Emich Track Day

Sunday, April 10

The forecast was for a high in the low sixties with a chance of rain in late afternoon. They hit it pretty much spot on.

They limited the day to 120 entries and we had perhaps a few more than half in the experienced session.

We got started a bit late. Emich had a Z06 there to give people rides. Brand new, $95,000 price tag on the window. At the end of the first novice session one of the Emich guys put it into the wall between one and two. Deployed both airbags; they had to flatbed it off the track.

My fastest lap was in the first session, a 2:12.5. This is the first time I’ve gotten my fastest lap in the first session. I ran six sessions, sort of. One time I didn’t get on the track until the session was half over; another session was ended early due to an incident I’ll describe shortly. The tow truck was deployed two other times.

The track now has lights at every corner station; a nice upgrade. Usually they man about half the corner stations. There are several cameras that are monitored in race control, but with only half the stations manned, any yellow flag conditions might last three turns. With lights on all corners, there’s twice as much information available to us drivers. The same number of corners are manned, but they don’t use flags (except the meatball). Flashing yellow, steady yellow, red (stop), or “police lights”: flashing blue and red (exit the track).

I’ve often said that the race track is the safest place to drive your car. Everybody’s going the same direction, there are no potholes, nobody’s on their phone, all the cars are in good working order, and people wave flags at you if something unexpected has happened in front of you.

I’m going to have to add a condition to that: it’s a club day rather than open lapping. Unfortunately, as has been all too obvious these last two track days, there are people who can’t be relied upon to pay attention and to follow the few simple rules.

There was a white BMW with a giant black wing. A race car. He was fast; a few seconds a lap faster than me. He came up behind me in turn two. When I went to apex turn three I glanced in the mirror to find him missing. He was passing me, taking my apex. If I’d have stayed on my line, his left front would have hit my right rear.

Multiple times in the drivers meeting it was stressed that the slower car stays on the racing line. It’s the responsibility of the overtaking car to go around the slower car. This jackhole in the BMW, running at least twice my horsepower, couldn’t wait three seconds to pass me on the straight.

Back in the paddock I went looking for him. He was clear across the paddock from me. I asked several drivers if they knew where the white BMW with the giant black wing was. More than one said he’d passed them unexpectedly in turns. When I found him I was still pretty pissed. My cutting wit sometimes gets me in trouble, but today words failed me. I was unable to articulate exactly what he did wrong.

I just kept telling him to watch where he’s going and to think about what he was doing. I’m sure he still thinks he did nothing wrong because I failed to be articulate. He said “I thought you saw me” and “no hard feelings.” Yes, I saw him. Just because I’m paying attention doesn’t mean he can have my line. And, yes, there are hard feelings. I reported him to the assistant track manager and told other drivers to keep an eye out for him. Later, one guy told me the idiot passed him in turn three, same place he did it to me.

Now the story of the shortened afternoon session. I was running in proximity to a Subaru, blue and black with gold wheels. I passed him early on, but the next lap he seemed to be faster than me. He was clearly faster on the straights. I didn’t want to hold him up, so I waved him by. As soon as he got around me, my windshield took a light misting of fluid from his car. It was just that one shot, just as he passed me. I didn’t follow him too closely.

After another lap it was obvious I was quicker. I figured I’d get in his mirrors enough to get him to let me by on one of the straights. Coming out of the corkscrew he blew a big cloud of blue smoke out and jerked to the left. I stayed well right and went through another shower of fluid much heavier than before. He went in an arc across the track exit, spinning, kicking up clouds of dust and dumping a wide swath of oil across both the track and the pit lane. The police lights were on by the time I got to turn 3.


Broncos Victory Parade

Tuesday, February 9

It’s a bit odd, as a fan, to say “we won the Super Bowl!” Of course, as fans we contributed very little. We didn’t go to any games; the team couldn’t hear us cheering them on. But we were carried along with the team on their emotional roller coaster: happy when the team won, not so happy when they didn’t.

Timing is everything. My gig in San Francisco ended just as the city was getting ready for the big party. I was gone before they had everything set up at the end of Market Street. Being there for the preparations was a bit of a vicarious thrill. Okay, thrill overstates it a bit. But I did have a sense of being included in something big. Being there before the game, watching them put up the giant Lombardi Trophy on the building across the street, got me more excited for the game.

