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East Coast Drifting Championship Recap

Category : Events

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I went down to West Virginia last weekend to compete in Summit Point’s East Coast Drift Championship. It was a stand-alone competition they were hosting with a $5,000 purse, so I was hoping good drivers would come out, and I could get some practice. I couldn’t take any more vacation days from work, so I drove down Friday night and got there late, got a few hours of sleep, and then off to the track for practice in the morning. We ran the “bridge course” backwards, which is the same course Formula D ran when they came to Summit Point in 2007. The track is a lot of fun, and the first turn is the fastest I’ve ever drifted. It’s a long right turn that we were entering at around 95mph and holding around 75mph in drift.

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We had a lot of practice on Saturday. With some people crashing early and some skipping Saturday practice, there weren’t many cars on track. I got a lot of practice runs to learn the course. The car felt good, and I wasn’t lacking speed compared to others, so I didn’t change anything. Saturday went by with no problems.

I went out Sunday morning for practice and did a few lead/solo runs. Then, I decided to tandem behind people. A lot of guys were having trouble linking the first big turn to the second right turn and were basically jumping the apex of the corner or parking their cars with a lot of e-brake. I was following Alan and Lee. I think Alan slowed down, we all slowed down, then looked like everyone was good so I got back on throttle, Lee never got going though so I slamned into the back of his car pretty hard. Luckily his car didn’t seem to sustain much damage. Nothing structural got bent on my car, but the radiator got pushed back and cracked, and the core support/headlights/bash bar were junk.

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I spent the rest of the practice time pulling out the rad support and installing a spare radiator. I didn’t have any more practice, so my next time out on track was qualifying. I wasn’t worried about it because nothing was bent or broken with the suspension, so I knew the car would drive the same. But I was being a bit cautious hoping I didn’t forget to tighten something and that there wasn’t anything else damaged that I didn’t notice. I knew if anything broke on that 95mph entry, it would be really bad! My two runs were relatively conservative. I slowed down a bit more than the judges wanted coming out of the first turn, but otherwise they were good runs. I qualified 5th.

In top 16, I went against local dude Jorge Aguilar. It was his first comp, and he was having issues linking the track. I did a clean lead run, and on my follow run, he drove straight through the first turn and initiated at the second turn. I followed him and got the win.

In top 8, I was paired with Alan Brentzel. This guy has made a lot of progress in the past couple of years and has been performing well in XDC this year. When I followed him in practice, he seemed slower than me. I ended up giving him too much of a gap in the first turn when following but caught him by the end of the course. He had a good follow run, so we got a OMT.

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I initiated closer to him on the OMT run and was determined to get in his door going into the slower section of the course. It worked out well, and I was basically side-by-side with him towards the end of the track. I backed off at the right time, and gave him room to transition for the last turn while staying on him. It got a bit sloppy at the end since we both jumped the curbing on the apex. I got a sweet gift certificate for “sickest” chase run because of this. When I led, I went into the slower section of the track a bit too fast and had to get on the brakes more than usual to keep from going off track. Alan was staying in 3rd gear but had to downshift to second when I slowed down. He miss-shifted and straightened out so I got the win. I do apologize for that.

In the next round, I went against Lee Alexander. I did a good lead run, and he was about 1-2 car lengths back most of the way. He was entering the first turn slower than me, so it was tough to get right behind him and have enough speed to drift the first turn when following him. He ended up straightening coming out of the first turn as I was following him. I stayed sideways behind him and prayed that he would not get on the brakes… haha. He re-initiated, and we finished the run pretty close. I got the win.

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In the final, I would be going against the robot, Nate Brasz. I didn’t really get to tandem with him in practice, so I had no clue how fast he was, but everyone was saying he was super fast and not using the e-brake at all to extend from the first to the second turn. So I was confident I could drive it in there as fast as possible. I dropped the tire pressures a decent amount to try to get some extra speed. I went through the first turn maybe a car length behind him, then got on the brakes and was closing in on him entering the slower section of the course. Unfortunately, he slowed down a bit more than I expected, and I ended up swiping my left front headlight across the right rear corner of his car. I straightened out, then re-initiated and finished the run. Judging from the mark on my fender, I would have cleared him if I was two inches further back! Uggh. Anyway, I bent the radiator again, but it wasn’t leaking so I did my lead run. It was a solid lap. Nate seemed to take it easy on the entry and close the gap later. He got the win. I’m disappointed, but crashing into someone is always the most satisfying way to lose! And Nate’s car barely had any damage, so he was cool about it.

