August 29, 2014
I was awake before the alarm and out the door by 6:15. I couldn’t find the day’s schedule on the web and I didn’t want to be late. I had no idea if food will be available at the track, so after fueling up I grabbed a breakfast sandwich at BK and navigated to the track. I was quite early. I got signed in and had my choice of parking spots. After unloading all my gear I got my helmet stickered and walked the paddock. People were arriving at a steady rate. I took a few pictures, chatted with a few folks.
My neighbor in the silver else was Jon. On the other side we had two Exiges. I think there were 3 Europas. A number of nice Lotuses were in the paddock just hanging out, including an Elan and a nice JPS Esprit. A very pretty yellow Esprit was there to run. Looked very like an X180 to me, but I don’t know my Esprits.He was parked next to the yellow Elise running in my group. There was also an LRG Elise, Pat, who kindly brought a can of gas for me should I need it. And there were two Europas in my group, both of them faster than me. A very nice Cortina ran, as well as a BMW 2002 parked in the Lotus parking area.
The schedule was kind of hectic. We got three morning sessions, but they were only fifteen minutes each. They ran us in four groups – intermediate, advanced, open wheel race cars, race cars. Intermediate was first up and I was running late. I fail to get the OBD-II dongle and the camera on the car.
These short morning sessions are 5, 6, and 5 hot laps plus in and out. The track is only two miles, so each lap is pretty quick, especially as I hit 110 twice a lap. In the first session I couldn’t find an apex and didn’t pass anybody. I may not have been the slowest car on the track, but every other car I saw passed me. For the third session I found a volunteer to ride with me a few laps to give me pointers. His first pointer came when I drove off at turn 6: “You need to brake for turn 6.” That got me my first black flag.
My tires were not at all suitable for the track. I had no traction issues at the Ridge but here I felt like I was on ice. Everybody else was on decent tires. Going into the Festival turn, the other Elises were on the brakes at about the 400 foot marker while I was on the binders at more like 520.
After our third morning session Jon and I went to Safeway for food. We got unexpectedly stuck in traffic so the trip took nearly a half hour. He fueled up and we were back to the track with 15 minutes to chow before our next session. Afternoon sessions were longer: 11, 9, and 13 laps. I really struggled all morning but enjoyed the afternoon. I did not like the 15 minute sessions. Too much action in the paddock, too much hurrying, not enough track time. I never got into any kind of flow.
I took a passenger for the last session. It was delayed due to a communications problem: the land line was out. That’s a new one for me. We turned the cars off and sat in the hot pit until they got things squared away. Finally back on the track, my best lap was about a second and a half slower with the passenger but I felt like I was faster. I had a few nice laps where managed to go through a series of turns as fast as I could go, right on the edge of adhesion. And I enjoyed the feedback from my passenger when he took his helmet off – grinning from ear to ear.
I had no problems with traction at the Ridge, but I felt like I had no grip at PIR. The tires sang to me all day, I was on the ABS quite regularly, put 4 wheels off twice including the one with the instructor. I outbraked myself several times into the Festival curve but never ran it straight. I never ran it, but two cars did it one after the other in right front of me one lap.
The flagging was quite good; a lot of these guys (and gals) have been working there quite a while and worked Champ Car races. I was off twice, so got black flagged twice. A first for me was seeing the blue flag “mirror” flag. I got it a few times in the final turn, at the start of one of the two places I could point people by.
There were several other interesting cars there as well, including a GT-40 Mark II, and 2 2-Elevens (one of which was at the Ridge yesterday). Some of the cars in tomorrow’s show started showing up in the afternoon. And it wasn’t just at the track. After I left, when I was crossing the Columbia on I-5 I had a classic Jag behind me. We were both passed by a Cobra, who waved.
Many of the guys I talked to at the Ridge didn’t seem to like PIR. They felt it was too easy, primarily because there are no elevation changes. I can see how after running both tracks a few times the Ridge might be more appealing, but I found PIR every bit as challenging for a few reasons. At the Ridge we had classroom and debriefing sessions and I was able to run with a few cars that I more or less matched speed with. While I’d certainly have gone faster with better tires, traction was never an issue. At PIR I was fighting traction all day. Also, we had shorter sessions and I didn’t have anybody that was about the same speed to run with. The tracks are very different but I found them both quite rewarding.
Tomorrow I hike Mt. St. Helens, so it’s back to the north when I leave the track. The drive this evening is to Kelso, WA, a quick shot up the I-5. I’ve now run this road in both directions, my first repeated route. I arrived well before dark. After checking in to the motel I grabbed dinner at Shari’s. I like the stuffed hash browns.
After dinner I managed to fix my computer problems. A minor victory, but happy to have it sorted.