Every winning team gets a big parade when they get back home. When the Broncos won their first Super Bowl we were in Phoenix so we missed out on everything. They say 650,000 fans turned out for the parade after Super Bowl XXXII and half a million came out for the one the next year. For this year’s parade, they were expecting similar sized crowds. Genae and I decided we’d join in the fun.

I’m not a huge fan of large crowds. As large crowds go, Broncos games themselves aren’t bad. For most of the people at any given game it’s not their first time there. They know where to park, how to get in and out of the stadium. Things are pretty orderly. Concert crowds generally aren’t as good. Ingress and egress are often in the dark, more people have navigational problems.

A parade crowd of half a million people is the equivalent of four Broncos games and ten arena concerts at the same time. The largest mass of people would be in Civic Center Park. A bus to Union Station was our best option. There was no possible chance of parking anywhere near downtown, and we don’t have a convenient train. We felt our best strategy was to walk to the Park N Ride, take the Flatirons Flyer to Union Station, and stay as close to there as possible.

The weather couldn’t have been better – bright and sunny, not a cloud in the sky, calm. We left the house earlier than our original plan, which turned out to be a good decision. There were about a hundred people lined up there before us. The Flatiron Flyer runs about every fifteen minutes.

The first FF1 arrived a couple of minutes late and took on only about a dozen passengers; standing room only. It’s a nice bus, a coach. The driver closes the door, tells the guy still on the stairs to move behind the yellow line. Everything in order, he starts to pull away from the curb. Unfortunately, an alarm is sounding: beep, beep, beep. He stops, opens the doors, closes the doors, tries again. Beep, beep, beep. Pushes some buttons. Gets on the phone. No, not a cell phone: a handset like from an old pay phone. The pear-shaped driver gets out, opens a couple of access doors, fiddles with this and that. Gets back in. Beep beep, beep.

Before long a supervisor showed up and the bus was quickly on its way. By now, some people had given up on waiting. Others ventured on to local buses to get down to Colfax. Through attrition, we’d moved up and were perhaps sixtieth in line. At a dozen per bus, we’d be here quite a while. We discussed our options. Maybe Michael could take us down and drop us off. We could get an Uber – one was seven minutes away. Or we could wait.

We waited, and our patience paid off. The supervisor announced that he had four empty buses on their way here. The next bus was, indeed, empty. When we boarded, the driver kept his hand over the money slot. We’re getting a free ride – that saves us nine bucks. A nice coach, appointed almost like an airliner: overhead bins, cloth seats, fan and light (but no tray). We were underway without any drama, fifty-six people dressed up in orange and blue.

Genae likes the navigator app on her phone almost as much as she likes checking the weather radar when it’s stormy. She shows me the map: a red spider-web. Everything going downtown is congested. Even so, it didn’t take too long to get to Union Station. I had never been there before. They recently finished the big underground bus station, but it was all new to me.

This is a bigger bus station than I expected, a concourse with at least ten gates on each side. We follow the crowd up the escalator and out onto the plaza. Amtrack and light rail lines terminate here from the north. The crowd flows south toward 16th Street. Normally, you can catch the Mall Ride here but today the Mall Ride is out of service. All their buses are lined up two by two, filling the concrete apron.

People are pushing strollers, pulling wagons, carrying children. The flow of people, a moment ago organized and directed in the bus station, like blood pulsing in a vein, is now more random. We went to the front of Union Station. People were lined up ten deep here so we went back to 16th and down a couple blocks to Larimer. Here it was only about six deep. We weren’t going to find anything better anywhere else.

We were in the second rank on the sidewalk, with three or four more between the curb and the barricade. The people in front of us had kids; the father wearing the daughter’s tiara on his baseball cap. There were strollers parked along the curb, and there were a lot of kids. There’s a stream of people behind us.

A guy comes up from behind me, says “Excuse me”, wanting me to move out of his way so he can get to the front. I ask him where he wants me to go and he has no answer. I turn my back on him. A few moment later he shoves me then steps in front of me. He now sees the strollers and kids blocking his way.

I said, “I know how you can get in the front row. Get here early.” He gives me a blank stare. “Oh, that’s right. You didn’t get here early. Too late for you.”

No more blank stare. “I’ll kick your ass!”

I chuckled. “Really? You’re going to kick my ass in front of all these people?”

“You could have just gotten out of my way.”

