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Darren Schilberg:  Porsche Club, April 13-14, 2001
Allegheny Region Porsche Club of America
"Driving Event", Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, OH

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Highlights



This was my first DE ever so I was naturally excited and nervous. This time of year in mid-Ohio is always a weather gamble. Last year they were removing snow the day before driving! I had my car checked by my own mechanic as to wheel bearings, suspension, steering, etc. (the things not easily reachable unless the car is on a lift). Since this was my first one I did not want anything breaking at the track.

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Details



I arrived for Tech Inspection the night before and noticed another VR-4. Hooray. This was a bone stock circa 1993 VR-4 with a father and son team driving it. There was supposed to be an Instructor with a well-modified VR-4, but I think he was helping to run the event so he was not able to drive. It was strange to have one of the cheapest cars in the lot for a change. Brand new Carrera 4 cars, 911s, 944s, RS Americas, etc. Verrrrrry nice cars. I was happy to be among them. Of course they look nice in the lot but how do they run on the track? The next two days were the best driving weather of the year: clear, sunny, mid-60s, and no rain. I got to the track, swapped out the Porsche pads for the Pagid Orange (Brad's Big Red setup), swapped to the 17" wheels and Yokohama Advan 032R tires, bled the brakes, and I was ready to go. So off I went ... to the classroom. Since this is a DE they teach safety, safety, safety and many basic skills in the classroom, such as, in a spin, push both feet in (clutch and brake), if you have a manual or brake in a straight line since the tire can only do 100% of anything. (100% deceleration means no turning allowed or else you lose some braking power). Good stuff. I had already read the book Going Faster by the Skip Barber Series, so I had a few skills already learned.

Now it is off to the track for the first of seven on-track runs of about 20 minutes (a little over 200 track miles in two days for seven run sessions). I met my instructor, who I already knew, and he knew a little about my car. That was where the similarity stopped. He was a very excellent instructor even though he drives a FWD Honda Civic. He appreciated the fact that I had Big Reds, a rollbar, and 5-point harnesses. They helped mucho. I purchased a commercial video from Mid-Ohio about their track (driven in an Acura NSX), so I was trying to remember all I could as well as listen to him, give instruction in my ear at the same time, concentrate on the track, try not to hit the $140,000+ Porsche on the track, etc. I loved all the input my brain was getting. Laps 1 and 2 were taken slow to learn the course. Laps 3 and on we were on the move and pushing hard.

Stock suspension did not help in some twisty bits but the Big Reds were a surprise to both of us. I had not truly tested them before. They had new cryo-treated front rotors, new Pagid Orange pads, new (cheap) brake fluid, new SS lines, and the calipers were only a month old. Thanks to Rich I knew I could hammer them all weekend without fear of losing any braking. Down the backstretch of Mid-Ohio it goes downhill so that helps to increase speed. There are cones for 300 feet, 200, 100, and turn-in that stayed up all weekend. (The other "helper" cones were removed on Saturday, but because the backstretch was so dangerous at high speeds they left up these cones). We initially started braking at 400 feet from 100 mph. Then 300 feet at 100 mph, then 250 feet. Still had plenty of room to spare. I knew that my speed at the end depended on a good launch into the backstretch. Since I was in the "D" run group (I for Instructor is highest, A is highest student class, then B, C, and D) I had some other beginners in my group. They were slow, but some of them were also driving dad's brand new $80k Porsche. Some were driving a 25-year old 911. I didn't think all of them would be fast, so I didn't mind the traffic. It let me slow down and learn the turns. However, launching out of the ever-famous Keyhole let me downshift to second, (no heel-and-toe yet), and rocket onto the backstretch. I was able to attain 120 mph in 4th gear down the back before braking HARD at the 300 foot mark. Talk about a rush. It looks like you are going to shoot off the road as it takes a hard 90-degree right, but you have to keep braking, brake, brake, brake, TURN! The instructor has told me to turn in late on all the turns and that will help. Boy was he right. Turn early and you end up squirming all over the track. Turn late is the key here. Wow those Big Reds grab. And the pads aren't even warmed up yet, either. One more lap of thrills and the first session is over. Enough for me to know the Big Reds work, but also to know that my car is slow out of turns unless I keep the turbos spooled.

