La Junta, July 8

This year, CECA’s track day calendar features an event in La Junta. I’ve been wanting to go there for a while. I had considered attending a Porsche Club event there, but I never put much effort into making it happen. A CECA visit there makes it easy.

Scott wanted to go, too, so we caravanned on down. It takes about three and a quarter hours to get to La Junta from my place, so we left Friday afternoon and spent the night in a motel. You can either head south to Pueblo and take a left or head east to Limon and go south. I figured it was better to avoid Friday rush hour traffic on I-25, so we took the Limon route.

We caught up to a thundershower approaching Limon. When I drove through southeastern Colorado last month I passed through a bunch of small towns I’d only known from weather reports. Those reports generally involved hail or tornadoes. It occurred to me that there’s a small but real chance we’d find ourselves in such weather. My tires handled the rain easily, but Scott’s tires were more suited to the track, so we slowed down quite a bit.

We stopped for fuel and dinner in Limon. Without particular dinner plans, we took a target of opportunity: Oscar’s Bar and Grille was next door to the gas station, so we went there. The parking lot was pretty full, and the dining room and bar were packed. We found ourselves a seat at the end of the bar and got some menus.

The place was movie themed, as the name might suggest. They have an old 35mm movie projector by the hostess station when you come in, and movie posters adorned the walls. All the menu items were given the names of movies. The bacon cheeseburger is Grease. Halfway through our meal we got to watch a little scene as the bartender ejected a customer.

Dinner over, we headed back to the parking lot. There we met a father and son. “Are these your cars? We’ve been checking them out.” The father said, “I see you have GoPro mounts on your car.” I now have three of them glued on. One has been on for several years but this is the first time anybody has ever commented on them.

“I have them all over my truck. We’re storm chasers.” Amateurs, true, but storm chasers nonetheless. They’ve gotten as close as a hundred yards from twisters. He showed us pictures on his phone. “Here’s a tornado: see the striations in the funnel cloud? The debris flying through the air? This one was anti-cyclonic, fairly uncommon.” This is just another little example of how driving this car has affected me. I’d never have met these guys if I’d been driving the Chrysler.

Back on the road, a pretty sunset to our right, we headed south. The storm had continued its way to the east as we ate and our road was dry but for the occasional puddle. Lightning strobed the storm clouds to our southeast for the remainder of our trip.

We checked in to the Red Lion Hotel. It took us a while to track down somebody at the front desk. There was no doorbell, no bell on the desk. Eventually the clerk arrived. “The wifi password is written here. But the storm knocked out the internet.” Our room had no pictures on the wall, no mirror in the bathroom, none of the four lights above the beds worked, and there was a funny smell in the bathroom. Is it mold? Urine? Moldy urine?

In the morning we went in search of the track. My phone said it was just a half mile away. Even after Google Navigator has led me to believe it wanted me to dispose of my own body off a dirt road in Death Valley, I keep trusting its guidance. This time it led us to an automotive shop in a residential neighborhood. I knew as soon as we turned down the street that we weren’t in the right place. Scott got us on the right track, though, when he found something called “La Junya Raceway”. It looked to be adjacent to the airport, which confirmed for me that it was the right place.

I later learned from Alan, the track manager, why Google sent us to his shop. Google needs a mailing address. Evidently, they send a postcard to verify the address, and there’s no mail delivery to the track’s actual address so he used his shop’s address. I didn’t think to ask him about “La Junya”, though.

The registration email for the event indicated that entries for the day would be limited to forty cars. We fell far short of that with only fifteen cars by my count: a Miata, a Viper, a Camaro SS, a Mini, two recent Corvettes, a 2016 Challenger (Plum Crazy), a Corvair, a Porsche GT3, a recent Mustang and two classics, and three Lotus (me, Scott, and Ryan).

The track is built from some old airport assets – an apron and taxiways. As such, it’s flat with perhaps as much as five feet of elevation change. It’s also pretty short, at 1.2 miles. The track map indicates seven turns, but you could easily say turns 1 and 2 are really just one turn. They are all right-hand turns but one. In the drivers meeting, they characterized it as “easy to learn, difficult to master.”

I don’t know that I’d say it’s difficult to master, but it is more interesting than the track map might indicate. Turns one and two, as I said, are one big arc, with a transition from asphalt to concrete that is accompanied by a significant bump. The concrete isn’t exactly smooth, so the car is jittery under braking. Early on, I decided it might be possible for me to take the turn flat out, on the gas until the transition. I was able to do this several times, but typically found myself feathering the throttle.

