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Story and photographs by Mark Baruth
In perhaps the most disturbing episode of nepotism since Ferdinand Porsche let his do-nothing kid “Butzi” style the 911, we have my brother, Mark, misusing the Speed:Sport:Life bully pulpit to rant about the SCCA Solo Nationals. Enjoy! – jb
Not exactly the subject of many “Where I spent my summer vacation” essays. And yet, for many reasons (which have nothing at all to do with the fact that you can hit the SCCA offices with a rock from Heartland Park, the site of the event), that’s where the 2008 Solo National Championships are going to take place.
This year is to be my second attempt at competing against the best silly hat wearers the nation has to offer. My 2004 Mazda RX-8 was purchased before I even knew what autocross was, so I, of course, picked the coolest looking car on the lot-air dam, fog lights, ground effects, spoiler, traction control, stability control, even a spare tire kit! The same spare tire kit was the subject of nearly 5 pages of vitriolic discussion at RX8club (the brace makes the rear end stiffer! No it doesn’t! Yes it does!). I’m also reluctant to chop my exhaust on the car, since it is also my daily driver. Unfortunately, all of that stuff adds weight, and as ski jumpers say, Fat Doesn’t Fly.
However, none of that will matter this year. I feel great about my chances in Topeka- I trophied at a National Tour event, and have consistently placed among the top drivers in my region in PAX. On the negative side, I blew a motor earlier in the car earlier in the year (thanks for the new Renesis, Mazda!), plus I’m a new dad, so Topeka will only be my 6th event of the year. Never mind-a trophy is in reach-nay, it is inevitable.
Now, you may have heard from no less an authority than the SCCA website that autocross is a “low-cost, entry-level motorsport.” Tee. Freaking. Hee. Upon pulling into the paddock at Heartland Park on Monday afternoon, I am reminded why many people simply don’t go to Nationals. The preparation level of the cars is better than anything we’ve ever seen from Super Aguri. Not to mention the motorhomes, trailers, tow vehicles, and the d-bag who will stack up his Hoosier Wets in grid a few cars down from me on Tuesday morning, despite the fact that you could have driven 30 miles in any direction before seeing a cloud. One quickly realizes that in a competition measured by thousandths, your average Local Region Superstar who dominates F Stock in his ’93 Camaro is not on the same planet as these guys. When there are people writing articles in Grassroots Motorsports about how to build a $15,000 motor for a 1991 Miata (take a moment to appreciate the irony of that), something just ain’t right.