Despite leaving home with the wrong tires, a trophy finish at Solo Nationals | Project C5 Corvette Z06

J.G.
Update by J.G. Pasterjak to the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 project car
Sep 14, 2021

Photography Credit: J.G. Pasterjak

The SCCA Tire Rack Solo Nationals remains one of the most stressful events in motorsports thanks to the format of the event combined with the immense scope. Ultimately, it’s just another autocross: Three runs on each of two courses decide the winners.

But that’s also what makes it so intense. More than a thousand competitors wait a year to drive thousands of miles to an abandoned airfield in Nebraska where they compete for mere minutes to decide the winners.

And, I’ll admit, during the runup to the 2021 edition of the event, I was caving a bit to the pressure.

[Sea trials before time trials: Our LS3-powered Corvette returns to the track]

With only a couple months to go before the big event, a new COVID wave meant that the event–or my participation in it, based on Florida’s pandemic record thus far–wasn’t a guaranteed thing.

As such, I shifted a bit into “I’m just going to go and have fun” mode. Meaning that the two-year-old tires–which had been prepped for the 2019 edition of the event that I skipped because of a Category 5 hurricane passing by just a few miles offshore–were deemed “probably good enough” for the event.

Photography Credit: J.G. Pasterjak

Spoiler alert: They weren’t.

By run 2 on the practice course, it was clear that time and tire development had rendered that rubber not even good enough for some fun runs, and I found myself over a second off the times my class competitors were laying down on the 35-second practice course–an eternity in regular autocross time, but a whole universe of eternities on the Solo Nationals scale.

So a plan was set into motion. I would fake an injury, and disappear for the better part of my time there, only emerging to occasionally hand out some stickers. This was deemed too extreme and petty, but I was also able to take advantage of a friend’s misfortune to enter into a three-way swap to bolt on some more competitive rubber.

After a quick conversation with Sam Strano–who always seems to know what’s going on in every corner of the paddock–I learned that newly crowned CAM-S Pro Solo Champ Justin Peachey damaged his C6 Corvette’s engine during the final stages of that event, and would be switching cars and classes.

However, Peachey’s 18x12-inch wheels mounted with 315/30R18 Yokohama Advan A052 rubber had already been reallocated. Atlanta-area CAM-S Corvette driver Steve Waters–believing that Peachey’s Yokohamas with 20 or so runs on them were more in their “sweet spot” than the set of freshly scrubbed A052s he was planning to run–had worked out a loan agreement with Peachey.

[200-treadwear tire test | Falken RT660 vs. Yokohama A052 vs. Nankang CR-1]

So I approached Waters and was able to come to terms on a short-term rental of his 18x12-inch, 50mm offset MRR wheels mounted with those newer Yokos.

Photography Credits: J.G. Pasterjak

For those playing along at home, those wheels fit perfectly on our C5, sticking out just a bit in the front, but never rubbing even at high steering lock. In the rear, we used the 6mm spacer that we typically use with the 335mm-wide rear tires we use for track events, but we probably could have gotten away without it.

Mostly, I just didn’t want to lose the spacers, and the car seemed like the safest place to keep them. So, yes, we will absolutely be sourcing a set of 18x12-inch, 50mm offset wheels for our C5 after this experience.

Anyhoo, 90 minutes after I realized I needed a Plan B, I returned to the practice course with Waters’ Yokohamas and instantly dropped more than 1.3 seconds. The hype is real.

Photography Credits: Perry Bennet

I took two runs, then put the SCCA’s Partner Relations Manager Daniel Dennehy–who would be codriving the Corvette at the event–in for a couple runs. Dennehy usually drives a Ford Focus or a VW Rabbit, so his first experience in the Corvette as intimidating, but thrilling, as he came to terms with all that power and the newfound Yokohama-aided grip.

Photography Credit: J.G. Pasterjak

And the next day, after the first competition run, holy crap, I was actually in this thing. Despite not having autocrossed the Corvette since August of 2019–and never with the new LS3 engine–I ended the first day in seventh place, with trophies going all the way to eighth in the deep, nearly 30-car CAM-S class.

The following day I bounced around from around seventh to as high as fifth after each run, and entered my final run locked into a finish no worse than that seventh-place trophy spot.

Photography Credit: J.G. Pasterjak

So I went full send on my final run, turning in the fifth-fastest West Course time and moving up to sixth overall on the final standings–for a while.

When the individual corner log sheets were audited, a pylon was added to my best West Course run (and, reviewing my video, yeah, I clobbered it), and I was moved back down to seventh. Still, a more than satisfying finish given how rusty I was in an autocross situation with the car, and I owe more than a little of the credit to Steve Waters, who provided one of the most satisfying rental experiences since I checked out that Empire Strikes Back special edition VHS tape from Blockbuster.

Just as satisfying was watching Dennehy come to grips with the Corvette, which is ultimately a fairly benign, but also very fast car. Running in the next grid slot over was Dennehy’s boss, SCCA President Michael Cobb, co-driving a Factory Five Cobra.

Photography Credit: J.G. Pasterjak

They had a pretty good inter-club rivalry going on, and Cobb took the Day 1 office honors from Dennehy. On Day 2, however, Dennehy found oneness with the car and laid down some seriously legit runs, coming within a little over a second of my time–no small feat in a high-energy car you just sat in for the first time 48 hours prior–and beating the boss in the next grid spot.

Through the event, we made practically no changes to the car aside from assuring that the tire pressures were ideal (25psi, which is what some regular Yokohama competitors recommended) and spraying them down with water after each run to keep the temps in check.

Okay, we made one other change, which was to bump up the rev limiter a couple hundred rpm. After completing a run on the West Course and bouncing off the rev limiter at the finish a few too many time, we booted up the laptop and altered the Holley Dominator’s programming to give us a few more revs, and continued acceleration across the line, rather than constant speed on the limiter. The change with the Holley software took all of a few seconds, and increased our speed by a couple mph across the line.

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David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
9/14/21 1:30 p.m.

And from the archives, some pics from JG's previous trophy appearance:

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/14/21 1:46 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

Please tell me this car was competing too?

Tom1200
Tom1200 SuperDork
9/14/21 1:50 p.m.

Well done and congrats; normally we'd have you flogged with a rusty timing chain for showing up on tires that old but you sprung into action and salvaged your event...............nicely done.

Feedyurhed
Feedyurhed UltraDork
9/14/21 1:50 p.m.

Hey Congrats for the finish. I think that's pretty impressive.   

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
9/14/21 2:34 p.m.
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) said:

In reply to David S. Wallens :

Please tell me this car was competing too?

I know, right? Wish I could remember. 

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
9/14/21 3:23 p.m.

Sam Strano has been super helpful with my Camaro too.  It'll be ready for some CAM fun soon.  

RacingComputers
RacingComputers Reader
9/14/21 4:21 p.m.

Congratulations

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
9/15/21 8:48 a.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

And I'm guessing back then it would have been in F Stock, right? 

Also, peep the Civic Si next to it--and on stock wheels, too. Back then, no big deal. Today, well, you'd stop and look. 

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/15/21 2:53 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

Oh yeah that Civic is hot! 
 

I just realized that I'm not sure what the car is next to it. It's not a Lincoln. I thought it was a Mirada, but that's not it either.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
9/15/21 3:49 p.m.

In reply to Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) :

Looks like an early-'80s Chrysler Imperial to me. (More pics on one here.)

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/15/21 7:07 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

That's it!

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
9/15/21 7:45 p.m.
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) said:

In reply to David S. Wallens :

That's it!

Perhaps the bigger mystery: Who drove it to Nationals? 

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