I again failed to get fully successful in capturing video and data for the event. With the older GoPro, you can start recording immediately after turning it on. With the newer one, you have to wait several seconds before pressing the shutter. I was evidently impatient once as I missed getting a forward view for the second session. And, even though I retethered the OBDII dongle to the phone I again failed to get telemetry from the car.

Generally, CECA runs in three groups: green for novice, blue for intermediate, and red for advanced. I had signed up for blue (for people who have driven on a track, but not this specific track) but because there were so few cars switched to red. Also because there were so few cars, they combined the blue and green groups. With just the two run groups, we’d get something like a twenty minute session each hour. In the end, we got six sessions and everybody had had enough by three o’clock. The last session was just us three Lotus. I think other cars may have started the session, but it wasn’t long before I realized we were the only ones left.

I was prepared for the extra sessions – I brought extra gas. After lunch I went to pour it into the car but found the nozzle was malfunctioning. It’s one of those where you have to hook the end of the nozzle on the edge of the filler tube in the car and press down for the fuel to flow. The nozzle was stuck and every time I tipped the can up to pour, gas spilled all over the outside of the car. Scott let me use his gas can, so I poured his five gallons into my car then decanted my gas can back into his can. I managed to not spill much more gas.

The other notable event was when I blew my exhaust. After the fifth session, Ryan asked me if I thought my car was louder after the session than before. I said I didn’t think so. He said, “When I was behind you, you blew a big wad of packing out your tailpipe.” Reviewing the video, I can see that some packing is coming out the tailpipe in the first few sessions. Just a flash of white fiber every now and then. But in that fifth session, two big wads blew out. The camera is mounted very close to the exhaust and you can hear it happen. But it wasn’t audible to me inside the car, with my helmet on.

Luckily, I have the stock exhaust in the attic. I’ll put that back on while I research muffler repairs. I’m thinking I can get this one repacked cheaper than I can replace it. Michael will help me with the swap. Then I don’t need to feel under any deadlines to get it repaired. Let’s just say the budget was busted with the camshaft repair.

There are practically no facilities at the track. There’s a building with bathrooms and a classroom. There’s a small control tower and a flag tower at start/finish. Lunch is available from a concessionaire trailer. On the menu are “Magic Potatoes”. With a name like that, they must be good. And they were – baked, buttery, cut into chunks, with spices and a bit of bacon. They broke when stabbed with a fork, hot and delicious. Bill and Heike invited Ryan and I to sit in the control tower with them and enjoy the air conditioning. It was a capital idea, as the day was a bit warm and none of the picnic tables has shade.

I had a nice chat with Fred, who drove the Camaro SS. He has a number of track stickers on the side, mostly from around here but also including Laguna Seca, COTA. the N├╝rburgring, and Spa. I asked him if he’s driven this car on all those tracks. He said, “The kills follow the pilot.” He says he participates on some sort of car event, generally a track day, about twenty five times a year. I’m not sure why I find it reassuring when I find people who are more extreme about things than I am. If what I do is somewhat crazy, it’s good to know I’m not the craziest person around.

Ryan’s BFW

While Fred and I were chatting, a fellow and his four boys were interested in my car. Two were his kids, the other two were nephews. They were golfing nearby and heard the cars. “Put those sticks away, we’re going to find out what all that noise is about!” I had the kids take turns sitting in the car. I offered to take dad out for a few laps if he could find a helmet. Then, during lunch when they’re running parade laps, the youngest kid ran up to me. “My dad says I can ride with you on a parade lap!” So I belted him into the car and off we went. He could hardly see out the windshield, but his brother and cousins saw him. That made his day.

Million Dollar Ride

Saturday, September 24

I spent my track day budget on my Laguna Seca trip so I didn’t register for CECA’s second track day at HPR. But it was a nice day and I decided I could postpone mowing the lawn and changing the oil in the Lotus so I could head out to the track and perhaps get a ride or two. I knew Scott would be there in his Miata, which I haven’t seen on track yet. And Ryan is generally there with his Exige, he might give me a ride.

Upon arrival, I made my way out to the wall between pit lane and the track to watch the cars. It looked to be the usual variety of CECA entrants: mostly Porsches, Corvettes, and Mustangs leavened with others for variety: 2 Exiges, Scott’s Miata, a few Cobra replicas, a Pantera, a couple of Vipers. It looked like there were several interesting cars running without passengers, including a pretty red Ferrari 458.

Ferrari 458 Speciale

Ferrari 458 Speciale

I wandered around the paddock for a while, checking in with my track rat pals. As usual, Ryan had a covered spot. He was only a few spots away from that 458. I made my way down the row and introduced myself. The 458 was owned by John. I asked him if he wanted about 190lbs of ballast in his passenger seat. He didn’t get my meaning at first, but it clicked eventually: “Oh, you want a ride!”

