May Brings Flowers and First Autocross

Two hundred and twelve orange cones.  Three-tenths of a mile of asphalt.  Twenty-six drivers and four instructors.  It was HCP’s first autocross event of the season- one that drew an  unusually large number of drivers to the McCarty Ave. parking lot in Albany in mid-May to test their skills against a course laid out by autocross chair Chris Klapper.   Many who threaded their way through the cones were newcomers to autocross, drawn by the club’s focus on beginners for this event.

Wheels were torqued, mats removed, and trunks checked when Chris assembled new drivers for a bit of pre-event advice: Be smooth, if you’re jerking your wheel back and forth you’re doing something wrong. Anticipate your turns- if you’re turning when you’re on top of a cone, you’re turning too late. Most importantly- look ahead. Your car will follow your eyes. Important advice for a course that featured two slalom runs, a sweeping curve that neared 180 degrees, two straights that allowed drivers to get on their accelerators and a couple of tight turns that forced them onto their brakes. Most drivers quickly accelerated through first gear into second, steering their cars with throttle as much as wheel- another tip from the instructors who frequently rode with new drivers as they acclimated themselves to the sport.

The morning was given to practice, two runs for newcomers, riding with instructors if they desired; the remainder of the morning was set aside for experienced drivers to learn the course. After a lunch break, the time clock was turned on and the serious driving began.

While most drivers sat behind the wheel of Porsches, a 1994 1.8 litre Miata, a Fiesta XT, a Camaro Z/28 and a VW Cab turbo also lined up.   A beautiful Porsche always gets a look; perhaps none drew more attention than Gregory Bidwell’s 1964 air-cooled 356. When asked about the experience of driving his 356 he smiled as he described the car’s great handling. Driving this car is “like driving a go-cart”, he said. The car certainly looked nimble on the track, posting some respectable times with Greg behind the wheel. .  There were other skilled drivers with powerful machines who tested Klapper’s course; when the dust in the McCarty lot settled, the fastest men’s and women’s times of the day belonged to Will Waldron who clocked a tire squealing, exhaust growling :44.33 in his 968 and a smooth and fast :49 turned in by Linda Klapper in her Cayman S.

The threat of thunderstorms raking across the McCarty lot slightly suppressed the turn-out for July’s event.  The storms never materialized and sixteen drivers who knew enough to ignore the weather forecast showed up on a warm and humid summer day to test their skills.  Driver’s were able to get in eight runs on a course that ran a bit slower than the course in May.  At the end of the day, the fifty second barrier had been broken fourteen times, the quickest lap a 46.656.

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