38th Annual Bay Bottom Crawl

10-12 October 1997
Hosted by the:

Ecurie Vitesse Sports Car Club

What can I say? I'm addicted. Parking lot autocrossing, I can take it or leave it, but this is different. A description copied from this year's program:

The loop road is a unique, picturesque course set on an abandoned road located in the lower Florida Keys. The 2.2 miles of the road has nine artificial problems with pylons, all of which are very demanding. Add to this the difficulty created by the design of the road itself, and you have an extremely challenging course.

After Station #1's slalom and the offset gates at Station #2 the road continues around a gradual right hand curve to the offset slalom at Station #3 nestled in a canopy of trees and looking very narrow at high speed. Immediately after exiting Station #3 is the infamous HAIRPIN, an off-camber left, with a dip at the beginning. Station #4 and Station #5 are next; a set of offset gates and a decreasing slalom. Now you come to the SWEEPER, hold on and go, but watch out for Station #6, it's a wickedly tight dog-leg to the left. Station #7 and Station #8 are fairly close together, but tricky and tight. After Station #9 comprised of alternating three pylon barriers to form a slalom, it's on the floor to the finish line, followed by approximately 1/4 mile where you have to brake and slow before you get to the Sherrif's deputy and the return road to the pits.

The Bay Bottom Crawl is truly a special experience; treasure it.

I have my own station by station description from last year, here are the major differences since I turbocharged: First, SCCA rules reclassed me to E-Modified, where the car is somewhat less than competitive. My competition this year was a race prepped Porsche 911, and a purpose built Mercury Capri, last year I had a chance against the 914s in C-Stock, this year, forget it. On the other hand, for me this isn't for trophies, it's for fun - and there was alot more of that with 200 horses on tap.

The start is much more challenging now - launching the turbo is a delicate act starting somewhere between 3650 and 3675 RPM, more was resulting in irretrievable wheel hop (until shifting to 2nd), less resulted in a momentary bog - not so bad, but at the Bay Bottom Crawl the launch is the only place where the "fans" get to watch, and critique your technique.

The Fuller's Das Boot Between stations 2 and 3 is "the canyon" through the mangroves - it's a little bumpy at speed, and out of my 6 runs this year, only once was I able to get through it without lifting before seeing the cones in station 3 - that run I was topping out 4th gear, around 105 - before braking down to around 30 for the offset slalom of station 3.

WKR White Knuckle Racing Special The hairpin is definately hairier when you have more power than traction. After the dip I was floating somewhere in mid 3rd gear through most of the corner, with a quick windup at the exit just before slowing for station 4.

Under the hood of Bob Hess' Bugeye In the sweeper, I was definately out of traction right around 7000 RPM in 3rd gear. Shifting 3 to 4 at 7 grand while on the edge of available traction isn't a real smart thing to do, in the first practice run I just floated at 7 grand in 3rd. After that I started putting it in 4th early going into the sweeper for that little extra bit of speed, rolling out of the throttle ever so gently as the rear wheels start to step out.

Leaving the sweeper, there's a short straight into station 6. I could just barely wind 4th out to 7 grand before braking down to something like 20mph for the dogleg left. The brakes that were so competent last year got just a little greasy at the end of this bit of torture, I overran the dogleg once in practice and once on Sunday, oops.

Stations 7 8 and 9 were rather uneventful, except that I did manage to drop 2 wheels off the pavement coming out of 9 during my best run, no damage, except to my elapsed time. The new clutch and lightweight flywheel seem to be a bit more grabby than stock, during downshifting in stations 4 and 7, I would consistantly lock a rear wheel - something that didn't happen last year.

These aren't excuses, just notes for mechanical improvements for the future: First, shocks! The stock shocks are just about shot at 60K, I had very unsettling weight transfer under braking, and the slaloms weren't nearly as much fun as they should have been.
Second, larger sway bars should help out in the slaloms as well.
Third, brakes - someday I'll upgrade to the larger '94 brakes, hopefully getting rid of that greasy feeling going into station 6.
Fourth, wheels - I ran on the steel wheels again this year, mostly because I wanted to run on the nicely broken in Yokohama 509s that they're wearing. Next year I'll run on the lightweight alloys - hopefully the lighter wheels and stiffer shocks will give me better control through "the canyon" when the bumps start nibbling at 100+ mph.
Finally, a limited slip differential - I've been planning this one since before the turbo went on, it will definately help on the start, and probably coming out of the stations as well.I'm intentionally leaving out race tires and lowering springs - otherwise I might be tempted to try to beat the other cars in my class :)

Times and stated goal:
1996 3:05.4
1997 2:55.5
1998 2:45.5 or better - still on street tires

Personal notes:
Mark Palmer, who gave me the beer last year, was back this year in his 914, but Mark and Karen Kalfas must have gone to Orlando for the SCCA State Championships, leaving Palmer alone in his class.
Robin Karoly has reportedly gotten married - he and his black Miata have been missing in action for nearly a year now.
Mike, forget his last name but not his story about converting the barn into a race car garage while his dad was out buying cattle, drove his truck through the course without hitting any cones - pretty impressive in under 3:30.
I spent quite a bit of time in the shade of the Ruzinsky tent - eventually I hope to get a copy of the videotape he made while driving his Triumph GT6.
If I ever move so far from the Keys that I can't drive in for a BBC, I think I'll take the "Rent-a-Stock" option. This Skylark, driven as delivered by National Rent-a-Car, was turning in 3:05s.
John Hicks is a fellow BBC addict. His superlight Saturn with super sticky tires, and super honed autocross skills turned in a 2:47.9 last year - I didn't catch his best time this year, but I did hear alot about schmutz in his brake hydraulics.
Inman Lanier transformed his Mustang into a beautiful Cobra replicar this year, he was turning in 2:30s on, admittedly huge, street tires.
John White ran his first Bay Bottom Crawl in a beautiful new Porsche Boxster.
Bill Grabowski, whose car number (78) is also his age, didn't manage to match his 2:47 of last year due to engine trouble - the car will be fixed, I bet he'll be back again next year as #79.
Steve Burger was back this year in his red Corvette, after taking the flying turtle award last year in his Z28. He, and everyone else, did a a good job of staying on course - happily, there was no flying turtle award this year.

Last year we all waited while Norman Fuller drove the van around pulling out all the cars that ran off into the mangroves. This year we waited while the new radio timer got its kinks worked out. Ultimately, the kinks were worked out by going back to the "old reliable" wire across the lake, which looks like it will continue to be a BBC tradition for another year, at least.
Andrea (Andy) Hess did a wonderful job as eventmaster, no description of the Bay Bottom Crawl would be complete without gushing praise of her enthusiasm, organization, and overall outstanding contribution to the event.
Sponsored this year by Flamingo Oil,
distributors of fine Kendall and Sunoco products and contributors of the really nifty cooler I got
as a door prize.

37th Bay Bottom Crawl
39th Bay Bottom Crawl
Read or sign the guestbook.