Winter is not one of my favorite seasons. I have to jack the car’s suspension up and put on skinny snow tires on hideous mismatched Honda steelies. From November till the beginning of March all I have to look forward to in an automotive sense is New Year’s Day… Which for me is the Test and Tune at Verona we do every March!

This year I didn’t do much to the car in terms of mechanical mods but just maintenance. The tie rod ends were looking pretty rough with the passenger side nearly snapped so a set of tie rod ends from Mazda for a 93 LE were bought and easily put in. As a result the steering is much better and the 93 LE rod ends also eliminate much of the bump-steer lowered cars endure. With the Kumho XS’s almost at the wear bars I decided to sell them to pay for the mounting and balancing of my new Toyo R1Rs. Throwing away good ST tires that hadn’t been corded yet would have been just as bad as pouring out half a beer in the sink.  WASTEFUL!!

Car looks much better in “beastmode”. Chris Mayo is behind the wheel in this pic.

This test and tune would not only serve as a yearly reunion of my racing friends but also as a reunion of the old car club I was in during high school. My friends Vlad Dulgarov and Sean Brady were entering their Hondas. Vlad’s been one of my best friends since the sixth grade and always had jobs that had him working weekends or cars that wouldn’t have been fun to autocross but now he had a weekend off and a 2003 Honda S2000 to play with. While this would be Vlad’s first time Sean Brady used to autocross with me in his 1996 VW Golf GTI when I had my Camaro…and hair. Then Sean joined the Army National Guard and has since seen two deployments including one to Iraq as well as constant training since he’s earned the rank of Sargent. 

The morning of the event I dropped off the supplies I picked up and the Test and Tune was off to a start. We divided the 50 something participants into two groups and while one worked the other ran their cars. I skipped the first two runs riding shotgun with Sean and Vlad to help them with the course. They didn’t need much help though as Sean hasn’t missed a step since his last autocross in 2006 and Vlad took to it like a duck to water.

I finally got to hop into my car for my first run and cranked up Crazy Train by Ozzy Osborne on the stereo. The first run was magic. There’s a reason Toyo 195-50-R1R’s are on the fastest ST and STS cars at the Solo Nationals. Usually the first run on a set of new tires is just to scrub them in and they’re not 100% yet. With the Toyos they were amazing from turn 1. I’ve never had so much grip in this car. My first run tied the fastest runs of my STS competitors and my 2nd run passed them up. As the day wore on Scott Krzastek and Tim Russell passed me by but not by much.  

With only one mechanical failure being an E36’s exploding coolant expansion tank the event went extremely well.

That evening I ended up finding a co-driver in Chris Mayo. The Honda he was going to drive decided it wasn’t going to stay in any gear for long. Not being one to take no for an answer and being happy about my progress in Call of Duty and wanting to quickly get back to it I told Chris to just drive my car.

Alan Grantham’s new nickname is “wildman” …do I need to explain why?

On event day for the first points autocross of the year I discovered a problem. It wasn’t really a problem for anyone else but me. The course was almost the same as the day before with few alterations. I’m one of those guys who are fast within the first 4 runs and after that everyone closes distance and I usually get passed.  My problem is that I become a creature of habit out on course and take the same lines on virtually every tight corner even if it’s a bad one. I’ve got to get past this and learn to change things up significantly each run.

