Over hills and through dales, those were the lyrics that played on an endless loop in James Shipka's head during the 2010 One Lap of America event, and has been a signature saying of his to this day. Imagine late at night, James humming this song, co-driver Dave Pozzi asking what it is, and James saying "You don't want to know!" It was pretty funny at the time. The words mean more than just numb-butt driving, however, as we've co-opted them as our mantra while getting ourselves and our Camaro ready for the 2013 edition, and another chance to (hopefully) extend our Vintage American win streak. To that order, both James and I worked hard over the off-season. And as I write this, there's about two months left between my keyboard strikes and a wet skidpad at TireRack headquarters.
To his credit, James has been working at improvement much more diligently than yours truly. He's dropped a boatload of weight (think major downsize here) and while the "pants onna ground" look is in, the "loaded diaper butt" look isn't really flattering for a firesuit. How much weight, you ask? I don't see James often but my first comment over Christmas was, "Who are you and what have you done with James?" (Nick, don't you dare parody James' butt like you did mine, though that little devil on my shoulder is saying you should.)
James also felt his track skills needed a tune-up so he did two schools, Dirt Fish Rally School (dirtfish.com) and Evolution Performance Driving School (evoschool.com) in the off-season. I've heard of Dirt Fish and after hearing James' comments plus seeing the pics of him covered in mud and God knows what else, it sounds like tons of fun. Evo School reviews autocross basics and then works on the minutiae that get us faster around a seafest of cones. Both James and I did sessions. James for Challenge, me with Phase Two, and we both did a well-needed test-and-tune with multi-national champion Sam Strano, who offered up tips for quicker times. Sam changed three things for me and I promptly saw a two-second improvement driving a car that gives understeer a whole new meaning: my '02 Camaro SS. James wasn't so fortunate as he was at the mercy of a Hertz rental 5.0 Mustang that elevated push and snap oversteer to great heights, often simultaneously, if that's possible.
So what does slinging it sideways in dirt have to do with One Lap, you ask? Let's just say that Brock Yates, Jr. is one sneaky SOB and in years past, has been known to throw in a dirt oval as part of the event mix. And as for that Mustang? This only goes to show that Scott Settlemire, aka the "F-Bod Father," was right. I met him several years ago and he talked about writing a book about the Camaro. His hometown is Mars from some state in the east so goes to reason a suitable title is "Camaros are from Mars, Mustangs are from Uranus." After driving that particular Blue Oval pile, I couldn't agree more.
The One Lap Camaro has also undergone some huge changes and now sports the WFH, aka "Wing From Hell." James found this programmable downforce whizbang rear wing and bought it thinking it would help keep the butt end of the car more firmly planted to the pavement. Best of Show Coachworks was tagged to install this mess o' hinged electronically controlled metal and it now sits firmly connected to the most solidly reinforced trunk lid on the planet. Yes, there are bigger wings out there, and if you need examples, I'm sure you can spot one on any tuner Honda, Subaru, or anything sporting a fart-pipe exhaust, but this one is kinda cool. As for our addition, upcoming track and autocross sessions will get us friendly with the programming process, and after increasing the spring rates and adjusting the shocks, all should be good.
Other improvements were done to the front spoiler and splitter. So much so, that after "secret squirrel" photos were released to Facebook, other businesses started fabricating what looked like the exact same part. After a review of the final pics, our part is still better than their part, and that's all I'm going to say about that.
Calories and diets over the years have netted me several firesuits of varying sizes. I've been meaning to replace the original custom red Simpson suit bought in 1990, as technology and safety are much improved now versus then but I just can't bear to part with it. That and as it's the smallest size of all, I look as smokin' hot as a 57-year-old race-broad can look 'cause it actually fits!
And as for "Eastbound and Down," that song has provided more than a few laughs. It was programmed into my phone specifically for when James calls, it's in my iPod and iPhone music libraries, and most funny was when James came down to take the Skip Barber Three-Day school a year ago. Being as he didn't want to rent yet another Mustang, I graciously loaned him the blue '02 SS, but not before setting the CD player at the start of his "special" song. We met at a local eatery and when done, I threw him the keys so he could get back to his hotel. Dave and I waited, giggling like mad schoolgirls. About two seconds after that LS1 fired up the side window went down and out came his arm, which was followed by a quite nice presentation of the ubiquitous—and always understood—"middle finger" salute! Well said … and put!
One Lap should be a good one this year!!!