Mid-Ohio Trip – Mid-Ohio Track Days

Day 3 – Monday, May 27

I was out the door by 6:30. I grabbed a spot in the paddock and went looking for where the meeting would be. I was early and watched some of the late check-ins, including a fellow who drove his McLaren from Ontario. He didn’t have a tech sheet with him, so they gave him one. He signed it and handed it back. “You need to check the boxes”.

McLaren 600LT

Meeting was at 7:15, all the usual stuff.

In the paddock, I ran into Ken, the only other Lotus in attendance. There were several others registered, all Exiges, but all but Mark canceled. That was a little disappointing. I’m used to seeing a bigger Lotus turn out.

My paddock neighbors were Mark and Don. Mark trailered in his Corvette, Don trailered in his S2000. Both very nice gentlemen. Don had a couple of 5-gallon gas cans and before we went to lunch we used one to fill my tank, then when we went for food we refilled it so he was back to his full allotment. I was a bit surprised that I took the whole 5 gallons. From the gauge it looked like I only needed 4. After running the two afternoon sessions, I was about to pull onto the track for “happy hour” and noticed that I was reading empty and the light was on. So I didn’t run. Later, when leaving the facility, the gauge read about a third of a tank. When I fueled up, I had four gallons left in the tank. Oh well.

Our first session was under full course caution, and everybody ran. I was immediately concerned as I thought it was extremely slippery. The consensus is that it’s a low-grip track. It got better as it warmed up, and by the time my group was out conditions were about as good as they’d get. It was pretty slick, but not any worse than, say, Portland was. By the time I’d run a couple of sessions at speed I was comfortable with the grip level.

Ken on the start/finish straight

For the two morning sessions I didn’t bother running the cameras. I was still trying to figure the place out. The organizers said they’d try to find an instructor for me, but I told them part of the fun for me was figuring it out on my own. This struck them as out of the ordinary. Why not get the advice of an experienced driver and get up to speed quicker? Different strokes.

After lunch, after Don and I got back to the track from our Subway/BP run, the novice group had a second classroom session. I had skipped the first one. This second one included a turn-by-turn analysis of the track. I figured it would be good for me. It was helpful. The best thing, in my mind, was that I’d figured out most of what he told us. One thing that I hadn’t started doing but knew I needed to, was using the curbs more. Most of them are quite flat. He told us to get a good time here you’ve got to treat the curbs as part of the track. For the rest of the day I took that advice. The only other helpful tip I hadn’t already figured out was gear selection for turn 11. I was taking it much too slow. He said that’s the most “under driven” turn on the track (everybody tends to take it too slow).

I was running in the Green group with the novices. We had forty cars in each group, I believe. That’s a busy group. I may have gotten a clean lap in my third session, I’ll have to look at the video. I didn’t get a clean one in the fourth. In spite of that, I managed my best time of the day in that session: 1:53.33. My goal is to lap in the 1:52’s, so if I get a few clean laps I should be able to reach it.

I have to spend a lot of time in my mirrors because there are so many fast cars in the novice group. I think the only car in my group with less hp is a Miata. There’s a Mini (I met the owner at the restaurant last night), he’s turbocharged and has more hp but is heavier. Then it’s Porsches, Mustangs, and Corvettes. Oh, and the McLaren. There was a WRX and a couple of BRZ’s (or variants). Some of the Mustangs and Corvettes were slower, but I think they were all more capable cars. One of these Vettes pointed me by then dragged me down the straight so I couldn’t pass him. (Yes, I specifically brought this up during the meeting.)

The weather couldn’t have been better. It was a bit warm, but not hot. It was dry, although the consensus is that we’ll see rain tomorrow. I talked to a couple of Porsche guys who will swap today’s slicks for something with tread for tomorrow. I’ll happily run in the rain. (Easy to say that now, never having done it.) It will send a lot of people home, that’s for sure.

A good, fun day.

For dinner, pulled into a Mexican place across the street from the motel. It was closed. Plan B was Arby’s, two doors down. It was also closed. I ended up at Bob Evans and had breakfast for dinner.

Today’s miles: 18 road, 134 track Total miles: 1,235 road, 134 track

At the front gate

Day 4 – Tuesday, May 28

For the most part, today was much like yesterday. Only muggier. Uncomfortably warm. The same temperature at HPR would be comfortable but the humidity made it not so much fun for me. It wasn’t bad, just not like yesterday.

KTM X-Bow GT4

One item at the drivers meeting was an instructor saying he saw some drivers waving “thanks” for a point-by. Here with Chin this is a no-no. Drivers need to keep both hands on the wheel. I was one of those drivers. Near the end of the day I mentioned this to a couple of the other guys and they said they thought it’s not a big deal. These things happen on the straights and not in the turns. I noticed that nobody gave me a “thank you” wave yesterday, so I realized it was different in this group. But even after it was mentioned this morning, late in the somebody did give me a “thanks”. So I wasn’t the only one.

Yesterday I don’t think I got a clear lap the whole day. I probably got a few, but it was a very busy day passing and being passed. Had you asked me yesterday if there was a way to improve things, I’d have said “fewer cars”. We started with forty cars in each group. That’s more cars per length of track than I’m used to.

Ferrari

I purposely didn’t make any attempt to move up to the blue group. Two reasons: I was comfortable with this group and by now was accustomed to their behavior and if a few drivers did move up, that would be more guys running blue and fewer running green. And that showed up today. I had several long sequences of clean laps. Maybe not fully unencumbered, but I did feel I had lots of “clean air”.

Today my best lap was 1:50.30, which exceeded my goal by quite a bit. This was in the fourth session. I’m quite happy with these results. Unfortunately, neither camera was running as the batteries died in both of them. I’d moved the old camera to the nose and the new one to the rear mount hoping to get a greater sensation of speed, but got nothing instead. I’ve had one camera poop out on me, but never both. I’d even swapped out the spare battery for the old camera and had the new one plugged in and charging. So it goes.

Incidents of note. In the second morning session, I was reeling in Don. I caught him early but there was quite a bit of traffic, some we caught, some caught us. By the time we’d cleared it, I thought he’d worked quite a way ahead but I found myself right up with him. He’d been having minor clutch problems and was ending his runs a lap or two before the sessions ended. When he pointed me by, instead of ending his run he decided to stay out for another lap so he’d get some good footage of me. He was right with me from the start/finish to the chicane, but when I got on the back straight he was nowhere to be seen. Next time around I saw him parked on the infield.

I was concerned something bad happened, as he never moved again. Turns out he just ran it out of gas.

By the end of the day, most folks had cleared out. So the last session was great and I was looking forward to “happy hour” when everybody can run (and we use green group passing rules). Don donated a couple of gallons to me so I didn’t have to worry about suffering his fate. For those laps, I ditched the hot fire suit and went out in shorts and t-shirt (but still with gloves). I was much more comfortable. That comfort ended when it started raining. In reality, I’d be better saying that it started sprinkling. I was getting raindrops on the windshield, but I’d had this much rain at HPR and it was really no big deal.

Everybody who’d run here in the rain said it was really slick. I figured they were exaggerating. The first drops hit my windshield about turn 1. Coming out of the keyhole I half spun the car, coming to a rest in the middle of the track, facing 90 degrees to the right. I got going quickly and continued at a somewhat reduced speed, only to nearly do it again in the next turn. I thought I was going to go off sideways (which I never want to do) but managed to somehow keep it on track. That was enough for me, and I made my way, slowly, back to the paddock. I think everybody else did the same.

The rain looked quite threatening and as I started packing up it really began to come down. So I packed up in a bit of a rush. Just as I was finishing up it quit raining, at least here at the track.

I headed to Toledo. Leaving the track I had short journeys along state routes, then followed a combination of US 30 and US 23 through some heavy weather. Big lightning strikes were hitting in the near distance, but somehow the highway turned slightly each time to avoid the worst of the rain. I did encounter a short cloudburst that had traffic down from 75mph to more like 40, but never hydroplaned. Finally, a short Rule #1 violation up I-75. Had a nice visit with Ruth and Loral. Found a motel and checked in.

Porsche

Chin Motorsports

This event was put on by Chin Motorsports. They do these a a long list of tracks east of the Mississippi. They run a well-organized event. As is usual, it’s a bit on the expensive side compared to home, but that’s mostly because I’m spoiled here. It’s more everywhere than here. This one was more than either of the Hooked On Driving events, and like them you need to buy an annual membership. This two day event plus the membership would get me three full days plus half a day of open lapping at HPR.

There were a lot of high dollar cars here, probably the most expensive crowd I’ve run with. Not a LeMons car to be seen. Quite a few of the cars were fully prepped race cars. I saw a Miata with a hammer and sickle on the hood and wanted to talk to the driver. He left not feeling well. When I saw it back out on the track I thought he’d returned. But no, the guy driving the car was his coach, working on some setup changes. So it’s a bit of a different crowd than I’m accustomed to.

They had plenty of instructors on hand and at least three classroom sessions for the novice drivers. Everyone followed the rules and there were no incidents that I’m aware of. Certainly no contact, either car vs car or car vs wall. The only yellow flag during any of my sessions was for when Don ran out of gas. In the meetings we were told to expect blue flags but I never once saw one, so I’m guessing they use them at some of their other tracks.

They had a photographer there. I glanced through his shots of me but passed. His prices were a bit lower than the other guys doing this, but I’ve already blown my budget for this trip. I tried to talk him into giving me five or six shots for twenty bucks. His counter offer was one for twenty. As long as it was cash.

Today’s miles: 134 road, 147 track Total miles: 1,369 road, 281 track

Holy Horsepower

It has been a busy week and I’m a little behind on getting the blog updated. So I’ll post things a bit out of sequence. I’m still putting together two or three videos of my drive home from Snowmass over Independence and Loveland passes. That work was slowed down by an evening at the Great American Beer Festival and a trip today down to Ferrari of Denver for a little car show which they called “Holy Horsepower.”

Saturday, September 22

Hours on the flyer stated 10am to 2pm, but their parking lot is small so I figured it was better to be early than late. As it was, I didn’t arrive until a few minutes after ten and by then they were pretty well full. They directed me to a nice spot that could hold two small cars. “We can probably fit another Lotus in there.” I wandered off for a bit and when I got back it wasn’t a Lotus in the spot next to me but a Tesla Roadster. Close enough!

I quickly spotted Kent’s 2017 Ford GT. It took me a while to track him down. When I did, I asked if he remembered me telling him that, even though I like all his cars, the only one I would ask to drive was his 2005 GT. I said I’d renege on that now that he has the new one. That got a smile out of him. I told him to expect an email from me.

As is usual in these things, if they were to give out an award for the dirtiest car I’d win. I haven’t had a chance to wash it since the Snowmass trip, so it’s all covered with bugs, dust, and track grime.

As expected, there was no shortage of fancy machinery. I neglected to get photos of the Morris Mini and the yellow Pantera. Actually, there were quite a few cars I didn’t get pictures of. But my photographic skills aren’t that great, so I figure I’ll go easy on everybody.

This was my best look at the Tesla and Elise side-by-side. I’d heard that they share only something like 7% of parts, and it looks like most of those are on the interior. The Tesla is several hundred pounds heavier but uses the same brakes. I was surprised by that, but it makes use of regenerative braking, so the brakes don’t need to work so hard.

I took a few shots of a pretty orange Aventador. It was one of the few cars with the engine compartment open. I was somewhat amused that they have a plaque with the engine firing order on it. I don’t recall seeing that before.

Quite a few people left by noon, but a few cars kept arriving throughout the time I was there. The one that drew the biggest crowd was a pearl white Ferrari LaFerrari Aptera 70th Anniversary car. I heard somebody say it was worth $6 million. I don’t know my Ferraris. I didn’t know it was a LaFerrari until I looked it up at home. Sure enough, it looks like that $6 million figure could be correct. Wow. Pictures don’t do the paint job justice.

When I found Ryan I told him I was interested in getting an ECU dump for my car. He said it was pretty easy and offered to do it. He brought out his scan tool and laptop and in a couple minutes I had the data. He did this last year when he rebuilt the top half of my motor, but I didn’t get a copy. I was most interested in time spent at various engine speeds. In adding these up and counting the amount of track time I have, I’m a bit surprised I’m not above 5700rpm even more than is shown. The time by car speed maps out to my expectations pretty well, so I don’t doubt the data.

Laguna Seca Trip: Day 8 – Sonoma Raceway

Saturday, July 16

It’s an hour drive to the track from Danville. I should have left earlier; I didn’t realize how crowded it would be. I drove through the entire paddock looking for a place to park and ended up back near the entrance, closest to food. I may have gotten the very last spot. I was between two Miatas on one side, two Porsches on the other. On the other side of the Miatas is a Volcano Orange McLaren and on the other side of the Porsches is a silver one.

The place is a madhouse. Track Masters and Speed Ventures are co-organizers of the track event. Track Masters is also operating an autocross here in the parking lot so we’re quite crowded. I found the sign-in desk and submitted my paperwork, was directed to the classroom for the drivers meeting. This meeting lasted about an hour, about twice the usual length. Much emphasis was placed on the fact that there are concrete barriers in close proximity to pretty much the entire track. They called it a “professional driver’s” track: a track for drivers who’s cars are paid for by other people.

Between that and the large number of participants I was feeling less than happy.

They were running five groups: Red, Orange, Green, Purple, and Black. Four sessions, 25 minutes each, with the first Red and Orange sessions running during our meeting. I’m in Purple: Intermediate, Point-by passing. I could have run in Black, which is Advanced/High-Intermediate, Mixed Passing. Cars that don’t want to be passed without giving a point-by can put a red circle sticker on the back of the car. No sticker means pass at will. Being new to the track and on street tires I was more comfortable signing up for Purple.

I circulated the paddock area off and on all day, looking to introduce myself to any other Lotus runners. George found me. I’d been through the place once or twice without seeing his car, deep in one of the garages. He’s in an S1 Elise. After talking to him, it sounds like he has the same car as Tony from yesterday. George’s is yellow, Tony’s is green, but in all other respects the cars look identical to me. George didn’t seem to know about Tony. The only other S1 I’ve seen was at LOG. What are the chances I’d see two in two days?

IMG_2223sI found Josh and Tony parked together. Josh is running a 2-Eleven, Tony an orange Exige. I told them my story and Josh asked what size tires I’m running. It took me a minute to understand what he was really asking. He had a spare set of slicks and was offering to let me run on them. If I was more familiar with the track, I might have taken him up on the offer. Very generous.

Josh had some unwelcome excitement in the second session. After a couple of laps, Tony was behind him. Josh waved him by but in the process put two wheels off. When he came back on track he over corrected and spun, putting him in the wall. Broken left rear suspension and some fiberglass damage. I didn’t know any of this until after the session, other than seeing him parked beside the track. Our session was black flagged to get him off the track. It only took 10 minutes, but that really cuts the session short. I had two “fast” laps, but they were both heavy traffic and I was unable to get a clean lap.

IMG_2221sWhen I got off track, I headed over to see what had happened to Josh. They showed me the footage on their GoPro. Josh was assessing the damage when I took a picture. Tony says “You’re going to be in the magazine now.”

I really enjoyed the third and fourth sessions. I was getting more comfortable on the track and was able to improve my times by about three seconds each session. The fourth session was best – by now a number of cars had already left, so there was noticeably less traffic.

I chatted with a couple of other Lotus owners, whose names I’ve sadly already forgotten (I’m so bad with names). One had an ’06 Elise special edition (yellow, silver stripes). The other in an Chrome Orange S260 Exige. There was also a silver Exige there. I didn’t get to chat with him, other than to exchange hellos. As usual, all very nice, friendly folks.

IMG_2233sWhen we were all packing up I chatted a bit with the owner of the orange McLaren. He used to have an Elise. He said he wondered if it was too much. “Not too much money, too much car.”

IMG_2224sAt lunch, waiting in line for the nine dollar burger I asked the guy in front of me if his car matched his cap. “Of course,” he said. He was driving his Ferrari FF. On it’s release, it was the world’s fastest four seat car. He said he might be driving the heaviest car out there today: 4200 lbs.

Many of the guys I talked to said Sonoma was their favorite track. Of the two so far, I prefer Thunderhill. I’m a big fan of having plenty of run-off room. If I make a little mistake, like Josh made, I don’t want to pay a major penalty. Mowing the weeds is enough for me. There are a number of places on track here (turns 10 and 11 in particular) where I know I can go faster, but I’d hate to misjudge the grip level and end up in the wall. That said, my early unhappiness was forgotten. I’m happy to have come here once.

As always, I enjoyed the company of the people around me in the paddock. We had to team up to defend our territory. When we were out, somebody parked in Glen’s spot. They made an announcement on the PA for the car to be moved. The guy thought the spots were for customers of the Wine Country Motorsports store. We borrowed a couple of traffic cones to put in our spots while we were on the track.

There was an “official” photographer there. This guy did a lot of paddock shots and fewer on track. I already planned to buy two days of photos, and that wasn’t part of the budget, so buying any here was out of the question. The guy had some nice shots, though.

With the shortage of track minutes, I managed to drive back to Danville without needing to gas up. Quite a difference from yesterday, where I put 9.95 gallons into my 10 gallon tank a few miles from the track.

MJ and Rod made a nice tasty dinner for me and we spent the evening in conversation, with the failed coup attempt on the TV in the background.

SAAC/CECA Track Day, HPR

High Plains Raceway had club days on both Saturday (Z Car Club) and Sunday (SAAC/CECA). Being a cheapskate, I’d have rather run with ZCCC because they were forty bucks cheaper but we had a garage sale Saturday so CECA it was. Plus, it was the LoCo track day as well, an added bonus.

The day started on a bit of a down note. On my way to the track, on I-70 near East Colfax, my right turn signal assembly popped out. It has happened three or four times before, but this time the wire failed to tether it and it was gone. I spent a few minutes looking for it, hoping it made it to the grass and might be intact. But no luck on the search.

Arriving at the track, I spotted the LoCo contingent and joined them. I bummed some tape from Pete and secured the left side turn signal and covered the gaping hole on the right. I had invited Bill and he surprised me by getting there before me. I grabbed a breakfast burrito the size of my head. Took me the entire drivers meeting to eat it.

It looked to be the usual CECA contingent – Corvettes, Vipers, Porsches, a classic Ferrari, Mustangs, old and new, Minis, Miatas, and Subarus, a couple BMWs, a couple NSXs. In the Lotus paddock we had an Evora, two Exiges, and a handful of Elises. Perhaps the highlight of the day was the brand spanking new McLaren 650S.

I ran in the red group, which I think was the smallest group. Of this group, only a few cars were slower than me. Today we were short handed on corner workers, so the only legal passing zones were the straights – couldn’t pass in the short chute between 6 and 7. Bill decided to sit through the green group classroom session, so I was without passenger the first session. I had the soft top on for the first session, then took it off for the rest of the day.

In the second session, the McLaren came up behind me pretty quickly and I was able to wave him by without slowing him down too much. Lucky for me, he caught up to traffic right away and I was able to run close behind him for a short spell.

At lunch they did some parade laps and a ladies only session. Anybody could do the parade laps, so we sent Bill out. When he came back a short while later I thought he was done, but he had time for one more lap so I got a ride in his almost new Taurus SHO. I wasn’t aware they were making them again.

Most folks left after three sessions. They ran green and blue together for the fourth session. So few cars were out, the let the reds back on track. I ran 15 timed laps that session (as opposed to 10 or 11 in the others) and even came in before the checkered flag.

On the way home I stopped again to try to find my turn signal. I walked maybe a mile of that highway, between morning and afternoon. I got back in the car after seeing the same crumpled license plate on the shoulder and was about to shift to second gear when I saw it. Unfortunately, it hit concrete instead of grass. The lens and bulb were gone, and it was missing pieces and badly cracked, but surprisingly still had the grommet.

These things are on back order from Lotus, so no idea how long I’ll have to do without it. I wonder if you can get green or yellow painters tape…

31st Annual Colorado Consours d’Elegance

Back on June 8 I entered the car show at Arapahoe Community College. This was my second year in the show. Last year I had the car judged and came in second. This time I didn’t bother with getting judged but somehow ended up with another second place ribbon!

The rules are that entrants be on site from 9am to 3pm. Any early departure requires rounding up a police officer to help navigate a safe path to the exit. And, of course, we had to be there well before 9. I left the house a bit later than I’d hoped. To make matters worse, I soon realized I left my paperwork on the kitchen counter so had to run back home. In the end, I was only a few minutes late.

