A look at the data shows high cornering g-forces, but only a little better than running Toyo R888's, like we did last year. The sticky, autocross Hoosier R6 tires we used this year have a different feel when pushed near their cornering limit, and I don't know if I got the most out of them. I was warned to not over-slide them, but I think I was too conservative. The previous test we did with Penny revealed the rear shocks were severely limited in stroke and causing Penny to snap into oversteer unexpectedly when trying to put the hammer down on corner exit, hurting any chance at building speed down the straightaway. The remedy was longer rear shocks from Bilstein, but there wasn't time to test our fix, leaving me with just three laps on the track to figure it out. I found it very difficult to overcome the feeling that I might be suddenly facing backward! I'm sure with a few more laps, I would have found my "groove," but that's not how this event works. It's the same for everyone, so I guess the moral of this story is, "Know your car."
The Racepak data showed that our miles per hour were higher than last year all around the course, except for Turns 6 and 11, where I hit the brakes too early. We'd installed brand-new rotors on Penny the night before the event (don't ask). They worked well, but were not fully seasoned and broken in. While we had no fade, I took it a bit too easy on them and it shows in the data. I also made a poor choice to not downshift in two places on the course. This left me lugging the engine at 3,500 rpm out of the corners. I didn't want to be upshifting while cornering, and it would have added two extra downshifts, but in retrospect, it would have probably been worth it. While I only missed one downshift, I discovered the clutch master had failed when I returned to the pits and couldn't put Penny in First gear.
Autocross and 0-60-0 Report
What a difference a year makes. With the help of quite a few people, we worked hard on sorting out Bad Penny over the year since the inaugural Optima Invitational. The Camaro ran better, reacted quicker, and overall felt phenomenal when dodging little orange cones. And while David Pozzi had a hard time adjusting to the Hoosier A6 tires on the road course, I had snuck in a practice race the month prior and was anxious to drive the autocross segment. Earlier in the day, David Pozzi reported a power steering hiccup while out on the big course. It felt bad at idle, but improved when I brought up the revs, so we decided to tackle our three timed runs. I launched for the first run and the pump decided to go on vacation. This really caught me by surprise when I went to make my first turn and the steering wheel was unwilling to move. We pulled out of line, but discovered there was nothing to be done short of replacing the pump. Since I had made my first lap, I didn't feel it was fair to stop for a repair. The right thing to do was to suck it up and finish my runs. Let's just say my arms were a bit sore for the rest of the day, but we turned in a respectable time. Later, we ran down to AutoZone, bought a stock GM pump, and thanks to Detroit Speed for lending us a puller, repaired the Camaro. Still, the whole "what if" deal was killing me, so Jimi Day let me make an exhibition run with a fully functioning car. The Camaro performed flawlessly and knocked down a time of 42.89 seconds, a time only bested by the '66 Cobra. That time, even unofficial, made all the work we did worth it. In hindsight I probably should have done the repair before my final two runs, but that's water under the bridge and all of us are very happy with how the '68 performed.