SCCA Solo II - Sports Car Club of America Solo racing
NASA - National Auto Sport Association Driving Schools
Green Flag Driving Association
Racing Stories Page - 14Sep98 street and track stories
Racing Schedules Page - Some of the local autocross and road race schedules
SCCA San Francisco Region Solo II - Handy Link!
Clean out your car the night before- you don't want junk flying around inside your car. Most racing is done with both windows down (means windy inside the car!). This way you can hear the tires and engine better- plus in road racing if the door is jammed after a crash and you are hurt they can pull you out the window.
Most of the cars even at an autocross look pretty clean.
You will need to put numbers on your car. You can make or buy magnetic numbers. Personally, I use duct tape on the windows and try to pick numbers with 1's and 7's in them. :)
You will usually want more air pressure than for the street. It's easiest to put extra air in them the night before- you can bleed it out later if you need to. If it is raining or wet you might want close to street pressures.
Get gas if your Probe is prone to fuel starvation in turns.
Bring at least water to drink- and a hat and sunscreen in the summer as you stand around in the sun a lot (especially at autocrosses).
The 93-97 PGT is easy to drive up to limit as it is very reluctant to rotate (oversteer) if you get into a corner too fast. In stock form, it will (as virtually all stock cars are tuned) understeer, but if driven correctly the understeer can be controlled better than many other FWD cars. The huge tires help too!
TIRES: You will put the equivalent of thousands of miles of wear on your tires in one day at a track. Consider getting them re-balanced when you are done.
Click HERE for a pic of what can happen to your tires.
OIL: The high revs and heat will be hard on your oil. Good idea to change it more frequently (<3K), and especially before an event.
BRAKES: It's a good idea to have relatively fresh brake fluid to resist high temps caused by heavy, repeated braking. use at least Dot 4 fluid.
INSURANCE: My insurance company said I was covered as long as the event was technically a school (like the NASA schools).
Heel-Toeing: A shifting technique used to downshift while braking. With the left part of your right foot on the brake, the right side of your foot presses the gas pedal to rev the engine up for a downshift. I use the toe on the brake and rotate my foot to cause the right part of my heel to press the gas.
The advantage over normal shifting is that you can shift into the lower gear at a higher car speed. This is important on the track because you want to keep the engine in the powerband. If you were to shift normally, the synchros in the transmission wouldn't let you shift until you were going much slower than if you rev the engine up. Or you would have to take your foot off the brake to rev the engine. This way you use full braking into the turn, then blip the throttle and downshift (usually into 2nd), let out the clutch and be ready to get on the gas out of the turn without ever letting the engine fall below 3K RPM.
Left foot braking: Useful for inducing oversteer in FWD cars and light braking under full throttle. Without releasing the throttle, apply the brakes with the left foot.
Left foot braking entering a turn while maintaining part throttle will make it easier to induce oversteer in a FWD car. This can be useful in slow, tight autocross turns.
The second main use of left foot braking is to slow the car a bit while staying on the throttle. The advantage of this technique is that you don't have to release the throttle to apply the brakes. Releasing the throttle upsets the balance of the car a bit. Suppose you are entering a quick chicane, left foot braking can slow you just a bit without having to upset the car by releasing the throttle all the way.
Another use of left foot braking is reducing wheelspin in accelerating corners on a car without a limited slip differential (like the Probe). A little braking will stop the inside tire from spinning when it loses traction and give better acceleration on a tight turn. Of course too much brakes will slow the car, so this is very delicate.
Trail Braking: Another
The 93+ Probe GT is competitive at the national level in SCCA Solo II G-Stock. A wide torque band, stiff suspension, wide stock rims, and excellent handling are key for this type of racing. It is safe since you are alone on the course. Typically you will have 4 timed runs of roughly 50 seconds each. The other top cars in G-Stock are the new Audi A4 and A6, the 200hp V6 Camaro, and the Integra GSR. The new Integra Type R is also in G-Stock, but hasn't yet been a threat.
If you have typical street mods: springs, wide wheels, intake you will be in ESP, E Street Prepared where you will face modded muscle cars (300+ hp Camaros, Mustangs, etc.).
Base/SE 2.0I4 Probe: Stock class is H-Stock, Modified is DSP or Street Touring Unless you have some major mods you can be in Street Touring. In DSP you have to go up against the super modified Datsun 510's. Street Touring is any 2.4L or under car. Modifications aren't as heavy. Marc has been very competitive in his 2.0 liter base Probe.
There is a special Rookie Class where different kinds of cars are indexed using a handicapping system and you compete against other (relatively) novice drivers.
I highly recommend this book: Secrets of Solo Racing : Expert Techniques for Autocrossing and Time Trials by Henry A. Watts. My instructor at my autocross school last summer says he reads it "once a month".
This type of racing is hard on tires due to the many low-speed turns. You will want to run high pressures to avoid scrubbing onto the sidewall. Typical tire pressures: 44 front, 36 rear. Race tires make a huge difference in Solo II. Note: For 1998 the Rookie classes will be on 120 or higher treadwear street tires in the San Francisco region.