When his group was up I grabbed my helmet and jumped into his car. He told me he wasn’t out to set a fast lap time and I told him it didn’t matter to me. Onto the track we went. We hauled ass onto the track; faster, by far, than I’ve ever entered the track. From the passenger seat I couldn’t see the speedometer but I did have the forethought to start the lap timer on my phone before we got started.

The 458 is quite the machine. The steering wheel has about as many controls as an F1 car. One of the dials is called a manettino. This is where the driver selects the mode: low grip, sport, race, and so on. I’m not sure whether John had it in sport or race. John told me he could put the transmission into auto but at the track prefers to use the paddle shifters. He allowed that auto might be faster, but he enjoyed doing the shifting.

The car is fast. John said he hit an indicated 145 mph (my phone said 135; the truth is probably in between). We ran about five laps but never managed to have a clean lap. My lap timer showed a best lap of 2:08 (for reference, I’ve managed a 2:09 in the Elise). He had a theoretical lap of 2:01 (that’s a lap made of the three best sector times). I have no doubt that several seconds could be trimmed from that time. I don’t think he’s had a lot of laps at HPR, and certainly not a lot in that car.

Braking is fantastic. The discs are huge and he’s running on large, sticky tires. The seats are very nice, do a good job in cornering. Still, CG-Locks on the seat belts would be helpful. Exiting the turns I could feel the car squirm just a bit as all the electronics worked to keep it pointed in the right direction. John was missing the occasional apex, and his line is quite a bit different than mine in a number of places. It felt much faster than the recorded lap times. Certainly, with a traffic-free lap John could set a very quick time indeed. It’s a seriously fast car.

In the spot next to John was another Ferrari, one of much older vintage. I introduced myself to Bill. I told him I don’t know my Ferraris so he told me a little about his 365 GTB/4. It’s a V-12 (the 458 is a V-8). It predates all the computer control of modern cars. In contrast to the silky smooth modern 458 the 365 snarls and growls, pops and sputters. It sounds incredible.

Ferrari Daytona 365 GTB/4

Ferrari Daytona 365 GTB/4

Bill agreed to give me a ride. His car is much more like a race car than John’s 458. It has a roll bar, five point harnesses, and an array of old-school switches and dials on the dash, including a dial to adjust the brake bias. Headroom is a bit cramped with the helmet on – if I sat up straight my head rubbed the top. Less headroom than the Elise with the top on, but quite a bit wider.

Like John, Bill said he wasn’t going to go fast. I used to talk this way. For a few years I told my passengers we’d be one of the slowest cars on the track. I think there’s a bit of expectation management in this. I didn’t really think I was one of the slowest cars on track, and I don’t think John and Bill weren’t trying to scoot.

The two cars are quite a contrast. The 458 seemed a bit like a video game. All the controls are on the wheel; a flick of a finger to shift up or down. (And a misplaced finger to start the windshield wipers. John had to come into the pits to shut them off – he doesn’t drive the car in the rain and had difficulties turning them off, even putting two wheels off at one point dealing with the distraction.) Bill was working much harder in the 365 – double clutching, blipping the throttle on downshifts. Dancing on the pedals and sawing at the wheel.

The lap timer gave Bill’s best lap as 2:13, with a theoretical best of 2:12. As with John we encountered a fair amount of traffic. Bill gave everybody lots of room. I have no doubt he could log a quick time on an open track. There was the occasional clumsy downshift, but he was hitting his apexes pretty consistently. The car is a real chore to drive. When we got back to the paddock his first remark was along the lines of “I can’t imagine driving a 24 hour race in one of these.”

I will admit here that I’m not a good passenger. Typically, my discomfort arises due to not being in control. I don’t like riding with most drivers; too many people don’t pay enough attention. It’s a mental discomfort. Today my issue was in my gut, not in my head. I never have problems with motion sickness when I’m behind the wheel but if we’d have stayed on the track much longer, I’d have been signalling my desire to get out of the car. I’ve seen videos of people puking in their helmets and I don’t want to go there. Particularly in a Daytona 365GTB/4. (This is certainly not a critique of either Bill or John.)

I’m guessing that, together, these two cars together are worth about a million bucks. They are truly exotic creatures. Most folks only see them on display – like animals at a zoo – at shows and auctions. I’m happy to have gotten a taste of them, running wild, on the track.

CECA at HPR

Sunday, June 26

The original plan was that Michael would come to the track with me. CECA charges by the car, not the driver, so he would get do drive for free. But he had scheduling difficulties and work and he couldn’t make it.

