It was wet on the track and overcast the first day (3 track
sessions) and 3 laps into our 6th on-track session they black-flagged the
event and sent everyone home. Watching the Weather Channel later showed
red, yellow, and dark green colors in that area so it was for the best
although I really wanted to see how my car handled in the rain on the track
but didn't mind getting the chance to drive home unwrecked.
If ANYONE gets the chance to drive at Watkins Glen, I HIGHLY
recommend it, as it is a very nice track to drive with our higher-horsepower
cars. I was in the "D" group (lowest, slowest, novice, beginner, etc.
group), and was keeping pace with an Audi Quattro S4, a BMW M3, several
Porsche 911 Turbos, and in front of a race-prepped Rabbit, a BMW M3, and a
VW Golf TDi. The Golf had a chip, but I don't know what the other cars had
My car is a 1995 Black VR-4 with Big Reds, Autopower rollbar, Sparco
Evo race seat, Simpson 5-point harnesses, Yokohama A-032R race tires, 1999
3000GT SL 17" wheels, Goodridge SS lines, Magnecor KV85 wires, Motul 600
racing brake fluid, Pagid Orange racing brake pads, and stock front rotors
cryo-treated. All of this is one event old as I used the same things at
Mid-Ohio in April.
My instructor this time was not as aware of what the car could do.
He said he was aware. I could tell he didn't believe it but I would rather
be slower the first few laps out anyway. The track is very deceiving so I
welcomed his instruction. Little things like the front stretch toward Turn
1, "The Ninety," goes not only downhill but downhill at two different
angles. Also, the apex for this turn is more like 3 feet into the track but
putting the cone here would get it punted off the track by the first car.
Stock suspension means the driver (me) needs to get things settled
or else taking a slightly downhill Turn 2 at 90 mph would get the car
drifting toward the Armco and not let you hit the apex of the turn, which
sets you up for Turn 3. (Armco is that three-high guardrail painted blue,
hence how Insurance companies know you were racing, since not many deer are
Turns 2, 3, and 4 make up a set called "The Esses" and it is labeled
"Some of the fastest turns you will drive." I finally got setup to keep the
accelerator down all the way from the turn-in on Turn 2 until the braking
zone on the backstretch after Turn 4. Took these at 90-95 mph shifting into
fourth gear before Turn 4 and letting the turbos catch me up to the other
cars as I also out-brake them at the tricky "Bus Stop."
The "Bus Stop" is a set of four turns which are taken more like
"Turn to the right, turn to the left" so really it is two turns once you cut
off two corners. Man. This is confusing. Take a look at the map. Lots of
fun to drive and get the feeling of drifting from the right to the left.
Another VR-4 driver took the initial turn to the right too hot and tried to
go to the left, spun out, travelled across the grass, and ended three feet
from the Armco. Whew! Lucky him. I helped bleed his brakes later and his
Hawk Blues were working hard on stock calipers, stock rotors, stock lines,
and AP 550 brake fluid (I replaced that with Motul 600 brake fluid). He'll
never forget that turn.
Okay enough of the turns ... I could go on for days. It was quite
fun and I wish we could have had our full session. I got to do some heel
and toe as I was braking from 120 mph for the Bus Stop at 400 feet. I tried
this at 300 feet but was not braking fast enough, did not complete the
shift, and went through the turn at 70 mph in fourth gear instead of third.
Braking with the ball of the foot is tricky as the feeling just is not there
sometimes. More seat time is needed for that.
And now everyone is wondering how I did. Well I was disappointed
personally that I was not pushing the car as hard as I had wanted earlier.
I felt that pleasing my instructor so he would sign me off was better, so then I
could practice things on my own and learn faster. Yes it worked, but I would
recommend to someone who is doing this for the first time to try everything
with the instructor in the car so they can help get you out of trouble. I
had a driving event already so I already knew that flooring the brake pedal
at 120 mph made the car lose a little control on stock suspension.
Therefore I could apply it hard (not instantly) at 120 mph and then apply
more and more pressure. This yielded a much nicer response. I think my
time on the second day was a 2:42 (down from a 3:08 on the first day).
About three of the turns had no distance markings to the corner so
initially landmarks such as foam barriers, guardrail dents, dips in the
road, skidmarks, etc. were the way to pick out when to brake, turn, etc.
That also made things interesting.
A very nice course for our cars, Turbo Porsche cars, M3, Vettes,
Vipers, Cobra replicas, etc. I can't wait to get back there next year.
Kudos to ARPCA and to the corner workers (about 13 per lap of 11
turns) especially that guy between the Toe and Heel of the boot with the
"Dr. Seuss Cat in the Hat" hat who made everyone relax at that point on the
track when normally one would tend to get burned out.
--- 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