FUN TIMES – ’98 Mercedes SL500 autocross trial

As those who are familiar with me know, I like to autocross every car, especially my daily drivers. It’s difficult to test the limits of your vehicle legally and safely on public roads, so I decided to take my daily out of autocross last week. I went with a few buddies to our usual CSCC AutoX Practice/Championship weekend at AAA Speedway on September 26 – 27, 2009.

The result: crappy tires (many years old yokohama yk420′s) + 4125lb curb weight car (meaning it’s probably more like 4200+ lbs) = VERY HARD TIME for QV to transition, haha.

First run:
- Traction control on (just to see what it was like)
- Top up (just for fun)

Subsequent runs:
- Traction control off (much better, more control & power)
- Top down (let the good times roll).

The car handles like a boat (expected) – pushes everywhere the second you apply power. The traction control cut off WAY TOO MUCH power when it detected any kind of sliding at all. You have to be extra smooth with the inputs since the suspension was so soft & the tires were so crappy. I went from a 78.xxx second first run down to a 74.910 10th run. I had a couple of instructors drive my car; definitely helped, but they both spun the car since they were a little too aggressive – still learned plenty though. Amazingly, with the roll bar down, none of the fishtailing action was enough to get it to pop up (I’m pretty sure it still works properly, haha).

There were also 2 other Mercedes there: a newer SL55 AMG & an SLK 320. The driver of the SL55 was ahead of me for a few runs, and his instructor ran an impressive 75.0xx lap time, but I beat them both in the end, YAY R129!

This car obviously isn’t made for autocrossing, but it can be a force to be reckoned with after some modifications, namely getting a set of nicer tires, shocks/struts, and a front sway bar, which will still keep it in the stock class (all SL’s fall under H Stock, the lowest class available, hee hee). I feel much more in tuned with the car now that I have “broken her in.” :)

I took out my regular track car (the orange 240sx convertible) for the championship on Sunday, and did much better time wise – estimated at about 5-6 seconds faster than the SL500. I still ended up 4th place out of 5th place in class. The car is definitely capable of at least getting 2nd place, but the driver still needs much improvement.

Some pics from one of our CSCC autocross group members:

And a video of my first run (I’m all over the place) & my best run:

Here is a video of my fastest championship run on Sunday in the 240sx (course is run backwards with some modifications – estimated at about 1.5-2 seconds faster than Saturday’s course):

And for fun, here is a slo mo video capture of my car on Sunday from Mako from out CSCC autox group as well – I’m pretty close to the apex cones, could probably get a lil closer:

Q DNCU from Mako Koiwai on Vimeo.

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