Bella Vis­tan goes rac­ing

Event at Crow­der Col­lege pit­ted driv­ers against each other and the course.

The Weekly Vista - - Front Page - KEITH BRYANT kbryant@nwadg.com

Early on a Sun­day morn­ing, driv­ers piled into a wide-open as­phalt lot with cones scat­tered all around, clear­ing out their cars be­fore head­ing up to the reg­is­tra­tion desk.

Among them was Bella Vista res­i­dent Hay­den Cur­ren, who un­loaded his moun­tain bike from his Subaru’s roof rack and set aside ev­ery­thing in the car be­fore reg­is­ter­ing and go­ing through a safety in­spec­tion.

Cur­ren said he pre­vi­ously drove in a drift event and he’s rid­den along for au­tocross events like this one, but this was his first time driv­ing in a timed com­pet­i­tive event.

His car, a 1998 Im­preza, had al­ready seen a lot of mod­i­fi­ca­tion work. To name a hand­ful of things, he’s in­stalled Oh­lins coilovers and mod­i­fied trail­ing arms, solid driv­e­train mounts, plus a trans­mis­sion, cen­ter and rear dif­fer­en­tials from a more re­cent WRX and steer­ing knuck­les from a newer car which, af­ter some tin­ker­ing, proved far eas­ier on wheel bear­ings.

“It’s one of those things where, when peo­ple ask what I’ve done to it, I have to tell them what all I haven’t done to it.”

All that work on the plat­form, he said, is in prepa­ra­tion for an even­tual en­gine swap.

Rac­ing over the week­end, he said, will give him some­thing to com­pare it to once he gets that EG33 flat six en­gine in place.

Driv­ers headed to Neosho to drive on Crow­der Col­lege’s truck-driv­ing prac­tice area for a Sports Car Club of Amer­ica Solo — of­ten re­ferred to as au­tocross by other groups — event, where driv­ers take a se­ries of timed runs on a short race track marked with cones. Each driver’s best time is counted, though any cones they knock over or out of po­si­tion in­cur a two-se­cond penalty.

Events are split into two heats and driv­ers work the course — re­port­ing penal­ties and fix­ing downed cones — dur­ing the heat they aren’t driv­ing.

Most road­wor­thy cars are el­i­gi­ble to en­ter, ex­clud­ing ve­hi­cles with a high rollover risk — typ­i­cally trucks and SUVs. This showed in the grid, which in­cluded Mi­atas, Corvettes, Mus­tangs, Ca­maros, Porsches, Hon­das, Subarus, Audis, Nis­sans, BMWs, a kit car, a stripped-out Thun­der­bird and a Chevro­let-pow­ered Tri­umph Spit­fire.

Driv­ers are also re­quired to have a hel­met with the proper Snell, SFI or BSI rat­ing, though loan­ers are avail­able.

En­try fees sit at $30 per event for SCCA mem­bers or $50 for non­mem­bers, which in­cludes a $20 week­end mem­ber­ship fee. That fee can be ap­plied to a full mem­ber­ship, and the club of­fers a $10 dis­count for those who pre-reg­is­ter on­line.

Pre-reg­is­tra­tion, event in­for­ma­tion and re­quire­ments can be found on the Ozark Moun­tain Re­gion’s web­site at www.omrscca.org. The re­gion’s last 2017 Solo event was Oct. 22.

Scott Woosley, Solo direc­tor for the re­gion, said he’s been driv­ing au­tocross for 17 years.

“It’s an ab­so­lute blast, it’s the most pop­u­lar mo­tor­sport in our coun­try,” he said. “The turns come at you more fre­quently than For­mula 1.”

The lim­ited runs and tight course force driv­ers to fo­cus and adapt quickly to post a good time.

Ev­ery­one should try it, he said, be­cause driv­ers in th­ese events build skills, like look­ing ahead and han­dling the car’s weight trans­fer, that can help on the street.

“You get a sense of where the lim­its are with your car and how the car will be­have when you ex­ceed those lim­its,” he said. “I’ve had some emer­gency sit­u­a­tions on the street that I was able to thread my way through quite com­fort­ably.”

Rogers res­i­dent and SCCA mem­ber Jim Row­land laid out the Oct. 13 course and walked novice driv­ers through it, pro­vid­ing ad­vice on how to tackle an au­tocross.

He ex­plained how the cones func­tion and what they’re telling driv­ers. Cones stand­ing up are sim­ply bound­aries, while cones on their side are pointer cones, show­ing which side of a bound­ary driv­ers need to be on. If a driver misses a bound­ary and goes on the wrong side, he said, that run is con­sid­ered a “did not fin­ish” and the time they set will be in­val­i­dated.

“Num­ber one tip is to look ahead,” he said. “Look down­stream wher­ever pos­si­ble.”

It’s im­por­tant to keep an eye ahead, he said, be­cause a driver needs to be po­si­tion­ing their car for the next turn. The fastest way through each turn, he said, is to straighten it out as much as pos­si­ble, but string­ing the course to­gether of­ten means mak­ing com­pro­mises in one spot to be faster fur­ther down.

“Do the late apex thing, it works in all kinds of rac­ing,” he said.

Liv­ing in Ben­ton County, Row­land said, the Neosho events pro­vide a good, rel­a­tively close space to race.

Af­ter rac­ing in the morn­ing, Cur­ren said he had a great time and fully in­tended to come back. The event was well or­ga­nized, he said, and cer­tainly worth try­ing — even if he didn’t quite nail his ideal lap.

“I’m happy to have a 46,” he said, “but I would’ve been thrilled to have a 45.”

Keith Bryant/The Weekly Vista

Tay­lor Yield­ing drags a cone across the fin­ish line un­der his 1986 300ZX af­ter ex­it­ing the last turn with the wheels spin­ning and spew­ing tire smoke.

Keith Bryant/The Weekly Vista

Hay­den Cur­ren ex­its a right-hand turn in his 1998 Im­preza.

Keith Bryant/ The Weekly Vista

Ge­orge Weeks, pilot­ing a 2008 Mini Cooper S, rounds the course’s fi­nal wide, 180-de­gree turn, with enough weight shifted to the out­side to lift the car’s rear wheel off the ground.

Keith Bryant/The Weekly Vista

Jim Row­land, at the front of the crowd, guides mostly-new driv­ers on a walk through the sea of cones, ex­plain­ing how the course mark­ings should be in­ter­preted and of­fer­ing ad­vice.

Keith Bryant/The Weekly Vista

Cars line up in the grid area and driv­ers pre­pare them­selves and their ve­hi­cles be­fore the first heat starts.

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