Enough folks have asked about the photo in the header that I thought I had better explain about it.
The red car in front is mine. Or at least it was mine at the time. It was a 1997 Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX which meant that is was all wheel drive and had a turbo charger. I bought it in 1998 and spent several years modifying it to the point that I took it to Virginia International Raceway, a road racing track just over the state line from where I live.
In this shot I had been running the north course and really doing well. I had just passed the Corvette Z06 on the front straight after dogging him through most of the corners. Later we met in the pits and he shook his head as he remarked how he found it impossible to hold me off. Sure I felt more than a little smug, my 2 liter four cylinder had bested his 7 liter V-8. By that point in the car’s development I had the engine at over 400 BHP.
The first time I went to VIR was in February of 2004 and was a HPDE (high performance driving experience) event using the full course. The next month I ran the north course. April was the south course. End of April was the full course again!
VIR is a beautiful track with three exceptional layouts. With the four events I have experienced all three layouts, north course, south course and full course.
If you live anywhere close you should find the time to visit this track. It is right on the border of NC and VA near the town of Milton, NC. The layout is very challenging as well as picturesque. The setting consists of rolling hills with large grassy areas. The pit areas are very well laid out and all the supporting buildings maintain an architecture that is reminiscent of Virginia farm style. The accommodations are top notch. Nice rest rooms and a great snack bar. There are drop off areas for recycling oil, brake fluid, and other waste fluids. There is fuel available in the north paddock, even 100 octane racing fuel!
The car had done very well for it self on the road course. Early on I had some problems with the brake pads, but the folks at Porterfield (thanks Tim!) have provided outstanding support. The car had a bit more understeer than I liked, but it was easily corrected by making the tire pressures closer to equal between the front and the rear
Virginia International Raceway is not only one of the nicest looking tracks on the east coast, the full course is 3.27 miles long and technically challenging. The north course is just over two miles long and has a challenging crossover that is all up hill. The south course is the toughest. It is only 1.67 miles long, has very tight turns and elevation changes of over 100 feet
My first time on the full course was a whole new experience. After a tepid first run I began to really learn the line (about twenty corners to memorize) and work on being smooth and fast
The car handled beautifully. It was clearly more car than it had for a driver. By the second day I had improved to the point that I was the fastest car in the run group of thirty cars. All the events at VIR have all been fun, exciting, and educational.
The fourth event was a reprise of the full course and two days of very hot laps. The second day was beautiful as the track had been rinsed from a downpour from the afternoon before. I had three runs and then…
The fourth run consisted of a couple of warm up laps before I came in because I had signed up to have Randy Pobst (http://www.randypobst.com) drive my car. Randy was there to represent Audi (it was an Audi Club event) and drivers had been given the chance to sign up for him to do a couple of laps in their car. The guy was amazing, jumping from one car to the next and doing some hot laps in a strange car.
He got in the drivers seat of the Eclipse and said, “I thought this would belong to a twenty-one year old”. We lauged and I told him that while the brake pedal would be low (two days of track time will do that), the brakes would still be fine and that the car would understeer a bit. He took off out of the grid and said “Got some power!”. Then “Nice shifter, is it a short shifter?” I told him it was a B&M and we headed for turn one. He took it from practically track right. Went around very smooth and at turn two asked if I had street tires and what kind were they. I told him what they were and we headed for turn four. He hit that turn really early and had to correct a bit, then we were quickly on to turns five and six. He tapped on my boost gauge and remarked that I was using a lot of boost. It was hitting 20 pounds. We made short work of the straight section and headed up the climbing esses at a pretty good clip. He took the left turn in third gear and proceeded down the hill to the entrance to Oak Tree. He got into fourth as he went down the hill and then back to third. He stayed in third as he exited the turn and remarked that it should have been a second gear turn. He asked me if I took it in second and I told him that I used to do it in third, but had gone to using second to get rotation, to which he replied with a thumbs up. On down the back straight and he took roller coaster with an early apex. He went 5th to 3rd (which my instructor did not like me doing) and, as we were in traffic, hit second for a few yards and then back up to third. His line through hog pen was, again, the racer line and off we went down the front straight. Turn one was started from track left this time. There was a Miata in front of us so he went from third down to second. As we headed for turn two he told me that he race in Miatas for four years. I told him that one of my instructors had taken me for a ride around the course in his Miata and I was surprised how early he took his apexes to maintain momentum. He responded with a “That’s good, that exactly what you have to do”. We passed the Miata after the short esses and headed for the climbing esses. We screamed up the hill. I think it was close to 115 mph. He had to correct some, but he really enjoyed the way it reacted as he cackled with laughter as he crested the top of the hill. Down to the entrance of Oak Tree which he exited in second this time as we passed another car. He remarked at the sound the wastegate made as it bounced off the back straight pit’s concrete wall. Up the straight and through roller coaster in third while he one-handed the steering wheel and had his left elbow resting on the sill. As we headed into the pits he remarked that he loved the Mitsubishi and thought they were great cars. He parked it on the fence by the grid and thanked me for the chance to ride in the GSX. He felt the understeer wasn’t too bad especially for the tires I was using. That if I got a set of race tires it would disapear.
That was the high spot of the two days for me. I was glad to have somebody of his caliber take the car to the edge.