Hanging With The 1%ers

Sunday, July 10

Today was Ferrari of Denver’s customer appreciation track day. I’m not sure why they keep inviting me, as I haven’t spent any money there in about three years. But I’m very happy they continue to include me.

I was hoping to run on my slicks, but I couldn’t arrange transport for them. The day I registered for the event, I asked Ryan if he was going. Unfortunately, he did not get invited. In prior years, Ferrari of Denver had a trailer, so I asked them if they could take my wheels for me. Either they no longer have the trailer, or it was unavailable for this event. So, no shot to set a new personal best at HPR. And I really want to use up the slicks so I can get track tires that are street legal.

On the subject of tires, the street tires I’ve been using since I bought the car are no longer available. The fronts are still the Dunlops, but I recently put Kumhos on the rear. They’re the same treadwear rating (460) and have similar tread patterns. I figured they’d be a good match.

I think I figured wrong. I don’t think the tires like each other. On the interstates, where the surface is grooved, the car wants to change direction all the time. On the track, I found things very … unpredictable. In a straight line, it’s okay, but when changing directions, it’s darty. I’m thinking perhaps the Kumho sidewalls aren’t as strong. Maybe I can improve things by adding more pressure to the Kumhos.

Meanwhile, I’m still working on the transmission cable adjustment. When we put the new transmission in, third gear was an issue. I adjusted the cable and thought I had it fixed. I didn’t, so I adjusted it some more. It got better, but I don’t think I’m done with it. I discussed the symptoms and my attempts to fix it with FoD’s Lotus mechanic. In the end, he said that, if it’s a high-mileage car, I should replace the cables. I forget what number he used as high mileage, but it was quite a bit smaller than my actual mileage.

I understand the day was fully subscribed with eighty cars. I didn’t actually count them, but I know that not everybody who registered showed up. We had six Lotus: three Elises and three Evoras. One of the Evoras was Wayne, and one of the Elises says we’d met once before, and the others were new to me. I didn’t count the Ferraris, but there might have been thirty. And then there was a mish-mash of other marques: Porsche, Mercedes, Tesla, Audi, BMW. (See slideshow for a few examples, along with my guesses as to what each might be worth.)

I gave a ride to one of my new Elise friends in the morning. At the end of our lunch break, I stopped by to chat with Wayne. He introduced me to Dave, who owns a 458 Spider. He was the third Ferrari owner I asked about getting to drive a few laps in their cars, and the first to agree.

First, I gave him a ride. I’d been running in the experienced group, but for his ride, we ran in the novice group. I enjoyed the session. I got to pass quite a few Ferraris. It’s not fair, of course, as I’m no novice. Many of these folks have never driven really fast. I was really slow my first time. But what disappointed me was how many drivers missed things from the drivers’ meeting: pass only with a point-by, pass only on the straights – not in turns, don’t pass under braking, and don’t get out of the faster car’s way. There’s a fair amount of sensory overload when you’re new to driving on a track, so I get that some drivers will get overwhelmed. But these are all very accomplished individuals who really don’t want to bend their expensive toys.

I had people go off-line to point me by, I had a guy pass in a turn without a point-by, and a number of people got out of my way and pointed me by in a turn. A couple of times, cars came right up behind me, then got in my blind spot. I don’t need to be wondering where people are hiding. These things happened in the experienced group, too, but not as often.

Anywho, after I gave Dave a ride, we switched to his 458. He drove a few laps first. It has paddle shifters, but we had it in automatic. In this mode, you only use the paddles to select or deselect neutral (or reverse, presumably, but we needed reverse). It’s a seven-speed gearbox and it’s pretty impressive.

I told him I’d be okay if we left all the driver aids on, but he dismissed that idea right away. I don’t know how to work his car, but it looked to me like we were in “race” mode, whatever that is. Dave isn’t a particularly fast driver yet (I passed him once or twice in earlier sessions), but he was error-free and his car control wasn’t bad.

I was behind the wheel for only three laps. I didn’t push it at all, but with each lap I was quicker. I was always pretty easy on throttle and brakes. As with when I drove the McLaren, the lap timer doesn’t work well in my pocket, so I don’t know what my lap times were. I did hit over 130 on the highway straight. I only made the tires squeal once.

The Ferrari 458 Spider is a V-8 that pumps out 560hp, which is just short of three times what my car manages. The 458 is about three-quarters of a ton heavier. The brake discs are enormous and the big wheels have fairly sticky rubber on them. I think I could get the car going pretty quickly if you gave me a day with it. Oh, and in normal highway driving, it gets as many miles per gallon as mine does at the track.

We ran with the top on. I think the only thing the Ferrari has less of than my car is headroom. Yes, I never run with the top on, so I have unlimited headroom, but with the hardtop on, my helmet doesn’t touch the top. In the Ferrari, I had to keep my head in a restricted area.

It was a blast to drive. It was great of Dave to let me drive it.

The whole day was a blast. Many thanks to the fine folks at Ferrari of Denver for their hospitality. They had donuts, plenty of cold water and other beverages, and fed us a nice barbecue lunch.

For today’s video, I’m doing something I haven’t done yet: post an entire session. This is with Dave as my passenger. It’s the novice group, so we encounter lots of traffic. It’s only a handful of laps, none of which are fast. But there are a lot of cool cars in it, so there you go.