Monday, May 31, 2010

Flat Brutus at the Autocross

As you may or may not know, Flat Brutus has been spending a little time with us, mostly enjoying some quality downtime (while Abby the Mutant Puppy may or may not have been attempting to nibble on his legs....). Today, however, Brutus got to go to the Utah Region SCCA's mostly-annual Memorial Day autocross event. This is typically a pretty big event (100+ drivers) with a lot of non-regular racers showing up, as well as lots of regulars. Because it was a local event and Mom and Dad didn't want to drive the House With Wheels down for a one-day, local event, Abby and I stayed home (and got to play with Jessi, The Woman Who is Training Mom to Feed Us Turkey Hotdogs), but Flat Brutus (who is a bit lower maintenance than, oh, say, me, fr'instance) got to go along. Lucky devil!

Anyhoo, since I was not there, I can't exactly describe Flat Brutus' adventure. So, I will do the unprecedented, and let Mom tell about the autocross.

Thanks, Fi.

First, for those of you who want to know a little more about this whole autocross thing, here is a fantastic 9 minute documentary on what autocross is. If you have even the slightest interest in racing a car (and it doesn't have to be a "race car" - you can run the family station wagon - although not the family mini-van, due to height-to-width ratios) it is a good introduction to the sport:

At any autocross you attend, the very first thing you do is sign a participant waiver. We got Flat Brutus signed in, and got him a wrist band (which indicates that you've signed the waiver).

Since the wrist band is designed for humans, Brutus wore his more like a belt.

And you sign the waiver, we had to get Brutus registered for the event. (We weren't sure what class he was going to run in, so we waited until this morning to register him.)

After registering, you get your car 'tech-ed'; meaning that they check to make sure the car meets all safety requirements, including making sure your battery is secure, your brakes work, and your wheels aren't going to fall off. (There's more to it than that, but if you can't tell, it's not an area I know a ton about.) So, we got Flat Brutus tech-ed. As far as our tech guy could tell, Flat Brutus' wheels weren't going to fall off, and his battery was secure enough.

Brutus received a blue sticker (which remains on his back) saying that he was legal to run the course. So, between the waiver and the sticker, Brutus was free to run the course, or drive it/ride along.

Brutus decided to take a look to see if he would rather run the course himself, or ride along. After taking a look at the course, he decided that it might be a little long for his short little legs.

(That's 155 seconds.... Which is actually pretty quick for his little legs. But he didn't want to run the course more than once...)

So, we went looking for a car for him.

He tried our car first, but discovered that while he might be able to handle the steering wheel, his feet weren't going to reach the pedals.

He rather liked this Factory Five MK4 Roadster,

but his couldn't get to the pedals in this car, either.

So, we thought we'd try him in a Junior Kart.

But, yet again, he couldn't reach both the steering wheel and the foot pedals at the same time.

So, we decided that maybe he should just be a passenger. Certain that we could find him a ride, we tried to see if we could get a helmet that would fit him.

Alas, we didn't have much luck there, so we got Special Approval for Flat Brutus to ride without a helmet (the theory being that since he is only 2-dimensional, they could make an exception in his case).

Brutus then got his first taste of 'working' an autocross; all autocross events are self-supporting events, meaning that if you aren't racing, you are working. There are all sorts of jobs, from being on course chasing down cones to working the computers and timing systems.

First we tried to see if Brutus might be able to be a course worker:

Unfortunately, Flat Brutus' short (and stiff) legs made it so that the course worker vest was too big (and would have tripped him up when he was running for cones that had been knocked down), so being a course worker was not an option.

We thought he might try his hand at set-up, but again, his short little legs were a bit of a hindrance.

Next, we tried him on the computer, where he seemed much more comfortable.

However, since Flat Brutus wasn't actually driving, he didn't have to work (if you are just spectating or just riding as a passenger you don't have to work - working is only mandatory for drivers).

After getting a reprieve from the work assignment thing, Flat Brutus decided to go socialize, as autocross events are at much a social occasion as a racing occasion.

Brutus first met Gary's coach and co-driver Charlie, and his son Adam

Then he met Matt, our "adopted son" (he's really not, but he's such a good guy that we'd claim him as a son if the IRS would let us!)

As well as a member of Salt Lake City law enforcement.

As a side note, apparently Flat Brutus has a traffic ticket or two, and was going to be detained...

Luckily, we were able to convince the officer that Flat Brutus wasn't in his jurisdiction, and Flat Brutus was able to escape incarceration. :-)

After his brief encounter with the Long Arm of the Law, Brutus sought sanctuary with Linda, my very fast co-driver:

and Valeri, who has recently returned from a trip where she got to be in the Mission Control room for NASA during the last space shuttle mission

Autocross events are also popular with dogs of the 3-dimensional variety, and Flat Brutus got to meet a couple of the doggies out:

But when it came down to it, Flat Brutus was Here To Race! (Okay, ride along, since we couldn't find a car that he would fit in...)

