Year ago, I went with my F430 as part of a track day that was offered to my coworkers and I by Infineon. I was ignorant of the track, and thanks to instruction, I got from 2:20 to 2:04, and clearly I could have gone faster had I known the track better (it's a hard track that takes a while to learn). This was back in 2007 Track Day at Sears Point/Infineon.
18 months ago, I signed up for the Audi R8 advanced program and got 1-1 instruction to learn the track a bit more. I was a slightly slower R8 than the one I drove this time, and after a day of learning, I got down from 2:07 to 2:03 as my best lap then. Mind you, the car could do better (1:58 at least), but that day, I was just so tired from a bad night, that I just had a hard time learning.
So, I talked to Tim and told him I was interested in coming back, and he found a program he could squeeze us in, and while we had to wait up to October for it (almost 6 months), it was worth the wait. When we got there around 08:45, the fog was slowly lifting (thankfully it was not an issue on the track):
my car almost fit in :)
This time, I brought Jennifer over too, but since I don't think she was learning so much from the normal format of padock excercises and group instruction, I got her an instructor to do 1-1 with her and she got 5 sessions around the track in a TT. Before you ask me, why not an R8 too, honestly she would have been happy and learned in any car, and just like I learned tons in an underpowered miata, I figured gobs of HP is just not the best way to learn the basics.
Since I was French, the instructors didn't have to Roshambo for it, and I got Nico Rondet, who happens to be the lead instructor there. That was great, because it didn't take him long to find what I was doing wrong. First, he told me to stop even bothering with left foot braking, which incidently was something Ric McCornick had suggested that I use. Since I wasn't that good at it, especially on a new technical track I didn't know well, I did better after the 3rd session when I switched back to right foot braking.
Two students, 4 cars. It felt a bit overkill :)
Then, he beat on me to get me to unlearn the slow in fast out and my tendency to brake hard and transition to gas too early, removing the benefits of trail braking, which aren't as crucial at Thunderhill, but vital at Sears. That said, I'm eager to try that at Thunderhill next time too. Basically not only he knew his stuff, but he was very good at figuring out quickly what I was doing wrong.
Due to my left foot braking sessions that were kind of lost, I only had 2 sessions to work on trail braking in the R8, which wasn't enough, but I got down to steady 2:02s and a 2:01.
Here's one lap. Nothing to be very proud of, but there we go:
By then the program was over (14:20 or so), but Tim, was nice enough to let me run my own car for two more sessions since we had the track booked anyway. This allowed me to try my car for the first time at Sears, and got 2:02 my first time out where I was being very conservative, and got down to 1:56 on my second session when I started to drive a bit harder. I know the car can go much faster (at least 1:50), and maybe I'll get closer to that after I get better, and figure out why my car is swerving a bit violently under heavy braking (apparently an alignment problem).
Nico did a great job coaching me, and I'm looking forward to more chances to learn from him, and hopefully to try their formula cars class, and a big thanks again to Tim Moser for letting me run my car after their cars had to go to the garage for maintenance.
Here's my last and best lap of the day, just before I stopped due to low fuel:
Jennifer on her side said she learned a lot more from the 1-1 instruction in the car on the track. She may learn more from basic skills training on the paddocks later, but it sounds like track laps are probably a good way for her to learn for now.
Random picture I took next to the building during lunchtime: