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More Crossings of Autos (School w/ STI Fun Runs + SSC FRS)

I taught again at one of the KC region autocross schools last weekend. It’s not just fun to help others learn, but it comes few perks like driving student cars and more importantly, fun runs over the lunch break. Naturally, I brought the STI for those fun runs to see how it would take to hustling around some cones. OEM tire deficiencies and me being spoiled for so long by much lighter vehicles aside, it didn’t disappoint. A little trail braking took care of the understeer, it took to aggressive slalom transitions way better than expected, and it was nice to have some decent power for once. Closest comparisons I had time-wise were another instructor’s DS Golf R and a student’s not-really-ASP, same generation WRX, both on RE71Rs and both behind me by about 0.2 seconds. Not too shabby.

Also, these were my quick takes from student cars after 2 runs behind the wheel and about a dozen in the passenger seat:

  • AP1 S2K w/ basic summer tires: I already had some very brief experience in one with RE71Rs, so no surprises here. Plenty intuitive to drive, VTEC is very much a thing (as is wishing for it at lower revs), and I have yet to get caught out by its purported snap oversteer problems. Yes, they do need a little more care than, say, a Miata, but they’re not that bad IMO.
  • 986 Boxster (non-S) w/ RE71Rs: Totally new car to me, and the last MR car I drove was a 1st gen MR2 about 12 years ago. Felt surprisingly neutral and forgiving unless you REALLY overdid it, though that might just be the tires since they tend to drop off pretty quick past their limits. It really just did everything well.
  • 2nd gen MR2 (non-turbo) w/ all season tires: This one was really weird at first. Manual steering with a slower ratio on a light-nosed car with soft suspension leads to some pretty wide variances in steering feel as weight shifts around from corner entry to exit. Once you understand what’s going on though, it’s pretty darn fun. It didn’t take much to coax out some oversteer (even just yanking hard on the steering wheel above ~40 mph would do it), but it never felt like too much to just ride out with the throttle.

The next day was a regular event, which would be the SSC FR-S’s last warm-up before nationals. My husband and I left the settings alone and just drove to keep building familiarity with the car. It still felt about as good as it did in Lincoln in spite of the different surfaces and we both got better at making use of the current setup’s strengths. We both took a particular liking to the little bit of mid-late corner oversteer that helped tuck the car into the slalom @ 0:16.

As for overall results, I hit 12th in PAX and my husband hit 15th. Those positions were about the same as last time, but with 15 more people in attendance, a power-friendly course design, and me botching that 1-2 shift at the end. It felt like a satisfactory outcome overall, so now we just have to hope we can find the groove again at nationals with 2 fewer runs.

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