Saturday, October 3, 2009

200K Mile Autocross

Last Friday, on the way home from work, my Miata rolled over 200,000 miles.

That weekend, I treated myself to a precision alignment. I went to Archer Alignment in DeKalb. I got the job done on a laser machine, spot on to my specs for a mere $80. The guy was smart and friendly, too. Highly recommended, especially considering many people pay upwards of $150 for a precision, custom alignment. Archer is a deal.

I also recently had to de-power the steering rack due to a bad power steering leak and an inability to find the correct parts (I did it the quick & dirty way). It's a little stiff in parking lots, but otherwise perfectly livable. I was, however, somewhat concerned about steering weight in autocross. Lots of turning + relatively low speeds + heavy steering = potential disaster.

Last Saturday, I went to my first autocross since that eternal first number on the odometer changed, since the alignment, and since the depowered steering rack.

I had on a set of Goodyear Eagle GPS tires, which are made solely for Wal-Mart stores. These tires are cracked and old, and I thought I ought to get some real abuse out of them before reselling them for the rims (a set of 14" NB alloys)I left the Toyos at home because it was supposed to rain that day and I figured I'd be better off with the all-season rubber. Sadly, the track was dry by the time we started our morning runs, so I was an absolutely horrific 4 seconds off pace for my class. I was really astonished at how awful those tires were. I was blowing way past the grip limit on my first run, really sliding all over the place. They're very scary in the rain under normal driving, too, but I was able to keep pace with the guys on Falken Azenis once the track got wet.

...was surprisingly light. I was even able to palm the wheel! Not bad at all. I can't say I'd be able to do this immediately after removing the power assist though; driving daily with it for 2 weeks certainly helped build up my arm muscles. I will say that after a couple weeks, you don't really notice the lack of power steering anymore, at least not on a light car like a Miata. The next test will be to see how difficult it is with wider, grippier tires and probably heavier wheels.

And that's all I remember; it's been a weeks since the event.

Next weekend, I'll be at the final SCCA Chicago event with my Toyos and grippier brake pads. If I place well enough, I might pull myself up from 6th of 11.

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