On my way I stopped to fill up my tires to the required 38 PSI. Fortunately I checked the pressure with my own gauge: the gauge built into the gas station’s air hose was about 12 PSI off!
I arrived at Candlestick park around 7:00 and had just enough time to retrofit a fan shroud onto my radiator. Because the space between my fan and radiator is a little smaller than spec I needed to cut the bottom of the shroud off to make it fit without hitting the fan blade. The shroud did it’s job: I had no issues with overheating.
By 8:00 my e30 had passed tech inspection and received it’s “green to go” sticker.
After a brief “chalk talk” we broke into groups for the morning’s exercises.
The exercise started out with ovals for 2 laps composed of just half of the figure 8. This was a waste of time. None of us knew the course well enough to pick out the right cones to circle around and but the time anyone figured it out the 2 laps were over. However I did get to see others run the figure 8s so by the time my runs came up I had a good idea where the course was.
In additional to a little slalom work we also touched on trail braking. Trail braking is done thusly: the car approaches the entrance to a corner at a high rate of speed. The driver brakes hard, then enters the turn with diminishing brake. At about the apex the driver slowly squeezes on the gas so that by the time the car has finished turning the car is at wide-open-throttle.
Every run I made some improvements. I spun out twice but my instructor helped me understand why and ultimately I spun out because I had managed to come through the turns with more speed than I was anticipating (good, albeit unexpected).
The paper clip is essentially 2 sharp 180s joined by straight aways. This was all about trail braking and cornering with a double apex. The long path around the paperclip was the line taken by slower cars like mine, while the short path was taken by faster cars (like the super-charged Mazda Miata in my group).
Again, I had a spin out but made improvements on every run.
The triangle was most challenging for me, probably because my instructor was very demanding and scolded me for hitting cones. I think the expectation is that by the time you get to this exercise you’re going to be good. The triangle is 2 slaloms and a straight away connected by sharp turns.
I was initially slow to show improvement but eventually dialled in my cornering to the satisfaction of my instructor. I also smoothed out my slaloms (less jerky with the wheel) and cut closer to the cones I was passing instead of weaving in the space in the middle of the cones.
The triangle was really about refining and sharpening skills rather than picking up brand new concepts.
The “Mystery Course” was a short auto x course made of sharp and sweeper turns, two slaloms and a hair pin. I spun out twice and forgot to go “both feet in” on one which meant my car stalled out and was difficult to restart. The mystery course was loads of fun and a real taste of what auto x is like.
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