The most unflappable opponent a racer will ever face is time. The clock ticks forward relentlessly, unfazed by intimidation or nerves and few understand, or savor that dynamic any better than K&N sponsored Ryan Buetzer.
"Racing against the clock is extremely difficult," Ryan told K&N. "At the Solo Nationals, you only get three runs so you have make them count (walking the course is permitted but no practice runs). Unlike road racing, if you make a mistake, you're unable to determine how much time you've lost to a competitor. With road racing, you can see other drivers and determine if you're losing or making up time. In autocross you simply have to focus on each corner, and if a bobble occurs, you immediately forget about it and start thinking about the next corner."
The 2011 Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Solo Nationals were contested at Lincoln Airpark in Lincoln, Nebraska. The event brought together nearly 1,200 drivers, competing in a wide array of cars totaling almost 40 different classes, ranging from nearly stock street driven cars to purpose-built racecars. Buetzer, a Seneca, Kansas native, won the C-Stock National Championship driving a 2007 Pontiac Solstice.
Driving his Pontiac Solstice Ryan Buetzer won the 2011 SCCA C-Stock National Championship, his sixth title in just eight years.
Ryan and his parents, Eric and Carol, also former Seneca residents, began autocross racing when Ryan was a junior at Nemaha Valley High School. Now 28 and living in Hermosa Beach, California where he works as a product engineer for Toyota, Ryan has already amassed six National Championships, along with finishing 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 7th in his 12 years of SCCA competition.
What makes Ryan's six championships even more impressive is that they have come in five different cars. In the first two he drove his family-owned Toyota MR2, and the others have come in four different cars.
"It's rare to win the same class in four different cars. All of the cars had some similar qualities though- rear wheel drive, low horsepower, and they were all fairly light-weight," remarked Ryan. For the 2011 event Ryan had the luxury of driving a car he is very familiar with, as he and co-driver Steve O'Blenes competed in the car that Ryan regularly drives in competition in California.
In autocross, two competitors are allowed to drive the same car in a class. After O'Blenes took the initial run, Ryan took control of the Solstice for the second pass. "One goal the co-driver hopes to accomplish is to build heat in the tires," explained Ryan. "The tires we use are much better (more grip) once they have some heat in them. The co-driver will also provide valuable feedback on the course and can let the other driver know about tricky sections on the course."
Ryan began competing in SCCA autocross and Pro Solo events when he turned 16 in 1999. Along with his six SCCA Solo National titles, Ryan was selected the SCCA National Solo Driver of the year, and at the age of 22, he was the youngest driver to ever win the award. In 2007 Ryan added road racing to his résumé and won his first race at Laguna Seca, competing in the Skip Barber Western Series. He followed that up the next year by racing in the 2008 VW Jetta TDI Cup in the SCCA Pro Racing division.
"Autocross fits my skill-set well because I have the ability to find the 'edge' of the car's handling without crossing over it," says Ryan. "Our events have been won by .001 seconds over a two day period, so you must drive the car to the absolute limit. Many drivers can't quite find that edge and they usually end up going over it, pushing or spinning the car."
Ryan lists his particular driving skill-set in the following order of priority- "Finding the cars handling limits quickly, meaning how fast can you really entry a corner without causing under-steer and adapting quickly to a car's handling characteristics. Many drivers struggle if the car under-steers or over-steers. I'm able to adjust my driving style and 'drive around' the cars limitations. And, just like road racing, you need to look ahead to see where the course is going. Something is always coming up very quickly."
How did the K&N connection come about for Ryan? "Because we run in a stock class, we're unable to modify the engine, exhaust, or intake. We're only allowed to change the air-filter, so we're always looking to get the maximum performance. With that said, it's easy to pick the K&N air filters. They provide the best performance for our car and it shows on the dyno sheet. We've been using K&N air filters in our cars for over 11 years."
Regarding his 2012 race calendar, the K&N sponsored driver said, "I have a full schedule of autocross (local and national events) and teaching for a performance driving school. I'm hoping to run a couple open track days in a spec Miata rental. The cost of a road racing weekend can be quite high, so we'll see how things shake out, and hopefully I can find a ride for a race or two in the Los Angeles area."
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