You could have just not been a dick.

Undeterred, he worked his way to the front. The guy next to me, not tiara guy, is with his wife and young daughter. “Good thing for him my daughter is here.”

Every now and then, a couple of police motorcycles would pass slowly, lights flashing. The crowd would get excited then realize it was nothing. There was something going on across 17th from us. A few minutes later some paramedics wheeled out a guy on a gurney. Finally, at about 12:15 we could see the first fire truck over the heads of the crowds. The parade was under way!

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How do you get the job cleaning up after Thunder?

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Engine 18 – Kubiak, Manning, Ware, Mrs B (with trophy), Miller

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The receivers

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How many people in this picture don’t have phones?

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Eng77ine – Karl Mecklenburg

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My Arvada tax dollars at work! We got a better deal than Littleton!

After the last truck went by, we spilled past the barricades. The general flow was to follow the parade. We swam upstream, back to Union Station in search of lunch. We stood in line for fifteen minutes at Acme Burger. After placing our order, Genae went off in search of a place to sit while I waited for the food. I waited so long she thought I’d wandered off. I kept thinking our order would be up soon, then I realized how many orders they had lined up. And more kept spilling off the printer.

It was easy to spot our order come up. We ordered onion rings, which turned out to be unique. After the rings, the cook put up a burger, told the guy assembling the orders what it was – “original, no onions, no sauce”. So that’s our rings and Genae’s burger. But the burger ends up in someone else’s order, and my buzzer hasn’t buzzed. Another burger gets put up: “Western burger.” That’s mine. My buzzer buzzes. They’ve messed up. My burger and our rings are in the bag with an order of fries.

I tell the clerk it’s wrong, he looks at the ticket, calls out “I need an original, no onions, no sauce.” The cook responds, “I already gave you one.” “Give me another.” So we get a bonus order of fries. It took us a half hour to get served. I heard quite a few people ask for their money back. But what can you expect when there are a half a million people nearby?

Back at the bus station we found ourselves queued up for the FF1 behind about a hundred and fifty people. We considered jumping to the end of the Longmont bus queue when they were boarding but we remained patient and were again rewarded. “I have two buses for FF1!” One was a regular local bus, the other was a coach. We got on the coach. Again they weren’t taking any fares. When we rolled out the driver announced that today was a free day until 8pm.

Watching the news reports, I couldn’t believe how many people showed up. Initial reports had the number at a million. Now they’re saying it’s more like 780,000. Either number is mind-boggling. There are only about five million people in the entire state.

What NOT to do

I finally got around to going through the in-car footage from the free track day at HPR a couple weeks ago.

I feel there’s an argument to be made that driving a car on a race track is the safest place you can do it. Nobody is on the phone or texting; everybody is going in the same direction; people wave colored flags at you if anything unexpected has happened in front of you; there’s no debris on the road; even if you go off the track there’s nothing to hit, and so on. Mind you, I’m talking about a track day, not a race. We all understand there’s nothing we’ll do during a track day that will make our cars more valuable and there are no F1 scouts looking for the next Lewis Hamilton.

Every track day I’ve participated in has begun with a drivers meeting. At each meeting we’re told the same things we’ve been told at all the other drivers meetings we’ve attended. “This is a yellow flag. When you see a yellow flag, slow down. No passing until the next manned corner station.”

Still, it seems some folks get on the track and get a bit too excited. These words appear to fall on deaf ears. When watching the video, keep in mind that the camera has quite a wide angle – the yellow flag is much more obvious in person than on the GoPro.

One of the drivers in the video is a student. I can only assume there is no instructor in the car, as I’d expect the instructor to notice the yellow flag. I understand that this car, this student, was involved in car to car contact during the session. I’ve never known of any contact at any other track day I’ve attended.

I see the case of the red Porsche as even less forgivable. The yellow flag has been out here for at least two laps. Did he not see the stricken Corvette two minutes earlier? Had he already forgotten? Even worse is that he passed me in that turn. The normal line is to begin way on the outside, then cut sharply to the apex. Had I not seen him, I’d have followed my line and we’d have occupied the same space. If I had any way to positively identify this guy, I’d make my case to track management that he is in need of remedial action. At every drivers meeting he’s attended, I’m sure, he’s been reminded that the car being passed gets to keep his line – it’s the responsibility of the passing driver to go around him.

