August 28, 2014
I wake up before six and am out the door by a quarter after. Fuel up and drive the eight miles to track.
I’m running the first day of a two day event put on by Hooked On Driving. At first I thought it was a bit on the expensive side, nearly twice what I normally pay for a track day. But if I had never done a track day before, this would be a good way to start. These guys are quite organized. When I check in I receive a packet with name tag, schedule, track map, and group sticker for the car. I’m in group B, intermediate. There’s the usual drivers meeting before we start, then each run group has a meeting of their own. Also, we have a “download” meeting after each session. I found this very helpful, particularly as this would be my only day on this track and it enabled me to make the most of it.
There was no tech inspection. I submitted a tech form which amounted to my signature and I think that’s all HOD wants for the season. They did inspect my helmet and apply a fancy sticker They have an air compressor set up for the general use, which I found very handy. They also have enough water and Gatorade for everybody to remain well hydrated.
One of HOD’s sponsors is Chevy. They had a Corvette Z-51 there available for test drives. I got mine scheduled for late in the day. Group A drivers could only ride but all other groups had their choice of riding or driving. I rode, thinking it would be a faster ride with one of their “coaches” behind the wheel. Unfortunately, he said he had to keep it under 5000 rpm and in sport mode. That meant traction control was on. He could mash the gas in the turn and nothing would happen until the car got through the turn. It wasn’t as fast as I hoped. I should have guessed, as I had passed it a couple of times during the day.
We ran five sessions, four of 20 minutes, one of 25. I forgot to turn on the camera for one session. I was consistently improving throughout the day. I improved my time on nearly every lap, except when I caught traffic or pointed someone by.
Weather was overcast in the morning, and cool. The overcast broke into scattered clouds by lunch time. I ran topless the afternoon two sessions. With the top off, I experienced quite a bit of turbulence. At my usual elevation, I haven’t gotten the car over 114. Here at sea level I was able to hit 120 (which is the fastest I’ve managed to get the car to go since I bought it). That got my head bouncing around quite a bit.
They put me in B group because I told them I’ve done a couple dozen track days. I noticed the group A guys were getting coaches to write comments in a log book. I’ve never had to do that. The B group was mostly Porsches. Also in the group: an Audi TT, an Ariel Atom, a WRX, a Miata, a Mini. The TT and I were running very similar times. One session I pointed him by early, a few laps later he pointed me by.
I really like the track. I found it very challenging. It is draped along a ridge with the paddock at the base. That makes it a poor track for spectators – just the long straight and the corkscrew turn that leads to it visible. It has apexes on crests, blind apexes, off camber turns, dips and swales, turns of every speed and radius. Facilities were meager. The paddock is paved but small compared to HPR. No gas on the premises, but available only 10 minutes away.
Today’s video has really bad sound for some reason: all wind noise. The engine is only sometimes audible. Very disappointing. I’ll put a highlight reel together, but I’ll have to put music over it. I’m still putting the video together – it will be a few days before I manage to get it posted.
I have a reservation at the Marriott a couple miles from Portland International Raceway. The drive from Shelton is Interstate all the way, but fairly scenic. I arrived at the hotel right at dark. There was a nice classic Jag parked by the door on a battery tender. It was moved into a nice reserved spot in the garage by the time I made my second trip to the car. Although I didn’t figure it out at the time, it was obviously there for the All British Field Meet (the day after my PIR track day).