We get a slightly different crowd on CECA days, a bit more upscale. When I got off I-70 I passed a Mercedes SLS AMG parked in the shade of a cottonwood, occupants relieving themselves (did I say “upscale”?). At the gas station, Dave was filling up a couple two gallon cans for his Elise. He prefers those over the five gallon because they fit in the boot. But I think he only carries one helmet. Before I left, a red Ferrari came in for a pit stop.

About two weeks before the event, organizers were concerned about attendance. Only a dozen or so cars had registered. With a week to go, it was nineteen. In the end they were happy to announce that we had 41 or 42 cars. Of those, nine were Lotus. Specifically, six Elises (three green, two black, one orange), two Exiges, and an Evora. We outnumbered all the other marques. Corvettes and Porsches numbered five or six each. In addition to the aforementioned SLS and red Ferrari there was a gray Ferrari as well. And, of course, the usual assortment of Mustangs, Miatas, Minis, and BMWs. I think this is the first CECA event I’ve been to with no Vipers.

It was a pleasant day, clear and sunny, a bit breezy. A bit on the warm side, but not uncomfortable.

I enjoyed the second session quite a bit. My last few visits to HPR were the free day and the two Emich days – well over a hundred cars each time. With three groups instead of two, and so few cars, most of my laps were free of traffic. For the first four or five laps, Jeremy was following me in his Exige. He wanted to see my line. I was able to open up a little distance between us on the twisty bits, but with his extra horsepower he could catch me on the straights.

I wanted to switch places with him, follow him for a couple of laps and get his line on camera. The red Ferrari was behind him. In the first session, even though I was three or four seconds a lap slower than the second session, I was able to gain on the Ferrari. But in the second session he was now a bit faster than me. I waved Jeremy by but could only follow him for about a lap before I waved the Ferrari through. The rest of the session I worked hard to keep up with them. The Ferrari couldn’t catch Jeremy, and I couldn’t catch the Ferrari; we were all running very similar lap times. Following them, I put together my two best laps of the day.

Even so, my fast time was about five seconds slower than my best. I never put any wheels off the track (although Jeremy says I was consistently hanging half my left side tires off the outside of the kink before the highway straight), I felt like I was sliding around quite a bit. I need to figure out tire pressures.

With my big trip starting soon, today was sort of a shakedown run. We mounted the stock exhaust in preparation for Laguna Seca. We did an oil change and had the brakes flushed as well. It could be that the stock exhaust is part of my five second deficit. It’s quite a bit quieter – more restrictive – and it weighs fourteen pounds more.

I normally get faster every session, and I tend to run every session I can. But today didn’t work out that way. Jeremy said he could see something flopping around under my car. This winter I mounted a cheap splitter. I figured it would be a sacrificial piece; instead of grinding the front clam I’d grind the splitter instead and replace it as necessary.

However, this one is quite flimsy, and attached only with six bolts with large washers. You can take it between index finger and thumb and move it up and down. Certainly not an aerodynamic aide. Jeremy asked if I could feel it causing any vibration. After two sessions I hadn’t felt a thing.

Late in the third session, though, the story changed. Over about ninety I developed a huge vibration at the front, bad enough to move my rear view mirror. I cut the session short a lap or two. I’d have taken it off right there at the track but I couldn’t do it without lifting the front of the car. It has pretty much destroyed itself. The door edge trim piece I had on the edge was disappeared and the front of the spoiler looked like it had been run over by a tractor. I’m disappointed that it’s a total loss, but happy that it happened here instead of on my trip.2016-06-26 14.33.58sThis was caused entirely by the vibration – I didn’t go off.

Okay, I know nobody watches these videos, but here’s my fast lap. Nothing special here, the Ferrari isn’t close enough to get a good look and my time isn’t noteworthy.

PPIR

I spent Saturday at the track, my first visit to Pikes Peak International Raceway.

The track was built in 1997. Before that, it was horse race track. They ran IRL and Busch series races there before it was shut down a while back. It was closed for three years before it was sold. Some NASCAR testing is done here, along with club racing. There’s a deed restriction that prohibits them from hosting any major racing series. CECA has a day there every year.

When it was built, it was one of the fastest 1 mile ovals in the world. Seems counter intuitive to me, as the elevation (5,360′) means lower horsepower. It’s a D-shaped oval, with a short road course in the infield. The road course is 1.3 miles long, which includes about three quarters of the speedway.

I wanted to do this one last year, but things didn’t work out. In the mean time, I’ve talked to a few people who’ve run there to get their impressions. Reviews were mixed – one guy said it was his favorite track while another wasn’t very impressed. I was looking forward to forming my own opinion.

