So How Did You Get Started?
By Russ Walters
This has only been my second year of Autocross and remembering how I got started is still fresh in my mind.
My son Travis Walters started Autocross a few years before I did. I would go to the weekend events and sit in my chair and watch him race with his friends. Travis would invite me to ride along with him but I was happy just watching, besides this was his thing and I was the outsider.
During his third year my wife and I decided to buy Travis a new helmet to race with. I decided to buy myself one just in case. At the last event of the year there I was with my new helmet in hand and not a clue of what I was doing. I followed Travis down to grid and he showed me around the lineup up of cars. At the time Travis was co driving with Tanner Berg in Tanner’s Mazda RX7 turbo. They strapped me in and basically told me not to touch anything.
After that first ride I was left with two questions; 1. where did my son learn how to drive so fast (I never showed him how to do that) and 2. what car can I get into next to do this again! I found myself looking up and down the grid lineup for an empty passenger seat. Travis and his friends pointed me to the available cars. I rode in a Honda S2000, a Honda Civic, then back in the Mazda with Travis. I was having a great time.
Then it happened, I was standing in grid looking for my next ride when Wes Davis approached me. I knew Wes from our trade as Journeyman Linemen. You know, the guys that climb poles and turn the lights on. Wes asked me if I had a car out here and I said no that I was just doing ride alongs so he invited me to ride with him in the “Periwinkle” Corvette. Wes pulled up to the start line and prepared for the run, the flag dropped and we were off. The sound of the engine revving, the transmission shifting gears, the smell of the tires, brakes, and the hot exhaust, I was in heaven.
I thanked Wes for the ride and made a bee line towards the stands where my wife was sitting. I walked right up to her and said “I’m buying a Corvette”! A Corvette, me a Ford guy, what am I going to tell my Dad, he was a Ford guy, we have never owned a Chevy in the family. Oh well, I’m buying a Corvette and the hunt was on for the perfect car so I could join in this new adventure called Autocross.
I searched Craigslist every day for months looking for the right car but more importantly it had to fit the family budget. Who knows maybe after I tried driving I wouldn’t be as excited about this anymore. (Yah right!) Travis and I looked at a few cars locally and only found duds. In early February I found one down in Oroville California. I called the owner and made an arrangement to take a look at it. Travis and his wife Allyssa joined me on the trip down. We found the house outside of town on a dirt road with few homes around. The older owner met us outside and took us to the garage to see the car. His wife joined us later and definitely showed signs of intoxication, and it was only noon. She took Travis in arm and insisted showing him around the homestead, so off they went. I was able to pry Travis away later so we could take a test ride, one problem two seater car and there was three of us. Allyssa agreed to stay behind and lock herself in our car. We took a short trip down the dirt road and quickly returned so Allyssa wouldn’t be by herself for very long. We made the deal and got out of there with our new autocross car.
We stayed the night at my parents’ house just outside of Chico and looked the car over. No dash lights, no defroster, no heater, the center console electronics were dead, you had to pull a fuse to turn off the interior lights and flip a switch that the previous owner installed to make the radiator fan work, but it ran. I planned on driving the car home and had a secondary plan that if I could make it within 180 miles of home AAA could tow it home from there.
The next morning, we were off for home, in one of California’s biggest rain storms of the year. I packed a few towels to defrost the windows and dressed warm to make up for not having a heater. My towel defroster worked well as I tried not to breath too heavy, plus I left the side windows down just a little to allow air to flow through (couldn’t get any colder). With the windows rolled down, a cracked sunroof over my head, and heavy rain I was getting soaked, mostly down my left side. We made it down the highway for a couple of hours to Weed California when the windshield wiper decided to jump ship and fall off. I pulled over along I-5 and Travis came out of the comforts of his fully operational car to help me fix the wipers in a heavy down pour. We got it fixed and I climbed back into the Corvette soaked even more. All I had to do was make it to the Oregon border and a few more miles and then I could call AAA for that tow. When we hit the border the sun was shining and my windows were clear so we continued the journey home.
Safe at home we spent the next few weeks getting the car ready to run. I cleaned a few ground connections tweaked some wiring and the car was ready for its debut at Ice Breaker 2015. But was I ready?
Thanks to all that have helped me out over the last couple of years. This has been one great adventure that I wish I would have found years ago!
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