Portland Trip: Day 9 – Oregon Raceway Park

August 31, 2014

I had a lazy start to the day, not being on any specific schedule. It’s only about a half hour drive to the track from Maupin. I ate breakfast at the Café and ordered a sack lunch to go. I was on the way to the track by 8. The route to Grass Valley took me down the Deschutes River access road and then on to OR 216.

IMG_6054sAt the track, they knew my name when I walked in the door. We had exchanged emails over recent weeks, so I was more or less expected. This being an ORP club day, I couldn’t run unless I bought a trial membership or somebody gave me a guest pass. I don’t know who gave me the guest pass, but it was much appreciated.

“We’re running counter clockwise this morning.” I thought I was somewhat prepared, having watched Travis’s videos online. He ran clockwise, though, so my preparation was all for naught. They offered to give me a ride in their Crown Vic for a couple of orientation laps, which was a big help. I also noted that they said they were running counter clockwise “this morning”, which implied to me that we might change directions after lunch.

IMG_6060sThere were only ten cars there – two Porsches, a BMW M3, a 1974 Pinto, two Acuras, an Audi TT, a Mustang Boss 302, a BRZ, and me. We could run as much or as little as we liked, there being no groups and no sessions. And with only ten of us there, I often felt like I had the track to myself.

I think the track designer is a sadist. The track is diabolical. It has over 400’ of elevation change and no straightaways. Every turn is either off camber, unsighted over a crest, or at the bottom of a dip. Two sections act as straights, but I never really figured them out completely. Their signature series of turns is called the Half Pipe.

IMG_6061sI managed to run three sessions in morning, counter clockwise. Just before lunch they surveyed everybody: “Continue counter clockwise, or switch?” I abstained. I would be happy to continue to learn the track in this direction, just as I’d be happy to start the learning curve all over and run clockwise. At lunch I learned we were switching. I managed three more sessions in the afternoon, clockwise.

I had a couple of minor technical glitches. My lap timer didn’t work first two afternoon sessions. When I start it, I have the option of selecting the track or letting it auto-detect. I’ve always selected it. My first two clockwise sessions it managed to fail to detect the start/finish line. For my third session let it auto-detect and it worked just fine. For my last session, I took the top off and put the camera in my favorite place. I had a fantastic time, felt like I was finally starting to figure out the track. When I got back to the paddock I saw that I neglected to turn the camera on. So it goes.

IMG_6063sThe track not as slick as PIR, but I was sideways through half the turns all day. I braked too late and missed apexes by a mile. I figured corner workers would be saying something like “that Lotus driver can hardly keep it on the track.” When I paid (here you pay at the end of the day, not the beginning) I asked what the corner workers were saying about me. They told me they enjoyed the show. That was a bit of an ego stroke, but a good driver would have figured out the track quicker and hit the apexes without drama. I had a blast, though, which is what counts most for me. I managed to run a 2:09 counter clockwise and a 2:08 clockwise.

They fed us lunch – chicken, pasta salad, watermelon, and a dessert treat – so I had my sack lunch for dinner. I headed back toward Maupin and pulled into a campground where a stream enters the Deschutes. The stream was carrying a lot of sediment from storms up river. The Deschutes was running clean and clear above the stream. I found it interesting that when the mocha colored stream entered the Deschutes, it turned the water green.

When I pulled into the parking area I drew a crowd. I answered questions about the car and we chatted about motorsports. They kindly invited me to sit with them while I ate. “Do you want a beer, or are you going to keep drinking that water?”

Returned to Maupin to have a beer with Mark. I said I was headed to the Best Western at Government Camp, but he insisted I stay here again. Who am I to argue?