Like in any sport, practice makes perfect in SCCA autocross. But in the case of the Tire Rack SCCA Solo National Championships in Lincoln, Neb., Sept. 5-8, “perfect” will be a rarity – instead, practice gets you close enough to perfect to hopefully win. And come to think of it, “practice” is a tough one, too, since few live close to Lincoln Airpark to get enough practice time in on that concrete surface. So, how do you practice specifically for the Solo National Championships? We asked the experts.
In a nutshell, they advise the obvious: head to Lincoln Airpark. For that, there is the Spring Nationals and the Test N Tune course that takes place during the SCCA Solo National Championships. Why is seat time on Lincoln’s concrete so vital? SCCA Solo National Champion Robert Thorne explains: “[Lincoln] is a little different than any site I can go to locally in Colorado. It has a higher level of grip, and it’s also a bit bumpier.”
In May of this year, SCCA hosted a ProSolo/Solo Championship Tour combo event dubbed the Spring Nationals; many top players use this event as the start of their Solo National Championships prep.
“I use the Spring Nationals for both competing and for testing and tuning,” says 2015 SCCA A Street National Champion James Yom. “As a West Coast guy, it gives me a preview of my competition at Nationals, and how their setups and driving compare to mine.”
But considering you’re reading this now, a short time before the Solo National Championships – months past the Spring Nationals – there is still hope for getting you and your car dialed in to Lincoln’s concrete. For that, the event’s Test N Tune course is key. But there are things you need to know before turning a wheel on that test course.
It turns out, most experts agree the Test N Tune course is not a perfect test bed. “Historically, the test course doesn’t translate well enough to the competition area to make perfectly reliable tuning adjustments,” says SCCA National Champion and 2015 Driver of Eminence recipient Brian Peters. “However, it is very useful to make comparative changes and verify results.”
Thorne also emphasizes a competitor shouldn’t make changes to their car based solely on how the car performs on the Test N Tune course, but still believes the Solo National Championships test course is a valuable tool. “The practice course is very different, and the surface is different over there,” Thorne says. “If you have a car that’s working perfectly on the practice course, you’re going to have a very bad day switching over to the big course.
SCCA National Champion Craig Wilcox uses the Solo National Championships Test N Tune course to work on driving. “I do plan to utilize the Test N Tune course at the Solo Nationals,” Wilcox says, “mainly to make sure [I] get plenty of seat time [and] to make sure my driving is up to its full potential.”
Much like a golfer hitting balls on the driving range or the putting green before starting a match, the Test N Tune course is a great way to warm up the driver and make sure that muscle memory reflex is at its best when the runs count. “Ultimate success in a three-run format requires sufficient mental preparation and driving execution,” Peters sums up. “However, knowing which knob to go to and which way to turn it in handling a train wreck can often make the difference in staying on top of your class.”