Harris Hill Road

TDE @ H2R

Last weekend was TDE at H2R. My favorite track with more people than I could imagine. It’s a bit of culture shock to see that many cars parked around the pavement, on the grass, everywhere the cars can be put. And to see that many people in the clubhouse, on the grounds.

Thankfully, the TDE participants have a lot of respect for boundaries. They only came into the garage if they needed to. As a result, I used the garage almost as a sanctuary. I could go there and be away from the hustle and bustle, to have a familiar place that wasn’t busy. It was windy up on the porch, too, so few people came up there. I’d sit up there with Bo and Amber and whichever other H2R staff member was helping with the lights at the time and watch the cars go ’round the track. That was a fantastic way to experience the “busy” while managing to be somewhat isolated from it.

This was my first time to run in the red group with TDE, and I had an unfair advantage. Most of the TDE regulars have only occasionally been at H2R as TDE rarely runs there. They don’t know the track. I’ve been there so many times with my car in so many configurations and driving so many other cars. I’m very familiar with the track. I noticed many cars position themselves a bit behind me and just follow for a few laps. I figure they were learning the line from me, and I enjoyed that. I hope I was sufficiently consistent and accurate to be helpful.

I did manage to wear out my brakes in my first session on Saturday, but I knew that would happen. Bo and I swapped out the pads – he did the rears and I did the fronts – and all was well. In other mechanical issues that weekend, an S2000 had an oil seal problem and needed a tow back up to the garage so it could be fixed. I went with Bo (in the Audi) to go fetch the S2000 and learned a bit about towing and Bo’s expectations from the trip. A friend of mine also had a problem with his BMW that necessitated the car being towed home and repaired at a shop. Said friend has an SMG transmission in his BMW and isn’t very familiar with manuals. Still, I loaned him my Miata as, well, he needed a car. He seems to have figured out lightweight flywheel + racing clutch and is able to get around without stalling the car most of the time. He did say, though, that he refers to the process of entering the car as “folding.”

Overall I had an enjoyable weekend and I’m looking forward to going back to H2R next weekend.

By admin on 27 January 2010 | Track Time | A comment?
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Mother at the Track

Last Saturday my mother came out to the track.

Getting my mother to drive on track was something I’ve wanted for some time. She’s been daily driving my old ’94 Miata for some time. On one TejasMiata drive, I caught her sliding through a corner. Later, she complained at me that the back was sliding too much as she accelerated through a turn. Note, that wasn’t “sliding,” that was “sliding too much.” I figured Mom needed a closed course to play on. She refused to autocross because she was worried about slowing down everyone else. But when we became members at Harris Hill Road, I discovered something. This was the perfect place! On a slow day, she could have the track all to herself. There’d be no one else on track for her to worry about.

So on a particularly cold, particularly slow Saturday, I invited her out. She arrived, and we went out on track. I made the mistake of forgetting to give her a proper introduction-to-the-track speech – somehow, I thought she’d just know it! So once she was behind the wheel, explaining the line, looking ahead, etc. was challenging for both of us. Additionally, I had lost my confidence in my mother and left my car’s traction control on (she was in my car, rather than hers, as hers lacks a roll bar).  My mother had a hard time understanding that we wanted the cornering and inputs to be smooth. She enjoys the forces and instability of throwing the car around a corner. While I agree that’s fun, I want her to get the basics of proper track driving, to understand why “the line” is what the line is, so that she’ll be able to make informed decisions about how and when to toss the car.

Eventually I came to my senses and turned off traction control. While that seems risky, the entire reason I wanted my mother on the track was because of her great car control skills! As soon as the car started responding to her as a car should (rather than as traction control would), her driving improved.  By this point in time, she was understanding why turn in, apex, and track out points are where they are. She tracked out beautifully coming out of corner 4… Except that left her in exactly the wrong place for corner 5! So while she came to understand “the line” as it applies to a single corner, she wasn’t yet able to string corners together. She complained that she couldn’t see corner 5 while in corner 4, and she kept forgetting it was there!

Mom said she had a great time, and she asked me to give her a track map with the braking points and turn-in, apex, and track-out points. We’ll see if she makes it out again!

By equiraptor on 15 January 2010 | MX-5, Track Time | A comment?
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Another Day at the Track

Sunday David and I drove out to Harris Hill Road yet again. I had two main goals for this trip. I wanted to practice my 2/3 line and work on my car setup with my ridiculous 400 treadwear rating street tires. It didn’t take many laps for me to grow accustomed to the tighter entry into 2/3, which was probably a good thing, as it didn’t take many laps for those crappy tires to overheat. I softened the back shocks a few more clicks, just to further reduce the car’s sensitivity with the greasy feel of the too-hot tires. However, I learned that these tires have two stages of “too hot.” In the first stage, things get greasy and grip drops significantly. This is… tolerable. It’s annoying to have the lowered grip, but certainly easy to adjust to. But it’s clear the tires are not designed for this kind of treatment. Just a few laps into the greasy feel, things worsen. The tires become unpredictable. In one corner, I’ll have some grip. In another corner, I’ll have no front grip at all. Yet another time, the back of the car will just do its own thing, and it takes everything I can do to make sure the car stays pointed basically the right direction.

I had two offs on Sunday. One was two wheels off. The car just couldn’t hold the line and drifted out just a bit too far. The front tires just did not have grip. With just two tires off, I easily brought the car back on in an appropriate spot, no damage done. The other time, I was going through a rather fast kink and yet again, the front tires just didn’t want to do a thing. I had no control over the direction I was going, so I just braked hard, scrubbing as much speed as I could before I hit dirt. The car hit the dirt fairly slowly and pointed forward, I was alone on track so I came back on, and I checked out the car. Yet again, no damage done.

I also learned that a few slow laps is not enough to get these tires to cool down. After two gentle laps, they were just as unpredictable as they were immediately after four hot laps. These tires did decently enough on a wet surface, but give them a dry track and they just overheat. I need to get some good track tires on my 16″ wheels.

David had brought out the GT3 RS. We went out together, with me behind the wheel, to show him some of the new lines I was trying. I got in a few fun laps and then gave the reins back to David. Later in the afternoon, after giving up on my tires, I asked for another chance. David let me out there on my own.

I was completely alone. It was GT3 RS, 1.8 miles of track, and me.

I could have stayed out there until the tank was dry (and almost did). Having David in the car calms me down a bit. I’m less aggressive. When I was alone out there, without even another car for distraction, I could really play. I played with a few different lines and a few different shift points. I played with the car’s rotation. I played with the brakes. And I learned a few things. I learned that the car wants to be downshifted in the hairpin, not because it needs the torque to pull it out of the corner, but because it needs the engine drag to rotate it at the beginning. With some good engine drag from high revs in second gear, the car rotates easily and at a relatively high speed. Rolling on the throttle gently straightens the car back out and plants the back tires. I can reach full throttle early and hold it. The shift to third is made with some lateral load on the car, but even so, it was easy to make it smooth. With the power of the GT3′s engine, it surged through 3rd gear quickly, and I was back up to 8,000 rpm before braking down for corner 1.

The GT3 RS is an amazingly capable car. I’m eager for more track time in it, and I’m eager to see David build his confidence and use more and more of that car’s abilities. We have another track weekend coming up soon, at TWS, and I’m eager to hear the speeds David can reach on the big straight.

By equiraptor on 22 September 2009 | Track Time | A comment?
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