San Francisco

I just finished an engagement that had me in San Francisco twelve weeks since last October. It was like visiting an old friend. My first consulting job, starting at the end of 2006, was there. Then, it was something like sixty four weeks over an eighteen month span.

22nd floor, Parc 55 Hotel

22nd floor, Parc 55 Hotel

When I returned back in October, my first impression was that the place had changed quite a bit. The structure of the place hadn’t changed, all the buildings and streets were familiar, but many of the restaurants – familiar haunts – were gone, replaced by strangers. After a couple of weeks, though, that sensation went away. Lori’s Diner and the burrito place were still there, just at different addresses.

2016-01-26 07.24.29sI stayed in various Union Square hotels both times. This time I worked in the financial district and last time was City Hall. Then, we ate lunch at dozens of little places in the Tenderloin, Little Saigon, and Hayes Valley. This time the client had catered lunches every day. I only went out to eat a handful of times and gained about a pound a week during my stay.

2015-12-16 19.01.41sBefore starting that first gig San Francisco eight years ago I would say I had a fairly limited experience when it comes to food. At the end of my first day of work my colleagues and I discussed where we’d eat: Thai or Indian, they asked. I’d never had either and was out of my comfort zone. Now I’m much more open to variety. I ate at some nice Thai, Indian, Chinese, Italian, and even American restaurants. I also managed to take in some live jazz a couple of nights and went to see the Golden State Warriors beat the Dallas Mavericks.

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California Street

Although I didn’t have to leave the office to get a good lunch, I tried to get out for a walk a couple of times a week. I did a little loop that took me through the southern end of Chinatown. From the office on Market, I went up Bush Street past Dragon’s Gate to Stockton. To the right, Stockton climbs steeply. I generally took Pine back down but sometimes strolled past the Ritz Carlton to California. Here you’re high enough to see Coit Tower to the north and one of the towers of the bay bridge to the east through the canyon of California Street.

It would have been nice to stay another week. The city is getting all dressed up for the Super Bowl. The Pro Football Hall of Fame has had exhibits on display in the airport the whole season. Although the game is something like fifty miles from downtown, this week they started hanging banners from the streetlights and placing interactive kiosks on the sidewalk of Market Street. “Enter a code, watch highlights of past games!” The kiosk in front of the office had three of the Broncos blow-out losses. No thanks, no need to watch those highlights!

2016-01-27 14.44.12sMy second or third week there I took the GoPro and tried to get some time lapse action. I got nothing worthwhile and never bothered to try again. I missed a fine opportunity this week when they spent a day and a half plastering a giant likeness of the Vince Lombardi trophy on the building across the street from my office.

I flew into SFO on eleven Mondays and a Tuesday. It was raining every one of those Monday mornings. It felt like it was about 52 degrees the whole time: day, night, sunshine, or rain.

There are homeless everywhere – more now, I think, than seven years ago. There are also quite a few street buskers. One fellow stood below our fourth floor window, day after day, and played is sitar through a little amplifier. He had a limited repertoire. We joked that somebody should go downstairs and give him twenty bucks to move a block down the street. I will admit that he was less annoying than the trumpet player we had outside City Hall. He was louder, not as good at his craft, and because it was summer at the time we had to have the windows open.

Although I never got together with any Golden Gate Lotus Club members, I did learn they’re going to have a few track days this year. One of those will be at Laguna Seca (near Monterey) on July 18. I’ve penciled that in on my calendar and we’ll see what sort of trip I can put together around it. Perhaps I can do some hiking in Yosemite along the way.

HPR Customer Appreciation Day

Today was HPR’s much postponed free day.

I have never seen so many cars on this track before. When I registered they said there were 122 online registrations. The final count was 179. To say there were a hundred Porsches there would be an exaggeration. But there might have been 79.

I was one of three Lotus. Zach and Margarite ran their Exige in the slow group. Sarah was there with her black Elise; it ran in the fast group with me, but I don’t think she was the driver.

I was one of the first ones there and I got a pretty good spot in the paddock. I was surrounded by BMWs. One was a 335, four wheel drive, wrapped in a satin blue, running on Blizzak tires. These weren’t stealth Blizzaks – he was sporting the half inch tall lettering on the sidewalls. I wasn’t the first to ask them if they brought other tires. It was two kids, not long out of high school. They ran two laps, twice.