Back to the garage to check the brake fluid level, oil level, pads, tires, etc. Perfect. Now off to class again. Back to the track (adjusting tire pressures from John Christian (MAJOR thanks, John), and getting some advice on turns from him since he drives a first gen Stealth TT, but it is in the shop for the time being). More fun this time. More time spent at higher speeds. More time hearing the tires squeal and talk to me. What a blast. My friend (who signed me up) was the smoothest driver in our group in his 1991 Honda Prelude Si as he has had a DE before. I was the fastest car in our group.

This is not a race, mind you, but as my times dropped I noticed I was getting smoother and more comfortable with the car on the track. Fastest time in the second run was a 2:03 (with some traffic). Chat with more people. Look at the nice cars. Video some of the other run groups. Just a nice day at the track. Other nice cars that were there were a Lotus Elise, Dodge Viper, Caterham Super 7, Porsche race car (unknown model), Audi S4, and then the slew of nice Porsches just littered everywhere.

Back to class. Back to the track. Third run session now. Fastest time was a 1:59 (almost no traffic). I found that I was able to hit the corners at 5 mph higher speed by launching out of the corners in second gear instead of trying to maintain momentum in third. My instructor kept telling me to turn tighter but I was already flooring it in third. So I backed it down to second and could then modulate the throttle in a turn. Much more control that way. Oh, and that 4-cyl Lotus Elise was going just as fast as the V-10 Dodge Viper. They ran well together. And that authentic Porsche race car had a brand new engine and/or tranny and they were testing it out. He was turning about a 1:43 ... WITH traffic ... and not even pushing it hard yet. Man alive.

The day ended, drive to the hotel, have dinner, chat and tell stories, hit the sack, back to the track in the morning. After my fourth run, my instructor passed me off allowing me to run solo for the rest of the day (three more runs). He said he had been watching and evaluating me the past couple of runs and felt I was ready to take it on my own. I did. Near the end of the run I saw a nice little black Porsche 944 in front of me. I wanted to catch him before the front stretch. I came over the hill and was gaining on him. I crested the next hill and thought, "Where did he go already?" By the time I had finished the thought I realized that I had missed my braking zone.

This was going in to Turn 11 which is an off-camber (sloping left) turn to the right. Oops. I brake hard and in a straight line and run out of road, put two wheels in the gravel trap, turn the wheel, get three wheels in the trap, bump down to second and let the AWD pull me out. Darn. Brain fade. That was stupid of me. I did not concentrate. I watched the corner workers but they did nothing. The next lap around I got the black flag. Heh. Oops. By the way, the black flag is to bring you in and make sure everything is still attached to the car and that you are not dropping stones all over the track.

I found that I did not brake as hard and as late when my instructor was not with me. No biggie. I was still able to drive the car home. This was my first event and I was still getting used to everything. The second day ended as we packed our cars and then the rain started to fall. Perfect timing and a great weekend. Another DE is the end of May at Watkins Glen in lower NY. I can't wait.

I'm sure I missed something so give a holler. I can't possibly fit everything here. It is just an experience to be there and I hope everyone someday gets to attend a driving school at a real track like this. Safety is the biggest key. This was not a speed event, but a controlled driving school. I learned lots more about the car than I knew before. When I was on my own, I tried some more tricks like heel-and-toe, braking while still on the throttle (to keep the turbos spooled up), etc. Not enough to be comfortable with but I learned more than I can practice on the street. Like shifting into second at 60 mph you should NOT let out the clutch while in the turn. It's amazing how much the car will lurch on you. Just like Merritt always says, "Brake, downshift, turn-in, apply some throttle, clip the apex, apply more throttle, turn-out, upshift." Some cases this meant being at full throttle at the apex and others it did not. I did not have the race seat installed in time and did not bleed through the Motul 600 racing brake fluid but these will be in place for the next event. The harnesses worked great. At one very hard braking zone on the back stretch, I pitched the nose so hard forward, hit the brakes so hard, that either a wheel locked up or the rear end just got so light that it drifted. Nothing like having the back end get squirrelly at 105 mph with your instructor in the car. I learned after that how hard and how fast I could apply the brakes and still maintain control. Just learning how the brakes work was worth the price of admission.


--- Darren Schilberg "Flash", 1995 Black VR-4
Big Reds, Autopower rollbar, Sparco Evo race seat, Simpson 5-point harnesses, Pirelli P-Zeros, Goodridge SS lines, Magnecor KV85 wires, and a custom spark plug plate




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Article 2001-2004 Darren Schilberg, All Rights Reserved.
Other Images 1995-2004 Bob Forrest, All Rights Reserved.