First up out of our group was Sean who would be running in the second run group while my brother Justin, Vlad and I would be working the course. Sean heeded our warning of not making us run to pick up cones and drove brilliantly in the stock suspension Civic lifting one wheel in the air in corners just like he used to in the Golf. Considering he had only spent $300 on the car and a little over a grand on the CRV motor, GSR trans and 14” Dunlop Star Specs the car did great finishing with a 62.7 which was good enough for 4th place in the TIRE class and would have put in in 5th in SMF. I advised him to try the TIRE (tread wear 140 and above) class though as the top 3 cars in that class were running R-comp tires.  TIRE was won by Eric Stalcup in a 2011 WRX posting a quick 61.80 with Chris Belsky in a close second with a 60.4 in an Evo IX and Adam Flint’s ’06 STI with a 59.27. Now I know what you’re thinking…Dave you’ve got that finishing order backwards! Actually the TIRE class finishing order is judged by PAX time with every class these cars would have originally been in having a different PAX (or vehicular handicap value) it’s possible to have a seemingly upside down finishing order. This serves to make SMF a fairly even playing field for those who don’t want to shell out big bucks for race compound tires. The PAX times for Stalcup, Belsky and Flint were 50.74, 50.97, and 51.33 respectively.

Sean’s driving abilities haven’t missed a beat but he’s dealing with a little more body roll than the rest of us….ok alot more!

Meanwhile in SMF (Street Modified Front Wheel Drive) Jim Rimel’s 89 CRX on 15” Hoosiers with a 56.945 held off Justin Crenshaw’s radical turbocharged Scion XA’s 57.710. Close behind was Daniel Wendel’s 86 CRX which would have been a contender for 1st place but kept hitting cones on virtually every run.  With come cleaning up this class could be a shootout between two very fast CRX’s. Michael Hastings Mazda 626 finished 4th with a 60.1, Christopher Salzman’s Aerio 5th with a 63.4 and Rodolfo Ros RSX closed out SMF with a 66.3.

Yes that is a front mount on an XA…and yes it's fast.Daniel's getting the 3 wheel motion on. Car was seriously quick.

In regular SM (Street Modified) STI’s ruled the field taking the top 3 of 5. Justin Mathews blazed ahead of the pack in Kyle Aichs’ ’07 all black STI with a 56.86 with David Lonnquest 2.44 seconds behind with a 59.30. Right on David’s bumper…or rather a nose behind was Kyle Aichs’ with a 59.31.

Justin Mathews and Kyle Aich's are driving what looks like the ultimate badguy STI. Badass car!

After Sean’s run group Nikki (my brother Justin’s girlfriend) and my co-driver Chris. Nikki had no practice from the day before but also showed no rust cracking off a quick 62.28 lap in Justin’s old blue Miata. Chris had a bit of adapting to do as although his ride to be at the autocross was a turbo civic; his usual rides are Camaro’s of the 3rd and 4th generations. Chris had never driven a car that had so little power and so much grip as my Miata. Chris adapted brilliantly though and cracked off a 60.02 which made all of us in STS a little nervous. Chris would end up finishing 9th of 10 in STS although one could argue he actually finished 8th because 8th was an incorrectly classed BMW. We’ll get to the STS knife fight later.

The CSP cars were running all day due to the rental status of the Blue Bullet and Redbull, Lynn Comb’s and Mick Seal’s respective Miatas. The cars ran brilliantly and the results showed it. Lynn’s ’99 Blue Bullet took 1st place in CSP with a 57.35. Mick Seal’s ’94 Red Bull Miata was only a turn signal length behind with a 57.38…they were 0.02 seconds apart. A little over a full second behind Mick was his co-driver and BRR-SCCA Equipment Trailer hauler Tim Windle with a 58.46 for the the Red Bull. Jason Combs took 4th with a 58.84. Newcomers to the class Dylan Fitzgerald (’93 Miata) and Joe Hemphill (’95 Miata) finished with a 59.73 and 60.13 respectively. Dylan got the wheel tire deal of the year when Mick Seal sold him his old set of Diamond Racing steel 13×9’s with Kumho V710’s for $50. Joe also got a great deal on other 13” wheels with newer Hoosiers.  It’s a win-win for the boys at OASOB motorsports (Lynn and Mick) as they’ve made a few bucks on some old parts and boosted their competition by helping out some competitors.

Dylan got a blazing deal on these 13" CSP wheels and tires and put them to work!

