Monday, June 05, 2006


We went back to the old familiar Texas World Speedway this last weekend. This time, we ran it clockwise. I had never run in this direction before. It was an old friend with a new face.

It's faster. Much faster, in fact. I ran it fast enough to move up to the "red" run group, which is the top end. The only group above red is the instructors. The reason it's faster is that you can start the front straight right after turn 3, when the track takes a sweeping right turn ending with you climbing up the bank and onto the straight. I was pulling so much lateral G that it was hard to upshift to 4th (I was pinned up against the door and the left side of my harness).

Driving in red is interesting. The cars are more likely to be race cars. Mostly, the drivers have years of experience. I think I'm the second-least experienced one of the bunch, with 18 months of this under my hat. There's more horsepower here, and the drivers know how to use it.

I feel sure I can run with this crowd. They are dead predictable, highly competitive and very, very focussed. The group is also smaller. That means alot more track between drivers, which is safer and allows faster laps. I really like it.

I was passed by almost everyone, my first time out in red. I had David Scott in the car with me, to see if I was good enough. I decided to prove to him that I had enough situational awareness, rather than enough speed. That proved to be the right call. I was able to prove that I was comfortable in traffic and that I was in control of the car.

Once clear of the qualifying run, I was free to get faster. I was able to pass quite a few cars, and got passed by the better drivers, as it should be. I was able to run down a viper or two as well as my friend in his cammed and modded C6. He's got 100 more HP than me, at least. I was able to catch him by being smoother. I caught sight of him near the carousel and determined that I was not going to pull ahead of him on the back straight. The HP difference was simply too great. I decided to drive as smooth as I could, and presto, by the time we got to the 3-2 straight, I got the point by. That left me with a problem, as the main straight was coming up. He's WAY faster on the straight, and sure enough, as we blasted down the front, he was so close I wasn't seeing his headlights. I felt sorry to slow him up, to tell the truth. Fortunatly, we were checkered flag after that last lap, so we cooled the cars off and were able to head pitward.

The vipers were more interesting. It does no good to catch them late in the back course because on the front straight, they'll use those extra two cylinders to run by you again. You have to somehow get close to them in the early back course, and pass them on one of the back straights then open up enough distance on them so that by the time you hit the front straight they can't catch up. This is a very fun game. If you see a viper getting loose on the corners, it's a vulnerable viper, I'm finding. Well driven, it's hard to touch them, but they are VERY unforgiving of even small mistakes.

My friends did well. My wife, running in green group, was cleaner and faster than she's ever been. I am very proud of her. The one thing marring her weekend was that she did not move into the next group.

I'm not exactly sure why that was, but I think it was a bad instructor. Perhaps she will get a better one next time. She was very bummed.

One serious wreck, wherein a Miata hit a tire barrier. The instructor was hurt, but came back. The student was, it seems, unteachable. One very experienced driver went off when a suspension member failed in his front end. He was unhurt, and the car can be fixed. We also had a mustang catch fire (the rear seat) because the exhaust was hot enough to ignite it through the floorboard! No injuries from that either, save the rear seat of the mustang.

The lesson learned this weekend was about cadence. With fewer cars on the track, I was free to get into a rythm that just got faster and faster. It's a great deal like when you're dancing and the tempo of the music increases. As long as you get the steps, you can keep going faster and faster. Each turn is a step, and you just keep picking it up a little with each lap around the dance floor.

Mechanically, it was a great deal harder on the car. I got a high transmission temp warning for the first time. Oil temps were around 260 with the new cooler, which was acceptable. Coolant was around 250, which is hot. Need to flush that and replace with plain old water. The brake pads are about gone too, but I have spares. I have heard that to cool the transmission you need to cool the differential. One of my next purchases may be a diff cooler. My rotors are also starting to crack in the front, though the cracks have not reached the edge yet. Have to keep an eye on that and get some spares for next track weekend.

Next event is in July, which will be hotter.


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