Friday, November 17, 2006

Cresson, November 11-12

Went to drive the 3.1 course at MSR Cresson over last weekend. It's a longer track than any in this part of the state, and looks as if it came from a napkin drawing in some ways. The layout can be found here.

I got in late, and elected to not go to the track after dark. It's a long drive from Austin to Cresson, and I wanted a good night's sleep before a full track day Saturday.

It was COLD Saturday! Tires, brakes and driver were all a little cold. It took three full laps to get the tires up to temp, and honestly the first session felt like ice skating the whole way. We started to see some epic spins and off-track excursions. I nearly lost it twice in turns that are normally quite nice.

Second session was better, as the day warmed up. Saw lots of friends and made a couple of new ones. PST automotive continues to provide excellent track support to all of us as we flog the cars about. Fast and curteous, they get my vote for best mechanical support group this year.

Above all, I relaxed. This was a weekend all about taking it easy and driving, and not thinking about too much else. The experience is so intense and the focus required to be good at it is so tight that you forget the job and the chores and are really able to relax. At the same time, getting too wrought up about how fast you go is a trap. For example...

One of my friends spun out seven times on Saturday. That's a very high number, even for a group that doesn't penalize spins. I asked him about what was going on, and he finally admitted that he was trying to catch people. Oddly, the harder one tries to do that, the more one tends to mess up. He was driving at 11/10s of what he could do (and what the car could do). Once he backed off, on Sunday, he got much faster. So you have to concentrate hard, but on the right stuff, or it doesn't work.

I was chasing around a silver corvette C5 on Saturday. Or rather, I followed him until his tires were warmed up, and then he left me behind like Carl Lewis would leave Danny DeVito in a footrace. Sunday, I was determined to relax and just flow along and sure enough in one of the sessions, I lined up near the silver vette (by chance; I generally just pull into the grid whereever). I caught him eventually, though it was many laps of small gains as neither of us were making many mistakes, but when it was natural to do so, he pulled over and let me go on around.

I found out later on that the guy is a highly skilled autocrosser. His buddy told me he was nationally ranked, but I have no idea where. It was nice to share the track with a good, fast, curteous driver and going around with the silver C5 was the best part of the weekend. I'll have to catch up to him next time I see him and let him know he's a bloody fast driver.

I let a few folks around myself, as the advanced groups were very fast this weekend. There was my friend the 640 HP porsche again, and the green mustang. The 'Stang is interesting. 308 HP at the wheels, and heavy with a full roll cage it out-turns most of the rest of the cars on the track. The suspension is NICE. I learned alot from how it was set up, and got some ideas for how to set up my own when the time comes.

I talked to Dean, the Grid Marshall for TDE a bit about working on cars. I told him that the less I fiddled with my car the more I liked it. He allowed as how the first step to winning races was to make sure you could start one. Plenty of cars are over-tinkered, and thus at best inconsistent and at worst non-starters. Moral: Find what you like, and stick with it.