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I got my check and left as soon as possible dreading the drive home. 4 hours of sleep and back to work on Monday!

I also realized I drove all of Sunday on one set of tires. Sweet.

I have some work to do before DMCC Round 5 in two weeks. But thankfully this is the end of 7 straight weekends of competition for me, and I have one weekend off. I need to do some bending/welding on the front of the car and get a couple of new radiators, and the car should be good to go. I’m not planning anything fancy since this chassis only needs to last 5 more competitions before it becomes scrap metal.

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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.

Win at DMCC Round 2!

Category : Events

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The weekend after Hyperfest, I went up to Canada for DMCC Round 2 at Circuit ICAR in Mirabel. As soon as I got across the border, it was pouring rain, and it didn’t stop until I left. This was a one-day event for the Pro drivers, with practice and qualifying in the afternoon and competition at night. The course was pretty simple, a long right turn riding a wall, then an inner clip, transition to the left for another inner clip, and finish up with an outer clip against some plastic barriers. It was basically like the Florida XDC layout but bigger and faster. The bad part about it is they disregarded the actual track, and just made their own drift course. So instead of following some of the normal corners at ICAR, we were drifting over storm drains, rumble strips, and painted “grass” (green paint on the concrete). That may have been OK in the dry, but in the wet, going over the paint was like driving on ice, so you had to watch for the painted parts and adjust your steering/throttle to not spin out when you hit the paint.

Everyone took it easy in practice to not end up in the wall. I think there were just about 16 drivers at the start of the event, so there was plenty of time for everyone to get practice. I did as many runs as I could and mostly tried to get a feel for how fast I could enter the first turn and where to downshift to 3rd after the first turn. My car felt pretty fast on throttle, but it was hard to drive in the rain because it really wanted to straighten any time I got off the throttle. So I would find myself getting off throttle to keep from spinning, but the car would immediately try to snap straight. I left it alone and didn’t change anything with the setup because I wanted to have the speed/grip for tandem.

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In qualifying, I did a super safe first run and put up a score. I went deeper into the first turn on the second run but ended up hitting one of the plastic inner clipping point barriers because the car gripped a lot harder than I thought it would on throttle and just pulled forward into the clip. I was fighting it all day because it was hard to predict when it would spin tires and when it would grip. My second qualifying run was a bit better than the first, and I ended up qualifying 4th.

Since a bunch of people crashed or spun on both qualifying runs, I was automatically in the top 8. Only 11 cars actually qualified. I went against Claude Poirier in his LS 350Z. At this point, it was completely dark and raining pretty hard. There was still some light out during qualifying, so visibility wasn’t too bad, but I had no clue it would be this terrible at night for tandem. There was a spotlight on the first turn which pointed directly at you. So as soon as I initiated into the first turn, I couldn’t see anything. I could see one white line on the ground, and I knew I had to be about 2 car-widths to the left of that. And somewhere further to the left, there was a wall, which I couldn’t see. After finally passing the spotlight, it was total darkness except for the two inner clipping points, which were lit up with LEDs. There was a huge puddle before the second inner clip, which threw water everywhere. I also couldn’t see the painted grass anymore, so I had to tip-toe through those areas to not spin out. My wiper was just smearing water/junk all over the windshield, so I wasn’t using it most of the time. I would just turn it on to disperse the water, then turn the radiator fans on high to blow hot air out the back of the hood and dry the windshield.

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Overall, I did a pretty shaky lead run against Claude because I couldn’t see anything and was not expecting that. My follow run was equally shaky since it was even worse with the lead car’s water spray right in your face. Claude probably had it even worse with his convertible… lol. We got a OMT, and now knowing the conditions I was working with, I was able to put down two normal runs and get the win.

In top 4, I went against Marc Landreville. I knew he was an aggressive driver from his good finishes in 2010 and from watching him in practice, so I would have to get close to beat him. He led first, and I entered the first turn right behind him. I seriously could not see anything except his right taillight. If he ate the wall, I’d be right behind him because his car was the only reference point I was using to get through the course. But I figured that I would just sandwich him into the wall and his car would cushion the impact for my car, so I wasn’t too worried… haha. I could suck up to him pretty easily on throttle, so I was able to stay close. I’m not sure what happened when he followed me. He didn’t look that far behind, but maybe he made a correction or something because I got the win.

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So I was in the final against Jeff Laflamme, the winner of Round 1. It was basically a repeat of my top 4 runs, stayed pretty close to him on the first turn although he got a bit of a gap on me towards the end. No idea if he followed me well or made a mistake. From the pictures I’ve seen, it looked like he was close but went really shallow on the first turn to keep up, so that may have given me the advantage. We pulled up in front of the crowd to get the decision, get out of the car, and one of the DMCC dudes is going to raise the winner’s hand. So he gets the decision, and raises Jeff’s hand. Then he raises my hand, and I’m thinking, “Uhhhh… WTF Canada!” After some confusion, the guy confirms that I got the win… haha.

So that was awesome and a great payday considering I didn’t use a single set of tires due to rain. I got my first win at DMCC and my third podium in a row! It wasn’t the most fun event since you had to drive safely, but I guess it’s a good skill to learn to be able to do a bunch of sketchy runs without vision and not straighten/spin/crash/poop your pants on any of them.

Thanks a lot to Dave Briggs for housing me under his tent and to Mats for that egg sandwich! lol

The following are my in-car videos from the top 4 and final battles, which gives you some idea of the low visibility and how we had to tip-toe through this course to avoid spinning or straightening.

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3rd Place at XDC West Virginia

Category : Events

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After getting the third place finish at Montmagny for DMCC Round 1, I was having an issue with the clutch making a screeching noise when it was depressed. I had a weekend free so decided to take it apart and see what I could find. The bad part is that it’s nearly impossible to remove the transmission from this car with the engine in the car. So out came the engine and trans. I took it apart, and everything looked fine. The throwout bearing wasn’t showing any abnormal wear on the face and wasn’t making any noise when I turned it. The clutch disk and springs looked fine. The pressure plate side of the clutch looked brand new. The flywheel side seemed like it was getting chewed up a bit, but I think that’s normal since it’s an aluminum flywheel with bolt holes in the face of it to bolt the steel part to the aluminum. So the clutch material comes off faster since it gets dug in those bolt holes? I was also having to slip it a decent amount starting out in second gear at all of the events this year, so that didn’t help either.

After scratching my head a lot and looking everything over, I decided to just change everything since I didn’t know what the problem was. I installed my flywheel/clutch/PP from last year, which I was keeping as a spare. The clutch had minimal wear and it was the same model that was already in the car. I also changed the TOB just to be safe. It’s made that screeching noise a couple of times in the two events I’ve done since the change, but it used to do it every time I used the clutch. I still don’t know what it is, but I’m not going to worry about it.

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So last weekend was XDC West Virginia/Hyperfest at Summit Point. This is the only track I’ve gone to so far this year that I was familiar with. It was nice to get back on a track that I’ve driven on in the past. Practice and qualifying was on Friday. We only had 2.5 hours of practice, and there were a ton of drivers, so I only got 7 or 8 practice laps that day. I had driven the track twice before, so I knew what I was doing and just had to get used to the extra grip and speed from the car. With the LS1, I had to downshift to third gear after the first turn, then upshift to 4th again halfway through the course. Now with the LS3, I could stay in fourth the whole way as long as I kept my momentum up through the first turn, which is the slowest. I thought that would be the best strategy to avoid making shifting mistakes and to be able to build more speed without the interuption in power for the upshift midway through the course.

In qualifying, I put in a safe first run and was pretty sure that I was in the show. On the second run, I tried to go super fast but overshot the first turn. I still finished the run fine but had a dirt drop in the first turn, and it probably looked sloppy. I ended up qualifying in 4th though with highest entry speed, which was 76, I think. I helped Angerman change his clutch on Friday night since it was slipping in qualifying. Some Spec Miata guys let us use their garage and lift, so it was relatively easy but still took some time, and we ended up going to bed late.

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On Saturday, there was a one-hour tandem practice at noon. I tried to get a lot of runs to get myself comfortable and get a feel for how fast other drivers were. I was pretty confident I could keep up with everyone after that practice. Doug Van Den Brink would be a challenge, but I thought I had the speed to beat him if I didn’t make any mistakes.

