Well the autocross season is over for the year but I still want my racing adrenaline fix so I decided to try out RPM Challenge this weekend. For those of you that don't know RPM Challenge is a business that Todd James with the help of Steve Meritz started just north of Fort Wayne, not to far from Kruse Auction Park. They have a rallycross course set up just south of the motocross course on route 3. For $30 dollars you can compete in one of their mini tournaments in their Subaru Impreza against others driving the same car.
I wasn't sure what to expect since I have never tried to race on dirt or for that matter race in an all wheel drive car. Front and all wheel drive cars have a different driving technique then my rear drive car so I knew I was going to have to learn a different driving style. Of course the other big factor in my uncertainty is that dirt doesn't have the traction that pavement or concrete has and I wasn't sure that I could adapt to that quickly.
When I got there in the morning Steve assured me that there was more traction out there then I expected and told me that if I drive it like an autocross course I would do fine. He also gave me a little advice on how to drive an all wheel drive car. They also explained the format of their mini tournaments. You get one reconnaissance run right before your first run to make sure you know the course. Then you did your first two lap run, let all the rest of the drivers cycle through the car then did your second two lap run. The times from both runs are added together and the best drivers (three minimum) drove one more two lap shootout runs to determine the winner.
On my four laps around the track that morning I was a little tentative (OK a lot) but managed to do one lap that was close to the guys that have been doing this for a few weeks and had a ton of fun. The fastest two lap times were 1:05 in the morning, or about a 32.5 second lap, I ran one 33 second lap and 1:10 two lap times. After our runs they allowed us to do some fun runs, $10 in their car or $5 in your own car. Two fun run in the Z3 was an absolute blast but it was easy to see why the all wheel drives have the definate advantage in dirt, it was very hard to keep the rear end behind me in the Z3, the Impreza was a lot more forgiving.
Knowing I had one good lap in I wasn't satisfied with my results from the morning so I decided to run in the afternoon mini tournament. We had some sprinkles during the last tournament which believe it or not actually increased the grip in the track. I found this out the hard way when I coned three times on my first run. I turned the car expecting it to slide out some and it stuck. Still I managed to run a 1:05.3 raw time on my first run but had to add 6 seconds to the run. The fastest run was in the high 1:04 second range so raw time wise I wasn't far behind, unfortunately his was clean and mine was dirty. My second run was a little slower at 1:05.8 but it was clean and I still had a chance at getting into the shootout. I ended up missing the shootout by I think 0.2 seconds and that is with a 6 second penalty. Since I helped work the mid day heat they gave me a couple more fun runs as it was starting to get dark. I took the Z3 back out on course and used what I learned earlier in the day and ran a 1:08, not bad for a rear drive car.
If this sounds interesting to you then get on the internet and look up http://www.rpmchallengeusa.com/. They are planning to run through the winter so you can try your hand doing this on mud, snow, and ice. If you need a racing fix this is a very good solution.
ps: a couple of different people took video of me running the Z3 in the morning so hopefully I will be able to add a youtube link to one of these videos later this week.