Here Brutus got to ride along in the car that I co-drove last weekend.

Flat Brutus also got a chance to get in the car that won the day:

Here's a close-up....

And Flat Brutus with the winning driving of the day (who is known as Crazy George):

It was a long, busy day for Flat Brutus, but he had fun (which is the #1 rule of autocross: have fun!!!). When he got home, he was ready for a Serious Nap.

Abby and Fi had a great day at home, playing lots of 'fetch'....

And now we are all ready for a good night's sleep.

BTW, Flat Brutus was a Big Hit at the autocross, and lots of people were very willing to pose with him and hear his story! A good time was had by all!

Fi here again.

Boy, Mom can blather on, can't she? We are going to keep Flat Brutus for another day or two so he can see the sights of Park City, and then he'll be moving on to his next destination (someplace in Colorado). I have to say, Flat Brutus is pretty cool - he's good company and he doesn't hog the toys, like some Mutant Puppies I might mention. I'm just saying...

We'll keep you updated on Flat Brutus' adventures before he leave us. But now we are all tired (except for the Mutant Puppy who seems to NEVER be tired...)

*kissey face*
-Fiona and Mom (and the Mutant Puppy, I guess)

PeeEss: Fi's Mom here again. For those of you who don't know the Flat Brutus story, it started as a "take-off" of the Flat Stanley story and turned into a way to raise money for the French Bulldog Rescue organization. I loved the Flat Stanley story when I was a kid (how cool to be able to mail yourself to your friends?), and am always in favor of dog rescue organizations. The actual Brutus is a pretty cool dog, too, so I was very excited to get to host Flat Brutus!

Also, thanks to everyone in the Utah Region SCCA who was very tolerant of me as I took Flat Brutus around the event; I have WAY more pictures of him posing with people (many of whom thought I was totally crazy, but all of whom loved his story) and cars - everyone was really great with Flat Brutus! Thanks everyone!!!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Uh-oh. Abby's Getting Bigger

Mom and Dad took us on a hike yesterday (Mom only got minimal pictures - she promises to do better next time).

After the hike we stopped by the vet. I had to have my heartworm test done (I'm fine - Mom just likes to check once a year, even though we get heartworm meds regularly - she figures you can never be too safe) and Mom and Dad decided to get us weighed.

Me? I'm a lean, mean (okay, maybe not so mean) 57 pounds. Go me!

But my crazy monster sister? She's 46 pounds. 46?!? Hello! She's only 6 months old (well, not quite - she'll be 6 months in another week). I think Mom and Dad got a mutant puppy when they got this one. Hey. They used to test nuclear bombs in Utah. A mutant puppy could totally happen.

Needless to say, there has been much mutant puppy wrangling going on....

Oh crap. This mutant puppy is a MONSTER.

Good thing I'm quite elastic!

In other excitement, Flat Brutus has been spending some quality time with us. He hasn't made it on any hikes with us because it's been windy, and well, Flat Brutus is a bit of a lightweight, and Mom didn't want to lose him.

However, he got to frolic in the snow that we had at the beginning of the week. Yeah. Really. Snow.

And he's been dipping into the treats....

But he's easy-going, and a good guy to hang out with.

Mom and Dad have a local autocross on Monday; Abby (aka Mutant Puppy) and I will be staying home with Jessi, The Woman Who is Training Mom to Feed Us Turkey Hotdogs, but it sounds like Flat Brutus is going to get to go for some 'ride-alongs'. Mom promises to get pictures!

*kissey face*
-Fiona and Abby the Mutant Puppy

Monday, May 24, 2010

Another Weekend of Autocrossing

Wow. Okay, so another weekend of car racing in the books, and Mom managed to get only a few more pictures of us this weekend than she did last weekend. But I'll forgive her. She was too busy making her (borrowed) car go around in circles that she was probably too dizzy to get many pictures of us.


But I'll get to that in a few. We went back out to Wendover on Thursday because Dad and Uncle Charlie were setting the course for the weekend, and wanted to get it done before it got dark. Because we had left the House With Wheels out at Wendover, and Uncle Charlie had done the same with his, we all piled into the Jeep; Dad and Uncle Charlie in the front, and me, Abby and Mom in the back seat. Whether it was because she was in the back seat with dogs (Abby, not me!) sitting on her, or she was just getting sickie-poo, Mom didn't feel very good when we got to Wendover, so while Dad and Uncle Charlie were setting the course, Mom was snoozling, so she didn't get any picture of the two 'boys' working away.

However, Mom was feeling better by the next afternoon, and attended a driving school. And lemme tell ya', Mom totally needs driving school! Heehee! Um. Apparently this was a school that was specifically designed for this event. This weekend's race was a 'ProSolo' which is kind of like a regular autocross, but the start is like a drag strip start complete with 'Christmas tree' drag start, and a 200 ft. straight-away.