The top 16 competition was at 7pm. It’s hard to get in the car and go straight to competition runs after sitting around for 6 hours doing nothing, so I took it easy at first to get back in the rhythm of driving. I went up against Todd Rich in a 1JZ S14 in top 16. I put a lot of distance on him on my lead run so just had to do a clean run for my follow. He went way wide on the first turn leading me and had the back wheels off course. I ended up pulling up right beside him as he was in the dirt and wasn’t sure if I should try to slow down or just pass him. He spun out towards me and I passed him and finished the run. I wasn’t sure what the judges would think of that because maybe it looked like I took away his line getting beside him causing him to spin, but after some waiting around, I got the word that I would be moving on.

In top 8, I went up against Dan Savage, who was driving the Sikky LS1 S13. His car is pretty similar to mine, but he was on 255s, so I expected him to be slower due to the smaller tires. Like in top 16, I got a big gap on my lead run so knew I had the advantage. I gave him a couple car length gap when following him to make sure I wouldn’t get bogged down behind him, and then I closed up on him coming out of the first turn. I stayed with him pretty well through the rest of the course. I had a bit of a hickup because I forgot he needed to upshift, and I nearly ran into him when he got off throttle to make the shift, but I kept the drift going and got the win.

So now I was in top 4 and would be going against Doug Van Den Brink. He was top qualifier and driving great all weekend, so I was hoping I could get through top 16 and top 8 to go up against him. I put on a fresh set of tires with the air pressure set low. I knew I had to enter right on his door to have a chance of staying with him, so I was focused on getting a good launch off the start line. I put it in second gear, took off, and… wheel spin! Uggh. He got a couple car length advantage on me on the straight and I stupidly tried to make that up by entering the first turn later and probably 10 mph faster than I had all weekend. No amount of brakes would have slowed me down enough to make that corner. I felt like the car was washing out in the middle of the turn, tried to floor it to get it to pull out of the corner, but it just washed out more. I had to get off throttle to slow it down and keep it on the track, straightened out, and that was basically the end for me. I finished the follow run, did the most balls out fastest lead run that I could, but Doug ended up with the win.

I was supposed to go up against James Evans for third place, but his slave cylinder exploded so he had to forfeit. I ended up with third. Overall, it was a good weekend but disappointing because I think I could have kept up with Doug if it wasn’t for that mistake. But I still have a couple more chances at him this year in the remainder of the XDC events. Thanks to Josh, Josh 2, and Bill for changing my tires during the top 16!

All the competition runs are in these videos:

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My runs are at 7:25, 12:00, 14:10, and 1:25 in the second vid.

3rd Place Finish at DMCC Round 1!

Category : Events

DMCC Round 1 Montmagny Podium

 

Here’s a recap of DMCC this weekend. I was feeling more comfortable with the car after NJMP, so I didn’t change anything on the car, basically just reset the alignment and did maintenance. I drove most of Friday and got to Montmagny Friday night. On Saturday, there was practice from 2-6pm, so I got plenty of time to feel the car out and learn the track. It was a banked oval that they ran in a figure 8. You enter one bank, go around through the center, come out and go around the other bank.

dmcc_rd1_01 The most difficult part of the course was entering and staying high on the bank for the first turn without flying off. This track has no walls on top of the bank, so you basically shoot off the top of the bank, hit some grass, and then hit a wall at some point if you go off. It’s hard to judge how high you are on the bank since you don’t see a wall for a reference point. The bank at the other end of the track also doesn’t have a wall. You basically fly off into the woods if you go too high. There were a bunch of ridiculous crashes throughout the weekend. They also moved the start line further back than previous years, so that seemed to be getting people in trouble. Average entry speeds were in the mid 60s, and the highest speeds were low 70s.

dmcc_rd1_02 The other challenging part of the course was linking the section from the middle of the figure 8/crossover to the second bank. The crossover in the middle isn’t actually in the middle of the oval, so you have a really long section of straightaway from the middle to second bank. I took it easy in practice and tried to find the right speed and location to enter the first turn and also the best line to run through the crossover so that I would have the most speed coming out. The track was eating tires quickly since you had to be on throttle for a long time, so I had to conserve by letting off halfway through the bank instead of roasting tires for no reason. I used up one set in practice, then did a couple of runs to scrub in a new set for qualifying.