This year’s show celebrated the 100th anniversary of Maserati, the 60th year of the Porsche Speedster, the 50th year of the Ford Mustang and McLaren, and the 40th year of the Porsche Turbo. There were more McLarens there than I’d seen in one place before – the Phoenix McLaren dealer trucked a few cars in, and there was a McLaren race car as well.

2014-06-08 12.31.32sI was a bit delinquent in taking pictures, but so it goes. I was thinking I had plenty of time to do this, but the weather became a problem. Skies to the west were slightly threatening most of the morning, but I kept a positive attitude that we’d be spared any grief. My positive attitude didn’t help much.

It started raining before long. Lots of people scrambled for cover. Some of us sat in our cars. Others got in their cars and drove off – we were given permission to leave the grounds early. It didn’t stop with rain, though. Soon we had hail. I can only imagine what was going through the minds of those folks who brought out their seven figure museum pieces.

After the rain and hail stopped, a police cruiser was circulating with an announcement to take cover in the building. Other officers came through on foot: “Go inside now! There is a tornado warning! Take cover!”

IMG_0741sBy this time, well over half the cars had left. Most of us Lotus folks were nutty enough to stay. I think only the Saab owners adjacent to us stayed in a greater percentage.

Even with the less than ideal weather, I had a great time. I made the day for a 3 year old boy when I let him sit behind the wheel. I spotted him from thirty yards away when he first saw my car and came running toward it. “Look at this one, daddy!”

Cars & Coffee

I went to the Cars & Coffee this morning. Got there about nine, the place was pretty full. I managed to back into one of the last few spaces. As usual, a nice mix of cars, weighed heavily toward the exotics. I counted four Elises, two Exiges, an Elite and a few Esprits. More Ferraris than Lotuses. A couple Lambos, the usual plethora of Porsches, batches of BMWs, and stable of Mustangs.

I took a few snapshots:

McLaren MP4 12-C Spyder. When people mistakenly think my car cost $300,000, I can only assume they haven’t really looked at my car and have certainly never seen any car that did cost $300k. This here, boys and girls, is a $300,000 car. It makes me shudder to think what service and insurance costs for this every year. Prime example of a “stupid money” car and a gorgeous example of automotive engineering.

IMG_0525sNotice here the size difference between the Exige and the Ferrari. The Exige isn’t backed in as far as the Ferrari and still comes up more than a foot short.

IMG_0526sWhen I saw this right hand drive Celica I had to talk to the owner. When I lived in Estes I saw a green first generation right hand drive Celica several times between Estes and Lyons. I thought perhaps this was that car. Nope, this guy just imported it from Japan last year.
IMG_0527sMy initial reaction when I first saw pictures of the new Vette was that it looked like a Camaro from the back. And when I first glimpsed this car, my first thought was “Oh, a convertible Camaro.”
IMG_0528sThis Ariel Atom is a ridiculous car. This one looks brand new, doesn’t have a scratch on it. Granted, I didn’t get that good of a look at it, as they were pulling out just when I spotted it. Given its pristine condition, I can only assume it’s yet to see a lap on the track. There is no other purpose for this car, except to be tracked. Yes, it’s street legal. But you can’t carry anything. Even without a passenger, I doubt you could carry a sack of groceries. I laughed when I saw the cupholder.
IMG_0532sThis sure got me to do a double-take. I immediately thought early Corvette. But the size is all wrong. This seems giant. The huge wheels help with the proportions, but the style is all wrong to pull off the early Vette look. I have no idea how recent the Vette is that it’s built on but it looks pretty new. Completely custom interior, of course. But what sort of tool takes up two spots at these things, anyway?
IMG_0533sI don’t know my Hudsons. Is this a Hornet? I have no idea what year it is, except that it’s early fifties. I love the bullet hub caps. I also love that it seems to be getting more attention than the Astin Martin next door.
IMG_0536sI first saw this from the front. Immediately saw the Mugen badge. Had no idea what model it was, had to walk to the back to find the Fit badge. Really? Mugen Fit? Are there performance parts here, or just body pieces?
IMG_0538sGot this picture of the Factory Five 1965 Shelby Daytona Coupe when he was pulling in. It’s a kit car.
IMG_0539s