Speeding at Seneca: Now we know why those deer are white

On Saturday, September 17, 43 drivers made it to the Nürburgring of Upstate New York autocrossing, the Seneca Army Depot. Usually, going to the depot is a rare treat, but this year the Glen Region was fortunate enough to host two events at the site. The best part of the being at the depot, quite honestly is size, unless you happen to enjoy watching white deer or have this thing for topography similar to Illinois or West Texas. Anyway, Eric Navestad, Pat Scopelliti, Mike Taves and design team captain, Casey Creamer did their best to take advantage of the generous space and take advantage they apparently did. They selected a design very similar to the June event commencing with the traditional Glen Region slalom-start. The slalom in turn emptied into a slightly confusing gate (Casey assures me that this was not intentional) requiring a hard left out to the middle of the runway, another right, and then another left. It was in this transition, apparently, where cones weren’t enough guidance and road signs would have helped. Many “off-courses” occurred here., but such is autocrossing. After the transition another hard left ran to the east side of the runway followed by a straight ending in a couple turns, first right, then left. These turns emptied into a straight blast into the right side of two side-by-side gates, ultimately ending in a pin turn. It was at this point that Jeff Eames considered the wisdom of installing a parachute on his Mustang, either that or reconnecting his brake booster (More boost or better stopping? Always a difficult decision.). The good thing at this part of the course was that there was plenty of room for faster cars, such as Jeff’s to build up speed, while allowing sufficient room for overzealous Michael Schumacher wannabes. In short, a driver could make mistakes and still not hurt anything but his tires (and his ego). Ask Jeff. Following the pin turn the trail went back through the other side of the twin gates on a straight heading, assuming that the driver hadn’t blown the pin turn, coursing through a right hand gate to enter the airplane parking area at the southeast portion of the field. Here the course entered a fast and somewhat scary off-cambered gate on the left before switching back to the right for yet another gate. This gate mandated a fairly hard left to get back to the left hand side of that roadway. Next, a transition into a right hand chicane lead to a left gate on the far east side before entering another transition into a gate leading to a short slalom before returning to the main runway. Normally the middle of an autocross layout is relatively simple, but our course constructors chose to dump a box turn-type chicane that emptied into one gate before quickly changing into a fairly tight slalom to the finish line. This final chicane resulted in the greatest kone-killage of any location, and believe me, kone-killage was especially high at this event. All in all, a decent layout and at least we did get the PortAJohn in the right place this time.

As for the cars and drivers, G-Stock returned to its normal place of dignity, the largest class at the event, with four drivers. There weren’t any surprises, though, as reigning 2004 G-Stock champion Barry Butterfield (’05 BMW Mini Cooper S) handily defeated his competition to assure that the 2005 trophy will be his, as well. A nice end to Barry’s final days in G-Stock as Barry may be heading to D-Stock next season. For the rest of G-Stock, perhaps 2006’ top G-Stocker hiding amongst them, Andrew Remillard (’99 VW Passat) got by Scott Prior (’98 Dodge Neon) and Kyle McCoy (’02 Saab 9-3 SE) to complete this highly competitive Glen Region group.

You’re not going to believe this, folks, and it may cause Aaron “The Blender Blaster” Boltman to change classes, but he had two competitors in Super Stock. I mean Aaron is the guy who purposely “chips” cars to jump to empty classes, but it didn’t work this time. One of his new competitors even spun out just like Aaron, who also spun. You’d think that with tires as wide as small house, it might be hard to spin a ‘Vette, but Aaron is nothing if not resourceful and spinning cars is his trademark, so to speak. I figure that he’s practicing to be a winning NASCAR driver and as there aren’t any fences to climb at a Glen Region solo, what’s a winning driver to do but spin his ride. Anyway, Aaron did win the Super Stock trophy over Steven Craig and Laura Vlosky and managed to take both the Fastest Time of the Day (FTD) and the PAX championship while doing it. As always, some nice driving, Aaron.

Nick Brewster (’01 Honda S2000) continued his spinning and winning ways in A-Stock, but not without a fight from Michael Traphagen (’05 Subaru WRX STI). All I can say is that those new 300 hp STIs must be something. In D-Stock it was the return of “Yeoh Baby,” as Stephen Yeoh (’98 Acura Type R) switched from the yellow Boxster he used at his last Glen Region event to win his class over Mark Lockhart (’01 BMW 330ci) and Adam Romph (’04 Dodge Neon SRT4).

It might have been a different car (’01 Ford Focus), but Jeff Weaver still managed to lay claim to the quickest in H-Stock as he out drove Andy Weaver (same ’01 Ford Focus) and Glen Region newcomer, Michaelle Quinn (’99 VW Beetle). I have to warn you if you didn’t already know, Jeff and Andy, but Ken Pierce just bought a Ford Focus and he might decide that a change to H-Stock isn’t such a bad idea. Then again, I’ve never known a Pierce to drive a stock car for very long, so who’s to say.

