The SCCA Match Tour is essentially a National Tour style event with an index challenge on the following day. This event started for us on Friday, where Robert and I did some test-n-tune runs on the small practice course. I did 2 runs and Robert did 6 runs, ultimately putting down a faster time than me. We both thought the car felt good and moved on to check-in and tech inspection because we are in the Prepared category this meant we had to get weighed. The SCCA has "minimum weights" that the Prepared and Modified classes must meet based on engine displacement and aspiration. The limit for our car with a N/A 1.8L engine is ~1500lbs, so we hit the scales knowing we had a TON of room for error.
After handling the legalities, we headed out to walk the course together. I've walked many courses over the years, but this time was different. Robert has a way of stopping and analyzing the course in different areas, noting elevation changes and discussing alternative methods of attack. This is something I've never seen before, as I normally just walk the course to take mental notes of where to brake and turn lol. With Friday's activities completed, we packed up and went home.
Saturday morning we walked the course again, went to the drivers meeting, then observed the first heat take their runs. We had to work heat 2, which seemed to last forever due to timing issues. Heat 3 was finally up around 11 am, so we pulled the car into the grid and set up the GoPro. We were the second car in line so I had to get ready right away, I got strapped in while Robert verified tire pressures. On my first run, I was surprised how loose the car was at speed, somewhere in the middle of 3rd gear the rear of the car felt very light. This caught me off-guard at first but it seemed to be easily correctable, so I just rolled with it. Then once Robert spun the car at the finish, we agreed to turn the rear damping down from 16 to 12. This seemed to help and we finished our runs for the morning, me with all dirty runs and Robert having one clean time. The event shut down for the lunch break and we took some time to reflect on our situation.
During our afternoon heat, we decided we had nothing to lose and just tried tossing the car around the course and not holding back. It was a bit warmer now and the car was still loose, so Robert did some tire pressure tuning to real it back in. We did the best we could to log clean, fast runs for the afternoon...but we were still way off the pace. I'm not sure if the corner balancing shifted how the car behaves or if my tires are starting to fall off...but the car behaved vastly different. Comparing my times from the previous event, either I was one second slower than usual or Ian in the BMW was one second faster.
I also took a look at the overall PAX results, and I placed 124th. That's only about 20 spots slower than my usual pace at the local events, so maybe we didn't do too bad. Of course, we could have gone faster, but I think having to relearn and retune the suspension set us back in our efforts to drive the car at our absolute best. That's a testament to how much the balance was off previously, and verifies everyone's statement about how different it was going to be. Also, there is the fact that we don't run Hoosiers or any boost, yes we have a light car but that alone is not enough for Prepared class. I just can't justify the cost of those upgrades right now, I like having a reliable "do anything" car more than anything else.
Huge thanks to Robert Stangarone for driving with us, I learned some new course walk techniques and had an absolute blast chasing the XP field with him haha. This guy is a real asset to the racing community, very knowledgeable and always willing to share what he knows or help others in any way. I highly recommend co-driving with Robert, we could all benefit from gleaning some of his qualities. Thanks, man!