The Atlanta Saga – Part 5

April 10

Today is my day at Road Atlanta. How will this go?

I’m well past the last day refunds would be available, so even if I don’t get any track time, I may as well go. I should be able to run a few laps at least. But the fuse is one that controls the VVTI business. Would the fuse blow as soon as I hit the second cam? If that happens, I may as well park it. We shall see.

The organizers, Chin Track Days, wanted drivers to get signed in before 7:30 and to have the cars through tech inspection before the 7:40 drivers’ meeting. I planned to arrive at 7. The track has a gas station, so I didn’t fuel up on my way. This was a minor mistake. Premium unleaded is about four bucks a gallon in these parts, but at the track, it was six. I could have saved about twenty bucks. So it goes.

I got checked in and took the car through the tech line. They don’t actually inspect the car. All the tech line is for is to submit the paperwork and have a sticker applied to the windshield. It’s pretty quick. I found a place in the already full paddock, unloaded my stuff, and introduced myself to my neighbors, relating to them a short version of my fuse woes.

After the drivers’ meeting and a quick second meeting (broken down by run group), the first session on track was a yellow flag orientation session. No passing, and not at full speed, it allows folks like me who haven’t been there to get a sense of the place. Drivers in all groups were allowed. Even though it was standing yellow flags all the way around and no passing, people were moving at a pretty good clip. Still, I wasn’t exactly sure what gear to use for each corner or where my braking zones were. But it was a useful session. Until, eight laps in, the fuse blew again.

Luckily, it blew near the end of the lap, and I could easily and safely limp back to the pits and paddock. I pondered what sort of fun it would be if it were to blow just as I was getting on the track. I swapped in another fuse and went in search of anybody who might be able to help me. I was the only Lotus, so I figured my hopes were slim.

First, I met Angel. He has a trailer and tools and even a couple of cars for rent (not cheap; I didn’t even ask). Unfortunately, he didn’t have a multi-meter and wasn’t confident he could be of any help. He did say he’d likely charge me $50. The first thing he did was take the cover off the fuse box, which he promptly fumbled down into the engine bay. He managed to get it out after 20 minutes of struggle and when he was done he told me he wouldn’t charge me the fifty to retrieve it. I pocketed it to make sure it didn’t get lost. Naturally, I realized a couple of hours later that I had lost it. Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy.

Angel then directed me to another fellow, Kirt, who told me he used to build Exige race cars. He loaned me his multi-meter and gave me a list of things for Angel to check. This proved fruitless. I talked to Kirt again and he said he’d reach out to Dave Simkins, the chief Lotus tech in North America. Dave is in California, so we were dealing with a 3-hour time difference.

Not yet ready to risk another fuse, I skipped my first couple of sessions and wandered the paddock chatting with people. I met another gentleman who told me he used to work for Lotus of Atlanta. I said I’d likely see if they could fix it; he said I shouldn’t go there. He tracked me down later in the day to tell me that he, too, had reached out to Dave Simkins.

By the end of the day, even people I hadn’t talked to knew that I was having issues. To be fair, I wasn’t the only one. One Corvette was up on jacks all morning and half a dozen guys were taking the turbo apart on a Porsche. Just before they packed up and left, I recognized that one of them was Randy Pobst.

I had met Randy a few times at the RMVR Race Against Kids Cancer events over the years. He’s a really personable guy, always pleasant. I’m sure he doesn’t remember me, he meets people all the time, but he might remember my car. I approached him.

“Rocket Randy Pobst! How are you?”

I told him we’d met a few times at the RAKC events. We chatted for a few minutes. I gave him my usual line: “I’m the idiot who drives his Elise cross country for track events.” He responded with “You’re my hero!” and gave me a fist bump. Then he left with the guys working on the Porsche. They went to his place to see if they could get it cured.

I decided to run in my next session. After three laps, I saw a black flag. Each corner station was presenting the black flag, so I knew it wasn’t personal. Then I saw the Mustang parked on the track. These guys don’t fetch stricken cars without stopping the session. After a few minutes idling on pit lane, they green-flagged us and we went out again. I got another 4 laps in.

Shortly after that, Jayne and Dan showed up. We got Dan his passenger wristband (sign the waiver, pay $20) and I gave him a ride. I know that being a passenger isn’t the same as driving. I’m not a great passenger. Once, after a few laps as a rider, I started feeling queasy and was happy to get back to the paddock. So I understood fully when he gave me the signal that he’d had enough.

Dan then suggested that Jayne get a wristband for a ride. Unfortunately, just out of the pits, the fuse blew again. Right at the start of the lap, the worst possible time. I had to limp the 2.5 miles back to the pits. There weren’t very many cars left this late in the day, so it could have been a lot hairier. Still, crawling along the back straight with 4-way blinkers on, seeing the Porsches blast by with about a hundred-mile-an-hour speed differential was unsettling, to say the least. But I could see the corner stations flying a white flag (slow-moving vehicle on track) as I went by.

So that was the end of my day at the track.

A Lap

Here’s the obligatory video of a lap of the track. This is my first track day using the new 360 camera. By the time I put the data and rearview on, I’ve taken away the ability of the user to move the camera’s view and all that’s left is the “horizon lock” and picture stability. Maybe next time, I’ll take more advantage of the capabilities of the camera.