[caption id="attachment_244" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Photo: Perry Bennett"][/caption] By Perry Bennett Almost 250 of the nation’s best drivers converged on the small town of Cecil, Georgia for the season opener of the 2011 SCCA National Tour. With a population of 274 residents, the size of the town more doubled (when you account for family and friends in attendance) during the weekend spent at the South Georgia Motorsports Park. Southern hospitality was the name of the game as the “small but fierce” Dixie Region hosted a great dinner and social after those that chose to, shook off the cobwebs of the off-season during practice runs on Friday. Tom Shuman served as grill-master and cooked up some of the finest brisket and bratwurst on the large grill. Rumors of Tom’s legendary cooking spread like wildfire through the paddock and there was a mad-rush to get in line for dinner. Those that didn’t get there soon enough were left wanting, as food ran out before the evening was over. There were plenty of soft drinks and adult beverages to be had though! The fun on Saturday began during the driver’s meeting. Aditya “Deech” Madhavan received his “worst run” trophy from the Dixie Region, which was won after a particularly bad run at the 2010 Axis vs. Allies event where Deech took down a rumored 20+ cones on one run. The trophy? Oh, it was quite a fitting trophy for the reigning king of cone carnage; a golden toilet seat, which Deech proudly wore on his head for the rest of the meeting. [caption id="attachment_245" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Nothing gets Howard gigglin' like a man with a toilet seat on his head - Photo: Perry Bennett"][/caption] The excitement started early on day one as the drivers in B-Stock wowed the crowd with amazingly low times and extremely close competition. It was a back and forth battle between South Carolina Region’s Jadrice Toussaint and Central Kentucky’s Marc Pfannenschmidt, with the Jadrice edging out Marc by almost two-tenths on day one. The current B-Stock national champion Pfannenschmidt came back for the win on day two, beating out Toussaint by a tenth of a second. Just to give you an idea how fast the B-Stock S2000s were running, on day 2 B-Stock set faster raw-times than a Super Stock field with more than a few National Championships represented. Besides B-Stock, was there any other great action over the weekend? You bet. The parity of ST/STS played out in an interesting manner, as Tim Smith and his 1989 Civic Si was the only driver in not only ST/STS, but ALL of the ST classes to break the 100-second mark for the weekend. Street Touring S driver Kerry Coughlin and his 1988 CRX wasn’t far behind Tim’s overall time, but did beat him on day one by five-hundreths of a second. These two classes will be interesting to compare throughout the year as the “Spec Civic” as been proposed to move to STS next year. The 1970 Lola B-modified car driven by Mark & Dean VanDeCarr put down a “blazing” run on day one. Literally. The car caught on fire coming across the finish line as some spilled fuel from the carburetor set itself free and made its way onto something hot enough to ignite it. The course workers were paying attention and doused the flames before any damage could be done. Mark & Dean repaired the car that evening and laid down a few clean runs on day two before retiring with more mechanical issues. [caption id="attachment_246" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Dave and Pat assess the Marko Horn EP CRX - Photo: Perry Bennett"][/caption] Speaking of repairing cars at the end of day one, Dave Hardy and Patrick Washburn were seen replacing the headgasket of the E-Prepared 1989 Honda Civic driven by Bryan Batchelor and Marko Horn. With daylight fading fast, other members and competitors chipped-in and had the headgasket replacement completed in just over an hour. The CRX ran like a top on Sunday, with Marko finishing second in E-Prepared, less than six-hundreths of a second out of first place. [caption id="attachment_248" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Robert Lewis turns tires into smoke! - Photo: Perry Bennett"][/caption] Much to the competitors chagrin, daylight savings time was Saturday night. This meant that the time for first-car-off on Sunday didn’t feel 1 hour earlier as scheduled, but TWO hours early. Drivers may not have got enough sleep on Saturday night as there were some pretty dramatic finishes on day two. Drivers trying to wring out every last bit of performance kept the crowd watching the finish-line as numerous competitors throughout the day spun across the line or took out a whole mess of cones. Course designer and multi-time national champion John Thomas wasn’t immune to the spin-gods either, as he not only has some memorable and dramatic spins, but took out walls of cones at the finish as well. Dixie Region’s Robert Lewis treated the crowd to a nice long burnout in his 1965 C-Prepared Mustang as he turned his Hoosiers into smoke after a post-finish spin. [caption id="attachment_247" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Jason Young, a National Tour Rookie say, "I'm coming back!" Photo: Perry Bennett"][/caption] Jason Young, driving his new and under-prepared 2011 Mustang GT in ESP, was another great story of the weekend. The Dixie Tour was his third event.  Ever. SoloMatters asked Jason why he wanted to come to a National Tour event after only a few other events, and drive a very under-prepared car. “I am very new to autocrossing and really wanted to come out and run with the best of the best,” says Jason, who hails from Alpharetta, Georgia. When asked what he thought of the weekend, Young explained, “I had such a great time. The event was well-run and I made many new friends this weekend. I am hooked for sure, and would recommend that other novices come out and join the fun-- even if they have an under-prepared car.” Jason ended up second in class. We can’t talk about the Dixie Tour and not mention the largest class of the event: Street Touring R. With 29 drivers, this was the largest class at a National Tour in recent memory, and maybe ever. While the S2000 and MX-5’s dominated the field, Darren DiSimo had the S2000 and MX-5 drivers wondering if they brought the right knife to the fight by ending the day in 2nd place in STR with his lone 1999 Miata. Those fears were quelled on Day two, as a 2010 MX-5 driven by Chris Harvey took the class win by four-tenths of a second over Geoff Walker and his 2008 S2000 CR. DiSimo and his Miata finished up fourth in class behind Mike Casino in another S2000 CR. If you didn’t make it to Dixie, you missed a great weekend. Not only was the weather was perfect, but you missed out on possibly the coolest National Tour t-shirt yet. The “Road to Lincoln” does, indeed, begin in Dixie. If the competition and camaraderie seen at Dixie is an example of what we can expect for the rest of the season, it’s going to be a hell of a year.