|2004/08/29 Track Day at Laguna Seca
π 2004-08-29 14:45 by Merlin in Cars, Ncars
So, I've always been quite content running my car at Thunderhill. It may not be a famous track (although it's been featured in several commercials, like Mazda's and the Ford GT40), but it's both challenging, familiar (well, for me), and safe (everywhere is pretty much a runoff area, no walls to run into except in the start/finish straights. The only small shortcoming is that it's about 2H away at fast driving pace (or 1h50 if pushing) while Laguna is under 1H15mn away.
turn two, one of the more challenging ones in my opinion
That said, I heard Laguna Seca was a very nice track (which it is, the surroundings are indeed pretty), and well, it's known world wide, so it's always nice to have been able to run there once. Rotarynews had an all mazda track day (sponsored and subsidized by Mazda) for the incredible price of $165 (on a weekend day no less; this kind of price for Laguna is unheard of).
Cars ranged from 4 door saloon mazdas, to RX7 and old concept rotary cars, to of course: miatas (not counting a few odd balls like a ferrari 355).
Since this was an awesome deal, it was sold out almost as soon as I heard about it, except for the most advanced group. While I qualified for that group without problems with my experience, I was still uneasy about it, because I had never driven that track and would get thrown in with seasoned drivers who knew the track quite well (in the end though, I should have remembered that it was really only about being safe, predictable, and letting people pass you as needed, which I have no problem doing)
Anyway, I borrowed a playstation 2 with grand tourismo 3, and a steering wheel with force feedback (from nice coworkers), and used that to practise the track. The big question was of course "how useful would it be"?
Well, my impressions where:
So, for whatever reason, this is the second time in a row that I get sick before a track day, and that I recover somewhat the day before, show up, half-recovered, with red bulls and other things to hopefully keep me somewhat sharp while on the track. Yet, it turned out surprisingly well considering the potential for a bad day.
I was already apprehensive due to the new track, the group I was in, and of course, the concrete walls everywhere (that's why I love Thunderhill so much: nice runoff area just about everywhere, should you screw up), so being very tired and potentially not very alert, wasn't a good addition to the mix.
Yet, either the red bull, being in the car, or both, allowed me to be sufficiently concentrated to do a decent job around the track (pretty much all laps under 2mn, with a best time of about 1:56), and definitely do a better job than the 5 or so people who ended up hitting walls (not head on thankfully).
One of the several RX7 casualties
I sure didn't do my best driving ever, nor did I run around the track, riding with other folks and taking pictures of everything, but I went through the event without any incident (or even getting close to one), and was still able to push the car quite hard (the racing brake pads, as well as the stickiness, consistency, and predictability of my new RA-1s tires, was just amazing, and made for rather fast laps around the track, despite my below average shape and driving)
The highlight of the day were probably doing the 4th session with very little pad left on my front brake pad (if you pay too much attention to my car stories, you'll know why :), and changing the pads in 20mn flat between the 4th and 5th sessions (and boy did I get close to the backing plate and scratching my rotor). After that, I was able to run all 3 groups of the last session (about an hour of track time), and get more than money's worth before going home :)
There sure wasn't a lot left on those pads :)
The other funny part was when I got black-flagged on one of my last laps, pitted to find out what the reason was (maybe they didn't like the drifting I had just done in turn 11 :) and I was told "93.6". I said "what?". "Your car was measured at 93.6db, above the 90db sound limit for today". Turns out (as they had warned us), that this was a 90db day, and that cars louder than that would be pulled off the track after 3 warnings. I knew my car could get a little loud when pushed and hot (which it definitely was with 105F weather outside, I was quite thankful that my cooling system and its mods were enough to keep the car from overheating), but I had no idea that it would end up being as loud as the Ferrari 355 that day. ROTFL :)
The pictures can be found here