AutoMatters: The Joy of Motorsports

Felipe Massa at 2012 F1® USGP

By Jan. R. Wagner

Sunday was to be the next event in our Sports Car Club of America, San Diego Region’s autocross series where drivers compete against each other, one-at-a-time against the clock, on relatively low speed, temporary road courses marked by traffic cones. Typically we get four timed runs. Only our best run counts.

My 2011 Ford Mustang GT competes in the F Stock class. Few performance modifications are allowed, the major exception being super-sticky tires. Hoosier A6 autocross tires are the stickiest so they are the tires of choice. They are strictly intended for on-track competition use, so we do not drive to the track on them. Three of us drive F Stock Mustangs, all on Hoosiers.

Jan Wagner autocrossing Photo/Randy Butcher

So far this year, one of my fellow competitors has had three first-place finishes and the other has had two. I have had none. In an effort to turn things around, a few events ago I got a new set of Hoosiers. That should have made the difference but it did not.

Jan Wagner after successful autocross.

Preparation for my day began the afternoon before, as I loaded up my Mustang with its Ford Racing wheels and Hoosier autocross tires, tire-changing tools, helmet and other stuff.

Early the next morning, while eating breakfast, I turned on the TV to watch the start of the Silverstone Formula 1® race. Felipe Massa drives one of the two team cars for Ferrari. In three F1® race weekends, he’s crashed four times. For the sake of his career, he needed a turnaround.

All this fits - barely.

Massa gridded well back in the field, yet when the cars began to race Massa forcefully passed several, including his teammate. His turnaround had begun. That made an impression upon me.

At the autocross, I changed my wheels and tires and prepared to take my first run. I theorized that the reason my new Hoosiers had not helped me recently was because I was overdriving my car – something that is all too easy to do in a high-powered (412 hp) Mustang GT. I decided to focus on driving less aggressively, so that my Hoosiers would not break traction. That meant not mashing the gas pedal and lighting up the rear tires in the straights, and no sideways drifting around the tight turns. I was third in our running order, so I would see how my competitors did before I ran.

I executed my plan and made what felt like a very slow run. However, our three times told a different story. Incredibly, after our first of four runs, I was marginally in the lead.

After our second runs I improved slightly, but one of my competitors rose to the challenge and squeezed past me. After making his third run, my other competitor also slipped past me. I was now in third place but, as the track announcer said, the three of us were separated by less than half a second.

As I approached the starting line for my third run, I smiled and told the starter that I knew I could do better – and I believed that. I had learned where I could go faster and where I needed to continue to take it easy. Now was the time to feed in a little more throttle in the fast parts, and go a little deeper and faster into the tight turns.

The result? After my third run I had our field covered by over half a second. I returned to my place in grid for my final run.

First, each of my competitors took their final run. Nervously I watched for their times – and then it was over. They had been unable to beat my third run’s time.

Then something strange happened. Despite having the win locked up, I felt a need to prove that my third run’s time had not been a lucky fluke. I drove even harder on my fourth run and further improved upon my time, thereby beating my nearest competitor by just shy of a second. In autocross, that’s a big time difference.

Ecstatic, I slapped the roof of my car. That is the joy of motorsports.

Afterwards, my competitors asked me what I’d changed on my car. In response, I pointed to my head.

Even though he’ll never know it, in part I owe a debt of gratitude to the example set earlier that morning by Felipe Massa. Thank you!

As always, please write to me at with your comments and suggestions.

Copyright © 2013 by Jan Wagner – #287 AutoMatters

Related posts:

  1. AutoMatters: Motorsports Photography
  2. AutoMatters: Join A Car (or truck) Club!
  3. AutoMatters: Goodguys Spring 2013 Del Mar Nationals
  4. AutoMatters: Prius – To Go Before
  5. AutoMatters: Firefighter Demolition Derby & STAR TREK at the 2013 San Diego County Fair

Short URL:

Posted by Staff on Jul 3, 2013. Filed under AutoMatters, Columns, Editorial Columns. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply



Bottom Buttons 1

Bottom Buttons 2

Bottom Buttons 3

Bottom Buttons 4

Bottom Buttons 5

Bottom Buttons 6





  • Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club Ladies Golf Tournament to raise funds for breast cancer research
    October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the women of the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club have organized an annual tournament for 13 years raising funds for organizations whose focus is the treatment and/or cure and prevention of breast cancer. Deana Ingalls and a capable and creative committee are organizing another Breast Cancer Benefit Tournament on Oct. 1 […]
  • Couple pleads guilty in fraud case involving Rancho Santa Fe broker
    A real estate investor and his wife pleaded guilty Sept. 30 to conspiring with a Rancho Santa Fe broker and others to defraud mortgage lenders and impede the Internal Revenue Service. Grant McCollough, 38, and his 36-year-old wife, Marisa, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and defrauding the United States. Both face up to five years in prison […]
  • Village Church Installation of Rev. Dr. Neal Presa
    An installation of the Rev. Dr. Neal Presa, one of the Associate Pastors of the Village Church, was held Sept. 28 […]