Two years ago, I went to Aspen for the Ferrari FF drive on ice class. Unfortunately, the class got cancelled due to lack of snow on the ice track back then, so we drove around Aspen for a copule of days instead.
This year, I figured I'd try again and signed up for their new ice day on ice, one day driving around Aspen event.
The direct flight to Aspen didn't quite happen as planned. First it left 2.5H late from SFO because SFO sucks and goes to shit as soon as any clouds are on the horizon (parallel runways to close, not enough horizontal separation for parallel landings in IMC conditions causing a ripple effect of delays).
Once we arrived in Aspen, it was too late and the weather had worsened. As a result, we failed to land in Aspen and diverted to our alternate in Grand Junction. We finally got to Aspen via bus, many hours later than planned...
nice view from my room at the Little Mell
After a somewhat short night, the next morning we had enough snow that it was not possible to fly to the ice track in steamboat springs, which unfortunately cancelled our ice driving class, which was a huge bummer since it was my main reason for going back since man last try 2012.
That evening, we had a reception and dinner at the top of Aspen/Ajax Mountain:
The next morning, we went for our scheduled drive around Aspen to Fork Smith Ranch. It was a nice drive with nice weather, and the same drive I had done 2 years prior:
my first co-driver for the morning
going through Aspen
a couple of bald eagles
better shot from the official photographer
It was a nice drive with fun people to do it with. Even if it was the 2nd time and I didn't get to do the ice track, the sole reason I had come back, the scenery was still beautiful and it was better than being at work :)
Here is a quick clip if you'd like one:
And it's probaly boring, but if you'd like a longer video to go through, here you go:
Steve nicely added me to his private trackday list after my asking for other events I could go to last year, and we got lucky with the weather that Sunday (superbowl sunday apparently, great, I couldn't care less about american football).
Daniel took my car the previous day and when for a fun drive, evening in Willows where he spent the night. This allowed to spend saturday with Jennifer since I had just come back from a trip in Tahoe friday evening, but I was watching weather a bit anxiously as it predicted possible snow in Palo Alto for my morning flight on sunday.
In the end, while the forecast did worsen to VFR conditions to mostly IFR, we avoided snow and I was able to take off from Palo Alto and get out barely in time with the front right behind me.
Warning to VFR pilots: this visible hole with sun behind the mountains closed up before I could get to it, and I was in grey, and no visible horizon 5 to 10mn later (never got into clouds apparently, which is great because they were likely to be ice bearing):
I was doing tactical flying of finding the right altitude to stay out of clouds and hopefully have view of willows and be able to land there, but 15mn before I arrived, I started being able to see the ground and horizon again, so landing was a no brainer.
Still, weather was very overcast and grey, but we lucked out, the weather front never reached willows.
Daniel picked me up at the airport, just beyond the weather front and took me to TH:
Nico Rondet was available to coach me again that day, so he was able to build up on what he had been trying to get into my head last time, his patented fast in fast out line :) Since I wasn't half sick this day, my learning abilities were better, but thankfully I hadn't forgotten everything from last time.
By the 3rd session, I beat my best ever 2:02 time and replaced it with a 2:00 (it could have been 1:59:xx with a bit value of xx, but video timing shows it was likely in the 2:00:xx range). It's true that I switched from steel to carbon brakes around the same time (I stayed with the same Pirelli Pzero Street Tires), but Nico can get most if not all the credit of getting me down from 2:03 to 2:00. Considering that I wasn't slow to start with, taking 3 seconds off that is a testament to his coaching abilities, finding what I had been doing wrong all these years, and getting me to fix it.
Having a couple of radicals to follow also helped me getting my time down. Here's a 2:00 lap:
One of the participant, Nicole, took a video of me when she was turning 2:03's behind me when I was warming up and trying to go faster. She was damn fast for that car:
By the 4th session, one of my tires was showing clear signs of trouble. I'll have to find out if my alignment is off, or what is causing this. Nico recommended that we swap the tires left/right, and that it wouldn't be so bad if they were turning in the wrong direction. Turned out it was the best thing to do, and while it seemed to have cost me 2sec/lap, it was a whole lot better than ending the day early:
I didn't get the chance to do more 2:00 or maybe a 1:59 after that with the worn rear tires rolling backwards, but I still got to practise a bit more consistency around the turns and more trail braking for the rest of the day.
A few car pictures:
My command center:
Daniel had more time than me to take pictures:
Chatting with my coach, Nico
Gotta love the lemons cars:
Daniel took a few pictures of the track. I like the first two where I'm doing a good job of using the track I paid for :)
I like the exhaust heat visible in this one
After a great day, it was time to figure out how to get back. It was an interesting tradeoff between potentially better weather later, but night, or earlier, clouds, and a bit of light. I opted for light since it's esier to plan tactically where you can see what's ahead.
I got on top of the layer and the weather conveniently opened up around the bay when I got there for a nice VFR landing: