We are back under green conditions!

As the country tries to open up after our nearly three month containment trying to stop COVID-19, automotive events are starting to actually happen again. Most states near me have recognized events like Autocross as pretty safe, so they’re starting to not be cancelled.

Case in point was this past weekend’s South Bend Region event at Grissom Aeroplex in Peru, Indiana. When they announced on Facebook a few weeks ago that this event was ON, I think it filled up in just a few hours. Due to the pent up demand, it also filled up with fast national level drivers. This was going to be like a scaled down Champ Tour, not some dinky regional.

This was a two day event. On Saturday, South Bend Region held their own points event, and on Sunday, they hosted a Great Lakes Divisional event.

As adjustments for COVID-19, there was to be nobody on site that wasn’t a driver, so no spectators or other visitors. Loaner helmets are gone. Registration was internet only and check-in was zero touch.  And they capped the event at 120 people to make sure there was enough space in paddock for everybody to spread out.

The relatively low participant cap (for a big site like Peru) also meant a lot of runs. Five each day. This was going to be an excellent opportunity to get some autocross testing done on the Probe, or rather, some driver training. I’ve never seriously autocrossed front wheel drive before, so I have a steep learning curve in front of me.

Amazingly, the car performed flawlessly. The first day, I didn’t touch anything but air pressures, choosing to concentrate on driving the car. After the first run, I dropped a bit of time and put down some consistent 58.3 second runs, with a 58.03 flyer mixed in that I couldn’t replicate:

Day 2 had a whole new course with a crossover and some pretty long sections where the throttle was mashed. I datalogged the first run and made some map adjustments. I’d never really rung the car out in second gear like this, and it was hitting some spots in the fuel map it hadn’t really hit before.

And a comment on tires: since this was a budget build, I didn’t spring for the “fast” tire like a Rival S, RE-71R, or the new Yokohama Advans. I put Federal 595RS-Rs on it. They’re half the price of a comparable top-line tire. And they’re good. I didn’t feel like I was running out of tire at all, anywhere. Granted, Peru is really grippy concrete. We’ll see what happens when I get to an asphalt lot and I get more adept at piloting the vehicle at the limit, but so far I’m very happy with the purchase.  We’ll see how they hold up through the season.

I was getting more comfortable with the car and tried getting closer to the cones. Sadly I got too close on all but two of my runs. My fastest was marred by such an incident:

Overall event results, I ended up 95th out of 120. So basically about the same place I normally end at an event filled with Champ Tour quality drives. I was DFL in SMF, the class I put the car in, but that was expected. I’m way over weight for SMF, and my competition was running slicks.

But it’s all good. The point of this event was to learn how to drive this car and see if it can stand up to a weekend of autocrossing. Both objectives met.

Stay tuned here. In three weeks is the first DriveAutoX event at UMI Motorsports Park in Pennsylvania. I’m taking the Buick to that one. It’ll be the first time it’s been out and driven hard since I lunched the transmission at the KYR Time Trial Regional last July. The Buick’s been to Saudia Arabia and back since then.

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