On Sunday, I had the pleasure of running my first autocross in the elise I picked up about a month ago. It was an event with a local club (Capital Driving Club) in Waldorf MD at the local minor league baseball stadium.
Having almost exclusively run a partially sorted B/ASP Subaru STi for the last 7 years, going to a bone stock car with crappy street tires on the back (more on that in a second) with almost opposite dynamics to my subie was quite an experience.
I autocrossed a 1st gen MR2 on rock hard h-rated tires with enormous spring rates and roll stiffness a few times before I got my Subaru, so I am somewhat familiar with mid-engine weight transfer and driving dynamics, but doing this in a properly sorted chassis with a lot more power and 400 pounds less weight was an awesome experience.
What wasn't awesome was the lack of rear grip from the Yokohama S Drives in the rear. I didn't realize until Sunday that the rears we're not the same AD07's that shod the front, but mid corner, first turn it was immediately obvious. The AD07's on the front, once properly pressurized and heated, thoroughly surprised me with the amount of grip given their 80's sub-compact tread width.
But with the S drives and my bad habits learned from years of autocrossing a Subaru, such as "understeer on corner entry? No problem, trail brake!" or "lifting throttle mid-corner will tighten my line, eh?", my 3 morning runs consisted of at least a second or two each run of me attempting to reel the back end in so it didn't come all the way around. Amazingly, I never completely lost it, but I came close.
The afternoon consisted of my buddy Paul (who was driving the car in a different heat) and I sorting out the pressures to make the car more predictable. We ended up 1 psi over stock front and rear, though Paul thought in the morning that we should be running 10 psi over stock.
Anyhow, my PM runs were much much better, and I shaved a full second off of my best AM run. Paul did the same. For the first outing, I felt pretty good about it. I think now that I'm more familiar with the car, even on the sub-optimal front/rear grip balance, I could eke another second and a half out now that I understand the limits and quirks better.
But man was it fun! And more so than other cars, you are really rewarded for smoothness. First on the list will be wider wheels and better wider tires (stock class be damned); I want a tire that is streetable and won't kill me in the wet, but will also hold up to a track day. R1R's maybe? Next of course will be shocks/springs. And since I don't plan on staying stock, FI will be a winter project.
My best run: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g99MXr3bf64
Paul's best run: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yij1i1MXXhI
He was about 0.4 faster than me, bastard.
Thanks for reading!