2019 Charlotte Champ Tour at ZMax Dragway

2019 Charlotte Champ Tour at ZMax Dragway

Racing season has sprung!

This past weekend, the Period Correct Tow Pig hauled the Buick and myself to Charlotte, North Carolina, for the 2019 SCCA Champ Tour/CAM Challenge in the parking lot of ZMax Dragway. Unlike last year’s event, which was a Match Tour format, this was a full-fledged Champ Tour. Two hundred ninety eight drivers. Since ZMax is used on Sundays for actual drag racing, this event was run Thursday through Saturday instead of the typical Friday through Sunday.

Since I’ve changed  a few things on the car over the winter, including a new lightweight composite front bumper and different springs – changes that removed 90lbs from the car, almost all of it ahead of the front axle – I needed to get onsite in time to at least run a few Test and Tune laps on Thursday. So, the plan was to load the trailer up on Wednesday, and leave no later than four AM on Thursday.

Loaded and ready to go!

But there were complications. Wednesday night, a mysterious truck appeared, and a guy got out on his phone and started casing the car. When I went outside to get a snap of his license plate, he took off. Fearing he was casing the car for an attempt at a theft later that night, the neighbors and I blocked the rig in. The guy did actually come back about 2am, but drove off again once he saw how tight we’d blocked it. He would have had to break into and move at least two vehicles.

So that lesson’s been learned: no more leaving the rig loaded overnight. I’ll have to get up and load before leaving every time and unload as soon as I get home. City living. And to think they’re about to fire 200 police officers here. Might be time to start looking at moving.

Anyway, I embarked at four AM as planned, and in just over nine hours I was at ZMax.

The ZMax parking lot is huge. Almost twenty acres of surprisingly grippy sealed asphalt.

Panoramic of the pad

Three passes on the TnT course revealed that the winter changes have had a dramatic effect. Turn in and front grip is massively improved. I did have some forward traction and flaring issues that I think were the result of possibly picking up a rear tire. The lot has a few odd elevation changes that can upset a car. I’ll know more when I run somewhere flatter.

Friday was  Day 1. 19,000 steps on the pedometer don’t lie, the course was long with several tricky bits and plenty of room to hang yourself. And Hang myself I did. Way too timid. I kept pushing a little faster each run, but with just three runs, I should have been aiming for a lot faster. At the end of Day one, I was sitting in 12th of 15.

 

12th!

Also, this R33 Skyline was awesome.

JDM Yo!

Grid prior to our run heat

Saturday came with the course reversed from the previous day. Running it backwards resulted in a much faster course. Again, I was too timid, and after my second run I was comfortably last place. There was nothing left to do but do what i should have done all along: send it.

And send it I did. My last run was a full three seconds faster than my second run. But I hit a cone. That cone took me from 12th to last again.

To demonstrate just how much faster I went, here’s my slowest and fastest runs side-by-side:

But it was last with pride. The car performed flawlessly. The problem is now firmly between the seat and the steering wheel. Look at this shot of the front tire:

Front tire, note the light colored co-centric line – that’s the rollover point.

Last year, the suspension would lay outward in turns and eat the outer shoulder up.   Now the tread is only being exposed up to the lighter line just next to where the treat void turns into that little lightning shape. Previously, I would grind that little lightneing shape off the tire in just a few runs. The contact patch is flat, finally.

My next event is in two weeks, the Mississippi Pro Solo at Grenada. This could be interesting, as this will be the first opportunity for me to try out the launch control on the car. Stay tuned!

Andrew

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