I have recently purchased a second set of stock rims with 245ZR45/16 Yokohama AVS Intermediate tires to improve the size of my contact patch. :) See 2 of them HERE.
SCCA also offers an Autocross School in June. I attended in June 1998 and it was a blast! Read about it on my June 1998 Autocross School Page.
Different locations are harder or easier on tires. The Oakland Coliseum site is slippery and easy on tires, Mathis is very hard. Read about these on the San Francisco Region Solo II site.
I like to remove the driver's side floor mat to avoid getting it possibly wedged in the pedals.
Run with at least 1/2 tank of gas as the PGT is prone to fuel starvation in turns. NOTE: new information suggests that a bad fuel pump may be causing this problem. 11Dec97
The 93-97 PGT is very good at handling quick sideways lane-change type maneuvers.
Cost is very reasonable, only $20/25 for SCCA members, $30/35 for non-members.
Car Setup: (95PGT) Thanks to Andy Bettencourt, National Solo II champ a few times, who drove a 2nd gen PGT.
1 degree neg. camber at all 4 wheels...MAX
3/16" toe out TOTAL @ front
1/16" toe out TOTAL @ rear - this is toe out!
With the stock shocks, the car needs to have the rear set to rotate a little
Left Foot Braking: On the autocross course, hard left foot braking can help rotate the car in a trail braking situation. I am not an expert on this, but I have ridden with other people using it. At my last autocross my fastest time was using left foot braking on some of it. (Dec98)
Here's how Howell and I did on 7 December 1997: SFR Solo II results for 7 Dec 97. 1st and 2nd, respectively, in our classes. In the rain the FWD Probe has a distinct advantage over the RWD muscle cars.
The fastest student at this autocross school drove a G-Stock Probe: 1997 Chicago Region, SCCA Solo II Drivers School The Learning Curve
NASA offers excellent schools at famous race tracks like Laguna Seca International Raceway and Sear's Point International Raceway.
You will want to start the day with a full tank of gas. I estimate I got about 10 mpg at the track- a lot of the track was between 5K and 7K rpm in 3rd, 3rd, WOT most of the time. The PGT is prone to fuel starvation in turns and you will use a lot of gas in very little time on the track. NOTE: new information suggests that a bad fuel pump maybe causing this starving problem. 11Dec97
I ran my street pressures that day (38 front -33 rear) and didn't get much scrubbing, but will probably try a little more pressure next time. The car would understeer bit but feels more neutral the faster you go. The rear end would feel very light indeed through Turn 2 at Sear's Point.
I chewed up my left front tire a bit, mostly on the outside edge. Most of the hard turns are to the right. As you learn to brake enough before the turn and take a good line, you will be a lot easier on your tires.
You can read about my experience at James' NASA School at Sear's Point Raceway .
You can read about my second school at James' second NASA School .
Cost was $149 plus $25 for NASA membership. The rule book which you will want to have is $5. A Snell85 helmet or better is required. SA (fire) rating not required for the school.
Be prepared to crash your car- I almost did, read about it here. Lots of cars smashed up.
We have one member of the Bay Area Group that plans to race his 93+ Probe in NASA events. It is fully outfitted with a roll cage, guages, and stripped of any non-essential parts. There are pictures in the Gallery and in the NASA school write ups.
Local organization that runs events at tracks in California. Green Flag Driving Association schedules 2 day events for street cars at tracks such as Laguna Seca, Sears Point, Willow Springs, Thunder Hill, etc. The cost for a day is about $200 which gets you a bunch of track time. The next event is scheduled for June 27-28 1998 at Laguna Seca in Monterey. This is THE BEST track on the west coast as far as I'm concerned (I think I've driven just about all of them) -EB. 10Apr98
The registration contact is Ken Epsman and his daytime number is 408-988-7986. You can also check out their website at http://www.mustangsplus.com/grn_flag/index.htm
I bought my helmet at Bell Motorsports in Oakland. Visit their website for more details. The owner is very knowledgeable and there is a big selection. Near the High Street exit in Oakland. Also gloves, suits, shoes, etc.
Helmets are rated by the Snell number, such as S95, which means the helmet meets 1995 standards. There is also a fire rated helmet (for cars) that is designated SA, I think.
Motorcycle helmets are different than auto helmets because of the risk of fire and multiple impacts in a car.
You can borrow a helmet at Solo II events, but it's a pain (literally) if it doesn't fit right.
Snell Memorial Foundation's website.
Tires are the most important single modification for racing. A racing tire like the BFG R1, 245/45/16 38F, 34R are a good start for dry surface autocross and road race. The R1 has been replaced by the g-Force R1's; the major difference, besides the tread pattern, is the g-Force has symmetrical sidewalls. They will last about 7-8 hours of track time, i.e. 500-700 miles.
Check out the Tire Page on this site for more information.
On This Site
Places to race your Probe