifying scores the previous day. For top 8, I went against Brad Carlton. He’s an aggressive driver and is known for hitting everyone he tandems with… haha. So I was looking forward to a good battle but also cautious and left myself some extra angle so I could catch the car if he hit me on initiation. I led first and he stayed relatively close behind, but he overshot the first inner clipping point behind me and lost a lot of ground, so I just had to do a decent follow run, and I would probably win. I followed him pretty well and got the win.

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In top 4, I’d be going against Pat Cyr. He followed me first and did a ridiculously good job. He was on my door the whole time and even tapped my left rear wheel coming into the first inner clip. So I would have to do something amazing to beat him. We launched off the line together. He was getting better grip than me down the straight and was pulling away, and then his engine backfired like crazy. I was right behind him, and I thought my engine blew up or I blew a tire or something. I think I jumped off the gas a bit and looked at my gauges, then on the gas again. With his better grip and me pooping my pants when his car backfired, he managed to get a big lead on me on the straight, so I was screwed. I dive-bombed him at the last clipping point, and got sort of close to him, but I knew it was over for me. And then… he crashed into the wall coming out of the last turn! I couldn’t believe it. They actually called a OMT after those runs, but there was no way he could fix the car in 5 minutes, so I got the win.

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I’d be going against Dave Briggs for the top podium spot. I wanted to battle him, but I was dreading the drag race down the straightaway. Dave’s car was just floating over the bumps, and he was accelerating faster than anyone on the straight. I dropped air pressure a lot as there was nothing else that could be done at that point. I led first, and he did a decent follow run, but nothing insane. I knew I could win it if I got on his door. I tried to jump the start, but we’ve gone against each other enough that he probably saw that coming… lol. So we ended up leaving at the same time. As soon as he shifted into second gear, he was gone… probably got 3-4 car lengths on me down the straightaway while I was spinning tires. I drove a super shallow line and caught him by the first inner clip. I was on his door for the last half of the course, but it wasn’t enough, and he got the win.

I can’t complain about 2nd place, but it sucks when you’re just as fast as anyone in drift and get beat on the straight. I think I could have been right on both Pat and Dave if I could have initiated closer than 3-4 car lengths back… lol. Anyway, it was a good weekend overall. I battled, in my opinion, the best 3 drivers that weekend and came out with a second place finish.

As far as the car, I need to see if the clutch keeps getting worse, so I’ll drive it the way it is this weekend. If it breaks or gets worse, I guess I’ll be changing it next week… uggh. Also, I really need to do something to get it to accelerate better. So I ordered softer springs for the back, doing even more toe in, and maybe getting a few sets of RT615s or RS3s that I’ll save for the next time I have to go against Briggs :)

Huge thanks to Kevin Darwish and Jf Bonami this weekend for helping me out! These guys were changing tires, checking pressures, making sure everything was good with the car all day, and keeping me up to date on who I’d be battling next. It really helped me focus on driving my best.

XDC North Carolina Recap

Category : Events

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After DMCC in Mirabel, I went down to North Carolina for the last round of the XDC east coast championship. It took me all day to get down there on Friday because of the July 4th weekend traffic and an accident with a drunk driver… at 2pm. XDC was sharing the track with NASA for this weekend, and it seemed like NASA got 90% of the track time. We had four 30-minute practice sessions on Saturday. With about 25 drivers signed up for the event, that meant 2-3 practice runs in each session. I didn’t make any adjustments during the day and just tried to learn the track for qualifying. I got a total of about 10 runs on Saturday and was feeling pretty good for qualifying the next day. The track was straightforward and fun. The challenging part was being aware of where you were on the track and how much grip was there. There was a ton of grip on the racing line, and almost nothing off of it. So taking a really wide line like the judges wanted was difficult because you needed to go fast to get on the wide line, but there was no grip to slow down once you were up there. So keeping the car on the wide line and on the track was difficult. There was a lot of dirt dropping and off-roading throughout the weekend as people tried to slow down from the fast first turn to the slow second turn inner clip.

On Sunday, there was no time for practice, so our first runs on the track were qualifying. I went extra safe on my first qualifying run since I hadn’t made a run since the previous day. I put down a solid run and felt that I was in a good position to go for the top qualifying spot in my second run. I got through the first turn well, but I had too much speed coming into the inner clipping point on the second turn and was off the clip by a lot. I also went too fast on the last clip, missed that, and dirt dropped on the last corner exit. I pushed too hard on that run trying to be on throttle/going fast/making smoke, and it ended up being a sloppy run. We got the qualifying results, and I got 5th place. I was happy with that. It was higher than where I thought I would be.

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There was a quick top 16 practice where I got to tandem with people for the first time that weekend. I felt like I could keep up with everyone, so I was feeling confident. In top 16 battles, I went up against Nate Brasz. He’s a super consistent and experienced driver, and I think his car was back up to 400+ hp after having issues with it the last couple of rounds, so this would not be an easy battle. I led first and put down a good run, but he was on me pretty good, so I knew I had to get aggressive to win. I launched right next to him on my follow run and stayed next to him down the straight. He entered way early though and kind of messed up my initiation because I needed to be going faster to get on the high line in the first turn. So I was a bit shallow coming through the first turn behind him but was closing in on his door coming into the first inner clipping point. He went wide and dropped his rear wheels in the dirt. I think he was basically at 90 degrees at that point and almost stopped, so I spun my car to keep from crashing into the back of him. He somehow kept it going and didn’t completely spin. I wasn’t sure what the judges’ call would be on that one, but I got the win since it was his mistake that forced me to spin. Even though he lost because of his own mistake, it was still cool to beat Nate. I remember in 2009 or something when I drove way crappier, I said I would retire if I ever beat Nate Brasz… lol.

In top 8, I went against James Evans. He’s been driving well this year and has become a serious contender for wins. He also put a new engine in his Z, so he was making 550-ish hp now, I believe. I thought if I could keep up with him on the straight, I shouldn’t have a problem staying with him through the rest of the course. I followed first and jumped the start by a bit, but he still managed to get about a car length lead on me by the time we initiated. I closed up on him going into the slower section of the course and stayed with him close but wasn’t quite on his door. On my lead run, I tried to push hard to make him chase me and hopefully get him to make a mistake. Unfortunately, I got too high in the first turn out of the racing line, and the car just coasted forever with no grip. It was kind of ridiculous, and I was even thinking maybe James was on my bumper pushing me off the track or there was oil on the track because the car just kept going, and I couldn’t get any grip to make the corner. I totally missed the first inner clip and dirt dropped coming out of that corner. I finished the run, but with James following me pretty well and me dirt dropping, I ended up losing. I’m not too disappointed with my driving. I made a mistake, but it wasn’t anything retarded, just a result of pushing too hard and trying to get the most speed out of the car.