I gave them both rides. The first kid was the friend of the one who owned the car. He was pretty excited. He told me it was his first day at the track. I was kind of slow getting to the grid and when I entered the track the engine still wasn’t warmed up. I took it real easy, on the lookout for snow or water alongside or on the track. Even so, I go four wheels off in the hairpin. With four off I need to stop at the black flag station. I didn’t even complete a lap.

Exiting the track, my rider is saying, “That was great, thanks!”. He thought that was the end of his ride. “We haven’t even had a fast lap yet.”

In the drivers meeting, Pettiford said there was water in turn 4. There appeared to be a fairly dry line through the turn, but it was very narrow. There was a coating of slick mud on the outside. By the fourth session, there was too much water to be any fun so I quit after a few laps.

There were way too many cars. Too many questionable passes. I was passed three times under yellow. One of those cars was involved in contact with another car during that session. I wasn’t the only one who went off – most cars were muddier than mine. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the track limit registrations to something like 120.

Blizzard Warning

Saturday, December 26

We drove to Phoenix for Christmas vacation. The weather was fine on our trip down, but it was a different story for the return. There was a blizzard warning for much of New Mexico – high winds and up to two feet of snow. Travel through the area was definitely not recommended. Our usual summer route takes us over Wolf Creek pass. I generally avoid Wolf Creek in the winter, as the ski area there gets more snow than any other in the state. And, looking at the forecast, Wolf Creek would be the only place in Colorado with a blizzard warning. This left us thinking the best route would be through Moab, up to I-70, over Vail pass and through the Eisenhower tunnel. The weather map had this route covered with a couple hundred miles of winter storm warning.

When the chain law is in effect, you are required to have either adequate snow tires (studded) or tire chains. We have all season radials and don’t own chains. If you get stuck on the road and obstruct travel when the chain law is in effect you face a significant fine. I found an auto parts store in Flagstaff that had chains in stock and a place for breakfast next door.

We were on the road by 5:30, in Flagstaff by 7:30. The moon was nearly full, and the pre-dawn was fairly bright. A few miles before reaching Flagstaff, a very light snow was falling from a cloudless sky. It wasn’t cloudless for long. By the time we got to Flag, it was near-blizzard conditions: cold, windy, snowing.

We didn’t dilly-dally – bought our chains, ate breakfast, fueled up, and hit the road. We headed north on US 89. There must have been other bad weather around the Grand Canyon as the electronic informational signs on the highway mentioned closed entrance roads. But a few miles north of Flagstaff, the skies cleared and the only snow in sight was already on the ground.

The wind continued to be fierce. Between Tuba City and Kayenta I started thinking I was playing some sort of hyper-realistic video game: dodge the tumbleweeds. At irregular intervals, tumbleweeds would blow onto the road. Sometimes they were coming straight at me. After a bend in the road they came diagonally across the road. Oncoming traffic increased the degree of difficulty.

In Kayenta we headed north on US 163 and into Monument Valley. It would have been nice to be able to take our time, pause here and there to enjoy the view, but every extra minute spent here added a minute after dark through the mountains on I-70. As it was, I didn’t have the good camera with us. All the pictures below were shot with a cell phone from a moving car.

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Monument Valley

As we headed north, the snow on the ground got deeper. While we were gassing up in Blanding, a number of folks pulled up to the air station to inflate their inner tubes. There must have been a fun place near by to go snow tubing. On the highway north of Blanding, the driving got a bit treacherous. The wind whipped the snow into sheets across the road. The plows were out, scraping and spreading gravel, but they were having a hard time keeping up. After about twenty miles of this, things cleared up.

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Wind whipped La Sal mountains

Although the roads were clear again, the wind was still ferocious.

We stopped in Moab for a quick lunch. From there, we took Utah 128 through the canyon alongside the Colorado River. When we were last here with LoCo it was in the neighborhood of 100 degrees. Then, the river was running quite high. Today it was closer to 10 degrees, but the river seemed still quite high; pale blue instead of the summers muddy brown.

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We took advantage of modern technology and kept checking the weather radar. The route ahead looked clear. It looked like we wouldn’t need our chains. Better safe than sorry.

I find the cliffs to the east of Grand Junction generally not that interesting, particularly compared to the terrain to the west, the Colorado Monument. But today they were stunning. From the looks of things, the snow was blowing from the northwest as it fell. The details of the terrain stood in stark contrast – white on one side, snow-free on the other.

