So, I’ve been quiet here. Ummmm. Sorry? All three of you?
Basically, shit’s been busy, and I keep starting writing things and then not finishing them. I’m hoping this will not be the case tonight.
So, I’ve talked about the car before. Today was a bit different.
I signed up for 1morelap.com‘s novice day at Calabogie Motorsports Park. I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into. So, about a month ago, I went to an HPDE day. Why? I wasn’t going to drive just yet. But they do a great thing there: once you’re signed off to drive solo, you can take passengers. Better, you’re kinda expected to take a passenger if they ask. It’s the “first taste is free” kinda deal. And that was the full track. I’ll get to more of that later. I’ll give you verbatim what I posted to facebook that night:
Huh. It was more than a couple weeks ago. June 11th, in fact!
So, yesterday, a few of us (finally) took Borge Gamble up on a run out to Calabogie Motorsports Park for a lapping event, with 1morelap.
I did not DRIVE.
I had two very, very different experiences as a passenger (and everyone was wickedly friendly). First, with Ken in an (if you can believe it) automatic Scion FRS. Second, with Norman, in a fourteen year old BMW M3. Ken is somewhat of a novice, Norman, been doing this a good while.
The FRS is amazing. I’ll be perfectly honest here. Anyone who says the base spec of 201hp/151lb.ft isn’t enough for a real car? Has never been in one driven hard, on a track. Hard on the brakes into Turn 5 was touching 155km/h. If anything, the paddle-shifted automatic made it faster. it was balanced, and basically only being passed by other cars on the straights: in the corners, with good tires, it is beyond capable.
The M3 though (E43, the last truly good one in my opinion) is pretty much everything the M-fanbois make it out to be. It has more than enough power, and stunning brakes. Better tires make the handling… knife edged. The same entry into turn 5 as the FRS was a terrifying 200-220km/h, dropping to 90ish through the corner itself. And I now know what the phrase “throwing the anchor out” REALLY means. 220kmh to 85km/h in (my guess) under 200ft. It is violent. It was passed by exactly two cars. One, a monstrous Corvette street car, and the other a dedicated CASCAR (I think) chassis.
I spent a lot of time watching entry speeds, exit speeds, and control: it’s not just about the experience (although the first three or four laps in the FRS were a bit of a blur, and my grin in the M3 was enough to split the helmet). I love racecraft, and you can learn a lot here. It’s a controlled environment, but it’s not THAT controlled. There’s excellent support from the support staff and marshals, and they WILL black flag (end your night) you if you’re being a dick and unsafe. I saw nothing but courtesy from other drivers: always pointing to pass (you do not pass unless the driver in front has told you explicitly to pass, and which side, with hand signals). Ken and Norman had dramatically different lines into several corners (most dramatically, Turn 8, 12, and 17).
I drove home with the cruise locked in at maybe 5km/h over. There just didn’t seem to be much point.
Sometime this summer, I’m gonna make it out there myself. Most likely August 6th / novice day, but possibly an evening or HPDE day, with an instructor: It costs a little more, but I think is going to be absolutely worth it.
I’m also going to head out there on a couple of the days and volunteer as a photographer: it apparently gets me some different access, and that will also be a ton of fun.
Excellent afternoon, doing the kind of thing I love. Good, good time. I can see the potential for addiction here, though.
So, fastfoward to yesterday. We got there early, about two hours early for our first session (10am) and lined up, parked, and went to get a handle on things.
There were two events ongoing yesterday, so the track was “split”. Known coloquially as “east” and “west” tracks. The west track is where the novice day was held: it’s not as fast as the east side, but it’s got some extremely interesting and complex turns on it. Rewind a bit. A requirement of the Novice day is a half-hour in-class training. It’s very simple, basic stuff: this is a novice event after-all. Still, I learned some things: Seating position – I was very close to where I needed to be, but still needed some adjustment. Vision – again, I was close, but I needed to learn to look all the way round the corner, not just into it: I know the rule. You go where you look. Beyond that, it was basic material about focus, apexes, speed, braking and shifting points, and the racing line. All excellent information.
So, then, to the track.
