First Track Day of 2009

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The first track day of 2009 was up at VIR on February 7 and 8.  It was another full course event so that meant there were 3.27 miles of track for all of us to play on.

The Friday prior I changed out my rotors and pads as usual so that I would run a much more aggressive pad for track use.  They squeak and dust too much for street use, but on the track they are just what I need.  They provide plenty of bite so I can carry a lot of speed down the straights.

Friday afternoon three of us formed a small convoy and drove up to the track.  One of us had a trailer with their time trial car on board.  It is a BMW E30 that does a great job.

One of the nice things about these track days is that you get to spend time with friends that you have made from previous events.  This time was no exception either.  Some folks I have known for several years and others I might have just shared the track in one or two prior events.  One person I knew was trying HPDE for the first time.  He was in another Evolution, a 2006 MR, so I was interested in how he liked the experience and, since I had set up his suspension, I also wanted to know how he liked the setup.

After signing in I drove to my hotel, gassed up my car, and found a place to have dinner.  Then I went back to the hotel to get rested up for the next day of track time.

The drivers meeting was early so I had to get up at the crack of dawn and head to the track.  For a mile or two you actually have to drive back in to North Carolina before you get to the Virginia track.  The early morning light and the ten minute drive gave the car time to warm up and me a chance to think through some of the things I wanted to accomplish. 

I pulled into the pit area and spotted my instructor’s trailer.  We had emailed one another prior to this, but I had not met him yet so I pulled up, got out of my car, and introduced myself.  After that I drove to an area where some of my friends were and staked out a spot for my Evo.

After the drivers meeting I had just a few minute before I headed off to class.  Yes, we actually get class time as well as track time.  This event I was moved up to the intermediate group and it was very nice to find that there were folks I had been on track with before in my run group.  There was Fred with his tricked out E46 M3 BMW and Rick in his copper Corvette Z06.  It was especially nice to see Rick there since we hadn’t been at event together since we first met in May of last year.  He had gone to a couple of track events that I had not, but we have kept up via email.  It was nice to see how much his driving had improved.  It was fun to be on the track with people you knew.

After the class we waited a bit for our first session.  We had been told at the drivers meeting that the track had been ground down at many of the corners in order for it to be prepped for paving that would take place later in the month.  So the track was not only cold, but very different feeling where the grinder had put grooves in the pavement.  Not only grooves, but dust was in those grooves so it made driving interesting to say the least.

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To be sure I placed my Active Center Differential (ACD) in gravel mode so that the looser surface would be accounted for by the computer.  Sure enough a lot of dust was kicked up in the corners and it often looked like someone had run off the track into some dirt when it was actually the dust from grinding the pavement.

I had a good first run even though I was conservative about how much I pushed.  The second run I was much more aggressive and I really found the tires could stick much better.  Finally for the final two runs I drove for all it was worth.  That made for a fun and exhausting day.

Then I got with Rick and his wife and we agreed to meet for dinner.  Fred and another driver also joined us.  It was a fine night for Japanese food and lots of good conversation.  We all enjoyed the restaurant and then headed to our hotels and a good night’s rest.

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Sunday I didn’t have to get up quite as early since there was no drivers meeting.  That was helpful since I had to pack up all my gear, stow it in the trunk, and check out of the hotel.

We had an hour of classroom and then I headed for my car for the first run of the day.  I put on my helmet and had the car running so as to warm it up and waited for my instructor to arrive.  There was the first call for the group, then the second, and then the final call, and still no instructor.  Mark from Performance-Chassis saw that I was without an instructor and jumped in the right hand seat since he is also an instructor.  We had a very good run and my instructor was waiting for me when I finished up my session.  Mark and I debriefed and then my instructor came over to apologize to me and thank Mark.  Apparently he was in a students car that had mechanical problems and was stuck on the track when he was supposed to be belting in with me for my session.  Obviously there had been nothing he could have done about it, but it was fortunate that Mark Cooper was able to sit in for him.

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Another nice surprise was that he felt it was time for me to move up to the advanced group and so I got another sticker for my windshield and clearance for the advance group.

Some of the drivers I knew and it was great fun to be out there on the track with the more advanced drivers.  I had to work harder too, and that was a good thing.  My instructor really enjoyed my driving and my car and felt that I was more than ready for the group.

By the end of the day I was certainly worn out and very happy with how the weekend had gone.  It was especially fun to spend it with friends old and new.

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12 Responses to First Track Day of 2009

  1. Chris says:

    Jim,

    Sounds like a great day at the track…word on the street is you put down some pretty fast times for an “oldtimer”.

    Chris

  2. Judy K says:

    Glad you were able to go and have fun. As for your head cold…I have it…you can have it back if you want it.

  3. markitude says:

    Jim,

    Fantastic! It must feel pretty good to be moving up – I know that you approach this seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. I’m sure you are well received by the other drivers and instructors.

    Do you imagine you will continue on this progression, and see yourself taking on the role of a formal instructor? I think it would suit you well.

    Mark

  4. jimsgarage says:

    Interesting thought. Not sure if I could handle riding in the right hand seat as an instructor. I think I would be challenged to ride with me driving if I was an instructor. 😀

  5. Campygoob says:

    Jim,

    Congrats on the move up! You’re a excellent driver and belong in BLUE! I really enjoy running with you at the track. I guess I’ll have to step it up a notch and move up.

    I’ve ridden with you and you are by no means a challenge to your instructor.

    Campygoob, A.K.A. Fred in the E46 M3

  6. Rick Holland says:

    Thanks for the fun and friendship on and off the track. Yes, congrats on the move up…well deserved! You are a super driver, super knowledgeable, and would make a great instructor…but that’s not the right move for everyone. I feel one of your best skills is making this blog come alive with your writing skills…you would be a dynamite novelist!

  7. Alan Giles says:

    Jim,

    It was good to see you at the track on Sunday. I really like your progress. After having you as a student early on in your track career watching your analytical approach to everything is refreshing.

    Hope things keep going well.

  8. Noel says:

    Congrats on the move up, Jim. Well deserved. And yes, you should think about being an instructor. You know how to communicate the nuances of vehicle dynamics and can explain how everything works. You’d be a huge asset to someone in the left seat while you’re in the right one.

  9. dowroa says:

    With what Noel said, it would be a GREAT help to have another instructor who was highly familiar with AWD cars. That would have saved me about two sessions worth of “communication errors”.

    Great post, once again!

    – Brian

  10. Esteban says:

    Hi Jim!

    It has been a while! Sorry about the OT, but I really need to know a racing track term in english, and you are the most versed Gearhead I know (plus Mark suggested I ask you!)

    In this picture:

    Between the asphalt and the green concrete there is a red and white strip. What is the name for that? in Spanish it is called “pianito” (little piano, because it resembles a piano keyboard).

    Thanks!

  11. jimsgarage says:

    Esteban!

    Nice to hear from you. We call them ‘gators because they rumble as your tires cross them like you just ran over an aligator’s back!

    Jim

  12. Esteban says:

    Jim,

    I am enlightened!

    Thanks, Esteban

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