Friday, February 05, 2010

Houston, 2010 NASA Time Trial

I hate Houston. Not just the track, but the whole place. If there's a more un-Austin place in Texas, I don't know about it. Ugh.

I got the car on the trailer at around 7:00 PM and headed out for the MSR Houston track, south of the city. It's around a three and a half hour drive. In order to get there in that time, you have to take the Sam Houston tollway, which costs $4.50 per stop. There are three stops before the 288 exit that takes you to the track. Jesus, I hate this place, and I have to pay before I even get there.

Last year at Houston, I broke my transmission. Because of that, I had no gears other than fourth. I chose to come home on Sunday, rather than drive a session with fourth gear only. That turned out to be a mistake, and cost me the Texas championship. Had I driven, I'd have at least had a time, and would have beaten the rest of the TTA field on points. Ah, well. Just one more reason to hate Houston.

The track is a diagram on the back of a napkin. It features one of the longest, most irritating carousels in the world. It's a circular section of tack that's too long to think about apexing. And it falls away on the outside, so you can't use the edge. You just have to maint throttle around it, and hang on. So boring. The back side of the track is characterized by a large rise in the surface, just as you go past a turn. This is called "The Launch" and that's what happens when you hit it. Your car goes airborne, or nearly that if you are going slow. You have to pay attention to how you land too, or spin off into the weeds. Finally, the last turn onto the front straight (which is so freakishly bumpy that you think there's something wrong with your car) is bounded on the outside by a concrete barrier. Not a tire wall, not armco, but a concrete wall. Thus, the most important turn on the track is the one you can't afford to push on. I hate Houston.

And yet, the event was not bad. NASA is taking time trial seriously this year, and we went through weigh in and impound and everything. I improved my time at the track by five seconds (personal best) and came close to winning the event. I pushed hard enough to get DQ'd in one session and had a generally good time, except for the awful track, the bad food and the stinky Houston air.

I became fearful, though, that I have no talent for this sport that I love. I watched folks out there go faster than me, and was bewildered. I just do not learn fast enough, I think. Yet I picked up five seconds. I can improve, it just takes time. I have to tell myself that I've only been doing this for five years, and I've only driven Houston three times. I've not got too much practice there. I'm within striking distance of the track records for my class at TWS, HHR and MSRC. So on my known ground, I'm decent. But I still got the yips. I might just be too old to do this. That would suck.

I'm going to see. I'm pretty sure that I'll be able to contend for the regional title this year, and perhaps a national title this year or next. I think that I just need more seat time, and that my driving style is methodical rather than brilliant. I do get faster by increments, rather than leaps. That'll have to do, I guess.

I drove home and had to pay $13.50 in tolls outbound too. I hate Houston.