I left the house promptly at six and collected Judd at his place forty minutes later. He didn’t sign up to run but wanted to come out to watch and get a ride or two. Turns out, he didn’t bring his helmet or much to eat, either.

The forecast for Denver was 60 degrees and mostly sunny. I didn’t think to check the forecast for Colorado Springs, but expected it to be much the same. We were past Castle Rock before sunrise. Not far south of there it was foggy, which cleared up before Monument Hill. We stopped in Fountain where I gassed up (car and can) and Judd got coffee. Here he told me my left turn signal wasn’t working.

We were at the track in plenty of time to get the inspection signed off and head to the drivers meeting. We used the south garage. I forget what the car count was, but the garage accommodates 36 cars and we didn’t quite fill it up. When we got there, a very pretty yellow Ferrari 458 cabrio was in the garage, but he moved it outside before the meeting. It wasn’t running today, sadly. After the inspector stickered my car, they asked Judd if he was ready. He told them he was just spectating, but it didn’t take much convincing to get him to fork over the entry fee and join the fun.

2013-10-12 10.07.51s

In the garage

I’m sure I’m forgetting some, but we had four Elises, a bunch (herd? stable?) of Mustangs, three Miatas, a Mini or two, two BMWs (an M Coupe and 5M), a ZR1, a Viper, a few Porsches, a Pantera, an Acura NSX, a BRZ and an FR-S. The M Coupe owner keeps a set of slicks at the track and Alan runs his Viper on R6’s to and from the track but other than those two I don’t recall anybody else running slicks. Judd and I were on the same tires, his not much older than my rears. But my fronts are pretty much shot, with something like 15,000 miles on them.

Eric, Judd, and I were all parked together, near the south end of the garage. Eric ran in the red group, I was in the blue, and Judd started blue and switched to red. I had both my helmets with me. As I said earlier, Judd wasn’t planning on driving and although he intended to get a ride, forgot his hat. I said he could borrow mine. Then Kenny showed up with a friend, so we had Judd switch groups so I could take a passenger.

As there weren’t that many cars, the stewards decided that after the first session for each group, they’d combine green and blue. Blue was first out while green had their ground school. We were on track shortly after nine. It was mostly cloudy with temperatures in the mid thirty’s and fairly breezy.

From the paddock, we turn left onto pit lane. Pit out stays on the infield all the way around turns 1 and 2 and joins the track on the back straight. Before speedway turn 3, the road course makes a left onto the infield. At turn 9, the infield course ends and you go onto the 10 degree banking of the speedway, through turns 1 and 2 and onto the back straight again.

Frankly, the speedway frightened me a little. At HPR if you make a mistake and go off, or have a mechanical failure and go off, you really have to mess up to do anything more than get your car dirty. At Pueblo there’s only one place where there’s a wall anywhere close to the track. At the CSP facility you don’t want to go off because if you hit a big rock you’ll damage your car.

But on the speedway, there’s no run-off – the track goes right up to the wall. There are a number of lurid skid marks, each terminating with a nasty mark on the wall. Low in turn 2 there are some bumps. Here, if you mess up, or have something break, you hit the wall and the car’s not damaged: it’s destroyed.

So I took it pretty gingerly on the speedway. Particularly with my front tires being not so great right now. I did try a few different lines through there. We were only allowed to pass on the front and back straights of the speedway, so if I caught somebody on the infield, they’d go high and wave me past on the inside. And if I didn’t pass somebody there, I’d get set up so that if they were paying attention I’d be ready to pass before getting back to the infield. People seemed reluctant to wave me by on the back straight, and when I was working a corner I didn’t see any passing there at all. So I guess I was fortunate to be able to pass there the two or three times I did.

In the first session, I logged ten timed laps and managed a 1:13.8. On the speedway section, I was hitting the low 90s on the front and back straights, and high 70s in the turn. I ran four sessions with the other three being 24, 19, and 23 laps. By the end of the day, I managed to hit 100 on the back straight. I was only a mile or two an hour faster on the front straight and the turn but was braking a bit later. I bettered my time each session, getting a 1:12.5 in the last.

We ate our lunches in the room we held the drivers meeting. I chatted with Kenny and his friend (Josh?). Then they announced the parade laps so we headed back out. I had Josh ride for the parade laps and Kenny would get to ride the next session. The parade laps were led by the 458. Behind him was a black Porsche, and Josh and I were third. We never went more than 60, and I’m pretty sure I did every lap without hitting the brakes. Josh seemed to enjoy it, though, so it’s all good.

