Monday, November 12, 2007

TWS November

The car ran fine at Cresson, so I decided to take it to TWS in November. Better yet, Sheri can go too! The Austin Spin Doctors were out in force for this one, with five or six of us in attendance.

I have made major suspension mods to the car. Since last time, I managed to find some heavy sway bars (more properly, anti-roll bars, but no one calls them that) and some Bilstein Sport shocks. The combination of these two things has really made the car corner well. It's on rails most of the time now, though I dread what it'll be like in the rain on street tires. We'll see!

John has also upgraded his car, in much the same way, though he's gone a step further and put coilover shocks on his car. He tried to slip that mod around me, but his mechanic talked, and so I was able to go to John for help with my own suspension mods, since he knew how to do it. Very good times. It took about a half a day to get the shocks and sways on, and was fun.

We're fast, fast now. John and I are in the second tier of the red run group, with only the massive horsepower guys and the dedicated race cars (and pro drivers) in front of us. It's a good feeling. Now, we need to start doing some data gathering. John has a pyrometer, and Sunday his kids and wife were able to take tire temps and pressures for us. That data will show us if our alignment is right. So far, so good.

On the track, Sheri is getting really fast. She was promoted to yellow group, despite the fact that she has an automatic and a convertible too. She was even able to show one of the instructors a new line through the carousel! He was unsure at first...
"Hey! Where are you going? This isn't the, wait... You don't lose any speed here do you? And it's a lot less track. Hmm. I'm going to try this line!"

That rocks.

Edgar lost a wheel bearing on the first run on Sunday. His right front wheel had almost an inch of play in it. We talked, and I offered to put his car on my trailer and get it back to Austin that way, rather than have him towed home. Faster and cheaper, though he did have to hang out the rest of the day with no car.

Time after time I found myself behind Tom, my friend with the 500 hp corvette. Tom is not his real name. He has so much horsepower that when I have almost half the front straight on him, he will catch me by the first turn at the end of the straight. The problem is, that's the only place he can catch me. However, Tom is notoriously bad about giving passing signals. This is not a big deal; what I generally do when I find myself behind him is pit. One pass through the hot pits, and I don't have to worry about him again, as we'll have enough of an interval that I won't catch him again.

Tom is hard to follow. He's a point and shoot driver, meaning when he wants to correct his direction, he brakes, turns and accelerates as many times as he needs to in a given turn. That means that he's sometimes braking twice or even three times in a given turn. Most folks brake once in a turn, then manage the throttle through the turn, controlling their line with that input. The second way is faster.

Also, when I'm catching Tom, I can hear him banging the rev limiter on his car. That means he's mashing the right pedal to the floor, and ignoring his shifts because he's not thinking about anything but the nose of my car getting larger in his mirror.

If I get close to Tom, there are two places I can get him to give me a passing signal, so in my last session, I followed him closely and he indeed gave me the pass between turns 12 and 13. So leading on to the front straight, I know that I will be holding him up. If I let him by me, I'll just catch him again in the first turn, so I'm not going to signal him to pass.

Per normal, Tom caught me around mid-straight. I didn't give him a passing signal, and he passed me anyway. That's a very bad thing, and somewhat dangerous. I'm far past pit in, so I can't just take a pass through there and let him go. He has also pissed me off.

Tom is outside of me going into turn 1, on my right. We're both going around 130. He's around two car lengths ahead. I like the low line into this turn, as it's less track to drive. Tom and I will be going through the exact same place on the track at the apex of this turn. He's in front, so he'll be going in first. However, if I can get on the throttle faster, I'll slingshot around him before the next turn. The bad part is that we'll be crossing lines twice: Once on the way in and once on the way out.

Like always it's like I'm in water, everything is slow and steady, and I have plenty of time. I brake down to turn in, and get back into the throttle, slowly. I feel the car wiggle for a split second then take a set into the turn, like it's on rails. I see Tom come across in front of me, around four feet ahead, but he's early into the apex. I'm on the gas and managing the throttle so as not to hit him. Even here, I have room to maneuver. There is no place he can go that I can't predict. I can see all the possibilities at once. Tom has to feather the throttle to avoid running out of track, so I'm able to hold the inside due to a later apex, and pass him. The corner worker in the turn is waving a passing flag, at Tom! They just legitimized my maneuver, so no black flag for me. Yay, drama.

In the next straight, Tom is looking a little pissed, but he charges the corner while I brake early and sail through. With each turn, I open the gap a little more. The next time we come onto the front straight, he's too far back to catch me, so there's no drama. He does come within two lengths though, so we're close as turn two corner workers white flag us. One lap to go.

As I roll through turn four, I note that Tom is really pushing. He was almost sideways in turn three, and is driving flat out. I can't hear his car behind me, but he's got to be at the top of his engine.

When I go onto the back straight, I look in my mirror and see a fireball. In the center of it is the front of Tom's car. Oh, my God, I'm thinking. He blew it up. Is he ok? Next corner station I pass is waving a red flag at me, which means pull off line and stop, now. I see all the emergency trucks head towards turn six where Tom is. Eventually, the corner worker tells me to go on and pit in. Since we're on the white flag lap, I just pit and shut down. I head over to where Tom is set up.

Tom blew his oiling system. The oil on the hot engine flashed instantly into flame. The back end of his car is fried, black and scorched. He comes over and shakes my hand.
"Well, it was fun while it lasted"
"Yeah" I say.
"Well, I needed a new motor anyway. See you next time?"
"Oh, yeah. Take it easy man." I say.

Unreal. I wasn't going to ask for an apology, since he would have given me one, and it would have meant nothing. So, best to part friends, I think. He's not a bad guy, just real intense.

As I'm leaving the track, I see Randy wearing a t-shirt that says "It's not a sport unless it can kill you" Heh. On that note, I fill up with fuel and leave the track for the real world once more.


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