MAX Update No. 87: MAX at the Track

http://www.motherearthnews.com/green-transportation/100-mpg-max-at-the-track.aspx

087aMAXTrax

Here’s MAX about to take the green flag for a “fun run” at a Siskyou Sports Car Club autocross event last summer, by invite of Randy Grubb. That’s me under the snazzy helmet.

Randy is a remarkable automotive artist/constructor/designer/craftsman. If you’re not familiar with his name, give “Randy Grubb” a google — you’ll enjoy it. Your search may send you to Jay Leno’s Garage, or Monster Garage, or maybe straight to Blastolene Cars (“Blastolene is a Brotherhood of autonomous individual artists and craftsmen who encourage each other's creativity”). In many ways, he and I are opposite sides of the same coin — Randy’s a hot rodder (he puts big engines in relatively small cars) and I’m an ecofreak (I put small engines in relatively small cars) and it’s fair to say that we’re both extremists. In Randy’s case, “big engines” includes Patton tank engines and “relatively small” means 20 foot long roadsters, which are relatively small compared to a Patton tank; really, you ought to google him.

Google doesn’t mention that Randy campaigns a D Modified Birkin 7, which is darn near identical to MAX v.1.0 (before MAX got the slippery body), except Randy’s D Mod car has six times MAX’s horsepower and foot-wide racing slicks and other racecar stuff as needed to win its class…which Randy does with regularity.

Autocross is a motorsport with high fun factor and low risk factor. The courses are tight and twisty, and the cars run one at a time against the clock — typically one lap takes about one minute. The events are usually run on big empty parking lots with the entire course laid out with traffic cones (hit a cone = one second penalty), but SSCC uses a go-kart racetrack and uses cones to block off alternate routes and as keep-off-the-grass reminders. Randy comes to win, but I just came to see how MAX handles when driven at its limits.

So I borrowed a suitable helmet and signed up for a run. I made a variety of mistakes (on purpose, honest) and tried a variety of solutions; I found that the Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max tires stick better than the tired tires MAX used to run (a nice bonus for a high mileage tire) and they make lots of squealing noises before they lose traction (like the audible stall indicator on an airplane, it’s a nice warning if you’re not paying attention) and that not much happens if I lift my foot off the throttle in a corner (which is good for easily startled drivers such as Yours Truly) and for that matter, not much happens if I lift my foot off the throttle before a corner (note to self: to slow down, push the brake pedal). I learned quickly enough to keep MAX’s wheels on the asphalt all the way around the course, so it was a good use of a minute and…well I don’t know how many seconds, I’d been making one driving error after another and I didn’t need to look at the clock to know I was going slow.

But as I watched the other guys/gals I thought, how fast can I go if I give it my best? I knew what Really Fast was; Randy was Really Fast, at 55.150 seconds. How fast are MAX and me?

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Here we are finding out. I was much too busy to wave at the camera; frankly, I was too busy to even think about the camera, but I sure was having fun, even though “my best” was none too good. I was braking too late, which meant I was slowing down while I was in the corners, and with 32 horsepower I need all the momentum coming out of the corners I can get. One minute and 16.791 seconds. Grr. I can do better than that.

087cMAXTraxSo I did. My third and final run was much smoother, and faster by more than a second, and here’s a clock photo to prove it.

And what did I learn? The first run, I learned how to keep MAX on the road when driving at what the police call “excessive speed for conditions,” and I wish I’d learned this lesson about a year earlier, I could have skipped Update No. 61 (don’t remind me). The second run I learned I could have a lot of fun driving MAX hard in a controlled environment, and the last run I learned that I could get better with practice — I don’t need to race against Randy, I can race against me.

Randy took Top Time of the Day, by the way, which means he beat the Cobras and Corvettes and everybody in all the other classes. He has a number of TT of D trophies at home; he’s an exceptional driver with an exceptional car and was 20 seconds faster than me.

But the second fastest car in our class, with racing tires and triple MAX’s horsepower, turned 1:10.038 — only five and a half seconds faster than me and MAX. I suspect with similar tires and the right driver, MAX could give it a run for its money, despite the horsepower difference. Maybe with some practice, I’m the right driver. I don’t know, but it would be fun to find out.


Photos by Unknown Spectator and Jack McCornack 

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