Kenny was a passenger for the third session. Not on purpose, we were first in line. I normally go to these thinking I’ll be the slowest car in my session. I don’t think this has ever been true, but in the first session I don’t think I passed anybody and only remember passing a few cars in the second session. So I was thinking I’d be getting passed before long.

2013-10-12 14.55.16s

View from corner position in turn 9

We ran the out lap, then four timed laps in “clean air”. Then we started catching people. We passed Miatas, Porsches, and Mustangs. We passed the Pantera. It was great fun. Kenny noticed how much later I could brake than just about everybody we caught up to. Part of that, surely, is that many of the drivers had never driven on a race track before and had no real idea how late they could brake. We were only passed by the M5 and the BRZ (or was it the FR-S?).

The video is from my fourth session. It’s not my fastest lap, that happened two laps later. This lap was 1.1 seconds slower due to traffic, but at least you get to see something other than my boot lid. By this time, the faster cars had either left for the day or moved to the red session, leaving me the fastest car on the track.

It was a fun day. I enjoyed running on a new track. The facility was nice. But I’m not sure how often I’ll come back here. Of the four tracks I’ve driven on, this one is my least favorite.

Colorado State Patrol

Saturday, August 24

After a string of hiking posts, we switch gears and head to the track.

Although I’ll call it a track, the Colorado State Patrol facility on South Table Mountain in Golden isn’t really a race track. It’s a training facility for the CSP. The track is really more like a road. It is slightly crowned and even as a center strip painted on it. Drivers should be careful not to go off here. Not only is the pavement often three or four inches above the surrounding ground, there are boulders hidden in the weeds. Hitting one of these will ruin your day as well as your car.

Because the track is only about fifteen miles from home, Genae kindly volunteered to take my slicks for me. She would drop them off in the morning and when I was done at the end of the day, I’d call her and have her pick them up. I keep telling myself I only have about one more track day on these tires.

I’d really rather use them up at HPR. I’ve run at HPR many times but this was only my second trip here. At HPR, if I go too hot into a turn and go off, I’m not worried about damaging the car. Here, there are those nasty boulders. The street tires give me plenty of notice when I’m about to lose traction whereas with the slicks you’re fine until you’re not. But if this is the only place I can have somebody bring the wheels and jack and tools, so be it.

I stopped to top off the fuel tank at the Shell station a few blocks from the track. Once on South Golden Road Genae caught up to me. I also found myself only a couple of cars behind an orange Elise. It was Eric from Colorado Springs. He passed the bus we were behind and went past our turn. I thought he missed the turn, but he was headed to a different gas station.

The access road to the track is dirt. It was in pretty bad shape last year. But today it was even worse. In spots, it featured a gully that meandered down the middle of it and from my seat looked somewhat like the Grand Canyon. Half way up the road I came across another Elise. He had decided this couldn’t be the correct way and was trying to turn around. Once alongside him, I reassured him we were going in the right direction.

Chris had recently bought his red Elise. It used to be Joe’s car. Joe, sadly, has ALS and had to sell the car. This was Chris’s first track event. Chris, Eric, and I all parked together. I mounted the slicks and had the car inspected. Then the drivers meeting was convened and I checked in to get my bracelet – I’m in the red group today.

At all the CECA events except HPR, drivers must also volunteer to work a corner. I was a bit late signing up and had only a few choices. I asked Eric if he wanted to work a corner with me and signed us up for the last session. The last session was open lapping, so Eric decided he would rather work corners in an earlier session and switched.

As Chris hadn’t been on the track before, I gave him a ride in the first session. Red group was first out. There weren’t very many cars in attendance. I didn’t get the official count, but there weren’t more than a dozen in the red group. Much to my surprise, I didn’t get passed in the first session. I used to go to these expecting to be the slowest car in my group but experience has told me I’m somewhere in the middle. Certainly, it must be that the faster cars got out ahead of me and we weren’t out long enough to lap me.

I was a bit tentative that first session. I had forgotten the finer points of getting around the track – my braking points, the quickest line. And it’s been a while since I ran on slicks. I was supposed to be showing Chris how to get around the track but I was missing the apexes by a mile, too early on the brakes except when I was way too late. But he seemed pretty happy when he got out of the car. The first session was 11 laps, best lap was 1:16.03. Four laps were slower than 1:20.

After the first session, Doug showed up in his silver Elise. He wasn’t there to participate; just to hang out. He didn’t even bring a helmet. I mentioned that I will soon need to replace my brake pads and he offered to show me how it’s done. I asked him how many beers it would cost. He doesn’t drink beer, so he said he’d do it if I’d give him a ride at the next track day. I suggested he borrow a helmet and I’d give him a ride right then.