Rifle was our last fuel stop, and we were in full darkness soon after. The forecast winter storm evidently didn’t materialize – roads were dry and snow free. The only snow on I-70 was the last few yards of road before entering the Eisenhower tunnel. I wondered what we’d see on the other side; often the weather can be radically different on one side of the Continental Divide than the other. Exiting the tunnel, instead of bad weather, we saw the no-longer full moon peaking over the mountains to the east.

Coming down Genesee mountain we could see the lights of Denver spread out in front of us. Almost home! About a mile and a half from the junction with C-470, we were stopped in our tracks. There was an accident and all three lanes were blocked. We were stuck there for an hour.

After having the pleasure of being able to take my time getting from Point A to Point B, being able to avoid interstate highways, it was a bit of a drag making this trip in a single day. But we didn’t want to take half our holiday break getting to and from. Sometimes you just have to grin and bear it.

It was a long day, but we’re happy to be home and sleeping in our own beds.

Emich at HPR

“I am the Stig!” At least that’s what I told Michael when I got home yesterday after spending the day at HPR. My head is so big now I have trouble getting it through the door.

The event was sponsored by Emich VW and was a bargain at eighty bucks for the full day. Having attended their spring day earlier this year I knew pretty much what to expect: the morning would be really crowded, and there would be loads of novices. But I couldn’t resist.

This was my first real run with the good tires. I’ve been using my street tires for the last few seasons. When I first started timing myself, I was putting in laps in the low 2:20’s. I had a set of used slicks that came with the car. The first time I drove on them (and the last full day), I improved my time from 2:22 to 2:14 and change. Gaining those eight seconds all at once was a bit of a shock. I recall describing the day as “scary fast”.

In the last few years, though, I’ve been learning the track and have quite a few hours under my belt. On the cheap street tires I’ve managed to match that “scary fast” time of 2:14 and change. I don’t think there’s eight seconds difference to be had with these tires, but it’s important to set goals. So my goal for the day was to take four seconds off my personal best. I hoped to log a 2:10 (and change).

I generally ask how many cars are entered but didn’t bother this time. It was a lot. They break us into two groups – fast and slow. Each session is a half hour, so each group would get three sessions in the morning and three more in the afternoon. In the spring, I ran in the slow group. In retrospect, I think I was on the cusp – one of the faster cars in the slow group, or one of the slower cars in the fast group. With the good tires I decided to play in the fast group. Worst case scenario, I’d switch to the slow group if I felt I was getting in everybody’s way.

The rules differed between the groups. The slow group was only allowed to pass in three or four places, and only with a point-by. If you catch up to somebody and he doesn’t wave you by, you don’t get to pass. The fast group played according to open lapping rules: pass wherever and whenever, with no point-by required. My only concern with the fast group was that a number of novices were included. A novice in a fast car might be fast, but he’ll still be a novice and may be unpredictable.

The slow group was out first. They started the day with a session of “follow the leader”. An instructor led several cars around the track, and at the end of each lap the car immediately behind the instructor would get out of line and rejoin at the back. Even with a handful of instructors, it took a while for everybody to follow right behind them. So the fast group’s first session got started late and was a bit abbreviated.

Both the first morning and afternoon sessions began with a couple of laps with yellow flags at all corner stations. So, a couple of laps to get everybody accustomed to the track. In that first morning session we only got five laps (plus out lap and in lap). Much to my chagrin, my fastest lap of that session was the very first, under yellow flags. And that turned out to be 2:28; quite a bit slower than I had hoped.

In the second session, Chad (running in the slow group) gave me a ride in his Mini, looking to get some tips. I’m not an instructor. I don’t feel qualified to tell anybody how to get around a track. And between the helmet, the engine noise, and my admittedly sub-par hearing, I find it difficult to communicate. So I figured the best policy would be to holler at him if he did anything blatantly wrong and save my constructive comments until we were out of the car. Hopefully, he found my free advice worth every penny he spent for it. With a little practice, I have no doubt he’ll see big improvements in his lap times.