I did a safe run on the first qualifying pass, and I got a pretty good score with a 75. I went faster on the second run into the first bank, but I had kind of a shallow line going into the crossover which killed my speed, so I didn’t make the cutoff for the second speed trap. I ended up in 5th place. It would have been second or third place if I was a couple mph faster through the crossover.

dmcc_rd1_03 For top 16, I would be going against 12th place qualifier Tania Bourbonnais in Rhys Millen’s old GTO. I set the tire pressures a bit higher because I could see she was one of the slower drivers in practice. I led first, and she had a big correction following me, so I had the advantage. I gave her a one-car lead on the straightaway on my follow run. She was moving with good speed, but just as I clutch kicked into the first turn, she completely jumped off the throttle. I locked front brakes, almost ate the wall, then clutch kicked again and was right on her. She was super slow coming out of the crossover heading to the other bank, so I had to throw the car with huge angle and a lot of e-brake to stay drifting behind her, and I still almost hit her. I was right on her door through the last bank and most of the course so got the win easily. I beat Rhys’ old car and did not lose to a girl… mission accomplished!

dmcc_rd1_04 Next, I went against Mats in the top 8. I lowered tire pressures a bit but the car was getting faster anyway from the track cooling down so I was confident I could stay with him. I had a good chase run with him, lost him a bit through the crossover in the middle of the track but caught right back up going into the second bank and stayed on his bumper through to the end of the course. I don’t think he was able to follow me as closely so I got the win.

In the top 4, I’d be going against Dave Briggs who was, by far, the fastest driver that day. I put on new tires and lowered pressures a lot. I followed him first but gave him a bit too much space on the start, and there was basically a 1-2 car gap between us throughout the whole course. I knew I had to drive my ass off for my lead run to get a OMT or force him into making a mistake. I went full throttle into the first turn and did a big flick entry clutch kicking towards the wall and then throwing it the other way into the bank. I was basically trying anything I could to phaze Dave… lol. I kept the angle low and just tried to go as fast as possible the whole way. I could see in the mirror that I had about a car length on him at the end of the course. dmcc_rd1_05 We waited forever for the decision, and we got a OMT! The judges told me to stop doing “fake entries”… lol.

In the OMT battle, I was so focused on staying with him in the first turn that I wasn’t paying any attention to launching off the line. I ended up kind of bogging it in second gear, and Dave got a big jump on me which he held throughout the course. He followed me pretty well on the next run. He actually straightened through the crossover on his lead run, so I was hoping that was enough to have another OMT, but the judges called it in his favor.

For third place, I went against Evan Tuerck. We had relatively clean runs, and I was able to stay on his door pretty well, so I got the win.

Overall, I’m happy with how I drove. It sucked to lose to Briggs because of a stupid mistake on the launch, but it gives me some confidence to know my car is basically just as fast as his. This event was a blast and set a new attendance record for a DMCC event. The fans were insane and brought a ton of energy to the competition. I can’t wait to drive at this track again.

I’ll be driving next in two weeks at XDC West Virginia.

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NJMP Practice with Club Loose

Category : Events

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I went out to NJMP last weekend for the Club Loose event there. I wanted to make sure everything was good with the car after the “repairs” made from Florida. It was also a great chance to get a practice day and get used to having way more power without having to worry about walls, competition, etc. The “Lightning” track was wide open and fast with a lot of run-off room, so it was good for practicing. We were also hot-lapping so I got plenty of seat time.

I worked on putting the car in the right places and scrubbing off speed on fast entries. It seems like I’m just overshooting corners a lot now with more power, like missing inner clipping points and going too wide on exits. I think I got really used to being able to throw the LS1 car into corners as hard as possible, and now I can’t really do that since I’m going faster and can’t afford much bigger/better tires. Overall, I was pretty happy with my driving and with the car, so I’m going to leave it alone for now.

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The track was super fun, and I got to try some new stuff like 90 mph gigantic banked turn and 115 mph e-brake entry. I’m looking forward to coming back here later in the year. They also had a sweet go kart track that a bunch of us went on. I think I started our race in 11th or 12th and finished 2nd after much off roading, curb jumping, middle fingers, and karting tandems. The subsequent two days of back pain was a good reminder of the ridiculous go kart jumps that happened.