C-Street Prepared was an all Miata event, as it typically is here in the Glen Region, but this time three Miatas were on hand. In the end Ryan Jones (’99 Miata) repeated his last two outings and took first place over Brian Bell (’95 Miata) and Jeff Hering (’90 Miata). I don’t know whether it comes from sitting so close to the ground or what, but C-Street Prepared also amassed more “off-courses” than any other class. Maybe you three have been competing so long against one another that none of you could bear the thought that one of your fellow Miata drivers might win in any category, including most off-courses.

If C-Street Prepared was all Miatas, E-Street Prepared was not only all bowtie and all Camaro, but also all 2000 vintage. At least the colors weren’t all identical. Jonathan Wolff had no trouble taking the trophy, but the battle for second place was much closer. In the end, Michael Virdone got by returning Glen Region driver Brett Bauer to round out the class.

A triad of Mustangs made up C-Prepared and Mike Eams’ ’01 Ford Mustang proved the fastest of the herd as he got by second place Larry Rhodes (’94 Ford Mustang) and third place Jeff Eames (’99 Ford Mustang). The closest battle of the day, however, was definitely down in Street Touring (Tire) where Tom Deneka (’98 Honda Prelude) managed to nip Peter Hirschey (’00 Subaru Impreza RS) by 2/1000 of a second. What did you do to win by that margin, Tom, put on a longer hood ornament?!? Third place was Todd Acker in his ’99 Honda Civic.

In the F125 Shifter Kart class three drivers put on the nomex (or in Mike’s case, perhaps an understated cotton sweater with tasteful, yet understated Bass Weejuns). Casey Creamer (’05 MW Chassis Kart) apparently got his groove back edging out Pat Scopelliti (’91 Techno Cart) by less than half a second while both got by Kart newbie, Mike Taves, who debuted in Casey’s ’05 MW Chassis Kart.

D-Street Prepared had only 2/3 of a full Pierce, but the ’87 BMW 325is’ differential appeared to hold together for yet another event. Ken Pierce won the battle of the brothers at the day’s conclusion, but John hit more cones and that’s got to count for something.

Bill Barkely brought his ’87 Yugo GV back into action in E-Prepared and got the Yugo to run long enough to take the class honors from Christopher Hoefert (same Yugo) doing it. Finally, in E-Modified a Ford-powered Jaguar ’74 XJ6 sedan with a real wooden dashboard was the drive du jour for William and Craig Mapstone. It was a close battle between the Mapstones, but William got by Craig in the second set of runs to take the day’s trophy in one of the event’s more interesting entries.

As always I end with the reminder that an event such as the Speeding at Seneca, let alone an entire season can’t be pulled off without a lot of volunteer spirit and effort and our region put in a lot of time and effort. First, on behalf of the entire solo team I extend a big thanks to Matt Lockhart for serving as event chair for the second Seneca Army Depot event. Second, the usual but greatly appreciated thanks to the Course Design Team, Casey, Pat Scopelliti, Mike Taves, and Eric Navestad, for showing up early to put this course together. Thanks, also, to Mike Taves for his serving as safety steward. Finally, a big virtual chocolate to our Solo II chair, Becky Tinker, whose tour of duty is just about at an end. It’s been a lot of work, Becky, but the past two years have been successful and you deserve a pat on the back for all that you did. May Ken Moyer have as great a 2006 season as you enjoyed during your tenure. As is always the case, a much more detailed accounting for the statistically oriented, along with a list of all of the drivers, their cars, and their times may be viewed online at http://www.glen-scca.org/solo/2005/results20050917.asp. The next Glen Region Solo event is rumored to be a “Funkahna” and is scheduled for the second weekend in October, specific date unknown as of this writing. Until then and until the 2006 season, may all your apexes be good apexes.

Reflections on the 2005 Season: As you can tell from the comments earlier, the off-courses and kone-killing karnage at the Seneca Army Depot were high, but beg the question of which of our 2005 season events was the most trying for drivers and pylons, alike. Thanks to intrepid Glen Region statistician, Pat Scopelliti, who apparently lacks a life but is great at math, we may have an answer. In fact, thanks to Pat we have much 2005 Solo II season data just to give you, the reader, something to ponder over the next six months or so. The bottom line is we had 278 competitors this year, completing 1690 runs, with a 7% off-course rate, while knocking over about one cone every four successfully completed runs. That doesn’t sound too bad to this writer, although the number of off-courses is somewhat surprising given that the course set-up committee doesn’t like to see many off-courses and tries to discourage them. As the data shows below, the Seneca Army Depot was our site most likely to result in an off-course or kone-killing, while perennial favorite Arnot Mall, was least likely. Part of the difference can be attributed to weather conditions, I suppose (the cold, freezing rain at Avanex 1, for example), or course layout complexity, higher speeds, or even the number of decision points, such as at the second depot event. For you alpha geeks, the cone ratio shows the number of cones hit per success run (total runs less DNS, DNF, and off-course). The off-course figure reflects the percent of attempted runs (total runs less DNS) that ended in an off-course.