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Team3S Member Track Report:

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Rich Merritt:  Heartland Park, Topeka, KS
Track Guys Driving Clinic, August 11-12, 2001

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Track Diagram

Track Diagram

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As I have predicted all along, once the kids start coming out with their fast reflexes and lack of fear, they will stomp us old farts. It happened at Heartland Park: Mike Willis and Flash were the fastest, with 2:14 laps, and the two old farts -- Chuck Willis and me (Rich the Old Poop) brought up the rear with 2:15s. Jim Floyd broke his car early, so he gets a bye this time.

Let's hope this encourages all you kids to bring your cars out to play. (Cathy, my bee-utiful daughter, are you listening?)

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Lessons Learned

When you have five more-or-less identical cars on track at the same event, you learn lots. For example:

1. Use Motul brake fluid. This was discussed in an earlier post.

2. Yoko 032R tires are just as good as Kuhmos.

3. Big Reds are better than Stillen/Brembo upgrades.

Although Mike Willis was faster than me by a second a lap, I could consistently outbrake him and his dad, Chuck Willis, into the corners. Mike and I did lead/follow for several laps, and when he led, it was always the same: Because he has a boost controller, he could pull away from me out of corners, gaining maybe 15-50 yards on each straightaway. I made it up under braking, getting it all back so that I entered each turn on his butt. Ergo, the Big Reds are better brakes.

(And I don't even have the best Big Red setup! Flash has brakes that will put you through the windshield, Jack! I have never been in a car that stopped like Flash's car: It's like hitting a brick wall. Maybe it's because he runs race pads on the rears and I don't, but his car flat STOPS!!)

As for Yokos v Kuhmos, I could follow Mike through the turns at exactly the same speed, neither gaining nor losing time. That means that his Yokos -- which some of us (ahem) have called "school tires" -- stick just as good as Kuhmos, which are supposed to be a superior tire. (Mike and I both have GC suspensions with 550 front springs).

I am sick and tired of cording Kuhmos left and right, so I am ordering another set of Yoko 032R tires to replace the three Kuhmos I corded this weekend (I can see the cords just below the surface on the fourth tire, so it's ready to go, too). (BTW, the Kuhmos are certainly good tires, but they have no wear indicators, so ya never know how much tire is left.)

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Smooth Is Fast

Chuck Willis gives the best demonstration of how smooth is fast. He was slower than us by a second or so a lap, but when you ride with him you see a master at work: He doesn't punish the car. He shifts at 5000, lifts early for braking, stabs the brakes sanely, keeps it under 100 mph on the straights, and takes no risks. Yet he turns into corners at amazingly high speeds, keeps the car nicely balanced while it's skeetering at the limit, shaves off a second here and a second there, and his seemingly slower pace is only a second or so off the lap times of those of us who are divebombing the course, pulling 7000 rpm shift points, and slamming on the brakes at 120+. If Chuck turned up the wick, he'd smoke all of us.

If you ever get a chance to run with us, take a few laps with Chuck.

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Breaking Brakes

Heartland Park is a brake-eater, so when you come to play, bring spare pads.

I ate up a set of rear pads. They were stock pads (lifetime warranty! Wonder what they will say when I bring them back with only four days use on them?) Flash went through a set of Pagid Orange front pads. They had been through a couple of events, so it was just a matter of time. Mike cracked BOTH of his Stillen drilled rotors. They cracked right through the drilled part. The cracked rotors contributed to his eating a set of front pads, too. Fortunately, it all happened late Sunday afternoon, so he didn't miss much track time. We had to bleed out my Ford fluid (had to do it twice before we got it all out) and replace it with Motul before I could make it through an entire session. Needless to say, it looked like the Mitsubishi Brake Shop for most of the weekend.

We still don't know what's wrong with Jim's car. He was in his second session when something went CLANG in the front end, the steering wheel turned halfway around, and he limped back to the paddock. He stayed over to check with a front end shop on Monday morning, so I guess we'll hear about it in a few days. Jim, Mike and Flash spent a lot of time under the car, poking and prodding, but they didn't find anything seriously wrong. Chuck let Jim drive his car for the rest of the sessions (what a guy!!).

As noted, Chuck does not run his car hard. Chuck did not have a single problem with brakes, tires, overheating, or anything else this entire weekend, and both he and Jim drove the car. There must be a lesson there somewhere.

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Running With The Big Boys

Three of us (Chuck, Mike and I) got put into Group 4, with the instructors.

We had about 20 cars in our group, and there were 11 Group 1 cars, so at least 11 of those cars were instructors. Other cars in group 4 included race-prepped cars, such as a Speedvision world challenge (or whatever that series is) Saleen Mustang, 911s with tall wings, and lots of cars with stickers and lettering. Some of them would come up on us like a rocket ship on the straights (like the Saleen), while others would catch us in the twisty bits (like race prepped 914s). The 914s and such couldn't pass us on the straights unless we let them, because they had no horsepower to speak of, but we all let them by. They caught up to us because they didn't have to slow down for corners (at least it seemed that way. Dang German go karts!).

Later, they merged Groups 4 and 5, so we got to run with even more race-prepped cars, such as Vipers and stuff.

These were all some really serious folks, with years of experience, very expensive cars, and lots of trailer queens and cars with no license plates. I heard a little derision in the rest room about the Mitsubishis that were "getting in the way." Hmm...we'll have to do something about that. We need some serious cars of our own out there.

Once we solved my brake fluid problem, I was staying with the big boys, and getting passed just by the race-prepped cars, so I was fairly happy with the weekend. I've run 2:12 at HP before, but not in such intense heat.

The absolute best part, though, was having five cars there, with assorted friends, family, tent, bbq, folding chairs, coolers, and our own instructor (Chuck). I'm ready to do it again. How about October 20-21 for the Audi Quattro event at Heartland Park in Topeka, Kansa? Come join us. Let's have TEN cars this time!

---  Rich/old poop/94 VR4 (Rich Merritt)

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Article 2001-2004 Rich Merritt, All Rights Reserved.
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