Autocrossing a new addition to the fleet

Sometimes a car is priced well… and with that and an MOT, we have welcomed a VW Golf to the fleet. The funny thing is, it is for competition but to be used as a standard car and I love it – more than I ever thought possible! Driving it just makes me smile.

We entered the one day Autocross event (due to it being too far to do the two day event and not wanting to use accommodation) and the first time I drove the car was… to the start line. Why do I love it? It’s heavy, not the most agile, and you really really have to work it and hustle – but that makes it even more rewarding.

With dry weather, the stubble field used felt as if it got quicker during the day as it cleaned up. There were ruts in places and it had a mixture of fast sweeping bends and was a little more technical around the back. Our class comprised of a mix of “normal” standard cars and cars eligible for the standard class, but modified within the Autocross regs to get as much as possible out of them.

Neither Matt nor I were fighting for the front of the class, but the competition between us was fierce! There was a running order which we had to stick to, and our times were within a few tenths of each other most of the day – not bad for a four minute plus course. For the final run, I went before Matt, and he asked my time when I came in – and I told him. Maybe I shouldn’t have done?! It fired him up…

My final run was messy; I don’t mind making mistakes, but you should learn from them. Early on, the car jumped out of second gear which cost a little time (it had done it on one of my morning runs too but hadn’t done it again since). At that point, there is an argument I should have learnt from the mistake and held it in gear – but the counter to that is two hands on the wheel is better. On a later lap on my final run, it jumped out of gear again. From that point onwards I held it in gear, but it was too late; more time lost. (Watching videos back shows I also had too much wheel spin off the line, so something else to bear in mind for future events).

The long and short is, Matt found quite a bit of time on his final run and he beat me by two tenths. He didn’t have any issues with the car jumping out of gear through the ruts but there’s no doubt those two incidents on one run cost me more than two tenths. He finished third in class, and I was fourth in class and ninth overall. Plenty for me to think about for next time – the challenge is there aren’t too many autocross events around but I will beat him, next time!

I put together a comparison of our best runs which can be viewed on Youtube by clicking here. You can see how at points he is ahead, I am ahead etc, but being in the same car it is interesting to compare.

At the end of the day, one of the marshals came up and told us how we were the highlight of their day with the way we were driving the Golf. It didn’t make up for the two tenths of a second, but it made me smile and was good to know we’d provided some amusement and enjoyment to others.


Events are like buses…

…none for ages and then two in quick succession (yes, this was because of the pandemic, but you get the sentiment!). We entered the South Oxon Autotest at Bill Gwynne’s Rally School, the first time we had been to the venue.

This was the sort of event where the MG definitely feels sooooo much longer than the Micra! All scores counted (i.e. no “two runs at a test, best run to count”) so it was a day where it was really important to be clean, with no cone penalties or wrong tests and with a tight course, the MG length did feel more significant. The surface is loose gravel too, to make it more interesting!

Originally, Matt and I had entered as solo drivers but we had decided to change and enter the passenger classes instead, and I’m glad we did! The tests were long and despite walking them, there was a lot to remember. I think we were both glad of a “passenger” who really we did use as a navigator. The idea of moving to the passenger class originally had been me saying I wanted to sit with Matt and see how he gets the car working better than I can, particularly using the handbrake. Ian Mepham of Performance Automotive has recently upgraded the handbrake and brakes to help them work more effectively but I knew I hadn’t been getting the most out of them previously.

It was a long, hard, hot and dusty day; challenging, but worth it. I finished 3rd in class and 4th overall, beating Matt – my best result on an autotest to date. Unfortunately I threw away a position by clipping a cone on the last test which dropped me a position, but still a good result. Matt’s position had been compromised as he got a wrong test early in the morning; although he had gone back and corrected the mistake immediately, he had gone around another cone in the process so was given a wrong test (something to us to learn for next time as it can be penalised slightly differently in different clubs).

The sprint last week had used text messages to update on timings and results (as results cannot be printed/put on screens etc to stop congregation) and this event used a timing app, available on mobile phones. Both seemed to work well and good to do something very different to the previous weekend.