So Doug was my passenger for session two. I was a bit more consistent. This was 14 laps, but included a trip through the paddock to get away from an inattentive driver. Being in the red group (experienced drivers who have been on this track before), I didn’t expect to find somebody not paying attention. I was catching a Mustang and we both caught a Sunbeam Tiger. He was probably six seconds a lap slower than us. We were behind him for two laps and he never waved us by. The rules today allowed passing only in two places, and only with a wave by. Frustrated, I got off the track and told the stewards that driver wasn’t paying attention.

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Photo courtesy Doug

My best time in session two was 1:16.21, with one other lap in the 1:16’s and only the laps behind the Tiger over 1:20. Again, I wasn’t passed. By now I had noticed that some of the usual fast cars weren’t in attendance. Alan was there, but in his Corvette (automatic transmission and street tires) instead of his Viper. There was a Viper there, but he was in the Green group. Also in the red group was a Dodge Magnum (a station wagon), an Audi, the aforementioned Sunbeam Tiger, an Alfa Romeo, a couple of Mustangs, and a couple of cars from the 60’s: a GT 350 and an AMX. Oh, and a big Chrysler 300. He was here last year and I recall him being the fastest car on the track. Not today.

I didn’t have a passenger for session three and managed to turn my best times. It was the longest session, good for 19 timed laps. I turned a 1:13.32, three more laps in the 1:13’s, eight in the 1:14’s, and nothing as slow as a 1:20, even when catching traffic. The highlight of the session was running nose to tail with a blue Mustang Boss 302. I may have been the last one on the track that session and waved him by right away as my tires weren’t warm yet.

I ran three or four laps behind him. He could pull away on the straights but I’d catch right back up in the turns. Although he wasn’t holding me up, he waved me by. Then we ran three or four laps with him following me. Eventually, I put him some distance behind me, but that was probably due to traffic more than any speed differential. He had more than double the horsepower of the Elise, but said he sometimes had a bit of trouble putting the power down if he tried to get on it too early when exiting a corner. He also told me he tried once or twice to brake as late as me. No can do. As expected, I was able to brake later than any other car in the red group.

The fourth session was open to all groups. As such, there was more traffic. There were also, finally, faster cars. Eric’s Elise is supercharged. He’s made a number of performance mods in addition – exhaust, aerodynamics, weight reduction. I waved him by in this session and had no chance of keeping with him. At one point, under braking going in to turn 1, he had flames coming out his tailpipes. He was running about 3 seconds a lap faster than me.

For this session, I had the AMX driver as a passenger. He was quite impressed with the car’s handling. Of course, the two cars are radically different. His muscle car (390 CID engine) is nearly 40 years older and twice as heavy. Next time we’re at the track together, he’ll give me a ride.

Session four was 14 timed laps. Fastest lap 1:15.04, fully half the laps in the 1:15’s and again nothing as slow as 1:20. I didn’t get any of session four on video. I spaced out after session two and failed to power down the camera. It ran out of battery half way through session three.

By the end of session four, it was apparent we were going to get some rain so the stewards called it a day. That meant I didn’t end up working a corner. I didn’t plan it that way, but I’ll take it. I called Genae to have her come fetch my wheels and tools. It seems I’m always playing the game “What Did I Forget?” Today was no exception. Early on I realized I forgot sunscreen, so I got a mild sunburn on my face. When I went to swap wheels I discovered I’d also managed to forget gloves. In the morning it wasn’t a big deal. I thought about the gloves when I was half way done with the swap. Gloves would have kept my hands clean.

Now, however, gloves were a bit more important. Brakes get quite hot at the track. Hot brakes tend to heat up the wheels. Proceeding with changing wheels now would result in burnt fingers. Luckily, Eric was still there and lent me his gloves. By now the rain started up, so he sat dry in his car while I got fairly wet. Just as I finished, so did the rain. Perfect timing!

By now I was nearly the last one there. I chatted with the stewards a bit waiting for Genae. There’s a gate at the entrance, which was now unmanned and closed. I’d have to go open it for her to get in. When she finally got there, only one other group was still there. They had four cars and a giant transporter. That’s quite an operation for running club days.

I had a fantastic time. I don’t have a breakdown of my lap times from last year, but selecting a random lap from last year’s video tells me I was a good five or six seconds a lap faster on the slicks than on street tires.

I still don’t have the slicks figured out. I took my pyrometer with me and got temps after each session. The hottest I got them was less than 140 degrees. That’s after a cool down lap, and I have no idea how much the tires cool off in that time. Subsequent research tells me these tires should run between 110 and 140 degrees, so I was at the high end and possibly over.