After I rode with Chad, he rode with me, with the intent he’d see my racing line. The highlight was my repeated attempts to take turn 3 flat out. A couple times I got a bit sideways on the exit. On what turned out to be the in lap, I thought I’d finally do it, but ran a bit wide and dropped the left wheels off the pavement. When you get two wheels off, you’ll find those wheels have much less traction than the two still on pavement, so instead of being able to straighten it out and get back on track, you sort of get pulled farther off the track. So I put four wheels off at HPR for the first time in years.

In that second session, I came to realize that these tires would cause me to essentially re-learn the track. All my braking points were different and I was able to carry enough speed through some turns to cause me to adjust my entry to the next turn. Even so, I was pleased to have improved my personal best time to a 2:12.25. Woo hoo!

Quite a few folks only ran half days. More ran their half day in the morning, so as the day wore on, there were fewer and fewer cars on the track. In the afternoon sessions I was able to get long stretches without encountering any traffic. And the bulk of the traffic was cars I was catching, as opposed to being caught and passed.

In the crowded morning sessions, I often came up to folks who weren’t paying enough attention to their mirrors. One guy was particularly annoying. He was in a blue Corvette with a giant wing and a big ’99’ on each door. I easily caught him in the turns, to the point of essentially tailgating him from turn 10 all the way to the pit straight. There, instead of pulling over to let me by, he put his foot in it and opened a big gap. After the session, I wanted to suggest he check his mirrors more regularly but never did find where he was parked.

I attained my goal of a 2:10 and change in the third session. Sitting here doing the math I discover that the difference between a 2:14 and a 2:10 is a bit more than two miles per hour. Unless I’ve messed up the math, a car doing a 2:10 lap will gain almost four hundred fifteen feet on a car doing a 2:14.

The practical effect of doing a 2:10 is that, instead of being one of the slower cars in the fast group, I was one of the fastest cars. I’ll have to go to the video to verify, but I think the only time I got passed in the last two sessions was by Mike Pettiford, a driving instructor with 30 years experience driving highly prepared (not street legal) cars. Instead of getting eaten alive by Corvettes, I was doing the eating.

In the last session I managed to break the 2:10 barrier, recording a 2:09.83. The next lap I was going a fraction of a second faster until I caught a slower car.

So now I’m that big-headed guy who goes around saying “I am the Stig!”

I used the Fitbit again yesterday. It give some odd results, along with some results that make sense to me. Oddly, it credits me with steps when I’m driving. I first noticed this during the summer, when I’d get to the trailhead for a hike and find I’ve already logged a couple thousand steps. The sessions recorded yesterday don’t tell me how many steps it thinks I walked while driving the car, but it does say I managed to walk 1.5 miles in my last session. Aside from not actually walking, it makes sense to me. In that last session, my pulse exceeded 110 for 24 straight minutes. To do that on my morning walk, I need to keep up a pace of about 3.5 miles per hour. Twenty four minutes at that pace is 1.4 miles.

Let’s put it another way. The day was sunny, clear, and in the low 60’s. I ran with the top off and the windows down, so I was well ventilated. I wore my driving suit with just a t-shirt and briefs, plus gloves and helmet. By the time the session was over, I had worked up a good lather. In that first slow session, it was like driving to the grocery store. Running in traffic doing 2:16 or 2:18 wasn’t much more taxing. It seems to me it takes quite a bit of physical effort to shave those last few seconds off my lap time.

It’s been my belief for years that some of the fittest athletes in the world are race car drivers. I’ve discussed it many times with stick and ball sports fans but the general feeling is that drivers aren’t athletes. Because everybody has driven a car, and everybody knows it’s not much more strenuous than sitting on your couch watching football.

I know how much effort I expend driving my car at the track. I’m sitting here the next day with slightly sore muscles in my upper chest and arms. I have tender spots on my hips and spine from the seat. If I didn’t wear a knee pad on my left knee I’d have a giant bruise there. And my Fitbit tells me a fast session is an aerobic workout. All this driving a street car. I can only imagine what it takes to drive an F1 car for an hour and a half, where your longest rest is a 2.8 second pit stop.

I did manage to get video of most of the sessions. I didn’t bother with one of the morning sessions, and messed up with one of the afternoon ones, but I did get the final session and my best lap. I’m still dealing with the fallout of upgrading my phone. I didn’t realize until after the fact that I hadn’t synced up the OBD-II dongle so the only data I have is GPS data. And I’m working out of town this week so I won’t get to edit an upload a video for a while. So the three people who actually want to see another lapping video will have to wait a while.