Friday, April 14, 2006

Dead On

Short narration of a track session last year.
Thumbs up. The grid marshal signals me with orange-gloved hands to move onto the track, so the blue car and I clutch out and roll onto Texas World Speedway one more time.

Driving down pit row, I check gauges and pile on the power until the tires are about to break loose. No point in spinning them here; it's a little vulgar. I press and hold a button, and traction control goes into competition mode. I'm pleased I remember this, late in the day. I'm solo, having been signed off earlier. I'm pleased with that too.

The pit out worker has the GO sign up, so we continue to accelerate into turn 1. The sun is setting, and this will be the last run of the day. I feel it in my shoulders and neck, unused to the helmet, and in the car which is just a hair looser than it was this morning. Brakes a bit slower, heats up a bit faster. I resolve to take it easy, as I have to go back home and work is Monday and I have to have a car to drive then.

Still getting used to the tires. The slicks make my blue friend into a different car. It starts out greasy and gets stickier until it's glued to the track. I accelerate into turn 1 hard, testing the limit of the tires. I find the edge fast, and the car begins to oversteer right, so I back off a bit for the apex, let the traction control fiddle with the rear end until it’s stable, and hit it hard on the way out, heating up the tires as we drift to track out.

As we brake for turn 3, I relax into the harness and try to feel the brakes come loose at threshold. They do, midway through the braking cycle, and I back off a bit as we heel-toe down to third gear. I hit the turn just right though, because at the apex, the car takes off with delusions of F1. The slicks are starting to bite early, and track out here has a few inches more asphalt on the left, which I use. I remind us that we will take it easy this run, but the blue car has other ideas.

On the short straight, I check mirrors, corners. John and John's C5 'vert are right back there, and I know Steve told John how to pass me. Steve is my old instructor, and relentless. No flags at 4, so I set up for the turn. Another one nearly perfect. I braked a little early, but the tires are not quite there yet, and I've seen 4 eat folks that brake too late. There’s no one in front of me. No flags or warnings.

I roll into five and six like I learned, pushing hard and braking down to take the subtle left-left combination. There is a jolt, and a puff of white in my rear view at track out in six, as I drop a tire off into the dirt. For the last time, I think about backing off and driving like I need to go to work on Monday, but the blue car is roaring now, tires like superglue, and I nail the throttle all the way down and upshift to fourth at redline. In the straight, I open up distance on John and then I'm at seven.

Seven was my favorite turn early on, but it's a deceptive bitch now. A very good driver in a race spec car ran off there earlier today at around 115 mph. It's the second fastest turn on the course. As I enter the turn, I'm going 110, on my street suspension and used Victoracers.

I tap the brakes to set up and turn in, and time slows down to give me the best seat in the house. I can see everything: Setting sunlight on the leaves on the trees at the side of the track, John in my rear view, back a good way, the french-cut manicure job of the corner worker, her hand empty of flags for now, the HUD showing 105 MPH. I relax into the harness, as I'm committed. If I back off now, I'll spin and get a lot closer to the trees. Pointed at the apex, I roll into the throttle, to hold the blue car on the line, and it sticks! drifting, drifting, going to drop a wheel off, I can see, all in slow motion.

There's a small lurch when we hit track out, but the blue car and I are fast today, and we blast up the hill for eight leaving another puff of dust behind us. Backing off is forgotten, and we run hard for the braking zone in eight, because it's the weekend, and because this is what we were made for and it's going to be alright.

John didn't catch up. My front tires were down to the cords when I put into the pits and started to change the blue car back into a daily driver. I left a lot of rubber out on the track.

The best part about going back to the pits was knowing that we had been able to recognize the apex of the day and hit it dead on.


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