In any event, I wasn’t willing to push the envelope at this track. With a better understanding of the tires I’m sure I could have gotten another few seconds a lap. But I really didn’t want to go off here. Again, I had a lot of fun.

There are a couple of club dates coming up in September at HPR but I’ll probably skip these. I want to do the day at Pike’s Peak International Raceway in October and I’ll need to get new brake pads before then.

Pueblo Motorsports Park

I went to Pueblo Motorsports Park with CECA today. I was hoping for a better turnout. Only about forty cars registered, and a couple of cars ran only a lap or two. Even so, it seemed like traffic was heavy. There were a lot of very fast cars there, and cars are split up by driver experience rather than speed. There were Viper race cars, high horsepower Mustangs, and Nissan GT-R’s in every group. Passing was allowed in only two places, and I’m sure it was frustrating for the fast cars to be stuck behind us lower hp cars.

The red car turned only a single lap

The red car turned only a single lap

I ran in the Red (experienced) group. My top speed, at the end of the straight before turn 1, was 107mph. The Viper race cars were hitting 140. I ran on inexpensive street tires while many were on racing slicks. The slowest car in our group was a classic Mustang. I was probably ten seconds a lap quicker. I ran with a couple of Porsches that were doing very similar times. I let one by on the straight but he never managed to pull away from me. I enjoyed those couple laps immensely. I get faster laps running alone, but there’s a certain joy in matching speeds with a car that is on better tires and has more horsepower.

There were four Lotuses, all Elises. Fellow LOCO member Judd drove his blue one. There was a black one, turbocharged. And Joe’s red one. I first met Joe last year at this event. He is quite the hot shoe, turning very quick times I will probably never match. His car was there today, but he wasn’t. I was sorry to learn he’s been diagnosed with ALS and can no longer drive.

There were five Vipers there. One was a CECA regular – Alan’s pretty maroon car. Also a silver one, a shiny black one, and two matte black. The matte ones were race cars, owned by guys in Estes Park. Carriage Hills, my old neighborhood. They previously ran the cars in the Viper Cup and a GT series. They’re not running in either series this year, so will exercise the cars at the CECA events. These are monster cars. They ran several very fast laps at the end of the day, by themselves on the track. It was the only time all day they could really run at speed – they were that much faster than anything else there.

Judd and I were working turn 4 for the final session. All the fast cars were out, and the GT-R’s were fastest. One of the Mustangs was quite quick as well. The two Vipers ran nose to tail for several laps. They talked to each other by radio, one teaching the other the track. When all the other cars left the track, they opened it up. They had only been cruising until then. Now you could hear the V-10 clearly from the opposite end of the track. Still nose to tail, but now at real racing speed. I thought it was a lot of fun to watch, particularly from such a nice vantage point.

In addition to the Elises and Vipers, there were three Nissan GT-R’s. These are also quite fast cars. All wheel drive, putting out something like 500hp, with all sorts of computers that help the driver keep it on the track. Filling out the group were the usual assortment of Corvettes, Mustangs, and Porches with a Sunbeam Tiger, Mazda Miata, Hyundai Tiburon, a Cobra replica and a few other miscellaneous.

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One of the miscellaneous

Some time ago, I was using a smart phone app to do my lap timing. I had some trouble with it and quit using it, then upgraded phones. Since then, I’ve been getting lap times from the video, which is not ideal. I finally got around to getting a new timer a few days ago. It’s called RaceChrono. Very simple to use, much easier than the last one. It doesn’t have as many features as others I’ve looked at, but it fits my needs.

I ran only three sessions, as Judd and I volunteered to work a corner in the afternoon. The first session was 10 laps, 8 laps in the second, and 7 in the third. There were some kids volunteering on the corners. Their only compensation for the day was getting rides. I gave rides in the second and third sessions. Both passengers really got a kick out of their rides, which made me happy. The second guy said “Aside from combat, this is the most adrenalized I’ve ever been!”

I recorded my fastest lap of the day in that third session. I told Judd after the second session that my goal was to get a time under two minutes. I didn’t make it, but it was close: 2:00.61. That’s about six seconds a lap faster than last year. Same set of tires, but last year it was much hotter.

I’m thinking that I won’t run the CECA days at HPR this year. Not a final decision, but under consideration. In a half day of open lapping at HPR I can get about as many hot laps in for about two-thirds the price. And those sessions are more or less split by the speed of the cars, which I find more comfortable, even offsetting the restricted passing of club days. I am still looking forward to the CECA days at Pikes Peak International and the State Patrol track.

And, finally, here’s today’s highlight reel. I get passed a lot, I only pass one car and the camera is on the wrong side to see it. And the lap behind the Porsche, one of my better laps: