After arriving in Mt Tremblant, and snowboarding a few hours, I confirmed that anything not groomed was sheer ice, so I figured I might as well try some snowmobiling instead while waiting for the incoming ft+ storm.
I had to drive 20mn to a nearby town and rent for a local store. They just gave me a 2mn briefing on what button does what, a crappy map showing me where to go (this included crossing multiple roads). Sadly, I ended up missing a turn that was not obvious at all and had to ride on the street only to figure out that a snowmobile cannot turn at all on asphalt, making things very hard.
Eventually I got help and directions back towards the trail and had a great 70km 2h30 ride across cold canadian wilderness.
I could have flipped the thing multiple times and hurt myself easily. I did top out at 100kph and caught air at least once, as well as scared myself a few times but managed not to understeer into a river or a half frozen lake :)
This probably wouldn't last more than a few days if they allowed americans to rent those things with no guidance, or a proper map (I had to use my GPS more than once to find breadcrumbs back), or over drive off the trail into a tree, or a lake :)
Either way, definitely had fun, and this probably beat any speed limited guided tour available anywhere else.
yeah, the planes were unexpected
I eventually reached a place that had dog sleigh rides, and turned back there
Circuit Mecaglisse is 1.5h north of Montréal, and I was lucky enough to be accepted in their level 2 course thanks to the training I got at Dirtfish learning the basics of rally driving. As expected, my almost 20 years of track driving was mostly worthless :)
They had a professional photographer who obviously took better shots than I did :)
The busy photographer (40 drivers) got a few shots of me, along with my talented co-driver Alain. Alain was a great guy as well as one of the best snow/ice drivers in the group, which definitely made me feel self-conscious. He showed me what I should have been doing :)
for a short while I was also driving with Mark, the other star in our group
Anyway, here are my pictures. The drive from Montréal was actually "interesting", a passing storm yielded some ice on the road and driving 20mph wasn't even safe anymore. Eventually it turned to snow, which was easier to drive on with the snow tires on the 2WD rental car I got:
the nice hotel where we were hosted, but it was 45mn away from the track
they fed us well :)
Every morning, we got a bus ride to the track, which is specifically designed to have a layer of ice in the winter:
when I say ice, it really is ice
Kees Nerop, the head instructor we were lucky to end up with
we drove both 4WD and 2WD 911s
they had studded tires, but the studs were pretty short
A few driving pictures:
Alain, showing me how it's done :)
I didn't expect things to be easy, and they weren't. The biggest problem is if you go in a bit too deep, there is mostly nothing you can do to fix it. In this oversteer turn exercise, I turned a bit too late and while I did mostly the right things, I was just a bit too late and smacked the snow wall with the car:
sigh. this was not a proud moment
This is when I need to really recognize Porsche for offering this class at all and allowing students to make mistakes. Basically unless they deem that you were driving like an idiot, you aren't liable for damage. They apparently have a full supply of body panels and bumpers, are quite used to fixing/changing them.
seeing the cars eating snow as people hit snow banks, was also pretty common. At least the intercooler was cool :)
that one wasn't me, but another cracked bumper
The driving was a both fun and very hard. It definitely kicked my butt. Honestly, I sucked when I showed up. I couldn't even properly drift in a circle. By day 3, I was far from being an expert, but my proudest accomplishment was managing a 4mn power drift when I wasn't even able to manage a single turn without spinning when I started:
Now, this is nothing compared to the better students who could not only drift but even fit between cones, which I can't quite do yet:
By day 3, we were driving around most of the track. It was still hard as hell as there was very little recovery possible if you went too fast, but if you went too slow, it was hard to not possible to induce necessary oversteers for most turns, so the balance was quite hard to keep.
The last day, we finished with 2WD cars on a super icy track with killer downhill off camber turns. I managed to get one right a couple of times, like at the 1:45 offset and then smacked into the snow wall by getting my timing wrong the 2nd time (offset 3:10). What's terrible is that we knew what was going to happen before it did, but by then there is no recovery possible with a 2WD car (a 4WD has a small chance of pulling out with power):
The day ended with us with a hotlap to show us what we could have done if we didn't suck :) I lucked out and got a lap with our chief instructor (forgive the non optimal camera placement):
And just like that, it was over. We had a farewall dinner with prices for the best drivers in each group (i.e. not me :) ):
Thanks to all the instructors, to Porsche for letting us drive their cars and make mistakes, and the great codrivers in our group (blue group is #1 !) :)
I just had a motech system installed in my car which gives detailled logs of how I drive my car, namely how much and exactly when I pushed on each pedal compared to where I was on the track. Once the improvements you can do get smaller, it's easier for coaches to get a data log to compare their near ideal lap against your best lap and look at telemetry to see where you are slower.
this is how coaching happens now :)
With the time change, the morning flight was not in the dark:
We had around 10 cars:
Sadly one of the cars had a not quite explained oversteer in turn 15 and did a full 180 before hitting the inside wall hard. We're thinking it might have had a tire failure:
that wall was supposed to be straight
the rebar got ripped out
TH put the wall back in no time, I guess it wasn't the first time
In the meantime, while the track got slower in the afternoon, I slowly relearned what I manage to forget every time I go, and got my time down to a record 1:47 (for me) on the 3 mile track with the bypass after putting on fresh tires. I could have gone faster in the morning when the track was faster, so my guess is that in ideal conditions, the car can do at least 1:45. Nothing to sneeze at :)
This was my best session where I managed a few fast laps, including 1:47:xx
With the same time change, the flight back was darker :)
Another day, more progress. I didn't have a coach but I slowly got better in enough places to work my way down reliable 3:20's until I got a fresh set of tires and got down all the way to a single 3:14 lap, my best ever on that configuration. Sadly I didn't repeat it (the other ones were 3:16 and 3:17 due to traffic), but one is enough to count :)
Going to Dirtfish had been on my todo list for quite a while, and my upcoming trip to seattle was a good excuse to make it happen. The Dirtfish staff was great all around, starting by making me a spot for a private class when they were otherwise already booked out for the dates that worked for me.
I showed up bright and early the first morning to get a quick tour of the premises and start with my classroom session:
my car for the day was waiting when I arrived, a nice rally prepped WRX STI
great collection of rally memorabilia
the car I got to drive
No lift brake turn here :)
The first day didn't have rain, so they made their own :)
On the first day, I learned the very basics, including trying to stop myself from the urge to countersteer when I was sideways (essential for RWD, but counter productive for AWD).
On day #2, we made a lot more progress with my new instructor for the day:
I got the car suitably dirty :)
During a bit of downtime, I got a quick tour around the grounds that are famous because they were used for the show Twin Peaks, as well as the garage where they work on cars:
They even threw in professional pictures, very nice of them:
Needless to say that I had a hell of a lot of fun. I sure didn't turn into a rally expert in 2 days, but I improved a lot from the total rookie level I was at when I started. It'll definitely be fun to go back.
Here's a video of one of my last laps on the mixed course I was running in the rain and on a mix of gravel and tarmac. It even included a hand brake turn :)
I hadn't yet gotten the chance to drive my racecar at Laguna. Sound limits are of course a problem. A 105db day sounded like a great idea. It was cheap enough that I rented 2 spots, one in race cars, and one in advanced group, both with open passing.
As luck would have it, I still got blackflagged for pulling a 106.3db, which thankfully got fixed by turn pipes that I had, but hadn't been installed on the car. This got fixed quickly. Some very nice cars were present.
The morning was overcast:
A few cars:
with the turnpipes installed
Thanks to my coach, I got down from 1:40:xx to 1:32:xx on a couple of laps after fresh tires. On the better morning track, the car could have been faster still, but it sure was hard to find clean laps.
This was a long day for me since I got 7 sessions of 2x20mn, or over 4h30 of driving with just 20mn breaks in the middle. I was quite tired by the end of the day, but was still able to get close enough to fastest laps around the last sessions, until I had to get off the track due to a car that caught fire.
Here is my best lap where I did a 1:32.x, my best laguna time so far, and it wasn't even a clean lap as I had to pass a car (in the Mclaren 650S, I only got down to 1:40.x). My car can likely do 1:30 or even a bit lower:
ETD had a photographer that did a great job getting nice shots of me. Thank you for those. A few below:
Sadly, a nice Mclaren caught fire during the last lap. My guess is that a fluid leak hit the exhaust:
We joined a private track rental for an LMP car that was testing, and came up with 8 cars or so. Thunderhill was starting to get a bit too hot, but it was nice to have 2 days of clean laps.
getting a fresh set of tires
The first day, I only got down to 1:50 (with the bypass), due to a combination of worn brakes, hot track, and lack of more skill.
The 2nd day, thanks to my coach, Matt Belle, I improved my driving, but the track got even hotter, so I also only got down to 1:50:xx too before the track got even more greasy and my times started to go back up. Still, it was good fun.
A nice 488 challenge that joined us:
There was a professional photographer onsite who took a few shots:
They added a slick track where the karts have little traction and you can practise drifting. That's actually a lot of fun, and not something I've done anywhere else.
Their main kart track sadly got toned down a lot, to the point that it was boring and pointless. I was a full gas the entire time, never had to brake.
the 2 person kart was more powerful and more fun thankfully
They added electric karts that were also underpowered and had no lap times.
The dragsters were still there, but sadly I kept coming 2nd to dragster #1 because even though I got off the line at full speed every time, the other one was just faster and would first catch up and then pass me, disappointing.