Monday, August 24
The printed schedule indicated an 8am start for track day, but this was incorrect. At the buffet last night, Ross made an announcement that we should be there at 7 instead. So it’s another early morning; I left the hotel before 6:30, stopped at the gas station to top off the tank, and headed south on I-25 to PPIR.
I was thinking I’d arrive just on time, thus being one of the later arrivals. To my surprise, the gate wasn’t open yet and we were queueing up in two lines. It didn’t take long to see that I was one of the earlier ones and we’d soon have people stacked up on the interstate. A few of us started directing traffic down the side road to a dirt lot. So much for the 7 o’clock start; the schedule would be shifted an hour.
After signing the track’s waiver at the gate, we stopped at another line before entering the track where we turned in our paperwork and picked up our numbers. I’ve done nearly 30 track days and this is the first one I’ve had to have a number.
I’ve only run laps at PPIR once before, with CECA. That time we were in the garages which was quite nice. Plenty of room to put our gear, out of the sun and wind. No garages today, though. After emptying the car and affixing our numbers and letters (I was A group, car 25) we went into the classroom for the drivers meeting.
Usually they go over all the rules – which flags are in use (typically just yellow, red, and black) and tell us where we are allowed to pass. They did talk about flags but passing zones must have been discussed in yesterday’s meeting, which I missed due to being here at the autocross. No worries; I’ve been here before and know the drill. I did get some good news and some bad news. The good news was that I didn’t have to have an instructor with me, not even for the first session. The bad news, I had to keep the soft top on. So the camera got mounted on the harness bar rather than top center where I have the new adhesive mount. I later found out I wasn’t allowed to take a passenger.
I didn’t count the A group cars. There were perhaps a dozen for the first session. Greg in his formula car, a couple Esprits, a couple Evoras, a couple Exiges, me and few others. We were the first group to run, so I was in a bit of a hurry after the meeting. This is when I found out that after upgrading my phone, I needed to sign on to my RaceChrono account in order to get lap times and OBD data. Unfortunately, I was unable to remember my password, so no data acquisition today. Oh well.
This was my first track day since I started wearing the Fitbit. I was curious how much I really work in the car. But I didn’t think of turning it on until the third run, and then I forgot to turn it off for a half hour. Maybe next time I’ll do better.
Today wasn’t really a track day – it officially was a driving school. That’s why I couldn’t take a passenger – only instructors were allowed passengers. Much as our autocross was run by SCCA, the driving school was run with the aid of the Mercedes Benz club. I’ve never run with them; because we were using their insurance we weren’t allowed to go topless unless we had arm restraints. This has never been the case for me before.
Because this was a driving school, I was a bit surprised to see nobody had put cones out on the course. Usually the organizers place cones at the apex of each turn at a minimum, plus turn in and run out. I assume they got the cones out after our first session as they were there next time. In any event, I had my line figured out after a few laps.
This is not my favorite track. No, that’s not true. It’s my least favorite track. We run on about three quarters of the speedway plus the small infield section. The road course section of most ovals takes up the majority of the infield. Here at PPIR, more than half the infield is taken by parking lots, garages, and other buildings. With so little room for the road section it’s a bit rinky-dink. And, of course, I’m not going to push very hard on the speedway section – a mistake here and you’re in the wall. All other tracks I’ve been on have plenty of room if you go off – there’s nothing to hit unless you really screw up.
Most of the cars in my group were faster. I passed a yellow Esprit several times, and a blue Evora. But because we were not a large group, I only had to wave by faster cars a few times. In the second session, just as I was catching the yellow Esprit, Greg caught me in his formula car. The yellow Esprit waved him by, then waved me by. By the time I completed my pass, we were well into the turn on the speedway. A few corners later I was shown the black flag. Oops, I should have waited to pass him. I think I was the only driver given the black flag all day.
Between sessions I visited with a number of people. Most track days, I know many of the people from other events – the local track rats. Today I had the opportunity to socialize with folks from all over, including a couple from Ottawa. They had flown in, so weren’t participating; he said he enjoyed running at Loudon, New Hampshire. They solve their small infield problem by running a road section outside the oval.
I only ran three sessions. I normally have an extra five gallons of gas but didn’t bring the can with me on this trip. I normally try to run as many laps as I can – get my money’s worth. But missing a session here didn’t bother me that much. I was all packed up and on the road by 3:30 and home by 5:30. I’d almost forgotten how much fun rush hour traffic can be. I’m spoiled by working at home.
I couldn’t check out the Fitbit data until after I got home. I always knew I was working hard in the car – I’m often breathing pretty hard, and your basic rule of thumb is four heartbeats per breath – but I had no real sense of how hard. The Fitbit tells me I was in peak zone for three minutes and the cardio zone for fourteen. Total that’s a bit over half the time. When I wasn’t in the cardio zone my heart rate was still above 100 much of the time. So a half hour running laps in the car is not quite as strenuous as hiking for a half hour.