Take a look back at the track. As I said, the track was split, and we were running corners 2 through 1. That sounds odd, I know, but, follow it round. We entered the track at Turn 2 / Jacques: following the blend line. Uphill wide onto the concrete curb on the outside, then cresting right before turn 3 / Gilles, which is effectively blind. When I did it right, I ran full-throttle in third gear through turn three. The short straight to turn 4 / Easy lets you settle the car: in my case, I found that I could run third up against the red line, but that was forcing me to back off, or grab fourth gear in the middle of easy, on the curb on the inside, at about 110km/h. So, what I learned to do was grab fourth gear on the transitional straight between 3 and 4, and run wide open: by the time I cleared 4, and wound out the steering onto the straight on the outside edge of the track, I was running about 130km/h. From there, a straight run down Rocky Road. Rocky Road ends up with a crest and kink into Sir John A and Mulligans (Turn 5). By the end of the first session, I was diving straight through, blind, into Mulligans, braking hard, stabilizing the car, downshifting to third gear, and preparing to turn. By the end of the second session, I was standing on the brakes at the top of fourth gear, just barely touching 170km/h and 6800rpm. By the time I come off the brakes, about 200ft later, I’m at 75km/h or so, turning in and touching the cement on the inside, then letting the car drift out to the cement on the outside, between 5 and 6 (Big Rock), shedding speed naturally, rather than under braking: begin the turn into turn 6. Turn 6 dips slightly, and the car settles down: as it does, roll onto the gas pedal. The car takes a set, and if I did it right, the traction control does not flutter. Exiting the turn, there’s a very short transisiton between 6 and 7 (Candy Mountain) and you’re now aiming at the tall, single tree beyond the track. Aiming here and letting the car drift to the center of the track as you unwind the steering sets you up for turn 7, running at the top of third gear. Straightening out after turn 7 is grabbing fourth gear and onto the short straight down to turn 8 (Temptation). Hard on the brakes at the end of the straight, but leave it in third and let it run out (no gas) bleeding speed, then a dab of brakes again, and turn hard across the inside, drifting out to the cones at turn 1, and onto the paddock straight. Run out third gear as tight to the wall as possible then brakes and hard across the concrete at turn 2 and do it all over again.
When I write it down like that, it sounds like I know something, right?
Yeah, not so much.
I couldn’t have driven like I did without the instructors in my ear, in the passenger seat. Mike, John, Deiter: if you read this, holy shit guys, thank you. I learned so damn much yesterday. I put so damn much that I though I knew, into practice. I would not have had as much fun, learned as much, and had my frustration level lowered without those instructors.
Let me put it this way.
I cannot recommend the Novice Day enough. I just can’t. If you have any interest in cars, you need to do one of these. The instructors from 1MoreLap are absolutely fantastic, and patient, and knowledgeable, and patient, and encouraging, and did I mention patient?
I never timed a lap.
I didn’t count laps.
I know I did enough laps in 90 minutes to learn something.
I know I did enough laps in 90 minutes to destroy my brakes. Like. Completely.
*edit* *2016-08-08* Just to clarify. My brakes were OLD. Brakes (I discovered from someone more knowledgeable than me) have a shelf-life, as well. The car is 7.5 years old, I did the front brakes four years ago with reasonable quality Frixa pads and R1Concepts rotors. They had about 60,000km on them when I got to the track. You should NOT expect to have to replace your brakes every half hour! 🙂 It seems I may be implying that by omission. I’ve added a post about the brakes, too, because if you’re into racecraft, discussion of wear of hardware should interest you, and I’m talking about it from the perspective of a total noob. *end edit*
I know I did enough laps in 90 minutes to verify something I already knew, intellectually. I discovered that the drivermod is most important. I discovered my untuned, effectively stock(1) sub-200hp Genesis Coupe can stay with and go better than on-paper better cars, because of that DriverMod.
I know I did enough laps in 90 minutes to qualify my interest in watching racing, running sim-racers, and studying driving mechanics because I enjoy it, gives me a lot of knowledge the moment I sit down.
I know I did enough laps in 90 minutes to qualify that that last point means an awful lot less than I though it would: knowing a line intellectually is entirely different to actually driving it, at the limit of adhesion, as fast as you can, while listening to an instructor in your ear reminding you of the things you’re forgetting, or ignoring, because you’re only able to concentrate on a dozen things at once, not the two dozen you actually need to remember to be both fast and smooth.
I know I did enough laps to prove to myself that while smooth may be fast, sometimes you’ve got to slow down to get smooth again, and then rebuild your speed.
Most of all, I know I did enough laps to prove to myself that I know almost nothing, and that I want to go back and learn more.
I could say an awful lot more, but I don’t think anyone would read it. I know I’m gushing somewhat, but that’s a bucket list experience. And when I do get the brakes fixed up, I’m looking to do it again. And again. It won’t be every/every other weekend. But it’ll probably be a couple of times a summer. Because I want to get better, and better, and better.
(1) I have, at this time, wider, stickier than stock tires, lighter wheels, short shifter and bushings, intake, exhaust, high-flow catalytic converter, a stage 2 clutch, and lowering springs.