Steffen Clark in his 84 Colt and Ryan Hansbarger found themselves lonely of competition in their classes this year for the first event with Steffen in DSP against himself and Ryan in FSP in the same situation. Steffen kept the Colt on 3 wheels for a majority of the course setting a fastest time of 57.746 which put him in 16th overall Pax and 13th overall for his raw time (overall meaning of 84 total entries in the entire autocross). Ryan added a limited slip differential to his 92 S10 burning both the truck’s rear tires past the finish line with a 63.023 putting him 66th overall in Pax and 65th in raw time overall. Not too shabby for a pickup truck on 300 tread wear street tires! Ryan’s brother Dylan Hansbarger also came out to Verona in his ESP Mustang knocking down a 67.268. With more seat time and a few mods he might be able to give his brother a run for the money!

Vlad and his S2000 did great on their first autocross.Jake and Chris were doing what they do best…killing old tires!

STS has an epic lineup this year. Due to SCCA rule changes the second gen Toyota MR2 has gone from STR to STS which had previously been just a battle of CRX’s and Miatas (although our region is essentially all Miata). Tim Russell, previous ES and STR champion is now in STS. Brock Clayton, multiple time FTD Pax competitor is also making a fulltime STS effort although for the time being he’s driving borrowed cars having thoroughly fragged a piston in his 93 Miata in the fall. Joseph Banks who has been within a fraction of a second of winning multiple events would be splitting his STS car with Brock this event. Scott Krzastek, the reigning STS champion was back driving the genesis of the Blue Ridge Region’s STS class in his 90 Miata. Scott’s Brother Ryan has been blazing fast on many occasions and now has HPDE training from VIR and Summit Point. My brother Justin, former ES champion and previous STS winner would be tough to beat. Andrew Jones brought his Miata shod with some less than ST-spec tires but had been improving a lot since last year. Of course then there’s me but it’d be egocentric and narcissistic for me to brag about my previous two STS championships…and it would also be foolish because I spent most of last year getting my ass kicked after switching to Kumho XS’s. Almost anybody could win and practice had the field bunched together. It was a tough battle the first two runs with the running order shuffling several times. After that it became clear it would be down to Scott, Brock or Tim. With one last all or nothing run Brock took the win with a 57.04 also setting Fastest Time Pax. Scott came in second with an ultra-close 57.196 which also put him in second overall in Pax. Tim closed out the top 3 in STS with a 57.965. Joseph Banks came in 4th with a 58.301, Justin Lingenfelter 5th with a 58.409, myself 6th (^%$^#^!) with a 58.465, Ryan Krzastek 7th with a 59.413, Stephen Tuttle came in 8th in his miss-classed BMW with a 59.969, Chris Mayo was 9th with a 60.027 and Andrew Jones closed out STS with a 61.364. Now for frame of reference to this class’s competitiveness and speed, 6 of the top 10 Pax cars were STS cars (YAY I at least made the top 10 pax)! Brock and Scott scored the 6th and 7th fastest raw times of the day as well. The top two STS cars were actually quicker than the CSP cars (STS cars with R-compound tires). Even 5th place STS Justin Lingenfelter would have finished 3rd in CSP. Mind you CSP is full of great drivers too! It’s crazy how fast these STS cars have become and is a testament to how far ST tires have come.

Scott drove the snot out of this thing and ended up in a very respectable 2nd place in class and overall in Pax.It's the best VW ever, a Formula Vee!! Glen's is technically a solo vee but close enough!

The Morgan is back and better than ever! Tom's 65 Morgan is now in SSM with slicks and a few toys under the hood.

With 84 registered competitors I didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of this event in its entirety but focused on the biggest classes and those of my friend’s Sean and Vlad who I hope I’ve addicted to motorsports. There’s a lot going on if you read the results at . For instance if you read carefully you’ll notice that a stock 1997 Dodge Stratus driven by Samuel Reiman beat two Ford Mustangs with one being the new 2012 GT. To borrow and modify a phrase from an awesome Al Pacino football movie, “At any given autocross anything can happen.”