Sunday, October 22, 2006


Am just returned from TWS. It was a good event for the spouse and I, as she made her debut in the "blue" intermediate group and I managed to not run off track.

TWS is a nice track for many reasons, but one of them is the tunnel. To get into the track, you have to drive through a nine foot high tunnel under the old oval. The tunnel ends in the infield.

It's a threshold between the outside world and the world of the track that is sharper and more well-defined than at any other track in Texas, save perhaps TMS. It's easy to enter the tunnel and come out the other side subtly changed. You need not worry about very much in the track world, except apexes, mid-corner speed and safety rules. It's a wonderful demarcation.

A friend carried my tires again. This part of the hobby is becoming more of a burden. I hate to impose on my mates to carry part of the car, but at the moment I have few alternatives. Within the next two years, we'll most likely buy a tow vehicle and a trailer, but for now, I have the best friends in the world.

Met a couple more Austinites at the track, and we'll sign them up for the mailing list of track folks we maintain. Always good to have more people to talk cars with.

It was a bad weekend for Corvettes. Three had catastrophic failures: Two timing chains and one head gasket. The timing chains were both on C6 Z-06 cars, leading me to wonder how good that bit of the engine is. Both cars were heavily modified, so perhaps the chain is good, unless you hop up the car. We also lost another one to some kind of oiling problem, but I don't know the details. I'm reminded more and more why I chose to leave the engine stock on my car. It ran without complaint or problem in all eight sessions this weekend.

I spent much time playing with three cars: A modified Mustang, a Subaru STI and a crazy Porsche Turbo Carerra. The mustang and the Porsche ran away from me. I was puzzled by this a bit, since normally I can catch such cars. It turned out both were making over 500 HP, the Porsche by some margin. He claimed 640 at the wheels, with his mods. I felt a little vindicated knowing that I had been outpowered rather than outdriven. The Subaru was driven by a friend, and we are about the same speed and skill level. I've got a bit more HP, the STI has AWD. Makes for fun sessions where we pass one another only when one of us makes a mistake.

Spouse's blue debut went well for the most part, though she had one spot of trouble in an early session. One change made all the difference: Not pulling off line to let other cars pass.

When I went to my first HPDE, the instructors explained how passing works: When you see someone in your mirrors that is clearly faster than you, you point to one side or the other (with your arm out the window of your car) and let them know they can pass you on that side. In the beginner classes, you do not alter your "line" or trajectory through the course, but rather just decrease speed and let the faster car get around you how they may. In the more advanced classes, you are supposed to pull off line and allow the faster car to take the fastest line. Some instructors start teaching this earlier than others, and for a relatively new student this can be misleading. Driving fast on a roadcourse is all about rythm, and when you have to interruput that every few minutes to allow a pass, you never get it, which means you slow down, and more folks want to pass, etc. Once she quit allowing that sort of pass, she did quite well and I'm very proud of her.

So I was sitting in the pit and talking about the threshold thing:
"So, it's like when you come into the track here, because of the tunnel, it's like coming into a different world. Different rules, seperate value system..." I say
"Yeah" says my friend, the one who hauled my tires "I was making breakfast in the RV this morning, and I suddenly realized, that's not a poptart, that's a pastry!"

Argh. So much for my cool metaphor. Having friends that bring you perspective is priceless, I think, in track-land or the real world.


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