The other big difference is that rather than one big course, there are two mirror courses, so as soon as you run one course, you come around and run the other course.

Mom, being Mom, decided that since she has only done this once before in her life (and it was about a month after she got her driver's license and was all focused on the fact that it was the first race in her life where she couldn't have a passenger helping her) and because she was driving a Mini Cooper (a borrowed one - and, ironically, the same sort of car she drove at her other ProSolo, except this car was quite a bit different from the one she drove then) she'd do the driver's school thing. Mom was a little nervous about the whole 'drag start' thingy and thought that if she had someone other than Dad or Uncle Charlie sitting in the car next to her, they might not frown as much. Heehee!

Here's Mom trying to look like she knows what the instructor is talking about (and the car owner looking at Mom to make sure that she knows how NOT to burn up his clutch...):

After the talking part, Mom took a bunch of 'practice starts'.

Note the look of utter concern on the instructor's face! Heehee!

Anyway, Mom managed not to blow up the car, and seemed to think she was 'ready' to race the next day.

After the school, Mom and Dad "walked the course"; you aren't allowed to see the course at speed until you race it, but you can walk it as much as you want. Which is a good thing, because Abby was being a Giant Pest again, and so Mom took her on course walks to see if she (Mom) could wear her (Abby) out.

It didn't work, BTW!

Mom was not the only one who was out trying to wear out highly-energized doggies, however. There was one lady who seemed to be dragged around the course by her Vizslas.

Apparently, Vizslas are warm weather doggies (like Dennis, who is from the mythical city of Sandy Eggo, where doggies need only wear fedoras) and are not used to the colder climates of us more Northern Lands. These girls got cold in the mornings, and had to wear coats! BTW, Dennis, these girls were pretty cute. I got their phone numbers if you are interested!

I guess it was actually pretty cold (I still am wearing my home-grown winter coat, so I didn't get bothered by cold weather), because there was another doggie who had her own coat. It included her own personal porter, too!

While it was cold and windy, it didn't rain this weekend, which made Dad quite happy, as he was driving the Franken-Miata.

Saturday rolled around, and since this was a National event, Mom and Dad were racing along with 160 other people.

The event was set up so everyone took 4 runs in the morning (2 on each course) and 4 in the afternoon, and then 4 more Sunday morning before they did the "challenges" (which I'd explain, but since neither Mom, nor Dad nor Uncle Charlie made it into any of them, it doesn't really matter).

Anyhoo, on the runs in the morning, Mom spun the car once (I should note that the owner of the car was not at all concerned), and hit a few cones, but managed to get times on 3 runs, so at least she was 'in the books'. (With the drag strip start, if you start before the light goes green you 'red light' and don't get a time - even if you are within thousandths of a second before the light goes green.) Dad ran some fast times in the morning, but red lighted 3 times, so both Mom and Dad were under a little pressure to get things cleaned up in the afternoon.

However... In the afternoon Mom spun the car two more times (she says it was because she was on cold street tires. I say it was because, well... Maybe Mom should have spent more time in the driver's school! Heehee!) and didn't get any faster. Dad cleaned it up and got times.

Dad doing human zoomies!

Abby and I looked out the door and watched the cars go by.

And there were LOTS of cool cars to watch.

Here are two very fast cars at the start.

Uncle Charlie and another 'D prepared' car heading off in mirror opposite directions.

This green thing was REALLY fast!

Yes, this is a truck. And it was surprisingly fast!

Here's Mom's co-driver (and the car owner).

Dad and Uncle Charlie were in an 'indexed' class (I don't totally understand it, but they use some formula to make all the prepared and modified cars "equal" - it really doesn't, but that's the theory), and so they didn't make the run-offs. Mom and her co-driver were in the 'Street Touring Extreme' class, and while they had fun, the Mini is not competitive in the class, and so they were battling each other for last place - Mom won the battle and was DFL in the class! But she had fun (and got to see the class from the 360-degree perspective!). And she did have her best run of the competition on her very last run of the event, so she was happy.

Computer problems in the afternoon on Sunday made the challenges start late, and since the Utah region was hosting the event, Mom and Dad had to stay and work the challenges, so we didn't leave Wendover until late, and got home very late last night. Mom and Dad are both worn out from two big weekends of racing, and so while I'm being all mellow and good, Abby is being her usual, PITA self. Which is why Dad has been forced to stick a Dingo bell on her nose.



In other excitement, Flat Brutus has made it to our house!!!! He didn't make it in time to go out to Wendover, but we have a local race next weekend, so Flat Brutus will get the chance to be an autocross doggie! Mom says that if he's really lucky, he may even get to ride along in one of the cars! Of course, we will be documenting Flat Brutus' adventures!

*kissey face*
-Fiona and Abby the Pest