Monday, July 17, 2006

MSR Cresson @ 103 Degrees!

The defining thing about this weekend was the heat. My car was telling me it was 107F outside when we left the track in the afternoon. Now, that's a temp taken close to the asphalt, so is a bit high, so we'll go with the weather reported 103F.

I drank five liters of water on Saturday, six on Sunday (I was feeling a little bad Saturday night). One of those was gatorade. I've had bad results using just gatorade, because of all the sugar. One liter of it was about right, and gave me a late afternoon boost that was nice to have for the last session.

The grass was so dry that when I ran off, the heat from the exhaust started the grass on fire. I was still in the car for around five seconds as I took stock and read gauges to see if I could still move. Luckily, no damage was done, and I got back on track (though a bit subdued).

Lap times suffered because of the heat. There just was not as much grip out there as there normally is.

We also had several heat related mechanical issues. Twice, oil got onto the track. Once from a Ferrari, which laid a James Bond style slick all the way through three turns, and once from a Mustang that blew out an oil temp sensor. I ran through the slick from the Ferrari, and that was a weird feeling. One minute, I was fine. The next, the car was eight feet to the left. Luckily, I managed to save it before I ran off, and noted the slick. I was then able to drive another line to get away from it.

I spent Saturday in the yellow run group. I was perplexed by this, but was not motivated to ask about it, so I didn't. Yellow is a fun group. At the end of the day, I asked the Grid Marshall to arrange a check ride for red group for me. That's when they place an instructor in the car with you and you do your session for a "grade" of sorts. It's pass/fail. If you pass, they promote you to the next group. If you blow it, you stay where you are.
"Hey Dean! Can you set me up with a check ride for red?"
"Um, sure. Let me check my book... Didn't you run red with us at TWS?"
"Have you run this track in this direction before?"
"I trust you. Here's your sticker and wristband."
Quite a thing. Turns out it was a clerical mistake! So I got to run Sunday in red, which was an education.

Despite the heat, red was fast. I got passed by everyone in my first session, and in my second. I was pretty down about that. Third session, I got some speed back and put some turns together right and got back in my game. Not as many passed me.

I had two offs for the weekend. One was a pretty cool looking slide sideways into the grass when I overcooked a turn, and the other was when I was trying a different line into the esses. I had too much speed to make the turn, so I bailed out and ran straight off. I never stopped, but rather did a fast off-road around the corner worker station (much to the crew's amusement) and pitted to have the guys check the car for damage. No damage, and I went back out immediately.

In the last session, Dean asked me if I wanted to take a passenger. This is very rare, since normally only instructors take passengers. Turns out this girl is a club member (remember, MSR is a country club) and an event participant, driving her Mustang in the green group. She really wanted to ride in a Corvette. So I said 'sure'.

I took it easy for the first part of the session, but on the last two laps, I really nailed it. It didn't look as if my passenger was going to puke or anything, so I felt justified in showing her around 9/10ths. The track came together like a big puzzle. I must have knocked four or five seconds off my time. She left the car with a big grin, so I take it she had a good time.

When I took the car back to street trim, I found out the front tires had corded, so I'll need new ones for August. The brakes performed flawlessly, and oil temps never got over 275F. I'm happy with the Carbotech XP10 pads, though I think now I'm braking too hard and that's what's slowing me down.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Track Prep

Before I go to the track again, there's some work to do to the car. At 16 months in to the hobby, it's holding up well. Before next track day, I need to:
Bleed the brakes: Doing this on a Corvette is tricky, becuase of the ABS system. You need a special tool to get the ABS to release, or a pressure bleeder. I am opting for the latter approach because it's easier to do at the track. I wish there was some way to have high temp tolerant brakes that required less service, but there's just not.

Replace rotors: Not sure they need it, but they are cracking, and I have new pads to try out, so the fronts will get done. Going to do rear pads too, but leave the rotors alone. They look fine.

Brake Pads: Have Carbotech XP10 and XP8 for the back.

Check Diff Fluid: Got a trans high temp warning last time out, and have not noticed anything wrong, but best to check for burnt fluid in the trans and diff.

Tires: Tires look good for at least one day, so we'll leave them alone. There are all kinds of scrubs around Cresson, so I'll be in good shape if I need some Sunday.

Short list this time! This is a good example of a typical between-runs maintenance cycle.

Cresson: The track will be the 1.7 mile short track, run clockwise. This is the way I learned the track, but I'm rusty on it. In either direction, MSR Cresson is a busy track. There's no time to rest and stretch like there is at TWS. It's hard on the gears and engine, since there's lots of third gear work. The back section is especially fun this way around, since you come out of a two turn sequence into a short straight, then into a hard left. The track geometry forces you to be pointing in a weird direction, so it's an ideal place to really nail the brakes and swing the back end of the car around. Another good place to work on shifting is going into the "serpentine" (a set of esses at the top of a hill). Common sense says to downshift on the straight going into the turn leading to the esses, but it's faster to trail brake through that turn, then brake and downshift at the top of the hill. Not sure I can do that without spinning!